Get Out

get-out-movie

2017

Blumhouse Productions/QC Entertainment/Universal Pictures

Directed and Written by Jordan Peele

Produced by Jason Blum/Edward H. Hamm, Jr./Sean McKittrick/Jordan Peele

Years and years ago I was having a discussion with a Caucasian friend of mine. Over copious amounts of alcoholic beverages we discussed movies and he suddenly popped up with a question that had been plaguing him for some time and he felt he could ask me instead of some other black people of his acquaintance as he felt I wouldn’t take it the wrong way. He said that when he went to see horror movies, the black people in the audience were laughing at the terrible things happening to the characters in the movie. Why were they laughing? It confused him because they were, after all, horror movies. Who laughs at horror movies?

My answer: “They’re laughing because white folks do things in horror movies that you’d never catch black people doing. We don’t fool around investigating the supernatural or the paranormal. We don’t think it’s fun or cool to party in graveyards. We don’t go down in the dark basement where we know damn well the killer is hiding. We don’t think it would be a groove to go spend the weekend in a haunted house or at some remote camp where a buncha murders were committed. We don’t go back for our buddy/girlfriend/boyfriend/mother/father if they trip and fall while running from the killer. We don’t go back for the dog or the cat. We don’t split up when we know there’s a mad killer on the loose so that he can pick us off one by one. Got the picture?”

Despite my flippant answer there have been a considerable number of outstanding horror movies with black protagonists. I’m thinking of “The Beast Must Die” “Ganja & Hess” “The People Under The Stairs” “Candyman” “Demon Knight” “Attack The Block” and “Night of The Living Dead” come to mind. GET OUT can be added to the list and may eventually be at the top. It’s a dynamic debut film from Jordan Peele who directs with the confidence and expertise of a much more seasoned director. Psychological horror and social satire are skillfully blended with a dash of comedy mixed in just enough to give us a chance to relax a bit before being plunged back into the nightmarish situation faced by Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya)

01-get-out-w710-h473

Chris is invited by his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to spend the weekend at her parents house. Chris is somewhat apprehensive because he’s black, she’s white and she has not told her parents she’s dating a black man. But she assures Chris that her parents are super cool and everything will be just fine.

Film Title: Get Out

And her parents Dean and Missy (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) do indeed turn out to be pretty cool. Oh, sure Dean bends over so far backwards to show that he’s “down” and sympathetic with black people in such a way that it in itself is borderline racist while Missy is just a little too insistent that Chris allow her to hypnotize him to cure his smoking addiction.

Film Title: Get Out

Chris at first is relieved to see a couple of other black faces at the Armitage estate in the form of the maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and the groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) until he has a chance to talk to them. As he tells his best friend Rod (Lil Rey Howery) they do not act like any black people he’s ever known. Rod of of the opinion that Chris should never have gone up there in the first place. And as the weekend goes on, Chris starts to think his boy just may be onto something. He meets Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) who doesn’t bother to hide his creepy hostility toward Chris. And the Armitages host a party where most of the guests seem to know way more about Chris than he’s comfortable with. And that’s all you need to know. It’s not that GET OUT is a movie full of unexpected twists and turns. In fact, the trailers you’ve seen have told more than they should but there’s plenty left in GET OUT to be surprised with. But that is due more to the gradual building of suspense as the weirdness increases. GET OUT isn’t a movie that depends on violence and gore to make it’s point. It actually gets pretty deep in it’s use of horror movie tropes to examine race and racism while telling an entertaining story at the same time. It doesn’t beat you over the head with social commentary on race relations but there’s enough there to give you something to think about and discuss after you leave the theater.

Daniel Kaluuya holds the center of the movie just fine as our likable protagonist who is an everyday guy thrown into a situation way over his head. His character has some psychological baggage that helpes to round out the character and explains some of the choices he makes later on in the movie. But the MVP award has to be shared by Betty Gabriel and Lil Rey Howery. Betty Gabriel’s Georgina is without a doubt the scariest character in the movie and she made me jump more than once.

Film Title: Get Out

Lil Rey Howery provides most of the movie’s comedy, ruthlessly stealing every scene he’s in. Chris calls Rod during the weekend to keep him up to date on the increasing weirdness and later on, Rod takes a more proactive role which leads to probably the funniest scene in the movie, one that he shares with Erika Alexander who plays a police detective.

get-out-jordan-peele-must-watch-03

So should you see GET OUT? Absolutely. It’s a fascinating piece of work that has been compared to the best episodes of the classic “Twilight Zone” and “The Stepford Wives” and deservedly so. It’s that good. By all means, go see and enjoy.

