HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYBODY!
I'm off to Boston and new Hampshire. I’ll return on Monday. Have a good holiday, everyone.
Eatin' a bird,
James "Thurman T. Turkey" Comtois
Half-baked ramblings from a playwright and armchair thinker.
I'm off to Boston and new Hampshire. I’ll return on Monday. Have a good holiday, everyone.
Eatin' a bird,
James "Thurman T. Turkey" Comtois
For my review of Angel Eaters, click here.
For my review of Rattlers, click here.
Where Johnna Adams was channeling Williams and Lovecraft with Angel Eaters and Rattlers, for 8 Little Antichrists, the final play in her Angel Eaters trilogy, she and director Kelly O'Donnell appear to be channeling Max Headroom and Demolition Man (yes, you read that correctly). It's an odd - yet clearly deliberate - way to conclude the series, yet still makes for an enjoyable night of theatre.
8 Little Antichrists is the most ambitious and sprawling of the three plays. It's also the most plot-driven and, unfortunately, weakest. This installment takes place in what used to be Los Angeles in the year 2028. The characters live in a dystopia where the Disney Corporation runs jails and Sony clones workers. Osley's (from Rattlers) grandchildren, Jeremy (Zack Robidas) and Melanie (Rebecca McHugh), are trying to stop the impending apocalypse and save the world from the antichrists that have been prophesized to being born. In her quest to end the apocalypse, Melanie attempts to obtain a holy relic from two escaped convicts, Thump (Jake Alexander) and Fibber (Joe Mathers), who have invented a very silly slang as an alternative to swearing (pottymouth language in Disney prison results in painful electrical shocks delivered by ankle bracelets).
In Angel Eaters, we had the terrifying Azazyel as the embodiment of evil. In 8 Little Antichrists, the fallen angels Sem and Zaz (Felicia Hudson and Elise Link, respectively) who kidnap Jeremy and force him to use his abilities to speed up the apocalypse sport stylish black pantsuits and hip sunglasses.
Meanwhile, Claudia (Candice Holdorf), a triplet (or "trip") is trying to find out who killed her trip sister and left her body in a garbage bin. She confronts Mama (Nora Hummel), a "breeder" that bore Claudia who lays in a giant amniotic sac birthing multiple clones with the aid of fertility drugs, to get answers and later meets Ezekiel (August Schulenburg), a fallen angel that may be having seconds thoughts about triggering the end of the world and who desperately wants to end his life. Bummer for him that he's immortal.
8 Little Antichrists uses almost every sci-fi trope in the book, from the ubiquitous vision of Los Angeles as a futuristic hell on earth to cloning factories to corporate-sponsored prisons (convicts have the choice of going to the Disney prison or the McDonalds prison) to dystopic legal systems. That cute little devil puppets portray the eponymous antichrists should indicate that the play's creators have their tongues firmly in their cheeks.
Adams herself has admitted that she wanted to take the trilogy into a very different direction with the final installment. I just can't for the life of me figure out why. It's clearly not from a lack of nerve, material, or inspiration. Hey, maybe there's no way to portray the apocalypse without it being a little silly.
In fact, taking some fun cues from the previous plays (in particular, I loved Ezekiel showing his trophy horns in a suitcase labeled "Joann" as well as the reference to a golden ring with two familiar names inscribed on it), 8 Little Antichrists is at its strongest when it acknowledges its roots. It's very much a continuation of what's happened before and stays faithful to the mythology that's been established with the first two plays. It just would have made more sense if it had the same feel of what came before it, or if Angel Eaters and Rattlers were equally disparate from each other in tone, mood and style.
Make no mistake: I enjoyed the hell out of 8 Little Antichrists. It's an incredibly fun sci-fi noir comedy that provides a lot of meat for the audience to chew on like Angel Eaters and Rattlers. And I really should mention that Schulenburg is absolutely hilarious as the pathetic Ezekiel. Virtually every line that came out of his mouth had me cackling.
As a standalone piece, I think audiences will get an incredible kick out of it, as it's a great deal of fun. As the conclusion to a trilogy, I suspect some audience members may wind up scratching their heads.
Head-scratching aside, Adams, with the help of the Flux Theatre Ensemble, has created a brilliant and admirably ambitious cycle of plays that ponder questions of spirituality, morality, and the absurd and often destructive ways in which people deal with loss and death. This has been a real thrill to witness.
