Films I Neglected To Review: 'There’s Something In The Fog!”By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 10/26/18 23:18:02
Please enjoy short reviews of "Bullitt County," "The Fog," "Hunter Killer" and "Mid90s."
The film has been made with some skill and there are a couple of key moments in the early scenes that do not play out as expected that lead you to believe that the whole thing is going to be like that. Unfortunately, McCracken's screenplay quickly reveals itself to be little more than a pastiche of bits culled from a wide variety of other films, ranging from the works of the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino to specific titles like Sam Raimi's unsung drama ''A Simple Plan'' to any number of horror movies involving dopes being stalked in the woods to a couple that I cannot even cite here because to do so would tip a couple of key plot points. Likewise, the performances are okay but they grow gradually less interesting once the characters stop acting like real human beings and begin acting like pawns being moved around in the service of the script. McCracken's directorial debut is not completely without interest and it might be interesting to see what he can do when working from a stronger screenplay than the one he has presented himself with here.
Although I still consider John Carpenter to be one of the great genre directors of our time--most filmmakers would kill to have even one films of the caliber of ''Assault on Precinct 13,'' ''Halloween,'' ''Escape from New York,'' ''The Thing,'' ''Prince of Darkness'' or ''They Live'' on their resume--it must be said that ''The Fog'' is not one of his better efforts. After viewing a rough cut of the film, a dissatisfied Carpenter reworked and reshot nearly a third of the film in order to make it scarier, gorier and more comprehensible. Alas, the story is pretty sloppy and disjointed throughout and not even a prologue featuring John Houseman (one of the scenes added during the reshoot) that tries to set the entire film up as the kind of ghost story one might tell around a campfire (short on nuance but high in BOO moments) is able to smooth over some of the rougher patches. And yet, while the film as a whole may not work quite as smoothly as some of Carpenter's other works, there is still plenty of stuff that does work that makes it worth watching and not just because it is infinitely better than the misbegotten 2005 remake. Many of the individual moments do work on their own in terms of supply viewers with shocks or laughs (there are plenty of in-jokes on display here, including the revelation that the town coroner is one Dr. Phibes) and the performances from the eclectic cast are fun as well. Carpenter's mastery of the 2.35 frame is also brilliantly in evidence here--with the help of ace cinematographer Dean Cundey, he has created an uncommonly good-looking horror film in which any portion of the screen could be hiding some potential fright inducer. Most impressively, he even manages to transform something as seemingly benign as a fog into a force of genuine menace to be reckoned with. Like I said, ''The Fog'' is not one of the great Carpenter films by any stretch but if you are a horror fan and happen to be living in one of the areas where this restoration is getting theatrical play, you owe it to yourself to experience it in all of its big-screen glory.
That ''Hunter Killer'' is a bad movie will probably not come as a surprise to most people--from its generic title to its familiar premise to Butler himself, an actor whose very presence suggests that a lot of other stars passed on the material before it came his way, it seems to have been designed to disappear from theaters after a couple of weeks before eventually resurfacing on basic cable until the end of time. What may come as a surprise to some people is just how dull the whole thing turns out to be. Despite the enormous stakes that are theoretically at hand in the story, director Donovan Marsh approaches the material in such a slack manner that he never manages to generate even the slightest amount of genuine tension. Even more strangely, although the sub and its crew would theoretically seem to be the dramatic hook here, most of the actual action is carried out by the blandly anonymous sub crew, a decision that leaves the submarine often feeling like a bystander in its own story. Possibly as a result of being shunted to the sidelines for the most part, Butler does not come across as aggressively awful as he has in many of his earlier films but is as blandly forgettable as the surrounding film. On the other hand, Gary Oldman (who filmed this long before winning his long-overdue Oscar) is at his scenery-chewing worst while the rest of the strangely ad-hoc cast (including Linda Cardellini and, perhaps inevitably, Common) just stand around looking as if they are trying to figure out how they wound up in this project in the first place. Overlong, under-cooked (virtually nothing happens of interest for nearly the entire first hour) and never once making any sort of case for its existence, ''Hunter Killer'' may be the cinematic equivalent of the kind of fat and meaningless novel one reads to pass the time while on an airplane but in terms of quality, this one is pure JetBlue.
The best part about ''Mid90s'' are the kids themselves--although some may grow weary of their relentlessly vulgar verbiage (which is not to say that it is inaccurate in any way), watching them (with Sulijic being the only professional actor among them) interact with each other, both on their boards and off, is an undeniable pleasure throughout. There are also a number of individual scenes that are impressive and contain an absolute ring of truth to them--I love the moment where Stevie sneaks into his brutal brother’s off-limits room to take careful note of all the music that he listens to for future reference. At other times, however, Hill's status as a beginner filmmaker is more obvious--the visual strategy (shooting in 16MM in the Academy ratio) is just a little too calculated for its own good, there are too many moments when he allows his story to become overwhelmed by empty nostalgia for the period being depicted and the heavy-handed plotting and speechifying of the later scenes clashes uneasily with the looser and more easygoing feel of the early going. ''Mid90s'' is not entirely successful and at times feels like a rough draft for something smarter, funnier and more incisive. However, it does have its moments of glory and some nifty performances and while Hill has not quite made an entirely good film here, he shows enough promise to suggest that he might have one in him that is ready to come out before too long.
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