Archive for the ‘31 Days of Horror’ Category

Dementia 13 (1963) Revisited on Blu-ray   3 comments

I wrote a review of Dementia 13 a while back, but that was based on seeing a fairly grainy version on YouTube. Last fall, the lovely people at Film Detective sent me a Blu-ray of the fun horror gem. I had some dumb technical issues so I’m just watching it now. Sorry, Film Detective. I didn’t forget you.


“People get so dramatic when they’re not invited to the wedding.”

Dementia 13 was made in 1963, in black and white, for $40,000. Francis Ford Coppola filmed it, with Roger Corman’s blessing, around the set of The Young Racers, also starring William Campbell and Luana Anders. It’s just 75 minutes long and it’s a terrific little thriller. It’s not a perfect film, but it moves along and the acting is good, especially from Patrick Magee, who plays—surprise—a sinister doctor.


“Oh hi.”

Since I first watched and wrote about this film, I’ve seen it a few times, but it’s never looked this good. The Blu-ray version is crisp and clear and I managed to see more details of Dementia 13 in this viewing than I ever have. It’s a real treat to see a film you like in the best possible way. Director of photography, Charles Hanawalt, uses a lot of natural and dim lighting. That makes sense considering the modern Gothic setting. It also means that in the past, I’ve had to strain to catch details. Not this time.

I enjoyed actually seeing Dementia 13 after all this time. If you’re a fan, the Blu-ray is a must.

Psst…below is my review of Dementia 13, with a few additions.

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Fishy fishy in the brook
Daddy’s caught you on a hook
-Nursery rhyme

As John Haloran rows across the lake on his family’s Irish estate, he teases his wife Louise (Luana Anders). If he drops dead, Louise will inherit none of the Haloran wealth. Pro tip: Never annoy your wife in a rowboat…if you have a bad heart. The always resourceful Louise dumps John overboard, packs his suitcase, and tells the family he went to New York on business. She’ll stay at the Haloran castle and get to know them while John’s away. Psst…it’ll be a while. It doesn’t take long for Louise to see just how nutty the Halorans are. Richard (William Campbell) solders bad art and scowls. Billy (Bart Patton) walks around in a fog telling people about his dreams. Lady Haloran, fixated on death and grief, holds funerals to commemorate a funeral. Creepy Doctor Caleb (Patrick Magee) tells everyone they’re doing it wrong in a ‘Get into my van. I have candy.’ kind of way.

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“…and then I crushed its head.”

They’re a fun bunch.

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Weeeeee!

Louise, ever the multitasker, figures she’ll push the already dotty Lady Haloran over the edge using a few props from the nursery while insinuating herself into the family and the will. Her simple plan runs into a snag, however and then the fun really starts.

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If you see this you have gone too far.

Francis Ford Coppola (yes that one), wrote and directed Dementia 13 with some tweaks by Jack Hill (The Bees, Coffy). Coppola gives the film a creepy quality by using odd camera angles and off-kilter close-ups and filming so much of it at night. The look reminded me of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Even the dim day shots look dismal and give the black and white film an eerie atmosphere.

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Eavesdropping on the funeral.

What’s missing is dialogue and character development. What dialogue there is works, but the characters need more to say to help us get to know them. More realistic conversations might also decrease the tendency toward exposition. Also, for a film set in Ireland, I found the lack of Irish accents from almost all the lead characters somewhat baffling. According to articles on the making of Dementia 13, producer Roger Corman assigned Coppola to make a gory version of Psycho on the cheap so he dashed off a script and went into production. In spite of this and the fact that this marked Coppola’s non-porn directorial debut, it’s a good gothic horror film with a creative plot and some genuinely scary moments. The nifty chamber music by Ronald Stein enhanced the mood as well. I understand why this has become such a cult favorite and I’m glad I finally saw it.

Thanks again to the folks at Film Detective.

Fun fact: Early on in the film, Louise discusses Richard’s girlfriend saying, “You can tell she’s an American girl, raised on promises.” Sound familiar? It’s pretty close to the first lines of the Tom Petty tune, “American Girl”, released in 1976. I can’t find definitive information to link the song lyrics to the film, but it’s a neat tidbit.

quality
A sure sign of quality

shame

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October 2, 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter: Electric Boogaloo: The Nightmare Continues (2015)   1 comment

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Phew!  I made it.  For a month, this has been my life.  “After work, I will stop for groceries, pick up my small/not small person, walk the dog, make dinner, watch a movie, write a review, and possibly, sleep.  Oh man.  I’d better do a load of laundry or we’ll be wearing bathing suits under our clothes tomorrow.”

