Sunday, September 28, 2014

Don't Look Now

By: Steven Johnston

5 Stars

Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now is an absolutely brilliant film.  It not only succeeds as an occult thriller, but it’s also a sensitively made marital drama and a sober meditation on grief.  Those are three genres that don’t often go well together, but in the hands of Roeg, those three genres become aspects of a narrative whole that not only work independently, but also enhance each other – like flavors in a complex wine.

Don’t Look Now tells the story of John and Laura Baxter, played by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie respectively, and their children, Christine and Johnny.  They live in England, seemingly happily, until Christine falls into a pond and drowns despite John’s best efforts.  Her death not only haunts the rest of the film, but drives a wedge of isolation between the remaining Baxters – or perhaps it only enhances one that already existed.

John and Laura send Johnny off to school.  John accepts a job restoring an ancient church in Venice, and Laura accompanies him to Venice.  As filmed by Roeg, Venice, a city most often viewed romantically with sun dappled canals is at its loneliest and most isolating throughout Don’t Look Now.  For instance, those same canals that so often previously evoked romance cut John off from Laura when she’s standing on the opposite bank.  They represent a gulf not easily crossed that seems to separate husband and wife in a way no mere street ever could.  Venice is also curiously empty, and the citizens we do meet like the Bishop, the Medium, and the Inspector do nothing to discourage the isolation felt by John, Laura, and the audience. Adding to the ominous nature of the proceedings, Venice is haunted by a serial killer, and its buildings are shaded with elegant decay and seem poised to drag John and Laura down to the bottom of the canals, drowning them – like Christine.

John and Laura deal with Christine’s death in radically different ways.  For Laura, this experience opens her up to the divine and the beyond.  She seeks the religious counsel of the Bishop, her husband’s boss, as well as two strange sisters one of whom claims to be able to be a medium capable of speaking to Laura’s deceased daughter.

For his part, John retreats into work and skepticism. When Laura comes to him and confesses that she has gone to a medium and learned that Christine is trying to warn him of great danger, he scoffs.  However, in the context of the film, his skepticism is more like denial.  You see, when Christine died, she was wearing a red coat, and John has been seeing someone in a red coat everywhere he looks.  Could it be his daughter? A hallucination? Or something else entirely?  He can’t trust his own eyes.  He sees his Laura on the canal when he knows that she should be in England.  He is either mad, or becoming a medium himself.

Roeg makes it impossible for the viewers to trust their eyes as well.  He uses repeated visual cues, the color red, broken glass, falling, and water to link events that take place weeks – and whole countries apart.  His deft editing challenges the viewer’s own sense of chronology in all the same ways that John’s “visions” challenge his. 

This editing skill is on greatest display in the sex scene between John and Laura.  Roeg cuts between them having sex and dressing for dinner so that they are simultaneously together and apart – exposed and guarded.  Roeg has stated that the editing choices in this scene were inventions to please the censors, and maybe they were, but if so, those censors did him a favor.  This moment of duality within the marital relationship is a perfectly crafted visual example of the disconnection from time and human connection in which John, Laura, and the audience all find themselves steeped.  Despite its initial controversy, viewed from 2014, this scene seems less prurient and sexual than it does frank and honest.  Sutherland and Christie do not seem like they are doing this to titillate their audience, but to convey a married couple who are seeking comfort in one another in the wake of a terrible tragedy.

Don’t Look Now isn’t a traditional horror film.  It doesn’t seek to shock its audience with jump scares.  It derives its horror in a far more insidious way.  It deals with something that is actually horrific – the death of a child and the effect that has on a marriage, and, over the course of its almost two hour run time, Don’t Look Now does something far more sinister than a traditional horror film.  It replaces certainty with uncertainty, love with loneliness, and hope with dread.  Sure, you could watch Don’t Look Now.  I even recommend that you do, but you might be better served to heed the warning in the title.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Void Zone Episode 129, or "We now return you to ADD hour with-- Look at that car, it's so awesome!"

Nick has to bow out for rehearsal so Steven and Brit are forced to take this show on... Just the two of them. What ensues is pathetic and typical of what happens when these two are trusted with anything.

Still, amid the chaos, they managed to review some movies. Bloodsport, Minority Report, and No Good Deed.

Get it here or stream it below!

