Tag Archives: Chris Sarandon

Arne Glimcher’s Just Cause

Just Cause, a sweaty 90’s Sean Connery potboiler, is one of those films that could have had its ducks in a line to be somewhat believable and entertaining but the script is a weird one and the execution of said script.. well to say it goes off the rails would be putting it mildly. Connery plays a hotshot professor who was once a legendary lawyer, lured back into the muck of the legal system by an elderly woman (the great Ruby Dee) whose son (Blair Underwood) has been sitting on death row for eight years for the rape and murder of a little girl. She’s convinced he’s innocent, and begs him to investigate the case, and so he journeys to the sweaty Florida Everglades to nose around. Laurence Fishburne plays the dodgy local sheriff who put the boy away on a brutally coerced confession and doesn’t take kindly to anyone trying to dig old secrets up or overturn convictions. Soon information turns up related to another inmate on the row, a serial murderer played by Ed Harris in such a try-hard, faux intense, maniacally cartoonish performance you have to feel for the guy. Here’s the thing: this film doesn’t work for two glaring reasons. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with a humdinger of a twist ending, but you have to be honest with your audience and play at their level, not deliberately hide shit, manipulate and mislead us into thinking one thing, then just do a fucking unabashed 180 degree turn and expect us to accept it. The twist is ludicrous, especially when you look back at the editing, composition and overall thrust of the first half of the film. Secondly, the film builds a careful series of events to mount tension and at the last minute decides it wants to be an action movie, throws all story and credibility to the dogs and blares rudely on for an obnoxious, balls out, car chase ridden finale it it doesn’t earn, need or warrant in any way. Connery is kind of bland here, just a stalwart archetype following the breadcrumb trail dutifully. A supporting cast of very talented folks like Chris Sarandon, Kate Capshaw, Ned Beatty, Chris Murray, Kevin McCarthy, Hope Lange and an unrecognizable Scarlett Johannsson are all squandered in underwritten bit parts. Fishburne is the only one who makes a valid and lasting impression, doing his best with the writing as he always does and putting menace, mirth and actual gravitas into his work. Don’t know what else to say, this thing just sucked.

-Nate Hill

Tom Holland’s Fright Night

It took me a while to finally get around to seeing 1985’s vampire classic Fright Night and I’m glad I did because this is one gorgeous, blissfully 80’s soaked aesthetic pieces of shock pop art and I fell in love with every disco fever, harlequin romance tinged, Hammer Horror inspired, gothic erotica, glistening prosthetic effects laced second of it. I think I was apprehensive because I sat through that godawful 2011 Colin Farrell remake a while back and needed to cleanse my palette of such nonsense before doubling back and going for the real thing. This is a spectacular horror film built around a ‘vampire next door’ motif in which a high strung teenager (William Ragsdale) suspects his suave new neighbour (Chris Sarandon) of being a bloodsucking monster. He’s right, of course, but no one believes him and he finds himself in a furious fight for survival, to protect his mom and girlfriend and ward off this cunning, charismatic and very evil dude. He’s also aided by a hammy Van Helsing type out of work actor played by the incomparable Roddy McDowell in a performances great spirit, gusto and theatricality. The only acting that doesn’t feel quite right is Stephen Geoffreys as the main character’s twitchy, borderline spectrum friend who I guess is supposed to just be an oddball but every choice from him feels tone deaf and awkward. Chris Sarandon is so damn good as Jerry the vampire he deserves his own spinoff franchise though, what a mesmerizing villain. He’s a super good looking dude and a terrific actor who has kind of been ‘here and there’ for decades (he was a cop in the first Chucky film and Humperdinck in Princess Bride) but I’ve always felt he’s been underused and deserved a way more prolific career. Anyways he knocks it out of the park here and has immense presence, making Jerry the kind of laidback, sardonic, low key menacing alpha male villain that just steals the damn show. The film looks, sounds and feels incredible in every way. The special effects are gruesome, tactile and worthy of the 80’s horror time capsule, I truly miss the days of slimy practical effects every time I catch up with an oldie like this. The score by Brad Fiedel is so airy, synth-soaked, ambient and uneasy in all the right places. Director Tom Holland and cinematographer Jan Kiesser have a ball photographing this thing and make the aesthetic this sort of ‘pastel suburbia’ vibe with window curtains billowing sensually in the summer wind, blood spilling elegantly when necks are bitten, sneaky flourishes of kinky voyeurism and savage vampire makeup brimming with fangs, blood and the most exaggerated, hellish contact lenses a production budget could ever hope to get. This is just so much fun, one of the sexiest, schlockiest, most deliciously tongue in cheek and opulent vamp flicks to come out of that glorious decade of horror that shall never be topped.