8 Little Antichrists is playing in rep with Angel Eaters and Rattlers at the Wings Theatre until November 22. Tickets are $18 per show, or $40 for the three-show combo. For tickets click here.
Taping bacon to his chest,
James "Lion Food" Comtois
For my review of Angel Eaters, click here.
For my review of 8 Little Antichrists, click here.
With Rattlers, the second play in the Angel Eaters trilogy, writer Johnna Adams has upped the ante that she placed with the first play, Angel Eaters, by simultaneously expanding the mythology established in the first piece and creating a compelling self-contained play that's part character study, part murder mystery and part supernatural revenge thriller. I'd go so far to say that it's even better than Angel Eaters.
In Rattlers, which takes place in Oklahoma in 1975 (38 years after the events depicted in Angel Eaters), we're essentially watching three separate stories centering around the same dead woman. The first story deals with Snake (Scott Drummond), a very dangerous redneck who keeps crates of rattlesnakes, who has kidnapped Osley Clay (Jason Paradine) at the request of his girlfriend, Ernelle (Amy Lynn Stewart), and Osley's ex. Ernelle's sister has been brutally murdered, and knows that Osley has the ability to resurrect the dead, but unbeknownst to her, at a horrible price. Osley has disavowed his powers and become a man of the cloth, but Ernelle and Snake aren't taking no for an answer.
I should point out here that I imagine that it's just as fun and fascinating to go into Rattlers unaware of the events that transpired in the first play in the trilogy, Angel Eaters, as it is to go in (as I did) knowing Osley's family tree and dark powers (he's the son of Nola and Fortune and nephew of Joann from the first play).
The second story concerns two men who meet at the dead woman's wake: Ted (a very funny and very creepy Matthew Crosby), the sad and milquetoast undertaker who had been in love with the departed since he was a kid, and Everett (Richard B. Watson), the young woman's drunken chain-smoking husband. As they talk, we slowly and steadily learn their back-stories and relationships to the young woman, which of course isn't quite what we've been expecting.
The third story centers around the young woman's mother, Mattie (Jane Lincoln Taylor), who's fraught with grief and consumed with a need for revenge on whomever killed her daughter. Ted's brother Shane (David Jackson) is a young man - or, to be more accurate, boy - who is madly in love with her and vows to do anything for Mattie (he mows her lawn). And Mattie figures he may be the perfect person to manipulate into helping her get her revenge.
Any one of theses stories would make for a taught and compelling self-contained one-act, but Adams the Flux Theatre Ensemble have created something much more ambitious, and the ambition has paid off. Each of these elements to Rattlers complement and build off each other (and Angel Eaters) beautifully to create a portrait of individuals bound by grief, fate and evil forces beyond their control. Again, you don't need to see the first play to enjoy Rattlers, but it does add to the enjoyment if you have.
I loved the sense of suspense that the story slowly and steadily builds and the way information was slowly doled out to the audience. I loved the slight nods to events from the previous play (like the references to birds sounding like angels). I loved the way the elements of the supernatural creeps naturally into the play. I loved how your perceptions of Ted and Everett change as they tell their stories to each other and how their exchanges were simultaneously hilarious and ghastly (Watson's delivery of one line when he's asked how he and Ted knew the deceased is just priceless). And I loved that final image that the play gives us (thanks to not only Adams but director Jerry Ruiz and actress Becky Kelly).
I guess I'm trying to say that I loved this play.
Rattlers definitely left me wanting more. Fortunately, I do have more: I'll be seeing the third piece, 8 Little Antichrists, tonight. I can't wait.
Rattlers is playing in rep with Angel Eaters and 8 Little Antichrists at the Wings Theatre until November 22. Tickets are $18 per show, or $40 for the three-show combo. For tickets click here.
Wanting rattlesnake casserole,
James "Snake Charmer" Comtois
Does this mean that
Guns N' Roses Axl Rose's Chinese Democracy could actually be good? Does this mean it's actually been made?
