Friday, May 23, 2014
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 78
Candyman (1992, dir. Bernard Rose) The underrated Candyman is one of the best horror movies of the 90s. It feels haunted down to its DNA. Much of this has to do with the chilling atmosphere brought from the Cabrini-Green housing development in which most of the movie is set. Oddly enough, though, the movie is not oppressive because it’s thrilling to see a movie this scary. This is one of the few times I can recall gore freaking me out in a movie. It’s so over the top that you feel unsafe, like Clive Barker and director Bernard Rose are not holding back. Candyman stars Tony Todd in a now iconic horror role and Virginia Madsen who claimed she was hypnotized when she shot certain scenes of the movie. I don’t know if that’s true but if it is, it really works especially for the big reveal at the end which has been burned into my brain. Holy shit, is it effective.
Amistad (1997; dir. Steven Spielberg) Maybe this is cheating since I just reviewed it for DVD Verdict, but if you aren't going to pick up the new Blu-ray at least give Amistad a chance (first, second, or otherwise) on Netflix. I don't know why people ignore this excellent film, which (with a few exceptions) is at least as good as any Spielberg film in the last twenty years. It's a gorgeous movie with an all-star cast, supporting a trio of stellar performances by Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Hopkins, and Djimon Hounsou. Amistad takes a unique approach to slavery. Instead of showing the depravity of plantation life (we've got 12 Years a Slave for that), Spielberg and screenwriter ad avid Franzoni use the structure of a courtroom drama to talk about the way white America and Europe dehumanized a group of people to maximize profits.
Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964, dir. Ishiro Honda) In a recent column, Three Flicks: Godzilla, I wrote about Mothra vs. Godzilla, the fourth film in the Godzilla franchise (it's incorrectly titled Godzilla vs. Mothra on Netflix; that title would later be used for a 1992 film). I was kind of hard on the movie and even accused it of being boring, which is the cardinal sin of a monster movie. I WAS WRONG. I watched it again (in the original Japanese) and absolutely adored it. First of all, Mothra is a SHE. I'm not sure how I didn't pick up on this originally. Second, Mothra is regal and dignified and rules the kingdom of Infant Island with a kind hand (wing?). That the movie accomplishes this with what is basically a puppet is amazing. Godzilla doesn't even show up until around the half-way mark, yet I never cared or felt bored because I was completely immersed in what was happening elsewhere. Lastly, the score provided by composer Akira Ifukube is incredible and simultaneously conveys beauty and sadness. The score also features Godzilla's theme music, which is a little touch that adds so much and is not always present in these movies. If you saw the new Godzilla film and it left you wanting more of the big guy (in either a good way or a bad way), I urge you to check this out. It's definitely one of the high notes in the franchise. I wish I'd recognized greatness the first time I watched it.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991, dir. Jonathan Demme) This film is so good it makes me wish that Demme would make more movies. Silence of the Lambs finally brought the horror film respectability by masquerading as a "police procedural" and "thriller." Make no mistake; this is a horror movie, the only horror movie in history to win the Best Picture Oscar. Career-best performances from Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, and Ted Levine. One of my scariest moments ever as a high-school teacher was when I heard a student out in the hall during passing period shout, "IT PUTS THE LOTION ON ITS SKIN." I still don't know why anyone would ever really shout that. This film would also satisfy the requirements for June 1st, 5th, or 30th during JUNESPLOITATION.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010, dir. Daniel Farrands/Andrew Kasch) This incredible documentary covers every Nightmare on Elm Street movie from the 1984 original through Freddy vs. Jason, interviewing nearly every major participant (excluding names like Patricia Arquette and Johnny Depp) and even some minor players (like the "No running in the hallways!" woman from the first film). While these horror franchise docs have already gotten played out, Never Sleep Again remains the gold standard -- anyone with even a passing interest in these movies should check it out, as it tells not just a lot of interesting and revealing stories about the productions (poor Stephen Hopkins), but documents the changing face of horror and filmmaking through the 1980s. Don't let the FOUR HOUR running time dissuade you. It flies by.