-Nate Hill

Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride


Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride is so beloved and intrinsically bedded into our collective cinematic psyche that it’s almost less of a film these days than it is a lifestyle or cultural flourish, something that comes up in conversations as a given, an immediately relatable phenomenon in any dinner table banter or house party scenario. It also happens to be a great film in itself, full of instantly iconic idiosyncrasies and sincere storytelling that harkens back to the days of Grimm’s brothers and such. Populated by a pithily eclectic cast, and more than a few cameos, it’s a film one can watch as a kid all starry eyed at the fairytale intrigue, then revisit again as an adult and treat oneself to the raunchy bits we missed as youngsters. We all know the story so I won’t rehash it except to say that it’s the classic storybook fantasy given a decidedly more modern twist, especially with the dialogue. I’ll also add that it’s one of the few Hollywood fairytales to retain the grim, often perversely violent and scary elements that fables of olden times were known for. That water torture thingy (how does that work anyways?) used to scare the shit out of me as a kid, and who could forget the gruesome rodents of unusual size? Cary Elwes and Robin Wright light up the screen as Princess Buttercup and Wesley (he’s a lot more fun as the Dread Pirate Zorro Roberts though, isn’t he), on the run from evil Prince Humperdinck (lol) played by a preening Chris Sarandon, and his nefarious six fingered henchman (Christopher Guest) who slew the father of ruthless Spaniard Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), as we’re reminded sixty million times throughout. Damn, I said I wasn’t going to go all into plot, didn’t I? There’s just such a delicious host of characters running about the place, it’s hard not too. Andre The Giant scores as, well, a giant of course, Wallace Shawn is a scheming little shit who gets his comeuppance (inconceivable!!), Billy Chrystal shows up as a sort of goblin, looking like a walnut with cotton candy taped to it, and all this hooplah is read to a youngster (Fred Savage) home sick from school by a snarky Peter Falk, a la Neverending Story. It takes a special kind of film to earn endless revisits from us, the viewer, and be ushered into the exclusive classics club. This one should be used as example of how to flawlessly achieve those things though, via an engaging, smartly written story with actual tangible stakes, just the perfect amounts of humour and silliness, some darker aspects to pluck away at the morbidness in all of us, and of course a romance right at it’s core. Timeless. 

-Nate Hill

Indie Gems: American Perfekt


American Perfekt is a disjointed yet darkly compelling little nightmare of a road movie, a dusty ode to bowers of the American southwest left unchecked and decayed, populated by wayward souls with perpetual heat delirium, vixens, psychopaths and hustlers alike, who saunter through lurid storylines that often end in bloodshed and madness. In the vein of stuff like Oliver Stone’s U-Turn and Kalifornia, we once again pair up with some extremely off colour characters as they navigate both the tangled web of highways that lace the States as well as the human capacity for greed, lust and heinous physical violence. The characters, and actors for that matter, who populate this stretch of highway are an especially bizarre bunch, starting with Robert Forster’s vacationing criminal psychologist Jake Nyman. Forster is quite the unpredictable guy, usually found in calmly benign protagonist roles, yet just as capable of stirring the pot with evil antics. Here’s he’s opaqueness incarnate, driving from one place to another until he runs into two sisters played by another couple of acting hellcats, Amanda Plummer and Fairuza Balk. Jake is basing each decision of his trip upon the flip of a coin a-lá Harvey Dent, a tactic which simultaneously causes trouble and indicates how unhinged he might really be.

Plummer is weird and Balk is weirder, but neither as weird as David ‘Professor Lupin’ Thewlis as an awkwardly placed character who seems to exist just to jump into a scene and throw the mood off kilter. There’s others running amok too, including Geoffrey Lewis, as well as Paul Sorvino and Chris Sarandon as a pair of state troopers who serve as comic relief. Forster is scary here, playing a guy who is psychologically hard to pin down or get a read on, and he’s got some dynamite scenes with Balk in the third act, the two talents lighting up the frame. It’s pretty far south of coherent though, mostly just these freaks terrorizing each other and engaging in puzzling romantic flings that only make sense to them, I suppose. If feverish, borderline abstract, sun-stroked neo noir is your thing, go for it. You can certainly do worse than spend a certifiably bonkers ninety minutes with this terrific bunch of actors. 