My favorite line from the review:
"Rose suddenly sings an otherwise innocuous line ('But I don't want to do it') in some bizarre, quasi-Transylvanian accent, and I cannot begin to speculate as to why. I mean, one has to assume Axl thought about all of these individual choices a minimum of a thousand times over the past 15 years. Somewhere in Los Angles, there's gotta be 400 hours of DAT tape with nothing on it except multiple versions of the 'Sorry' vocal. So why is this the one we finally hear? What finally made him decide, 'You know, I've weighed all my options and all their potential consequences, and I'm going with the Mexican vampire accent. This is the vision I will embrace. But only on that one line! The rest of it will just be sung like a non-dead human.'"
Also, Rolling Stone offers a very positive review.
I really had no interest in hearing the album. Until now. Now color me intrigued.
Getting in the ring,
James "Rocket Queen" Comtois
Jimmy’s No. 43, Back room (43 East 7th Street btwn 2nd and 3rd Ave)
Wednesday, November 19th @ 7:30 p.m. until closing
$15 gets you in the party and a 2 for 1 special on your first round
Featuring music byTravis Sean Miller and Ila Cantor,
Burlesque featuring Tattoo Girl, Boylesque, Bad Actor Olympics, Kisses and raffle tickets
This fundraiser is in support of upcoming productions Beauty by Julia Holleman & Grace by Jesse Alick.
These shows will run in rep at 78th Street Theatre Lab, as always for FREE.
Click here to make a donation to STC.
I had a chance to see the Production Company's excellent production of Blair Singer's play about male bonding and the compromises of growing up, The Most Damaging Wound, on Saturday afternoon and I'm quite glad I did.
In The Most Damaging Wound, a group of old college friends now in their 30s have a reunion where they drink, reminisce, drink, to ceremoniously burn a bunch of college memorabilia, and drink.
Kenny, the organizer of this reunion, has just become a father and wants to enjoy one last irresponsible drunken hurrah before committing (with trepidation) to fatherhood. His best friend Alan has been married for several years and works as a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company (Booooo!) and may not win Husband of the Year. Dicky is their drunken pal, a Boston townie who’s all about getting blitzed and having fun. Bo, a musician, is in attendance, but also reminds them of the realities of growing up by being in A.A. GG is their uptight friend who hosts the reunion in his under-construction restaurant.
And then there’s that...um..."business friend" of Alan’s, Christine, who shows up.
Fueled by booze and that previously-mentioned unexpected female guest, they all learn things about themselves and each other that they may not have wanted to learn. But hey, even by one character's admission, these college reunions never turn out well, so why should they (or we) act surprised?
Although it could be argued that this is just a male version of Sex and the City, it's too well-made, too emotionally honest, too realistic and too effective to be dismissed as just a "chick flick for dudes" for the stage.
The show I was most reminded of with The Most Damaging Wound was Matthew Puzzo's The Dirty Talk. Although the stories of the two shows couldn't be more different (aside from the fact that both deal with the facade of machismo to some degree), both plays are excellent examples of good storytelling and good character development, throwing you right into the thick of things then slowly and steadily filling you in on the characters' back-stories.
In addition to the script being funny, sweet and engaging from beginning to end, Mark Armstrong's direction is smart and tight and everyone in the cast — Michael Szeles, Ken Matthews, Michael Solomon, Chris Thorn, Bard Goodrich and Megan McQuillan — is great: Armstrong & Co. are smart enough to not let Singer's characters become macho caricatures or sappy goofballs.
And like with The Dirty Talk, I almost don't want to say too much about The Most Damaging Wound and let you see the play unfold with as few expectations as possible. If you get a chance, go check it out.
The Most Damaging Wound is playing at Manhattan Theatre Source on 177 MacDougal Street until November 29. For tickets go here.
Getting frisky with his dude friends,
James "Creepy Tagalong" Comtois
Sorry for the radio silence on this page for the past couple of days. This week has been my "Writing In Earnest" week, forcing myself to write at least seven pages a day on the new script, Infectious Opportunity. I say "force myself," though to be honest, it's fortunately been coming along pretty smoothly. My self-imposed seven-page minimum (to accommodate my self-imposed deadline of December 1 for presenting the folks at Nosedive Central a readable rough draft) has not been a struggle so far.
Will that last? Based on past experiences, it's highly doubtful. But I guess it's no good looking a gift horse in the mouth, so for the moment I'll just ride it and enjoy.
