Have You Ever Seen...
The Visitor (1979)
The old movie poster was one I recalled seeing at Blockbuster often enough but this was my first time seeing this odd Italian cult film.
It's an odd blending of Exorcist and Close Encounters that sets up an ancient cosmic battle between the evil force known as Zatteen and the godlike Commander Yahweh. At some point Zatteen came to Earth and Yahweh killed him with birds (as ya do), but Zatteen was able to pass on his essence over the generations and his spirit now inhabits a creepy little girl. A bunch of this is set up through some great trippy visuals at the start, and then it immediately jumps to the little girl nearly blowing up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at a basketball game. There's a lot right off the bat that keeps you glued to the film.
There's a few mini-mysteries and some nice appearances from the likes of Lance Henriksen (who doesn't really have enough to do) and John Huston. Paige Conner plays the evil child and she's actually astonishingly good. Usually I feel like we have to suffer through most child actors as bratty possessed monsters in older films like this, but she brings on a great energy as she swears like a sailor and manipulates all of the adults and Satanists (Zatteenists?).
I will also say that there is an utterly amazing motorcycle stunt (you'll see it in the trailer), and it's one of the only stunts I've seen where I was immediately worried for the well being of the poor stuntman. Like, that guy could not have been ok after that, but I couldn't find anything saying otherwise, so good job not dying bro.
Things start to lag after the mid-point of the film, but it built up enough good will through it's sheer WTF-ness in the early half (plus that suck stunt) that it's easy to forgive the lagging third act. There's some fun stuff here, so it's definitely worth a watch.
Rawhead Rex (1986)
Another one that I was vaguely aware of but never quite felt the need to watch until recently. It's a fairly run of the mill monster movie that has a couple clever bits in the script and a fairly charming dorky monster, but I think it's more interesting to see how close they got to the source material but were still so far away. Granted, it's easy to understand the decision to tone down the Clive Barker sexual horror, especially when your star demon is essentially a phallus with teeth that wants to eat children.
It's an odd deep dive, but I would recommend reading the original short story from Barker's Books of Blood series and then tracking down the 1993 Eclipse comic adaptation by Steve Niles and Les Edwards. It's incredibly violent and gives you a much better sense of the horror that Barker was going for with the sheer viciousness of Rawhead. Once you get those versions in your head and compare them to the film, you can see why Barker decided to direct Hellraiser himself. You can also see why the director of Rawhead, George Pavlou, was probably like, mmmm, maybe we'll not put in the part where Rawhide bites that little kid's head off.
The movie's main problem is its general lack of momentum whenever Rawhide isn't on screen. There's not much to hold onto with most of the performances in the film, so you mostly just want the big goofy monster to come over and knock trailers over in his 'terrible' rampage. Which, again, very much pales in comparison to the comic adaptation, but I get it. Side note, there's a great bit in the books where Rawhide sort of figures out how to blow up cars and utilizes that as a way to mess up the entire town, and it is a very sad thing that that didn't make it into the movie.
Overall, it's hard to really recommend the film unless you just like bad monster movies. It goes down better than some and has it's own charm, but when it drags it really drags.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Another case of yes, I'm finally getting off my ass and watching these David Lynch films. And like the other ones I've touched on previously, I don't have any significant insights to add to the 21 years of hardcore fans exploring the various possible meanings and interpretations of this surrealist neo-noir. If you have seen it but it's been a while, I suggest a rewatch. If you're like me and dragged your feet, then I highly recommend giving it a shot.
Some other random notes from my viewing:
- Naomi Watts is pretty damn great, especially as the story and her character unfurl and you start getting an idea of who she may or may not be.
- I love Mark Pellegrino's entire bit as the unfortunate hitman.
- There are entire bits of the film that don't feel like they 'need' to be there considering some of the later revelations, but those are also parts that I really like so whatever. I probably just defined a bunch of Lynch stuff right there, so again, no new insights. Also, this was intended to be a whole tv series, so it's easy to see the characters that were meant to have more to do just getting their small bits here because Lynch loves them too much to throw out entirely.
- My introduction to Rebekah Del Rio was that weird bit in Southland Tales where she sings the National Anthem during the apocalypse, as opposed to her weird bits where she sings in otherworldly theaters that may or may not be a manifestation of a person's dying subconscious. And I'm wondering if I'm poorer for having been exposed in that order, or if it about evens out.