As the opening credits of The Birdcage came and passed on screen I had a realization: I haven’t seen very many Robin Williams movies. Thinking back on the handful that I have seen (many of them seen a very long time ago), I remember them fondly. I don’t really have a segue or continuation to this thought other than I think I’d like to try and watch more of the late Mr. Williams’ films this year.
Despite having many moving parts, the basic premise of The Birdcage is very simple. Gay father and his uber-flamboyant partner need to act like a traditional Reaganistic family for a night when they meet their son’s wife-to-be and her hard right wing conservative parents. Goofs ensue.
Well, he we are. Last stop. The final Hellraiser movie. Hellraiser: Revelations. The Omega. The infamous ashcan film. The Hellraiser film panned hardest by fans and critics alike. Even Doug Bradley, beloved actor for Pinhead since 1987 opted out because this was below him. He showed up for Deader and Hellworld to collect a cheque and offer thirty seconds of his face and voice, but this was too much of a hack gig for him to take. I want you to think about that as we dive into this thing.
Hellraiser: Revelations starts the way every good Hellraiser should start: with shakey found footage of dipshit teenagers (played by twenty-somethings). Two guys, Nico and Steve are on their way to Tijuana (constantly pronounced TI-OU-HHHWA-NAH) for a vacation, and they’re ready to record all of their crazy escapades. While out partying one night, Nico drunkenly kills a prostitute with a toilet (yes, really) and while trying to drink away the rest of the night (as I did after watching this) they’re offered an intricate puzzle box by a grubby homeless man. Totes obvi, this is the Lament Configuration, and when they start messing around with it, Pinhead and the Cenobites appear to reap their flesh and souls.
Turns out, all this footage has made its way back to Steve’s parents who are having a dinner party with Nico’s parents. They’re all mourning the loss of their boys while Steven’s sister, who has not yet seen the tape, wants to find out what really happened to them. She gets her hands on the Lament Configuration because apparently it somehow came back to L.A. into Steven’s room and once she begins solving it, Steven appears! His family, shocked and astounded to see him alive brings him inside where he can recount the events of that fateful night in Tijuana first hand.
Boy, oh boy, it’s been a little while since I’ve been to a big theatre to see a movie. Last I saw was Baby Driver (review: it’s great, go see it!) maybe a month ago. It’s been even longer since I’ve seen a horror flick on the silver screen, so considering the immense hype train (which I will admit I was happily riding) surrounding the new version of IT, you can bet your butt I’d be there.
IT (I’m going to refer to the story’s title in all caps to help avoid confusion) is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, and somewhat of a remake of the 1990 TV mini-series. I haven’t seen the version from ’90, but a lot of people seem to love it, particularly Tim Curry’s unhinged performance throughout. I’ve read the beginning of the novel, but it’s snowblinded Stephen King (which I’ve mentioned before) that clocks in at over 1100 pages, so forgive me if I don’t finish it this decade.
IT takes place in Derry, Maine (duh), and follows the Losers Club, a group of kind of nerdy, kind of dweeby, kind of outcast kids who discover that an evil entity wakes up every 27 years to terrorize and devour the kids of the town. The de facto leader of the Losers Club, Bill is interested in investigating this evil force since the mysterious disappearance of his brother Georgie last summer. As the Losers try to piece together the mystery of Georgie and Derry’s other missing kids, they encounter the evil, which has taken the terrifying form of Pennywise The Dancing Clown, because coked out Stephen King that’s why.
YEEEAAAAHHHHH. It feels good to be back. It’s been almost three months since we last opened the Lament Configuration and watched a Hellraiser movie. I mean, I’ve seen a couple existential and nihilistic films since Hellraiser VII: Deader, but man, watching this last ‘Raiser flick is on a whole other level. Hellworld is the eighth and second-to-last bowel movement in the Hellraiser franchise. Released in the same year as its predecessor, I think this movie is the culmination of everything wrong that the later Hellraiser flicks have done.
Hellraiser: Hellworld takes place no discernible time after the previous movies, and honestly, it doesn’t even matter. We’re introduced to an intrepid band of super edgy goth nerds whom are all mourning the loss of their friend Adam. How did Adam pass? Oh, y’know, video games killed him! Pretty topical for 2005. Immediately after Adam’s funeral, they continue to play Hellworld, the Hellraiser-themed MMORPG that allegedly killed their friend because they’re insensitive fucks. Wait, back up. A Hellraiser-themed video game? What the fuck? Is the Hellraiser mythos that popular in this movie world that somebody made a video game about it?