Just as long as I keep the second-guessing to a minimum I should be fine. I just need to remind myself (as is the case with any writing project): now's not the time to assess whether or not it's any good. Now's just the time to get it all down on paper.
So far, so good.
Another horror film entry will be posted either tomorrow or early next week, if all things go to plan. And then, it's back to trucking along seven pages a day until this spring play is done.
Needing to write one
more page for today,
James "Middling Achiever" Comtois
As with all of these entries, this contains spoilers. But this one much more than most, since I’ll basically be discussing in excruciating detail how this show ends. So if you haven’t seen the series, and plan to, now’s the time to walk away.
Okay, this may seem like a cheat. Yes, I'm going to be talking about the final episode of Twin Peaks, not the film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (or even the 90-minute pilot). I know it's not a movie, and not even necessarily something that classifies as part of the horror genre. Hell, I'm not even really going to be talking about the television series: I'm going to be talking about an episode.
Hopefully you'll all forgive me in time.
In the meantime, let's talk about Lynch at his creepiest, which is really saying something. (Although my friend and Nosedive vet Matt Johnston has argued that Episode 14, the episode that reveals Laura Palmer's killer, is the scariest, the show's finale is the one that really does me in. Which isn't to say that Episode 14 isn't utterly terrifying.)
Well, the reason why I'm bending my self-created rules here slightly is two-fold: one, I've just re-watched the Twin Peaks series finale more than a few times (so I'm familiar enough to natter on about it) and two, because for me, it's one of the scariest things I've experienced on screen.
Seriously, folks. Those last 20 minutes freak me the hell out.
In the spring and summer of 1991, with the network reshuffling the show's schedule and the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer resolved, the once ultra-popular show Twin Peaks was dying a slow and painful death. Only the die-hard fans were really watching at that point (and again, ABC was making it damn difficult for them, as it kept getting preempted and having its time slot changed).
Now, there are different stories about what the goal of the series finale was: either an attempt to scam the network into giving them a third season, an attempt for fodder for a film (to be shot after Fire Walk With Me) or, as Onion AV Club film writer Keith Phipps put it, "a 'fuck you' to the network that caught fans in the crossfire." Considering the fates of Audrey Horne and Pete Martell, as well as the show's conclusion, it's tough to argue otherwise against that third scenario.
(In an interview with co-creator and episode co-writer Mark Frost on the Gold Edition DVD Boxed Set, he had kinda-sorta mapped out a story arc for a third season, but neither he nor anyone else involved with the show believed the show had a snowball's chance in hell of getting picked up for another season, so the point was more than a little moot.)
Whatever the goal was, due to the cancellation of the series and the dismally received prequel film, this is the note the Twin Peaks story ends on, and what viewers are left with.
And boy, what a dissonant, jarring note it is.
In this episode, Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, in the role he was born to play), tracks down his former partner turned psychopath Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh), who has abducted Coop's girlfriend Annie (Heather Graham), and takes her into the Black Lodge (that weird red-curtained place where Michael J. Anderson talks and dances backwards).
Sure, there are other plot threads that the show wraps up (or at least acknowledges), such as the Mike, Nadine, Big Ed and Norma love square, the whole Ben Horne versus the Hayward family plotline, and Bobby and Shelly's engagement. But the real guts of the show are in those final 20 or so minutes. (Is anyone as shocked as I am that this aired on prime time network television in 1991? My brain still can't quite process this.)
Agent Cooper enters the Black Lodge to save Annie and confront his old nemesis. And that's where the nightmarish weirdness begins and doesn't relent until the closing credits roll. Hell, there's almost too much to discuss in this, so why not just see for yourself? There are so many aspects about it that are jarring, from Laura Palmer's shrieking doppelganger (was Cooper running away his undoing? Didn't Deputy Hawk warn him a few episodes back that the Black Lodge ensnares those who enter with false courage? Am I comfortable thinking about the show's beloved hero possibly succumbing to cowardice during the moment of truth? I am not. I am not.), to Cooper's white-eyed manically laughing doppelganger (did I ever think in a million years that Kyle MacLachlan could actually succeed at being scary? I did not. I did not.), to evil killer Bob (Frank Silva) sneaking right up to the camera while the strobe lights go off. Hell, even the inhuman-sounding laughter that Bob and the Little Man emit makes my skin crawl.
