Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bille August's Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997)

Smilla Jasperson, a scientist who works in the study of ice and snow, born of maternal Greenlandic descent and paternal American descent, lives in Copenhagen, and on the way home, she discovers a young Greenlandic child, Isaiah, to whom she has grown closer more than anyone living, laying dead in the snow in front of her apartment building, apparently having fell to his death from the rooftop. Smilla doesn't trust the police's explanation of Isaiah's death (an accident) but trusts her own intuition, "her sense of snow," and begins to investigate the mystery behind the child's death in Bille August's Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997).
To begin with, bad pun intended, Smilla's Sense of Snow is cold. Its opening imagery of an Inuit fisherman in Greenland with dogsled in tow, who encounters a mysterious explosion, which leads to a furious snowstorm to the imagery of the film's primary location, a very cold Copenhagen, the film's coldness is literal. August's film style appears the same way: classically composed, close-ups, medium, and wide shots punctuated by smooth and flowing tracking shots, accompanied by minimal use of soft music. Nothing is colder, however, than the performances within the film, especially of its primary character, Smilla, portrayed by Julia Ormond. Smilla is a wonderfully drawn character (Peter Høeg, who authored the novel of the same name, is a personal favorite of mine. His novel is brilliant, as are his other works. I recommend giving all of his work a read.) Smilla's cultural heritage seems to be born from complete polar opposites: her mother was a Greenlandic hunter, who lived within and lived off the land with an extreme reverence. There are multiple words within her language for snow. Smilla relates, in a dinner scene with shy, stuttering neighbor (Gabriel Byrne) that after her mother's death and her subsequent move to Denmark to live with her father, that she would not sleep indoors. Smilla feels a kinship to the snow and its magic. Perhaps this kinship led her into her current career and obsession: the scientific study of ice and snow, of which she is an authority, unmatched really by anyone in the world. This logical and deductive side is born from her paternal heritage: her father is a American scientist (Robert Loggia), also well-respected and held in repute, who very much loves his daughter yet doesn't really understand her. Smilla's cultural heritage is unique, and she is a unique character: beautiful, complex, intelligent, obsessive, and very cold. Despite her cultural heritage, Smilla is very much a member of the human race and should have emotion. Of course, Smilla does, but the rendering of these emotions are not felt by the viewer, neither from August's direction nor from Ormond's performance.For whatever reason, August does not want to let the viewer into Smilla's Sense of Snow. Smilla's angry and stand-offish (understandably, the viewer will later learn) and she often lashes out on the unsuspecting. For example, when Gabriel Byrne's character comes out of his apartment to offer something to drink or eat (really some company) shortly after the discovery of the child's corpse, Smilla angrily accuses him of preying on her supposed vulnerability: Byrne just wants to get her wrapped up in emotion and take advantage of her. Byrne's character sees behind her anger: he knows she's hurting and doesn't completely mean what she says. On paper this scene feels intimate and close; however, August's rendition is seriously lacking: medium shots from the two speaking from two different levels atop the stairs. The performance by Byrne is kind-of quiet and sweet but Ormond's performance doesn't resonate. Her emotion feels contrived, as if an actor is attempting to portray an actor's version of anger. Raw emotion from Ormond would have been welcomed but there is virtually none at all. Even her scenes with Isaiah, shown in flashbacks, are rigid and forced. The dialogue is unoriginal and trite: "Go away," Smilla says, "I'm not going to be your little friend." "Would you read me a story?" asks the small, sweet child. In a ridiculous, sing-songy mocking voice, Smilla says "No, I won't read you a story." Ormond's Smilla has similar scenes with the child: the real driving force for Smilla's obsession in the mystery is truly lacking: how is anyone supposed to feel for her?To be fair, Smilla's Sense of Snow appears as if its director and its performers were intimidated and confused as to how to render Høeg's complex novel. His novel is filled with emotion but a lot of Smilla's conflicts are internal. August, taking film's visual storytelling too literally, is unable to crack the transition from page to screen. The overall feel of Smilla's Sense of Snow, beyond its coldness, is conservatism: succeed or fail, August and his performers aren't going to take any risks. It's almost as if August just wants to objectively film the action and gamble that his viewer will be intrigued. Well, first-time viewers perhaps will: Smilla's Sense of Snow is a very intriguing mystery and it's worth seeing to watch it unexpectedly unfold. Then again, Høeg's novel is an expertly-rendered mystery, so I would much rather recommend it. A missed opportunity, Smilla's Sense of Snow should fade into obscurity as a would-be curiosity.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hong-jin Na's The Chaser (2008)

