Friday, December 7, 2012

Possession (1981)

If you ever read lists of the strangest, or most disturbing films ever made, Andrzej Zulawski's Possession will usually be on them.

Possession is bizzare. film, that stars Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani as a divorcing couple. That plot sounds pretty inoccuous, doesn't it! Well this movie turns that plot on its head, gouges its eyes out, then feeds it to an octopus!

The film opens with Mark (Sam Neill) meeting with wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) at a train station after a long business trip. He goes home with her, to their son Bob.

Later, the couple talk in bed-Anna wants a divorce from Mark (not that their dialogue ever clearly states that). The next day, Mark is at a business meeting, and is offered the chance to be re-hired, but he refuses, wanting to devote more time to his family. The board accepts, then one guy says, "Does our subject still wear pink socks?" Huh?!

Mark returns home, but Anna is gone. After waiting for several hours, he gets a call from Anna, who tells him that she's in town for a while, and just wants time to think. After Mark calls Margi (Margit Carstensen) friend and asks about Anna, Anna calls him and talks about her lover. Mark arranges a meeting at a restaurant, and when the couple are there, they start fighting and Mark goes mental, trashing the restaurant as he runs after her.

The film cuts to Mark in a hotel room, completely going to pieces. Soon, three weeks have passed. Mark cleans up, then goes back home, where he finds Bob home alone, since Anna is with her friend Margie, who broke her leg. He talks with Bob, and then the camera tries to give the audience whiplash by abruptly cutting to Sam Neill looking weird on a rocking chair, rocking back and forth like he's drunk to much coffee! And he keeps doing it while talking to Anna!

Due to her leaving Bob on his own, Mark wants main custody of him unless Anna ends her relationship with her lover. She chooses neither (er...I guess, anyway), then later at night, Mark wakes up to find Anna gone. The phone rings, and a guy tells Mark that "Anna is with me, and she'll stay with me".

Mark goes to see Heinrich, Anna's lover (how Mark found out about him I've either forgotten, or it was never explained), and the very fey Heinrich tries to justify himself to Mark. Mark goes off and tries to attack him, but Heinrich just demolishes Mark!

Mark returns home and finds Anna. The two fight, and after Mark beats her, Anna storms out into the street and nearly attempts suicide, causing a truck to lose control.

A little later, Mark hires a private investigator to track down Anna, and see what she's up to.

Sometime later, Anna comes back, and while Mark tries questioning her about why she's so afraid to talk with him about her affair, she tries slicing her neck open with an electric knife. Mark stops her, and bandages up her wound.

A little while later, Anna says has to leave again, and we later see her at a train station, being followed by someone. The man, one of the PI's from the company Mark went to, trails Anna to her apartment and questions her about whether some papers are in order. Anna is worried at first, but soon starts acting tipsy, and she offers the man a drink. He declines, then goes into a dark, slimy back room containing aWHAT THE HELL IS THAT AND WHY IS ANNA KEEPING IT ON HER BED?! Anna shatters a bottle of wine, runs into the backroom, then...

...And then the film gets weird!...

Possession starts off seemingly as a family drama, and it stays that way for well over thirty minutes. Then the film starts to really stew in its oddness. The film doesn't really have over the top strangeness, bar the 'thing', and most of the film's strangeness comes from its off feel.

Possession is definitely well-made, and I did like it a lot. While watching it, I felt that it was overlong and moving too slow, but come the end of the film, and a while to think about it, I wouldn't want a single second cut from this tentacle mindfuck of a movie!

Like I said above, the film is well made. It's filmed very fluidly, and there are lots of abrupt quick cuts to different scenes. I'm not sure if it's clunky editing, or if it's deliberately edited that way to enhance the mood of the film. I'd take a guess that it's the latter.

The film is intense with its subject matter, which is easy to see, since Zulawski was going through an apparently bad divorce while writing the script.

As for the title, it took me WAAAY too long before I realized that the title didn't (necessarily) refer to spiritual/demonic possession. Or I don't think it does, at least. I see the title as referring to 'possession', the emotion. Mark is possessive of Anna to the point where he falls apart when she leaves him, he beats her up at one point when he's angry with her, and he goes out of his way to find out about Anna's lover(s). Heinrich is also incredibly possessive with Anna, and I suppose Heinrich and his mother share a dual-possessive relationship too (the two live together, talk about everything together, and can't live without each-other) Some reviews however mention Anna as sometimes acting as if she's possessed, and with scenes like the train station 'fluids' scene, that makes sense too.

The acting is great all round. There are many moments of overacting, exaggerated acting, and just plain loopiness! Sam Neill is deliriously crazy as Mark, the husband who takes his break-up VERY badly, it's not hard to see how Isabelle Adjani won awards because of her intense and creepy performance, and Heinz Bennet as Heinrich overacts and gesticulates like crazy and twirls around like he's Kodos running for office!

