Toronto After Dark Review: In A Valley Of Violence

In Sergio Leone’s classic The Good The Bad And The Ugly, one of many iconic scenes involves a gunfighter sneaking up to murder Eli Wallach’s Tuco in the bath-tub. The anonymous heavy lost his arm in a shootout with Tuco in the opening scene of the film, and seeking bloody revenge, as is par for the course in so many westerns, he stops first for a smug monologue about how it took months to learn how to shoot with his other hand. As the grimy Italian blonde savours the reversal of fortune (again, a staple of this superb film) with words, Tuco turns the table because he has his pistol in the bath-tub. He blows away the smug, would-be killer through the soap suds. To the corpse, he lectures, “When you have to shoot, SHOOT. Don’t talk.” It would not surprise me in the slightest, if it was this scene alone that inspired Ti West to make In A Valley of Violence, a film that seems a full featured examination of what amounts to a throwaway 2 minutes in a 179 minute film. More recently, HBO’s Deadwood, The Coen Brothers’ True Grit remake, and the recent pair of Quentin Tarantino gunslinger film have set out to prove that excessively loquacious, but nevertheless savoury, dialogue is a wholesome part of the Western that bears at least some consideration.

Ethan Hawke plays civil war deserter Paul, who, after a Shakespearean styled prologue with a drunken Irish priest (Burn Gorman doing what he so wonderfully does) about the nature of where he finds himself, ends up nevertheless caught up in the local toxicity of a friable futureless village-slash-movie-set called Denton. He tries to keep his head down and sip his drink at the bar as the local blowhard and sadistic bully, Gilly (Generation Kill & The Wire‘s oily-but-wide-eyed James Ransome), who also the deputy and son of the town’s sheriff, picks a fight with him for no reason other than that Paul a stranger in a place that, you guessed it, don’t like no strangers.

Pestered to the point of violence, and equally important to the point of speaking (mainly to the audience) he says that he just wants to hang out with his preternaturally cute, Lassie-like, dog and make for Mexico to forget the horrors of the war. Anyone who has ever seen a western, hell anyone who has ever seen some movies, can spot what is coming a mile away. Don’t get me wrong though, the point of the film seems less about realistically defined characters or completely reinventing the wheel (West even shoots on 35mm film, although he favours 1.85:1 over cinemascope to keep things somewhat small) and more about playing with familiar tropes of the western. This auto-critique of the genre, whose often deadpan and straight-up approach to many familiar situations is sure to be abrasive to some.

Paul being forced to deal revenge to many of the denizens of Denton is without question a given in this sort of thing. As Paul reluctantly returns to town with guns a-blazin’, it is more through dialogue than gunfire that the showdown at high noon takes place. If there is a mission statement to In A Valley of Violence it is (as stated above) when to speak and when not to speak.

Would you like to know more…?

Fantasia 2016 Review: In A Valley Of Violence

In Sergio Leone’s classic The Good The Bad And The Ugly, one of many iconic scenes involves a gunfighter sneaking up to murder Eli Wallach’s Tuco in the bath-tub. The anonymous heavy lost his arm in a shootout with Tuco in the opening scene of the film, and seeking bloody revenge, as is par for the course in so many westerns, he stops first for a smug monologue about how it took months to learn how to shoot with his other hand. As the grimy Italian blonde savours the reversal of fortune (again, a staple of this superb film) with words, Tuco turns the table because he has his pistol in the bath-tub. He blows away the smug, would-be killer through the soap suds. To the corpse, he lectures, “When you have to shoot, SHOOT. Don’t talk.” It would not surprise me in the slightest, if it was this scene alone that inspired Ti West to make In A Valley of Violence, a film that seems a full featured examination of what amounts to a throwaway 2 minutes in a 179 minute film. More recently, HBO’s Deadwood, The Coen Brothers’ True Grit remake, and the recent pair of Quentin Tarantino gunslinger film have set out to prove that excessively loquacious, but nevertheless savoury, dialogue is a wholesome part of the Western that bears at least some consideration.

