Category Archives: Hidden Gems

The underrated or overlooked.

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The Indefinsibles: Exorcist III (1990)

Gabby: The Indefinsibles investigated a mental asylum to defend…

Jeremy: The Exorcist III. IT’S FINE!!!

Jeremy: If you’re new to this site, the three of us get together and each pick a movie we want to defend set around a certain theme. Well, usually around a certain theme – ’cause we’re getting back together for the first time in 2017 with a free-for-all. First up is my pick, the theatrical cut of Exorcist III.

I wanted to pay tribute to William Peter Blatty, who passed away earlier this year. He’s responsible for some of the greatest horror stories of the 20th century. On top of that, as an American, I was looking for a film that reflected my current fears about the mess we’re currently in. Exorcist III is a perfect fit for that: it’s about making sense of the world while surrounded by the evil we’re capable of.

Another reason I have a particular fondness for it: I was twelve when this premiered on HBO. This was soon after my parents realized I wasn’t starting fires or performing unnecessary surgery on the pets and let me start watching whatever I wanted. This wasn’t my first R-rated movie or anything – but possibly my first full-on R-rated horror movie. Exorcist III rocked my world.

At the time, the first hour of this film felt like a living thing… sinister and coiled, waiting to strike. exorcist-4I had trouble getting to sleep for days afterward. And even back then, movies rarely scared me.

As an adult, the seams from all the studio-enforced reshoots are obvious, but the first hour is almost without equal among horror movies – especially the way it balances characters, themes, and scares. And man, there are scares here.

Brett: This is the second time we’ve watched an Exorcist sequel that would be a better movie if not tied to the Exorcist franchise.

I’ve avoided the movie for years. Bad reviews and tales of the forced-at-gunpoint reshoots. The story of a cop chasing a copycat serial killer who turns out to be a ghost would be a major second act reveal… if it wasn’t obvious that it’s about g-g-g-ghosts right off the bat with the title.

It’s a pretty decent movie, but it has a pacing issues.

I remember seeing an interview with a horror writer in the ’90s. She had built her career from werewolf and monster stories, but she was just starting a new series about serial killers. She said serial killers were the monsters for the ’90s. She had her finger on the pulse there. I feel like there was a hell of a lot of serial killers in the ’90s.

Jeremy: When we were planning this round of movies, you mentioned never having seen this.10626_1 Based on the previous movies we’ve covered, I figured you’d be lukewarm on it. I get the impression that supernatural horror isn’t your thing.

I think you – and just about everyone else – would prefer Blatty’s original novel, Legion, or his director’s cut. There’s not an exorcist or exorcism in sight. It’s much closer to being a supernatural mystery the whole way through, without all the cheap theatrics in the theatrical cut.

Brett: I would be interested in seeing the original cut. Isn’t it available somewhere?

Jeremy: It’s available with the Scream Factory re-release. The excised footage could be only recovered from VHS tapes of the dailies, so the movie constantly cuts back and forth between a beautiful Blu-Ray remaster and rough – even by VHS standards – 4×3 footage.

If nobody minds having it spoiled, we can discuss the differences.

Brett: I don’t mind. I am curious to know what tinkering went on.

Gabby: Before we move on, I wanted to add that I really like supernatural horror when it involves more than jump scares. And this movie definitely has more on its mind, though I enjoy the supernatural aspects of it. It would have had an easier time being its own thing without the title. I enjoy some of the ties to the original through exorcisms and exorcists (when not included the last section of the film). It gives an added layer of unease and a unique link between the victims of the killer.

Jeremy: So let’s talk about the changes. The opening scenes have more character beats and clearer exposition for where the story was originally headed. It’s established that Brad Dourif was Father Karras before he sacrificed himself at the end of The Exorcist.

Jason Miller, who originally played Karras, is not in the film. This recasting – and the addition of Father Morning – comprise most of the reshoots. The basic idea – that the Gemini Killer is possessing senile patients to do his work – is the same. The difference is the spirit of the real Father Karras moved on the night he fell down those steps. All that remains inside his body is the transplanted soul of the Gemini Killer. There’s no need for an exorcism or all the ridiculous pyrotechnics in the theatrical cut.ishot-951

In both versions, the Gemini wants Kinderman to go to the press and report that the killings have resumed. After the attack on his daughter (holy shit, that scene…), Kinderman returns to the Gemini’s cell and just unloads his revolver into him. He doesn’t say a word. Cut to credits.

There’s probably something missing here – because not all the footage could be recovered – but I think you’re supposed to infer that the only way to stop the Gemini is to kill him. Similar to how Karras sacrificed his life in the original film, Kinderman is most likely sacrificing his career, if not his freedom.

It’s a better movie, but the ending is as anti-climatic as the theatrical cut is overblown. The problem with both cuts is the same: once Kinderman discovers “the man in cell 11,” most of the second hour is the killer telling us how he did it. There’s more procedural work in the Director’s Cut, but each version shifts into low gear and rarely gets back the suspense of the first hour. There are a few exceptions, like the attack on Kinderman’s family. And, of course, the hallway jump scare. Probably the best jump scare there is.

Brett: That’s a good jump scare, mostly because it’s not a fake scare (like a cat or something) and it gives our imagination a gory image to invent. I was impressed with the restraint the movie shows, considering they could have coated the walls with blood.

Jeremy: I love the restraint here, which is something I want from horror movies aiming to scare you. It’s one of the main reasons the film remains creepy on repeat viewings. I’m curious if that was because Blatty knew he couldn’t top Friedkin or this was just Blatty being allowed to do things his way.

It’s shot more like a film from the ’70s. Paced that way, too. That out of time feeling adds to the unsettling tone. Even if this isn’t as flashy as The Exorcist, it’s effective at getting under your skin.

Gabby: I also agree about the restraint. Very impressive. Especially from a sequel to a horror movie.

The first hour is so well-balanced, I agree Jeremy. The characters are defined and I did really jump at one point (yes it was that jump scare). But it was more the unsettling feeling it evoked that is somewhat similar to some nightmares I have had.

I agree with Brett in what he said about restraint and how it lets our imaginations get to run riot. Blatty understood something really important with the human psyche, we can dream up the most terrifying things with our imaginations. And the film lets you go down that road on your own, by setting up something other than ‘horror’ and letting you fill in the blanks.

As Jeremy said, the ’70s pace does add that unsettling tone. 4883702_l1There is sometimes a slight lingering on scenes when they seem like they have ended, with a moment or two in silence. When Kinderman is with the dead body of Father Dyer for instance. There are a just a few moments near the end of the scene added where someone else might have cut away. Kinderman is standing with his hands together. He looks uncomfortable, scared, angry, grief-stricken and the silence in the room allows you to know there is a lot more to come.

