100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-One - "The Dead Zone!"

Yes, it's true there was no blog yesterday and no movie either. And let me tell you why on both counts.

First, yesterday's movie was "The Signal," from 2007. I have never seen this film but a close friend has recommended that I watch it several times - in fact, he provided me with the copy I intended to watch. Now, I have been thinking about the format of this blog and what I plan to do with it next year (when I will undertake the challenge again). And it seems pointless to write a blog about a film I know nothing about when the point of the blog is to give my opinion on what is scary. So, for next year and from now on, I will not blog in advance about a film I've never seen - I will instead view the film and then blog about it. If that means two entries in a day for this first run through, then so be it. Next year's blog will be comprised entirely of films I have never seen and the blog will take the form of a recommendation. I will watch "The Signal" at one point and blog about it, but at this point I am unable to say when.

Second, there just wasn't time to watch a movie yesterday anyway, so ... god forbid I have a life.

Okay, now on to today's flick, yet another of director David Cronenberg's classics - 1983's "The Dead Zone!" It kicks off a three-day marathon of Stephen King movies and they're all good! So if you have this one, I sure hope you can watch it, because I think it's rather fucking great! Thanks again for reading!

The Dead Zone (1983): Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerrit and Martin Sheen.

The Skinny: Based on Stephen King's 1979 novel of the same name, "The Dead Zone" follows teacher Johnny Smith after he wakes from a five year coma with the power to see into people's past and their future. With that knowledge, he also finds he can change the present to affect how the future will unfold. When he encounters an ambitious politician who will one day "press the button" and initiate nuclear war, he must decide what to do to prevent a world-wide disaster.

What's Good: Got to give it to David Cronenberg - he knows how to scare and instill fear without the assistance of gibbering assassins springing from the shadows or buckets of blood and gore (something else he is good at). No, Cronenberg knows how to seize on our fears of the unknown and of the dread many experience when their lives are laid bare before a stranger. John Smith's power is absolutely terrifying - he can touch us and see our petty desires, can know more about us than we know ourselves. That's true, existential fear. And the more he uses his power, the more physically debilitated he becomes - the limp is more pronounced, his shoulders become slumped and his gait is long and loping. The power is killing him by inches, and Walken plays it beautifully, his face a mask of pain and fear as he struggles with the knowledge that's been forced on him. It's a great performance in a great film that stands the test of time, even if it plays on those 1980's fears of thermo-nuclear war. Madmen still have bombs today, don't they?

What's Bad: Not much. I am not Brooke Adam's biggest fan, but she does a fine job here as both Walken's romantic foil and as the source of his later obsession at recapturing his previous life. My only problem is the score at times - written by Michael Kamen and not by long-time Cronenberg composer Howard Shore. It's a little jarring at times, relying on a sudden string surge that is dimly reminiscent of the strings from "Psycho," and other times Kamen relies on a full orchestral score when sparse instrumentation would have sufficed.

Why We Like It: I think I could watch Walken have a bowel movement and find it entertaining. It's refreshing to see a performance of such depth in a film that sells itself as a horror/ suspense/drama. And the rest of the cast is also pitch perfect, including the always steady Tom Skerritt and the insane Martin Sheen as would-be button pusher Greg Stilson. It would be difficult not to enjoy this work.

Memorable Stuff: Although Walken is great fun to watch just about every second he's onscreen, the best scene in the film is when he finally meets Sheen's character at a political rally and gets to shake his hand (contact is a must for Smith's power to work). The ensuing vision where Sheen is ranting at his cabinet to allow him to initiate the attack ("Now you put your goddamn hand on that scanning screen or I will hack it off and do it for you!") is just intense. Some of Stilson's elaborate background is lost in translation from the novel, but Sheen lets us see just what we're dealing with - an abject madman bent on destruction.