Simultaneously slow-paced and intense, concluding the story arc between Coop and Earle and throwing continuity and logic to the wind, I find the Black Lodge sequence one of the most truly terrifying I've seen.
What I find most disturbing about the Black Lodge sequence is not necessarily the weirdness, or the "anything goes" feeling it has, but that it leaves you with the sinking feeling that Dale's not going to escape or save the day. Within minutes, you can see the show's hero is in way over his head and trapped in a place to where he doesn't know the rules. And again, when he starts and runs away from Laura's screaming doppelganger, I can't help but think that that was his undoing. Not a pleasant thought.
And of course, there's that concluding scene.
Finally coming out of the Black Lodge with a bloody (and unconscious?) Annie, we see Dr. Hayward and Sheriff Truman sitting above a sleeping Coop in his room at the Great Northern. Coop gets up, asks how Annie is, and says he needs to brush his teeth. In his bathroom, he starts squeezing the toothpaste out into the sink, smashes the mirror with his forehead, and lo and behold, we see Bob's reflection in the shattered mirror. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip that has Coop's flat and insincere line delivery of: "I wasn't sleeping."
Also notice Laura's death scream when he smashes the mirror:
There really is also something about the producers' credits appearing over Coop's face that's bone chilling. They almost say, "That's right, fuckers. This is how we're going out." And aside from a dissatisfying prequel film released a year later (dissatisfying mainly because it's a prequel), this is it for the Twin Peaks storyline. Our hero has been either possessed or simply replaced a la the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and that's it.
It's not very often you get a television series that concludes with evil being victorious (and damn near nonexistent on network television in 1991), which makes this episode all the more shocking. But it does succeed where many horror films fail in conveying the sinking feeling that all is not right with the world, but very, very wrong.
You can actually watch the entire episode here.
Brushing his teeth,
James "Smooth Criminal" Comtois
Ah, it's Monday. Le sigh.
We here at Nosedive Central had our post mortem meeting last night, which fortunately went quite well (no fisticuffs, which is rare). We seem to have a pretty good idea of what needs to be fixed, as well as where we are going and what we are doing (also, rare for us).
Now all I need to do is write the next damn play. I've given myself the month of November to write the rough draft, which gives everyone in the company an idea of what the show will be, and me a couple months for rewrites.
Actually, as a way to insure (or at least help) finish writing the spring play, I've decided to participate in Dorothy's National Playwriting Month (NaPlWriMo). Will I indeed be able to send the folks at Nosedive a readable rough draft of this show, tentatively entitled Infectious Opportunity, by December 1?
We shall see. We. Shall. See.
Although the Saturday Night Saloon and Blood Brothers shows have all but halted much of my late fall playgoing and reviewing, I'll be seeing the two other plays in Johnna Adams' Angel Eaters trilogy (Rattlers and 8 Little Antichrists) next week and be writing about them. I'm very much looking forward to them if Angel Eaters is any indication.
And with a little bit of luck, I'll be posting two more horror film entries on this site this week.
Anyway, that's what's going on with me at my end of the barnyard. How are you?
Not really caring,
James "No, Seriously, Tell Me" Comtois
For my review of Rattlers, click here.
For my review of 8 Little Antichrists, click here.
A glib way to describe Angel Eaters, Johnna Adams' engrossing, funny and disturbing play, would be to tell you to imagine The Exorcist or Re-Animator as if written by Tennessee Williams. But again, that would be too glib and easy. At least I hope the description inspires you to go see this show as soon as possible.
The Flux Theatre Ensemble's production of Angel Eaters, which incorporates elements O'Neill, Williams, Steinbeck and Lovecraft to create a story concerning faith, manipulation and the macabre, pulls off something that is very rare in the indie theatre scene: a show that succeeds both as visual spectacle and intimate character-based drama. This accomplishment is due in no small part to the cast, Jessi D. Hill's tight and inventive direction, Jennifer Rathbone's spot-on lighting design and Caleb Levengood's brilliant set.
