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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Blind Pix from NetFlix: May (2001)

Okay, so I just got NetFlix and I am loving it. NetFlix affords me the opportunity to check out totally weird, random movies that didn't play in my city the first time around and didn't get stocked by my video store the second time around. Today's title does not refer to last month, but to the movie, May a sleeper horror flick that recently piqued my interest.

May (2001)

Truly great horror movies make us feel something for the victims. Whether we are rooting for them (Night of the Living Dead) or against them (Carrie) the victims of a horror flick should really stir some kind of feelings. This is not the case with May, Lucky McKee’s ambitious film about an outcast who becomes a murderer.

May is a young woman who grows up a playground pariah because of a lazy eye. Her mother is presented as a deeply unhappy Stepford wife with the desire for a perfect daughter. Understandably, May turns out a little neurotic and unstable. At the same time, she is kind of sweet and endearing in an Edward Scissorhands sort of way.

Poor May always seems to find parts of people that she likes—one man has the right hands, one woman has beautiful legs. Yet when she sees people as wholes, they almost always disappoint her. Funnily enough, I feel the same way about this movie. There were parts that were great. I loved the way May keeps trying to explain to people that she is weird, and they all say, “I like weird,” only to find out that she is not weird in a conventional let’s-all-go-see-a-Troma-movie kind of a way. Few things are funnier than preppy people trying to act like they’re on the fringe of society, and May lets us laugh long and hard at them. That said, the film just didn’t seem to come together. There are some scenes that are just freaky with no emotional payoff at all. If you read anything about this film you will inevitably encounter references to "the scene with the blind children." I can confidently say that that was, in fact, one of the more disturbing things I have seen on film in the last ten years. Disturbing, yes, but it left me irritated and bored--I did not know why I was being disturbed. Disturbing imagery without message, metaphor or context is so annoyingly student-film.

McKee does a good job of portraying May’s mental collapse (her rejection and subsequent breakdown are reminiscent of Robert DeNiro’s major malfunction in Taxi Driver). He has a difficult time chooseing a style and a genre, however. He is clearly deft in romance, horror, comedy and drama—still, most directors will choose one genre, not try to stitch three or four together. McKee is clearly a gifted director, evoking Woody Allen and Brian De Palma in his work. I think with a few more films under his belt, he will really hit his stride.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What Were They Smoking? From Hell (2001)

I love Alan Moore, the creator of V for Vendetta, Watchmen and From Hell. I also love Johnny Depp. When I heard about the Hughes Bros' film production of the book starring Mr. Depp as Inspector Abberline, I could not have been happier. Oh, how foolish I was to have been so optimistic. What began as a subtle critique of social disparities of Victorian (and modern day) England becomes a dreadful Grand Guignol of gross proportions.

Imagine Heather Graham playing a whore. Not too hard, right? Now try to imagine Heather Graham playing a 19th century British whore with a sort-of-cockney accent. Not so comfortable now, are you? "From Hell" is about Jack the Ripper, the whores he killed and the detective who is fighting his dubious peers--and a serious drug addiction--to catch him. It sounds like a great premise, but there are several fundamental problems:
1) It is not scary and lacks most of the social commentary of its source material.
2) Heather Graham looks WAY too clean and healthy to be an authentic whore. She looks like Malibu Streetwalker Barbie.
3) Although it should be respected for trying something new (a gangsta move set in Victorian London) the result is pretty freaking silly--and it takes itself so seriously that you can't help but hang your head and sigh.

there are a few good things about this movie that I should mention:
1) Johnny Depp looks great naked.
2) Despite the stilted, mediocre performances all around, the scenery is absolutely beautiful.
3) I so rarely get to use the word "bathos," and this movie, being overripe with it, gives me the opportunity. Bathos!

What I think they were smoking: Opium.