The Void Zone Episode 128, or "Steven's Personal Rapture."

When Steven is faced with one of the worst movies he's ever seen, Nick is called on to somehow defend it. Brit, as usual, is lost in his own world.

Also, they reviewed Rapture-Palooza, Rocky IV, and The Identical.

Get it here or stream it below!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Void Zone Episode 127, or "They were all angry. Obviously."

An angry Steven is tasked with putting up with both Brit and Nick, who just don't care. While they talk, they get sidelined by theatre discussion, as well as video games.

But movies still get discussed.

Movies like Day of the Dead, Mean Girls, and The November Man

Get it here or stream it below!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


5 Stars

By: Steven Johnston

While the Void Zone was on sabbatical, I traveled briefly to Martha’s Vineyard, where I spent Sunday August 10th, 2014 exploring a town called Edgartown.  Of course, Edgartown is far more famous as its cinematic alter ego, Amity Island (“Amity, as you know, means friendship”).

On a little street, a few blocks from the water, and less than a mile from the beach featured in the film, there’s a small theater that shows Jaws every Sunday.  Spoiler alert, it’s the absolute perfect place to watch it.
My 5 Star review of Jaws was probably a foregone conclusion.  After all, Jaws changed cinema.  It created the blockbuster, made the world safe for sequels, and set the stage for all of the high octane-action adventure franchises that we know and love today.  However, it is completely unrecognizable by today’s standards for blockbusters.

For the vast majority of its two hour and four minute running time, Jaws consists of the three men on a boat. Robert Shaw’s Quint loves and understands the sea, Richard Dreyfuss’ Hooper is fascinated by sharks, and Roy Scheider’s Brody fears the water, but it’s this trio that is dispatched to locate and kill a giant shark that threatens the livelihood of Amity.

Famously, the Shark didn’t work, and director Steven Spielberg was forced to adapt his vision of the film so the Shark remained a mystery, a hidden force rarely seen lurking beneath the waves haunting our heroes as if from a dream.  The creature leaves behind clues that only make it more menacing, severed body parts, a dislodged tooth, not to mention damaged boats and completely destroyed beach front infrastructure.  As the heroes hunt the beast, they discover that he is stronger and smarter than most sharks.  They devise new tactics in order to defeat the creature, and with each confrontation they are more desperate, the stakes are more intense, and the sense of danger for the audience is more palpable.

This is especially true at the Edgartown cinema where the first strains of John Williams’ famous score drew cheers, each entry into the water caused the audience to sit forward, the flash of the shark’s fin caused a collective intake of breath, and the discovery of an underwater corpse drew shrieks. The audience spoke Brody’s famous observation, “We’re going to need a bigger boat” right along with Scheider, and cheered when - SPOLIER ALERT - the creature met its final fate.

Carl Gottlieb and Peter Benchley, working from Benchley’s own novel, do a great job of reinventing what was originally a tale of corruption and infidelity set against the backdrop of a shark attack ridden summer into a script that brings all the drama of the best parts of Moby Dick and all the heart of The Old Man and the Sea.  Spielberg should’ve gotten best director for turning what was a technical nightmare into a masterpiece, and the stars deserve accolades.

By today’s standards, this is a small movie, with a small cast. It is steeped in the language of cinema, one shark attack provokes such a reaction from Roy Scheider that Spielberg films in the same film effect perfected by Hitchcock for the movie Vertigo that you just know he must have stood up and cheered. That said, the way the audience in Edgartown reacted to Jaws convinces me that a movie doesn’t need to be gigantic to make a big impression.

See Jaws again, and if possible, see it in Edgartown. It’s easily one of the best film going experiences, I’ve ever had. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Void Zone Episode 126, or "The Gang's Back Together... and Mellow."

Nick is back, and Steven and Brit welcome him by being mellow. Well, Steven anyway. Brit is as loud as ever, so there's that.

Also, they reviewed Paradise Alley, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Get it here or stream the podcast below!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Void Zone Episode 125, or "Can I say wet dreams on the radio?"

In this episode, Nick sits out and Melanie takes his place. There, she laments the destruction of her childhood, while Steven and Brit somehow find themselves talking about politics.

They also reviewed some movies, and those movies were The Way Way Back, The Expendables 3, and The Giver.

Get this episode right here or stream it below! Your choice, because we love choices here.