Rated R

103 Minutes

Crazy As Hell

crazy-as-hell

2002

Humble Journey Films/Loose Screw Films

Directed by Eriq La Salle

Produced by Butch Robinson/Michael Huens

Written by Jeremy Leven based on his novel: “Satan, His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S.”

See, the problem isn’t finding black characters in horror movies. There have been black characters in horror movies going all the way back to 1940’s “Son of Ingagi” which was the first horror movie featuring an all-black cast and written by that true pioneer of African-American film; Spencer Williams. And Mantan Moreland, best known for playing Charlie Chan’s chauffeur Birmingham Brown starred in a number of horror comedies that were more comedy than horror, but just go along with me for minute, okay?

And during the Blaxploitation Era we had the “Blacula” movies, “J.D.’s Revenge” “Abby” (which actually was yanked from theaters due to Warner Brothers filing a suit against the movie, claiming it was a blatant copy of “The Exorcist.”) “Ganja & Hess” “Sugar Hill” (which is actually just as much a superhero origin movie as it is a horror movie) and “Doctor Black, Mister Hyde” as well as many, many others.

As for the modern era there have been several superior horror movies featuring African-Americans such as “The People Under The Stairs” “Candyman” “Tales From The Hood” all worthy examples of the genre and well worth seeking out. So, no…black characters in horror movies aren’t hard to find. But for every one where the black character is the lead or the hero there’s a half dozen others where the black character is merely window dressing.  They’re usually the best friend of the hero/heroine as a sort of visual shorthand to let the audience know that our lead character is cool and hip because they have a black BFF. Or they are simply a sacrificial lamb that gets killed off halfway through the movie.

No, the problem is finding good horror movies with black characters and I’m pleased to have discovered one that has been around for a long time and that I’ve heard about but never had a chance to see until recently. CRAZY AS HELL turned out to be a real surprise for me and the longer I watched it, the more I liked the vibe I was getting from it. And while I don’t think it’s as good as “Angel Heart” or “Shutter Island” two movies it shares much in common with, CRAZY AS HELL is more than worth your time.

Superstar pop psychiatrist Ty Adams (Michael Beach) reports to his new job at Sedah State Mental Hospital. Adams is going to be put in charge of the facility for thirty days while a documentary crew records everything he does in his private time and in his therapy sessions with his patients. The head of the documentary crew, Parker (John C. McGinley) assures Adams of complete co-operation but it soon becomes apparent that Parker is deliberately filming encounters Adams has with the staff and patients that don’t exactly put him in a flattering or even professional light. And the faculty’s administrator, Dr. Delazo (Ronny Cox) doesn’t trust Adams or his methods as Adams believes in totally medication free treatment for his patients. Delazo also quiet accurately puts his finger on the fact that Adams is arrogantly overconfident with a rampaging ego that will not permit him to admit when he is wrong or admit defeat. None of these traits being exactly desirable in a man who is supposed to be putting his patients first.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Adams is given a new patient to treat. One who checked himself into the ha-hacienda voluntarily and insists on Adams being his doctor. The patient (Eriq La Salle) claims his name is Satan and his profession is The Father of Lies. Naturally Adams thinks he’s fulla felgercarb. But the more time he spends with Satan, the less certain he is about him. Satan knows things about Adams and the other patients that it isn’t possible for him to know. And is just a coincidence that at the same time Satan appears at the nuthouse, Adams begins to hallucinate about his wife and daughter? The same wife and daughter he refuses to talk about? Could it be that the wife and daughter are connected with “incident” in New York Dr. Delazo makes cryptic reference’s to?

crazy-as-hell-1-1

The fun of watching CRAZY AS HELL is mostly in us, along with Dr. Adams is trying to figure out if this crazy guy is actually Satan or a just a really perceptive and smart guy playing a game with Adams. And for every piece of evidence that Adams finds that says he’s actually The Devil, there’s another piece that says he isn’t. It’s a movie that maintains that suspense right up until the end and there are not a lot of movies of this type I can say it about. It truly did keep me guessing.

Eriq La Salle effortlessly steals the movie both as an actor and as a director. He plays Satan with a scary seductiveness that walks a fine line between being funny and frightening. He finds the exact right note to play this character and never makes a wrong step. His direction his sharp, tight and keeps the story movie along at an even clip and again, he walks a fine line in keeping our interest while not letting us get too far ahead of Adams. He’ll drop us just enough to make us think we know more than Adams and then by the time we get to the end credits we realize we didn’t know a thing more than what he wanted us to know.

