Kyoshi Kurosawa’s “Kairo” is a film dripping in terror that deliberately paces itself as a slow burning end of the world tale. Rather than an all out orgy of gore and carnage, “Pulse” eventually explodes in to something of a last gasp of humanity, and a civilization that ends in a whisper and somber whimper. “Kairo” is written as something of a two act structure where Kurosawa opts for a film that’s episode in the vein of “Pulp Fiction,” and then smashes together in the stunning climax. Much of what we see seems and feels random in many places, and events collide allowing for a cogent unfolding of events that doesn’t just make sense but feels so meticulously planned from square one. What makes “Kairo” so haunting even when the credits have drawn to a close is the way the director opts less for splatter and gore, and more for a requiem that depicts mankind as a stain and nothing more.
By 1993, Robocop had turned from a Christ allegory with a vicious blood streak to a bonafide kids’ mascot who was appearing on lunch boxes and Saturday morning cartoons. Thus was the weird period of the eighties and nineties where even folks like Conan, Rambo, Chuck Norris, and heck, even Freddy Krueger became kiddie fodder. The official final go around for Robocop is a tame and pretty dull 1993 film that director Fred Dekker is saddled with, that takes Robocop in to more family friendly territory right down to having a spunky child sidekick. Not much has happened for Robocop and Detroit since the first two films, as the city is still very much under the death grip of crime, while OCP still controls every going on. Dekker has a lot of catching up to do and sadly doesn’t deliver much in the way of a great sequel, as “Robocop 3” essentially repeats a lot of the same beats from the first two films.
Irvin Kershner has a knack for taking original films and amplifying what makes them work initially. With “RoboCop 2,” Kershner takes the RoboCop mythology to new heights creating a film that’s significantly more memorable than the original and arguably better. That’s a controversial statement for sure but when a lot of fans think of RoboCop, they think about the RoboCop 2 unit which becomes something of a parallel to Alex Murphy. Where in Alex is still grasping with bits and pieces of his humanity and consciousness, our villain Cain fully embraces the technological shell he is transplanted in and begins to wreak absolute havoc.
Christophe Gans offers up a richly realized and absolutely beautiful vision of “Beauty and the Beast” that embraces the dark side and fantasy of the original story. While yes, Belle begins to fall In love with the Beast, and is even enticed by him, it’s also thanks his aggression and insistence on influencing her Stockholm syndrome. Belle does eventually find the beauty of living with the beast, in that she’s able to roam his massive castle and is capable of finding secrets and fun corners within it. She even plays hide and seek with dog like creatures that find a fascination with Belle. Gans’ direction is superb and absolutely mesmerizing, I can not stress that enough. Many of his wide shots, and pans are magnificent and he knows how to make the beast both enigmatic and terrifying. There’s even a marvelous moment where the Beast is looking out on to an invading army from his perch, resembling Lon Chaney from “Phantom of the Opera.”
Pee-yew! You have to appreciate Shout! Factory for restoring what is easily one of the worst anthology movies of the eighties. I admit to being a completely newcomer in regards to “Deadtime Stories,” and upon finishing it, I was not surprised it was such a rarity for so many years. “Deadtime Stories” watches like someone really loved “Creepshow” and decided to make their own version with only a quarter of the budget. Then mid-way when the studio realized how awful the movie was, they decided to turn it in to a comedy at the last minute so horror fans can convince themselves the whole disaster is intentional and a tongue in cheek jab at the anthology crazy of the decade.
“Logan” is a terrible X-Men movie, but a very good Wolverine movie. I say that because director James Mangold holds about as much contempt for X-Men and its concept as Bryan Singer does. Mangold offers a vision of the team that is none too flattering. Set in an undetermined timeline of the movie series, we’re met with Logan in the distant future where he’s one of the only surviving mutants left on Earth. The dream has died, Professor X is now suffering from a brain disease that has turned him in to a burden, and everything the X-Men strived for has been forgotten and passed off as a joke. Now faced with nothing but a dark ending, he is confronted by a Hispanic woman who pays him to help her. Logan, at the behest of Charles Xavier, is tasked with caring for a small girl named Laura who is much more like Logan than even Charles Xavier realizes.
It’s kind of a tough situation with “The Dark Below” that I found myself in. Ultimately I appreciated its creativity, its twist on the stalker thriller, and how Douglas Schulze delivered his premise, but in the end “The Dark Below” is only a slightly serviceable thriller. Despite the film being genuinely creative in unfolding its narrative of a woman fighting to survive underwater in the arctic while evading a killer, the movie itself left me lukewarm and generally unengaged. Douglas Schulze banks a lot on audiences being either claustrophobic, terrified of drowning, and terrified of being alive, as the center of the films premise relies on our protagonist being stuck under a frozen lake while being hopelessly outmatched against a killer in the snow. Schulze does switch up the monotony of this kind of genre offering by creating a film that has absolutely no dialogue.
Director Max Beauchamp’s “Iridescence” is an excellent short film and one that we desperately need these days. Conveyed through motion, body language, and dance, “Iridescence” is the story of one family torn apart and destroyed by ignorance and misunderstanding. Relying on ace editing by Duy N. Bui and fantastic choreography, director Beauchamp tells the story of the tragic death of a wife at the hands of her husband one fateful night. Years later their son grows up confused about his own sexuality and is struggling to hide his affair with another man from his violent father.