Hong-jin Na's The Chaser (2008) is a story about one man, Jung-ho (Yun-seok Kim), feeling the first pangs of guilt. Jung-ho is a police detective turned pimp and he just forked out a bunch of cash for some new ladies. His recently-purchased ladies are disappearing: at first, Jung-ho believes his ladies are running away, as he tells his shady creditor to whom he's in debt for the purchases. Two go missing and then a third. A client calls and asks for some company and there's only Mi-jin (Yeong-hie Seo) left. Mi-jin is sick at home and her seven-year-old daughter is playing nursemaid. Jung-ho could give a damn that she's sick and tells her to go to work. The cell-phone number from which the prospective client called is familiar: in fact, the last time any of his missing ladies were seen, it was with this client from this number. The cell phone belongs to Young-min Ji (Jung-woo Ha), and Jung-ho makes a seemingly logical deduction: this bastard is taking my girls and selling them. Jung-ho instructs Mi-jin to text him when she arrives at her client's home, but Young-min is not selling the girls. Mi-jin can't get a signal from her cell phone from Young-min's bathroom. She's a prisoner, and Jung-ho doesn't know where she is.
The Chaser is a well-crafted thriller that takes places over the course of primarily one evening. Beyond its excellent plot, the film is also a searing portrait of its main character, Jung-ho, and his nemesis, Young-min. Hong-jin Na shoots his film objectively in the modern style, producing a very slick-looking and intimate film with some disturbing scenes of violence, some over-the-top yet grounded humor, and fantastic drama. The plot of The Chaser and the character arcs are seamless. Jung-ho goes through three revelations as to the condition of his missing ladies: runaways, kidnap victims, and [insert your best guess here after I set the plot up for you]. His first two beliefs as to the ladies' condition are based on his material nature while the final one is based in his hidden humanity. Jung-ho looks and acts like a modern business man: slick-looking clothes, drives a Jaguar, and has a well-structured business: his assistant, whom Jung-ho calls "Meathead," solicits business cards all throughout the city and Jung-ho holds multiple cell phones for prospective client contact and close-monitoring of his ladies whereabouts and accounts. Since Jung-ho is hurting financially, because his ladies are missing, Jung-ho believes the problem is financial: someone is ripping him off. Jung-ho sees his ladies as cash-producers, not people. When one of his ladies gets assaulted by a john, Jung-ho takes the opportunity to beat the would-be client and take all of his cash: he's going to make some money off one of his ladies, one way or the other. It didn't matter that she could have been brutally beaten or had another mundane and innocuous transaction: the bottom line is the almighty dollar. This is, of course, Jung-ho's most glaring flaw, and the viewer watches The Chaser asking "is Jung-ho diligently searching for Mi-jin, because she's the last bankable lady in his stable or somewhere, during the course of the evening, does Jung-ho soften and look for Mi-jin out of remorse and feeling?"Young-min is a sick individual but he's slick. His operation is equal to Jung-ho's: well-structured and almost contingency-proof. Young-min knows how to play the system, as well. The police and the politicians are tied up for the night: the mayor of Seoul is making the rounds amongst the locals. An angry protester throws some feces his way. The police nab the "shit-thrower" but fail to prevent the embarrassment. Failing to efficiently take care of the Jung-ho/Young-min/Min-ji situation will make the police and its government appear amazingly inept. Watching Young-min interact over the course of The Chaser is extremely unassuming: it's only really towards the end of the film that the viewer is able to look backwards and see his motives in action.It's difficult to write about The Chaser, because I believe the viewer really needs to know little about it and just experience it. Hong-jin Na's film delivers unexpected twists and turns amongst the backdrop of a masterfully-executed visual style. The streets feel real, because The Chaser is filmed that way: the viewer is never outside of the action, as all the locations feel authentic. Na's compositions are equally organic: nothing in The Chaser feels showy. The lighting is perfect. The minimal use of music is effective, as it only accompanies a few intense scenes. The performances rival the plot for which is better, and in the end, I'll take both. The Chaser is one of the best thrillers that I've seen in a very long time. See it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Karyn Kusama's Jennifer's Body (2009)

I've never seen a Megan Fox movie, although I've seen her adorn numerous glossy magazine covers while standing in line at the grocery store. I've never seen a film directed by Karyn Kusama, although her two previous films, Girlfight (2000) and Aeon Flux (2005), look kinda cool. I have, however, seen Jason Reitman's Juno (2007), penned by Diablo Cody, who won the Academy Award for her screenplay; and Juno is a personal favorite, one of my favorite films of this decade. I didn't even know that she wrote Karyn Kusama's Jennifer's Body (2009) till after it premiered in theatres (I read very few film sites). Cody's screenplay for Jennifer's Body was the primary attraction for me seeing it, and I didn't really know what it was about (although some horror bloggers that I follow have given it some recent attention).
Amanda Seyfried (who looks a lot to me like a young Naomi Watts) plays Needy Lesnicky, who currently resides in a mental asylum, and from within those walls, she's going to tell her story as to how she got there (some killings had something to do with it). Needy is a cute, young high-school student, who's also very smart and very normal. Needy has a cute, young, smart, and equally normal boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), and her best friend, Jennifer (Megan Fox), is a strikingly-beautiful cheerleader. They're an odd couple of "BFFs," as one student remarks to Needy during a pep rally, "Why are you waving at Jennifer?"; then, "You two must be lovers." Jennifer asks Needy to go a bar to see an indie band, Low Shoulder, whose lead singer Jennifer's gots the hots for. Devil's Kettle, their small town, doesn't have a club but the one bar, named after a waterfall which collects in a whirlpool (leading down into a seeming endless pit). The band's frontman, Nikolai Wolf (Adam Brody), is smitten with Jennifer, even more excited, because he believes that she's a virgin. The band starts playing and a fire breaks out, trapping everyone inside. Jennifer and Needy escape, along with the band, Low Shoulder, who really kept their cool during the whole goings on. Nikolai asks Jennifer if she wants to ride with the band in their van, and she accepts. Needy goes home alone. Jennifer shows at her house later, caked in blood with a ravenous appetite and a need to vomit up a big, black nasty pool of viscous liquid. Rock on. Time for Jennifer's Body to hit the high school with some demonic hijinx.
As I sat in the theatre, I began thinking why does this film feel so familiar? Well, my high school years are very over, but when I was thirteen or fourteen, the Jennifer's Body of my generation was called Heathers (1988), directed by Michael Lehmann and smartly-scripted by Daniel Waters. When I was twenty-three I remember taking my very cute girlfriend to see Robert Rodriguez's The Faculty (1998), also smartly-scripted, this time by Kevin Williamson. Jennifer's Body is a dark comedy/satire of high-school life against a genre backdrop (for Heathers, it was a teenage Bonnie and Clyde; for The Faculty, it was an alien invasion). Jennifer's Body opts for a demonic, Succubus-driven spin. Cody is a sharp, observant writer (also exec-produced) and she brings her spin on the satire, perhaps for a newer generation. Cody's immediate strong point is her female characters, often armed with an acerbic wit and a sassy tongue, and Needy and Jennifer are great characters. However, I really love, as she did in Juno, when she subversively pens ineffectual, stuttering male characters, like Chip, or poseurs, like Nicolai. Traditional cinema is full of shrill, emotional, and vulnerable female characters, so it's really fun to watch Cody turn the guys inside out (as Jennifer literally does throughout the movie). One of the best scenes is when Needy and Chip have sex: it's really humorous when Chip immediately begins groping her breasts, and when Needy's having a demonic moment with Jennifer, while Chip's working away, he asks, "Am I hurting you?"
Cody's dialogue and story is terrific, and I wish that Kusama's visuals matched her words. Jennifer's Body is way too glossy for the material. I really wanted a gritter feel to the material, although there are some great compositions, like a wide shot of Fox swimming in the lake after a kill or the beautiful shots of the waterfall and whirlpool. Fox is dead sexy on screen and she looks devilishly good, and the effects are well-done when she gets sinister. Seyfried really carries Jennifer's Body, and she's outstanding. If she weren't good in her role, then the film would just feel cold. Surprisingly, Jennifer's Body is really tame in terms of sexuality. There's nothing really steamy or shocking, but overall, the film has a truly risque vibe that just really teases the viewer: a smart choice by the film makers (keeping the focus on the story and the dialogue). The violence, like the sexuality, isn't over-the-top, and the film doesn't really provide any true scary bits (I'm certain that this wasn't intended as a traditional and true horror film).
Since Ms. Megan Fox gets a vast amount of fanboy love (she's quite good in the film, also; it looks like she's having a lot of fun), after viewing Jennifer's Body, I've pretty much accepted my fanboy-love for Diablo Cody. I'll line up for any film that's she's involved in, and Jennifer's Body is a lot more fun than it should be. Cody's certainly captured my heart, in demonic fashion.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Toshiharu Ikeda's Evil Dead Trap (1988)