Jeremy: I love the sound design. This is a surprisingly effective movie to put on to show off your sound system. The scene you mention wouldn’t work half as well without the silence between the dialog, which grows into a low, rumbling thunderstorm as the scene builds. Like you said, it’s more muted than you would expect from a film like this.

Now let’s get to something that isn’t muted. What does everyone think of George C. Scott? Too much ham?

Brett: It feels like the right amount for the material.

Gabby: At times, it is too much. But I like it when he is bubbling away before he shouts and slams the desk. It might have been more effective if he had got close to boiling but didn’t. And then eventually explodes.

Jeremy: One of the big draws for me here is George C. Scott as Kinderman. Even on paper, it’s a big character. But you’re right – there are choices he made where less would’ve been more. Most of that is in the scenes immediately after Father Dyer’s murder, when Kinderman is a wreck.

The majority of the time, it works. And I love this character. He’s a good man with a hard job, and his life is obviously not just the job. He’s world-weary, not burnt out. There’s love in his life. Almost any other writer would make Kinderman a divorced, deadbeat dad with a dirty secret the Gemini could exploit.

I appreciate that Kinderman is allowed to be an older man. He’s likely close to retirement, but it’s never mentioned. (Something else I appreciate.) I see a little of my grandfather in the character – at least in terms of a man who used to be able to hold it all in, but these days the tears and frustration and love just pour out.

Also, how crazy is it that this movie starts with two older men marking the time since they lost a friend? Not only does George C. Scott headline a movie in 1990, there’s only two speaking parts, I’m pretty sure, from characters under 25. That’s a statistical anomaly for a Hollywood movie courting the usual Friday night crowd. I‘m guessing we got that (and everything else you wouldn’t expect from a movie in 1990) because of the first movie’s clout, along with the trainwreck that was Exorcist II – which I’ve still never seen, despite owning the entire series.

Brett: I have seen video reviews of it online. That seems to be close enough for me.

Jeremy: I’ve avoided reading or watching anything about it. I know there will come a night where I can’t sleep. In that restless, magic time, around 2 a.m. – when bad ideas suddenly become good ideas – the time will be right to put it on. When that time comes, I want to go in fresh.

On the Scream Factory special features, Brad Dourif starts to talk about Exorcist II, hesitates, and then calls it a piece of shit. It’s glorious. Speaking of Dourif, are there any other performances we want to talk about?

Brett: Okay, Dourif. d36a17ccd46bb20653fa6607a1970474I felt his performance matched Scott’s pretty well. That’s probably why I didn’t feel Scott was over the top, he matches the person who he spends the most time talking with. I found using two actors to portray what is essentially the same person a very interesting choice.

Jeremy: It works way better than it’s supposed, given the crazy story behind it all.

Brett: What was the story? I thought it was a stylistic choice.

Jeremy: From the way Dourif tells it, not at all. Again, Dourif is originally cast to play the Gemini Killer, whose spirit is in Karras’ vacated body. The studio decides to recast the role entirely and have Jason Miller return.

I’m guessing the studio felt like someone from the first movie had to come back. It’s actually a studio note I get, at least to a degree. A lot of the movie hangs on Kinderman’s affection for Karras. There’s a better chance audiences will share that affection with the original actor in the part.

Brett: Ahhh, good old studio interference…

Jeremy: Sadly, Miller was fighting a losing battle with alcoholism, and he couldn’t do all the speeches and long takes. Then, and only then, is Dourif brought back in. That’s how we get what’s in the movie. Jason Miller is Karras – the actual Karras – but when the personality of the Gemini comes forward, it’s Dourif.

It all works surprisingly well. The “legion” isn’t just the psych ward as originally intended, it’s also the warring forces inside Karras. That lends some emotional stakes the original cut didn’t have. On the other hand, the Father Morning scenes don’t work. Not in the slightest.

Brett: No, that’s a disaster. You can see the new pages of the script right on the screen when he shows up. Hell, you can tell the ink is still wet on those pages.

Jeremy: The only benefit to the reshoots is Kinderman’s arc. He gets a moment with the real Karras. Also, the “I believe…” speech pays off Kinderman’s existential crisis at the beginning of the film: he can only rationalize evil in a world without gods or monsters.

At least, that’s the way I read it. Even if I like some of the theatrical cut’s climax, it wraps everything up too neatly. Removing all the exorcism noise but keeping some of the emotional payoff would be my preferred version of the film.

Gabby: I agree, I think that speech is powerful and respectful to the character. It would have been great to have an ending that had the balance you suggest Jeremy.

Brett: I kind of thought we didn’t get studio interference like this anymore, but Rouge One and Suicide Squad are two major examples.

Jeremy: Really? I see it as being worse – or at least more public. And it seems more common that directors get taken off their films during post-production. Take Rogue One. Rumors suggest that a third to a half of that movie is reshot footage, possibly made with or without Gareth Edwards’ involvement.

From what I can gather, though, Blatty did all the rewrites and reshoots here.

Brett: I hadn’t seen many stories for a while and then last year we got two major examples. One turned out okay, the other was a disaster.

Jeremy: I’m curious how much of that has to do with the modern concept of reshoots.

Brett: A fair amount I suspect. Marvel seems to have a pretty good reputation for letting things happen.

Jeremy: Just the fact that almost every big movie just pencils that into the budget, like it’s an inevitability that weeks of reshoots will happen. But, yeah, Warner Bros. seems especially bad about panicking over rough cuts and taking insane measures such as we see here. This is a studio that spent $30-$40 million on an Exorcist prequel, then spent as much money again to reshoot the entire film. And if I understand things correctly, Suicide Squad was finished by a company that makes movie trailers. That’s insane.

Brett: And to what end? They always seem to lose. Save for Rogue One, I can’t think of a situation where heavy-handed interference led to a better movie. Wizard of Oz? I guess?

Maybe when it’s a big hit you don’t hear about it.

Gabby: The Wizard of Oz comes from the era of the studio movies. Where studios ran everything and had to be really smart to try and outmaneuver the inevitable. It still ended up as a perfect movie, despite all of that in the background. We are supposed to be in a more free society artistically speaking and democratically by now. But I feel that movies in the American New Wave were less oppressed than some now. Let’s hope for a further rise of the independent movies and a growing group of diverse and liberally minded studio executives to give us more studio films like Moana and Frozen. Films that know what they want to say and use the studio system to further it, by hiring cultural historians and artists for instance, to form something powerful.

Jeremy: And I hope we get a clear understanding of what Rogue One was before the reshoots. I have a feeling it was rougher around the edges but had a more personal vision. It’s a movie I want to cover here. I think it falls under the type of movies we talk about.

And with that, anything to add before we get to our final thoughts?

Brett: I found I liked what this movie wanted to be, but I didn’t love what it actually turned out to be. It’s not bad though, and

Gabby: I think the first half is beautifully made, especially with the slow pacing and the escalation the eerie mood. Even though it has its flaws because of the supernatural elements, I still really like some of those aspects of the movie. Exorcist_III_-_Film_FootageOverall, I really recommend people see this one.

