All posts by Jason Ubermolch

CAPSULE: IT’S IN THE BLOOD (2012)

DIRECTED BY: Scooter Downey

FEATURING: , Sean Elliot

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s not weird. Or at least it’s not as weird as horror movies like Don’t Look Now , The Cabin in the Woods, or High Tension, which are genuinely disconcerting and have truly bizarre plot twists. But, this movie does have a surprisingly not-creepy incest subplot, so maybe that counts as a little weird…

Still from It's in the BloodI (2012)

COMMENTS: …when I say a not-creepy incest subplot, it’s because the siblings involved are just adoptive siblings. The protagonist of It’s in the Blood is October (Elliot) is one of them, and he is deeply psychologically disturbed. For instance, you can tell how many days have passed in the movie because October cuts a line into his shoulder every morning; judging from all the scars on his chest, he’s been doing this for quite a while. His adopted sister, Iris, is dead. Traumatically so: raped and murdered by the town’s creepy deputy sheriff. Both October and Russell (the father by blood to October and by adoption to Iris, played by Lance Henriksen) witnessed the murder, which gives them unresolved psychological issues to fail to communicate about. If you’re worried that I’m giving away a twist ending, I’m not: all of this is pretty firmly established in the first quarter of the movie. Where this movie aspires to weirdness is in the circumstances under which October and Russell re-establish their relationship. They go off on a hike together, only to be harried by a legion of faceless forest spirits. These spirits are eerie, menacing, and occasionally genuinely frightening, and there’s an attempt to connect them with the memories that haunt both men. Will father and son emerge from their ordeal physically and psychologically triumphant… or just dead? The film as a whole fails, though, in three main categories: as a horror movie it fails to deliver anything but the occasional quick thrill; as a family drama, it fails to connecting with the characters in the film to the point where the viewer really cares about their reconciliation; and as a weird movie, it fails to do more than scratch the surface of the bizarre.

It’s in the Blood is in the process of preparing a Video-on-Demand version but there is no firm release date yet—we will update this space when a date is confirmed. (UPDATE: released on 11/7).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…brings more to the table in terms of originality, frights, and true emotion than most horror films… one of the finest and most unique independent horror films in recent memory.”–Brad McHargue, Dread Central

DISCLOSURE: 366 Weird Movies was provided with a screener copy of It’s in the Blood by the production company.

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: PALINDROMES (2004)

DIRECTED BY: Todd Solondz

FEATURING: , Richard Masur, , Sharon Wilkins

PLOT: A teenager falls in with a group of anti-abortionists in her quest to become pregnant.

Still from Palindromes (2004)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: As if the plot isn’t off-beat enough, Palindromes‘s teenage porotagonist is played by a variety of actors of different ages, sizes, races, and even genders.

COMMENTS: The standout feature of Palindromes is the unorthodox casting of a series of different actresses (and one actor) in the role of Aviva Victor. The variety of thespians allows Solondz to express the evolution of Aviva’s self-image, physically reflecting changes in her emotional state during the movie. When we first meet Aviva, she is played by a young African-American girl who wears her emotions on her sleeves and in her facial expressions. She is the only child to middle class parents (Barkin and Masur) living in an anonymous suburb in the Northeast United States. Horrified at the probable suicide of her cousin Dawn and alienated by the material nature of her mother’s love, Aviva becomes obsessed with the idea of having lots of babies to ensure she has someone to love her. Then, as a Caucasian brunette in her early teens, she has an ill-advised encounter with the son of a family friend, and gets pregnant. As a reedy, red-haired, slightly older girl, she strenuously resists but eventually accedes to getting an abortion. As a more confident and more attractive brunette, she runs away with the help of a truck driver, with whom she has sex in the hopes of once again getting pregnant. Abandoned by the truck driver, she wanders through wilderness in the shape of a teenage boy and then is discovered—now as a large, older African–American woman—by the driven and very Christian Mama Sunshine, who runs an orphanage for children with medical infirmities. Here Aviva is least like herself: in a completely alien environment, she has to lie about her name and her past to fit in, and her self-doubt and anxiety are apparent in her magnified size, awkward movement, and change in race. The plot unfolds from there involving more pedophilia, a quest to assassinate the doctor who aborted her fetus, and a shootout in room 11 of a seedy motel, with Aviva switching from shape to shape, becoming more assertive and mature. At the point where she feels most grown-up, she returns to her family as a world-weary, bedraggled 20-something waif (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She holds her own in an existential debate with her older cousin, Mark, and easily wins arguments with her parents. But, as the title of the movie suggests, things come around: Aviva meets up with the boy who got her pregnant to begin with, reverts mentally through the chain of actors who have portrayed her, until she is once again the vulnerable, out-of-place, emotionally needy little black girl. As seductive as the message is that everything eventually returns to its beginning state, palindrome-like, some things in the film are irreversible: death, certain operations, and murder among them. In the end, it’s these things that will eventually shape the person Aviva will eventually become, but she’s not yet become them yet.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“What makes this strange story even stranger is Aviva is played by eight different performers… Solondz constructs a deadpan sheltering bubble around his film, thereby defusing most of the issues he raises. It’s all one Warholian shrug. Still, ‘Palindromes’ is unlike anything you’ve seen at the movies.”–Bob Longino, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (contemporaneous)

LIST CANDIDATE: PLAY TIME (1967)

Playtime has been promoted onto the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time. Please read the Certified Weird entry. Comments are closed on this post.

