Monday, March 24, 2008

The Stone Face

73. Much as I loved Lucky McKee's May, I can't say that I like the idea that he qualifies as a "Master of Horror" on the basis of a single film, however good it might be. But the way the series has shaken out, it's the guys that don't have the bona fides that have done the best work so far. Go figure. (As an aside: were I feeling unkind, I might make the same complaint about Tobe Hooper, even though he has a long career in the genre, but that's just sour grapes). In any event, McKee's entry, Sick Girl (2006), is very much in the mode of May, which the director himself describes as a romantic comedy gone horribly round the bend. May herself, Angela Bettis, is on-hand again as Ida Teeter, a lonely entomologist who is a stand-in for anyone whose love life has been stifled by their "geeky" pursuits. Ida is smitten with a girl who sits in the lobby of her building drawing pixies, and after an awkward introduction, they hit it off. Unfortunately, Ida has been sent an exotic bug that bites and infects her new paramour, and the story becomes an allegory for jumping into a relationship too fast, without knowing the darker side of one's chosen partner. This is very much the goofiest of the MoH entries, but it has a kind of charm and brutal honesty when it comes to relationships. McKee finds more horror in the emotional hurts of his characters than he does in gore and monsters, though he doesn't skimp on that, either.

74. The last act of Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928, directed by Charles Reisner and an unbilled Buster Keaton) is a cinematic tour de force. The hurricane sequence that buffets Keaton as he tries to rescue his father and girlfriend has some of the most jaw-dropping set-pieces you've ever seen. One wishes that the movie itself had the kind of existential dilemmas found in Keaton's best works, but that's quibbling. Entertainers used to have to be extraordinary, and Keaton uses the last third of this movie to show himself in the full flower of his enormous talents. The rest? It's all set-up, and it's not bad set-up, either.

75. I like to think that Keaton and director Edward F. Cline were in the game of one-upsmanship when they made "Cops" (1922), in which they top every Keystone Kop movie ever made. This is pure chase comedy, in which the individual against the state is taken to absurd lengths. It would almost be Kafka-esque were it not so achingly funny.

76. 10,000 B.C. (2008, directed by Roland Emmerich) made my brain hurt. I suspected, going in, that it was going to be a stupid movie. Emmerich specializes in stupid, after all. But in my wildest imaginings, I couldn't have guessed at the depths of the idiocy in which this film wallows. I suspect that the screenplay may have been written in crayons. I could feel my I.Q. drop just from watching it. Serves me right for not listening to that little voice in my head. The mammoths? The ax-beak? You can get that stuff on the Discovery Channel.

Current tally: 76 movies, 28 horror movies. I'm slipping. Time to kick it in gear.

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