Ethan Hawke plays civil war deserter Paul, who, after a Shakespearean styled prologue with a drunken Irish priest (Burn Gorman doing what he so wonderfully does) about the nature of where he finds himself, ends up nevertheless caught up in the local toxicity of a friable futureless village-slash-movie-set called Denton. He tries to keep his head down and sip his drink at the bar as the local blowhard and sadistic bully, Gilly (Generation Kill & The Wire‘s oily-but-wide-eyed James Ransome), who also the deputy and son of the town’s sheriff, picks a fight with him for no reason other than that Paul a stranger in a place that, you guessed it, don’t like no strangers.

Pestered to the point of violence, and equally important to the point of speaking (mainly to the audience) he says that he just wants to hang out with his preternaturally cute, Lassie-like, dog and make for Mexico to forget the horrors of the war. Anyone who has ever seen a western, hell anyone who has ever seen some movies, can spot what is coming a mile away. Don’t get me wrong though, the point of the film seems less about realistically defined characters or completely reinventing the wheel (West even shoots on 35mm film, although he favours 1.85:1 over cinemascope to keep things somewhat small) and more about playing with familiar tropes of the western. This auto-critique of the genre, whose often deadpan and straight-up approach to many familiar situations is sure to be abrasive to some.

Paul being forced to deal revenge to many of the denizens of Denton is without question a given in this sort of thing. As Paul reluctantly returns to town with guns a-blazin’, it is more through dialogue than gunfire that the showdown at high noon takes place. If there is a mission statement to In A Valley of Violence it is (as stated above) when to speak and when not to speak.

Would you like to know more…?

Friday One Sheet: In A Valley of Violence

We are still loving the phoenix-like renaissance of the Western genre over the past couple years, and it appears that cult indie director Ti West is getting in on the game with In A Valley Of Violence. He has an interesting cast with Ethan Hawke, Karen Gillan (Dr. Who, Guardians of the Galaxy) and John Travolta. But we’re here to talk about this vintage style poster, which almost has a 50’s TV-show style with both the typesetting (“A man can only take so much!”) and the tiny man-on-horse (with dog) on the barrel of the gun. I expect many more posters for this film, as West has a history of getting a lot of key-art for his films (see also, House of the Devil and The Innkeepers in the Rowthree poster archives.)

Occultober – Day 16 – House Of The Devil

House Of The Devil
As with yesterday’s look at Suspiria, Ti West’s break out film could be viewed as an exercise in style. Pure 70s horror film style. From its opening freeze-frame credits through the loooooong build-up of tension, the movie quite deliberately calls to mind the aesthetic of many occult thrillers and slow burn horror films of the Me Decade. But it’s more than that…

Many fans of the film put an asterisk on their love for it – ie. “It’s great…*except for the last 20 minutes”. The complaint is that the movie throws away its devotion to the 70s films (the grain seems less and the colours seem richer in this last section) and goes for the gusto with a sudden switch to more gory scenes and a straight up reading of the title. I would argue that West quenches the thirst derived from stretching the tension and does so in a novel and eye-popping fashion. If the sacrificial ceremony isn’t wholly unexpected, it certainly is handled with aplomb (and how great was the casting of Tom Noonan?) and the film ends with a perfect dark, devil-worshipping, oh-you-thought-you-were-safe moment that also recalls occult and horror films of the past. But again, the movie is more than that…

The real strength of House Of The Devil is its characters – in particular its main character Samantha. You could apply most of the standard qualities of horror movie final girls to her – plucky, cute, virginal (if you’re going to target someone for a sacrifice…) – but the best quality of her character is that you can feel empathy for her. So as the dread starts in (especially around the time she is bopping around the house to The Fixx’s “One Thing Leads To Another”), you begin to feel anxious for her. And so you become invested in the outcome of the film.

And that’s why this movie works like gangbusters.

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Trailer: The Sacrament

We posted the brand new poster below and now we have the red-band trailer for Ti West’s The Sacrament. I know, found footage movies feel a bit played out at this point, but this one has the Jonestown factor, there is a lot of tension and suspense (although much of it ‘spoiled’ with this trailer – fair warning) and West really knows how to make the film look very, very pretty.