Oh hey, I only just realized what implications making a Kang/Kodos reference in this review has! haha! Yeah, if you want to blame Japan for tentacle porn, know that Japan didn't start it, no, it started here!

There's one weird scene midway through the movie-not weird because of the film's general craziness, but because: Helen (Isabelle Adjani), a teacher at the school (and Anna's doppelganger), comes to Mark's house to see Bob, and at that moment, Bob is in the bath. When Mark directs Helen in, he just casually shows her into the bathroom, and he even asks if she can finish bathing Bob, which she accepts in stride! Huh?! HUH?!

One odd thing I didn't understand was-Who was that girl given a gun by [SPOILERS] at the end? Wikipedia says she resembles Margie, but I didn't think so.

At one moment near the end, after a 'certain body' has been found in a lift, Mark and Anna have sex, and afterwards, Mark says a hilariously pretentious-sounding sorta-speech!

Where Possession's plot REALLY gets goofy is near the end, when Mark's former job catches up with him. Wikipedia says that Mark is a secret agent, and with only ten minutes of the film left, I thought that sounded like bullshit, but no, in the last ten minutes, there's some spy stuff going down, from tense meetings, car attacks, a violent shootout, a brutal spy with fleuro-pink socks, and four cars that explode, all in a row, for no reason!

The film's last ten minutes really are a hot potato of various sudden and out-of-nowhere things, from a spy storyline to other stuff I won't spoil.

Possession is a polarizing film. Many completely detest it. I can see where people who dislike this movie are coming from, but I did sort-of like the movie a lot, kind of.

Michael Hogben as Bob doesn't get much screentime, but that works for the film, as it helps convey how little attention Mark and Anna pay attention to him most of the time during their fights. The only character in the film who shows consistent attention to Bob is Helen (whoever the hell she is), who is with Bob, doting on him, even helping bathe him at one point instead of Mark...Holy crap! This film is the first time that I've really got a lot of stuff to think about after watching an art film! Most of the time I just don't understand anything!

Some more symbolism I may have noticed-Anna almost always wears this one blue dress, and to me, the button-up back looks like a spine. I'm not sure if that was deliberate symbolism, or if I'm just looking into things a bit too much.

Possession's locale is also worth talking about. Filmed in Berlin in the midst of the cold war, and next to the Berlin Wall, the setting is dreary, grey, graffitied and decayed.

Finally, the effects by Carlo Rimbaldi are very good! As for what these effects are? Well, some have to be seen to be believed! "Almost!...Almost!...Almost!...".

Possession is a tough film to sit through, especially since it clocks in at just over two hours, but I definitely recommend it!

So, the moral of this story seems to be thus: If your marriage is failing, and your wife is having an affair, but won't tell you with who, then chances are, she's fucking a tentacle monster...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Night Stalker (2009)

Edit: I was in the midst of writing this review when my house's intenet (and phone) connection died for about a week. When I finally got back around to writing it, the movie in question, which was entirely on Youtube, had been removed. This sucked because there are a few unfinished paragraphs in the later parts of this review, and I can't quite remember the placement of things (like annoying shrieking music), or how certain scenes go down. Some fragment sentences are still just that, as I've largely forgotten what bad dubbing this movie had, but I do remember the basics of how good and bad it was. Luckily though, the paragraphs are at least understandable. Also, the first paragraph will be hilarious to everyone, considering how my Halloween reviews plan turned out! So, here's the partially forever incomplete (unless I'm feeling masochistic enough to actually buy the damn movie and rewatch it! *shudders*) review for Ulli Lommel's Night Stalker!

I've had a really good October so far! Four days and four good movies! ...Yeah, it's time for that streak to stop dead in its tracks! I'm reviewing an Ulli Lommel film!...

For those who don't know who Ulli Lommel is, he's a German filmmaker, who was good (I wholeheartedly recommend Revenge of the Stolen Stars!), but now is an awful, awful one! His movies from the last decade or so are all indescribably awful! You'll see why soon, since this movie is basically what most of his other movies are-plotless movies abut real-life serial killers.

Night Stalker starts with a bad voice-actor monologuing about how people are 'hypocrital maggots', intercut with black-and-white shots of people getting gunned down, and the narrator dying. His narration ends with him saying that he'll be avenged, then for the next four minutes, as the opening credits go on, we get even more black-and-white shots of people getting shot.

When that's over, the narrator, Richard Ramirez (Adolph Cortez), starts a mysoginistic tirade against women. His uncle Mike was a women-hater as well, and as Rich is dragged from the street by two hookers (I think)-who I guess show people a good time, whether the clients want it or not!-he decides to follow his uncle's advice-kill women. Then Richard, who's too busy with his lollipop to want to do anything with the women, narrates what is possibly the worst line in a movie ever!-"I'm the candyman! I hate the power of pussy!". Oh, and by the way, the whole movie thus far has only had voiceover narration, over characters actually talking. It doesn't get any better!

