Considering how few Hollywood producers can string together a coherent thought, it’s sometimes amazing that films continue to pop up featuring people with extra-sensory powers. Nevertheless they do, and today we’ve got a few great ones to spotlight. We’ll be looking at Brian De Palma’s original CARRIE, Kevin Tenney’s WITCHBOARD 2 and the crazy as all get-out BOARDINGHOUSE!
The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time.
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time.
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.
What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals?
In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?
FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 82
(31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 25 – OCT. 25, 2013)
CARRIE (1976) – Carrie White is a sheltered teenager who is tormented by her insane, fundamentalist mother and by the cruel kids at school. Two things occur that signal a change in Carrie’s life. One of the cutest boys in school asks Carrie to the prom, as a favor to a girl who takes a benevolent interest in her. Also, Carrie has developed powers which enables her to control objects through the power of her mind. It’s a safe bet that these two things will collide when it turns out the bullies of the school won’t leave Carrie alone.
After sitting through Kimberly Pierce’s profoundly disappointing remake, I decided to give Brian De Palma’s 1976 version another look. Despite being made nearly forty years ago, and despite youth pictures dating themselves quickly, CARRIE seems just as fresh now as it ever did. In fact, it may play even better today than when I first saw it around 25 years ago.
De Palma’s direction is perfect. His camera evokes isolation, loneliness, intimacy, aggression and confrontation and various points. He even uses the oft-celebrated but seldom-utilized technique of deep focus to exquisite effect. Sissy Spacek is pitch perfect as the victimized protagonist. Piper Laurie is appropriately unhinged as the fanatical Margaret White. And yet, the role still feels genuine. The supporting cast, including Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, P.J. Soles, Amy Irving, John Travolta and William Katt is amazing. Pino Donaggio also supplies what would be the first of many great scores for De Palma. It’s amazing how brilliant this film remains, all these years later. The Best.
NOTE: There are at least two errors in the trailer below. For one, they misspell Stephen King’s name. Second, CARRIE was actually Travolta’s second film. THE DEVIL’S RAIN was his first.
Jim (director John Wintergate) is a professional who enjoys being buff, having wonderfully blow dried hair and nurturing telekinetic powers which allows him to move things with his mind. He inherits a house that unbeknownst to him was the site of several grisly murders. He opens this house up to a bunch of young girls who pay him rent and walk around in their underwear. But Jim is actually a pretty nice guy, who treats the girls as if they were a surrogate family. He probably shouldn’t get too attached, since a deadly force starts killing people off one by one.
BLOOD CULT often gets the credit for being the first shot on video film to hit the market. But BOARDINGHOUSE was shot four years previously. It was shot on Beta then blown up to 35mm. This gave it a weird look that the savvy producers labeled, “Horror-Vision” in a fun marketing gimmick. And boy, do they use the video effects! There’s lots of chroma key and other cable access tricks of the trade on display here, all of it adding to the loopy atmosphere.
And to think, I delayed watching this film because I feared it would drag. Hell, this thing has a ton of stuff packed into its 98 minutes. Nonsense, this is a wonderful brew of crazy from start to finish. One can even see where they could address some issues with the production. So now, I want to see the uncut version. Yes, the DVD I bought (released by Slasher//Video and limited to 1,000 copies) contains a newly assembled director’s cut which runs 158 minutes – one full hour longer. I will let you know how that turns out. So far, BOARDINGHOUSE is a new favorite of mine. Highly Recommended.
WITCHBOARD 2: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1993) – Paige (Ami Dolenz) has left her overbearing cop boyfriend in order to pursue her artistic ambitions. She rents out a loft from a delusional hippie (Laraine Newman) and tries to get to work. She finds an old Ouija board and immediately contacts the spirit of the previous tenant. She inspires Paige to assert herself and find her voice. The spirit causes the deaths of a few people by taking control of inanimate objects. Paige is soon addicted to the board, as if it were a drug. Could the spirit want Paige’s soul for itself?
Kevin Tenney followed up his hit WITCHBOARD a few years after the fact with this sequel, which used a similar scenario with different characters. Ami Dolenz was big for a brief period in the early 1990s. She has continued to work ever since, but she deserved a lot more staying power in the leading lady department. She is great here, bringing a girl next door quality with some depth. Tenney once again finds inventive ways to stage the sequences. It’s inventive stuff that likely would not have even occurred to a lesser production, but in Tenney’s hands it’s brilliant. A big surprise is how character based this whole thing is. It takes what is basically a conventional narrative but adds just enough to make it feel really special. A very entertaining film. Recommended.
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 334
Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!