Patrick (Kentucker Audley) is a fashion photographer traveling to meet his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) at Eden Parish, the commune she’s been living at since she left her drug rehabilitation program. Despite some misgivings over his sister’s vagueness over the commune’s location, Patrick travels to the commune with his friends and co-workers Sam (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg), who suspect that they might get a story out of the travels. Once there, Patrick is met by his sister, who is happier and healthier than she has been in a while. His friends begin to film interviews with Eden Parish’s inhabitants, all of which speak of the commune in glowing terms. However they soon discover that there is a sinister edge to the commune that belies the seemingly peaceful setting.

Friday One Sheet: The Sacrament

Ti West goes head-first into the realm of ‘found footage’ films with his latest film, The Sacrament. Equally so, it embodies the confusion and tension of the 1978 Jonestown migration and group suicide inside the modern, quasi-fictional narrative. And this brings us to the poster. When you have a charismatic and intimidating religious figure as influential as Jim Jones as your inspiration, you should put him smack dab in the middle of the poster. Outside of Zardoz, this is the one floating head that I can forgive.

Look back here later in the day for the trailer to the film, via IGN.

Cinecast Episode 280 – Skypefall

Well it doesn’t happen until the very end, but you know eventually there’s going to be warfare. This time the smackdown is over a non-existent remake. Who knew? Anyway, before the fireworks is a pretty good SPOILER review of 007’s latest adventure in Skyfall. An impressive homework turnout this week in which races are discussed – very few with cars surprisingly. And then it’s on to The patented Watch List, in which the boys get into more James Bond titles, some “un-Spielbergian” releases, the latest news from the Adam Sandler front, mishandled ghosts and very early Joseph Gordon-Levitt love – spiraling downwards into our own version of a “versus” segment: Kathleen Turner vs. Anne Hathaway. All of this and so much more to love…kinda, here on episode 280. Enjoy!

Feel free to edit these show notes or add to them in any way at our NEW RowThree WIKI page

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


show content

 


 

 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_12/episode_280.mp3

Full show notes are under the seats…
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Festival Review: Celluloid Screams 2012

Last weekend I headed over to Sheffield’s premiere horror festival Celluloid Screams to check out all the wonderfully horrific offerings they had on. I’ve been the last couple of years and the festival is always great for screening new and exclusive films, tonnes of excellent shorts and a couple of classics. This year was no exception.

Here’s a list of the features I watched and my thoughts on them. I’d love to write up about all of the great shorts too, but I don’t have the time and wanted to get this up for Halloween so apologies:

Sightseers

Director: Ben Wheatley | UK | 2012

Ben Wheatley’s follow up to the excellent Kill List is very slight and a little flat at times, especially towards the end, but fun and admirably unique. Alice Lowe as Tina is the crux of the film, creating the film’s most natural and relatable character, and displays her crucial vulnerability effectively enough to make it work in amongst the quirkier and more outlandish elements. In my opinion this is Wheatley’s weakest film so far, but it’s still entertaining, original and refreshingly English.

Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut

Director: Clive Barker & Restored by Russell Cherrington | USA/UK | 1990/2012

This newly pieced together version of Clive Barker’s own adaptation of his book Cabal, created from footage found on a VHS work print, the ‘Cabal Cut’ of Nightbreed is not quite a ‘lost masterpiece’ but it’s interesting to see the painstaking work gone into restoring the film to what more closely resembles Barker’s vision. It remains an ambitious and imaginative film with a memorable villain (David Cronenberg!) but the performances are weak and the drama cheesy.