DIRECTED BY: Jacques Tati

FEATURING: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek

PLOT: Monsieur Hulot gets lost on his way to an appointment and wanders around a nearly unrecognizable, technologically transformed Paris.

Still from Play Time (1967)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Play Time is about the alienating, isolating influence technology has on human beings. It’s not the standard elements of plot, narrative, character development or dialogue that pulls an equally alienated audience into this unfurling drama, but the careful choreography of hapless humans navigating a barely recognizable hypermodern Paris.  Play Time is sort of an anti-Brazil.

COMMENTS: Do you remember when watching “Tom and Jerry” on television, there would occasionally be a cartoon showing off a humorous version of cars or homes of the future? There would be no main character, just a narrator describing some startling innovation, and then there would be a sight-gag or funny noise to produce a laugh, and it would move on to the next futuristic comedic set-piece. Play Time is a feature film based on a very similar premise, with two differences:  there is a strong undertone of humanity and history struggling against technology, and there is no narrator to help guide you from one farcical gag to another.

The main characters are French everyman M. Hulot (Tati) and American tourist Barbara, who wander through the modern marvel that Paris has become and are continually obstructed by the technology that is supposed to make their lives easier. Hulot spends a long scene searching haplessly through a (then bizarre-looking but now surprisingly familiar) cube farm to find a businessman with whom he has an appointment. Barbara struggles to take a picture of something uniquely French, not just because pedestrians keep walking between her and the florist she fancies, but also because huge steel and glass buildings have almost completely obscured romantic Paris (the same city Cole Porter lovingly described in 1953, a mere six years before this film was released). With little meaningful dialogue and a tendency to abandon characters to their fates, it is difficult for the audience to make a coherent narrative out of the stark, gleaming, geometric scenes that linger slowly and deliberately on the screen. Particularly during Play Time‘s first half, the series of clever slapstick events that pepper the film supply the only human connection. They allow us to sympathize not only with Hulot and Barbara, but also with innocent cushions that blurt obscenely when sat upon and a broiled fish that is repeatedly heated, spiced, and basted, never to be served.

If discomfort and silly humor were the only features of Play Time, the result would be just like those “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, only bleaker and more disturbing. Fortunately, Tati allows humanity to win over technology, or at least stand on even footing. The citizens of super-Paris do eventually begin to connect with each other. Some of these connections are obvious: Hulot does eventually find his businessman, but he also bumps into several friends from the army, and he also meets Barbara. Some of the connections, though, are subtle, surprising, and hilarious, as when two families engrossed in programs showing on the television sets fixed to the wall dividing their apartments appear to be reacting to the events in the other family’s home. The movie culminates in a riotous party scene—possibly the best I’ve ever watched—at a restaurant slowly falling apart around the revelers due to shoddy construction. Here, technology does its absolute best to ruin the partygoers’ night, but they hardly notice; or if they do, they improvise on the destruction to the advantage of a good time. Meanwhile, a number of seemingly forgotten incidental characters from earlier in the movie—an obnoxious American, a portly sloven, a precise English businessman—come back and become much more alive and interesting amid the chaos. The movie’s weirdness never goes away, but it softens until it gently lands at the conclusion of 24 hours of hectic hypermodernity.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Hulot on the loose in a surreal, scarcely recognisable Paris… a hallucinatory comic vision on the verge of abstraction.”–Time Out Film Guide

READER RECOMMENDATION: 3-IRON [BIN-JIP] (2004)

Reader review by Jason Ubermolch.  Some background on this review: in the suggestion thread, Jason recommended three movies: Brother Sun, Sister Moon; this one; and Zachariah.  I noted that the first two movies were critically acclaimed but sounded only mildly weird, so I picked Zachariah to cover as the weirdest of the trio.  Thinking I was unduly dismissing 3-Iron‘s weirdness, Jason offered to make the case for it as a weird movie and do the write up himself.  (This procedure is highly recommended, by the way; we would love to see the reader recommendation category grow)!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Seung-yeon Lee, Hyun-kyoon Lee (Jae Hee), Hyuk-ho Kwon

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD3-Iron is a love story in which the lovers communicate their joy, grief, fear, trepidation, trust, and insecurities – believably – without ever exchanging dialogue. Plus, the subtle uncanniness of a man who can move silently, without being seen, adds a poignant surreality to the last quarter of the movie.

Still from 3-Iron (2004)

PLOT & COMMENTS: The protagonist of 3-Iron is a young Korean man who breaks into people’s houses while they’re on vacation and lives in their homes.  He eats their food, listens to their stereos, and sleeps in their beds, but he also fixes their broken appliances, cleans their laundry, and, more or less, earns his keep.  One night he occupies a house in which a beaten wife, Sun-hwa, is hiding with a bruised and bloodied face; she trails him silently, unseen, as he goes about his chores.  When her husband returns from his business trip and begins to beat her, the young man pelts the husband with golf balls, and then rides off with Sun-hwa on his motorcycle.

In the next half of the movie, the squatter and Sun-hwa continue to live out their innocent breaking-and-entering lifestyle, turning into an efficient and silent house cleaning team.  In a photographer’s apartment, Sun-hwa learns the trade.  In a boxer’s house, the nameless man is beaten by the owner and it becomes Sun-hwa’s turn to feed and nurse a bruised victim. In another house, the hero and Sun-hwa shyly woo each other and kiss.  And in yet another, they discover an old man who has died; they prepare his body for a funeral and bury him, only to be accosted by the deceased’s Continue reading READER RECOMMENDATION: 3-IRON [BIN-JIP] (2004)