Jeremy: I’m already on record as being a huge fan of this series. It’s probably my favorite horror franchise outside of classic Universal Horror. If the second half was as good as the first, this would make my all-time top ten – a perfect combination of excitement and substance. As far as the movie we got, I still love it. Possibly more so because of its imperfections.

Thanks for reading, everyone. We’ll be back soon with a pick from Brett, Ichi (2008). In the meantime, follow us on Twitter or leave us a comment below. Until then, go watch a movie.

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The Indefinsibles: The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)

Gabby: We switch on our brain boxes and open a doorway between worlds to find Jeremy’s pick…

Jeremy: The Whisperer in Darkness. H.P. Lovecraft’s working title: My Ovaltine with Akelely.

I’m glad we were able to watch this, Gabby. Our one rule for the movies we pick is that they have to be accessible to UK and US readers. Since this was a super low-budget film, I wasn’t sure if it made its way to the UK.

Gabby: I managed to rent it off iTunes!

Jeremy: Wait – it’s available digitally in the UK? That’s some bullshit, right there. I would kill to have a legit digital copy.

Gabby: That is weird, you should be able to get it! Give this to Jeremy digitally, powers that be.

Jeremy: Before we go further, let me say why I picked this movie to defend. This is the second independent film made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS) based on Lovecraft’s stories. Their first film, The Call of Cthulhu, was released in 2005. From everything I can gather, it was a minor cult hit on DVD. I know horror fans really embraced it.

And it’s how I discovered Lovecraft. I was a Lovecraft virgin when I bought a copy of Call of Cthulhu on a whim from a used video shop. I was immediately taken by the cover, to say nothing of the hook the HPLHS devised for filming this supposedly unfilmable story: make it a black & white silent movie, as if it was produced in the year the story was published, 1926. Thanks to that movie, I became a huge Lovecraft nerd. Because, you know, I didn’t have enough geeky obsessions already…

Adapting Lovecraft stories to match the films of the era they were written in – which the HPLHS coined as Mythoscope – was such an inspired idea. First off, Cthulhu was a micro-budget production made by fans, so it hid a lot visual shortcuts they had to make. It also allowed them to make a movie that ran under 60 minutes, as was the style of the time. Most importantly, a silent movie provided an opportunity to adapt Lovecraft faithfully while circumventing his purple prose and the near absence of dialogue in his stories.

Working on and off over the next six years, the HPLHS were finally able to make a follow-up with The Whisperer in Darkness. The production was certainly more ambitious. Since this story was published in 1931, they were now making a “talkie”, heavily influenced by the Universal Horror movies of the period.

I wish I could say Whisperer was met with as much enthusiasm as their first film. It didn’t get bad reviews – but the initial reception was fairly lukewarm. All the reviews I read hit upon the same thing: it feels less and less like a classic horror movie as it goes on, which was their aim with the Mythoscope hook. During the last half-hour of new material devised to give the story a third act, it feels more like an ’80s James Cameron movie than ’30s horror.

I, too, was put off by the final act during my first viewing. The more times I revisit the movie, the less issues I have with it. If Lovecraft fans were disappointed the first time, I recommend they go back and give it another chance. It’s not entirely the movie I would’ve made – but guess what? It’s not my movie. I love what the HPLHS does and want more people to see their films. So that’s why we’re talking about one of ‘em today.

Brett: So the third act was okay until the airplane came along. We didn’t need the airplane chase or the close-ups on the Mi-go, showing off just how computer animated these monsters were. The very last shot made up for it, though. Odd how I could basically tell where Lovecraft’s story ended without Jeremy telling me, though that helped. Lovecraft always wrote as if he were saying, “Yeah, but their imagination won’t have the budget for that.” Lovercraft never showed things as much as I wanted. You never seem to get a full sense of exactly what the hell was going on with him.

We should make it clear where the story ends and where the movie ends. In the story, our hero, Alfred Wilmarth, is shown that the Mi-go can put brains in metal containers so humans can journey, in spirit, across the cosmos with them. He speaks with a human brain who tries to sell him on all the wonders the Mi-go can show us. Wilmarth discovers soon after that the man, Henry Akeley, who discovered the Mi-go and their followers wasn’t a man at all. It was a Mi-go in a face mask and human prosthetics. Wilmarth runs away back to Arkham to never do anything interesting ever again. Whisperer-1

And in the movie, Wilmarth tries to stop the Mi-go from opening a portal between their world and ours. He’s hurt in a plane crash while doing so and his brain is removed. We then see him as the new sales pitch man, using the exact same words as the last guy, explaining why it would be so cool if we let the Mi-go put our brains into jars.

The tone shifted once the original story ended. I liked the movie overall. There were only a few things that jumped out, but none of them ever spoiled the scene. I found the guy who was just a brain in a jar – who was giving the sales pitch to Wilmarth – pretty goofy, but then it turned out he was supposed to be.

Jeremy: I get where they were going with the third act. Lovecraft was all about the horror of discovery, of digging too deep and learning too much. You can’t end a movie with your protagonist running off into the night after realizing he had a not-so-pleasant chat with a monster in a human suit.

Whisperer is one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, though I’m curious why they chose it for a second film. While the source material reveals a lot about the Cthulhu Mythos, it’s actually a story told on a much smaller scale than his other stories from the period. The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Dunwich Horror, At Mountains of Madness – they all feature something resembling a third act, with some sort of action or chase scene.

My guess is they were realistic enough to acknowledge that Whisperer was the best story to adapt with the resources available. (They’ve made audio dramas for most of the big stories by this point. If you’ve been following us at all, you know how much I dig that.) I wish someone would hand these guys a few million dollars and leave them alone to do their thing. If you’ve seen either one of their movies, you know they can stretch a budget like you would not believe.

Gabby: I am impressed by the movie’s use of its budget.drew-barrymore-as-dylan-sanders They managed to create a terrific looking movie. I say that as a big old horror movie fan (as well as old movies in general). They’re playing right into my wheelhouse with their shot framing, lighting and edits. I too hope they get a really good budget to do another Lovecraft story.

Brett: It’s fine, the story is there in its complete form, they just added a bit. I actually read an interview where the director gave a good justification for the third act. He said that Lovecraft’s stories basically end at what a movie would call act two, that he never knew how to resolve a story, but we’re making a movie here and we have to close it with a third act.

Basically, the same thing you were saying about the horror of his work being in the discovery.

Jeremy: I’m glad we’re starting with the third act, so I can get my quibbles out of the way and move on.

My big problem is the additions made to give Wilmarth some emotional complexity. In theory, I should love that. I care more about character than plot. It’s just these changes don’t add up to much. To start with, they make him more incredulous of the creatures’ existence. Dramatically, that makes sense for a movie, but they seem to be setting up this idea that his faith in science – at least so far as he understands it – is a weakness. If that’s supposed to set up something, it’s a setup with no payoff.

