Talking Movies

November 29, 2010

The Ashen Road

A whistle blew, and the train trembled into movement….

What’s a train?

Oh silly me, I forgot you were born after the hauntingly vague apocalypse.

So I wouldn’t know what a train was.

No, you wouldn’t.

Okay.

Okay.

The man smiled sadly. The man and the boy trudged onwards along the ashen road. The road was covered in ash, the ground on either side was covered in ash, and the trees set back from the road were ashy, probably because they were ash-trees. Ash was everywhere, even in his memories, as his wife had been called Ash, even though she had had a willowy figure. His wife. He remembered her desertion of them without emotion. It had been too long ago for the concept of emotion to remain after the language had died that could express it.

The man woke from a dream. Even his dreams were pallid and ashen. He tried to get back to sleep, hoping that maybe this dream would have some flash of vivid colour. He returned to his dream, he was following a pig in the dark but without being able to reach it. The pig had something on its back – it was carrying fire in a container with glazed sides that allowed the light to escape. The man realised he would never catch the pig. Then he woke and wept.

What’ll we do for food now?

We’ll get by. We always do. Do you remember the time we came across a bunker full of food, and before that the time we stumbled onto a truck full of food, or the time we were hunting for mushrooms in a field, down on our hands and knees rooting like pigs, and then we found a dead pig.

You think that will happen again?

Well, maybe not it exactly, but… Something will turn up, it always does, it’s like some secular intervention keeps putting food just a bit further down the road despite the fact that all life was wiped out some years ago by that oddly unspecified event.

Is that how other people survive?

Yes, that and eating each other.

But we’d never do that.

No.

Never?

Not unless it was someone truly evil. Like Lady GaGa.

Okay.

Okay.

The boy was excited when the man returned from the woods beside the road.

Who’s that?

Who?

That old man in the distance, further along the ashen road.

He looks like a Jungian Archetype.

What?

Damn! I forgot.

You wouldn’t know because the apocalypse happened, somehow, before you were born but a Jungian Archetype is a reference to Star Wars.

Star Wars?

A Film.

Film?

Never mind, the point is that if the man has a beard, he’ll be wise.

You have a beard.

Ah, but my beard’s not white. If his is white he’s wise, if he’s also British then we’re really in luck. He’ll know what’s going on for sure.

The old man stopped walking when he heard the sound of their footsteps. The man approached slowly, and tried to convey by holding his hands out that he meant no harm to the old man.

I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk to you, about the apocalypse.

Go ahead.

What reason?

That question makes no sense.

I was being cryptic for the sake of the boy. Can you save us?

Yes. I have a book that can rebuild technology.

REALLY?

Yes, boy of indeterminate age, I have in my mind….The old man tapped his forehead….

The complete King James Bible.

The what?

The boy stood with a confused expression on his face while the old man smiled and the man looked like he was recovering from a nasty shock.

The King James Bible, said the man, disappointed. A book that can’t even get Pi right and you expect it to rebuild civilisation?

Oh, I’m sorry, I must be mistaken, I thought you were characters from the Book of Eli. My Bad.

The old man shuffled off down along the ashen road.

I always thought Jung was full of crap said the man, before coughing so violently that blood dripped ominously from his mouth.

Later. The man was huddled in his blanket. A grizzled man stood looking at him with compassion. Life ebbing, the boy crying.

But I don’t want to leave you.

Don’t be afraid. Remember what I taught you about Hollywood clichés.

To carry the flame, and always just be myself.

Yes. And even the last man on earth can have a happy ending. You just have to believe…

The boy cried for a time. Then he followed his new father figure. If civilisation ever returned, he was sure his dead father’s story would win many awards. For bravery, and other things.

November 3, 2010

Let Me In

Hammer has risen from the grave! Let Me In, a decidedly classy affair, is somehow produced by the revenant English studio once responsible for launching Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee before trading in drenching quality thespians in scarlet blood for just depicting topless, lesbian, and sometimes topless lesbian vampires.

Cloverfield director Matt Reeves follows his bleak monster-movie with an intimate horror that eschews shaky-cam. Indeed Reeves inserts a number of fixed-position shots from the back of a car, a technique notably used in 1949’s Gun Crazy to achieve high style on low budget, culminating in a superb show-off sequence as he disconcertingly depicts a car-crash with an unmoving eye from the back-seat. Reeves also adapts John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish novel about a 12-year old vampire Abby, here played by Chloe Grace Moretz, relocating the action to a snowy New Mexico in 1983. Abby and her familiar (Richard Jenkins) move in next door to lonely 12-year old Owen (The Road’s Kodi Smith-McPhee). Despite Abby’s initial aloofness a bond quickly develops with Owen.

Reeves structures his story like a film-noir; opening with an ambulance complete with police escort bringing an unseen criminal to a hospital for emergency treatment before rewinding three weeks to the beginning of a killing spree being investigated by Elias Koteas’ horrified detective. Smith-McPhee’s blank Owen is traumatised from persecution by the scariest school-bully since Donnie Darko who hates to see Owen being happy. Such maliciousness for its own sake makes you want to see him suffer, an emotional response Reeves plays with repeatedly as Abby encourages Owen to fight back with results so disproportionate that, after a violent incident, all concerned remain silent for a stunned moment. Chloe Grace Moretz is superb as Abby, especially in scenes where her vampiric nature is overcome by her growing friendship with Owen, but she is surely settling into some weird type-casting as she follows up being Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass with another role showcasing age-inappropriate ultra-violence.

Such violence is unnervingly shot from a distance with CGI giving Abby super-agility. This distancing is typical of a subdued film where two tired characters carry much of the story’s emotional weight as Koteas’ detective pursues a suspected Satanist, who is really Jenkins’ familiar – a man starting to get sloppy as he wearies of cleaning up Abby’s unending trail of destruction. Reeves uses this measured pace to wring wonderful suspense out of a number of sequences involving Koteas’s manhunt and Jenkins’ cleaning and killing, including one where the crescendo of composer Michael Giacchino’s violins makes the tension almost unbearable. Ultimately Reeves improves on the Swedish original by making a bleaker film that emphasises the moral horror in coming-of-age with the help of a growling demonic-faced vampire.

Reeves proves Cloverfield was no fluke with a classy deliberately paced horror film that trashes human-vampire romance by making vampires bloodthirsty killers again.

3/5

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