The first of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, The Fall of the House of Usher features an iconic performance by Vincent Price in the lead role. A guest arrives at the Usher home, where he finds a house literally crumbling apart, in an echo of the mysterious illness that has infected the home’s inhabitants, including the woman he hopes to marry.
To mark the UK Blu-ray & Steelbook debut of Corman’s chilling classic (released by Arrow Video on 26 August 2013), Jaime Huxtable imagines a conversation between Roger Corman and Edgar Allen Poe.
More information on Jaime Huxtable can be found here.
In Elysium Neill Blomkamp envisions another dystopian-nightmare future, only to once again get that bit too enthusiastic with his action chops. I had an uncannily similar experience watching his new blockbuster as his breakthrough District 9: initially enthralled by his irreverent, satirical eye mapping the story’s cinematic world, and then bitterly disappointed as that world goes up in quite unwanted flames. He torches the junkyard palace before we’ve had a chance to crane our eager heads inside. Blomkamp has been a ceaselessly inventive follower of the George Lucas and Ridley Scott sci-fi models of world-building, the concept of the ‘aged future’ – that longed-for, lived-in factor where those spacecraft hulls and droids look beat-up, functional, convincingly authentic. What he hasn’t learned from his sci-fi grandmasters is making the fire-throwing spectacle sit fluently with storytelling. And this time, the world of 2154-era Earth he concocts doesn’t seem nearly as personal, detailed or lovingly engineered as his boyhood hometown of Johannesburg in District 9.
Earth in 2154 is an endless stream of shanty towns and pollutant smog; the 1% have decamped to Elysium, a wagon-wheel-shaped chrome space-station in the sky, which resembles a five-star beachside resort freeze-packed for eternity. Driving home the WALL-E parallels, Matt Damon is the Earth drone-worker Max, nursing a lost love, and destined in Matrix-like one-true-saviour fashion to bring balance to these two worlds. He has a life-threatening radiation illness from his factory work and needs access to Elysium’s health machines, which can cure ailments by scrambling cells electronically. His journey to Elysium is hijacked by a band of Earth revolutionaries involved in corporate espionage against the Elysium executives, and the plot is set in motion. Jodie Foster is the stone-faced security executive Delacourt policing Elysium’s borders; Sharlto Copley, continuing his collaboration with Blomkamp from District 9, plays Kruger, her Afrikaner mercenary soldier, whose weapons include a samurai sword, and some cringe-inducing South African nursery rhymes.
The story’s themes of class war and confrontation between the developing and developed world may seem unusually forthright for a crowd-pleasing studio tentpole. Yet, as in the storytelling strategies of much Young Adult fiction and their film adaptations, these factions of privileged and poor are still far too simplistic and sketchily imagined to say anything truly urgent politically. Blomkamp has a laudable aim, but a blander one compared to his parallels in District 9 between the prawns’ segregation and the disgraces of apartheid; he disdains the inequality and neglect of the few towards the many, but the notion of a future Earth’s proletariat striking to unseat Elysium’s bourgeoisie is too broad to reflect anything as uncomfortable as what unsettles us today. The concept does make perfect ‘sci-fi’ sense, but the impression is more of Blomkamp employing real-world details to ground a more outlandish scenario than following the classic sci-fi dictum that visions of the future are really just reflections of the hard truth of the present.
Damon, in his role as the story’s hero, offers his customary Everyman dignity, even when being verbally abused by robot policemen. But in a film with so many Verhoeven and Carpenter-like tongue-in-cheek touches, a tad more wit, or even some camp self-awareness, would not have gone amiss in this noble-hearted emancipator. Foster seems to taken such advice too far in the opposite direction, with her peculiar, Gallic-tinged British accent and sharp-shouldered posture an attempt to wrestle some personality into the most flimsily conceived character in the script. The contributions of these two prestige-oriented A-list Hollywood actors, locking horns for the fate of mankind, together encapsulate Elysium’s most dispiriting flaw: the sad locus of a project over-designed yet under-thought.
Cast: Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Jack Carson, Alan Reed
The beautiful thing about The Tarnished Angels, director Douglas Sirk’s adaptation of William Faulker’s novel Pylon, set during the Great Depression, is that the film remarkably encapsulates the human condition in a mere 90 minutes, using only a handful of characters and locations. Desire, love, greed, avarice, sorrow and tragedy are all present, though the film itself is a departure in style from the more overblown melodramas that Sirk is famed for. It’s a remarkable feat – that it also looks gorgeous, with its perfect silvery hues (it was shot in black and white Cinemascope, rather than in colour) and features terrific performances from Rock Hudson, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone, adds to the film’s appeal.
