FEBRUARY 16, 2010
Granted, some of my entries have very thin relations to typical horror movies, but even I couldn’t count my originally planned movie, Video X, as a horror movie*, despite it qualifying under my rules (was listed under horror movies on Netflix site). It was actually just some True Romance/Natural Born Killers-esque “found footage” thing, where two rednecks moving to start a new life accidentally kill a guy and go on the run (while filming everything!). No thanks. So I loaded up Lost Souls, because I knew it was horror as it was about the Devil, and if nothing else, I could enjoy some vintage Winona Ryder, who was one of the first actresses I ever crushed on as a young man (thanks not to Heathers, or even Edward Scissorhands, but the little-remembered Mermaids).
Well that was about all I enjoyed. I appreciate the more atmospheric approach, but director Janusz Kaminski (better known as Spielberg’s DP) doesn’t even seem to be aware that he’s making a horror movie most of the time, as the occasional “Whoa, cool” moments are largely underplayed. For example, at one point Ben Chaplin’s character (the would-be Antichrist) gets a tape that has some devil nonsense on it, but he cannot hear it. His neighbor, however, can hear it loud and clear, and she ultimately kills herself. But the scene of her hearing the stuff is presented so quickly it’s hard to even tell that that is what is happening, and her death is just sort of off-handedly mentioned later.
Speaking of Chaplin, he’s the actual star of the movie, not Ryder, despite what the billing may claim. Our sympathies are largely with him, and he is simply more developed as a character than hers is. Ryder has maybe 3 lines in the film’s first half hour and spends most of her early scenes writing down numbers, but during that time we go with Chaplin along on a personal appearance (he’s a famous author), to a family dinner, on a date, etc. Even once they meet, Ryder often disappears or just pops up near the end of a scene. And this is a shame, because not only would I rather look at her than Chaplin (never liked the guy much; he’s pretty dull), but it also leaves her characterization rather thin - we never get the full story on her parents’ death, why she was possessed as a girl, etc. She does smoke though, which is a nice reminder of the good ol’ days where the good guy characters in films could have vices.
It’s also got some questionably stupid screenwriting. At one point, Ryder tries to convince Chaplin that he is the product of incest, so she asks him what his parents’ blood-types were. And he knows them! I bet half the people in the country, if not more, don’t even know their own, let alone their parents, yet he knows them off the top of his head. And then, of course, she explains that an O positive and A negative (or whatever) could not possibly have an AB negative child (again, “or whatever”), which is why he finally believes her. He doesn’t assume he, being a normal person, just got a detail about his parents’ blood type wrong or anything, he just pretty much goes with it from thereon in.
It’s also a lousy reproduction of NY. Apart from the obvious flyover establishing shots and things of that nature, I never felt like they were in any of the five boroughs. Even the interior scenes lack that distinctive New York feel, which just makes the movie feel cheap to me. And if Kaminski would toss in some creepy visuals more often, or, far more importantly, add some actual suspense to the proceedings (what’s going to happen if he turns into the Antichrist? Instantly go apeshit and kill everyone? Fuck around looking for a bride like in End of Days? We never know), things like that wouldn’t be noticeable. Damn you, Kaminski! Your movie’s so dull, I started thinking of things like “That’s definitely a Los Angeles hallway”.
Also, I know the movie is like 10 years old (actually 12 - it was produced in 1998 but shelved until 2000 due to all of the other Devil themed movies like Stigmata and End of Days. And also because it’s unusually dull.), but can we give hiring Elias Koteas to play in 1-2 scenes in horror movies a rest? Either make him a full-blown character, or get someone else. I like the guy, and I’m sick of seeing his name in credits only for him to disappear after 5 minutes of screen-time (Fallen) or just pop up at random intervals in a film (Haunting in Connecticut). Ditto for Philip Baker Hall, though he just appeared in every single movie that was released between 1997 and 2002, so I guess I’ll let it slide.
Back to the movie’s delay, it’s kind of funny, as it was delayed to keep it away from the other Devil movies, only to finally come out the same weekend as the Exorcist re-release in 2000. Obviously, like most of the world, I opted for Exorcist, and now of course I realize the irony - the things they added to that movie (i.e. Spider-walk) should have been added to this one instead. Exorcist was perfectly good as it was, but this movie suffers from taking the idea of an Antichrist way too seriously. If Ben Chaplin suddenly began running down stairs and across ceilings, I would be probably singing this movie’s praises right now.
What say you?
*As I mentioned, I was working on a film set after my regular work and thus not having much time for HMAD-ing as it was, so it would have sucked if I kept watching the movie and not had time for a horror movie. However, it would be fitting, February 16th, 2007 is the first/last/only time I ever missed a day of horror movie watching. Stupid Video X!