Next, the movie finally lets its characters speak. After having a bizarro superimposed flashback, Richard storms off, and the two women talk about how strange he is-Um, ladies, YOU PICKED UP A RANDOM GUY FROM THE STREET AGAINST HIS WILL! YOU'RE STRANGE!

Richard has a proper flashback to his uncle. Uncle Mike tells young Richard about his Vietnam days, and how he collected ears (insert Universal Soldier joke here). This angers his wife, and Mike loses it and shoots her and Richard's mother to death (and the actor playing kid Richard tries to act scared, but he looks like he's trying not to laugh!).

Some time later, late at night, Richard sneaks into a woman's house and shoots her. And you can tell by this actress' expression just how 'terrified' she is!

That's her expression to seeing a nutjob in her shower pointing a gun at her! And her expression only gets duller just as she's dispatched by a few gunshots.

Richard goes back to his home and dreams about murders he's committed, while narrating some more. A while later, he leaves and walks down a street, and sees a 'woman from his nightmares'-'blond and green-eyed, he calls her, even though she's a brunette! After several minutes of him following her (for the viewer, that is! This scene goes on forever!)   they walk away together   she a satanist  she and a friend talk to Richard about satanism and how awesome the they think it is, in a scene that is painfully repetitious! The film then loses its mind for a little while, with the, doing domething, with Richard murdering some woman superimposed over the shot, while the trio's distorted voices yell 'hail satan'.

After that, Richard goes hunting again. After nearly four minutes of a couple bitching inanely, Rich finally breaks into their house and shoots them, while talking in a booming demon voice.

Sometime later, Richard sees another 'princess of darkness', and he follows her for days on end, eventually approaching her. She turns out to be a christian, and they go somewhere else and get talking. She talks about Jesus, and church, and before you can say "Caroline Munro in Maniac", Richard shoots her. Well so much for the film actually having a plot...

Rich starts drinking the woman's blood (apparently that gunshot to the cheek killed her), and there's suddenly a mindfuck of superimposed shots, blaring noise, a woman orgasming, and Richard murdering someone.

That above image might look like I took it while the scene was changing, but no, that's what the whole scene is like!

Next, Richard starts narrating again, and his narration turns from English to demon or something. Then we see another annoying bickering couple

Then Richard does something horrible...He smears a rasberry jam pentagram on the woman's chest!...Yeah, as you can imagine this film's effects aren't eactly great, but I'll give the movie a pass-more on that later.

After another scene with the two satanists, the film cuts to another annoying bickering couple!

After another time jump, we cut to another random victim.    Unlike all the others in the movie, this actress actually acts distressed at seeing a guy with a gun about to shoot her  ear-piercing soundtrack

The movie again continues showing Rich walking around aimlessly, while the soundtrack whispers demonically. After several minutes of that, we cut to another bickering couple!

really bad  fighting bit!  Ulli Lommel's idea of pointing at the fighting couple isn't filming them at another angle, but flipping parts of the footage around, so every few seconds, the couple switch sides, yet it's very obvious that the camera hasn't moved, because of the painting on the wall!...

some  what looks like bad dubbing   line flubs

The main actor in this film, Adolph (wow, life must suck with that name!) Cortez is pretty bad.   always swishing his head around. I tried doing that, and I got a little dizzy-if I did it as often as this actor, I'd probably get a headache!

The rest of the acting is pretty bad.

Lommel, gunshots to the cheek don't kill people!

Everyone who gets shot in this movie only show signs of annoyance or dullness when shot!

The film's main tune is pretty ok (think the 'I am lightning' scene from Metal Gear Solid 4), but the film just keeps playing it, over, and over, and over, and then I started having flashbacks to Night of freakin' Horror and its perpetual Freebird soundalike of a theme!

Night Stalker's gore effects range from ok to pretty bad, but this is a very low budgeted movie (presumably  a grand and a half, like most of, if not all of Lommel's films like these), so I'll mostly give them a pass.

Plot problems   where did evil chick go?   Why doesn't Richard change clothes, cut his hair, or stop eating lollipops?! The cops know what he look like! And so do the public!

Speaking of the plot, there isn't one! The film is just Richie monologuing, walking around, and killing people. There's no plot, character development, plot, any character to anyone in ths film, no plot, the film has about a dozen scenes of annoying couples bickering for several minutes, prior to getting killed by Richie, and did I mention that this film has no plot?

So, in closing, Ulli Lommel's Night Stalker is awful, but it's not the worst of Ulli's, this movie here, it's one of the better awful ones of his filmography! Yeah! That's right! Be scared, folks!

The film does at least get some credit from me though, since in one scene, there's a poster of Emanuelle Around the World on the wall!...You have to have some awesomely screwed up taste in movies to know what the hell I'm talking about!...