Contradicting Popular Opinion:
An Enquiry Concerning Why Your Favorite Movie Sucks
We’re going to be short yet rambling this week. I’ve been re-pushing some old scripts, working on a fantasy novel, planning a children’s book, and driving to and fro various Chicago neighborhoods and up and down in them.
A while back I saw Lucky McKee’s The Woods. McKee is one of the more interesting directors to come out of this young century, and I highly recommend his film May. He is patient beyond his years, and is a few films away from either breaking through entirely or developing a strong cult following.
Quick plot summary: The Woods stars Agnes Bruckner as a troubled young girl sent to a boarding school in New England. The school is run by witches.
Bruckner has been described by The Onion as an effective, more economical version of Scarlett Johansson and I’m inclined to agree. (Agnes, if you are reading this, I’ve got a script for you that doesn’t involve Orlando Bloom getting a faceful of acid.) It’s a decent picture, and seems like a nice little homage to Dario Argento’s Suspiria.
The thing is, I don’t care for Suspiria.
Dario Argento’s Suspiria is widely regarded as a masterpiece of horror. The old posters describe it as the most frightening film you’ll ever see. Mostly, it’s just strange, though not Dracula-in-drag-Wicker Man levels of strange. (But Suspiria is far stranger than Don’t Look Now‘s sudden “A killer midget did it!” final reel.)I’ll be damned if the flick makes a lick of sense.
It’s Gary Shandling’s Show‘s Jessica Harper stars as Suzy Bannion, an American enrolling in a prestigious European ballet academy. Her flight arrives on a dark and stormy night, and she has the terrifying experience of having a bit of trouble hailing a taxi. When she finally arrives at her school, she is told to go away and encounters another girl doing just that thing.
This girl is named Pat Hingle, but bears no resemblance to a beloved character actor/Commissioner Gordon. That’s the first thing in the movie that throws me out of whack. Anyways, Pat is killed that night by . . . something, I guess.
Anyways, our Suzy eventually does join up with the school, despite these reasonable warnings. She starts getting “the vapors” so the administration puts her on a diet of wine that looks a lot like blood. Perhaps it was transubstantiated.
The wine makes her very sleepy, and thus unable to accompany her school chum on said chum’s ill-fated trip to the Ballet Academy’s hidden barbed wire room. Also, at some point, maggots fall from the ceiling. Then, a seeing-eye-dog kills a blind guy. And there is something about witches wanting money. Eventually, Suzy kills a witch, and the film ends.
That’s about as much as I could figure out about this picture. Mostly, it is incomprehensible, playing like an exceptionally gory episode of the Teletubbies. The art direction is out of control, with frequent scenes bathed entirely in red and/or green, evoking the sheer terror of Christmas morning. There is a bunch of cheeseball dialogue and not nearly enough lesbian overtones.
But here is the biggest criticism of all: This flick features a Satanic coven. Udo Kier is in the picture. Udo is not a member of the Satanic coven. I don’t understand how that happens.
How is Udo not a vampire?
Isn’t he always a vampire?
Or at the very least a Nazi who made a Faustian deal?
Or an evil film collector?
I’m probably too hard on this picture, but hell, my daughter is in a ballet class currently, and it is nothing like Suspiria.
Although a 5 year old girl is a purple tutu was mean to her.