A dreadful proposal: Deep Water

deeplyDeep Water, 2022, 115 mins, Amazon Prime

A very silly film, this, about a toxic marriage that… well, I suppose this kind of thing trended well back in the 1990s; indeed, director Adrian Lyne had great success with this sort of tosh with Fatal Attraction (1987) and Indecent Proposal (1993), but while Deep Water is competently made and shot (as one would expect from someone like Lyne) its just.. so silly it borders on parody.

This time around its Vic (Ben Affleck) a fabulously wealthy and handsome husband of beautiful and sultry Melinda (Ana de Armas) who is strangely bored with her marriage and her fabulously wonderful daughter Trixie (film-stealing Grace Jenkins). Melinda fools around having successive affairs and Vic sleeps in the spare room getting increasingly suspicious of her late nights and drunken behaviour at the fabulous parties they keep going to. Melinda isn’t in the slightest bit discreet regards her affairs, even inviting each beau to the next party they are at, raising embarrassed glances from party-goers and freinds. Vic of course is beefed-up like he’s ready to appear in a Batman movie so when Melinda’s lovers each disappear… well, it wouldn’t take the Worlds Greatest Detective to deduce who the prime suspect is, so a local author, Don (Tracie Letts) realises there might be a great book in what’s going on in the neighbourhood.

Its pretty nauseating nonsense, really. The fabulous lives of the fabulously attractive and fabulously wealthy elite have nothing at all in common with my everyday experience: as we Brits say, its all bollocks. I’m supposed to feel sympathy with fabulously wealthy Vic married to fabulously beautiful Melinda with fabulously perfect daughter Trixie? I’m supposed to maybe understand fabulous Melinda’s boredom and promiscuous nature? Melinda is a beautiful trophy-wife but a frankly hideous character. Meanwhile, I’m not supposed to laugh at Vic’s preposterously odd hobby of raising snails/slugs in his garden shed/Batcave mancave? Moreover, I’m not supposed to be too concerned at an apparent lack of screen chemistry between the two leads?

To be fair, Ana de Armas plays a fabulous drunk and she exudes sensuality etc fabulously (she’s certainly not reticent regards shedding her clothes in films). Ben Affleck broods well but we knew he could manage that from his Batman role, and here he just looks too… well, handsome man-mountain- he’s hardly an Everyman, in just the same way his wife is hardly an Everywoman. Is this the fabulously toxic marriage we ordinary folks are supposed to aspire to? Affleck’s best moments are when he’s showing some genuine warmth, mostly those scenes he shares with the delightful Grace Jenkins, who genuinely steals the film from her adult stars. Highlight of the film is her singing in the back of the family car, reprised in the films end-credits for a bit of outtake fun, but a sexy thriller is in trouble when its stolen by its child actor and the best scene in the film is during the end-credits.

At any rate, the film gradually descends into farce and features the mother of all contrived coincidences once author Don stumbles upon Vic’s final (?) crime. I mean, that entire final reel is so audacious it almost deserves to be applauded, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. It deserves some kind of award. One of those fabulous raspberries, probably.

Trucking Hell: William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977)

sorcererWilliam Friedkin’s Sorcerer is a wild journey into darkness that shares much with Apocalypse Now‘s nightmarish sensibilities. Four men are forced to flee civilisation in order to escape punishment for their crimes and they wind up in some hellish, unnamed South American country teetering on the brink of revolution, in a village being reclaimed by the Jungle from which it was torn. A world being washed away by the rain and buried in the mud. The only possible escape these men have is a near-suicidal journey driving two trucks over two hundred miles through dense wild jungle, each truck carrying loads of dangerously unstable old nitroglycerine which is needed to blow out an oil refinery blaze. A journey from darkness into darkness, from Hell into Hell.  The film’s conclusion feels as bleak and inevitable as the ending of John Carpenter’s The Thing. A pleasant and jolly film this is not.

Unsurprisingly, the film did not fair too well when it was released during the summer of Star Wars in 1977. Indeed, it was as doomed as the four protagonists it features- that summer, audiences wanted escape and a positive, life-affirming message. They didn’t want the nihilism of Sorcerer and simply abandoned it, the film becoming a notorious financial disaster. The film suffered a similar fate to Blade Runner and The Thing five years later, when they were released during the summer of Spielberg’s extraterrestrial calling home – but I think like those two films, Sorcerer has benefited from some kind of reappraisal over the years. Its not a perfect film; its messy and unfocused and often gratuitous in an almost adolescent way, but I found it absolutely fascinating and very disturbing.

