Hello, everyone. I’m Pixilated Polly, back to give you my take on the movies. This month I’ve chosen three for your viewing pleasure. One is out now, one is slightly older and one is an oldie but goodie from 1964. Let’s go with the oldest one first. Ready to board Reaper Rick’s Way-back Machine? Hold on tight
High pitched hum… flashing lights… and we’re here. The year is 1964 and Roger Corman has been successful taking plots from Edgar Alan Poe’s macabre imagination and placing them on the silver screen. Sometimes they follow Poe’s story line. Sometimes Corman gets carried away and changes the plot to fit his own vision. Sometimes they are Poe’s in name only. This time he chooses The Tomb of Ligeia.
He casts Vincent Price, the consummate scene chewer, to play the part of Verden Fell. Polly adores Price, a man who could portray emotions ranging from gentle benevolence to vile menace with misleading ease. Elizabeth Shepherd has the duel roles of Ligeia Fell and Lady Rowena Trevanion. John Westbrook, Oliver Johnston and Derek Francis round out the cast.
Verden Fell is a widower plagued by the memory of his dead wife Ligeia: a woman whose will is so strong not even Death can keep his hold on her. Does her spirit inhabit the fox? Or does it inhabit the fierce black cat that attacks anyone entering her domain? Verden spends his days cloistered in his ruined abbey, surrounded by exotic museum quality memorabilia from travels past. When the Lady Rowena takes a spill from her horse, she is brought to the nearest residence, that of Verden Fell. Upon meeting Verden, the lady likes what she sees. A man of mystery, he intrigues her and she sets out to make him her own.
After Verden and Rowena marry, they spend an idyllic honeymoon away from the abbey. Verden is jovial and happy, a changed man. Then it comes time to go back. Verden promises to sell the abbey… he wants to make a new life with the woman he loves. As it turns out, Ligeia doesn’t want to share. Verden reverts back to the gloomy, oppressed man he was before. Chaos ensues.
The Tomb of Ligeia is a good mix of horror and romance. Pixilated Polly found herself routing for the lovers to defeat the evil and live happily ever after. No spoilers here… you’ll have to watch it and see if love conquers all.
Ligeia may not be as polished or artful as The Mask of the Red Death, another Corman/Price adaptation of Poe, but Pixilated Polly gives Ligeia 3½ howls of pleasure Okay, Mr. Peabody, climb in and let’s set the Way-Back machine for 2002. E. Elias Merhige has released his first project since Shadow of the Vampire, an odd but imaginative picture about the filming of Nosferatu, and what would’ve happened if a real vampire (Willem Dafoe) had been cast in the lead. His new movie is called Suspect Zero and it’s a thriller.
In Suspect Zero FBI agent Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) has been demoted and exiled to Albuquerque. Seems he tracked a serial killer to Mexico, and “extradited” the man back into the U.S. by stuffing him in the trunk of his car and driving him across the border. Because Mackelway violated the killer’s civil rights, the man walked on his charges. Now Mackelway is assigned to a series of random murders. He begins to connect the dots and realizes the murders aren’t random after all. A serial killer is stalking other serial killers. Benjamin O’Ryan (the great Sir Ben Kingsley) is a strange, haunted man obsessed with a mission. Fran Kulok (Carrie Moss of Matrix fame) plays Mackelway’s ex-partner. From the looks of things, they once shared more than a partnership. Migraines and remote viewing play a big part in Suspect Zero.
Suspect Zero is a stylish “thinking person’s” thriller. Like Seven, it’s a movie that must be watched from the beginning without interruption. Sir Ben Kingsley gives an outstanding performance as a man who’s lost his grip on sanity. Aaron Eckhart is likable and sympathetic as the tortured hero. The relationship between Eckhart and Moss is believable and stirring, and Carrie does a good job of conveying emotions ranging from anger to an intense longing, wishing things could be different.
Pixilated Polly gives Suspect Zero four howls of pleasure .
Let’s ride the Way-Back machine back to the present. Now for a vampire flick. Pixilated Polly likes vampires and I’m picky about how they’re portrayed. Still, I went to see 30 Days of Night with my mind wide open. I wasn’t disappointed.
Once Sam Raimi (of Army of Darkness and all of the Spider-man fame) was slated to direct 30 Days of Night, but he opted to produce, leaving the directing to David Slade. And David Slade (best known for his music videos) did a bang up job.
Once a year, Barrow, Alaska has the debatable distinction of experiencing a night that lasts over 30 days. Seems so much darkness can lead to depression… and worse. The film opens with many of the town’s denizens packing up and leaving. Those who stay behind are isolated until the night’s end. We meet Sheriff Ebsen Oleson (Josh Harnett) a likable man who has a strict code of right and wrong. His wife Stella (Melissa George) has left him, but we don’t know why. Later, we realize it is because he is too much of a “good guy” for her tastes. A stranger (Ben Foster, doing a creepy job of acting) comes to town. The sun goes down. And all hell breaks loose.
Slade’s directing and the actors’ acting make the townspeople likable characters. When, one by one, they are slaughtered, each death is a hard blow for the viewer. We care what happens to these people. Josh Harnett does a wonderful job of portraying a nice man who must do horrific things to save the people he’s supposed to protect. Melissa George gives a multi-layered performance. I didn’t like her at first. Later… well, once again, no spoilers.
Now as to the vampires… These vampires aren’t the sophisticated creatures from Anne Rice novels. These are feral, ravenous creatures with a bent for mindless brutality. Yet they have a leader. Marlow (Danny Huston) leads the group with unquestioned authority. They speak in a Russian tongue, amidst chilling screams that only slightly got on Polly’s nerves. I wanted to know more about Marlow, where he came from, what made him a vampire and who he was before his transformation. In the end it didn’t matter. All I needed to know was he made a formidable enemy.
The desperate action the sheriff takes in order to try and defeat Marlow and his coven is both shocking and heroic.
Pixilated Polly gives 30 Days of Night four howls of pleasure, despite the gore .
That’s my take on the movies for this issue. Join me next issue for Beowulf, The Mist and Sweeny Todd. I’ll look forward to seeing you.