Late-nite media personalities, at least in horror cinema, have it bad: poor radio DJ Stevie Wayne, atop her lighthouse station, in John Carpenter's The Fog (1980); sweet and unsuspecting host of television show, "While You Were Sleeping," Ángela in Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza's [Rec] (2007); and Nami, also a late-nite t.v. show host of a sensational news show (of clips of horrific news stories), in Toshiharu Ikeda's Evil Dead Trap (1988). Stevie really gets thrown for a loop: she's just spinning her records and keeping the sailors tuned in with her seductive voice, while the ominous fog comes in across Antonio Bay bringing in ghostly figures from past. Ángela just wanted a little action, beyond folks eating, sleeping, and watching t.v.; she didn't expect at all the horror which awaited her within an apartment building in the wee hours of the morning. Nami, however, should know better: she accepts an invitation to horror. Here is what her invitation looks like: a videotape sits at Nami's editing deck in a envelope with a label which reads, "For those who suffer from sleepless nights." Thinking its a work tape, a submission from a viewer, Nami pops it into the VCR. The initial imagery is from a person's p.o.v. while driving: shots of tollway exits, tunnels, roads, etc. leading to a location. Nami stops her fast-forwarding when the tape shows a bound woman, and now the camera seems to have a knife attached to it: a penetrating cut to the woman's abdomen followed by an extremely graphic piercing and slicing of her eyeball. After the killer (and camera person) finishes the victim with a final stab, the camera lingers on the disfigured face of its victim. In a static shot, the image pixelates into Nami's face. Nami's a little shocked.
Nami wants to investigate, but her producer attempts to dissuade her.
It's probably not genuine.
We don't have the money in the budget for an investigation.
Fine, then, do what you want, but I'm not responsible.

What does Nami expect to find?
A corpse, which would equal some serious and needed publicity for the show.
Nothing, because it's a hoax.
A killer, maybe.
Toshiharu Ikeda's Evil Dead Trap (1988) is a low-budget exploitation/horror film, which became quite (in)famous in the pre-Internet era, which is quite an accomplishment in itself. Its low-budget roots are glaring: its central focus is a genuine location, seemingly an old army base in Japan once used by Americans. Its main building and curtilage seem quite large. And spooky. It looks like the type of place where kids do not want to play, but film makers fall in love at first sight. Takashi Ishii, the screenwriter (and writer/director of many of an (in)famous exploitation flick, himself), pens his script around it. Nami and four of her colleagues decide to investigate the location, and within ten to fifteen minutes of Evil Dead Trap, the five have arrived, using the video that Nami received as it was intended: a map. The five immediately split up: Nami goes in one direction alone; Rei, Nami's stylist, and Kondo, a production assistant, also a budding couple, go in another; and Akio and Rya, the final two in Nami's production team, go in another. Rei and Kondo begin squabbling. Apparently, during their first date, Kondo had a little too much to drink. Rei shrugs him off when Kondo apologizes. "It seems as if everyone stopped working," says Rei, "and just left," as she investigates the location's workshop. Kondo is nowhere to be found. In a closet, Kondo pops out wearing monster teeth and gives Rei a scare. She pushes him down and Kondo gets up excited. Whether its the location, Rei's aggressiveness, or their seclusion, Kondo and Rei decide to shag. Rei cleans up, and Kondo splits, leaving Rei all alone in the workshop.

Akio and Rya are snapping photos and chit-chatting in a spooky, rubble-filled room. Apparently, Nami really does need this story. Being a woman in the media with an all-woman production team means Nami has to work twice as hard to be successful. Rya leaves the building and wanders off alone, hoping to find their vehicle. Rya wants to go home. Akio finds the main location shown on the videocassette and enters.

Nami finds the corpse of an animal, riddled with maggots, in another building. A mysterious stranger appears, wearing a black suit and dark sunglasses. The dark stranger asks Nami what she is doing here. She's a television reporter and investigating a story. Who is he? He's looking for his brother, who is somewhere in the building. Don't take any risks, says the stranger, and be careful for what you go looking for. The stranger wanders off, and Nami and her team reunite, minus one.
Story, setting, and location are simple, but Ikeda's execution (and violence) are unique in Evil Dead Trap. The score by Tomohiko Kira is effectively well-done and evocative of Dario Argento's Deep Red (1975) and John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). Nearly every murder sequence is completely different; the killer doesn't have a particular motif, so each murder seems out of a different film. All are extremely bloody and very disturbing. Several shifts in tone and atmosphere are disorienting: slow and quiet in daylight, slow and quiet in a dark tunnel, fierce and intense and quick, one-time sensual and sexual, and often graphic and explicit. Ikeda's visuals are disorienting as well: his camera doesn't often match the action but goes against it: for example, one character will be seen going down the hall, while the camera is running the other way and capturing the action; or in a scene, where the crew spies something down a long corridor and the camera zooms in and pans out (making the crew and what it spies collapse together within the frame). Ishii ties the location together with as many exploitation elements as he can imagine, while Ikeda delivers an incoherent and multiple style visually, atmospherically, and viscerally. The ending is mind-boggling. Over twenty years later, Evil Dead Trap stands above most slashers which have come after, so its notoriety is unsurprising. As a caveat, Evil Dead Trap is still perhaps too much for a lot of viewers, so beware.As I write this entry during the witching hour, I am glad that even with its most liberal definition, an amateur blogger cannot really be considered part of the media. Just writing about Evil Dead Trap gives me the willies, and it is a film "For those who suffer from sleepless nights."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer (2001)

Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan: in and around a highrise tower, Yakuza Mansion, a wonderfully dysfunctional group of criminals resides: scarred, pierced, bleached, and decadently-dressed Kakihara, played by Tadanobu Asano, stands out from other yakuza. His boss, Anjo, has gone missing. Suzuki, an ex-policeman, who lost his pistol and got discharged, wanted to guard Boss Anjo's room, even though he was just getting laid. Suzuki has a small son who often cries for his daddy to come home. Jijii runs an outcast crew of perverts, and as Karen, Boss Anjo's sometimes girl says, "they do all the dirty deeds." Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto) and his crew are waiting in a van outside of Anjo's apartment for Ichi. Ichi's watching a pimp brutally beat and rape a prostitute before Ichi goes to brutally murder Anjo in his apartment. Jijii's crew cleans up Ichi's mess, and Kakihara sets out to find his boss: not so much because Anjo's leadership is missing, but rather Kakihara misses Anjo's delivery of pain. As much as Kakihara loves dishing out the torture, he loves more to receive it. Reluctant crybaby Ichi hates to deliver it, but as the circumstances unfold in Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer (2001), Kakihara really goes looking for Ichi, whose going to cut just about everybody to shreds on the way to meet him. Ain't Kakihara excited.Ichi the Killer is a film which truly defies verbal description. Words cannot do justice to Miike's parade of atrocities and perversions in one of this young century's most transgressive films. Based upon an infamous manga by Hideo Yamamoto (not one panel of which I've seen), Miike's film presents a cinematic Tokyo which few have seen: the most arresting and daring visual compositions, presented seemingly through a filter of filth, where the characters engage in Miike's words "an insane struggle between unsocial criminals" and a "film about love."
Ichi's opening flies into action on the streets of Shinjuku, accompanied by Seiichi Yamamoto's phenomenal soundtrack, in a bizarre sequence of street life, punctuated by the spinning of gears of Ichi's bicycle, as the nastiness pops in and out. Sabu's Suzuki sets the scene: "Shouldn't we keep guard outside the boss's apartment?" The action is waiting only for Ichi: Jijii and his crew are waiting for him to do his wetwork. Ichi is too busy watching the pimp pummel the prostitute. Some semen drips off the plant outside the pimp's window, and from this seed, the film's title seethes out.
Night or day, Ichi has a soft look with a dingy hue. The city might not be dirty but Miike's going to make it look that way. Miike envisioned his film in manga form and making a movie directly from it. However Ichi's creator, Hideo Yamamoto, was unable to complete the task and relatively unknown Sakichi Sato was brought in to write the script. The origin of the images might have started in one mind and moved through others, but when the images were rendered by Miike, their power is felt by the viewer. Some scenes are just odd, as when a pants-less man is seen running through the streets, covering his manlihood with a newspaper, as two give chase, while passers-by act as if nothing is out of the ordinary. In one of the the best visual sequences, Kakihara, accompanied by Saburô (one of a pair of nasty twins played by Suzuki Masuo), go to one of Ichi's cohort's, Long, hideouts: behind a window, backlit by neon, is shown the shadow of the furry-eared outline of Saburô. Predator finds his prey when Long opens the window and cue Yamamoto's music and a frenetic chase begins in the dark claustrophobic house. Long falls fortuituously from the top floor to the bottom, where he exits to meet Kakihara watering a plant in the alleyway. The films slows when Long meets Kakihara, and the two have a small squabble that has to be seen to be believed. Scenes of Ichi walking the streets in his superhero outfit, black, heavily-padded, and with a big number one on the back, are disorienting-ly beautiful: the light fluctuates from underexposed to overexposed, while all the while the yellow one continues to glow. Ichi the Killer was shot by Hideo Yamamoto (same name and no relation to the creator of the Ichi manga) and is masterfully executed.Much has been written about Ichi's perverse and perverted scenes of sex and violence, and I will forgo any description of those to save for Ichi's brave viewer. With a runtime of two-plus hours, filled with some serious kink and gory violence, beyond the visceral, does Ichi the Killer have any other appeal? Yes, Ichi is aesthetically beautiful and masterfully well-crafted. My favorite sequence of the movie (and Miike's most creatively rendered) has little violence and no sex. A man in seen kicking Ichi in an alleyway (played by screenwriter Sakichi Satô). Sabu's Suzuki is walking through and after noticing Ichi getting a beating, he shoos the man away. He picks Ichi up off the ground and buys him a bowl of noodles. Although they are looking for each other to kill, each does not know who the other is. Suzuki shows pity on Ichi and Nao Omori's Ichi is pitiful: very much like a child in an adult body. Suzuki's pity is shown, because before, after Suzuki had been kicked shamefully out of the police, Boss Anjo bought Suzuki a bowl of noodles out of pity. Anjo gave Suzuki a yakuza position and earned his undying loyalty. Despite the escalating danger and Suzuki's impending death by Ichi, Suzuki remains loyal to his boss for this act of kindness. The scene is rendered perfectly by Miike: seamlessly cut from present time to flashbacks showing Suzuki and Ichi to Suzuki and Anjo, with Kakihara in the background, to Suzuki with his small son, telling him about his new life with the yakuza. In fact, Suzuki and his dissolving relationship with his son gets quite a bit of screen time. What's the point? Miike's film really is, as he said before, a "film about love." Behind the extreme and outrageous behavior is a story about the outsiders (a group of folks who get mad, crazy love in Miike's filmography), who, whether they like it or not, have human feelings. This is perhaps the most transgressive motif within Ichi the Killer: daring to show genuine human emotion from true real-life monsters. This motif brings the viewer in closer to the characters, while all the while, the viewer believes that he/she can sit comfortably outside of the drama but cannot. As much as Miike litters Ichi with sex and violence, he about equally litters his film with emotion. Like the scenes of sex and violence, the emotion is inescapable. Ichi the Killer is classic Miike: unexpected, irreverent, and playful: cinema's true court jester strikes again.
Any and all facts and the quotes from Takashi Miike are taken from his Ichi the Killer production diary included in Tom Mes's Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike. I implore everyone to purchase this book for Mes's amazingly astute take on Miike's work and above all, Miike's Ichi production diary. Reading it reveals a lot of anecdotes about the production, but most of all, its telling reveals most about Miike the man, a truly fascinating character, himself.

