7.10.2013

The Bay (2012)



Barry Levinson's 2012 thriller The Bay is a pretty captivating film. Harnessing the variety of digital communication modes that are such a part of daily life, the film breathes some new energy into the found footage school of films.

Part gruesome horror film, part ecological cautionary tale, The Bay takes the real-world issues of carnivorous isopods and industrial pollution and combines them to horrifying effect. Those shots of downtown Claridge on Independence Day are pretty harrowing. There's an undercurrent of tension as the audience waits for the first manifestations to reveal themselves on camera, and that poor woman screaming for help while walking down the center of the street sure doesn't alleviate any of the anxiety. From there, Levinson turns on the schlock. They really busted out the red dye and corn syrup for this one, folks.

All in all, I liked it. Devoid of easily recognized stars, the movie screams toward its harrowing conclusion. You won't look at water quite the same for a day or two afterward, and that's a sign of a decent scary story--if it takes something ubiquitous and vital and re-imagines it in a horrific light. 

I'd give it a B-, which is far more charitable than many of the reviews I read online. I think there's something there, and I'd give it a shot if you like a little tension with your speculative creature features...   

7.05.2013

Joyland

Reading Stephen King's Joyland is a fine way to spend a summer afternoon. I remember hearing talk some years ago of retirement for America's greatest storyteller, and that would have been a shame. Some of his best work has been released in recent years (I think I'm going to re-read Duma Key this summer), and Joyland is yet another top-notch effort.

King writes place so well, and the eponymous amusement park situated on coastal Carolina is pitch perfect. He nails the authenticity of climate and the gentile mannerisms here (Mrs. Shoplaw reminds me of at least a half dozen southern women I know here in Florida), and I really enjoyed the carny speak. It's a ghost story with a little summer romance thrown in and a sad complication with a little boy and a terrible illness. Told in the first person, it's vintage King--think Bag of Bones with a much younger male protagonist and you're getting pretty close.

Even if the mystery is a bit telegraphed, it's still an example of really fine writing. King's voice is rich with humor and those keen observational insights that lead to a nuanced, well-rendered narrative. Nobody in fiction can quite break your heart the way King does, and you'll feel it here in the final pages as well.

King remains at the top of his game, not only for the narrative chops that lead to such clear examinations of the human condition, but also for the depth of variety he brings to the table. This is mostly a straight-ahead thriller, though there is a little speculative element in the ghost story. I'm hoping that Dr. Sleep is a return to horror with a harder edge, but even if it's a more atmospheric piece, as is the case with Joyland, it'll likely be a worthy follow-up to The Shining.  

   

Uncovering Original Ideas

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope....