Another recent horror that had gained praise from critics and seemed like something different amongst the slew of remakes and paranormal activity sequels. This tells the story of Jay, a nineteen year old student who goes on a date with a local guy she’s been seeing. Only thing is after they have sex he reveals he has passed a curse onto her of some relentless ‘being’ that has been following him. It’s now going to be following her, and she should not let it touch her and try and pass the curse on herself as soon as she can.
This is a cool idea for a horror movie. It involves the viewer like I haven’t seen in a long time as I found myself watching every part of the screen for someone lurking and following our main character. Also the frights are mostly well done with only a few being a bit predictable, and there isn’t an over-reliance on jump-scares. Maika Monroe who was very good in The Guest once again proves herself an actress to watch. Helps she’s pretty hot too (don’t judge me!). Supporting cast, which apart from one guy don’t get a lot to do, still felt like real people. It’s also obvious the whole idea is a not-so subtle metaphor of the dangers of teenage promiscuity (the ‘It’ being perhaps similar to an STD). The movie also pays welcome homage to late seventies / early eighties horror movies like Halloween and A Nightmare On Elm Street with both it’s camera work and it’s intentionally old-school score.
That’s not to say it’s without fault. Sometimes the actions of the main character are bizarre to say the least (sleeping on a car bonnet?) and at times the story gets awfully vague, leaving some puzzling moments to your imagination (the guys on the boat). That being said, this still delivered a genuinely unsettling atmosphere and some effective scares … making for a quality evening’s viewing.
There was something about this movie upon it’s release and over the years that has always made me stay away from it. The bizarre appearance of Hollywood actor Johnny Depp as famed drug addict / journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the always cautionary ‘unfilmable novel’ cliché and then the combination of drugs and Terry Gilliam – one of the more out-there, albeit skilled surrealist directors around. It seemed a bad combination. Yet now with this challenge and as a long time admirer of the former Monty Python member, who still for me made the best time travel movie ever conceived (Twelve Monkeys) – this finally had to be worth a look, right?
Depp as mentioned plays Thompson, going under various names in a three day drug fuelled road trip to and through and back again from Las Vegas along with his attorney (Benicio Del Toro) to report on a motor cross race in the desert in 1971. With a back drop of the Vietnam war, president Nixon and the hippy counter culture … this had plenty going on, but finding much entertainment in it was a struggle. This was Gilliam on acid, and for a director who already is Tim Burton on acid – that’s saying something! Hallucinations, a wealth of oddball characters, drugs, gambling, more drugs and basically two hours watching two utterly risible people not quite kill themselves (or anyone else they come across). Depp’s performance is like a Tex Avery cartoon, over the top jittery, with a one tone drawl (not helped by the cigarette filter permanently hanging out of his mouth) and is loosely aided by an animalistic, borderline psychotic Del Toro. Cameos by the likes of Cameron Diaz, Christina Ricci and a nearly unrecognisable Toby Maguire prove fun … and a soundtrack covering (amongst others) classic hits from The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan turn out to be the biggest plus of this total head-f**k of an experience. By the end credits I actually felt like I’d been on some sort of trip … and not a particularly good one.
Gilliam’s direction is technically impressive and truly creates the feeling of a doped out, paranoid and trippy journey complete with unconventional camera angles and bizarre effects work (hotel guests turn into reptiles and eat each other, or have an orgy – I couldn’t be sure) … so hat’s off to him for that, but I watch movies either to be entertained or to learn something … and I didn’t get much of either out of this.
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