Anders Banke's Frostbitten (2006)

If you were to take a random poll today amongst your friends and ask: "have you seen a movie from Sweden about vampires?" Chances are a few might say yes, some would say something like "that sounds familiar," and a couple might say, "huh?" Now, if you were to ask your geeky film friends, like myself, the overwhelming response would be an enthusiastic "yes." Better not to ask your horror friends though, because the question would just be insulting. Almost one hundred percent of the speculatively polled would believe the film in question is indie hit Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In (2008). Kudos to the few who knew that Sweden had made one released a couple of years before (hell, I don't know, there could be a bunch more) entitled Frostbitten (2006), directed by Anders Banke. Be prepared also for everyone polled to punch you in the face for being a smarty-pants and revealing that fact to their face.
Frostbitten begins with a flashback of Scandinavian soldiers fighting for the Germans in the Ukraine during World War II. After a particularly difficult firefight, the small band of soldiers seek shelter and inevitably get lost in the snow. The band comes upon a secluded and snowed-in cabin, where the group of soldiers gets temporary comfort and a permanent resting place for a few...
Cut to modern day where cute Saga and her recently-divorced mother, Annika, are headed to the north of the country which is beginning its polar night (thirty days without sun). Annika begins work for Professor Gerhard Beckert at a local hospital in genetics research. The good professor has one patient, comatose, who takes a daily dose of a shiny, blood-red pill. Meanwhile, under the blanket of darkness, Saga starts school, where she meets vampish Vega, who is immediately smitten with young Saga. Vega invites Saga to a big party happening this weekend. Despite one of their friends mysteriously and recently dying, the party should be a blast. Vega is in charge of scoring the dope and she has a connection in the hospital: young medical student, Sebastian, who inadvertently spies the professor's patient and scores one of her blood-red pills. Sebastian takes the pill with some seriously ill effects: his senses are heightened, he cannot keep in anything down in his stomach, and dogs are talking to him (and making a lot of sense). Sebastian loots the professor's cache of blood-red pills for further study, but Vega nicks the lot of them for the party, since absent-minded Sebastian probably wouldn't mind. Saga's off to the party, while Annika has a confrontation with the professor's patient, which ends with Annika getting a bite on her arm...
Fairly rare in this decade's horror cinema, Frostbitten goes for both the scares and the laughs. Its biggest influences are also some of the genre's biggest successes, such as Tom Holland's Fright Night (1985), Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator (1985), and Joel Schumacher's The Lost Boys (1987; which is explicitly referenced in a scene). Frostbitten doesn't succeed on the level of that trio of classics but there is a lot of fun to be had within. Emma Åberg's Vega is the comedic highlight and steals every scene that she's in. Her scenes with Grete Havnesköld's Saga are a lot of ambiguous fun: it's unknown why Vega is making such a fuss over the new girl. Does Vega feel a sisterly kinship with Saga ("deja-vu" are Vega's first words upon seeing Saga) or is Vega doing her best to seduce her? Vega is just very charming and charismatic to watch, as in a particularly entertaining scene where she baits a local policeman during her smoke break. The best comedic bits within Frostbitten come with the talking dogs: as Sebastian is feeling the effects of the drug, he has a couple of encounters with chatty canines. Those scenes are humorous, and in one scene, I actually could imagine a dog saying its particular dialogue, being a dog owner myself. The scares are standard but still fun. Anyone can tell what this film is about from my clever little introduction (hint, hint "the other Swedish vampire film"). Frostbitten uses refreshingly some practical make-up effects combined with rather well-done CGI, creating some semi-exciting monstrous scenes.
Unfortunately, at approximately one hundred minutes, Frostbitten is populated by way too many characters to serve its over-convoluted plot. Jonas Karlström's Sebastian gets way more screen time than is necessary, some characters shouldn't exist at all, and the most intriguing ones, such as Saga, Vega, Annika, and Beckert, suffer from the others' presence. This is not to say that any of the performances are bad, but rather this is not the film for them. Also, Banke shows some great set-ups and no delivery. The atmosphere in Frostbitten really lacks, as the setting of snow during thirty days of night could be brilliant. Also, the scenes with Annika and Beckert within the hospital could also be done better. Virtually no dread or foreboding is created to balance the comedic scenes. The ending is too tidy and inconsistent, and at a couple of points in the film, especially during the big party scenes, Frostbitten feels as if it is just starting only to quickly fade away.
All in all, Frostbitten had enough nostalgia to give it that "Oh, you're so cool, Brewster"-vibe of 80s horror that I love. Unfortunately, the film doesn't have enough magic to make it one to revisit or anything really to make it memorable. Being the first doesn't necessarily make it the best.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seung-wan Ryoo's Crying Fist (2005)