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I challenged myself to write 31 pieces for my blog this month.  One for every day of my favorite month.  I tried it last year, but I’m not sure how far I got.  I think I wrote 14 or 15.  That’s not bad, but this time I did it.  I must say, I’m proud of myself.  I didn’t cure a disease or discover a new planet or anything, but I set a goal and accomplished it.  I discovered a few things too.

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  1. Writing every day makes my mind more nimble.  If someone at work asked, “What’s another word for x?”  I’d come up with three in an instant.  I’m usually pretty good at that, but I did notice a difference.
  2. I had to make time to write.
  3. I like anthology horror films.
  4. Writing so many reviews made me branch out.  I watched films I might not have if not for deadlines looming every day.
  5. I’m a bit bleary-eyed right now.
  6. My online friends were wonderfully supportive.  Thanks!!

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So here’s my final list.

  1. Picture Mommy Dead (1966)
  2. Homicidal (1961)
  3. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
  4. The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
  5. The Houses October Built (2014)
  6. From Beyond the Grave (1974)
  7. The 7th Victim (1943)
  8. Archivo 253 (2015)
  9. And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)
  10. V/H/S: Viral (2014)
  11. I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
  12. Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
  13. Don’t Blink (2014)
  14. Scream of Fear (1961)
  15. The Gorgon (1964)
  16. Monster-a Go Go (1965)
  17. Ravenous (1999)
  18. Pontypool (2008)
  19. Helter Skelter (1976)
  20. Asylum (1972)
  21. Saw (2004)
  22. The Deliberate Stranger (1986)
  23. Housebound (2014)
  24. Dead of Night (1945)
  25. Ghost Adventures: Clown Motel and Goldfield High School (2015)
  26. Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985)
  27. The Village (2004)
  28. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  29. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
  30. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  31. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

aaalarry

Thanks for coming!  Please enjoy a hot towel.

 

 

Posted November 2, 2015 by Kerry Fristoe in 31 Days of Horror

Tagged with ,

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)   5 comments

aaadoc

Ahhh Amicus.  I love your sordid little anthology films.  Just seeing the names Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg, and Freddie Francis makes me smile.  The funny little touches, the simple linking story, and the superb casts combine to entertain me more than any other horror films of the period.  Maybe it’s my short attention span, but I love these stories.

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“Read ’em and weep, gentlemen!”

In DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, six men meet in a train car.  One of them, Dr. W.R. Schreck (Peter Cushing) has a set of tarot cards and claims he can tell the future of anyone who taps his deck three times.  Schreck, which in German means terror, reads three cards for each man to tell his fortune, a fourth to determine his fate, then a fifth, which will divine whether or not the man can alter his future.

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“Tarot this, Dr. T!”

In the first story, Werewolf, architect, Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum) travels to a remote island in Scotland to renovate his old house.  While exploring the basement, Dawson finds a coffin full of Count Cosmo Valdemar.  One of Dawson’s ancestors killed Valdemar hundreds of years ago and the Count holds grudges…even after he’s dead.  Apparently, Valdemar is coming back to life as a werewolf.  Dawson knows his stuff so he melts down a silver cross to make anti-werewolf bullets.  Things don’t go as planned.

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“I’ll make a mint with this on Antiques Roadshow.”

Creeping Vine tells the story of a robot that eats children.  Actually, it tells the story of a creeping vine.  I can’t put anything past you.  This is no ordinary ivy plant.  This vine is a killer.  Even the marvelous Bernard Lee can’t stop it.  All I can say is the British are too polite.  A little well-place poison or a flamethrower would do wonders.  This part has a cool ending.

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“Enough with the Miracle Grow already!”

Voodoo involves a trumpet player in a jazz quintet, Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) who hears a cool tune while visiting the West Indies.  He decides to steal the song and call it his own.  The people who actually wrote the song don’t like it.

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“A little auto-tune and this’ll be huge!”

Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee), who isn’t buying any of Dr. Terror’s tarot tales, stars in The Disembodied Hand.  In this segment, Lee plays a nasty art critic who insults the artwork of Eric Landor (Michael Gough).  Landor makes a fool of Marsh and then taunts him relentlessly.  Marsh has no sense of humor so he runs Landor over with his car.  Hands go missing and soon Marsh is getting an unexpected back rub while driving.  This almost never ends well.

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Digits roasting on an open fire…

The last story, Vampire, stars Donald Sutherland as Dr. Bob Carroll.  Dr. Carroll moves back to his New England hometown with his new wife, Nicole (Jennifer Jayne) to start a practice there.  A series of mysterious illnesses and deaths convince Carroll to look for a vampire.  After consulting with the other town doctor, Dr. Blake (Max Adrian), the men decide to take action.  I love the twisty ending to this tale.