Then there’s giving Wilmarth a dead family to mourn and the introduction of Hannah, a wid5character created for the film. The filmmakers are going for a Ripley/Newt dynamic between the two characters. Don’t get me wrong – the Ripley/Newt bit is a great bit. One of my favorites. The characters don’t have time to form a connection. They don’t meet until the third act and only share a few minutes of screen time.

It occurred to me on this viewing that they set up this relationship as a bit of narrative sleight of hand. Of course they’re going to be fine! They’re gonna become a family!

Nope.

Brett: I kind of liked the ending. I would have been okay with the plane just crashing, though.

Gabby: I really enjoyed the first ending with the plane crash too. I have no idea why they felt the need to add another ending. I thought when it faded to blackout, ‘That ending was neat! I like being unsure what happens ne… oh.. wait… what the fuck is happening? What… what just happened?’

Brett: I kind of thought that would be the end too. However they did need to clear up the fact that he’s narrating the movie. By the way, add this to the short list of movies where the voice over doesn’t detract from the movie. I don’t say it helps, but it doesn’t hurt.

Jeremy: It’s a good example of how to do narration. It’s creating a mood, not covering for gaps in the story.

Gabby: And I agree about painting him as a skeptic. It seemed designed for him to use that book of folklore from the first act to save them, which he became so obsessed with and yet believed as pure fiction. So making a complete turn around in terms of beliefs might be a predictable character arc, but one that seem to be hinted at. But instead, that idea literally gets shot to pieces.

Jeremy: In both versions of the story, the Mi-go and their human cultists steal back all the evidence of their existence from Wilmarth. To me, a “We don’t have to kill you. No one’s gonna believe you…” ending is way more terrifying. Even if the HPLHS had stayed closer to the original ending, they still had to come up with a way for Wilmarth to have a dramatic escape. In a movie, he has to accomplish something, even if it’s a minor victory, like the way he now discovers the Mi-go’s lair and disrupts their ceremony.

And while Wilmarth’s dramatic arc doesn’t entirely work for me, I was surprised on this viewing by how unnerving the real Akeley’s final moments are. He’s summoned back into existence only to discover he’s a brain in a jar and his son’s most likely dead. That’s rough, man. I also appreciate the addition of seeing Akeley’s body hanging in the monsters’ lair like a piece of meat. Getting to see the bullshit the Mi-go are shoveling actually enhances the story for me.

So much of the movie works because of the actors playing Wilmarth and Akeley,images (1) I’m impressed by both of them. Matt Foyer is, like, the perfect Lovecraft protagonist. Barry Lynch gets to be both creepy and sympathetic in dual roles, and he’s great in both of them. The rest of the cast ranges from solid to a little amateurish. But a lot of the cast are amateurs, as I understand it – so it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. This is a movie made out of love, so I’m on board with everyone’s enthusiasm.

Brett: I had no complaints about the actors. Even when they come off as a bit hammy or amateurish, that’s got a lot to do with the style of the time they’re recreating. The sales pitch brain guy is a bit hammy, but his part should be hammy. He should be one of those old stage actors who never really got the idea of acting on film and does everything broad and over expressive.

Jeremy: The first head in the jar is the director, Sean Branney. And the actor playing Charles Fort, the character Wilmarth debates at the beginning of the film, is Andrew Leman, who co-wrote and produced the film with Branney.

Brett: The effects for the guy’s head when he talks to Wilmarth kind of jumped out as being way too modern. It was too clean. Kind of jarring. 

Jeremy: I know they wanted to use practical effects whenever possible, like monster suits and puppetry for the Mi-go. Based on their time and resources, it wasn’t feasible. CGI had to do for the most part.

I really like the design of the Mi-go, especially their mechanical wings and various do-dads. The brain’s sales pitch being such a sales pitch didn’t bother me, though I see where you’re coming from. I know it bugged you during the live-tweet. It reminds me of Wilmarth’s increased skepticism at the beginning: they’re getting it to play dramatically, even if it’s playing to the cheap seats.

And to go back a minute, I can’t imagine ending on just the plane crash. I love that Wilmarth delivers the same exact sales pitch as the previous brain. It leaves you wondering if the brains are reprogrammed somehow or if their experiences traveling to other worlds are too wondrous to deny. Personally, I lean to the former idea.

Brett: It’s not the sales pitch that bothered me. It’s that it looks so much like it was done on a laptop with After Effects and doesn’t match everything we’ve seen until then.

Jeremy: Ah, I get it, yeah. I’m trying to imagine what a ’30s version of that would look like. In the story, it’s a voice coming out of a speaker. That wouldn’t work on film.

Brett: Less clean, more matte lines probably. A little more like Universal’s The Invisible Man. And the head works way better on screen. The fact that the movie was in black and white helped mask that they’re using some cheap computer effects.

Jeremy: Speaking of The Invisible Man, there are some great moments where they capture that classic Universal Horror magic. It’s never scary, but it’s atmospheric as hell all the way through, which is exactly what I want out of classic horror.

Gabby: It is very effective at that at times. One example, for me, was the lead up to the presentation of the first brain in a jar and it transforming into a man’s head.

Jeremy: My favorite scene is the group of learned men assembling in an office and pouring over the evidence Akeley’s son brought to the university.Dscn4251 It gets the closest to evoking Universal Horror. For an exposition scene, it really moves and holds your attention. The actors do a great job of vacillating back and forth between reason and fear – especially Matt Foyer.

Brett: Yeah, the office scene is nearly perfect.

Jeremy: My favorite part of horror movies is the setup, of the possibility of things that go bump in the night. So I eat exposition scenes like this up. Take Stephen King’s short story, 1408: half of it is just one man telling another man about the terrible history of a haunted hotel room. Delicious.

For that reason, the entire first act works for me and works in a big bad way. My only real quibble with the second act is the same one I had with the story: there’s no room to question Noyes (the cult leader) and faux-Akeley’s intentions. Wilmarth seems particularly dense about the whole thing… though maybe that’s what Lovecraft whisperer-in-darknesswas aiming for.

On the other hand, I like that we never hear the story faux-Akeley tells Wilmarth. That tale is basically Cthulhu Mythos porn in the novella – interesting only to die-hard fans. The notion of creatures and horrors too terrible to explain is a big part of Lovecraft – and I like how they preserve that sense of mystery while simultaneously dealing with the proverbial Tom Bombadil in the room.

Gabby: I noticed the vibe they were going for from the opening lohpl1_thumb1go. I admire that choice and think it adds a lot to the movie. I agree that the office scene is really well delivered, especially in capturing that ’30s Universal Horror vibe. I do love classic Universal Horror, so this made me grin a lot.

