Where is the baby, Holland?
Based on a novel by Thomas Tryon, The Other was an early entry in the creepy little kids sub-genre that dominated horror movies and novels in the 1970s. On a more personal note, I remember it scaring the hell out of me when I saw it on television as a kid, and its recent release on DVD represented my first chance to see the film in several decades.
The setting is rural Connecticut in 1935. Niles and Holland Perry (played by Chris and Martin Udvarnoky in their only film appearance) are living on the family farm with their mother and extended family. Diana Muldaur, veteran of two generations of Star Treks, plays the twins' mother. She remains traumatized from an event sometime in the past, leaving her emotionally distant and unable to fulfill her duties as mother, though for a bed-ridden depressive, her hair and makeup are oddly perfect.
With their mother emotionally absent, Niles has bonded with his Aunt Ada. The two are fond of playing The Game, which Ada believes to be an exercise in imagination, but Niles regards as something more. While playing The Game he seems to find himself in the body of a bird flying overhead, and he uses it to learn a trick being performed by a carnival magician. Niles compulsively carries a small tin box containing a ring that should have been buried with his late father and a mysterious little item wrapped in cloth. Director Robert Mulligan obviously wanted the viewer to remember the box because it is constantly heard rattling around whenever Niles is onscreen. Niles is apparently the only one of the pair born with a conscience, with Holland usually getting both of them in trouble. When bad things start to happen like the twins' tattletale cousin being "accidentally" impaled on a pitchfork, Hollands true nature becomes evident.
As one might expect, the creep-o-meter didn't go nearly as high as it did when I nine. The acting is consistent with the style of TV melodrama from the period, which is probably why I incorrectly assumed for many years that this was a made for TV movie. Mrs. Rowe, the old bitty from next door who runs afoul of the twins' mischief, is played ridiculously over the top, reminding me of Una O'Conner's comic relief character in Bride of Frankenstein. This kind of silliness makes it harder to appreciate Mrs. Rowe's ultimate fate. The twins, particularly Niles, are played with often nauseating sweetness (when Niles asks his Aunt Ada for a butterfly kiss I nearly hurled). Most importantly, though, I can now see that the big twist late in the film is obviously telegraphed early on.
Still, this is a movie worth seeking out. The Other represents the more subtle horror of its time. Gore and exploding heads have their place, but this movie scares more with what it implies than what it actually shows.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Where is the baby, Holland?
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Yet another cool bit of pop culture flotsam I found on YouTube.com. While the original Japanese version of Gojira (and to an extent its U.S. release version known as Godzilla: King of the Monsters) showed the dark, brooding potential of what the Japanese giant monster film genre could have been, King Kong Vs. Godzilla better represents the path the Godzilla series followed. Guys in rubber monsters suits whaling the tar out of each other. It's a thing of beauty.
Clocking in at 3:23, Battle of the Kings distills all the action of King Kong Vs. Godzilla down into a highly concentrated dosage of Kaiju kitsch set to a the music of Linkin Park, Disturbed, and Slayer. Let's watch, shall we?
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
A bleak view of the not-too-distant future. It's the year 2027 and the world is shocked to hear about the death of the youngest person on Earth. He was 18 years old. The human race has lost the ability to procreate, and humanity can do nothing but wait for extinction. All may not be lost, though, as an inexplicably pregnant woman may hold the secret for mankind's salvation. Clive Owen plays a former activist who must transport the woman to a safe haven in an increasingly chaotic world.
The glimmer of hope in the face of extinction reminds me of The Day the Earth Caught Fire which, for my money, is the best end of the world movie of all time. I'm definitely looking forward to this one. Check out the trailer:
Monday, September 04, 2006
George Romero is scheduled to begin shooting his next film Diary of the Dead in Toronto on October 11. The film is reported to be a cross between Romero's own style of zombie film and The Blair Witch Project. A group of college students filming a horror movie stumble upon a zombie outbreak and endeavor to record the incident on film. In essence Romero will be returning to the very start of the zombie plague, with this new film taking place concurrently with the series' initial entry Night of the Living Dead. Perhaps the most surprising news, though, is that the film may go direct to video.
Romero was recently interviewed by Dreadcentral.com. Given the fact that Night of the Living Dead has often been praised for its straightforward, almost documentary style approach, Romero's comments are particularly interesting. "I want to do this from a subjective kind of view with no music," he told Dread Central. "You know, something really raw. So it's kind of a stylistic experiment, a low budget, under the radar kind of thing that's just sort of from the heart."
Considering how disappointed I was with Romero's last film, Land of the Dead, I'm glad to see him getting back on the horse so quickly--or at least the reanimated carcass thereof. While I consider myself a fan of his work, Romero is not the flawless artisan that his apologists seem to think he is. Shortly after Land of the Dead came out, a lot of posters on horror message boards were either (in my mind) unjustly praising the film or blaming its flaws on interference from Universal. Romero has made bad films before including Day of the Dead--the third entry in his zombie series--and the crushingly dull Season of the Witch, a.k.a. Jack's Wife. The notion that blame for Land of the Dead's failure resides with Romero is not inconceivable.
That said, he has also made two of the greatest horror films of all time (Night and Dawn), as well as three films I would describe as damn good (The Crazies, Martin, and Creepshow). I'm not sure if Universal or Romero is to blame for Land of the Dead turning out as badly as it did, but the evidence says he has the talent to do better. It seems obvious that Romero works best with a modest budget, so this scaled down low budget approach may be just the ticket.