Ken Russell’s adaptation of The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” is surreal, vivid, out of this world, and incredibly phantasmagorical. It’s everything you’d expect from Russell, and “Tommy” is every bit as unusual and mind blowing as the original rock opera is. What can you expect from a story about a young boy stricken deaf, dumb, and blind by his uncle Frank and mother Nora. With an irreversible disability, Tommy is left without the sensation to feel, or understand, or comprehend most things, so he’s a victim to everyone in his life, most of who are predators and sadistic monsters. Eventually Tommy becomes something of a deity when he gains the ability to sense certain elements of his environment, including the game of pinball.
Pascal Laugier’s 2008 “Martyrs” was a grueling experience that masked blatant misogyny and torture as a pseudo-intellectual transcendental tale about the afterlife and the pressing question about where we go when we die. Kevin and Michael Goetz’s remake of “Martyrs” is not only a pointless exercise in futility, but it dodges any and all attempts to improve on the goofy ideas about spirituality by mostly dodging them. By dodging the torture and pegging this as cheap exploitation, and alternately dismissing the ideas about the afterlife and transforming this in to a spiritual horror film, it effectively renders itself pretty damn pointless and dull.
I think if it weren’t so obsessed with its own self-indulgent pseudo-spiritualism and didn’t stop to tell four different stories simultaneously, “Martyrs” may have been a decent film. It begins as a solid revenge picture, but then devolves in to an absurd campaign in torture and pain. It’s a grueling sadistically boring horror drama with a narrative so convoluted I stopped caring about what was unfolding after the first half hour. “Martyrs” loves to pretend it’s this transcendent statement about our questioning of the afterlife, but in reality it’s just misogynist torture porn painted as art house dribble that will make you feel dirty.
One of the aspects of Brandon McCormick’s “Alabaster” that I enjoyed was his unflinching willingness to completely hit the ground running in a world of surreal characters. Like many other existential dramas, “Alabaster” is a film comprised of many elements, all of which are leading somewhere. I won’t give anything away for you, but immediately, I could sense that “Alabaster” and its variety of odd characters and symbols was inevitably going to come together to say something. And quite honestly, I was riveted.