-Nate Hill

Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend 


-Nate Hill-
Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend is so strangely plotted, so illogical and hard to understand, that not even John Hurt providing a play by play from an ever present tv monitor can seem to make sense of it. It’s not that it’s a bad film, parts are very well done and there’s that nostalgic Cold War vibe that 80’s espionage thrillers always have, it’s just that somewhere along the way, whether in the editing room, the shot list or scheduling, someone quite literally lost the plot. It’s enjoyable, well acted and supplies some of that classic Peckinpah grit he’s known for, but it’s just one massive loose thread that no one bothered to pull taut, which is a shame when you look at the talent involved. The film opens with the murder of a beautiful woman, the wife of a CIA spook (Hurt). Now, this inciting incident is what spurs on the rest of the plot, but the how and the why seem to be missing, and the matter of his wife doesn’t come into play again until all is almost said and done, and seems to have not a lot to do with the entire rest of the film. The bulk of it focuses on controversial talk show host John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), a man who lives to rub people the wrong way and put men of power on the spot with provocative, candid questions, all from the safety of his brightly lit studio. He’s forced to get his hands dirty though when Hurt contacts him, informing him that his three friends he’s planned to spend the weekend with (Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper and a sleazy Chris Sarandon) are in fact soviet spies in hiding. Forced to bug his weekend home and play host to Hurt as he watches them all via hidden cameras, tensions arise as they try to smoke the three out and figure out… something. But what? It’s anyone’s guess what three potential traitors have to do with a murdered agent’s wife, and I’m sure the novel by Robert Ludlum on which this is based covers that a little more pointedly, but this film is just all over the place. It drags where it should glide, and skips hurriedly over scenes with potential to be great. Nevertheless, they achieved some level of class at least, with a crackling on-air conclusion that cathartically weeds out some corruption and provides almost a glimmer of an answer to what’s going on. There’s a fight scene between Nelson and Hauer that’s excellently choreographed, the performances are committed and engaging, and I’m always a sucker for cloak and dagger theatrics. But the thing just can’t seem to cohesively pull itself together and present a story that makes sense. It’s not even that it doesn’t make sense in a Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy sense, because I’m sure that if I sat down and watched that film like five times in a row, id get it, it has a plot buried under all of it. This one though, it’s like there’s pieces missing, and the ones that are left are either out of order, or from a different puzzle entirely. Close, but no cigar. 

The Sentinal: A Review by Nate Hill 

The Sentinel is one of the weirdest thing you’ll ever see. It’s less of a horror and more just a parade of bizarro world situations strung together loosely by a vague haunted apartment story. A young model (Christina Baines) has found a sweet deal on an uptown flat, inhabited by only herself and a blond priest (John Carradine). It’s just too bad that when a deal seems to good to be true in these kinds of movies, there’s almost always some kind of sinister agenda behind it. It’s not too long before spooky stuff comes along, starting with strange physical problems, creepy encounters with her odd lesbian neighbors, flashbacks to her attempted suicide and psychic disturbances that can’t be explained. She soon realizes that she has been brought to this building for a very specific and decidedly sinister reason. The way I described all that sounds kind of routine and pedestrian, but trust me when I say that there’s nothing generic or run of the mill about this absurdity of a film. Everything has a very disconcerting and surreal feel to it, particularly in a whopper of a climax where a portal to hell is opened and all sorts of babbling loonies pour out, deformed, whacked out and adorned in some of the most creatively gross practical effects that will give your gag reflex a solid workout. The film also speckled with a diverse group of actors, some of them quite young looking when you remember that this was 1977. A chatty Eli Wallach shows up as a detective, with a youthful Christopher Walken in tow as his partner, Ava Gardner of all people has a cameo, and watch for Burgess Meredith, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D’Angelo, William Hickey, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Dreyfuss, Chris Sarandon, and Tom Berenger in what must have been one of his very first gigs, a literal walk on part. Very distinct and memorable film, one that pushed the boundaries considering the time period, and never let’s the weirdness mellow down for a single minute.