Angel Eaters, which is the first part of a trilogy, takes place on and near a failing Oklahoma farm during the Great Depression. Marnie Schulenburg plays Joann, a naïve and simple-minded young farm girl whose father has recently died and her older sister, Nola (Tiffany Clementi) has been impregnated by a traveling conman. The conman, Fortune Clay (Gregory Waller), has promised Joann, Nola, and their mother, Myrtle (Catherine Michele Porter), to perform a resurrection on their father and husband with the help of his partner, Enoch (Isaiah Tanenbaum) for a not-so-small fee. Suspicious, but still wanting to believe, Myrtle chains Enoch to the porch, threatening to kill him if the resurrection is anything less than a resounding success.
Fortune promises Nola that he's going to use this money to support her and their soon-to-be-born child. Right.
Although Enoch is a conman who has no magical abilities to raise the dead, Joann is a bird of a different feather, as she can resurrect farm animals from the dead and commune with angels. Or rather, "angels," since we catch on pretty quickly that the main spirit that Joann talks with does not exist to selflessly serve God.
Ken Glickfeld plays Doc O'Malley, an older man who has hired Joann to do his laundry and, well, play some not-so-appropriate "games" with him (one of them is called "bird in the bush"). Doc explains to Joann that she has inherited the gift, or curse, of being an "Angel Eater," someone with special powers that I won't fully reveal here.
Angel Eaters manages to be simultaneously dark and funny, as exemplified in one scene where Joann shows Enoch her abilities. You really don't know whether to burst out laughing or feel sick to your stomach. Both Adams and Hill strike a perfect balance between the horror and humor, keeping the mood and atmosphere of the play consistently ominous and hypnotic.
Everyone in the cast is superb. Schulenburg is utterly believable as Joann, a young girl completely unaware of the consequences of her powers. Glickfeld plays Doc's duality as a seemingly benevolent elderly man and lecherous creep brilliantly. Also, Cotton Wright is truly terrifying as Joann's guardian "angel," Azazyel.
If there's one minor quibble, it's with the busyness of the climactic scene. There are several things going on at once here, which caused me (and my friend accompanying me) to nearly miss one crucial element. Nearly. But this is a very small nitpick of a brilliantly staged play. And I suppose for a criticism, you could do worse than, "Too many interesting things were happening."
With this tight character-based drama, Adams has managed to create a whole mythology that's sure to fuel the other two pieces in the trilogy, Rattlers and 8 Little Antichrists. I can't wait to see them.
Angel Eaters is playing in rep with Rattlers and 8 Little Antichrists at the Wings Theatre until November 22. Tickets are $18 per show, or $40 for the three-show combo. For tickets click here.
Talking to birds,
James "Devil Eater" Comtois
UPDATE: I've actually stopped doing this, since I offered the caveat with my first few posts that all horror film entries contain spoilers, but Mr. Conkel pointed out that my readers may benefit from a reminder, especially with this post. So be forewarned there are some hardcore spoilers in this entry.
Considering our past show, I figure it's fitting to do an entry on a film based on a story by Stephen King.
With The Mist, director Frank Darabont expanded his forte from adaptations of Stephen King prison novels (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) to, well, I guess, stuff by King in general (we'll pretend The Majestic didn't happen). The Mist is a variation and expansion on the old sci-fi horror/monster movies from the 1950s (It Came From Outer Space, War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still) and even George Romero's Night of the Living Dead but is significantly less about the horrific beasties eating everyone alive and more about regular folk dealing with the completely implausible.
It also has one of the most soul-crushing endings to a mainstream horror film ever made.
After a violent thunderstorm in a small town in Maine, professional painter David Drayton (played by Thomas Jane), who, fittingly, is finishing a portrait of Roland from King's Dark Tower series, assesses the damage done to his property with his neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher). Clearly the two of them have a tense history, but we currently don't know why. After assessing the damage and noticing an odd mist approaching them from the lake, Brent and David decide to go buy supplies from the supermarket. David leaves behind his wife, Steff (Kelly Collins Lintz) and brings along his son, Billy (Nathan Gamble).
Along the way to the supermarket, they're noticing convoys of military keeps and trucks speed in the other direction.
While in the supermarket, the mist engulfs the store. Someone runs out of his car screaming about there being something in the mist. Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), a Bible-thumping crazy person of the fire-and-brimstone variety, starts babbling about this being the End of Days.
And we find out that there is, indeed, something in that eponymous mist. Or to be more specific, several somethings. And they don't intend on playing nice.
The bulk of the movie deals with the people trapped in the supermarket dealing with the weird monsters that come out of the supernatural mist. And there's also another problem: Mrs. Carmody is gaining followers and proving to be an equally dangerous presence.
