Thursday, August 26, 2004

Suspect Zero

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Just Wondering

Where did this "right in his wheelhouse" phrase come from all of a sudden? Or has it been around a while and I'm just noticing it now? That role is right in Johnny Depp's wheelhouse! That pitch was right in Manny's wheelhouse! Who started this? Where can I get a wheelhouse?

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Hmm, it doesn't look like my Exorcist review made it into the paper this weekend. Maybe they're running it Monday but, come on, it will be out of theaters by then. So here it is:


Director:} Renny Harlin
{Stars:} Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco
{Length:} 114 min.
{Rated:} R (strong violence and gore, disturbing images and rituals, and for language including some sexual dialogue)

As those who have followed the tortured history of this prequel to the 1973 hallmark of horror The Exorcist already know, the project has been plagued by demonic forces since the beginning. The first version of the film was shot by director Paul Schrader (Cat People, Affliction), who apparently didn’t deliver enough gore to satisfy the studio suits. The much more audience-friendly filmmaker Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger) was brought in for re-shoots, and eventually turned in an entirely different movie.

By now, Warner Bros. executives may be wishing they’d stuck with Schrader’s version. The Exorcist: The Beginning was not screened for critics in time for opening day reviews, a sign that the studio is hoping for one big weekend before the word gets around: this is the prequel from hell.

A revisionist account of Father Merrin’s first encounter with demonic possession, The Beginning centers on an archeological dig in post-World War II Egypt. Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard in the role originally played by Max von Sydow), who has lost his faith for reasons that are unveiled gradually throughout the movie, is summoned to Cairo, where an ancient Roman Catholic church has been unearthed.

There is no record of such a church this far from the Vatican, and a trip inside the well-preserved but creepy structure does little to set Merrin’s mind at ease. Tension between imperialist British soldiers and the local villagers is high, and packs of wild hyenas prowl nightly. If that weren’t bad enough, it appears that a demonic entity has taken over the body of a local boy.

An orgy of repulsive special effects ensues. Faces covered in oozing pustules, babies swarming with maggots, small children ripped apart by ferocious animals _ these are but a few of the treats that await lucky viewers. There’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned splatterfest, but Harlin’s attempts at replicating the solemn tone of the original Exorcist clash with his popcorn-picture instincts. Worst of all is the questionable use of flashbacks to Nazi war atrocities; the implied link between those real-life horrors and this low-rent creepshow is perhaps the movie’s most offensive element.

Bad movies aren’t what they used to be. John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic and William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist III: Legion were both train wrecks in their own way, but they each had fascinating quirks and inventive moments of terror. Harlin settles for trying to resurrect the first movie’s possession effects, but the results are more reminiscent of Beetlejuice. This demon has been unleashed one time too many.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Survivor: Vanuatu cast announced. Let's see, we've got a mechanical bull operator, a sheep farmer, an amputee, "Sarge," "Bubba" and Scout Cloud Lee. It's not too early to start hating them all!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Alien vs. Predator

Friday, August 13, 2004

Ju-On (The Grudge)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Okay, here’s the Motel 6 story. On my return journey from New England, I decided to take it easy and spread the drive over three 10-hour days, rather than the two 15-hour days of driving that had launched my vacation in a spasm of back pain and extreme boredom. Using the Mapquest, I figured Roanoke, Virginia would make a convenient first point of stoppage, with Memphis, or more accurately, West Memphis, Arkansas, as my second port of call. Motel 6 was my preferred lodging chain due to my depleted wallet and their pet-friendly policy (Maury was my co-pilot, you may recall).

No complaints about the Roanoke Motel 6. It was by the airport, so it was a nice, five- or six-story structure. Ice machine on every floor. Friendly desk clerks. Roomy rooms with nice hot showers and nice cool air conditioning. The Democratic convention on CNN (it was the infamous “Go balloons! Go balloons! Where are the fucking balloons?” night). A couple slices of pizza from the cooler, left over from my lunch. (Guy’s Pizza, Route 10 in Whippany, New Jersey. My favorite childhood pizza place. Most of my extended family lives in that area, thus many Christmases and summers there as a young’un, so I developed quite a pizza snobbery early. My Mapquest route happened to find me on I-297 in NJ around noon and when I saw the Whippany exit, I could not resist. Though the shopping center around it had completely changed, Guy’s was right where I left it.)

But I digress. So, no problem in Roanoke, but the West Memphis locale was another matter entirely. Seedy, rundown, not in what appeared to be the greatest neighborhood. A family of 27 with a dozen screaming kids running around the lobby, scaring Maury as we checked in. I made sure to park within sight of my room’s window, lest my hubcaps and worse get swiped.

I’m in my room not more than two minutes when a knock came at the door. Foolishly, I answered. There was a fellow standing there who had the appearance of a bible salesman. At first, he acted like he had mistaken my room for his, then made a little small talk and asked several times if I was familiar with the area. I made it clear that, no, I had been on the road all day, was just stopping for the night on my way back to Austin, and most likely never returning.

“So you don’t know this area at all?” He asked for the third time. I still didn’t. He decided to make his plea explicit. “Cuz I was just wondering if you might know of any adult bookstores in the area.” Uh, no. Afraid not. At this point I ended our conversation without further ado, although if I had been in a more helpful mood, I would have recommended that he bring his own porn next time he’s out on the road selling bibles and harassing weary travelers. I’ve told this story to several people who are of the opinion that this was his way of making a pass at me, but I refuse to give that another moment’s consideration.

So choose your Motel Sixes wisely, I guess is what I’m saying.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Based on my pounding head and empty wallet, I either got mugged last night or took a beating at the poker table. Yes, my winning streak has come to an end. What I left the table with wouldn't buy a cup of coffee. Note to self: when threes and nines are wild, three sevens is not a great hand.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I guess I never officially announced it here, but the author of the foreword to my book is Chris Gore, now probably best known as the host of IFC's "Ultimate Film Fanatic" program. If you'd like a copy of Hick Flicks autographed by him, you can order it from Film Threat here. Or if you want to help boost my Amazon sales rank (I'm currently # 2,488,223 with a bullet), order here. Or wait until the thing is actually published. Which, according to various sources, could be September, November or December. I sure don't know.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Vacation is over, I have safely returned to Moonshine Mountain, and normal posting on the usual irregular schedule will resume shortly. A more complete summary of my travels will follow, but for now I will leave you with this useful fact: all Motel Sixes are not created equal.