Monday, December 11, 2017

The Ugly Americans


As an American who lived abroad for a few years during my twenties, I can safely say that yankee expats can sometimes be the worst. While I like to think I was generally respectful and open to the cultures I was experiencing, I also spent a drunken dinner or two with a variety of fellow non-natives who didn't always charm those around them. Watching 1979's bizarre Bloodbath, I witnessed a nightmare version of those days. 


Thankfully, Dennis Hopper never taught ESL at any of my schools.

Quick Plot: A gaggle of awful Americans party together on a mysterious and beautiful Spanish island. Chicken (Hopper in full loon mode) shoots heroin and makes racist jokes. Treasure Evans (the treasure that is Carroll Baker) is a washed up movie star who kills time with booze and local men while waiting for her agent to call. Finally there's Allen (screenwriter Win Wells), a gay hedonist looking for just the right young fellow to seduce.


As our ugly Americans frolic and sin their way across the island, the locals take part in their own mysterious traditions, from child marriage to child sacrifice. A caravan of hippies arrive just as things start getting truly weird, with hallucinations and dead bodies turning up every scenic way you turn.


Directed by Silvio Narizzano, Bloodbath (aka The Sky Is Falling, which makes a whole lot more sense in terms of a character being named Chicken) is a surreal, strange little movie that plays with religious iconography and Manson-esque cult violence. The oddest thing about it (of which, seriously, there are many) is that for being such a product of the late '60s/early '70s, it comes with a 1979 date.

I don't know how much I can say I enjoyed Bloodbath, but it certainly was an experience not like much else. For Dennis Hopper, however, I'm guessing it was pretty much casual Friday.


High Points
It's always a pleasure to see Carroll Baker, but it's even more of one when she gets such a juicy mess of a person to play


Low Points
It may be more Amazon's fault than the film's, but it's a shame that the visual quality feels so compromised

Lessons Learned
Never call a snotty Britishman an expatriate if he's simply living abroad

Real pearls are what you would call "proper'

There are few things worse than a white expat with easy access to liquor


Rent/Bury/Buy
Bloodbath is certainly not for everybody, but if you're looking for something way off the beaten path, it's definitely one to try. You can find a poorly lit grainy version streaming on Amazon Prime if your eyes are up for it.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Time Traveler's Abs


Back when I watched The Butterfly Effect 2, I was angry. Here was a case of a potential franchise with a good central premise being applied in the worst possible way on the least possible interesting characters and situation. 


While it's far from a masterpiece, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (because every franchise eventually needs an entry subtitled "Revelations") makes a batch of good decisions that put its predecessor to shame. Easy tip for new filmmakers: want people to enjoy your movie? Don't center it on a white millennial startup tech salesman.

Quick Plot: Sam is a handsome young butterfly effector. Somewhere between presumed four hour ab workouts, he finds the time to assist police on murder cases by butterfly effecting and care for his agoraphobic sister Jenna. Advising him is a friendly weed dealer/former high school teacher named Goldberg who somehow knows a thing or two about butterfly effecting and when not to do it...namely, if it involves saving someone close to you from a violent death.


Some years earlier, Sam made that very mistake, going back in time to spare his sister from a house fire only to lose his parents in the tradeoff. Now a somewhat happy and well-adjusted young man, Sam's life is rocked once again when the sister of his brutally murdered high school girlfriend comes to remind him that there's an innocent man on death row.

Against all common sense and rules of butterfly effecting, Sam heads back to the scene of the crime. In the process, the murder adds another victim and seems to officially launch the birth of a serial killer who continues to take the lives of other young women. Sam continues to butterfly effect at various points in the past, disrupting his life and status each time.

But never his four-hour ab workouts

Like Part 2, The Butterfly Effect 3 (REVELATIONS!) has nothing to do with the rest of the franchise, which is perfectly fine. The other key part to that is how it trusts its audience enough to not dwell on the details of butterfly effecting, assuming (probably rightfully) that they've seen the first film and get the general gist. In a world where every superhero movie has to be an origin story, this is refreshing.


At right around 90 minutes long, the story moves quite well, wasting no time on subplots. Directed by Seth Grossman from a script by Holly Brix, it plays like a straight murder mystery with a much more standard horror movie feel than the other installments. It even makes intense use of its Detroit setting, milking the city's reputation for crime and abandonment several years before It Follows and Don't Breathe. When you add that with the ridiculous (in a good way) twist ending, you end up with something far more satisfying than you'd expect...especially if you suffered through the slog that was The Butterfly Effect 2. 


High Points
I won't reveal it here, but the aforementioned ending is rather glorious, and the subsequent coda has a weirdly black comedic tone that makes the movie feel a little more memorable than your typical third installment


Low Points
At the risk of spoiling a big reveal, there's a sparseness (which might be a nice way of saying low budgetness) about The Butterfly Effect 3 that keeps the cast of characters so slim that our suspect list can't help but limit the surprise factor

Lessons Learned
Detroit is such a dangerous place that even a bear trap will get you when you least expect it

Seeing your mother bludgeoned to death will not leave you unharmed

Proper butterfly effecting requires a steady supply of ice cubes and journals


Rent/Bury/Buy

While it's probably a little below par of the first Butterfly Effect, Revelations is still a decent and engaging watch (and it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway: miles better than part 2). It's streaming on Amazon Prime and requires no familiarity with any of the other films. If you're looking for a darker crime thriller version of the first film, go for it.