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December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife (Henry Koster - 1947)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:44 AM

December 20, 2016

The Devil Lives Here


O Diabo Mora Aqui
Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio - 2015
Artsploitation Films Region 1 DVD

While my knowledge of Brazilian culture and history is minimal, my reaction to The Devil Lives Here is that there is more to this film than simply the dramatic recreation of an urban legend. In the early Seventies, I was able to see a few films by young Brazilian filmmakers, peers to the various filmmakers around the globe at that time whose cinema was considered new. In this case, it was known as "Cinema Novo". The most significant filmmaker of that movement was Glauber Rocha, whose films mixed history, politics and some of the mystic folk beliefs of Brazil. One of Rocha's most famous films is titled, Black God, White Devil.

I thought of Rocha's film because there is a racial dynamic established immediately in this new film. The narrative shifts between a quartet of white kids, a pair of mestizo young men, both taken place in the present, with the third narrative strand being the confrontation between a wealthy white landowner and a mestizo beekeeper in the unspecified past. The beekeeper is murdered and the bee hives burned down by the white landowner. There is a curse, that results in forces of the dead to be revived, seriously by the mestizo youths, and as an elaborate prank by one of the white young men. Most of the writing about The Devil Lives Here compares that film to Candyman, Bernard Rose's film inspired by an urban legend of a murderous ghost brought back to life.


And perhaps I am reading more into this film than was ever intended, but I would assume that there are elements to this film that would be understood by a Brazilian audience, but overlooked by many viewers in North America. Aside from the historical aspects, such as when Brazil was a slave-holding country, there are matters of cultural colonialism and appropriation. The young white artist, Apolo, has taken the basement where real horror took place, and painted a large pentagram, with candles planted at various points. Whatever he thought he was doing, he liberates forces he really doesn't know or can control. Even the young mestizo who thinks he knows what he's doing in trying to control the situation finds himself over his head. What follows are the more familiar tropes of violent death and demonic possession.

The Devil Lives Here is the feature debut of Gasparini and Vescio. Previously, they had made their mark with the short, "M is for Mailbox", part of The ABCs of Death, Part 2. Much of the horror is by suggestion, with the use of light, shadow and elliptical editing. This is the kind of film that can be enjoyed simply on a visceral level, yet suggests that that there is much more to be appreciated and understood.


Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:46 AM

December 19, 2016

Zsa Zsa Gabor: 1917 - 2016

zsa zsa.jpg

From what news was posted, the last years of Zsa Zsa Gabor's life were a hell that I would not wish for anyone else. That said, let us set aside the snark and cheap shots for a fond farewell to the real Queen of Outer Space.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:31 AM

December 18, 2016

Coffee Break

Dhobi Ghat.jpg
Aamir Khan and Monica Dogra in Dhobi Ghat (Kiran Rao - 2011)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 10:15 AM

December 13, 2016

The Hollow Point

mcshane hollow point.jpg

Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego - 2016
Vertical Entertainment

It may not exactly be the second coming of Sam Peckinpah, but The Hollow Point comes thisclose. And it's not only the violence that will remind some Peckinpah's films, but the presence of Ian McShane as the just retired, small town sheriff. Hard drinking straight from the bottle, with a face that looks like miles of bad road, McShane bears enough resemblance to both Ben Johnson and Warren Oates that he could pass for a long lost Wild Bunch Gorch brother. McShane also has the best lines, cracking about being a dinosaur, while deadly serious about enforcing the law according to his own rulebook.

Patrick Wilson is the new sheriff in this southwestern border town where everybody knows everyone else. Depending on the point of view, the job is either a promotion or punishment. Investigating the smuggling of guns and ammunition to Mexico, Wilson quickly learns that going by the book won't stop the criminal activity that eventually involves those close to him. Not only does Wilson match his adversaries in his use of violence, but the film visually provides a correlative with several scenes taking place in near dark or heavily shadowed spaces, making it difficult at times to distinguish between cop and criminal.

Though the story takes place in a town near the Mexican border, the film was shot in Tooele, Utah. What Lopez-Gallego gets right is how the characters all live in modest homes that actually looked lived in, often cluttered, and uncheery. As it is, money is the root of all evil here, with evidence leading to the markedly aged Jim Belushi's used car salesman, a failure of a businessman who still manages his lot of unsellable cars and trucks, the most conspicuous of those on the payroll of the unseen higher ups.

The working title was The Man on Carrion Road. Aside from some of the action taking place on Carrion Road, with the three crude wooden crosses nearby, that title also signifies the predatory nature of the criminal enterprise. Getting pounded and pummeled is the least of the physical punishments that the characters endure here. Lopez-Gallego doesn't even attempt to make the brutality look artistic - it's bloody and very messy.

There is some unexpected invention in Juan Navazo's soundtrack which appears to have picked some of it's inspiration from Johann Johannsson's work on Sicario, with the electronically treated, occasionally atonal, score. The Hollow Point lacks the kind of philosophical musings usually found in Sam Peckinpah's films, but it's not entirely grim, with a couple of moments of humor. One lesson to be remembered is to not use a blow torch when uncovering a cache of bullets.


Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:06 AM

December 11, 2016

Coffee Break

Juliette Binoche and Lou de Laage in L'Attesa (Piero Messina - 2015)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 11:56 AM

December 06, 2016

Counter Clockwise


George Moise - 2016
Artsploitation Films Region 1 DVD

I was glad to see that in the "Making of . . ." supplement for Counter Clockwise, writer-director George Moise acknowledged, among other films, Nacho Vigalongo's Time Crimes from 2007. The two films have somewhat similar premises with a man going into the future, and pursuing himself in the attempt to prevent a future crime. The biggest difference is that Vigalongo kept everything compact, with the action taking place within a very specific space, with a small number of characters. Moise takes his main character and his clones through the outskirts of Los Angeles, with a larger number of characters encompassing a much larger space.

While films with characters caught in time loops, finding themselves repeating situations, have been around since at least the 1930s, Moise uses a visual queue from what may be the first film to show time traveling characters within the same space. That film, from 1964, was in fact titled The Time Travelers, where a group of scientists, working on a time portal, briefly spot shadows that appear spontaneously, unaware that the shadows are their future selves, moving through an accelerated time loop. Moise gradually reveals that his main character, the scientist Ethan, is caught in a time loop with brief shadows that seem to appear of their own accord, as well as visual hints that are revisited as the film progresses.


One of the things I liked about Ethan's lab was how the equipment appeared to be totally industrial. It's been a cliche for films involving time travel to feature a lab with the aim of dazzling the viewer with lights and the shine of metal. The teleporter here looks like used equipment and a switchboard found in a factory, hooked up with a couple of basic desktop computers. As it turns out, Ethan's discovery that he has travelled six months into the future is an unintended accident. Ethan finds himself caught in a future that involves rivalry between two companies seeking Ethan's invention, as well as death and murder. What sets things off is that the original experiment is with a dog that seemingly has disappeared. While Ethan vainly attempts to go back to the time when he sent himself to the future, there is the question as to whether any of the events would not have happened had he not tried the experiment on himself.

After several shorts, this is George Moise's feature debut, which played at several genre film festivals. The DVD comes with three commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and the previously mentioned "Making of . . . " supplement. The film is quite polished for work shot on a very limited budget, as can be seen with Moise and his skeleton crew filming with small, digital cameras.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:03 AM

December 04, 2016

Coffee Break

Jason Statham in Redemption (Steven Knight - 2013)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 10:36 AM