The_Man-Satan_(Crazy_as_Hell)

Ronny Cox supplies more than able backup here and Sinbad shows up as a hospital orderly who is constantly getting the high hat from Adams. And keep your eyes open for Tia Texada who plays Lupa, who works in the facility’s cafeteria. She has a small role but Moly Hoses, does she make the most of her short screen time. Trust me when I say that if you see the movie you’ll know exactly what I mean.

So should you see CRAZY AS HELL? Absolutely. It’s a terrific example of a type of horror filmmaking that doesn’t need buckets of blood, pornographic violence or fake out jump scares to do its job. CRAZY AS HELL is a type of horror that sneaks up on you and before you know it, it’s got you. Highly recommended.

Rated R

113 Minutes

Sometimes Salvation

10329090_867234406669027_5528059710897013043_n

2015

Global View Productions

Written and Directed by Thor Moreno

Produced by Annette Duffy/Chris McAninch

It says somewhere in The Gospel of Matthew that God causes rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous. And that’s a pretty good way to describe the Film Noir genre because in Film Noir movies really bad things happen to good people and bad people alike. With no rhyme or reason. It matters not your station in life or your rationalizations for why you do what you do. One day you’re walking along minding your business and life gives you a knockout punch like Muhammad Ali on his best day.

Now, I say that to say this; Thor Moreno’s latest film, SOMETIMES SALVATION is very much a Film Noir in that the characters inhabiting the movie have some pretty rotten things happen to them. Some of them they bring on themselves. Some they don’t. It’s a movie that on the surface is constructed like a crime thriller because we’ve got cops, gangsters, drug dealing, murder and domestic abuse in the mix but that’s only to hook us. Underneath there’s a really interesting character study about people in serious emotional and psychological pain and the lengths that they’re willing to go through to alleviate that pain. It’s about the decisions they make to achieve that alleviation. And since this is a movie taking place in a Film Noir universe, none of those decisions are good ones.

Kelsey (Preshia Paulding) is a woman who due to the strain of losing her husband to a debilitating disease is a walking exposed nerve end. To maintain the illusion of keeping it together she’s taking narcotics she buys from Mandy (Annette Duffy) a nurse who steals drugs from the hospital where she works and sells them to people under the guise that she’s doing it to help them get through their grief. Hah.

11649286_918286451561670_868777770_o

Mandy is one of the links that ties Kelsey to Dusty (Shawn McAninch) a cop with a truly terrifying temper that manifests itself in alcohol fueled abuse of his girlfriend (Lyndsy Darland) and her son Evan (Ian Harrison) And to be very blunt about it, Evan is sick of Dusty’s shit and has a plan to take care of him for good. Evan is the other link tying Kelsey to Dusty as she is one of Evan’s teachers and can’t help but want to know why he’s coming to school with black eyes. The situation worsens with Kelsey’s realization that Dusty is tied into a possible murder that he can pin on her. And when Kelsey becomes privy to Evan’s plan for Dusty it comes down to one really major decision she has to make. Maybe it’s too late for her soul and it damn well sure is far too late for Dusty’s but if she makes the right decision, then Evan’s can be saved.

There’s an awful lot of plot and story in the 65 minutes it takes to tell but Thor Moreno doesn’t waste a minute of it. Wonderful actors who are really committed to their characters assist him. Preshia Paulding is outstanding. Even in the quiet scenes she has she communicates the wretched agony her character his going through. Kelsey is a woman two steps away from losing it for good and Preshia Paulding never lets us forget it. Shawn McAninch steals the movie though. Dusty is an intriguing character due to his anger issues and his alcoholism but yet, Dusty has an unshakable moral code when it comes to his job. He reacts with disgust when he’s asked to do something illegal on two occasions but he can make his domestic abuse sit right in his belly. He takes the character through a truly fascinating arc during the course of the movie, ranging from psychotic rage to the blackest of humor when he’s forced to negotiate with a legbreaker looking for money Dusty owes his boss. I couldn’t help but laugh during that scene and the one that immediately followed as McAninch looks like he could be Louis C.K.’s older, meaner brother. Paulding and McAninch have one totally riveting scene together that really messed with my head as I didn’t know if it was going to end in a seduction, a rape or a murder.