Roger Shumann (Stack) is a former First World War pilot, now daredevil, who travels from air show to air show to compete for the top prize. His blonde bombshell wife, LaVerne (Malone), fell in love with a poster of Shumann she saw during the war; and in a desperate bid to gain his affection, became a parachute jumper, gliding down to earth in a white floating dress. But to her driven, obsessed and foolish husband, she’s little more than an accessory, even if she is the mother to their small child, Jack, who is already itching for his own seat in a plane. It’s left to Jiggs (Jack Carson), their loyal mechanic, to worship the ground that LaVerne walks on. That is, until Burke Devlin (Hudson) arrives on the scene. The film is set during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and Devlin, a wise-cracking journalist with a drinking problem, and a thorn in his editor’s side, wants to write a human interest story about the Shumanns – about how a flying ace and all-American hero ends up scraping the barrel, living hand-to-mouth, while risking his life to compete against much younger hot-shots.
It’s a tight, claustrophobic picture, with much of the action taking place at a carnival, with the pilots racing in the air above the fair ground, flying a circuit that sees them swoop around pylons, inching ever closer to fly the tightest line. The crowd, cheering them on, will play their own role in the tragedy that unravels at the end of the film. But until then, the Mardi Gras parties and carnival atmosphere are the perfect foils for the characters’ inner torments. LaVerne has never had the chance to live her life to the full; instead she’s spent it chasing after a man’s withheld love; beautiful, charismatic, she’s endured a luckless life full of lonely nights.
Devlin, of course, falls for LaVerne, who’s charmed by his attention – although at first, he seems more interested in probing her for personal details about her marriage and life with Shumann for his newspaper story. But by insinuating himself into their lives, Devlin also has the perverse effect of eventually bringing the married couple closer together – but only after a shocking trade that the pilot tries to make with a greedy businessman: a new plane in return for his wife. Despite being portrayed as impossibly heartless, Shumann is eventually given one last shot at redemption – yet it comes at a terrible price.
Brought to life by Irving Glassberg’s expressionistic cinematography, and with an exceptional performance from Rock Hudson, who delivers a terrific epilogue to the sad story of the Shumann, The Tarnished Angels is an intriguing, unmissable slice of Americana.
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg
The precocious and prolific Adam Wingard has not just one, but two films in the programme of this year’s Film4 FrightFest (22-26 August 2013). The rising indie horror director has been championed by the festival, which screened his wistful, affecting A Horrible Way to Die in 2011, followed by the anthology film V/H/S (for which he shot the wraparound segment) in 2012. This year’s edition of FrightFest sees the UK premiere of V/H/S 2, as well as the London preview of You’re Next.
V/H/S/2 is available on DVD & VOD from 14 October 2013.
With You’re Next, Wingard delivers a hugely enjoyable, thrilling, smart take on the home invasion sub-genre. After a terrifically creepy, brutal opening sequence, teacher Crispian takes his new girlfriend Erin to his parents’ isolated country mansion for the latter’s wedding anniversary. They are joined by his siblings: his obnoxious, successful brother Drake (mumblecore actor/director Joe Swanberg) with his wife Kelly; his younger brother Felix, accompanied by sulky, scornful girlfriend Zee; and his over-enthusiastic sister Aimee, who has brought along her new filmmaker boyfriend Tariq (played by House of the Devil director Ti West). Tensions rise over dinner as the smug Drake purposefully provokes Crispian. But as the festivities descend into a generalised shouting match, barbed comments are suddenly replaced by crossbow arrows, as the family comes under attack from sinister assailants wearing animal masks. As the besieged relatives devise strategies to survive the terrifying aggression, Erin turns out to be surprisingly well equipped to deal with the situation.
You’re Next will be released on DVD + Blu-ray (R2/B) in the UK on 13 January 2014.
The first part of the film is exhilaratingly tense, thanks to a tightly wound script and taut direction, enhanced by the surreal sense of dread created by the animal masks. With their inhuman appearance and no apparent motivation to their actions, the aggressors seem to be playing random, cruel games with their victims (in a way that is reminiscent of David Moreau and Xavier Palud’s Them). Once the reason for the attack is revealed, the film switches to a different kind of dynamic, losing that unnerving strangeness, although it remains ruthlessly effective.
