My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
Ms. 45 (1981)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
My first thought when watching this masterful thriller from Abel Ferrara was how did he get from The Driller Killer to this in only two years? The former film is an unfocused, sometimes effective mess whereas Ms. 45 feels crafted by someone with several decades of experience. They’re written by the same person too, longtime Ferrara collaborator Nicholas St. John. So it’s a mystery to me how the director made such a successful film but I can only assumed he learned a lot of lessons from the previous misfire.
One element I love about Ms. 45 is the lack of judgement or praise for the killer, played perfectly by Zoe Lund. Made today, it would be a one-sided, preachy statement about harassment. Here, we have a complex portrait of a woman who is terribly abused, reacts in a justified violent way, and then takes that too far. Ferrara just presents the situation but doesn’t tell us how we should feel about it which makes Ms. 45 a timeless piece of cinema.
On a final note, it’s tragic to read about Lund who was an avid drug user, didn’t go where she could have in the movie business, and died too young. Her performance here reveals an actress who could have had an incredible career.
Watched on Tubi.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
This is a pretty great movie. Despite some weak moments and performances, its power is in the concept and skilled execution. The first ten minutes with the disturbing incident in the gay bar is nearly perfect. It’s amazing how modern that sequence feels, like it was shot yesterday.
When the film moves into the apartment siege, it loses some strength, specifically with the male/female couple whose relationship I never believed. A few extra minutes with these people, developing exactly what’s going on between them would have helped tremendously. There are also some cringe-worthy line readings, not helped by some unnatural sounding ADR.
But the way the filmmakers craft the action overcomes these flaws. I’m a sucker for these types of films where logic and geography is made a high priority in the fight scenes. As in one of my 12 Westerns, the heroes count their bullets and the layout of the apartment is integral to how the action plays out. I’d love to see (and make) more action films like this where the process of the fight is as important as the thrills. I also admire how the filmmakers handled the pacing here. They make a bold decision to draw out many of the scenes which makes the suspense palpable and also gives the film a more realistic tone.
It’s an interesting movie to watch in light of today’s politics, especially imagining a city with no police… The ending adds an extra level of complexity and I find this to be a movie that plays neither to the left or right but simply evokes much thought about our current situation.
Watched on Shudder.
Bad Milo (2013)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
“It’s a thing that’s living up my ass.”
This is a completely ridiculous horror/comedy and yes it’s about a monster who lives up the main character’s butt, however the preposterous film works because it doesn’t play anything with a wink. Unlike Satanic Panic (also produced by Dallas Sonnier), this film makes a wise decision to have its characters go through the craziest scenarios as if it was all really happening. The lack of irony in their performances is what makes the film succeed.
And it really is the performances that make this so much fun including the terrific lead played by Ken Marino, a hilarious spin on a therapist from Peter Stormare, and small gem acting parts featuring everyone from Mary Kay Place to Patrick “The Tick” Warburton. It’s a perfect cast that leads us through this wacky adventure.
And to the filmmakers’ credit, somehow they’re actually able to make us care about a nasty little creature that lives in a rectal cavity. I mean, by the end I was practically tearing up.
Watched on HBO Max.