|08.21.21||Internet|| I watched this back in high school or maybe college when I was deep in the video store aisles and didn't love it. However, it seems to hold some esteemed status that has only grown over the years so I figured I should give it another shot.|
I didn't love it. I liked a few scenes and kind of see why it gets brought up in certain circles, but much of the movie feels pretty rough and tonally muddled to me. I get that it was an intentional mix of horror and western, but the Tangerine Dream score and lack of any real action give it this vibed out feel a little akin to Manhunter, a little bit Blood Simple... but way too 80s-slick to be as gritty as the pictures suggest. And yes the bar scene and the hotel scene are pretty great and Bill Paxton is pretty iconic, but not a lot happens and it's all so slooooow. But not like Only Lovers Left Alive where the whole movie feels hypnotic... this feels like it should be Thelma & Louise with vampires but instead it's more like The Straight Story with vampires.
I think I can boil my dissatisfaction with the movie down to a couple points, both of which are perhaps unfair:
-For a movie that revolves around sunrises, the timing and photography of such is all over the place. There's no sense of time, which maybe is intentional because these characters are so departed from the normal world? But in all the scenes where the sun is crucial (the beginning with Caleb and Mae in the car, Caleb in the field walking home, Homer getting Caleb's sister in the hotel, the ending of the movie, the title of the movie) it's super spotty as to when the sun is actually up. Sometimes it takes forever, sometimes it's very sudden. You'd think that these folks who are pretty much invincible (other than blowing up in a truck i guess) to everything but sunlight would pay more attention to it, and likewise you'd figure a movie where much of the tension revolves around that would also pay more attention.
-I can't help but be reminded by the timing of this movie. With almost all of the cast coming from Aliens (and the title even playing in a movie theater in the film), I can't help but compare it to everything that it's reminding me of. The problem is Blood Simple is 84, Aliens is 86, Manhunter is 86. I mean this is the same year as The Lost Boys. It feels a good 5 years older than it is.
So... I think both my hangups can easily be attributed to budget. I'm sure for Bigelow's first directorial effort she had to fight for every penny and you could say that - with what she had to work with - she created a unique mixture of genres that hadn't been seen before with a focus more on atmosphere than story. And all the comparisons to its peers are perhaps unfair because A) I'm talking about some of the best movies of the decade, and B) I'm sure she couldn't afford the effects that James Cameron and Joel Schumacher were working with.
But it's still a bummer to see this amazing make-up of Bill Paxton half-charred - make-up that's on the poster - only show on screen for like 3 seconds before he's unceremoniously dispatched (granted in what's probably the largest-scale effect in the film, but it's still off-screen in terms of seeing his face). And it's kind of a bummer to see Lance Henriksen, supposedly a survivor for hundreds of years, bite it just because he can't take a u-turn and not drive into the sun? Maybe my issue is that I'm rooting for the vampires since they're so much cooler than the main dude (both in character and the actor portraying him)? I dunno... no matter which angle I come at it, I have the feeling that I'm not liking this as much as I'm supposed to.
I will say this though. I was impressed with Tim Thomerson's performance as Caleb's dad. I only know him from Anchor Bay stuff like Trancers and Dollman so I didn't know he could deliver something subtle and authentic like he does here.