Whatever, it’s not worth trying to fight this movie’s stupitidy.
They all individually beat the game (which usually isn’t possible in games like this, but whatever) and get invited to a secret and private Hellworld Party. It’s a super edgy mid-2000s Hard Rock And Metal Rave™ at a massive mansion owned by The Host (Lance Henriksen, looking for a paycheque). Sex, drugs, and rock and roll ensue in this Bacchanalian party, and this movie be like it do as it slowly picks off our main characters one by one in increasingly stupid and frustrating ways.
Bartender, get me another Tarkovsky. Stronger, this time. For those of you sighing heavily, I promise I’ll get back to watching the trash Hellraiser sequels soon.
I gave my whole Tarkovsky spiel in my write up on his 1972 introspective sci-fi film, Solaris. After having missed Stalker at my local independent theater, I was disheartened that I wouldn’t get to see it, especially after one of my co-workers saw it and really enjoyed it. But alas, you can always count on the Criterion Collection to re-release old school art films for way too much money, and a couple weeks ago, they did just that. Talking about the value of films and how much they should cost is a debate for another day. Let’s just get to the Russian arthouse weirdness.
Stalker takes place in a strange world. Is it post-apocalyptic? Perhaps. Nothing grows in the non-specific country in which Stalker takes place. Buildings are ruined, and the earth is cracked beneath everyone’s feet. Is it a dystopian hyper-industrial future? There’s more evidence of this, with the militaristic police that seem to be patrolling every street corner and every back alley. Chemical factories and power plants make up the skyline. Whatever the case, the world of Stalker is a funereal one. Three men meet in a bar. We do not know their names, only their professions. The Professor, the Writer, and the Stalker, a man trained to bypass the military quarantine surrounding a mysterious area of lush greenery simply known as the Zone. These men are prepared to risk their lives for their mission into the Zone, as legend has it that within the Zone lies a room that can immediately grant the wishes of anyone who enters.
Editor’s Note: I started writing this while kind of blitzed (similar to my Bye Bye Man review, but with maybe half a dozen more bottles of Alpine in me), so bare with me here. I took a sober moment the next day to comb through this write up and clean it up to the usual amount of typos and grammatical errors.
I’m lucky enough to live in a town that has a local independent cinema, which screens a ton of newer indie releases as well as manages to show old prints of classic movies. Local arthouse and documentary films also get a home there, but the reason I’ve taken a new shine to the place is because they’ve been on a bit of an Andrei Tarkovsky kick recently. Last month they showed Stalker, arguably his most revered movie (honestly, among Tarkovsky fans, every single one of his films is up for being considered his best work) which I unfortunately wasn’t able to catch. I was kicking myself for that one, so when I found out that they’d be showing Tarkovsky’s philosophical sci-fi epic Solaris, I made sure I was able to make it out to catch it on the big screen.
For those of you who might not know (I was only introduced to Andrei Tarkovsky recently), Tarkovsky was the most famous Soviet era Russian filmmaker, and was able to produce art so expressive of his own feelings and thoughts his films were repeatedly banned, seized, and burned by the USSR until finally he was exiled from the union. Among the arthouse and independent film fans, Tarkovsky is usually held in the same echelon as Kubrick, Lynch, and Coppola. He’s apparently kind of a big deal. This film is the first I’ve ever seen of his, so we’ll see how he stacks up.
Tarkovsky’s 1972 offering Solaris is often considered as a Eastern European response to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a slow, heady sci-fi flick that uses its setting and creative choices to explore interesting and thought provoking themes and questions. Solaris is smaller in scale and a little more introspective than 2001, following a psychologist named Kelvin who is sent to a space station orbiting the eponymous ocean planet. Kelvin’s mission: to investigate the strange messages received from the station. Word is that most of the crew are dead and the survivors have since descended into madness. When he reaches the station, Kelvin is informed that there are “guests” on board: physical manifestations of the occupants’ memories, apparently conjured up by the alien planet below them. Before long he runs into what appears to be an amnesiac version of his wife, Khari. Kelvin is particularly distraught over this, considering Khari committed suicide a decade prior. Things then get weirder, and much more Russian.