While You’re Next doesn’t have quite as much heart as A Horrible Way to Die, it provides all the required blood, gore, thrills and jumps, which have been so glaringly absent from many recent horror films. Wingard demonstrates a real talent for directing action scenes, cleverly plotting and expertly choreographing them. The dialogue is sharp and entertaining, the characters believable and well defined, with Erin (an exciting performance from Sharni Vinson) adding a brilliant twist to the final girl type. Wingard and his writer Simon Barrett use the premise intelligently, integrating the personal relationships and family conflicts to feed the terror, and have fun playing with audience expectations. The most nerve-racking horror film to come out in a long time, You’re Next is a blast, from the viciously intriguing beginning to the humorously nihilistic ending.
The legendary New Hollywood director Brian De Palma has had a more erratic filmmaking career than most. Iconic classics (Carrie and Scarface) rub shoulders with legendary disasters (The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Black Dahlia – not coincidentally, two unwieldy adaptations of classic American authors). Impassioned, personal labours of love (Blow Out, Femme Fatale) vie with hire-a-hack studio gigs (The Untouchables and Mission: Impossible). His trajectory is an unpredictable swerve: De Palma has often seemed like an outsider in the fickle world of Hollywood, persecuted first by critics who decried his unoriginality and apparent bad taste, and then by censors balking at his films’ often transgressive content.
Dressed to Kill, newly reissued on Blu-ray for the first time in uncut form, and made at a convenient mid-point in De Palma’s now 50-year career, provides a timely opportunity to evaluate this uncommonly talented auteur. The film has aspects of the passionate, personal side of his directing, as well as his underrated commercial instinct: its box office success marks it as an early populariser of the modern erotic thriller. De Palma was enamoured with Hitchcock; a science whiz as a young man, he fell in love with film at college via Hitchcock, Welles and Godard, and spent his career crafting elaborate cinematic love letters to the three of them (Antonioni was also a favourite). Dressed to Kill is one of his most overt Hitchcock homages: it overflows with lush audience-baiting orchestral music cues, bravura wordless set-pieces, and erotic perversity.
De Palma was more compelled by the voyeuristic strands in Hitchcock’s films than by his studies of wronged-man innocence. So if Obsession cribs from Vertigo, and Blow Out from Rear Window, Dressed to Kill set its sights on Psycho; it lunges knife-in-hand at this overbearing predecessor, extracting the juiciest ideas and discarding the dated fat. Yet as De Palma retrofits and enhances Hitchcock with modernised sexuality and violence, the result only amounts to a blandification; it reduces the master’s fascination with human behaviour and rare empathy into something insincere and unfeeling. We leave Dressed to Kill staggered by De Palma’s technique and craftsmanship, while still unconvinced by the cold void imparted by the button-pushing plot.
Revealing too much of that plot would be cruel. Someone is offing psychiatrist Dr. Robert Elliott’s (Michael Caine) patients; Elliott believes it might be ‘Bobbi’, an unseen and unknown transgender patient, who leaves him threatening, desperate answer-phone messages throughout the course of the film. A well-heeled, bored housewife patient, Kate (Angie Dickinson), and a hooker with a heart of gold, Liz (played by De Palma’s then-belle Nancy Allen) may be in danger. It’s then left up to Liz, and Kate’s teenage computer-boffin son (Keith Gordon) to unlock this taunting mystery.
Uncharacteristically, the film’s highlight sequence is ultimately tangential to the main thrust of the plot. After a meeting with Elliott where, in rather cheesy racy-thriller form, Kate confesses her sexual attraction to him, she then takes a lazy mid-morning detour into a modern art gallery. In a sequence reminiscent of the recent Spanish arthouse film In the City of Sylvia, we follow her as she alights upon a male admirer stalking the gallery for pick-ups. What ensues is a formidably choreographed cat-and-mouse chase of attraction through the white gallery hallways, the glances and reactions of the two conveyed first in split-screen, and then in one breath-catching long take.
Yet it’s a shame that De Palma instills most of his energy into the film’s most conspicuous ‘action’ scenes; as a result, the concluding twist’s lack of psychological credibility exposes this thriller as just another giddy ‘gotcha’ contraption, rather than peering into the heart of its characters with any genuine curiosity or insight.
