MAY 6, 2008
It’s no secret that I will often give a generic movie a slightly better review if it’s technically proficient (blame all of the movies I’ve watched that couldn’t get either the technical OR creative aspects correct), but what do I do when it comes to a movie like Crazy Eights? It’s one of the best shot low budget films I’ve seen in ages, and certainly made with more effort than any of the other After Dark films from this year (save for Mulberry Street, which remains the only one I really consider independent). But the movie itself? Couldn’t make heads or tails of it. At no point in the entire film was I quite sure why the horror-ish things were happening, and the ending was even less coherent.
But man, what a great looking film. Director James K. Jones and DP Stephen M. Lyons have somehow found a way to combine M. Night Shyamalan’s endless takes (entire scenes play out in one or two shots) with Michael Bay’s non-stop camera movement. If there’s a still shot in the entire film, I didn’t catch it. They are also fond of Dutch angles, which when combined with the almost floating camerawork give the film a very interesting and energetic feel, which is all the more impressive when you consider that the entire film consists of five folks standing around looking at walls and news clippings and old toys.
And yes, five. The plot description will say six, but the film has a Noonan, played by Dan Deluca. While he is given his own death scene (and his death is acknowledged by his friends, which puts him above his namesake), his character is so extraneous it’s almost laughable in certain scenes. For example, after the funeral that serves as the reason for these estranged friends to get back together, they all go out to eat. During the dinner, everyone but him not only talks, but gets a closeup. I wasn’t even aware he was actually with them until a wide shot revealed him sitting in between two of the others. Poor sod. Naturally, he is the first to die, and even before then he is more or less written out of the film by the most exaggerated injury in film history (he falls down maybe 5 steps and yet his leg looks like it was run over by a truck and then partially eaten).
Actually, there is almost another non-character, but since she’s played by Gabrielle Anwar, she gets elevated a bit. Like Deluca’s character, she disappears for long stretches and doesn’t really interact with the others. She spends most of the film rocking back and forth on a chair (what I wouldn’t give to be that chair...) before shoving her hands down her own throat and ripping it out from the inside. Not sure why they would hire a relatively well-known actress to do so little in a film, but hey, any Anwar is fine by me.
The real casting surprise is none other than George Newbern as the lead. He plays the least obnoxious priest in movie history (he wears jeans and smokes instead of telling everyone how to live their life before molesting little kids), and even though he’s third billed, he’s essentially the lead. Newbern is the star of one of my favorite movies as a kid: It Takes Two. It’s the tale of a man who is about to get married, but before he does so he wants to buy a sports car. He does, but the car falls apart, then he eats some bad Mexican, fucks some hot blonde woman, blows up the car dealership, and gets married on time. It’s never come out on DVD, but occasionally airs on cable. It’s also got one of my favorite movie scores ever, composed by none other than Carter Burwell (I believe it was his first film) who is known for his work with the Coens. Anyway, good to see him again.
Also on hand are Dina Meyer, Frank Whaley, and Traci Lords. It’s the most impressive cast assembled for an After Dark film yet, and I think it helps smooth over some of the film’s shortcomings (you know, like, not making any goddamn sense). I’m not sure if it was the INTENT to never really explain anything (some theories on the IMDb seem to make sense, but damned if anything in the film really support them), but if so they did a piss poor job. Then again, the film has one of the strangest writing credits I’ve ever seen – “Additional Screenplay Rewrites By...” followed by three names, one of which (Jones again) is also credited with the screenplay itself? Who the fuck credits himself for rewriting his own script?
And once again, the DVD is completely lacking in extras, which is incredibly strange, since all of the AD films from the first year had at LEAST a making of featurette. So far this year, the only ones with extras are Nightmare Man and Mulberry, which incidentally are also the most truly independent of the series.
Still, the atmosphere, the pace (it’s only 80 minutes long with credits), and occasional (brief) gore are admirable, and the cast much better than this type of stuff is usually afforded. I can’t go so far as to say it was GOOD, because I think story should come first above all else, but the craftsmanship alone puts it above many others. Maybe a few more (or less?) of those credited rewrites would have resulted in this being the best of this year’s offerings, but instead we are left with a mixed bag – A well made and well cast movie that unfortunately doesn’t have a script worthy of the efforts.
What say you?