Min-sik Choi has only appeared in a handful of films since his turn as the iconic Dae-su Oh in Chan-wook Park's Oldboy (2003), where he delivered an amazing performance which showed a vast emotional range, some brilliant facial expressions and other character quirks, and above all, a glaring vulnerability. His subsequent appearance in Seung-wan Ryoo's Crying Fist (2005) was the primary attraction for my seeking out this film, but Crying Fist also has a very talented director at its helm with Choi sharing top billing with the director's brother, Seung-beom Ryu, who is a very talented young actor. Ryoo's debut feature, Die Bad (2000) I saw very early on, when the Korean New Wave of the late-90s was catching this Western white guy's eye. Die Bad was amazing: a gritty, violent low-budget flick about t-shirt-and-jeans thugs, comprised of multiple stories which earned many a Tarantino comparison but had a very unique and original vibe. His commercial follow-up saw more money but no compromise: No Blood No Tears (2002) is a glossy and violent tale about two women caught somewhat reluctantly in an organized crime squabble. No Blood No Tears has also one of the best final martial arts confrontations that I've seen since Jackie Chan's final fight in Chia-Liang Liu's Drunken Master 2 (1994). By the time Ryoo made Arahan in 2004 romantic comedies were amazingly popular in Korea (and with Western Asian-cult film fans) with titles such as Jae-young Kwak's My Sassy Girl (2001) and Jin-gyu Cho's My Wife is a Gangster (2001) being standouts. Arahan stars Seung-beom Ryu and has some sweet romantic comedy with martial arts and fantasy elements but felt rife with comprimise. Very PG-13 in its feel, Arahan suffers from its broad appeal and doesn't hold up well compared to Ryoo's previous films nor other romantic comedies of the period. Prior to Crying Fist I viewed City of Violence (2006) and really hold it as the worst work that I've seen from Ryoo: a tired and bloody action picture that is not only derivative but lacks almost any enthusiasm. I know for a fact, however, beyond his missteps that Ryoo is talented, and Crying Fist, with the addition of Choi and Ryu and its storyline, was unlike any film that Ryoo has made and had potential to be great. Here we go:
The opening scene is a credit to both Choi and Ryoo: Choi is Tae-shik Gang, who dons his boxing headgear, sweats, and boxing gloves in an open-air shopping promenade. It's early morning and just about everything you need to know about Tae-shik, he is going to tell you as he picks up a loudspeaker. Tae-shik is an ex-boxer who won the Silver medal at the 1990 Beijing Asian Games and for a sum any passer-by may punch on him for one minute. Within seconds, just by the look on Choi's face and Ryoo's composition, this is a pathetic site. I was clearly anticipating a man who would for money allow himself to be pummelled by by-standers but not so. Tae-shik reveals himself to be quite the boxer and everyone who gets to take a shot wears boxing gloves in a one-minute sparring match with the one-time champ. Choi's Tae-shik doesn't throw any punches: he ducks and weaves from most of the blows and only takes a few. His pitch to onlookers is to allow himself to absorb others' aggression (for others' relief) while he gets some money in his pocket (later revealed that he desperately needs).
The following scene sees Ryu as Sang-hwan Yoo, sporting a nice head of dreadlocks and currently in a pristine Mercedes Benz. Yoo's stealing the car radio and is spotted by local police. The police give chase but Yoo gets away, just barely. Later, Yoo is seen smacking some local boys and taking their money with Yoo getting arrested: apparently the young locals were Yoo's crime crew and some parents filed a police complaint against Yoo for his crew beating up their children. The victims' parents agree to settle the police matter in a civil suit, and Yoo's gentle and poor father has to deplete his savings to bail out his son. Ungrateful and still angry, Yoo attacks an older gentleman in a parking garage, thinking the old man's satchel holds a cache of serious cash, but alas, no: the old man dies from a heartattack, caused by Yoo's robbery, and Yoo's arrested and sentenced to five years in prison.
Boxing becomes the primary motif in Crying Fist and it's a universal theme, not only in cinema but in art, about struggle and confrontation. Choi's Tae-shik is separated from his wife and lives away from her and his young son. Tae-shik has made a series of bad financial investments, including many "loans" to his hapless brother, who gambles them away in speculative investments or at the casino. Creditors are following Tae-shik everywhere, and Tae-shik is even indebted to the local mafia. Tae-shik believes that all he has left is his boxing talent and integrity, and getting the crap beat out of him everyday for money is the best solution. Yoo gets into a fight immediately in the prison's cafeteria, and a local guard takes pity on him. In a genuine attempt to rehabilitate him, the guard allows Yoo to join the prison boxing team, where he'll learn a sport to combat his aggression (and learn a little life discipline along the way). An extremely bold artistic choice is made by Ryoo in Crying Fist: for its two-hour-plus runtime, Ryoo keeps Tae-shik and Yoo's storyline truly parallel: there is no literal connection between the two characters beyond the thematic connection of boxing. The two characters do meet eventually, and I believe that anyone can guess, with this theme, how the two meet.
Now approaching a thousand words, I thought that I would not write about Crying Fist. The film is unlike anything Ryoo has done, thematically and aesthetically. His previous films stylistically are more contrived and artistic, but in Crying Fist, Ryoo shows his command of the modern style: handheld camera, natural light, realistic make-up, costumes, settings, etc. Choi and Ryu both give hearfelt, emotional, and wonderful performances. I actually got teary-eyed with more than a few scenes (I'm such a damn softie!). In a lot of ways, Crying Fist personifies the ideal Post-Modern film: aesthetically challenging and crafted yet heartfelt and emotional: a balance of the intellectual and spiritual. However, Crying Fist lacks greatness. The narrative choice of separating the two characters hurts: while watching both character's stories play out, each alone, lacks a compelling viewer interest. While personally I always feel for someone who is beset with tragedy, either because of external circumstances or of their own making. However, in art, I feel kind of cheated when the characters are beset by tragedies occuring outside of their own making, such as diseases afflicting the unsuspecting or the character who dies in a random accident. Tragedy such as this fills Crying Fist, alongside the characters' own created conflicts and problems. It feels to easy to pull a tear from me, and I think that is what Ryoo is doing. As a caveat, I will say to remember these eyes belong to the Western white guy and not from the culture from where the film was made: a lot of the dialogue in Crying Fist hints to the culture which once was and is now in Korea. Having the two characters represent two generations of Koreans perhaps speaks more to those within and is a stronger artistic choice than it appears. Cultural references, of which I am woefully ignorant, will be lost on me. Crying Fist has two great performances and is for the most part, compelling and interesting. Let's see what Ryoo has coming next.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor's Crank 2: High Voltage (2009)

