Sunday, July 21, 2019


Film: At Eternity’s Gate
Format: Blu-Ray from Rockford Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I watched At Eternity’s Gate last night and, while there was more than enough time for me to write and post a review (these normally take me 20-30 minutes), I couldn’t bring myself to do it. One of the main reasons for this is that I fell asleep in the middle of the movie. This is a rare thing; I don’t often fall asleep in a film, especially when I’m not particularly tired. This is one of those strange cases where my falling asleep isn’t necessarily a negative. There’s something about this film that lends itself to that sort of reaction.

The film is more or less a version of Vincent Van Gogh’s (Willem Dafoe) last several years. It covers his meeting Gaugin (Oscar Isaac) and their strange bromance, as well as the most productive period in Van Gogh’s life. The film also puts forth a controversial idea regarding Van Gogh’s death, which I will not spoil here. It seems to…not quite whitewash, but put a very different spin on the man’s life.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday Horror: The Skeleton Key

Film: The Skeleton Key
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

There’s something I find particularly interesting and effective about the sort of horror that plants itself firmly in the middle of the bayou. Voodoo often gets a bad rap in films. There are a lot of movies that portray Voodoo as a sort of evil black magic whose practitioners are wicked people bent on controlling the will of others. That’s not true, of course. Voodoo is a religion with rituals just like any other. I think it’s that bayou—the swamp, the alligators, the feel of a brooding evil that makes the connection for people. The Skeleton Key looks like it’s going to go down that path, but it doesn’t. Rather than painting Voodoo as a sort of dark and sinister religion, this instead veers into the practice of Hoodoo.

And really, therein lies the problem. A lot of the Voodoo in movies is actually Hoodoo, or Hudu. Both are prevalent in Louisiana and Haiti, and both seem to have come to the Western Hemisphere via the slave trade, but they are substantially different. Where Voodoo is a religion, Hoodoo is more a sort of folk magic, a series of spells and incantations that can give the practitioner great power. For us, it’s easy to get them confused, since a great deal of what we associate with the religion is actually the folk magic.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Off Script: Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight

Film: Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight
Format: AMC on big ol’ television.

I was never a huge fan of the Tales from the Crypt television show. It always seemed to me like a cheap knock-off of The Twilight Zone, albeit one that focused a lot more specifically on horror. Episodes were bookended by an appearance of the Crypt Keeper (voiced by John Kassir), a skeletal puppet prone to terrible horror-based puns. I can’t speak for the episodes, but the Crypt Keeper sections were pure camp, and it was never really something that interested me. Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (also called Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight) follows the same pattern, albeit in a feature-length format.

In this case, we’re led to believe that the Crypt Keeper is directing a film. The opening sequence shows something typical of the television show—a woman has killed her husband and is apparently talking to her lover while the husband’s body dissolves in a bathtub of acid. Of course the husband (an uncredited John Larroquette) wakes up and starts to stalk the murderous wife. Just as he’s about to attack, we hear, “Cut!” and we get our CK intro, who tells us he’s already finished a movie that he calls Demon Knight. So in the opening sequence (and again at the bookend close), we’re very much in the realm of meta.