It’s Halloween week, and while the supposed big offering is last week’s dismal Ouija, there are still a couple of treats to be found among tricks — along with one dubious idea, two art/indie titles, and a pair of unknown mainstreamers.
Since it is a seasonal week, let’s look at the offerings that fit in with that mode. Normally, I would put Brian De Palma’s Carrie down with Special Screenings, which plays for one show only on Wed., Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina. (Admission is $6 for AFS members and $8 for the general public.) But since this is a Halloween offering — and easily the best one going — I’m putting it here. There aren’t many horror pictures that garnered two Oscar nominations — Sissy Spacek for Best Actress and Piper Laurie for Best Supporting Actress. There also aren’t many that broke new ground both within the boundaries of the genre and as just plain filmmaking the way De Palma’s Carrie did. This wasn’t just a game-changer for the horror film, but it added to the basic lexicon of filmmaking — and it became and remains a part of our collective pop culture conscious. Here is that rarest of things — a movie that even the author of the book thought was better than his original work. This was attempted to be shown last year, but at that point the film could not be booked because that awful remake was in theaters. Well, now that the remake is just a quickly fading bad memory, De Palma’s film can once more be shown — and from a brand new remastered Digital Cinema Package that should make it look even better than it did in 1976. Whether or not that will make its rightly famous big shock effect make you jump any higher remains to be seen.
That is not to dismiss Alexandre Aja’s Horns which opens on Fri. — that’s Halloween — at The Carolina. This is the film where Daniel Radcliffe sprouts horns. If you can accept that — come on, horror movies aren’t known for realism — then you should be in for a pleasant surprise. Actually, Horns is more than a horror movie. It might better be called a horror fable, but it also includes large doses of dark comedy, satire — and finally attains a level of outright tragedy. I expected little — and was downright shocked by what I got and how much I liked it. I admit I find it a little ironic that its main characters — Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Joe Anderson, Max Minghella — are all Brits playing Americans being directed by a French director, but it works. It works enough that it got my Weekly Pick. The review is in this week’s paper.
I admit to having misgivings about this 10th Anniversary Special Halloween reissue of James Wan’s Saw, which also hits town this week. (I know it’s down for The Carolina, but it might be at other venues, too.) While I’ve become quite a fan of Wan’s work — starting with Dead Silence in 2007 — I was never keen on the Saw series. But for those who are, here it is back in theaters for a week.
Setting Halloween aside, I’ve also seen the week’s art/indie titles (Horns actually qualifies for those terms, too), though I’ve only reviewed Matthieu Amalric’s The Blue Room, which opens on Friday at The Carolina. It could best be described as an erotic French noir. I greatly admired its formal filmmaking style — and can’t fault it as filmmaking — but I have to admit that as drama the film pretty much left me cold. You can see for yourself come Friday. The review is in this week’s paper.
Last up is the debut feature from Justin Simien, Dear White People. This, I have seen, but it showed up as opening this Friday at the Fine Arts too late for me to review it. Without reviewing it — and I may not be the one reviewing it — I will say that I found it fresh, funny, edgy, occasionally moving, and an all-around pleasurable experience. It’s not perfect. There are a few tedious moments when the film moves into some of its romantic scenes — and some of the gags, while funny, can be a little too obvious. Also, some of the camera work is a little more notable for what it attempts than for what it achieves. But these are fairly minor quibbles. The film is really good.
And so into the unknown region of the mainstream…
Rowan Joffe’s Before I Go to Sleep is, I guess, mainstream. That’s to say I know it opens Friday at The Carolina, but there’s no hint of it at other local theaters. It is, however, listed as a wide release. It certainly has wide release stars — Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong — though they have all done their share of art and indie work. The biggest hurdle may be that it’s from Clarius Entertainment — a relative newcomer on the scene, who are perhaps best known at this point for this year’s huge flop, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return and the critically reviled And So It Goes. The reviews — mostly Australian and British — are evenly divided. The studio describes it as a “taut thriller.” I’m interested, but mostly by the stars.
This week’s potential big thing is first-time director Dan Gilroy’s (he had a hand in writing The Fall and co-wrote The Bourne Legacy) Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal. According to the studio — “Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling — where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Aided by Rene Russo as Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou thrives.” At the moment, the film boasts 25 positive reviews and only four negative ones. It’s clearly the film to beat this weekend at the box office.
What do we lose this week? The Fine Arts says goodbye to My Old Lady and The Skeleton Twins. The Carolina is (no surprise here) dumping Men, Women & Children.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Edward L. Cahn’s The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 30 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is offering their Halloween film with Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993) on Fri., Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society will be running Harry Lachman’s Dante’s Inferno (1935) on Sun. Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts their November calendar with David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980) on Tue., Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in the week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.
There are only two notable releases this week — Begin Again and Wish I Was Here.
Notable TV Screenings
You will please excuse me, but since my satellite provider is in some kind of fight Turner, Turner Classic Movies is currently off my menu. In other words, I’m trying not to know what I’m missing. I hope this situation is rectified by next week — even if it involves getting a new provider, which is looking likely.