We’re settling in to alternating 366’s Weird Watch parties between Amazon Prime and Netflix, and it’s Prime’s turn this week.
The procedure will be the same as with our Netflix parties: we’re looking for five people (not counting your host Gregory J. Smalley) to comment on this post if you are interested in attending. Likely attendees may also make a nomination from the Amazon Prime catalog for a movie to watch, but not something we’ve already watched (so far, that only means no Human Lanterns or My Neighbor Wants Me Dead). After we cross the five attendees threshold, we’ll put up a poll with all the nominations and start voting to select which film we’ll screen. The Watch Party will tentatively be scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 15 at 10:15 PM ET; feel free to suggest a different time in the comments.
Amazon Prime’s catalog of movies is larger (and less exclusive) than Netflix’s. Ed Dykhuizen’s availability spreadsheet is a good resource to check for Canonically Weird movies (look for ones marked “free w/ Prime” in the “Amazon” column). Or, do your own research and come up with a title from Amazon. Eligible movies will have a “watch party” button on their Amazon page. You must be a Prime subscriber; you don’t have to download an extension or additional software.
We will not provide tech support; you’re on your own. Help each other.
When the party is set to begin we’ll announce it in three places:
On this site (if you’ve signed up for regular email alerts via the sidebar you’ll also get a notice that way)
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Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…
Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.
ONLINE DEBUTS (ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE ON DEMAND):
Psychomagic, A Healing Art (2019): Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s long-simmering documentary about his own brand of ritual psychotherapy final arrives in America. We have our doubts about the clinical efficacy of psychomagic, but little doubt that the documentary will be worth a look. The 8/8 screening will include a Q&A with Jodorowsky. Rent Psychomagic, A Healing Art on demand.
FILM FESTIVALS – Fantasia International Film Festival (Online–Geolocked to Canada, 8/20-9/2):
If you’ve been reading the site for a while, you know we make a big deal about Fantasia every year: it’s a huge genre festival and, although it doesn’t focus specifically on our brand of weird, the programmers’ tastes are wide enough that we discover a list-worthy film or two there just about every year. In 2020, unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has forced the festival online, where only Canadians (and journalists) will be able to enjoy the festivities. We’ve been able to get a special dispensation and will be able to screen many of the films virtually, as well as maybe bring you some live-on-tape interviews with available talent. Here’s just a few of the titles we’ll be wrangling to see:
#ShakespearesShitstorm – Another grossout take on the Bard from Troma studios, this time taking the wind out of “The Tempest.”
2011 – A film editor on the edge of sanity struggles to complete a feature while distracted by strange noises coming from the apartment next door.
The Day of the Beast (1995) – The presence of a restored version of Alex de la Iglesia‘s Satanic horror-comedy on Fantasia’s program surely heralds an imminent re-release of this cult item, which has been shockingly unavailable in North America.
Fried Barry – An alien possesses the body of a South African drug addict.
Labyrinth of Cinema – Cinemagoers find themselves transported in time to key moments in Japanese history; the final film from Nobuhiko Obayashi (Hausu).
And of course, we usually find a left-field surprise or two.
“World of Tomorrow: Episode Three – The Absent Destinations of David Prime” (201?): Don Hertzfeldt dropped a surprise trailer this week for the third episode in his “World of Tomorrow” series. It’s teased as “coming soon” with no further details. Little Winona Mae is growing older by the day, so who knows how much longer he can keep these up? They grow up too fast. Film Stage got Hertzfeld to talk about it a little.
NEW ON HOME VIDEO:
Coma [Koma] (2019): An architect in a coma finds himself in a shared dream-world made up of the memories of those in a similar predicament. It’s Russia’s take on Hollywood mindbenders like Inception (whose famous visuals it rips off) and The Matrix. On DVD, Blu-ray, or VOD. Buy Coma.
“Dispatches from Elsewhere, Season 1”: Jason Segel produces and stars in this “confusing” series about the mysterious “Jejune Institute” and its nefarious (?) plans. Season 1 is in the books and available for purchase on DVD, Blu-ray, or VOD. Buy “Dispatches from Elsewhere, Season 1”.
