JANUARY 20, 2010
Poll: were audiences simply not trying to get the jump on the films they were watching back in the 60s, or were people just stupid back then? The twist in Homicidal is so blatantly obvious that I was actually caught off-guard when I realized it was supposed to be a twist. “Oh, you mean - I’m not supposed to know that thing? Oh, OK. Huh.” I mean, it’s still a fun movie and all, but yikes, I’d be embarrassed if the ending came around and I was like “WHOOOOOOOOOA!”
I dunno though, maybe some folks aren’t paying attention, or don’t notice things like facial structure. And thus, they will indeed be surprised when the end of the film “reveals” that the awkward looking male character who is obviously dubbed and never appears in a scene with his alleged wife, a quite attractive woman, are in fact the same person. Those folks will probably also enjoy the twist in Amusement, another film where the filmmakers prayed that an audience will blindly accept that two characters with different identifying characteristics (hair-styles, glasses, etc) are indeed two different people. I wonder if they also found Fletch confusing. “Who is this guy on roller skates? Why’s he so interested in Fletch’s case?”
But like I said, it’s still fun. As un-surprising as the final twist was, I sure as hell didn’t expect her to freak out and stab a judge 10 minutes into the movie (it’s pretty bloody too). Nor did I think poor Helga would get decapitated on her stair-ascender wheelchair thingie. I also enjoyed the lovably dated references, particularly with money. During a wedding scene, the would-be groom balks at the fact that it’s going to cost 50 bucks (which is the “charge you extra” rate due to the fact that it’s in the middle of the night), and later, a traveling knife sharpener (why not?) charges two dollars to sharpen every knife in the house, but he lucks out as she only wants him to fix the one in her hand. Someone’s eating steak tonight!
I was also tickled by the heroine’s name: Miriam Webster. Now, of all the goddamn names in the world, why would you use that? It’s like the writer went to get a book of baby names for some ideas, but saw the dictionary first and was like “Ah, fuck it.” Hilariously, a guy even says that there are probably “lots of women” with that name in the Southern California area. No, because I don’t think ironic names were that big of a rage in 1961.
1961 is, of course, after 1960, and thus after Psycho. And boy does it show. No one involved pretended that it wasn’t a Psycho cash-in, but some of the steals are a bit too blatant for my taste. The young pretty blond on the run early on, getting paranoid when she sees the police (hilariously, after she calms down and goes on her way, she blows through a stop sign. Way to keep the cops from noticing you!), money, motels... it’s all a touch familiar. There’s even an Arbogast type character who shows up in the film’s second half. And the climax revolves around a dead woman propped in a chair, a cross-dressing killer, and a big old house. Come on Castle, at least TRY to distinguish yourself!
Castle, of course, has his usual gimmicks to give his film its own identity. This one has a 45 second countdown clock in which scared audience members could leave the theater, but they would be called cowards and have to sit in the “Coward’s Corner” in the theater lobby. It has been suggested that anyone actually in the corner was a paid plant (I probably would have done it for the hell of it - especially since I already had the ending figured out) and apparently the movie had some trouble being booked because of the nonsensical logistics involved with managing such a thing, but I think it’s funny. I sure as hell wasn’t taking the movie seriously anyway, so the fourth wall break smack dab in the middle of the friggin’ climax was pretty funny to me.
You may have noticed that I watched the film on Netflix instant. I am aware of the irony - had Castle been alive today, he would probably be disgusted at the idea of people watching low quality versions of any film, let alone his, at home instead of in a theater, since the moviegoing experience was so integral to his appeal. For what it’s worth, it WAS in Netflix HD (which approximates the quality of say, a non-anamorphic DVD zoomed in on an HD set, as opposed to the just barely better than VHS quality of the rest of their movies), but still, seemed wrong to be watching it that way. I’d love to see a week-long festival of his films (PRINTS!), with all of the gimmicks (Tinglers, floating skeletons, life insurance policies, etc) intact. Or as a day-long event at a horror festival. Someone make this happen!!!
What say you?