Night Trap is so old, obscure and out of print that I had to order an Amazon copy just to make sure it was even real, and not some dream I had as a kid. It’s real enough, and a glorious helping of low budget supernatural tomfoolery at that, with two charismatic character actors headlining. Robert Davi, in a rare lead role, plays a headstrong New Orleans cop who is hunting down a serial killer (Michael Ironside) that appears to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for invincibility and a host of freaky deaky evil superpowers. Davi’s father was also a cop who pursued Ironside, and the monster likes to taunt both of them, leaving a trail of bodies in the hectic celebration of Mardi Gras. There’s a million of these type of movies, and they’re all across the board in terms of quality. It comes down to script and actors, really, as there’s never enough money to make any real visual magic. This one has a mile wide mean streak though, Ironside’s villain is a full on moustache twirling, nightmarish fiend and the veteran tough guy plays him as such. Matched against Davi, another notorious badass, it’s a B movie royal rumble that hits high notes of intensity, schlock and pulpy, violent delirium in all the right cues. Fun stuff if you’re a fan of these actors, and can actually locate a copy.
John McTiernan’s Nomads is one of the best, and most unconventional horror flicks that you’ve never seen. Nestled so far back into the 80’s that it stands as the mile marker for Pierce Brosnan’s first onscreen leading role, it’s a beautifully tense, atmospherically crafted fright flick that’s been lost to the hazy aeons of time. Unique in it’s ambiguity, this is a film bereft of bells, whistles, gore effects or even obviously spooky apparitions, relying solely on mood to impart illusory menace that’s never shoved in your face of spoon fed. Brosnan plays a French (hon hon) archeologist who begins to suspect he’s being followed by a group of unruly urban punks which, upon further introspection, could possibly be the malevolent spirits of a now extinct tribe he discovered years ago. It’s a vague, very weird concept, but it just somehow works, the presence of these grimy streetwalkers inciting palpable fear at the thought that they’re not what they seem at all. Opposites are at work here; by showing nothing, the filmmakers tell us and make us feel everything that is unseen, daring us to imagine what these mysterious beings might actually be, unsettling us further by having them appear in such benign (relatively speaking) form. It’ll frustrate many, but those tuned into the film’s eerie frequency will get the same chill down their spine that Brosnan perpetually walks around with, harassed no end by these meanies. The actors for these things are all especially chosen as well, each coached beautifully by McTiernan to act just normal enough to blend into the derelict fringes of an urban environment, while giving their demeanour an unnerving esoteric aspect, until they seem like a cross between mute versions of the Near Dark gypsy vampire clan and spectral coyotes. Brilliant concoction of subtle horror, clammy tension and gorgeously layered atmosphere.
What the hell did just watch. Oh boy, what can I say about this one without tearing it a new one. Alan Rudolph’s Trixie is a dud, a paperweight, a misguided, clumsy disaster of the highest order. It has the tonal equilibrium of heart attack on a flow chart, and a troupe of actors who mercilessly embarrass themselves into the ground with work that goes beyond tireless pantomime. It’s sad, because I’ve seen this type of thing work nicely before, with the right amounts of quaint and quirky qualities, but here the mixture tanks in a god awfully messy cannonball of a landing. It tries to be a detective story, but fails to realize that you need some semblance of a story to care about, and I just…. didn’t care. It’s a slog to get through, a struggle to stay focused on, and basically a big awkward failure on every level. Also puzzling is the fact that cast, all of which are excellent actors who I love in almost everything they do, all made me want to hit them here, and when you’ve got a cast this good, that’s no easy feat. Emily Watson will make you want to tear your hair out as titular Trixie, a casino security guard with aspirations of taking on a big detective case, an irritating Chicago accent and apparantly mild brain damage that causes her to mispronounce every expression, figure of speech and slang term in a fashion that is neither cute nor funny. She’s wooed by Dex (Dermot Mulroney) a goon who works for sleazy land developer Red Rafferty (Will Patton). Soon, through a set of circumstances both inane and cartoonish, they find themselves deep in some sort of backhanded scheme involving murder most foul, tied to a corrupt state senator played by Nick Nolte, who is the peacock of the bunch, sucking all the energy out of the room with dialogue that is literally lifted straight from political speeches from the past. I’m not even kidding, he blusters out platitudes that vaguely have a place in whatever seen is going on, but barely. There’s also a hot young waitress (a bouncy Brittany Murphy), a flamboyant lounge singer (Nathan Lane is excruciating), a washed up pop star (Lesley Ann Down) and a bizarre cameo from Stephen Lang who attempts an accent that made me supremely uncomfortable. It’s weird, cumbersome and altogether pointless as everything it tries: comedy, thriller, romance, whodunit.. all fall miserably flat. Bummer. I’m gonna go make a list of all the things I could have been doing with the two hours I spent on this wreck.