August 25th, 2003

Dark Tower

Don't let them bury me. I'm not dead.

In the end, it was a pretty good weekend. Long hours, and not a great volume of work done, but it was all pretty much neccesary. Kyla celebrated the end of her stuff by going along to the Death Exhibition at the Australian Museum.

We capped it off with a viewing of Wes Craven's Serpent and the Rainbow. Somewhere in our timeline we said that it was a middle entry in a sort of trilogy of perception and dreaming, along with Nightmare 1 and 7. We rewatched the three in the last few months, and it's interesting to compare them.

Firstly, Serpent is a good movie. It follows Dennis Allan (Bill Pullman) as he tries to track down the 'zombie powder' of Haiti, 'inspired by' the true story of Wade Davis who got the powder and wrote the book. Although there are familiar elements of adventure-story and horror flick, it actually put all the Haiti stuff into a context which comes off really well. I can't say if it's accurate or not, but it feels accurate. The local magician runs a tourist resort, and the bad guy runs the secret police. The movie treats it all as just more elements of the turbulent politics and amalgam of religions (with Catholic, voodoo and an African totem animal thrown in for good measure). Likewise, the protagonist is worth watching, with a mix of American arrogance, stubbornness and actual competence in dealing with his problems (which range from scams to torture).

The structure was spot-on, introducing and using all its various characters and situations to good effect (though it could have stood with a little more explanation about how a drug which induces the appearance of death but keeps all senses on full alert could be used in a medical context). The pyrotechnics at the end were all a little gratuitous, but actually looked good, and the dream sequences, torture scene and -- in particular -- the burial sequence were great. I think some of the dream-like stuff lost a little because they were reminiscent of Nightmare (the long arms reaching for Dennis, for example), which pulled it back towards standard horror fare (the torture chair actually reminded me of Shocker, but it's been so long that I can't remember if that's a justified association or not). That's not really a fault of the moviemaker, who has kept his usual tight control over pacing and precisely how much to show.

How's it stack up? I continue to be impressed with A Nightmare on Elm St, and now Serpent. Wes Craven's New Nightmare however... good idea, well made, but I don't think the script was there. On the commentary Wes reveals he didn't even know what the role of the babysitter was when he was filming, which strikes me as a strange way to makes movies (and yeah, it worked for Tolkien).

(I'd love a commentary for Serpent, but I'm not holding my breath for a special edition. Meanwhile, the local DVD is very cheap, and its sole extra -- the movie trailer -- is an exemplar of the form.)

Still, I reckon those three remain his most significant work, at least until I watch Last House again, which does have a special edition. And both Scream and The Hills Have Eyes are actually pretty good, I seem to recall. One day I'll watch Swamp Thing... maybe.

Meanwhile, I've come in to work and my computer has disintegrated extremely messily. While I've been writing this I've also been trying to get C++ working on another machine, which involves lots of compiling, and then death at the last minute. Bloody user-defined components...