Cinema, Month of Madness

The Devil May Care

Oh dear.  I seem to have started on entirely the wrong foot.  My first three movies have been rough and horror fatigue is already setting in, at least for D.  I’m holding up, but I can see how badly this could go if I don’t pace myself.

Thursday, October 1

ghost_ship

Ghost Ship (2002): The first movie of the month was so bad that I can’t even conjure the energy to write about it.  I’ve actually forgotten most of it, except the really wooden acting of that one guy.  Ooh, he was bad.  Oh, and the fact that Julianna Margulies probably can’t carry a movie on her own.  I remember that.

Plot?  Oh, if you insist.  There is this crew of ship salvaging people who sail around, um, the Bering Strait, I guess, in an impossibly small tugboat.  Is that a regulation salvage vessel?  Anyway, they are captained by an incredibly unenthused Gabriel Byrne who is propositioned by the wooden acting guy to salvage a strange ship Woody spotted when flying over the sea, Bering Strait, wherever. The crew, including Margulies and her well-shaped eyebrows, agree to find the ship and split the pirate’s booty take on the stuff they find on board.  They find it (really quickly) and then things go badly.

There’s some cartoonish gore and a somewhat interesting backstory that gives the film its title, but neither is enough to give this movie life.  So to speak.  Bad logic, cruddy acting, a guy who is the devil all of the sudden, and a double-cross upon a double-cross upon a predictable twist put me in a small coma during the film.  A half a scream for the death of the titular ship’s original captain who loses his head in a comic book fashion.

Friday, October 2

ninthgate

The Ninth Gate (1999): Oof and ow. I was tricked into thinking this was going to be an enjoyable devil-related scary thrillery movie, and instead it was a frustrating exercise in expository jerking-off. I’d seen about a third of this film last Spring and it seemed so intriguing.  When we’d watched the first 15 minutes or so, D and I turned to each other in delight and said, “Ooo! Fun! Books and the devil!”  By the end, I was apologizing profusely.

It had so much promise. The always-watchable Johnny Depp stars here as Dean Corso, a rare-book dealer with mercenary tendacies.  He takes a job from a delightfully bewigged and creepy Frank Langella and sets off to Europe to authenticate a book that was possibly forged by Lucifer himself.  There are shadowy figures following Dean, frightening buzz-cut she-male secretaries, angry one-armed book collectors, and a satiny-robed Satanic cults and it’s all kind of boring.

The writers (and I think three is too many for any film) of The Ninth Gate must come from the “tell, don’t show” school of screenwriting, because this film wants to tell you things.  Lots of things.  Like, what happened before this scene and what’s probably going to happen after.  What happened in 1666, in the opening teaser scene (in case we forgot), and in a bookshop in Spain a couple of weeks ago.  Also, it wants to tell us exactly why it all happened and why what’s going to happen is going to happen.  And then it kills the person who just told us all that.  Rinse and repeat.

So with all this exposition and crow-barred-in explaining of things, why did we wind up watching the credits roll up at the end, bewildered at the exceedingly opaque ending?  What the heck was that fade to white?  What was that flying chick in the freaky sex-scene all about? What happened? The film had all of the visual depth of director/producer Roman Polanski’s usual style but there was just not much there, despite all of the information that seemed to be there.  As D put it, “it was like someone kept giving me IOU after IOU and then skipped town.”

One and a half screams for the freakish dispatching of the one-armed book dealer and for Frank Langella, in general.

Saturday, October 3

Count Yorga, Vampire (1970):

count_yorga_vampire

Things did not go better tonight.  Count Yorga is a really, really bad movie.  This strange, we-wish-we-were-a-Hammer-film film was on Svengoolie tonight, so that helped a lot.  But not even the King of the Horror Hosts could make me forget the totally ripped off plot, intense over-acting, and Halloween super-store sets.

I’d give you a plot synopsis, but you know the basic story of Dracula, right?  Just add in a 70s-swathed key party and seance, lots of false eyelashes, and a smattering of harsh edits where the original soft-core scenes were cut, and you’re all set.  Robert Quarry does his best Criswell imitation in the title role, a Bulgarian, um count?, who has recently located to L.A. to hold seances, I think.  That, or establish a harem.  Maybe both.    Women get bitten on the neck in unconvincingly “sensual” scenes, their men get mad and try to hunt down Criswell Yorga, a vampire chick bites a kitten on the back, and we’re treated to a patented 70s shock ending that is anything but.

That said, it was sort of fun.  Sven’s skits were great tonight, with his take on how to make the movie more interesting (Yorga Informercials) and trivia about the film and actors.  I love you Svengoolie.  Yorga, not so much.

A half-scream for the poor kitten.