Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Time it goes so fast when you're having fun
Film Review - MANIC MONDAY (2010)
Original Screenplay by O. Niemand
Directed by Des Baxter
Clearly intending to emulate the success of Paranormal Activity (and frankly, who wouldn't?), comes the In-The-Dark-Of-Night-While-Nobody's-Really-Paying-Attention roll-out of Manic Monday, an independent Horror release that, were it any more under the radar, would be picked up on sonar. Unsurprisingly, it comes from the Great White North, which makes Yours Truly sit up a little straighter and hope for some cool, creepy, Canuck chills. I was not disappointed and, gentle Jarheads, neither will you be, for the rivulet that is Manic Monday is certain to grow to a rampaging torrent, as Horror fans discover THE 2010 release that will take fandom by storm. Were we any more blindsided by a film, Sandra Bullock would be claiming a proprietary share in it.
As all good little Catholic boys and girls know, there is nothing positive to be gained from fraternizing with a Ouija board (somewhere a nun, arms akimbo, is glowering at me for even typing the words "Ouija board"), not even when you want it to reveal the name of your next hunky boyfriend. No one warned Heather Gamble (newcomer Melissa Jost) about their potential for summoning up inchoate Evil, so when her innocent bumblings inadvertently open up a gateway to Hell itself, it's a little bit late to regret being Unitarian. But from that seed of a beginning - and, let's be honest, one that's been planted many, many times - screenwriter Niemand and director Baxter have a grand and gloriously gory good time with the concept of Hell As Suburbia - the mundane and innocuous suddenly take on sinister permutations, for Hell, as Hell is wont to do, spills over into Earth, possessing random household objects at the most inopportune moments. (The Jar is - proudly - a Spoiler Free Zone, so you're only going to get the most oblique hints out of me as to where and when these occur, Jarheads, but I will warn the ladies - be prepared to never look at a Ped Egg the same way again.) This is my favorite kind of Horror - it forces you to see the quotidian in life with new, fear-filled eyes.
Director Baxter pulls off a bravura set piece at the midpoint with a malevolent garbage disposal (ever have one of these that sounds like it's actually digesting? The Foley artist here deserves an Oscar), an inquisitive little girl, and, incongruously, Aerosmith's "Dream On" for a sound-bed. I must confess - I was momentarily pulled out of the picture, wondering how this mini-budgeted Canadian flick could afford the rights to one of the more intimidating tunes from Steve Tyler's back-catalogue, but Jarheads who know my affinity for music of the 80s will also know my pleasant surprise discovering that first-time helmer Baxter has had a long career in Canadian music videos, responsible for clips from Indio, 54-40 and The Northern Pikes among many others. Connections, people. Everything in the world is about connections. And hockey. I'll bet hockey played a hand.
Manic Monday one-ups Paranormal Activity by providing something the earlier film lacked - a Horror Icon. And it may well have found one in newcomer Tom Huston (hell, they're all newcomers here), whose turn as next-door neighbor Ezekiel Smit gives the picture a central figure that binds the supernatural shenanigans together and keeps it from spinning out of control during the surrealistically zanier moments. Billiard-bald and downright skeletal - face it, the man could walk through a harp without making a sound - Huston would do well to choose his next role very carefully lest typecasting ensue. He has that rare presence that you sense even when he's not onscreen, a natural gift that needs to be handled with delicacy. And in the name of all that's holy, eat a hamburger, man!
But what has me most curious is wondering how Manic Monday's campaign for a distributor and a full-blooded release is going to play out over the coming days and weeks. The movie is a non-presence on the Interweb, and bloggers fortunate enough to live near a selected city (Milwaukee, today I love you) and, in The Jar's case, just down the road from an independently-owned cinema (Showtime, today I love you) received the (sketchy) promotional materials, from which these posted photos are culled. Like the darkness that lurks underneath the Gamble kitchen sink (I may be moving my cleaning products someplace else, and soon), it's a lurker, working on the subconscious, even cellular, level. Can a movie that unveils in such a sub rosa fashion become a box office force? Remember what I said about Hell, gentle Jarheads, and how it wants to flood into this reality? If there's any justice to the ticket counter, that's what's going to happen with Manic Monday, a Hell of a Horror movie.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go listen to The Bangles. And The Northern Pikes. And Aerosmith.