Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here is a blissfully simple yet tremendously rewarding exercise in dark comedy/horror that hits the mark incredibly well by castling well known faces that are already totems in the genre, employing sidesplitting situational comedy that hovers on the edge of droll and a script that anchors it all with a well written confidence, not to mention a cool retro visual palette that brings to mind minimal yet affecting stuff like Rosemary’s Baby, The Evil Dead and others from back in the day. A middle aged couple (Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton) have moved into a rural house and are still grieving the loss of their son but this house, naturally, is spectacularly haunted and they find themselves and their friends plagued by a vicious dark force emanating from the basement. The life of the party is Larry Fessenden and the gorgeous Lisa Marie as their avant-garde hippie friends who arrive for a seance and get way more than they bargained for. Fessenden has a way of delivering dialogue that just had me holding my sides even when he wasn’t trying to be funny, while Marie is an ethereally beautiful presence who has mostly shown up in various Tim Burton films over the years and not much else, but it’s lovely to see her branch out. The special effects are gruesomely tactile, the scares genuinely unsettling and the story, albeit scant and simple, works very well in servicing some intensely gory mayhem in the third act after a blessedly slow burn getting there. This may be an uncomplicated, super traditional exercise in genre horror that doesn’t necessarily bring anything we haven’t seen before to the table but what it does set out to do, it does exceedingly well and I had a great time with it.
Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks is a spectacular howling good time, a 50’s inspired gumball machine packed with schlock, satire and more star studded send ups than you can shake a stick at. It’s so silly and overstuffed that one just has to give in to it’s fisher price brand of mayhem and just watch the wanton hilarity unfold. Martians are indeed attacking, and they’re evil little rapscallions with giant brains, buggy eyes and lethal ray guns. Humanity’s best are left to fight them, and let’s just say that’s not saying much with this bunch of morons. Jack Nicholson does a double shift as both the hysterically poised, rhetoric spewing US President and a sleazeball casino tycoon. Annette Bening is his hippy dippy wife, while Rod Steiger huffs and puffs as a war mongering potato head of a general. Over in Vegas, prizefighter Jim Brown and his estranged wife (Pam Grier) fight against hordes with little help from obnoxious gambler Danny Devito. Pierce Brosnan is a bumbling tv expert who sucks on a pipe that he apparently forgot to fill or light, a subtle yet precious running joke. The only people with sense are trailer dwelling youngster Lukas Haas and Natalie Portman as the President’s daughter, and the method they finally find to destroy these nasties has to be seen to be believed. The cast seems padded simply so we can watch famous people getting dispatched by slimy aliens, and also contains Tom Jones as himself, Lisa Marie, Jack Black, Paul Winfield, Michael J. Fox, Christina Applegate, Glenn Close, Joe Don Baker, Barber Schroeder, Sylvia Sydney, Martin Short and Sarah Jessica Parker’s head on the body of a chihuahua (don’t ask). There’s little story other than Martians attack and kill shitloads of obnoxious people, but therein lies the big joke, and it’s hilarious. Aaack !
They say actors will literally ‘kill for a role’, and in the long forgotten, bizarre NYC set indie flick Frogs For Snakes, that’s the very concept. A handful of Bronx lowlifes all directly involved with criminal kingpin Al Santana (Robbie Coltrane, before he went all Hagrid on us), discover he is putting on a play, and promptly begin to literally murder each other for parts. Now, such a premise should provide a downright brilliant film, but sadly that’s not the case with this dreary gutterball. The possibilities are just endless, and all these miscreants do is just languish in alleyways, decrepit apartments and dive bars, monologuing about.. nothing much at all. It hurts when you have a cast this good in such fuckery as well. Al’s ex wife (Barbara Hershey) works as a debt collector for him, while she pines for her thespian boyfriend (John Leguizamo) who spends the majority of his scenes reciting overblown monologues that have nothing to do with the story, or lack thereof. There’s all manner of creeps and hoodlums running about like New York sewer rats, played by an impressive lineup including Harry Hamlin, Lisa Marie, Ian Hart, Clarence Williams III, Nick Chinlund and briefly Ron Perlman, but none of them have much to do and seem to aimlessly shamble through their scenes as if they were never given much of a script. Being the weirdo that I am though, I did get a sick thrill out of hearing potty mouthed Debi Mazar explicitly describe giving a blowjob to Coltrane’s character, a mental image I won’t soon erase from my head. It’s a whole lot of nothing for the most part though, and kinda makes you wonder how the thing ever got green-lit, let alone attracted such talent. If the film itself were a play, it would be run out of town on opening night.
The Beatnicks is an kooky, shambling little indie that I can’t really say whether or not I liked, because not much of anything happens the whole time. The filmmakers have obviously tried hard to capture the quaint feeling of the beat generation, whether or not they succeeded though isn’t for me to say, I kind of avoid stuff in that style, never appealed to me. It’s a strange little story concerning Nick Nero (Norman Reedus) and Nick Beat (Mark Boone Jr), two aimless wandering performers who are down on their luck and desperate for a gig. Most of the film is just them wandering around, pontificating on life and art and not much else. Reedus clashes with mysterious night club owner Mack Drake (a slick Eric Roberts) over the affections of his moll-esque girlfriend (Elodie Bouchez), whilst Boone gets handed a series of arbitrary, cryptic tasks by enigmatic stranger Hank (the underrated Patrick Bachau). And that’s it. There are pockets of the film filled with nothing but air, places where they’ve tried to stretch ‘not much’ into ‘a whole lot’ and have caused their creative well to run dry. In a film about beat poets who I imagine spend most of their time filling up time and space with constant stream of consciousness output, dead air isn’t a good thing to have lingering around in your story. An odd duck of a film that didn’t really chime with me, but some may find it worth a gander.