Toto the Hero (1991): Read the Canonically Weird entry! At long last, Jaco Van Dormael‘s debut—about a deluded man who convinces himself he was switched at birth with a neighbor in order to justify his erotic attachment to his sister—makes it to home video in North America. Arrow Academy is our hero. Blu-ray only. Buy Toto the Hero.
Independent theaters are cautiously starting to reopen across North America at diminished capacity, although the big chains remain shuttered. That said, we have a dribble of screenings to announce this week: one major repertory theater opening online only, a drive-in screening, Canadians, and a test-run by an Alamo Drafthouse franchisee. We expect this section to continue to grow slowly throughout the summer, although we wouldn’t predict things to return to anywhere near normal until the fall, at the earliest. You’ll have to use your own judgment as to whether it’s safe to go to non-drive-in, non-virtual movie theaters at this time.
New York City, NY
The Metrograph (online live screenings only for the moment. Some shows may require membership.)
“The Completists” (podcast/webcast): 366’s own Shane Wilson has started a podcast (together with co-host Ted Price) premised on the idea of watching and opining on an entire movie series. They’re starting off with the James Bond franchise. You may see/hear another 366 contributor on as a guest someday. (And if you’re wondering why there’s no official 366 podcast yet—we’re seriously considering it, but focused right now on producing the book version of the List, which is at least a year out). Anyway, “The Completists” is highly recommended, especially for Bond fans, and you can listen on your favorite podcast app or watch/listen on Vokal Now.
WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE:
Saturday night’s Weird Netflix Watch Party will be the classic The Wicker Man (1973). As usual, we start at 10:15 ET tomorrow, and post the link to join around 10 PM here, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
In next week’s reviews, Giles Edwards looks at Capone (2020), the biopic that dares to put Tom Hardy in a diaper, while Gregory J. Smalley digs into the long-neglected reader-suggested review queue to review the perverse British horror anthology Little Deaths (2011). Onward and weirdward!
What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that we have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.
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DIRECTED BY: Harley Cokeliss (as Harley Cokliss)
FEATURING: Jemma Redgrave, Kathleen Wilhoite, Mark Greenstreet, Timothy Spall, Jimmy Nail
PLOT: Diana is about to get married to a Falklands War hero, but starts suffering nightmares as the date of her nuptials approaches.
COMMENTS: Leading lady Jemma Redgrave is the niece of cinema’s heavy-hitting grand dame, Vanessa Redgrave. Nicolas Cage is the nephew of cinema’s heavy-hitting director Francis Ford Coppola. I bring up this semi-coincidence to allow me to raise the following point: a movie as overblown as Dream Demon would have done much better with an actor as overblown as Nicolas Cage. As it stands, Jemma Redgrave provides a capable performance as bride-to-be Diana, but her energy level is far too wan—perhaps I might say too “English”—for the blood-splattered, creepy-staircase-laden, hard-to-follow nightmare on screen. Redgrave hovers at a “proper” Four, when Dream Demon demands nothing short of a Cage-ian Eleven.
Had Harley Cokeliss (who co-wrote as well as directed) pursued the story he should have, that kind of quiet nuance might have been appropriate. He falls into the trap that ensnares horror writers and directors all too often, however: wanting to graft ill-thought-out scares onto dramas that could have been more interesting in their own right. Dream Demon, in its real world portions, touches on a lot of issues worth exploring: the bilious nature of the British press corps in the 1980s, the strange flag-waving jingoism of the Falklands War, the culture clash of Los Angeles and London society, the manifestations of childhood guilt, and the fears of human sexuality as expressed by the subconscious.
Instead, there are dreams within dreams (within dreams, and so on). These dreams, as the title suggests, are invariably nightmares—and Dream Demon opens with a real doozie. During a full-on, hyper-Anglican wedding—replete with far-flung family and officer chummies of the groom—Diana gets cold feet at the last possible moment and refuses to say “I do” at the vicar’s prompt. Furious with embarrassment, the groom (Mark Greenstreet, doing the best impression of David Bowie‘s ’80s hair-cut I’ve ever seen) slaps her; she slaps him back, and his head explodes. The blood-spattered bride walks back down the aisle and outside into the crowd of paparazzi. Alas, anyone who’s anyone knows that this opening is not to be–and we see the bride-to-be awakening in the arms of her fiancé who showers her with the standard “Everything’s all right!” platitudes.
