Tag Archives: 1994

SHORT: SOME FOLKS CALL IT A SLING BLADE (1994)

DIRECTED BY:  George Hickenlooper

FEATURING Billy Bob Thornton, J.T. Walsh, Molly Ringwald, Jefferson Mays, Suzanne Cryer

PLOT: A peek inside an asylum for the criminally insane as a mentally retarded double

murderer chats with a diabolical fellow inmate before being interviewed by a newspaper reporter on the day of his release.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade is a short film with unusual subject matter.  The viewer is treated to a vignette portrait of a murderer in an insane asylum.  There is a glimpse of his twisted companion, and a look at the sorts of confused, eccentric bureaucrats who run the place.  All of this is presented against the backdrop of the controversy of social attitudes about the patients.  The piece is strangely cemented together with the premise of a newspaper reporter trying to get an interview with the murderer on the day his sentence expires.  Odd as the setting and premise are, Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade is really just a demo-clip.  The idea was to get the concept of Billy Bob Thornton’s ability to portray Karl Childers out into the greater film community in order to locate backers and pitch a full-length movie.  It worked, and the mainstream picture Sling Blade was the result.  Most of  Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade is filler, the premise with the reporter being used to make the film longer than a screen test.  As such, the film lacks the substance and quality to be a truly weird movie.

COMMENTS:  In this short film predecessor to Sling Blade we observe a day in the life of a criminal mental patient who is on the verge of social repatriation.  Karl Childers (Thornton) chats with a fellow inmate in an institutional day-room.  Meanwhile, reporter Teresa Tatum (Ringwold) is waiting to interview Childers.

Tatum, who is working on a feature exploring the controversies of releasing criminal patients back into society, pontificates frivolously at long length with a companion (Cryer), then spars with a hesitant and quirky chief hospital administrator (Mays).  Eventually, we are allowed to see Thornton’s skillful performance as Childers when he explains to the reporter the circumstances of his crime.  The interim would be dreadfully uninteresting time filler were it not interspersed with several astounding segments in which J.T. Walsh plays the part of a funny, congenial, but very scary psychotic killer.

The annoying Molly Ringwold, an actress of very modest proportions, puts us to sleep with a Continue reading SHORT: SOME FOLKS CALL IT A SLING BLADE (1994)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: SHATTER DEAD (1994)

DIRECTED BY:  Scooter McCrae

FEATURING:  Stark Raven, Flora Fauna, Robert Wells and John Weiner

PLOT: In the near future, people can inexplicably no longer cease to exist. Death means rebirth into a dead body and the undead walk among us.  A young woman tries to survive as the increasing numbers of dead do their best to convince her to die willingly and join them.

actress Stark Raven
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LISTShatter Dead contains some strange allegories.  It opens with a lesbian Angel of Death impregnating a mortal woman, which somehow begins the undead phenomenon.  In this zombie film, the dead are not flesh eating monsters.  They merely want to reestablish society—and they want the living to voluntarily take part.

COMMENTSShatter Dead is a low budget zombie movie. It also happens to be one of the most imaginative and interesting zombie movies ever made.  It is certainly the most unconventional, while remaining basically serious. There are some attempts at surreal symbolism, but they are not gimmicky efforts to deliberately make the film look arty. The entire piece flows like a compelling dream, which while twisted, is so interesting that we are reluctant to awaken from it.

In this offbeat yarn, the zombies are  “regular” people who happen to be dead, and yet still think and function. The dilemma in this morbid version of reality is that one lives on as a corpse forever, permanently trapped in the physical condition in which one found oneself at the time of death. Many have committed suicide in order not to spend eternity old and feeble. Postmortem injuries, regrettably, are permanent.  If a zombie breaks an arm for example, it is the same as if you or I sustained a broken arm that won’t heal for eternity. This phenomenon figures prominently in the plot.

The alluring and mesmerizing Stark Raven (yes, it’s a stage name, and no, she’s not a Continue reading RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: SHATTER DEAD (1994)