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Cinecast Episode 278 – Evolve or Die

After festival vacations took hold of both your respective hosts, we’re back for a whole lot of catch-up. We mix up the format a bit with a bit of Disney/Lucasfilm discussion before jumping into reviews of Cloud Atlas (SPOILERS!) and Lee Daniel’s even wackier The Paperboy (SPOILERS!), grading the homework assignments, recaps of said festivals and a further Watch List that jumps from goofy to subversive X-rated classics to gentle (yet badass) angels of doom. It all culminates lengthy show, you’ve been warned.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


show content

 


 

 

 

 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_12/episode_278.mp3

 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Review: The Innkeepers

 

[Because The Innkeepers is graduating from Video On Demand to Theatrical Exhibition today, we revisit Kurt’s Toronto After Dark Review. If you want to go further back in the archives, Jandy’s review is here.]
 

There is a scene, perhaps midway through Ti West’s most recent film of spooky interiors and patient tracking-shots, where an underpaid employee struggles to get a bag of garbage in to the rear alley bin. It is as good of a touchstone for what he has been managed thus far with his career, going against the grain of mainstream horror trends (torture, found footage, etc.) by making more patient, measured films which rely exclusively on atmosphere and tension. Making a horror film in this day and age that eschews gimmickry and/or mounds of bad CGI (and worse dialogue) while actually getting it out into the marketplace is a herculean task in and of itself. Alas, for all the chatter (and wonderful key art) posted on the internet about The House of the Devil, the film is only a success within the select niche of genre aficionados. Notwithstanding some very minor issues with its digitally-flat (and rather abrupt) ending, it is one of the great horror pictures of the past 10 years. I have little reservation in calling it a master-work in terms of generating both tension and anticipation, which when you boil things down is damn near everything in the horror genre. Yet, suspense seems seems to be dying off with each new re-invention of horror-formula with only a few notable exceptions.

Back to the bag of garbage.

The employee is Claire and she is one of only two remaining staff serving a meagre three guests living at the The Yankee Pedlar Inn until the business shutters at the end of the week. The bag is leaking some sort of fluid as she drags it haltingly across the uneven cracked asphalt. She makes several Sisyphean attempts to heave the hulking sack into the bin whose lid seems close just a millisecond too soon. The whole scene plays out as a charming bit of physical comedy, a levity that rests purely on the comic timing and chummy vibe of Ms. Sara Paxton which, more than a bit, reminds me of Anna Faris’ endearing goofiness in Smiley Face. And so goes The Innkeepers, a haunted hotel story that trafficks in the gentle, snarky comedy of its pair of underpaid and unambitious wage-slaves before breaking out the Shining and the ghosties and turn-of-the-screw tension to become one of most effective horror films of 2011. One of the smartest, too. An early gag in the movie, which threatens to echo/resonate in the films final shot, is one hell of a deconstruction of the jump-scare and its often gross misuse in the genre. This is a good sign that West has his brain and his talent laser focused on the nature and the possibility of this type of filmmaking. The syntax similar to The House of the Devil, but the tone could not be more different. Gone is the late 70s early 80s setting, although it retains a feel of classic, vintage filmmaking that outside of a few laptop computers, and a latte bar across the street, could place the film anywhere in the 20th century. Horror and comedy are rarely mixed well, but resulting cocktail here is shaken and stirred. Hell, it is downright effervescent. The icing on the cake is that the ending here feels far more organic to the themes brought out in the storytelling than House of the Devil. In its own fashion The Innkeepers turns the rules of this sort of film inside out while still managing to follow them. It’s a neat trick, and a welcome one.

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Cinecast Episode 243 – Jump on that Curve and Ride it to Infinity

 

Soderbegh claims he’s retiring. Yeah right. Every time I turn around my IMDb smart phone app is alerting me to something new he’s working on. Haywire was something we heard about what seems like ages ago now and it’s finally here. Does it live up to the wait and the expectations? Matt Gamble takes another one in the nuts for the team with Red Tails and the latest Underworld picture; in 3D this time. Kurt’s children chime in for a couple of minutes on their thoughts on the 80’s animated series “Dungeons and Dragons.” After that technical snafu, we’ve got a helluva watch list this week rounds out the show with 80s, underrated goofery, catching up with some underseen gems from 2011, a love fest for Ti West’s latest, some Man for Earth discrepancies and a whole lot more.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_12/episode_243.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?