SEPTEMBER 12, 2010
You know how just about every band releases one really “off” album and you never listen to it, but every now and then you’re like “I don’t remember what it was I don’t like about this... how bad can it be?”, and then you listen and you’re like “Oh right....”? That’s how I am with Ulli Lommel films. I watch about one a year, hate it, and then months later I always figure “well, that last one is bad, but I’ve seen a lot of awful crap since then, so I’ll have a new perspective.” And then it’s just as bad if not worse than the one before. Well, if I may offer dim praise, The Raven might be one of his better films (of the ones I’ve seen), because it at least offers me some nostalgia.
Based on the billboards that pop up in scenes filmed on Sunset Blvd, this movie was shot right around the time I moved to LA. In fact there’s a Masters of Horror billboard in one shot – that show premiered the night I arrived in town. There’s also a Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire billboard in another shot, which was one of the first movies I saw here once I had settled in. Memories...
Also, back then I wasn’t watching shit like this on a daily basis.
The most curious thing about his resume is how often he manages to get people to return for his next film. The main girl, one Jillian Swanson, has appeared in like 4 films with the guy – doesn’t she learn? This is the sort of thing that can ruin your career (indeed, after her last Lommel feature, she has only scored but one credit, on an episode of a TV show I’ve never heard of), and she probably could have gone on to better things. She can’t lip sync worth a damn, but it seem she’s a decent actress (compared to the rest of the cast anyway), and attractive; certainly enough to get a 2 episode stint as Drama’s girlfriend on Entourage or some shit.
As for the plot, your guess is as good as mine. Best I can figure, Lenore (Swanson) was raped by this dude, and then she killed him in her tub. Some undetermined time later, he or his ghost comes back, sometimes dressed as a raven (yep), and kills a bunch of her friends, which doesn’t seem to concern any of them all too much. I couldn’t tell how much time had passed during the movie; it would seem like days later but folks would act like whatever they were discussing just happened an hour before. But even so, there are odd events that Lenore just seems sort of puzzled by instead of genuinely concerned, like when one disappears out of a dentist chair even though she was sitting in the lobby and thus couldn’t have missed the girl deciding not to get a filling after all.
The kill scenes are equally baffling. Most of them involve the killer standing there watching the victim for a while (it sounds creepy but it’s just boring, trust me), and then his knife will appear in an impossible place (such as coming up from inside a laundry machine), before they cut to another angle with him holding the same knife to the character’s throat. So are there two killers? One who can fit inside laundry machines and under car seats, and the watcher guy? Who the hell knows/cares.
What does any of this have to do with Poe, you might ask? Well, as a child who looked nothing like her present day self (it seems they actually went out of their way to make this aspect of the movie confusing by casting the least similar looking child on the planet and then never really having a point to any of the flashbacks to boot), Lenore was taken in by a weird old man (Lommel himself I think) who liked to read Poe stories to her. But he died and left her a house, which is a typical Poe-ian plot point, albeit it has no bearing on anything.
In fact there are a lot of “What the hell?” plot points and characters in the movie. In addition to the dentist (TWO of the characters in the movie are going to the dentist on this day, plus they talk about going for a good 5 minutes before it happens), there’s a rock band and recording studio, a body shop, and also a couple of nuns (one of whom sports a wedding ring) who take care of someone who I think is supposed to be Lenore’s sister. She seems like a mute invalid for most of the movie, sitting in her wheelchair, incapable of putting food in her own mouth, but then suddenly starts talking normally, right around the time the nun spills some food on the girl’s shirt and instantly removes it, making this the rare film that offers nudity from a character confined to a wheelchair. If I had to guess, these folks were all investors who wanted to be in the movie, so Lommel worked them in as more or less themselves despite the fact that it’s jarring and pointless.
As with his Zodiac movie (still one of the absolute worst films I’ve watched for HMAD), he occasionally has the killer (or him) narrate some pointless nonsense, like “Skinner kills all bitches!” But this time he has on-screen graphics to accompany these random outbursts. He also takes quite a liking to electrical poles/wires, as shots of them are inserted into the film every 47 seconds or so.
Unsurprisingly it looks/sounds like ass. Some scenes resemble a rather third rate reality show as our characters wander around a location like a body shop, rambling about nothing in particular. Most of the sound is obviously recorded with the camera’s built in microphone, and the picture quality is that of a home video. The cameraman appears in reflections more often than not, and every now and then Lommel inserts shots from a different movie entirely (one shot on film) for some reason. They also spell Poe’s name wrong (Allen instead of Allan) in the credits, but I’m guessing the Poe estate probably appreciates it, as it will only help them prove that they had nothing to do with this nonsense.
The only bonus feature is a trailer. Thank you. But this is an LG release, so there are a whole bunch of trailers. Interestingly, there are back to back spots for The Descent, which is possibly the best horror film of the decade, and Murder Set Pieces, which is inarguably the worst. And also a spot for Open Water 2: Adrift, which inexplicably remains my most popular review. And more nostalgia, Saw III, which opened the weekend I began writing for B-D. So, shit film, but very eclectic trailer reel!
What say you?
P.S. According to Wikipedia, Lommel has since quit making horror films, as he has found Christ or something. Good riddance. I feel bad for Christ.