Jeremy: It’s cool to hear you guys enjoyed this movie, because I was curious if it would work for anyone who wasn’t a Lovecraft fan. Keep in mind where I’m coming from with this. It’s hard to be objective about something that feels made just for you.

Gabby: Have any of you seen Son of Frankenstein?

Jeremy: I have. I’m nuts for Universal Horror and have all those DVD collections with the films for each monster made in the ’30s and ’40s.

Gabby: When the head was raving about how great it is to be chosen, it reminded me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. All the propaganda that could easily connect to communist propaganda and the Red Scare. But then again the first World War was advertised as a chance to fight for your country and gain glory…

Anyway, I ask as Son of Frankenstein has some really beautiful looking shots. At times, the way they lit this was similar. I really love that old-fashioned craft of cinematography, seen with the use of shadow across the characters’ faces. The encounter with the monsters really went for the King Kong vibe.

Jeremy: That’s a great observation, Gabby. I’ve always john-carter-mars11thought the plane chase was a little out of time, but you’re right: it’s right there in King Kong.

Gabby: Anyone else get a ’50s sci-fi vibe with the brains in jars? I can tell Lovecraft was ahead of his time. What did people think when this story was first published? I found that an odd transition though.

Also, I was getting more of The Village of the Damned vibe off that young girl…

Brett: Frequently, at that time anyway, books were 10-20 years ahead of the movies. Most the film noir from the ’40s and ’50s was based on stories and books published in the ’20s and ’30s. Same with sci-fi. Interestingly, Lovecraft was one of the best kept secrets for a long, long time. He influenced lots of writers, but his work didn’t really get much popular exposure until the last 20 years or so.

Jeremy: Speaking of which, Gabby, you mentioned not having any experience with Lovecraft before this. Does this pique your interest at all for reading his stories?

Gabby: It does for sure. As we were speaking about this movie I have wanted to read the original story. So I have been reading it on and off throughout today. I think I will be delving into his works more this year.

Jeremy: I’m happy to hear that. Just keep in mind that he’s kind of a racist monster who created incredible monsters.

Brett: There are shockingly few movies based on his works. So many other writers were influenced by him though. He’s like the Mötorhead of horror.

Jeremy: I would amend that to there are very few faithful adaptions, that keep the spirit of the stories and set them in their proper time period. Even the more notable movies baring his name – The Dunwich Horror, Re-Animator – are loosely based on his stories at best. I’m not a purist by any means – but you lose a lot by taking these stories out of a time where technology was on the cusp of making our world feel smaller and less unknown.

Gabby: In a similar way that War of the Worlds was published in the age of the Industrial Revolution and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Where people started questioning and reshaping their religious beliefs.

Jeremy: And to your question about how the story was initially received. Lovecraft’s imagination was ahead of its time, his values were not. From what I’ve read, this story and At the Mountains of Madness were difficult sells for the pulps, since they explicitly say the monsters aren’t monsters and are, in fact, aliens. These stories were supposedly too sci-fi for the weird fiction magazines and too weird fiction for the sci-fi rags.

Wow, I just realized that this is our longest discussion yet. We better wrap this up. Final thoughts, everyone?

Gabby: My last thoughts: this film is definitely worth a look. They put a lot of effort in and it shows. Though not a big fan of the last few minutes of the film, the rest of it has an atmosphere and visual design that adds a lot. On top of that, I enjoyed the performances and the fun way they approached the story. It’s bonkers. In a good way.

Brett: I don’t dislike the movie. I think it’s pretty good, but, yeah, it would have been that much better if they kept the tone consistent.

Jeremy: What more can I say? The mixture of old and new sensibilities doesn’t entirely mesh, but goddamn, do I love this movie. There’s more passion and enthusiasm on display here than in most of the movies we covered. May the Dark Gods of Old bless the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

And this ends our round of movies based on pulp/weird fiction. It’s been a blast. We’ll back soon, talking about three sequels to blockbuster summer movies. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter or leave us a comment below.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

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Hidden Gems: Starman (1984)

Josh, Albert and I are big Carpenter fans. So we sat down to discuss a treasure to us, his film Starman.

Gabby: Would you consider Starman an underrated, overlooked or even largely forgotten or undiscovered?  Especially for those who did not see it in its original releases (including DVD and BluRay) or are big Carpenter nerds (I’m looking at you Albert).I have listened and read many Carpenter discussions from film critics and Starman hardly ever gets mentioned. It seems such a shame to me as it is a truly beautiful movie. Why do you think this might be?

Josh: I don’t know that the movie is forgotten (it did even inspire a short-lived TV series) but it doesn’t seem to get talked about much in relation to Carpenter’s body of work. Fans tend to reject it when directors they love for one genre dip their toes into any other (see also Wes Craven’s criminally underrated Music of the Heart) and it’s unfortunate. I still hold out hope that we’ll get to see him do an honest-to-god horses-and-six-guns western before our planet is plunged into darkness, but I doubt it could ever happen because there’s no audience for non-horror John Carpenter. Hell, even his last horror movie made no money, so who knows what his audience would come out for? I was a kid when Starman came out, so I don’t know what the reception was like at the time, but it’s strange to see such a sweetly optimistic movie from a guy who spent so much of his career delivering bleakness. I was glad that Charles Martin Smith never turned heel, as most other movies would have forced his character to do. That alone shows a faith in humanity that much of Carpenter’s other work lacks. I like this side of him, this filmmaker who wears his heart on his sleeve. That being said, what do you two think of the sentimentality at the heart of this movie? Do you think it works or do you think it’s just Carpenter trying to distance himself from the perceived failure of The Thing?

Albert: In my opinion, Starman is most definitely an underrated AND overlooked movie in The Horror Master’s resume, and that right there would be exactly why. It’s technically a kinder, gentler JC, yes — but as a film it’s simply a beautiful meditation on love and loss seen through a sci-fi road trip prism.900x900px-LL-b92143b7_Karen_Allen_Starman_18 I absolutely adore it; there’s a scene in it that makes me cry, each and every time I see it…I will elaborate later on that. I think the reason so many people write it off is more than just horror geeks not liking that one of their heroes made a movie about (ugh) romance and emotional recovery, but more than that, that he was simply a director for hire and as such they shouldn’t take it seriously. As if the thought process is, “well, he didn’t develop it so it must mean nothing to him personally and as such I don’t accept it as a REAL entry in his resume.” Sorry to say, that viewpoint is more than a little bit of bullshit. Yes, he was Christine technically a director for hire, but the same could be said about his previous movie. Or any number of his films; Carpenter is, first and foremost, known as a professional.