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“I don’t think we covered this in medical school.”

As in most of the Amicus portmanteau films, we switch back to the linking story between segments and at the end.  The template, laid out in DEAD OF NIGHT (1945) works here.  This was the first of the Amicus anthologies and it’s fun.  The pace drags in parts, but the last two segments and the linking parts make up for it.  Also, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing!

aaaayes

Yes, it’s us.

haunty

 

 

 

House on Haunted Hill (1959)   7 comments

aaahohh

Vincent Price invites you to a party.  Are there balloons and noisemakers and a clown?  Gee, I hope not.  No, but Price does invite a bunch of total strangers, a creepy housemaid, and a scaaaaary skeleton.  Ahhhhh!!

aaacrone

Avon lady!

Millionaire, Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) holds a birthday party for his wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) in a spooky mansion.  For those of you playing at home, that mansion is Ennis House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  If his guests can stomach a night in the spooky house, Loren will pay each of them $10,000.  That’s about $81K in 2015 dollars.  A nice payday.  It sounds simple enough until we learn that several people, including Watson Pritchard’s (Elisha Cook, Jr.) brother were murdered in the house.  Funny thing though, they never found his head.

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A building from Wright’s pueblo pyramid period.

Just when we think we’re watching a straight haunted house film, Loren and his wife go at it.  The couple do their version of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and it’s clear this party might end badly.  Loren, you see, has had three wives before Annabelle and each has expired under mysterious circumstances.  Hmmm.  Annabelle confides in guest, Lance Schroeder (Richard Long) that she fears for her life.  Her husband, she says, wants to kill her and he’ll stop at nothing.  When the servants leave prematurely, locking the party-goers in for the night, they’ll have to contend with ghosts and spirits and a possible murderer among them.

aaaparty

Vincent has the coolest party favors.

Robb White, frequent William Castle collaborator, wrote the screenplays for HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, MACABRE, THE TINGLER, and others for the great showman.  Castle directed this movie and filled it with piercing screams, an active skeleton, and a rolling old lady.  Supposedly, Alfred Hitchcock saw Castle’s big box office returns and decided to make PSYCHO.  Then, Castle saw PSYCHO and decided to make HOMICIDAL.  I hope that’s true.  Anyway, we win.  All three films are horror classics.

aaaeat

“There’s no food at this party.”

Oozing charm and menace, Vincent Price does his best Vincent Price.  The rest of the cast hold their own, but are nothing to write home about with the exception of Elisha Cook, Jr.  His crazed, drunken ramblings about ghosts and unseen forces are appropriately over the top.  Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, who might win an Una for screaming artistry, and Robert Mitchum’s big sister, Julie round out the players.  Julie Mitchum’s claim to fame in this film is that when offered a drink, she always asks for a scotch and…  A scotch and what?  Motor oil?  Drain cleaner?  Mare sweat?  It’s an odd thing, but it always strikes me as funny.

aaaacook

“Aaahoooo Werewolves of London!”

Ever the marketing genius, William Castle used this tagline for HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.  First film with the amazing new wonder EMERGO: The thrills fly right into the audience!  I wish I had been around to see a Castle film in the theatre.  Flying skeletons, fright insurance, cowards’ corner…such fun.  By the way, does anyone know a good acid vat installer?

aaemergo

Teehee!

haunty

 

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)   2 comments

 

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Laura Mars might need a new eyeglass prescription.  Every so often, and without notice, she sees the world through the eyes of a serial killer.  Laura (Faye Dunaway) earns her living with her eyes.  She’s a high fashion photographer who specializes in photographing models wearing beautiful clothes in violent situations.

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The film uses Helmut Newton’s photographs as Laura’s.

She lives in a huge, penthouse apartment, wears expensive clothes, and goes to all the best parties.  Laura’s photographs and coffee table books sell like hotcakes.  She’s on top of the world.  When someone starts killing her friends, Laura’s life changes just a bit.

aalaura

Great lips.

At first, the police, led by Detective John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) suspect that Laura is killing her associates to gain publicity for her artwork, especially when she tells them that she sees the murders…from three blocks away.  She claims to witness each crime as the murderer would.  Both authorities and her friends think she’s a loon.

aarene

“What you talkin’ ’bout, Laura?”