Cast: James Duval, Ryan Phillippe, Heather Graham, Rachel True, Heather Graham, Jordan Ladd, Debi Mazar, Tracy Lords
Gregg Araki’s Nowhere, originally released in 1997, is the last part of his Teen Apocalypse trilogy, after 1993’s Totally Fucked Up and 1995’s the Doom Generation (though I’d argue that 2010’s Kaboom, which carries on along similar lines, makes it a foursome.)
For those unaware of his oeuvre, Mr Araki’s films generally feature beautiful young things, of mixed acting ability but uniformly flawless complexion, doing drugs, and each other, in various combinations, in heavily stylised settings while spouting doomy dialogue with an emphasis on the alienating effects of a crass, overbearing consumer culture. If this, and the in-your-face nihilism of the titles seem to suggest a grim old time at the multiplex, it should be pointed out that his films are actually, y’know, kinda fun.
Nowhere follows formula, but throws a rubber-suit alien into the mix. We’re in shiny Los Angeles, following the lives of various shiny kids one sunny day. Video-camera wielding romantic Dark (James Duvall) wants Mel (Rachel True) to himself, but she’s having fun with Lucifer (Kathleen Robertson), amongst others…and doesn’t want to settle down. Around them circle other cuties: Sarah Lassez, Christina Applegate, Jordan Ladd, Mena Suvari, Heather Graham, Ryan Phillippe and many others, playing characters of varying functionality and sexual persuasion. In lieu of a plot there is the desire of most of the cast to get to a party: all have adventures, some are sweet, some are horrible, some don’t make it. Much sex is had. There is rape, addiction, messy suicide, nipple abuse and alien abduction, before it all goes horribly wrong at the party, then horribly wronger back at Dark’s place. The end.
Nowhere is a giddy, wonky feat of laugh-out-loud audacity, a plate-spinning act that barely holds together over its lean 78 minutes. Characters are called Handjob and Jujyfruit and Dingbat and say things like ‘dogs eating people is cool.’ They are distinguished mainly by hairstyle and interior décor. It zips nimbly from airhead to airhead, sustained by the perkiness of the cast, the audio-visual punch, and a horny, laissez faire attitude. From the opening shower-masturbation fantasy onwards, everything seems drenched in a hormonal fug, most of the cast have trouble keeping their hands off each other for any length of time, and when they do get it on their various scenes are spliced together in artful polysexual feats of editing. Everything is affectless and candy coloured and paper thin. Dark witnesses a reptiloid alien disintegrate three valley girls at a bus stop, but is most annoyed that he failed to catch it on tape. He seems stunned when the same thing happens to his fantasy lover Montgomery (Nathan Bexton) later on that evening, but at no point does he try to tell anybody about all this. It’s like Bret Easton Ellis made over by John Waters – the tone may be numb, addled and apocalyptic, but look! There’s Traci Lords! And Gibby Haynes! And those cool background paintings! And don’t Sonic Youth/ Suede/ the Chemical Brothers sound good in this bit?
The appearances by a money grubbing televangelist (John Ritter) aside (because no post-punk indie movie of the period was ever complete without a sleazy televangelist), it’s remarkable how little Nowhere has dated, given how achingly, trying-too-hard-hip this all was sixteen years ago. Perhaps it’s because it comes sealed in its own weird bubble, where, say, the absence of mobile phones and the internet come across as another stylistic decision, but now it seems box fresh and bright. On the commentary, somebody occasionally asks Gregg about the meaning of this or that shot, but he remains tight-lipped about that stuff, allowing the cast more room to obsess over their poreless skin, their clothes, teeth and hair. This seems entirely appropriate, it’s a film as much about youthful flesh, and surfaces and eyeball kicks as it is about the end of the world.
From offbeat horror oddities such as Exte: Hair Extension(2007), where various victims are attacked by their hairstyles, and the epic story of love, religion and panty-shot photography that is Love Exposure (2009), to the brutal dystopia of Himizu (2011), Japanese director Sion Sono has gained a formidable reputation for having an exceptionally unique approach to filmmaking. The Land of Hope is a slight departure from his usual extremes, without being completely bereft of his surreal sense of humour and the occasional excursion into overtly symbolic imagery.