Even if he’s hired on and develops his relationship to the material from that point, after it’s already been floating around Hollywood for a while (which was the case here — Columbia and Universal actually switched properties a few years previous, each of them having a project they couldn’t make work for whatever reason and wanting the other instead…that other project became a little movie you may have heard of called E.T), he brings his own sensibilities to the piece. I feel that the viewpoint he brought wasn’t just inherent to the story (but I’d say that the script by Raynold Gideon & Bruce A. Evans is fantastic and the emotional aspect comes honestly) but something he knew had to be present. I never saw it so much as “I’m sorry for The Thing, let me make a nicer alien movie” as it was just “this is the movie I’m making, from a great script, and I’m going to do my job to be as honest to the story and characters as I can because that’s what I do.”

I could be wrong; it could completely be an apology for the perceived insult The Thing threw at audiences starman(most people in 1982 were pussies, apparently) but it never felt that way to me, which says a lot about not just his skill as a director and storyteller, but the cast he brought together to bring it off. In fact, I’d say this movie throws one specific fact into stark relief — Carpenter is most underrated for his work with actors and the performances he gets from them. It would feel disingenuous to claim that he just hires people and lets them do their thing (although knowing who to cast is at least half the work and a skill in its own right).

The performances by Bridges and Allen are magnificent, without a single false note or wrong turn, and as talented as those two actors are I think we must give some credit to Carpenter for shaping those performances into the gems that they are. I’d put this alongside Fearless as the single greatest turn Bridges ever gave; watch those two flicks back-to-back and you are seeing a man operate at the highest levels of his profession. Where he begins with the character of Starman and where he ends…it’s just amazing. You really feel like you’re watching a human body operated by a being who doesn’t understand the human body.

It’s uncertain but that changes; it’s new and becomes more comfortable as the story goes on. His movements — almost bird-like — feel like a consciousness that has never inhabited such a thing before, and it’s masterful to observe.tumblr_n8cvo9tCam1sfbwo2o1_r1_1280 Allen, though…she steals my heart. Every time out, she is so real and broken but not ruined and stronger than she thinks and finds that capacity within herself that she thought she’d lost forever — to love again — and she sells it in every scene. The final shot of just her face, eyes blinking as the light plays across, changing, as the score swells, well…it just gets to me (it is not the scene that always makes me leak, although I’d be a liar if I said it doesn’t make me cry some viewings). I adore it, and her. If I hadn’t already been nursing a crush on her from her participation in the greatest movie ever made (that’d be Raiders of the Lost Ark, for the savages among you) seeing her so beautifully inhabit Jenny Hayden would have more than done it for my 9-year old self in the theater that night. That’d be something I would be very curious to hear both of your thoughts on — if you feel Carpenter doesn’t get enough love for his directing as far as performance is concerned. I mean, obviously anyone with eyes and ears can watch his films and see the craftwork that’s present, but less people praise him for the acting his cast gives the films.

Gabby: I highly agree with you Josh when you talk about the optimism in this movie. Jeff Bridges’ character as an alien to this planet starts off saying that we are a primitive race. But by the end, he sees humans as beautiful. I think his speech to the cop about why he thinks this is one of the most moving scenes in the film.

I think that it might be sentimental but it is so sincere. It doesn’t paint everyone as good, but flawed. Some more so than others, whilst some more willing to love and accept. Such as that wonderfully warm woman in the diner. I think the dealings with core and complex feelings like love and loss through the prism of a non-human gaze makes this more dynamic than sentimental.

That is a wonderful way of putting Albert; “emotional recovery”. I adore the two lead performances here. I agree Albert that Karen Allen is the heart and soul of this film. She handles this complex recovery with grace. What are your thoughts on their performances Josh? Some of the subtleties with the way she uses her face, particularly her eyes, are heart-breaking.

I really can’t think why Carpenter doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to coax great performers. This film alone should prove he deserves it.

So tell us about the scene you shed tears Albert!

Albert: It’s a wonderful thing, the optimism in the movie. Especially coming from Carpenter, who doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of faith in people as a whole (which I get, seeing as I view myself as a cautiously cockeyed optimistic).tumblr_n2ly24uajf1rml3nvo2_1280 There’s still some of that here, mostly in the fact that the US military’s first reaction is to dissect Starman and more immediately see him as a threat. I think the reaction Charles Martin Smith has when he says indignantly “we invited him HERE!” pretty much sums up our viewpoint towards that, as well as the filmmakers. But the urge — and ability, most importantly — to see the good in people saves the day, ultimately. People go out of their way to help them; the hot rod kid, the waitress Gabby mentioned, and Sherman in the climax and others do not have to help these people, and do. It’s heart-warming without being cloying or manipulative.

Some may not feel the scene that makes me cry gets away with that, but I find it to be honest, moving, and powerful on a very deep (almost primal) level. It’s the moment where, through the diner window, Jenny sees Starman use one of his magic marbles to resurrect the dead deer lashed to the hood of the asshole hunters’ car. I literally cannot watch it without my heart swelling and my eyes filling; I have tried, and failed, to do so on multiple occasions (mostly when I’m in a room with guy friends, but it always ends the same and I always think “well, fuck it, they know I cry now, so what”) but the sincerity and beauty of that scene is overwhelming to me.

Here’s a being who wouldn’t understand why we would do something so barbaric and pass it off as sport and chooses to reverse a wrong that’s been done to a living creature, one that didn’t deserve to lose its life in that way. I’m not a vegetarian and I don’t judge people who hunt to feed themselves and their families, but that particular group of pricks seem like the sort who enjoy killing things for the sheer fun of it, and I do judge the FUCK out of those people. So when Starman waves his hand, the deer stirs and falls to the ground like a new-born before rising and disappearing into the woods, yes — I cry (my eyes are itching writing this, to be honest). It’s one of my favorite moments in any film I’ve ever seen, and that’s due to the simple beauty of it. There’s others that get me sometimes, depending on my mood.

The scene you mentioned, Gabby — where Starman says that what he finds most amazing about our species is that we are at our very best when things are worst…that’s incredibly affecting to me,1764-2 because I know that the best of us (and even sometimes the worst) are capable of just that, if we try. It’s what we should all strive for. Basically…people who think John Carpenter is a one trick pony who relies on latex and fake blood to tell a story without any substance or heart can suck it, is what I’m saying. This is a flick I saw for the first time at 9 years old and immediately loved. LOVED. Maybe I was just a weird kid (this is not an action-packed sci-fi adventure, exactly, and a lot of kids might not be into it) but I like to think it was that Starman is a good story told well, and the emotional impact of it is something that many people could and can respond to. What about you guys? Am I the only one who found himself in a room that suddenly got dusty while watching the movie?

Josh: Yeah, it’s awfully dusty in here too. Must be those space-marbles, they do kick up some dust don’t they? As far as the military wanting to dissect him, that’s par for the course for alien movies, friendly aliens or otherwise. Even ALF was on the run from Uncle Sam. What I appreciate is that Charles Martin Smith in almost any other movie would have seemed like he was on the side of the angels until all of a sudden he wasn’t because the script says so. I love that they didn’t use that particular cliché.

