Saturday, July 14, 2018

Off Script: Don't Breathe

Film: Don’t Breathe
Format: DVD from Sandwich Public Library through interlibrary loan on The New Portable.

I think there’s a fine line between what constitutes a horror movie and what gets called a thriller, at least in my mind. To me, “horror” as a genre implies some element of the supernatural or at least the unnatural. Thrillers are often horrific movies, but for me, they are based more in the real world. This is not a hard and fast rule. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for instance, is purely a horror movie despite having no supernatural element. With a movie like Don’t Breathe, we’re riding that line as well. My gut tells me this is more of a thriller than a horror movie, but there are certainly elements of horror here.

If you think this suggests that there’s nothing supernatural going on in Don’t Breathe, you’d be correct. We start with three young thieves. These are Alex (Dylan Minnette), Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Rocky (Jane Levy). Alex’s father owns a security company, which gives him information about their homes and security information. The three break into the house, shut down the alarm, and steal. To keep themselves out of trouble, they don’t steal money and they never steal more than $10,000-worth of goods. Break that number, and it becomes a felony offense. Once they are done, they set off the alarm and Money fences what they’ve stolen.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Films: Donnie Brasco
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

Like a lot of the movies that are still on my Oscar list, Donnie Brasco is one that I’ve almost watched a couple of times. These days, I seem to need to be in the mood for a mob movie, and Donnie Brasco is absolutely a mob movie. It’s also a movie that features Al Pacino playing an interesting combination of roles. On the one hand, Pacino made his name playing mob guys. On the other hand, his character here isn’t the boss. In fact, this is almost Pacino playing against type.

Low-level mobster Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Pacino) is introduced to Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp), a jewel thief. Lefty wants Donnie to serve as a middleman for a large diamond ring he received as a payment, which Donnie claims is a fake. Donnie gets Lefty something much closer to a real payment, and in gratitude, Lefty more or less brings Donnie into the Mafia, introducing him to several made men including Sonny Black (Michael Madsen).

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday Horror: The Blob (1958)

Films: The Blob (1958)
Format: Streaming video from Kanopy on laptop.

There are a great many charms to the original version of The Blob from the late 1950s. This starts right away with the bouncy theme song written by no less a luminary than Burt Bacharach. One of the great things about The Blob is that it comes from those halcyon days when aliens were often depicted as something utterly non-human before they idea of big-headed, big-eyed grey aliens became the norm. The Blob is pure pulp, and is also the catalyst for much of Steve McQueen’s career. Even if the movie sucked, it would be noteworthy for that.

In small town Pennsylvania, young Steve Andrews (McQueen) is out on a date with Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut). Jane thinks Steve is handing her a line as the two sit out in the middle of nowhere looking at the stars, but he claims he’s being honest—he’s never taken another girl here. Just then, a meteor flashes by and impacts close to them. They decide to see if they can find it. Meanwhile, at the site of the impact, a local backwoodsman (Olin Howland) investigates the meteorite and discovers something like an egg. It cracks open and the purplish goo inside attaches itself to his arm. Out on the road, Steve and Jane almost run the man down. Seeing he is in trouble, the put him in the car and drive him to the local doctor’s office.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Off Script: The Amityville Horror; Amityville II: The Possession

Film: The Amityville Horror; Amityville II: The Possession
Format: DVD from Stockton Township Public Library (Amityville) and Somonauk Public Library (Amityville II) through interlibrary loan on The New Portable.

There have probably been stories of haunted places for about as long as there have been stories in general. Tons and tons of horror stories and horror movies have dealt not with the idea of evil people or entities, but have instead dealt with the concept of evil places, places that are “born bad” to put it in the parlance of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. While there are many of these stories, probably the best known of the genre is The Amityville Horror, which takes a page out of the playbook from The Exorcist as well as The Haunting. In this case, we have a house that was not merely born bad but that is alleged to be literally possessed by Satan himself.

The film starts as the Lutz family movies into the house in question. They’ve gotten the house for a song because it was the site of a previous mass murder; the oldest son of the previous residents slew his parents and younger siblings, blaming it on voices that he heard from the house. It’s not long before the house itself starts to demonstrate that his claims of hearing voices might not just be looking for an insanity plea.