I should point out that all this time, Faye Dunaway sports some happening duds.  It’s autumn in New York City and Faye’s got the tweed thing going on.  She wears a lot of cool mid-calf wool skirts with double front slits and high boots.  She also has the plaid shawl thing down.  Theoni V. Aldredge designed the costumes.  Well done, Theoni!  Clad in tight, bell-bottoms, boots, and wool blazers, Tommy Lee Jones cuts a dashing figure.  Even his mullet is impressed.

aaplaid

The sheep are nervous.

The seventies lives through the music in the film as well.  Tunes by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Heatwave, Michael Zager Band, and Odyssey give the modeling sessions a Studio 54 vibe.

aabond

After a few more bodies pile up, Laura convinces John that she’s not crazy so they fall in love after a funeral.  Sigh.  Now that the pair are a completely committed couple destined to spend their lives together, we can all relax, right?  Wrong.  Hey guys!  There’s still a killer out there playing ice pick tag.

aacam

“I just remembered.  All my friends are dead.”

I like EYES OF LAURA MARS.  I hadn’t seen it in 432 years and seeing it again was a trip.  Did you know it was written by John Carpenter?  I didn’t.  The cool set-pieces and shots of gritty, 1970s New York give the film texture and the cast is wonderful.  Raul Julia gets to play Laura’s alcoholic gigolo of an ex-husband and he’s perfect.  Rene Auberjonois, as Laura’s handler/manager does his usual terrific job.  I like Brad Dourif in this too.  As Laura’s mumbling, semi-sketchy driver, Dourif is convincing as a guy who’s polite on the surface, but might have a head in his fridge.

aabrad

“You looked in my fridge?”

Tommy Lee Jones is pretty hunky in this role.  My daughter said, “He’s so ugly, he’s cute.”

aatom

“I’m not ugly.”

He’s likable, intelligent, and deeper than he seems.  Dunaway plays her part well.  She’s a bit over the top, but it works.  What doesn’t exactly work is her character.  Laura Mars, a wealthy, powerful, career woman who takes sexually charged and violent pictures seems sort of shy and virginal.  A few times in the film, people remark that she’s not at all what they expected when they saw her photographs.  It’s like they have to say she’s not really like that  as a way of making the audience like her.  Oh well.

aaaafoot

“The game is afoot!”

All in all, EYES OF LAURA MARS is a satisfying watch.  Carpenter’s story has a fun central idea and the performances are fun.  Oh right.  The song.  Jon Peters made his bones producing the Kristofferson/Streisand film A STAR IS BORN and this film.  A former hairdresser, Peters dated Barbra Streisand during this period and the two made a few successful films together.  Back to the song.  “Prisoner”, sung by Streisand at the beginning and end of the film is a perfect showcase for that voice.  She hits every note bang on.  I know what you’re thinking, but you have to admit, the woman can sing.

aaabig

“You shoulda seen it!”

EYES OF LAURA MARS stands out because of its creative concept and solid performances.  It has no castles or bats, but it does have the main character’s friends getting stabbed in the eye, so huzzah!

aapp

More plaid.

haunty

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)   2 comments

Nightmare-Art-nightmare-before-christmas-21692098-1642-2521

I first watched this film with my daughter in 2001.  She was four and I couldn’t watch THE WIZARD OF OZ one more time. My cousin, who’s a horror film fan and art school guy, had recommended the film to me years before, but I just never got to it.  What a revelation!  It’s such a joyous film.  Everyone in the film is trying his hardest all the time.  It’s honest and sweet and it even has a love story and a dog.  Wonderful.  I can remember watching my daughter’s face as she looked at the Halloween Town residents. “They scare for fun.  They’re not mean.”  Exactly.

mummy

“This won’t hurt a bit.”

No one creates a spookier Halloween than the Pumpkin King.  All the goblins love him.  Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) is at the top of his game. After a particularly successful haunting one Halloween, Jack returns to his home in Halloween Town and mopes.  The ghosts and vampires and creepy-crawlies have lost their charm.  Jack is bored.  Something’s missing.

guys

“What’s missing?  Is it an eye?  Oh, I hope it’s an eye!”

On a long, doleful walk in the woods, Jack comes upon a circle of trees.  On each tree is a door and a picture which represents a different major holiday.  Intrigued, Jack opens the door marked with a Christmas tree and is sucked into Christmas Town. Clean, white snow, music, and smiling faces greet him as he ambles through the jolly village.  Charmed, Jack decides Christmas sounds like a capital idea.

jack-xmas-lights

“You…light up my eyes.”

He sprints back to Halloween Town and regales his ghoulish friends with tales of the mysterious Sandy Claws, who rules over Christmas Town.  This year, he promises, the denizens of Halloween Town will run Christmas and give Sandy a break.

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“I have a headache.”