Albert, you’re spot on about the other “good guy” characters not coming across as cloying, which is another easy pitfall of movies like this. Karen Allen is luminous and I will not hear a word spoken against her, so just in case let’s jump straight to Jeff Bridges: what do you two think of his performance? I know he was nominated for an Oscar, but I also know Kim Basinger actually won one of those things so…do you think he deserved the acclaim? I like his stilted speech patterns but sometimes he seems a bit too “actorly” for me, like he’s trying too hard to say things the way a human wouldn’t. I’m not saying he’s bad, not by a long stretch, I think he’s very good, there are just a couple of moments where it felt forced to me. Have either of you seen the TV show? I haven’t in years so I don’t remember much about Robert Hays’ performance but I don’t recall it being quite as broad. I may be completely off-base, though.

Gabby: I too think Jeff Bridges’ performance is too “actorly” but the moments when he truly connects with Karen Allen are very touching though. I think that is a testament to how much heart she pours into this, it would be hard not to connect to that as an actor, or as a human being for that matter. I never saw the TV show but it definitely got a bit dusty in the film for me too. What are your thoughts on why this movie should be continued to be seen, revisited and introduced to audiences?

Albert: Bridges and Allen are beautiful together, that’s what I see and know and remember about the movie. I remember the sense of wonder it gave me as a child, and not from huge special effects or spaceships or the like; it was from a connection with the characters and the feeling of something otherworldly learning about our planet. As with the best fiction, it finds the truth inside that, and by showing us how the Starman sees us and our world, we see it ourselves in a new or different light. That’s always a great thing, in my opinion. Reasons like that — not just the subtle, confident storytelling or the top-notch acting — are what keep me coming back to the flick. It’s why I’ve seen it about 25 times over the course of my life, and will watch it at least 25 more. It is emotionally honest, and entertaining as it is so. That’s rare.

Josh: Albert, I’m glad you mentioned that about connecting to someone learning about our world, because that’s the thing that stands out most to me with Starman. There are so many sci-fi movies that attempt to capture that but most end up being…well, K-Pax (apologies to Jeff Bridges). Starman lets us feel wonder along with him without turning into syrupy treacle and that would have been such an easy trap to fall into. It absolutely deserves to be seen or revisited. if only to show that John Carpenter, master of bleak terror, has a heart.

Gabby: In addition to what both of you have mentioned,14 I believe that Karen Allen is able to perform the idea of grief and alienation so beautifully as well as Carpenter portraying it with all his soul for everyone to see. I think he is so much himself here, it is a great treat to see each time you do and think will always be so. The questions raised in the film such as how do we deal with grief, loss, love, loneliness and what it means to be human are so beautifully raised and these are eternal questions that will keep this film relevant for many years to come.

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Hidden Gems: Elena Undone (2010)

Jon Rutledge (Fat Samurai) joins me in the first selection for Outside the Frame’s Hidden Gems. This thread will seek to discuss movies, that other contributors or I will select, to advocate as underrated or overlooked. The first pick is a favourite of mine, the widely unseen Nicole Conn film, Elena Undone.

Gabby: I have a big love of finding independent film companies online and whilst seeking a new one I discovered Wolfe video. This is a site and company that sells and supports LGBT films as well as making them. I remember following Wolfe on youtube as I do like seeing stuff they have coming. I remember being excited by the look of Elena Undone and was pleasantly surprised by the impression that there were dynamic characters there. So I thought it was definitely go to be at least something to look out for. It was your first experience with this film, what were your initial thoughts?

Jon: Wow….just wow. The writing is well done, it has depth to characters. The core message is love and passion exists regardless of the gender and race. Almost like a more inclusive When Harry Met Sally. The interludes with real live couples of all mixes talking about how they found love was a very nice touch. I do want to get into some of the elements I didn’t care for. Or really thought were ham handed in their execution.

Gabby: I agree there are quite a few! On the other hand, I go back to it quite a lot due to the two main characters being layered and interesting to spend time with.

Jon: Absolutely. I would love to have them over for a dinner part or a picnic; they seem like people who would be genuinely great people and fun to be with. They are interesting and engaging. Sam Harris is outstanding and the narrator. 20100708_inq_dm1qfest08z-aHaving him walking us through the stages of finding true love gives a nice break in the acts. His work sounds interesting I want to take his seminar because it sounds like a blast. I have found the love of my life but someone so passionate about their work is very engaging. He is also a great friend to Elena compared to Payton’s friend, Wave, who almost kills the passion that she has at every turn. I can understand warning caution and worrying about where it will end, but you should at least celebrate the happiness that your friend is having. Why take that away from her? I want Tyler in my corner over Wave.

Gabby: Wave for me is cynical, but she is very protective of Peyton. She is a friend, honest, maybe blunt, but at least has her back. I really like the touch of the true stories as well. Rasheed and Ari’s story is one of my favourites. They are so sincere.

Tyler is an amazing friend and I think we get to see him as a character makes a lot of that narration work. Tyler could have easily be a downfall of the movie in seeming contrived with narration and some cheesy lines but as we see his character we see how sincere he is in what he is saying. I don’t think it is laziness I think it is that character. I would love him as a friend and to listen to him talk about his work more. I do love seeing people who are good at their jobs and in this film we have three!

Could you elaborate on some of those issues you have with the film?

Jon: One of the biggest points of discomfort for me was the infidelity. The cheating takes away from the beauty of the relationship, regardless of the gender combinations. I felt bad for Elena’s family. There is also the addition of Elena having a baby at the end. That seemed shoehorned in there. We know that Peyton wanted a child but did she want to go through the motherhood experience and feel the life growing inside her? Did Elena take that away from her with the surprise news of her pregnancy?

Gabby: To your second point, we know Peyton wanted a child but we also know she was adopting. She has ways of doing this if she does want to be pregnant first. She also has ways of getting another child after Elena has had one. I think it is a different thing though to want pregnancy. In this day and age we can talk about these things separately as not everyone wants to be pregnant even if they do want a child and with many children needing homes that is a beautiful thing.

The movie shows Peyton dealing with a mental health problem. maxresdefaultI think anyone with one can be pregnant of course, it is their body, choice and responsibility. With the right support they would do as well as anyone else. But, we come to understand the type of person Peyton is. She takes responsibility with her illness; she takes her meds and talks about it. She knows that just because a baby wasn’t growing inside her, it can still be hers without the risk of huge hormone problems that people like Peyton would have, especially post pregnancy.

Jon: Very true. Peyton’s desire for children is the end goal; I forgot her struggle with that. And Elena did say she was trying for a child. Very true. It still felt like it was added only to show that Elena’s son was OK with his mother’s choice and supports her relationship; when he went to Payton and telling her that she needs her could have been done without having the pregnancy. What did the baby add to the story? And why the Six moth gap with no contact?