Its a very intense film, with a nightmarish feeling akin to Adrian Lyne’s  Jacobs Ladder, or the dread inevitability of Alan Parker’s Angel Heart: I’m not at all surprised by readings of the film that consider the four protagonists literally in Hell, suffering for their sins. Its unrelentingly grim, and not one of the four protagonist’s stories ends well: this, in the summer of Star Wars? In hindsight, the fate of the film seems inevitable.

The bridge sequence, in which the trucks try to cross a river in a terrible storm over a dangerously unsafe rope-bridge is incredibly well realised, particularly as it dates from a pre-CGI era.  You can almost feel the wind and the rain of the storm and share the nervous terror of the protagonists as the bridge threatens to collapse. What it must have been like watching that in the cinema back then…. how intense that must have felt. And of course, how incredibly difficult filming it. Watching Sorcerer was the nearest thing to watching Apocalypse Now, aghast at the obvious horror it must have been making it: at least with Coppola’s film the hard work must have seemed worth it, vindicated by the critical and popular response to the film on its release. How crushing it must have seemed for those behind Sorcerer when all that work seemed wasted upon the films critical and popular failure. 

In any case, the sheer insanity of the film, its almost delirious sense of unrelenting nightmare, well, I found it quite an almost perverse pleasure. They certainly don’t make films like this anymore. 



Jacobs Ladder (2019)

jacob1I keep asking myself why. Why Jacobs Ladder, 2019?

Why I watched it? Well, that’s the easy one: grim, determined curiosity. I’ve been a huge fan of Adrian Lyne’s original 1990 film ever since I first saw it at the cinema. Sure, its got its detractors, but I always found it a fascinating, disturbing, wholly satisfying horror film complete with its own internal logic and a… I hesitate to term it a ‘philosophy’, but it does. Its a horror story/fable about letting go, about dying, about the human experience of life and death. It makes sense. Nothing makes sense about this remake, reboot, whatever they call it. It doesn’t sense why they made it, what they thought it could offer new, and it doesn’t make sense as a movie. Its a mess, an utterly terrible mess.

Not that I ever expected anything different, this film had ‘disaster’ written all over it from the start. I first heard about it several years ago, then all went quiet, and after I’d assumed it had gotten mercifully canned prior to getting made, I learned it had indeed been made but had been pretty much shelved by the studio, so bad it couldn’t be released. Well, they had that right. It should have stayed on that shelf.

But it seems they couldn’t resist getting it out there and trying to make some money out of it.

So what does this 2019 version have to offer? Well, predictably enough, this version replaces Vietnam with the Gulf War, as is the wont of such contemporary updates, and replaces the originals disturbing visions with horrible, noisily-edited  jump-scares and CGI nonsense. Surprisingly while it replicates much of the plot from the original, even actual sequences/imagery (the ice-bath scene, winged demon/angel imagery during a sex scene) it fails to follow the internal logic of the original, its almost grace-like philosophy. It makes no sense at all and while the original was a relentless plunge into darkness and paranoia, eventually achieving some kind of sense through revelation at the end, this film just becomes increasingly confusing and nonsensical and just ends with the cinematic equivalent of a thud.

Seriously, the end credits came up and I gasped. What the hell? What the hell just happened? What the hell did any of it mean? What the hell did they do to one of my favourite movies?

If nothing else, this film serves to remind me just how lucky I was that BR2049 turned out to be such a respectful and successful continuation of the 1982 original. This new  Jacobs Ladder serves as a sober reminder of why remakes/reboots/sequels are generally treated with such caution. Maybe that’s the real answer to my question of ‘why’.

Its a horrible, horrible movie though. Probably the worst movie I’ve seen all year. My advice to anyone reading this who is as similarly curious as I was: just avoid. Life is really far too short. Best watch the 1990 original instead, and live in blissful ignorance of this terrible film.

Jacobs Ladder Sequel?

Well it’s been threatened over the years, but it looks like it’s finally coming- the trailer has landed for the Jacob’s Ladder remake/reboot/reimagining or whatever they are calling it. This is so wrong on so many levels it just, well, leaves me pretty speechless. I could understand if they had gone back to the original script and made the film that they couldn’t make back in 1990, maybe, but instead… well, going by the trailer I’m not sure what they’ve done. It looks pretty horrible, and I’m sitting here not quite believing they even had the nerve to go there….