What's up homiez? Check this out: Crank 2: High Voltage (2009) begins almost immediately after the events of Crank (2006); so if you don't want any spoilers of the original skip this review. However this review is of Crank 2 is spoiler-free, and it's time to roll on...The last time our antihero Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) was seen, he was falling out of a helicopter at a rapid rate, having dispatched his nemesis, Ricky Verona. A hit and a bounce off of a car (hospitalizing its elderly driver, as newsreporter Fish Halman (John de Lancie) relates) and Chelios lands in the middle of a busy intersection in downtown Los Angeles...only to get scooped up quickly, like roadkill, by a crew decked out in black and whisked away in a hearse-like van. Chelios is on the operating table where Chinese doctors are performing some back-alley open-heart surgery. Facially-pierced Triad, Johnny Vang (Art Hsu) enters and as a sign of respect flicks some ashes of his cigarette into Chelios's open torso. The doctors remove Chelios's heart and replace it with an artificial one. As he recovers on the operating table, in preparation for the Triads to harvest more of his organs, next one being his baby-maker, Chelios awakens and takes out a few foes, and it's time to hit the streets to find his pumper in Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's Crank 2: High Voltage (2009).
Immediately, the pacing of Crank 2 stands out: in the original, every time that Chelios' heart slowed down, the events of the film sped up, adrenaline-style, as Chelios had to engage in more furious and daring action to keep his "strawberry tart" going. As he steps out into the bright sunlight, to a wicked score by Mike Patton, Chelios feels all right. In fact he feels pretty good. He has a battery pack around his waist that's going to keep his heart beating regularly. Only after his heart slows down, after he gives a shotgun anal probe to a henchman, does Chelios notice that the little green lights on his battery pack are diminishing. He gets a little juice from the car that he hotwires, and during his escape, Chelios calls a surprised Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam), who's interrupted from his butt slapping of his assistant, Dark Chocolate (Julanne Chidi Hill), to get another cell-phone diagnosis: once that battery-pack dies, Chelios's artificial heart will begin to run on a temporary internal one. Chelios will have less-than-an-hour's juice to go on. Find your heart, Chev, says Doc Miles, and I'll put it in for you. The pacing of the film mimics Chev's condition again: this time Crank 2 moves at a relatively leisurely pace, punctuated by some intense action when Chelios needs to get a dose of electricity. After Chelios crashes through his getaway car windshield his battery pack is kaput. Where the hell is Johnny Vang?While Crank had some colorful, comic-book characters, the pacing of Crank 2 allows for more of a display and insight into some of these characters, including the addition of a few new ones. At the local "social club," Chelios rescues Chinese prostitute, Ria (Ling Bai), who is immediately smitten with her savior. Her outlandish broken English is often subtitled, and Ria is a kinetic addition of kink and nonsensical energy who helps Chelios out to find Johnny Vang. Poor Kaylo is no more, but his twin brother, Venus (Efren Ramirez), pops up. He's on a quest to avenge the death of his brother, but Chelios's tells him that he already taken care of that. Feeling a little pity for Venus (and getting himself some extra help), Statham's Chelios tells him that if he finds the guys that he's currently looking for, then Venus will get his revenge (albeit indirectly). Venus's mock heroics are hilarious and his character is a flamboyant and comedic addition to the action. How about Randy (Corey Haim)? Randy is the two-toned mullet-sporting boyfriend of Lemon. Who the eff is Lemon? Lemon is Eve (Amy Smart), who is now working the pole at a gentleman's club, since Chelios was supposedly dead. Haim's Randy is little more than a cameo character. However, in his few scenes, the opportunity to see Haim act like a buffoon, again, with some truly hilarious dialogue is priceless. I grew up watching Haim, and it's good to see him ham it up again. Smart's Eve is more than eye candy here, and she has some terrific scenes again with Statham. She has a fantastic scene later with Randy and dishes out some of her own wicked action and one-liners throughout. Hsu's Johnny Vang is a psycho straight out of the Kakihara school of thugs and he's an excellent foil and nemesis to Statham's Chelios. A very special actor, who recently passed away, is amazing in a small but pivotal role. Finally, Clifton Collins Jr. plays "El Huron," a new crime boss who steals all of his scenes. Statham, Yoakam, and the rest of the players from the previous Crank are just as excellent here.
Despite a low budget, the duo of Neveldine and Taylor once again, stylistically are impressive. There are a bunch of creative scenes of Statham getting some juice, like jumping his nipple and tongue from a car battery to sticking his finger in a cigarette lighter in the back seat of a mobster's limo. Neveldine and Taylor push the ridiculousness of the story to excellent effect, especially when Chelios and Vang meet in an unexpected rendering of the two's confrontation or a fun sequence involving some sassy protesting strikers from a San Fernando Valley industry. Some excellent violent, bloody, and exciting shootouts occur (with Statham getting the opportunity to use another body shield in one of Crank 2's most impressive visual sequences). When Statham and Smart are together on screen, the action is always endearing and usually audacious. Crank 2 has multiple visual styles but unlike Crank, Neveldine and Taylor have refined their overall look, as the film feels more organic and seamless. The action and other ridiculously fun set pieces really stand out in this visual style. Not to mention Mike Patton's score (who I'm a huge fan of) which is absolutely brilliant.
Crank 2 is a worthy sequel to the original, and I hope that this duo keeps making sequels. Chelios's heart might not make it for any subsequent ones, but my heart is certainly with this talented writing-and-directing duo, skipping a beat in anticipation for their next film.

Friday, September 11, 2009

David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983)