So Dream Demon skirts around full-bore madness while also ignoring the many issues it raises with its colorful cast of characters. (I wish to take a moment for a special shout-out to Timothy Spall; not for his performance within Diana’s dreams, but as the tremendous skeezeball photojournalist who at one point inquires, “[Your fiancé] murdered a lot of Argentinians. Does that turn you on?”) But overall, Dream Demon is an untidy mess of missed opportunities. If the craziness had been laid on as thick as the spoooooky sound cues, it might have been something.
Here’s the poll to vote in our latest weird Netflix watch party, scheduled for Saturday, August 8, at 10:15 PM ET. If you plan on virtually attending, please vote for the movie we’ll be watching below. We’ll screen the movie that gets the most votes. Your host, Gregory J. Smalley, will personally break any ties. Note that unlike our other polls, you can only vote once. Poll closes at midnight ET on Thursday, August 6. You may vote for multiple movies, but not for every movie (because that would be pointless).
PLOT: Amy is convinced that she will die tomorrow.
COMMENTS: Amy plays an LP of Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” over and over. She calls her friend Jane, who can’t come over because she has to go to a birthday party, but sounds worried about her. Amy drinks a bottle of wine, slithers on a cocktail dress, and climbs up on the neighbor’s wall with a leaf-blower—never a sign of good mental health. Jane finally arrives, and Amy tells her that she’s going to die tomorrow, and asks if Jane will ensure that her body is made into a leather jacket after she’s gone.
Kate Lyn Sheil carries the opening act of the film, mostly alone and silent, conveying a despair that builds to resigned madness. The opening features a lot of extreme close-ups of tear-filled eyes, a half-full wine glass, red blood cells; shots that suggest both loneliness, and an uncomfortable intimacy. This solitary mood is sustained about as long as it can be before Jane (Jane Adams) shows up to introduce a more dynamic note. Jane, an artist, dismisses Amy’s premonition of death as a self-pitying drunken ramble; but when she leaves, she begins thinking about mortality… and convinces herself that she, too, will die tomorrow. Jane then hauls herself to the birthday party, with predictably dire results.
If I were to assign a genre to She Dies Tomorrow, it would be “macabre drama.” Writer/director Amy Seimetz takes a simple irrational conceit—what if we were inalterably convinced that we would die tomorrow?—then it fully explores the dramatic ramifications through multiple characters. It’s the sort of idea that Luis Buñuel would have turned into a satire, but the tone here is forlorn. There is humor, to be sure—a conversation about dolphin sex, Jane’s panicky visit to an emergency room physician, Amy’s desire to be turned into a post-mortem apparel—but black comedy is not the predominant mood.
Neither is it a science fictional, “Twilight Zone” conceit; there are no firm answers given to why Amy is struck with a paralyzing consciousness of death. Scenes of rainbow-colored flashing strobe lights accompanied by the sound of garbled radio transmissions only confuse matters. The crucial fact that Amy’s morbid thinking is contagious converges with 2020’s pandemic, creating a layer of accidental relevance to contemporary times—one that you may find too relevant for comfort. A crowd-pleaser, She Dies Tomorrow is not; a worthwhile challenge for the brave and introspective, it is.
With it’s crushing sadness and lack of answers—much less solace—She Dies Tomorrow will frustrate the hell out of some viewers, which is a compliment. Seimetz is onto something desperately human here, a truth we’d rather avoid. We like to imagine that if we knew the date of our own deaths, we’d be freed to truly live life, not worrying about next month’s rent, pursuing our bucket list, renting a dune buggy. But Seimetz’s characters are instead paralyzed by knowledge of their impermanence, unable to enjoy their last moments on Earth or appreciate the simple beauty of a sunrise. The movie is an elegy for us all. True to its own despair, She Dies Tomorrow offers not a ray of hope.
She Dies Tomorrow counts Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson among its producers. Our readers will remember Amy Seimetz best for her performance in front of the camera in Upstream Color. This is her second feature film as director, and it’s a great leap forward from 2012’s promising but incomplete Sun Don’t Shine (which also featured Sheil as lead). Seimetz continues to act and direct TV projects, but she’s paid her dues, and let’s hope she doesn’t have to wait another eight years between features. She might die tomorrow, and that would be a great loss to the film world.