Tuesday, January 26, 2010

why didn't i just turn it off?

think of me kindly this morning as you go about your daily affairs -- i will be starting my new part-time temporary job at the countway medical library. it's part of the harvard system but, luckily for me, it's on this side of the river and only about a 45 minute walk from home and a 10 minute walk from northeastern. i'll be transcribing 19th century french medical ledgers into a computer database so i anticipate lots of eyestrain and repetitive motion discomfort, but the material is truly awesome and i get to play with it. :)

but in the spirit of giving you something interesting to read on tuesday morning, here are some thoughts on the completely non-classic horror flick, the burrowers. i got this movie from netflix on the basis of this highly complementary review from the kindertrauma site. if you don't know kindertrauma, you really should. it's really disturbingly wonderful -- look, it's even pink! how much more horrifying can you get!

anyway, the movie rented because a) of the positive review above; and b) because said positive review mentioned that clancy brown was in the cast. i wouldn't say that i'd watch anything clancy brown makes -- but he'd have to make something with someone i really hate to make me avoid it once i knew it was out there.

sadly, this is not his best. it's not anyone's best. it really just isn't that good.

the basic idea is good. it's set in the dakota territories in 1879. a settler family, who we have been introduced to through a beautifully filmed nearly silent scene where she accepts a token from her lover, is killed by the ever-popular something. it's fast; it's nasty; it's nearly silent. this is all we know. and, when the aforementioned lover arrives the next morning to chat up his sweetheart and finds nothing but a couple of the bodies and a pool of blood and signs of abduction, we also know that they like to take their snacks with them for later.

the kindertrauma review made much of the "pace" and "tone" of the movie, saying that it was paced like a western and not like a more modern horror movie. i don't know about this; the western isn't a particularly favorite genre of mine but i seem to remember the good solid john ford/john huston westerns as booking along at a pretty good pace. the burrowers, on the other hand, very patently and obviously invites you to stop and smell the roses, inspect the grass, think about the sky -- in fact, don't get fixated on the action because there really isn't much.

there is some appallingly childish screenwriting; the worst being a cavalry officer who was so broadly racist and unsympathetic to the native american and african-american characters that i practically expected the actor to mug at the screen and say, 'just kidding, folks!'

the beasties aren't bad -- they're kind of like moles with bad attitude. they like to snack on the odd settler or native american, injecting a neurotoxin that paralyses the victim so they can be dragged away and buried to soften up. this is fairly horrible, i have to admit, and one of the few (the very few) effective scenes in the movie is from the point of view of a young man undergoing this process. the ground-level p.o.v. and hand-held camera work really well here. despite this, i'm pretty sure that real science doesn't work this way: i mean, you're paralysed, okay, but you're not dead. you will die, obviously, if buried -- but the beasties seem pretty clear on burying their victims with noses or mouths above ground so they can breathe -- which means that you'll starve to death slowly, digesting all your soft bits on the way so that the monsters would have nothing to eat. perhaps i just think too much.

the upside of all this is that the film is wholeheartedly gorgeous. really, it's beautiful. the cinematographer, director of photography, locations scout, etc., should all get bonuses or extra chocolate cookies or something. there's something the proposition-like about the whole thing -- barring, of course, the skill and thought that went into the minimalist story and exceptional acting of the proposition.

so, yes -- unless you're really desperate for some 2nd-rate thrills, i'd avoid the burrowers. not even mr. brown makes it worthwhile. he tries -- more power to him -- but he can't overcome a script with no character development or plot larger than the immediate scene. it's unclear what relation the characters bear to each other or why they act in the way they do. this is pretty much the death of any movie regardless of genre.

the upside of this piece of cheese -- apart from the landscape -- was this trailer for crank 2, not a movie i ever intend to see, but i hadn't known about the cameo appearance:

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