Throughout this poignant domestic drama, Sono succeeds in achieving a restrained and proficient balance between naturalism and the visually poetic as he tackles head on a monumental disaster and its tragic repercussions. The only problem with the film is his overbearing use of classical music, which often feels cheap and unnecessary. But skillfully avoiding spectacle, the director’s heartfelt authenticity is unquestionable, making this his most accessible and personal film to date.
A successful career woman, Kris (Amy Seimetz) is targeted by a thief (Thiago Martins), who has created some kind of drug through the harvesting of worms that have psychotropic qualities. The worms allow the thief to brainwash Kris into a series of compulsively repetitive rituals – including copying out Thoreau’s Walden by hand – before stealing her life savings and abandoning her to be released, to some extent – and in some mysterious way, via music – from her state by a mysterious Sampler and pig farmer (Andrew Sensenig), who removes and seemingly transplants the parasites. Kris will never quite recover. She has no idea what has happened to her, or the money that has been stripped away, or her identity. She is damaged goods. And apparently psychically linked to a pig.
To write out one of Shane Carruth’s films as a synopsis is to do it a terrible injustice. First of all, thinking about the story in this bare-bones way makes its bizarreness too vulnerable to an easy dismissal as whimsical quirk. And secondly, because his filmmaking lives in the gaps, the ellipses. Memory is untrustworthy; dialogue is rigged, manipulative; and character is fragile, as identity can unravel at any moment. Something intricate, hyper-rationally thought out and finely detailed (and yet utterly mad/normal) is happening, but the camera catches it in glances and jigsaw pieces, overheard conversations, sounds that communicate something deeply mysterious, and beautiful rhyming colours. There is no grand scheme, or conspiracy, but everyone is interconnected in a way that only we can begin to unpick.
Read John Bleasdale’s interview with sound designer Johnny Marshall here.
Whereas many contemporary films could just as easily be radio plays, Upstream Colour is ambitiously cinematic. Scenes play out over multiple locations and large sections of the film dispense entirely with dialogue; exposition sits in a lonely corner with the other arts of spoonfeeding. There are beautiful visions of microscopic life, as well as decay and paranoia, underwater. As an allegory, the film does not lend itself for easy unfolding, but the film operates almost like magic realism. It is unashamedly sensuous. As the characters strive for communication and agreement about what is going on, the film itself attempts to give us the qualia of lived immediate experience. The title itself evokes both colour and motion, and, by association, sound. The sound design is an on-screen character. Characters manipulate each other’s reality, and at the same time try to grasp at what is there. Characters hear sounds and see colours which mean something, though – in keeping with the film’s suspicion of explication – they cannot quite put it into words: ‘It’s a low sound’, ‘No, it’s high’, ‘Yes, it’s high and low.’
Kris meets Jeff (Carruth again), and they begin a relationship that borders on the kind an amnesia-struck Adam and Eve after the Fall might have had. Something happened to them that they don’t fully understand, and feel in some way deeply guilty about, and yet they’re trying to get on with their lives. This original sin is still there, blocking their ability to progress in a world that is set against them. And yet it also gives them their compulsion to be together, the consolation of their passion, their mutual need. It is one of the triumphs of the film that this genre-defying oddity, this magnificent cinematic poem, is also quietly a brilliant and moving love story.
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
France, Thailand, USA, Sweden 2013
Spellbinding, visionary and deeply affecting, Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to Drive is one of the absolute must-sees of the year.
Gorgeous, mysterious, immersive, disturbing, dreamlike: with his new film, Nicolas Winding Refn has created one of those beguiling cinematic universes that you don’t want to leave when the credits roll.
From his hard-hitting debut Pusher, via the creepy Fear X, the violent machismo of Bronson and the mythical savagery of Valhalla Rising, Winding Refn has been exploring various facets of the male identity. With Drive in 2011, he has turned to a moodier masculinity, with the help of reluctant heartthrob Ryan Gosling. A bolder, more challenging film, Only God Forgives continues in the same vein, with Gosling playing another great, reticent, melancholy character of the kind he does so well.