Early on in the film, David tells the store staff that he heard a large banging from outside, which makes the bag boys investigate and get (unsurprisingly) attacked. When I first saw the film, I was a bit turned off by this scene. I was thinking, "Come on! Are we really playing the, 'let's go down that long, dark corridor to investigate something ominous?' But afterward, when David talks with the grocery store's assistant manager Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones), Ollie tells David: "Leave it alone, David. You can't convince some people there's a fire even when their hair is burning. Denial is a powerful thing."
This is not only a plausible and insightful explanation to the grocery clerks' seemingly inexplicable behavior, but it's pretty much the theme of the movie: people from the real world dealing - or not dealing - with the unreal.
As is often the case with most of these entries, I do feel compelled to point out the film's flaws. (Is this due residual guilt or overcompensation for championing a genre that most consider - especially in the sometimes snooty realm of theatre - beneath them? Perhaps, perhaps.) The biggest - and most glaring - flaw is of course how Andre Braugher's character, Brent Norton is handled. The film sets up Brent and David to be the narrative's driving forces (possibly as reluctant allies, possibly as antagonistic and divisive opposites). They have a tense past (something concerning a failed lawsuit over a property dispute) and it appears as though the ice is thawing between them.
Then when the weirdness happens, part of Norton's mind shuts down, refusing to acknowledge that the supernatural has descended upon them. So, he decides to leave the supermarket (to presumably be snatched up by the beasties in the mist), and we never see or hear from him again. In fact, the moment after he leaves the store, he's barely ever mentioned again.
Now, okay, I'll admit that his mind's refusal to accept the reality of the situation (simply because it's so unreal) is a neat premise and one that's rarely if ever handled so explicitly in horror films (one of the great things about King's writing is that he often deals with this concept very astutely). However, if you consider the entire arc of the film, if Darabont were to completely excise Braugher's character and subplot from The Mist, aside from the run-time, it would change nothing - Noth. Ing. - about the film's arc, story, or outcome.
Maybe I'm taking this harder than I should. Having recently watched the entire series of Homicide, I've become a huge Braugher fan and am disappointed that he works so rarely. But seriously, if you're going to put an actor of Braugher's caliber in your movie, freakin' use him!
Okay, enough on that.
Now. About that ending.
As many people have no doubt heard by now, the ending of the movie differs from that of the novella. King's original story ends very open and with the possibility of hope. Darabont's film continues the action a little further to reveal a darker - much darker - conclusion.
Driving through the mist with four other survivors (Ollie, alas, doesn't get much further than the parking lot before being swiftly dealt with by one monster), David returns home to find his wife has fallen victim to the spider-like creatures. So, he drives the group south, witnessing the destruction left in the wake of the mist and encountering a tentacled beastie walking past them. Eventually, they run out of gas without finding any other survivors.
While Billy is sleeping, the four adults decide there's no point in going any further. With four bullets left in the gun and five people in the car, David shoots the three adults and his son, Billy (Billy, who's been sleeping, of course wakes up just in time to see his father aiming the gun at him). David attempts to shoot himself with the now-empty gun before getting out of the car to let the creatures in the mist take him.
He hears what sounds like a creature moving toward him, but instead turns out to be a self-propelled gun, followed by a long column of other military vehicles and soldiers. As the mist dissipates, several trucks filled with survivors pass by. David falls to his knees screaming while soldiers continue destroying the monsters and clearing out the mist.
When I first watched this I swear I thought was some sort of dream sequence or fake-out until the credits began to roll. This was made by the same guy that ended a drab prison film with the two protagonists hugging each other on a beach somewhere by the Pacific Ocean and made that treacle The Majestic (okay, so I didn't completely forget about that entry on his resume)?
Perhaps a justification for the ending comes just before David & Co. escape the supermarket. Preparing to leave, David and his group are intercepted by Mrs. Carmody, who demands that Billy is to be sacrificed. As the crowd advances to grab Billy, Ollie shoots and kills Mrs. Carmody.
Ollie says he had no choice. David agrees with him without hesitation. And we in the audience aren't exactly crying even crocodile tears for batshit crazy Mrs. Carmody (Harding and Darabont pull out all the stops to make her insufferably shrill and hateful). He had no choice.
