July Exits

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Karl_Malden
Karl Malden
March 22, find 1912-July 1, clinic 2009

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August 2, 2009 · Posted in Exits  
    

DVD: Elsewhere, The Hunger

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ElsewhereThe odds are good that you’ve never heard of Elsewhere. A thriller without gore, healing a teen drama without sex, a movie without any name stars, it’s notably lacking in all the exploitation sizzle that usually propels films of this type into public awareness.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s a bad movie.

Though it begins with all the tell-tale signs of a standard-issue slasher flick, this first-time feature by writer/director Nathan Hope is actually an old-fashioned B mystery in modern dress. Most of Hope’s previous directorial experience was on series TV, and Elsewhere itself frequently has the feel of a made-for-the-tube drama both in its pacing and in its seeming adherence to broadcast-level standards in language and violence. (It’s actually rated R, but one would be hard-pressed to remember why after screening it.)

Anna Kendrick (Twilight) stars as Sarah, a star pupil and athlete in her smalltown high school. Her best friend is Jillian (Tania Raymonde, Lost), a snarky troublemaker who lives to push the envelope wherever she goes. Together they dream of ditching their dead-end jobs and hitting the road out of safe but stultifying Goshen, Indiana.

It develops that Jillian has done more than dream; she’s been reaching out online to strange men in hopes of finding a savior, a friend, a sugar daddy, anybody who’ll take her away from Goshen. Soon after Sarah finds out about this, Jillian disappears…and Sarah begins to fear that, rather than having made her escape, Jillian has gotten herself into serious trouble.

The local police and other adults can’t be bothered; Jillian, to them, is just smartmouthed trailer trash and an obvious runaway. With nowhere else to turn, Sarah reluctantly slips into the role of amateur detective, picking up a sidekick in a young computer geek (Chuck Carter) who carries a clumsily concealed torch for her. They discover that Jillian isn’t the first local girl to disappear under similar circumstances, and eventually find themselves tracking a possible serial killer.

Performances among the supporting cast are professional if not terribly Elsewhere2notable, though there are flashes of unexpected depth from a pair of actresses cast in otherwise stock “crazy lady” roles. The young leads register most strongly, Carter adding a winsome note to his cliched nerd role and Kendrick managing to hold center stage almost in spite of her character’s unrelenting wholesomeness. Raymonde’s Jillian is written as an off-the-rack bad girl and she frequently seems to be doing little more than posing and striking the expected attitudes – but though she vanishes from the story early on, hers remains the film’s most memorable performance.

The final product is an uneven mixture of the usual suspects and occasional moments of surprising character revelation, a sort of updated Nancy Drew if Nancy’s best chum hailed from a trailer park and dropped F-bombs for childish shock effect. Those looking for the visceral shocks of, say, Hostel, won’t find much to their liking here. But viewers in search of the kind of old-school whodunnit that you rarely find anywhere outside Turner Classic Movies these days might want to give this one a try.

(DVD extras: Audio commentary, “The Road to Elsewhere” Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Photo Gallery)

TheHungerThe cult favorite TV series The Hunger was a horror anthology that debuted on Showtime in 1997. Terence Stamp was host of the first season’s episodes, replaced by David Bowie for the second and final season. A number of horror fans – the type who have been known to grasp at straws in order to make the most tenuous connections – tend to prefer the Bowie episodes simply because he starred in a 1983 vampire film which shares a title and absolutely nothing else with this series. The truth is, however, that each season was just as good and bad as the other, and Stamp’s brittle decadence was ideal for introducing these offbeat little erotic horrors.

The complete first season has been released for home viewing in a four-disk set. Both the Blu-Ray and standard DVD sets are sharp presentations, offering little in the way of extras but plenty of entertainment for lovers of mean and dirty little fright tales.

Like a number of other pay-cable exploitation series, this one is less interested in cerebral fright than in finding ways to get its cast members to peel out of their clothes and fall into bed with each other. Classier than The Hitchhiker, edgier than Tales from the Crypt and less self-consciously cute than Perversions of Science, the Hunger episodes are notable for their arty photography and production design. At times the overall effect holds the same lurid fascination as a Eurotrash skin flick, but in the best episodes the sex and spookiness manage to combine into a truly creepy experience.

Most of the performers are less than household names, but you never know TerenceStampwhen a familiar face – some on their way up the ladder, others moving decidedly in the other direction – will make an appearance. One of the most memorable installments of the first season stars Karen Black, Lena Headey and a smoldering young Daniel Craig. Others are considerably less captivating, amounting to little more than shaggy dog stories with simulated sex and a few latex appliances…but the gems among the collection will likely make this set worth the time of dyed-in-the-wool horror fans.

(DVD Extras: “The Hunger Inside” – a behind-the-scenes look at Season 2 hosted by David Bowie)

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August 1, 2009 · Posted in DVD