DECEMBER 22, 2008
I remember in high school, when Quentin Tarantino was my biggest hero, I wanted very badly to go to NY and see his update of Wait Until Dark (with Marisa Tomei in the Audrey Hepburn role). But like pretty much all Broadway shows I'd ever be interested in, it closed after like two months (much longer than Dance of the Vampire or Whistle Down the Wind though), before I was able to even seriously look into planning a trip. Yet, I saw fucking Rent.
It's painfully obvious that the film was designed as a play. We have one location, and characters constantly drift in and out rather than leave someone on their own for too long. There's the odd bit here and there that's obviously designed for the screen (such as the entire opening), but I wish a bit more could have been done, like maybe showing the bad guys check out the husband's studio.
Also, it's clearly a big showcase for two actors, in this case Hepburn and Alan Arkin. Arkin's character is sadly absent for a lot of the 2nd act, but it just makes his appearances (some of them in costume; he is hilariously credited three times at the end of the movie) all the more enjoyable. As Arkin says on the brief retrospective interview (the DVD's only extra of note, not too surprising since almost everyone in the movie is dead now), back then it was pretty rare to have a character in a mainstream motion picture that was so bizarre and peculiar, and even though I clearly didn't see it back in its prime, I was still rather surprised to see someone behave so oddly in an Audrey Hepburn movie of all things. Nowadays, with guys like Christopher Walken and Crispin Glover more or less basing their entire career on being weird, it's nice to see it done so well by a guy who is actually acting, not just playing up a persona.
Since the movie more or less takes place in real time, you know that not a hell of a lot is going to happen until the final 10 minutes, so that didn't really bother me. It was still a pretty suspenseful setup, and I had fun seeing how they managed to stretch what could have been an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode into a nearly two hour movie without ever really dragging. The movie's awesome "warning" ad (seen below in the middle of a rather spoiler-y trailer - try to skip to the obvious part and don't watch the rest!) suggests a more gimmick-y movie, like something William Castle would have done, but it's really more of a suspenseful character drama.
I would have liked more scenes of people hiding in the house while she blind-walks around completely unaware though. My favorite part of the film is when she goes to her closet and takes out a scarf, completely oblivious to the body that is hanging on the door. As she whips the scarf around her neck, the corpse's hair gets brushed aside, providing a macabre sight gag for jerks like me to marvel at.
As for the horror angle, well, again, it's pretty much just the last ten minutes. This movie pretty much invented the "he's not dead!" moment, and it still packs a wallop, thanks to the way it's done. Our guy doesn't suddenly reappear or grab her ankle or whatever, no, he literally springs across the room (from off camera) and tackles her. It's fucking awesome. I prefer the more subtle/creepy style of this standard moment (i.e. Michael slowly sitting back up behind a totally unaware Laurie), but for the shock value version, this one is hard to beat.
I was also happy to see Jack Weston in the movie. Short Circuit 2 was one of my favorite movies as a kid, but other than that and Dirty Dancing, I don't think I've ever seen him in anything else. He died in 1996 (8 years after SC2, which was his last movie for some reason), so that's a bummer. He's a great character actor in the M. Emmet Walsh vein.
What say you?