No Horror But the Class Horror: Short movie reviews with an unexpected theme

Compulsion: The other, other Leopold and Loeb flick (after Rope and Swoon, although idk, maybe Swoon is one of those things Only 90s Kids Will Remember) and it’s definitely worth watching if that sounds like your bag. Unlike Rope, Compulsion focuses on the social context: Prohibition–the law that everybody was above!–and the Golden Age of the gutter press. The KKK burning a cross outside the Clarence Darrow-analogue’s window. The fake surnames in this one are super Jewish, is what I’m saying.

You need a reasonably strong stomach for ’50s psychosexual expertise, but this doesn’t reach Psycho levels of overexplaining. Dean Stockwell as the submissive one in the master/servant dynamic (where do they get this? Rope does it too) is probably my favorite, and clearly the pet of the narrative as well, since he’s the one to whom Darrowish delivers his hilariously hypocritical Christian sermon at the end. (An anti-death penalty speech which is basically a series of fallacious arguments in the service of genuine hope and redemption.) Man, the way Stockwell closes his eyes when Darrowguy (ORSON WELLES BTW) strides in all, “Don’t speak to anybody but me, boys! I’m in charge here!” Thank God, you can see him think, somebody to give me orders who isn’t a complete psychopath!

The Box: Spoilers aplenty in the next two paragraphs.

James Marsden (but you can see his weird eyes, so it’s difficult for me) in a genre-twisting sci-fi thriller by the guy who did Donnie Darko. I am willing to watch DD at least a million times but this one is in a weird way too simple. Too many curlicues of elaborately creepy mystery, too much frosting, covering up an extremely simple Twilight Zone-type tale of aliens imposing a moral test on a bunch of people who fail it.

It’s a bad sign that to me the most interesting question raised by this movie is whether it was a mistake to make the central couple’s money woes so non-dire. Like, they kill a man to keep their kid out of public school. In 1970s Richmond! I sort of think that’s brilliant, as a scriptwriting choice.

Lost Highway: This one otoh really is as weird as it appears to be. A David Lynch joint, melding noir and horror, in some ways reminiscent of Memento (that’s probably a super declasse comparison). I initially thought this is a movie about how even innocent good people are in some deeper existential sense evil and deserve punishment, plus also Satan is prince and ruler of the earth; I’m totally down for that, but the more Lynch-savvy friend who showed us this thing convinced me that that’s not what’s happening. He did suggest that one thing this may be is a depiction of our longing for justice when we’ve done wrong–our longing for punishment. This too I’m extremely down for.

On the one hand, I generally love “Hollywood is pornography is vampirism/Satanism” tales (especially since they’re so often made by self-hating people who love movies, HI THERE), and a lot of this movie either is that narrative or borrows heavily from it. On the other hand, be aware that as my Lynch-loving friend said afterward, in some embarrassment, “I forgot how much sex there is in this movie.” And often fairly porny sex imo. It’s an awkward one to watch with friends, is my point. (Or maybe my point is that there’s a fine line between satire and replica.)

Cheap Thrills: Another Netflix-streaming horror flick where a family man in financial desperation agrees to play a horrible rich person’s game of increasingly degrading and dangerous dares for money. I liked that movie when it was 13 Sins and I like it here too. This flick isn’t as narratively ambitious as 13 Sins and doesn’t have the terrific opening set-piece. But it offers an intensely painful depiction of poor people attacking one another and using the concept of “deserving” against one another. A feel-bad movie.

“#Horror”: Lololol. Okay, so ignore the fact that it is seriously titled HASHTAG HORROR and spend some time wallowing in this ridiculous flick. On one level it’s a slasher film about a pack of horrible twelve-year-old girls who bully each other, use bullying accusations as a means of further bullying, rack up points on weird social media games, and have more money than SSRI prescriptions (which is a lot of money). On another level this is a hilarious parade of insane modern art (Julian Schnabel is in the credits!), Chloe Sevigny wearing some kind of paper-plane stole, glitzy luxury, and twelve-year-olds in creepy masks. It’s faboo and makes very little sense.

I didn’t find it as emotionally honest as the Deadly Doll did, but I did think the portrayal of both girls and adults narcotized and drained by their phones was pretty raw and emotionally realistic. I do also like that the girls are as astonishingly self-centered and melodramatic as real ones, but they’re not pure caricatures. They’re real people at a cartoonish age.

The adults are basically villains, which is fine, that’s how these movies work. Chloe S’s character is a monster of 12-steppery as narcissistic “self-care.” I love that stuff, because I always love it when people beat up on things I believe in, as long as they’re doing it nihilistically and not because they think they’ve found some better alternative.

I agree with the DD that you’ll know quickly whether this thing is for you. If once you’ve seen the mansion and its art you’re not like, “YES put it in my FACE” then you will probably not enjoy this.

The Baby: Let’s end on an extremely disturbing note! Four women in four different genres of gloriously 1970s clothing fight over the fate of Baby, a grown man being treated as an infant. I do not even know what to say about this except that it is definitely a horror (or semi-horror; the excellent theme music hints at tragedy, lost hopes and warped lives) movie about a grown man having his diaper changed and subversively trying to learn to stand up. You want to impose some kind of theme or satirical edge on this cavalcade of wrongness, like, this is women’s revenge on unreliable or simply too-vulnerable men, but honestly, when I finished this thing my only thought was, That was Messed. Up.

Kindertrauma loves this joint (SPOILERS) and I can see why. It certainly displays, she said carefully, an individual vision.

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