AUGUST 12, 2008
I’ve never seen the original Willard, but I quite enjoyed the remake. And after seeing Stanley, which was admittedly inspired by the original film, I really should get on that. But that’s a review for a whole other day. Maybe a Thursday.
Stanley is about Tim, a weirdo with a deep affection for his pet snakes, particularly two named Hazel and, you guessed it, Stanley. Early on they have little snake babies, and it is very precious. But there are some redneck locals, and assorted other undesirables, so you should pretty much know how the movie plays out.
But, like a lot of 70s movies, it’s just really “off”, which makes it lovable. The last 15 minutes are particularly batshit, as Tim kidnaps a girl who doesn’t seem to mind much, and even when he threatens to rape her, she’s pretty much OK with the situation (they then make consensual love and she seems more interested in him than he is in her!). This is preceded by an endless montage of the two of them traveling down the river, set to a song that reminded me of Julian Lennon’s “Valotte”. Also, Alex Rocco, as the film’s primary villain, is just gonzo. He wears a very effeminate robe, constantly lifts 1 lb weights, checks out his non-sculpted physique, etc. His death scene is also hysterical – it includes a nonsensical freeze frame that I actually thought was the end of the film.
Plus it’s just funny how ineffective both Tim and the snakes are, as most of the deaths are sort of the folks’ own fault. The big bad’s two henchman, for example, just drown in quicksand trying to escape a snake-waving Tim. He just wanted them to leave for all we know. Later, a 3rd henchman kills Hazel and the snake babies, and it takes Tim like half an hour to kill him.
I also want to point out the depressing/hilarious outcome of this series of events – we see Tim burying Hazel with a little makeshift cross above the ‘grave’, and then the camera pans to reveal three SMALLER crosses and dirt piles for the baby snakes. The only way the scene would be more amazing would be if Tim (or Stanley, even better) looked to the sky and let out a good "Nooooooooooooooooo!"
There’s also a great bit where Tim randomly walks into a strip club and sees a woman eat a snake’s head. So he stalks her and the club owner, who sleep together on the couch (but don’t get it on), and then breaks in and throws an endless number of snakes on them (or it’s just one snake shown being thrown 20 times). It’s a completely extraneous scene, obviously meant to pad the film and add some more bloodshed, but it’s still a delight.
Director William Grefe, Chris Robinson (not Black Crowes’ guy, the guy who played Tim), and writer Gary Crutcher were on hand for the screening, a rare trifecta for these Grindhouse night movies, as the guys are often dead or no one knows where the hell they are (one night they had the film’s sound recordist and no one else). Their Q&A was enjoyable, if a bit long (Grefe likes to ramble), and they also signed posters. All that, combined with the other movie (Impulse), resulted in this being one of the longest Grindhouse nights ever – we didn’t leave the theater until 1 am (we sat down at 7:30). But it was, as usual, a blast, and I urge you to check out the film when it hits DVD later this year.
What say you?