One Hour Photo is as stark and unnerving as the clinical, creepy photo negatives being developed in the darkroom of your local London Drugs, or whatever the equivalent is stateside. Back in the days before the social media boom, every single photographic memento passed through those hallowed halls, and through the hands of the hard working folks at the photo counter. One such person is Seymour Parrish (Robin Williams), a sweet, good natured guy with a subtle and growing offset in his personality. He loves his job, and finds solace and ritual in handling the precious memoirs of the masses, even getting to know many of them in a friendly manner. He takes a particular shine to the Yorkin family (Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan), gradually becoming obsessed with the life they have that he observes through the constant stream of photos he develops. Friendly soon turns to freaky as he becomes a bit too fascinated in them, and he finally takes up the mantle of disturbed stalker, digging up dirty secrets they have that he has no right to know about, and even less to interfere with. It’s a nightmare for any unsuspecting family to got through, but the real horror story is Seymour’s damaged psyche, set off by this idyllic lifestyle he watches from haunted eyes. Williams has the hard task of making him sympathetic, which he does, but we are only willing to give pity at arms reach; this is a scary, twisted man we see, with demons bottled up so tight he isn’t even aware they exist anymore, until they come crawling forth for a psychologically naked and raw final sequence that will leave you reeling. An unpleasent film in almost every way, bathed in an eerie sickness that matches the sheet white fluorescent glow of the store that is Seymour’s world, externally and in his tragic, broken mind. Bring a steady set of nerves and a strong stomach.
Before poor Paul W.S. Anderson made a fatal misstep with Alien Vs. Predator and was maligned, he made a few really excellent genre flicks back in the mid to late 90’s, one of them being the mostly forgotten and excessively fun Soldier, starring a mostly mute and wholly badass Kurt Russell as a genetically bred super soldier who has fallen on hard times. His name is Todd 3465, and he’s from the last line of soldiers who are in fact real humans, albeit altered. There’s a new program moving in, wherein actual replicants are produced, rendering Todd obsolete. The head of the new outfit is sadistic Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs in full evil prick mode), who wants to do away with anything that isn’t state of the art. Todd is thrashed in a one on one smackdown with Mekum’s lead soldier (Jason Scott Lee), and then left to die on a remote planet used only for trash disposal and inhabited by wayward crash survivors who scavenge what they can. Todd is immediately the outsider, an unfeeling asset bred only for combat and alien to human qualities. A few among the group, including their leader Mace (Anderson regular Sean Pertwee) and Jimmy Pig (Michael Chicklis) attempt to connect, but it’s gorgeous Connie Nielsen who finally breaks the ice. He may be conditioned to kill, but he’s still a human man after all, and there’s some base instincts you just can’t ignore. Trouble brews when Mekum shows up again, that bastard. Now he wants to vaporize their planet on the grounds that the refugees are essentially squatting. Undermining him is Todd’s former boss Church (an unusually restrained Gary Busey), an honorable military veteran who’d love to put Mekum six feet under and restore order. Todd must help his newfound friends, fight tooth and nail against replicants and win his superiority back. Russell is a tank in the role, letting both silence and action speak volumes, a one man old school ass kicking hero of the highest order. The world building and outer space effects are incredibly fun, the villains are broadly characterized with the force of a western, and the whole film knows what people want for a good time at the cinema. Oohh and fun fact: this takes place in the same cinematic universe as Blade Runner, and you can listen for the brief tie in reference that only die hards will pick up on. Great stuff.