 Jack assigns tasks to each spooky group.  Dr. Finkelstein (William Hickey) will bring to life some skeletal reindeer to drive Jack’s sleigh.  The creatures of Halloween Town will make ghastly toys.  Sally (Catherine O’Hara), Jack’s friend and a talented seamstress, will make Jack’s Sandy Claws costume.  Devilish juvenile delinquents, Lock, Shock, and Barrel will kidnap Mr. Claws so Jack can take over.  

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Lock, Barrel, and Shock have something to hide.

While the industrious townsfolk make hats out of dead turtles and stuff killer snakes into gift boxes, Sally tries to remind Jack he’s making a mistake.  Halloween is his true calling.  Ignoring Sally’s warnings, Jack takes off to deliver his weird toys to the unsuspecting boys and girls.  It doesn’t go well.  

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“But I already have one!”

Danny Elfman, former Oingo Boingo front man and composer, wrote some killer tunes for this Halloween-y/Christmas-y story. They’re creative, sweet, dramatic, and thoroughly singable.  They’re also complex as hell.  Elfman threw himself into this soundtrack. Elfman also sings the part of Jack Skellington and Barrel.  The multi-talented Catherine O’Hara sings and acts the Sally part along with that of Shock.  Ken Page plays the infamous Oogie Boogie and Ed Ivory is Santa/Sandy.  Glenn Shadix plays the typically wishy-washy mayor of Halloween Town.  Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) is Lock.  Tim Burton, Michael McDowell, and Caroline Thompson wrote the story and screenplay and Henry Selick directed.

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Tonight on 50 Shades of Christmas

It’s hard to know where to begin with this film.  I love it so much.  The music, animation, story, and talents of a wonderfully talented cast gang up and whack you.  It’s impressive.  There’s no wasted space.  In every scene, you see something fascinating. It looks so cool.  The creatures of Halloween Town look so different from the goblins of other films.  They’re spunky and fun and they clearly have relationships.  I’m still waiting for a behind-the-scenes documentary showing the vampires smoking between scenes and Zero, Jack’s ghostly dog, in a robe, signing autographs.  They have so much personality, you want to meet them.  A combination of the sophisticated stop-motion animation, the original story, and the fantastic soundtrack sung by a great cast make THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS the awesome film it is.  Happiness.  

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“Mom!  You might want to come down here.”

haunty

             

The Village (2004)   1 comment

village

In an isolated colonial village, people live, work, play, and love harmoniously.  They’re civilized and rational.  The citizens work hard and the village prospers.  For some reason, the people never leave.  No one goes out to explore or hunt or just find out what’s beyond the city limits.  Why?  Well, it seems the village is under constant siege by large, carnivorous creatures.  As long as they stay within the confines of their little town, the villagers are safe from their ravenous attacks.  Oh that.  Sure, that sounds reasonable.  When jealousy and violence rear their ugly heads, the townsfolk finally have an excuse to cross the border into Monsterville where those we don’t speak of dwell.

vol

Not this guy.

Hi.  *raises hand*  I have a few questions.  No one ever tries to go over the wall?  What’s wrong with the teenagers in this town? They never have to go outside to get more livestock or wood for a new building?

all out

“All out of lobster bisque.”

General implausibility aside, I like this film.  I like seeing a happy, reasonable, positive society.  I understand the desire to grab my kid and my dog and live on top of a mountain.  Some days are like that.  That said, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do it.

The cast in THE VILLAGE has some serious acting chops.  Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix (who I usually dislike), Cherry Jones, ❤ Brendan Gleeson <3, Judy Greer, and in small parts, Michael Pitt and Jesse Eisenberg all made me believe.  Adrien Brody’s Noah, a man-child with a sweet soul, steals a few scenes, but Bryce Dallas Howard shines.  She and Phoenix share great chemistry.

ivykiss

It’s a terrific part.  Howard’s Ivy Walker shows compassion and love along with wisdom.  She’s a blind girl who can take care of herself.  She does the right thing, but is kind when others don’t.  She’s brave.

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James Newton Howard wrote a fantastic score for THE VILLAGE.  M. Night Shyamalan wrote, produced, and directed the film. He took some slack for the film, but it made a profit.  He even has a small cameo.  Star cinematographer Roger Deakins worked on THE VILLAGE.  It took 300 craftsmen to build the town modeled after Andrew Wyeth’s paintings.

THE VILLAGE, Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, 2004, (c) Buena Vista

I know there are some plot holes, but I don’t care.  THE VILLAGE tells an entertaining story and I love seeing such a strong, sympathetic, female character.

ivytear

haunty

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