Gabby: I think that it wasn’t really tagged on as it is brought up a lot throughout though I see what you mean as that six month part was a bit bothersome for me too. To go back to your first problem though, the fidelity, that really is a moral grey area that, for me, you have to look on case by case basis. In principle infidelity is wrong. Now I am not going to make a point that it isn’t because it always hurts someone. However, we can still understand a lot of situations, in films, as to how and why this person cheats on someone. In this film, it is Elena’s inability to communicate with Barry. I think the character isn’t a bad or evil husband, he just has beliefs I happen to find incredibly awful. Does he deserve that? No. But he couldn’t expect a marriage or relationship to last when I feel he didn’t really care about Elena’s true feelings. He saw a surface and didn’t push past it. The lack of ability for him to relate to her means to mean that fell out of love with her and they drifted apart a while before we meet them.

Something I appreciate on this matter is how the film emphasises that Elena doesn’t cheat on Barry in haste or because of his coldness but because she doesn’t connect to him and vice versa. eleI don’t like it when movies imply that makes it okay to cheat, especially when it seems that whe they reduce the moral grey to the fact they are the same gender. It is insulting to all types of people. Whereas, in this film, Elena falls in love with someone who just happens to be a woman. Instead of judging them, or disregarding the infidelity part, it tried to show the two leads moral struggles with their situation.

Jon: I felt that after they realized the connection they should have taken steps after that. I agree that gender is not a factor because this passion between these two could happen to anyone. You opened the conversation up about the husband so I am going to spend some time talking about his performance and character. Firstly the character- We got absolutely no time with him and what he thought about his marriage. We see him as an empty 50’s stereotypical father figure who stands for outdated social beliefs. But did he feel the love leave his relationship, or was he blissfully ignorant of how she was feeling? If he knew she was unhappy and did nothing about it than totally his jerk face fault. But if he is clueless it almost makes the cheating worse.

It takes two to make a relationship work, if he wasn’t picking up on the signals that she was unhappy she needs to tell him. All that aside I think that the way they did the relationship between Peyton and Elena is real, it feel like a genuine organic way that a relationship grows. Now on to the performance- Gary Weeks was wooden in this role. Every scene that he had was lacking in any sort of depth of emotion. That could be because he was directed to play it that way but either way when he walked on screen he brought the emotional level down. His sermons were delivered with all the passion of a corpse. I want to see something else he has done to see if it was the role or the performer.

Gabby One of the biggest problems I have with his character is that he is a bigot, preaching at people on how to live. He is saying how these people are ruining his life but he is encouraging hatred. He also has a control over Elena that is unsettling. I’ve thought about it and think it is almost emotional abuse. When that is involved I think this dynamic makes a lot of sense.

Regardless of any of that, I really agree that the way the relationship between Elena and Peyton develops feels organic. Morally they might be doing something frowned upon, but that is how people work much more often in life and I feel this makes it very easy to sympathise. To me, he elenaundonewineisn’t a stereotypical 50s husband. His son points why he has no passionate around his sermons. He’s acting, he doesn’t feel it, not really. I think that is his character. Just a big wall up due to his preoccupation with social norms and beliefs we know weren’t always there. I don’t feel sorry for him because he takes it out on others. He is superior and narrow minded but also, it might sound odd, but I like the fact he is dull. Not everyone in life is dynamic and I think the other secondary characters here do get dynamics to make up for it.

I do think Barry stifles Elena in an emotionally abusive way and I’m not sure he even realises he is doing it. As someone who has gone through emotional abuse, I know it may not look like much on this occasion, but I think the film shows enough subtle comments or actions from Barry and their effect on Elena to make us understand that feeling she describes of being like a mummy.

Jon: I would agree with that. He is not doing it to be evil he is doing it because he is programmed that way. He is really a small pitiful person who keeps Elena under his control.

You said before that he tells people how to live, that’s kind of the point of that type of church. Well any religion really. They set out rules that they want their congregation to live by, we left a church because they were forcing us to live a way that didn’t fit with our lifestyle. In that respect, the character is well played because he needs to be the negative influence in Elena’s life. And as a plot device he is well fitted but still very poorly performed.

Gabby: I really want to know your thoughts on your wow reaction.

Jon Rutledge: I have never seen a film that captures the sheer emotion of honest love. I admit that I am not well versed in romance films but I can’t think of one that has that much energy between characters. The beauty of this film is that it’s theme of pure love regardless of who it’s with rings true and seeing that is awe inspiring. A movie that highlights the emotion over the people feeling it is what really spoke to me.

The only other same sex relationship movie I’ve seen is Brokeback Mountain and the central theme to that film was: look what happens to people who fall in love with a person from the same sex. It was more focused on the Tragedy. As I think about it, maybe the rest of the characters in Elena Undone were emotionally played down to bring the spark of passion to a higher level in contrast.

Gabby: It really does illustrate that spark It gets to the beginnings of intimacy and shows how these two are emotionally and intellectually right for each despite being quite different.#ton I think Elena has spent her whole life worried about what others might think. She has not done this consciously because there has been a huge expectation on her to follow the rules. I think she lost her love of the world around her by not engaging with who she is as well as a few taking advantage of that by keeping her there. I think it takes someone like Peyton, who wears her heart on her sleeve, to allow Elena to begin to show herself.

I love the depth of Peyton and she is wonderfully played by Traci Dinwiddie. The fact that her agoraphobia is just part of her character as a whole is incredibly rare. You can the subtly of that anxiety coming into play within the performance. Slight gestures here and there, such as fiddling with her cutlery too much before sighing and fighting with her hands out of frustration or whether it is being afraid of becoming emotionally vulnerable when telling Elena about her feelings towards her. Wanting to avoid it is a very typical problem with anxiety sufferers but I also think it is something that anyone can relate to as well. It is one of the most honest looks at what it is like to have an anxiety disorder I have seen. You could miss it entirely on a first viewing, but you can also start picking it up on it on a repeated one. That is the reality of how it manifests in real people. Peyton is so real to me. I admire her courage to try overcome her past as well as her ability to try and deal with this new situation. Also, Elena’s ability to make her realize she is worthy of love.

Jon: Peyton is a wonderful character. Her relationship gives her strength, not in a way that is co-dependent, but through that love, it gives her a feeling of worth. Its infections and she is stronger in the long run. You are right about the subtleties of Dinwiddie’s performance. It is the small touches that really sell the transition from the start of the film to the end.

Elena is very brave in following her passions and gambling elena-undone-chemistryeverything in the name of the love. To see her transformation is wonderful to see. How she realizes and accepts her love. Their first kiss was magical. In The Princess Bride they say that Wesley and Buttercup’s kiss was number one in the top five. I think this one gave them a run for their money.

What are your favourite movie kisses? Give a comment below or join the discussion on our facebook group!