Brea Grant’s Lucky

I struggled with Lucky, a new horror film billed as innovative and groundbreaking and yes it’s well made, yes it’s themes are incredibly important but you have to fashion a story that makes sense and draws you in around said themes or all you’re left with is abstraction without any proper narrative tissue to cling to. This is written by and stars Brea Grant, an actress whose work I loved in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and some of the later seasons of NBC’s Heroes, where she played the Quicksilver proxy. Here she plays a suburban woman who is attacked one night in her own home by a masked man. She wounds the guy and he runs off, but the next night he shows up again. And the next night again. And again, and so on. When she tells her husband he more or less shrugs it off with a non-reaction. Her friends and the police seems to have the same lukewarm indifference so she’s stuck in this surreal twilight zone where she’s the only person who finds it concerning that the same intruder comes back night after night to torment her, no one in her life properly believes, listens or takes her seriously and she feels alienated and outmatched by both her attacker as well as the people and support systems in her life that are supposed to care. See where this is going? It’s a fabulous concept for a film and the fear, panic and paranoia is well executed on top of a terrific performance from Grant… however… the script does absolutely *nothing* to explain this concept from a story/script point of view beyond “she’s attacked every night by the same dude, no one really believes her and she’s basically on her own in fighting back.” Then, it starts happening on a mass scale all throughout the city like some kind of violent epidemic and everyone who is not the attacker or the victim seems to just carry on like nothing much of anything’s happening. The film makes absolutely zero effort to explain this beyond simply showing it happening, and as a result it completely tanks itself, and doesn’t work whatsoever as anything close to a coherent narrative. Now, this is a tricky one to review because of the subject matter itself so let me spell it out clearly: there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that these themes are incredibly important, that violence/assault towards women is a very serious matter that needs to be addressed both in art or society, and so too the endemic indifference and non-believing nature of others in their lives who either turn a blind eye or don’t care. It’s so important. However: these filmmakers made their story *purely* from an abstract, allegorical point of view and didn’t mesh in a storytelling device or proper narrative to support it, and that to me felt lazy, incomplete and incoherent, and I disliked the film. Anyone out there hollering “you just didn’t get it because you’re a man and this film wasn’t made *for* you” into the echo chamber can stop right there. I succinctly and pristinely understood these themes, and understand how important they are, but that doesn’t change the fact that the film itself, as a piece of art, was not a successful endeavour and my saying so in a review doesn’t immediately imply that I’m discrediting anyone’s experiences or these social issues overall. I shouldn’t have to explain this so in depth but some people out there really seem to struggle with it, so there it is. Well made film from a technical standpoint, an absolute knockout of an original score by Jeremy Zuckerman, fantastic performance by Brea Grant and very important themes… but ultimately it falls flat on its face.

-Nate Hill

Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2

Rob Zombie was always going to make the jump from musician to filmmaker, you could just feel it in the air and it also felt apparent that he’d be a successful one too, unlike a few of his compadres (poor Dee Snider). The term shock rock has been applied to his work and that can be said of his films too; he’s always been about brash, crass stylistic choices and as such it shocks *me* when people are appalled at his films and their off putting nature, I mean this is Rob Zombie the heavy metal guy we’re talking about here, not someone innocuous like Barry Levinson. What consistently surprises me about his work in film is that along with all the appropriately trashy, nasty imagery and visual grotesquerie there is a strong drive to explore themes, cultivate mature, realistic characters and build worlds that feel like our our own to tell his scary stories in. This is all apparent in his Halloween 2 which I feel is an overlooked, misunderstood piece of horror madness and brilliance.

Being a huge fan of his original Halloween reboot I was surprised and curious at his decision to follow it up, because the first stands on its own and wraps up very nicely in the final moments, in its own way and as a calling card to Carpenter’s original. But he and the Myers name made Dimension Films a big pile of money and this film went ahead, which I’m grateful for. His vision of H2 is a spectacularly terrifying, relentlessly bleak and disarmingly psychological one, worlds away from his first outing and while it still bears the profane, yokel brand of his dialogue writing in spots, this is some of the most down to earth filmmaking he’s done. Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor Compton) is a mess following events past, and understandably so. She lives with her friend Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris, a perennial totem of the franchise) and Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Brad Dourif), barely coping with constant nightmares, waking dreams and hallucinations from her trauma and sees a psychiatrist (the great Margot Kidder) who doesn’t prove to be all that effective. Malcolm McDowell’s once helpful and compassionate Dr. Loomis has fought his own trauma by drinking hard and becoming a cynical, nasty media whore who cruelly makes it public that Laurie is in fact Michael’s baby sister, which doesn’t help her mental climate much. Add to this the fact that Michael did indeed survive that fateful Halloween night and is slowly making his way back to Haddonfield for round two and you have all the ingredients for a perfect storm.

This film is horror to its core but I also love how Zombie dutifully explores Post traumatic stress disorder in brutally realistic fashion, something that none of the other films in the series bothered to look at, seriously anyways. Compton is fantastic in a picture of hell as Laurie here, disheveled and dissociated to dangerous levels and damaged by Michael’s evil beyond repair. Michael (Tyler Mane) is different too, spending much of the film without his mask and followed by ethereal visions of his long dead mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and otherworldly, surreal demonic figures who spur him on in haunting dream sequences. Dourif is emotionally devastating as Brackett and people sometimes forget just what kind of dramatic heavy lifting this guy is capable of. He plays a nice, kind man who only ever tried to protect his daughter and Laurie both and when they collectively pass through the event horizon of being able to heal from the horror, the anguish and heartbreak in his performance shakes you to the bone. Zombie populated his supporting ranks with a trademark bunch of forgotten genre faces like Daniel Roebuck, Dayton Callie, Richard Brake, Richard Rhiele, Howard Hesseman, Mark Boone Jr, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Duane Whitaker and Sean Whalen and new talent like Brea Grant, Nancy Birdsong, Octavia Spencer, Angela Trimbur and, uh… Weird Al Yankovic too. Michael spends much of the film on his journey back to Haddonfield here after escaping a percussive ambulance crash (perhaps of his own elemental making) and as such many of the shots we get are him on the moors, farmlands and eerie fields of the neighbouring counties, haunting the land like some restless spirit until it comes time to kill once again. The atmosphere is one of dread and abstract mental unrest as we see each character, including Michael himself, begin to lose it. It all culminates in a horrifying, darkly poetic confrontation complete with a hectic police chopper and all the careening madness we can expect from Zombie’s vision of this world. Then he decides to give this legacy a disquieting send off that works sadly and beautifully by bringing back the song Love Hurts, this time crooned softly by Nan Vernon instead of a raucous strip bar sound system. Whether you’re attuned to Zombie’s aesthetic or not, there’s just no denying his artistic style, commitment to world building and brave openness in reinvention and experimentation within an established mythos. Great film.

-Nate Hill