For Max Renn (James Woods) is it really "a matter of economics," as he tells t.v. talk-show host Rena King or is it something darker? Renn runs a small cable station and is willing to meet two Japanese pornographers in a sleazy hotel in the a.m. hours, hoping to find "something tough...something that will break through." Maybe Renn's darker side is blossoming as he's attracted to sexy radio-show host, Nikki Brand (Deborah Harry), who believes that society lives in a state of "overstimulation" of whom she is also a proud member. Her sexuality and kink is a little much for Renn, but he keeps looking, even after Nikki disappears. Electronics guru and the self-proclaimed video pirate, Harlan, has found a program on a rogue satellite entitled Videodrome: just torture and murder. Renn wants to find the program and is about to go through the looking glass to find it in David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983).
Now heralded as one of the finest contemporary film makers, period (after A History of Violence (2002) and Eastern Promises (2007)), David Cronenberg was in 1983 one of horror cinema's biggest names alongside George Romero, Dario Argento, and Brian De Palma. His debut feature-length film, Shivers (1975) was a perfect low-budget horror film; and it introduced the most prominent theme to emerge from his body of work: the human body with its subsequent corruption and/or evolution by outside forces, often shown within a fringe society which is really a reflection of the culture-at-large. For example in Shivers the tenants of a modern high-rise apartment building are infected by a man-made parasite which mutates its hosts into ravenous and sexual beings. The opening imagery of Shivers paints the high-rise as a small world, seemingly self-sufficient and complete within its own walls. Cronenberg would continue the viral and sexual in Rabid (1977) with his brilliant The Brood following in 1979, taking and loading the term "psychosomatic" to its fullest and goriest extent. In 1981, Scanners was released and while its premise (psycho-kinetic folks with a killer special gift) and its set pieces (the exploding head scene is a classic horror scene) were interesting, the film's story isn't nearly as compelling as The Brood or his subsequent feature, Videodrome.
In his journey to track down Videodrome, Renn learns through eccentric pornographer, Masha (Lynne Gorman), who has got the answers. She warns him though: the people who make Videodrome have something that Renn apparently doesn't: a philosophy. Who can help him find the program? Professor Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley) who only "appears on television on television." The monologue is the man's preferred method of communication while on television, and the Professor runs a homeless shelter with this daughter, Bianca (Sonja Smits), where folks can get a bowl of soup and a healthy dose from the cathode-ray tube (to help reintegration into society). Renn begins seeing and hearing things, and when the Professor begins talking to him from a pre-recorded videocassette from a television which subsequently begins breathing and beckoning, Videodrome takes an unexpected turn and keeps going. Not only is Renn's reality changing but also his body.
The characters who populate Videodrome seemingly would be too outside the norm to be accepted as real (or accessible) by the viewer, but Cronenberg, as he is often able to do with his films, is able to bring the viewer in to his created culture. As outlandish as the film's subject matter is, Videodrome's dialogue never sounds trite or ridiculous. Woods's Renn is an obsessive character who hides behind his commercial mask in order to plumb his dark desires. Harry's Nikki is a perfect match, and when she burns her breast with a lit cigarette, this act should be a cautionary symbol for Renn. The two actors have a strong chemistry, and their scenes together are terrific. Videodrome is a slow and methodical story that escalates perfectly: the viewer needs time to be in Renn's shoes and see the world through his eyes. As his reality begins changing, the viewer not only accepts this new reality but like Renn, wants to see more. Every subsequent scene is revelatory and engrossing: what was shown previously is grotesquely turned on its head and as the film unfolds, Cronenberg increasingly becomes less conservative and shows more in its visceral and sexual reality. What is so curious, though, about Videodrome is how wrong Cronenberg captured the culture in 1983 and its future: torture and murder would never become popular in any media; television would shrink in size both in outlets and in its audience; and viewers and seekers of a little kink and darker material would have less access to those sounds and images, because "overstimulation" has never really been our problem. Videodrome is a personal favorite by a truly unique and fantastic film maker. See it (and let it see you).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Werner Herzog's Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

To be candid, I have never really given much thought to Count Dracula's famous words "Children of the Night...what music they make." It didn't matter if I read those words in Bram Stoker's novel, in an illustrated paperback of Stoker's novel, or in a comic book or listened to the words come from an audiobook of Stoker's novel or from the filmic lips of Bela Lugosi to Frank Langella to Gary Oldman or whoever. If I were to die tomorrow, then not knowing its meaning would fail to place high on my regrets list. I have always thought that it was just some cool, Gothic shit to say that kind of got you into the mood: mysterious Count Dracula lives in an old castle all by himself and listens to wolves howling: it's freaky and creepy. Perhaps, there's an associational link that the reader or viewer makes: "children of the night" is Dracula, since he cannot go out in the sunlight; or the ferocious image of a wolf that would undoubtedly tear an unsuspecting victim apart (foreshadowing). The line is also very poetic and quite a beautiful use of language. As George Carlin would say: "You'd remember people who talked like that." Dracula is speaking and communicating and Jonathan Harker is within earshot of his words, quite possibly the actual and intended recipient of the lines. Is Harker supposed to have a reaction and respond? Nod and agree with the Count? Disagree with him and piss the nobleman off? Or just tell him that he's tired and hungry and here at his castle to conduct a real estate transaction only? Most interesting, at least to me, is why the hell am I thinking about these lines now? Well, "children of night" is now coming from the lips of Klaus Kinski's Dracula in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979); and if my mind is disoriented or questioning what I'm viewing, then the previous independent clause hides all of the answers.
Juxtaposition audio and video: opening: mummified and decrepid corpses in catacombs, accompanied by a haunting chanting, slo-mo sequence of a bat flying against the background of a bluish night sky whilst Mina (Isabelle Adjani) wakes from a nightmare and Jonathan (Bruno Ganz) comforts her, and a lulling tune, accompanied by images of kittens, sunlight, and domestic complacency. Juxtaposition manipulation and expectation: Harker's journey: welcoming (?) arms of local Gypsies, superstitious innkeepers and logical impracticability of traveling to Castle Dracula during the evening: Gypsies' stories of literal impossibility of traveling to Castle Dracula; and coachman's denial during confrontation: there is no road, there is no coach, and there are no horses. On foot, Harker walks dangerous and fearsome path protected by a guardrail, which must have been erected by a crew for some purpose (and not hidden from the camera), since the road is either well-traveled or construction crew was risky or needed a project; as he crosses over the mountains, the Gypsies' chasm is a beautiful camera capturing of cloud-covering in a natural sequence; and as night falls, a coach appears to comfort tired Harker and deliver him comfortably to Castle Dracula.
Juxtaposition thematically on stereotypes and viewer expectations: the "weak heart of a woman" within Mina pines for Jonathan while he's away. In a powerful sequence, the Count visits Mina in her bedroom, only to be told that not even God receives her love for Jonathan. Whatever the Count has come looking for within Mina's bedroom, love or blood, he is not going to find it. Immortals and the like are not welcome.

Herzog and his Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht have put me in an inquisitive and playful mood. A fine documentarian Herzog has an amazing eye for compositions, both as an artist and as capturer of images. Regardless of what was occurring within the frame in Nosferatu, whether it be rats roving over the tops of coffins or Mina walking along the shore of the beach alone, Herzog creates such an organic feel with his work. Of all the cinema I have seen from Herzog, I sense that he strictly adheres to no particular philosophy, science, religion, or the like: he likes to create stories and investigate instances where he can question philosophies, science, logic, and the like. Nosferatu is based upon Bram Stoker's Dracula, and what Herzog recreates from the novel is a faithful rendition. When Herzog makes changes to the story, those changes are uniquely from Werner Herzog. The story of the plague becomes an extremely beautiful, haunting, and effective background for the remainder of the film (after Dracula has arrived to seek out Mina at the Harker home). Ganz, Kinski, and Adjani are perfect in their roles. A hypnotizing and haunting piece of work, beyond horror, Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht is an excellent film. And by the way, while tired Jonathan has a mouthful of food, the Count, after making his "children of the night" remark says to Jonathan: "Young man, you're like the villagers who cannot place themselves in the soul of the hunter."