Except...he could have just fired a warning shot in the air or clipped her arm or leg, couldn't he? He didn't absolutely have to kill her (at least, not just then he didn't). Could the horrific endings our heroes receive be the result of karmic (or Divine) justice? Was Mrs. Carmody, in fact, speaking the truth?
I mean, that may be as good an answer as any for how things turn out for the heroes of the movie.
Or maybe I'm just trying to cling onto some idea of sense in such a horrific ending. And maybe that's the point: the finale takes the concept of real people dealing with unreal situations to the furthest extreme. (David's last coherent line in the movie is, "They're...they're dead. For what?" Well yes. Exactly so.)
At any rate, it's a real doozy of a note to end on for something touting itself as a '50s style monster flick.
As is the case with Gremlins, The Mist falls into that "Superior B Monster Movie" subcategory. And if you can, watch the film in black and white, the way the director intended.
Shopping online from now on,
James "The Drizzle" Comtois
When I got home last night, I found a package waiting for me at my front door. I had no idea what it was.
When I opened it, I found five copies of this:
The first monologue in the book? Nervous-Boy's love confessional to Emily from The Adventures of Nervous-Boy.
I was asked to participate in this over a year and a half ago, and had heard nothing about it since, so to say that I had completely forgotten about this is quite an understatement. So it was a nice little surprise.
But yeah. It's now available. So those that want to use a socially inept sociopath's babble as audition fodder can do so by buying this here.
Still anxious about the election despite
this unexpected bit of good news,
James "Nail-biter" Comtois
A good patriot,
James "Guy Fawkes" Comtois
Labels: Our Esteemed Leader
Well, since I have a window of downtime right now, why not? Mr. Joshua James tagged me with a meme entitled, "Seven Strange Things," in which I'm required to list, well, seven strange things about myself. (I know, I know, say it with me: "Only seven?" Yeah, yeah, keep it down.)
Well, here's goes.
1. I lost my virginity in a graveyard.
That's right. Deal with it. Her parents were home, so were mine. We were only 16, so we didn't have enough disposable income or valid credit cards to rent a hotel room. Shut it. Just...shut it.
2. I like to microwave my drinking water.
Hey, I don't like drinking ice cold water. I like having cool and lukewarm pockets of temperature in my water. What?
3. For about a month, I would drift asleep to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
That's right, ladies. Mr. Comtois is single. Form an orderly queue.
4. I've been in two - count 'em, two - emergency plane landings in under a year.
Not exactly something strange about me so much as a strange thing I've had to deal with. I may call it a day with air travel.
5. My first job in the city was as an editorial assistant for a magazine called Home Textiles Today.
Yes, I wrote and proofread articles about bath mats and shower curtains. I was there for a year and a half. No cutting the queue, ladies!
6. I once almost hit Stephen King with my bike when I was 11.
Yup. They were filming Pet Sematary on the road where I spend my summers in Maine. So, my cousins and I would often ride our bikes up to the site to watch them film. Just before the set, there's this steep incline where you can't see the road until you pass it. Well, I passed it, and oh, crap! Swerved out of the way of this tall bespectacled guy and this blonde woman. They didn't seem to notice. When my cousin and I joined the spectators one of them said that Mr. King was on the set. Oh yeah, I asked. Where is he? They looked around and pointed. Bah, crap. But again, I don't think he noticed me.
7. I almost set fire to our house in Hooksett, New Hampshire, by putting a paint brush in the toaster.
Not so much strange as just retarded, but yes. I believe I was six or seven, so just old enough to know better. Sigh...
Okay, so now that you know far more about me than I could possibly be comfortable with, it's time for me to hide and tag others. So, who to tag, who to tag? Pete, Becky, Qui, Mac, and Steph. Do it up, fuck-knuckles!
Not comfortable sharing,
James "Flasher" Comtois
We've closed the show. The Blood Brothers Present...The Master of Horror has now gone off to the Great Production in the Sky. Despite rocky beginnings, it was a great run. Hell, we got to stage plays based on Stephen King stories. It's not often you get to do something like that, so that was a whole hell of a lot of fun.
Most of the folks in Nosedive Central can now nap. I now have to write a bunch of stuff.
Turnin out the lights,
James "Janitor" Comtois