In this week’s round-up, I take a look at David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (01/01/13), Dark Sky’s release of Sleep Tight (01/08/13), Chiller (12/11/12), and Scream! Factory’s Deadly Blessing (01/22/13). Let’s get to it!
Cosmopolis, the latest film from David Cronenberg, almost defies explanation. On the surface, it’s the journey of a rich, seemingly untouchable businessman who makes his way across town during a presidential visit, the death of a rap star, and an Occupy Wall Street protest, running into all sorts of strange characters, but the story is seemingly all subtext. That’s not entirely why Cosmopolisdoesn’t work, but the fact that Cronenberg lifted all the dialogue from the novel and didn’t change one word is a bit telling. That little tidbit isn’t too surprising, considering the biggest flaw of the film is that it plays out like someone is reading a book aloud. Even with some interesting camerawork – mostly just that Cronenberg created a very claustrophobic atmosphere in Eric’s (Robert Pattinson) limo – Cosmopolis is nothing more than a bloated, pretentious meditation on mortality, economic classes, and pretty much everything associated with those two that you’ve seen before.
Entertainment One’s HD presentation is extremely detailed, perhaps a little too much so considering all you see for much of the film’s runtime is the inside of a limo. Still, the close-ups look great and the contrast of the green screen backgrounds and the fine detail of the action inside of the car really pops. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 replicates the enclosed space of a limo quite nicely, with its small echoes and hollowness. It’s not demo material, but it’s solid.
Commentary – Director David Cronenberg dishes on what makes Don DeLillo’s book cinematic and his attraction to the material, and how he adapted it for the screen. It’s not as dry as one would imagine, though it does teeter on the brink of being unbelievably pretentious, not unlike the movie.
Citizens of Cosmopolis (110:21) – Parts of this feature-length documentary are floating head interviews, but entire chunks of it are practically polished production diaries. Cronenberg and Co. discuss cinematography, set design, the choice to set most of the film in the limo, and some of the meatier dialogues. Everyone seems to want to discuss what the film is about and constantly dissect the meaning of every speck of dust floating around in the frame, which I think is a huge mistake. The doc is about as dense as the film so if that’s your bag, you’ll dig it.
Interviews With Cast And Crew (27:06) – A collection of floating head interviews with Cronenberg, a few of the producers, and some of the actors.
Jaume Balaguero spent the last four years of his career making films restricted to a single apartment building and if Sleep Tight is any indication of what kind of material he’s going to work with outside of his franchise from here on out, then he should stick to residential lodging. Alberto Marini’s screenplay allows Balaguero to use the same setting that played a huge part in the success of [REC] and its sequel to let a different kind of monster loose on a slew of unassuming tenants; a man who favors destroying someone emotionally over killing them, which would give them an escape from the torment he so meticulously crafted for them. Atmospherically shot by frequent collaborator Pablo Rosso, Sleep Tight shows a lot of growth for Balaguero, who up until now had a terrible track record for solo efforts. Marini’s script might be built upon a simple, familiar premise but the characterization is excellent, giving Tosar the ammunition needed to create one hell of a creepy villain.
The detail and clarity of Sleep Tight’s 35mm photography is well-preserved and looks fantastic. The blue and green hues used through the film compliment the heavy use of shadows and does a great job of setting the mood. Aside from the ghosting and a few blurry scenes, Dark Sky’s 1080p transfer is a sight to behold. The DTS-HD 5.1 track picks up the smaller, subtle noises of Cesar’s nighttime antics. The dialogue and score are well-balanced.
Sleep Tight: Cesar’s World (107:40) – Director Jaume Balaguero guides viewers through all the stages of production, including table readings and editing, and discusses the film’s themes and pivotal moments. All the main actors chime in about their characters and there’s even some info about all the shooting locations. It’s a very meaty doc and damn good, too.
Deleted Scenes (12:35) – A handful of deleted scenes revolving around Cesar, though they’re all deleted for a reason.
Chiller, a British TV anthology from the mid-nineties, presents a variety of different genre ideas over the course of its five episode run, with none of them really leaving an impression. Sure, the variety is there – a haunted house, a lineage prophecy, serial killers, a dead child, – but stories are stretched too thin. The better episodes, which are initially interesting enough, crawl to their finales with enough filler to make a case of hot dogs. There’s nothing going on in some of the tales aside from the initial premise, leading me to believe that the showrunners dug through The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt’s garbage and fished out some scraps.
Deadly Blessing, one of Wes Craven’s earliest films, is by no means good but it is fascinating when considering where it fits into his career. The story of a woman’s husband being murdered and her trying to pick up the pieces while a nearby religious cult screams about demons and a person unknown tries to frighten them is downright boring at times – nobody dies for, like, forty minutes – but there’s something about the atmosphere that really works. It’s a rural horror flick that shows the blueprint for a lot ideas from Nightmare, including the bathtub scene, the usage of dreams as a means of attack, and a last minute twist, and while none of them are pulled off quite as well, it’s fascinating to see their genesis. Speaking of the twist, it’s pretty much the only thing in the film that works; without it, Deadly Blessing would just be a flick with some crazy ideas and a lot of nothing going on, but the last minute hurrah – done as an afterthought – works to the film’s advantage because it encourages a rewatch, if only to see who is really doing what.
The HD transfer and Master Audio track for Scream! Factory’s Deadly Blessing release is merely adequate and definitely not among the studio’s top releases. There is quite a bit of dirt and damage that can be seen during the film’s opening and while it DOES get better as it goes on, it’s never great. Everything looks and sounds fine, but it really is just a basic presentation.
Commentary – Director Wes Craven talks Deadly Blessing with moderator with Sean Clark. Craven has an extremely vivid memory about a film over thirty years old and offers up plenty of anecdotes about the entire cast and crew and several scenes. He also chats about the location and some ideas that he would end up revisiting in other films, among other things. He seems particularly down on the ending, which is a shame since it’s the film’s saving grace.
Say Your Prayers! (14:13) – Genre mainstay Michael Berryman discusses his role, shooting on a farm, and his experience working with Craven and the rest of the cast. His observations about the plot and how his character ties into the third act revelations are interesting.
Secrets Revealed (13:05) – Actress Susan Bruckner talks about shooting guns, her on-set pregnancy, and the last impressions of the film.
Rise of the Incubus (6:40) – Special Effects Designer John Naulin chats about his work on the film, focusing on a third act surprise that I won’t ruin here.
So It Was Written (20:33) – Writers Glen M. Benest and Matthew Barr discuss the basis for their screenplay, their interactions with the cast and crew, and some of themes present in the film. Their thoughts on the changes made to the film in the wake of Carrie’s success are really interesting; the tacked on ending actually makes the film better and leaving it like they had originally intended it would have completely ruin everything that works in it.