Monday, January 30, 2017

Man Vs. Hidden Hobo High-Rise

Man Vs. (2015): written by Adam Massey and Thomas Michael; directed by Adam Massey; starring Chris Diamantopoulos: Filmed north of Guelph, Ontario, Man Vs. pits Doug Woods, a minor reality show star, against Something. Woods is filming an episode of his show in the Northern Ontario woods. It's a wilderness survival show in the tradition of so many shows on television. But then something happens, and someone or something starts stalking him. 

Man Vs. is a fairly enjoyable, straight-to-cable movie with an affable protagonist in Chris Diamantopoulos (a recurring bit on Silicon Valley as a the guy who 'invented' Internet Radio definitely shows that he has acting range). The revelation of the menace is a bit of a letdown, as these things go, though the climax manages to throw in a gratifying extra twist. But the movie does do a nice job of slow-burning the tension in its first 70 minutes or so. Recommended.

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011): written by John Davies; directed by Jason Eisener; starring Rutger Hauer (Hobo), Brian Downey (Drake), and Molly Dunsworth (Abby): The gory, hilarious expansion of a gory, hilarious fake trailer in Grindhouse was filmed in and around Dartmouth and Halifax, Nova Scotia. In a grimy, horrible city controlled by a grimy, horrible crime boss (Lexx's Brian Downey, chewing the scenery for all he's worth), only the arrival of Rutger Hauer's Hobo brings hope. Especially once he gets a shotgun. 

The film-makers turn the luridness of the colour up to 11 in an homage to exploitation movies of the 1970's and 1980's. The gore is often crazy, but framed in such ridiculous, parodic circumstances as to remove much of its shock value. I enjoyed this a lot -- it's a far better and more faithful nod to exploitation cinema that the two movies by Tarantino and Rodriguez that made up the bulk of Grindhouse. Rutger Hauer acts the hell out of his Hobo. He's utterly invested. Recommended.

The Hidden (1987): written by Jim Kouf; directed by Jack Sholder; starring Kyle MacLachlan (Lloyd Gallagher), Michael Nouri (Sgt. Tom Beck), Claudia Christian (Brenda Lee), Clu Gulager (Lt. Flynn), Ed O'Ross (Detective Willis), Richard Brooks (Detective Sanchez), Clarence Felder (Lt. Masterson), and Chris Mulkey (DeVries): A great cult movie of the 1980's that should be as fondly remembered as The Terminator, but isn't. Plot revelations are part of the fun, so I'll only say that mismatched cop and FBI partners Michael Nouri and Kyle MacLachlan are terrific as they pursue a puzzling series of normal citizens who suddenly turn into crazy killers. 

A great cast of character actors helps elevate the movie, as do Claudia Christian's killer stripper, some extremely good creature effects, and a narrative that's lean and compact. Science-fiction historians can note the movie's extreme similarity to both Hal Clement's classic sf novel Needle and Michael Shea's 1980 novella "The Autopsy." Twin Peaks fans may note that MacLachlan's performance here seems like a practice run for FBI Agent Dale Cooper. Highly recommended.

High-Rise (2016): adapted by Amy Jump from the J.G. Ballard novel; directed by Ben Wheatley; starring Tom Hiddleston (Laing), Jeremy Irons (Architect Royal), Sienna Miller (Charlotte), Luke Evans (Wilder), and Elizabeth Moss (Helen): Director Ben Wheatley absolutely nails the trippy, experimental look and story structure of so many 1970's science-fiction movies, most notably The Omega Man and Zardoz. And screenwriter Amy Jump does about as good a job of adapting J.G. Ballard's dystopic allegory as can be imagined.

It's not necessarily a fun two hours of cinema (though I did have fun), but it's a good one. The decision to stylistically evoke the era of the mid-1970's when High-Rise was first published extends to the apparent period of the film as well: it sure looks like 1975 in London, England. Well, except for Tom Hiddleston, who looks jarringly contemporary. I wonder if this was intentional. 

In an experimental apartment building/ community, things fall apart. The decision to show the viewer the end of the movie in the first scenes of the film may be High-Rise's only misstep. Or maybe not. Certainly, all the loose threads and thwarted attempts at closure, sympathy, and exposition suggest a movie and movie-makers uninterested in a conventional thriller format.  What you're given instead is a sort of comic, occasionally Grand Guignol comic inferno that often plays like an intentional parody of its most obvious literary forebear, William Golding's humourless allegory of Original Sin, The Lord of the Flies.

Hiddleston is excellent as our protagonist, and the rest of the supporting cast is also fine. There's something horrifyingly funny in a 1970's way about Luke Evans' (literally) shaggy character. Sienna Miller and Elizabeth Moss also do good work as a couple of Hiddleston's neighbours. There's even a recurring parking lot gag that gradually goes from Seinfeld to grindhouse. Given the times we live in, High-Rise doesn't seem particularly dated -- it's a horror-allegory with staying power. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to HIGH-RISE; even tho it's been 20 years the original Ballard novel remains a favorite of mine.