Gosling’s Julian runs a boxing club in Thailand, which acts as a cover for his brother Billy’s drug trafficking. When Billy rapes and kills a young Thai prostitute, Julian is forced to deal with the consequences, and must face his overbearing mother Crystal and the fearsome police chief Chang. Verbally economical and visually sumptuous, the film relies on symbolic actions and images rather than words to tell its story – among some of the most memorable, a quixotic fight in a deserted boxing club, surreal police karaoke, a beautiful girl behind the gold curtain of a lapdancing club, and a scene of biblical violence amid a party of dressed-up girls with their eyes shut. The elliptical narrative is brilliantly edited, weaving together dream and reality until the boundaries are completely blurred, and connecting separate times and spaces to create intimate, invisible psychic ties between the characters.
In the Q&A that followed the screening, Winding Refn said that the film was about the idea of fighting God. Chang is indeed a God-like character, of the Old Testament kind, meting out a vengeful justice with an infallible sword and unwavering hand. In the opposite camp, Julian is a stranger in an unfamiliar land – which may well be his own mind – trying to cut a moral path in an immoral human jungle, fighting a doomed fight against forces too mighty, both inside and outside of himself.
The film’s sophisticated ideas are fleshed out by the excellent cast. Gosling brings the powerful mix of poignant sadness and underlying menace that makes him such a compelling actor to watch in Drive and The Place beyond the Pines. Kristin Scott-Thomas is a revelation as the bitchy, selfish, domineering, incestuous mother, while Vithaya Pansringarm has the commanding presence and awe-inspiring authority required for his role as Chang.
With its rich colours and intricate patterns, its sensual, oppressive light and oblique storytelling, and at its centre, a laconic, supernaturally powerful, sword-wielding protagonist, Only God Forgives feels like a very Asian movie, mixing the exquisite aesthetic sense of Chinese filmmakers such as Zhang Yimou with the brutal anti-heroes of Takeshi Kitano. In this darkly seductive, exotic cinematic land nestles the Heart of Darkness-type story (a stunning early sequence that sees Billy and Julian engaged in enigmatic drug talk in a shadowy room, with only their eyes lit, is reminiscent of the ending of Apocalypse Now). Winding Refn makes the influences and references his own with intelligence and imagination, producing his most accomplished work to date. Spellbinding, visionary, ambitious and deeply affecting, Only God Forgives is one of the absolute must-sees of the year.
Cast: Dan O’Bannon, Brian Narelle, Cal Kuniholm, Dre Pahich
Dark Star began as a student film. It was expanded following an initial success on the festival circuit and released theatrically to fairly dismal results. Later, it was destined to become something of a cult classic, introducing as it had done the career of John Carpenter, as well as screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, who would then go off to modify his claustrophobic cult comedy into a darker horror story for his screenplay that would become Alien. That film was marketed with the brilliant tag line ‘In Space No One Can Hear You Scream’, and Dark Star has that same sense of lonely isolation.
The B-movie score by John Carpenter contrasts with the lonesome, bluesy-ness Country and Western song ‘Benson, Arizona’. The beepy-clunk sound design has to work hard to breathe into convincing life the improvised and visibly cheap effects, but it is also inventive in turning some sequences involving the beach-ball alien and the elevator shaft escapades into a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. The ADR on much of the dialogue has the effect of creating a kind of goldfish bowl ambience, as the characters bicker and muse.
The crew of the titular star ship – the spaced-out space ship, according to the poster – are a bunch of disaffected hippies, sporting the kind of facial topiary that would make them honorary members of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers; the anti-Star Trek. The post-Catch 22 humour sees the crew at a loss to produce any enthusiasm for their mission. Commander Powell is dead and kept frozen, in case the crew needs advice. His stand in, Lieutenant Doolittle (Brian Narelle) – an inspiration for the BBC’s Red Dwarf series – is only interested in one thing: ‘Don’t give me any of that intelligent life crap, just give me something I can blow up!’ His bored nihilism is contrasted with Talby (Dre Pahich), who spends his whole time communing with the universe from the ship’s observation port. Some of the main slapstick comedy is provided by the whinging Sergeant Pinback, played by O’Bannon himself. Each of the crewmembers have difficulty remembering not only each other’s first names, but also their own. Pinback himself turns out not to be Pinback. Despite Talby’s enthusiasm for the stars – the part incidentally was (according to legend/Wikipedia) voiced entirely by director John Carpenter – the only real life is shown by the HAL-like talking bombs. The philosophical discussions are a highlight of the film and also have the benefit of wrapping up a meandering narrative that otherwise might drift along eternally.
Watch the original trailer:
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