11664115_918289491561366_808639533_o

So should you see SOMETIMES SALVATION? I certainly recommend that you do so. On the strength of the three movies he’s written and directed I’ve seen, Thor Moreno has become one of my favorites.

The Baby

the-baby-movie-poster-1973-1020206752

1973

Quintet Productions

Directed by Ted Post

Produced by Abe Polsky, Milton Polsky and Elliott Feinman

Written by Abe Polsky

I am so thankful and grateful that I live in a world where movies like THE BABY were once made. There is absolutely no way on God’s green Earth that THE BABY could have been made today. It’s a movie that is so totally and absolutely batshit insane that even while you’re watching it you honestly can’t believe what you’re watching. And I do not exaggerate, trust me. Just when you think THE BABY can’t get any crazier it ups the ante and gets crazier. And the last fifteen minutes of the movie finishes up the job of blowing what few fuses are left intact in your brain.

Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer) is an earnest, well-meaning social worker who is assigned a new case involving the Wadsworth family. There’s Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman) and her two daughters: Germaine (Mariana Hill) and Alba (Suzanne Zenor). And then there’s the youngest and strangest member of the Wadsworth family. Baby (David Manzy) is a mentally impaired man in his early twenties who mind is still that of an infant and so he acts as such. The behavior is strongly reinforced by his mother and sisters who treat him as such. His mother never even bothered giving him a proper name and so everybody calls him “Baby.” He sleeps in an oversized crib and crawls around on hands and knees just like….well, just like a baby. And yeah, I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t seem very creepy or horrific. You just go ahead and watch the movie and then try and tell me that, cousin. David Manzy is a guy who throws himself into his role so well you may end up like me, wondering exactly what he did to prepare for the role.

baby (1)

Ann takes a special interest in the case, thinking that if Baby has proper training and treatment in the proper facility he can start acting older and more appropriate for his age. No, he’ll never be a “Jeopardy” contestant but at least he won’t be wearing a diaper. Seeing as how she and her daughters are getting a nice chunk of change from the state for Baby’s welfare, Mrs. Wadsworth has a solid reason for keeping Baby exactly the way he is. In addition, Alba gets her kicks from torturing her little brother with a cattle prod while Germaine likes to sneak into Baby’s giant sized crib at night to play Doctor.

But Ann is determined to get Baby the help he needs and gradually it dawns on us that Ann is just a little too determined. It doesn’t take Mrs. Wadsworth long to pick up on the fact that Ann has her own agenda for Baby. One that doesn’t include the Wadsworths.

vlcsnap-00007

In a very weird ass way, THE BABY is a woman’s picture. A cracked woman’s picture, I grant you. Compared to the chicks in this movie, Joan Crawford and Betty Davis in “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane” come off as being almost downright reasonable in their behavior. The few men in this movie are totally ineffectual and useless. I’m sure those of you with a more cerebral intellect than Your Humble Servant could make something out of the fact that the movie comes down to a bunch of women fighting for control of a man who is an infant and can’t take care of himself. Me, I take it as a superior psychological thriller with some surprisingly good performances.

526x297-D2B

The production values are also better than you would expect from a movie of such sleaze and exploitation but that’s part of the reason why I love THE BABY so much. It looks much better than it had to and the actors treat the material with a respect and seriousness I didn’t expect. They’re committed to the story, no matter how WTF it is and it shows and that gives the truly surprising conclusion an added wallop to the gut.

So should you see THE BABY? Without a doubt. This is definitely one of those movies that goes on the You Have To See It To Believe It list. It would make an excellent Saturday night double feature with that king of WTF movies; “The Apple.” Enjoy.

PG

84 minutes

Suddenly, Last Summer

suddenly-last-summer-movie-poster-1960-1020196847

1959

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Produced by Sam Spiegel

Screenplay by Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams

Based on the play “Suddenly, Last Summer” by Tennessee Williams

Elizabeth Taylor is an actress who I’m just now finding who new levels of respect for. Oh, sure, I’ve seen “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” “Cleopatra” “Butterfield 8” and “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” but it wasn’t until this past summer when I watched “Reflections In A Golden Eye” and SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER back-to-back that I realized that this chick really could act her well-shaped moneymaker off. You’ve probably read my review of “Reflections In A Golden Eye” so you know how twisted that movie is. Well, believe it or not, SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER is even more twisted.  In fact, for my money, this movie qualifies as a full-blown, all out deep fried Southern Gothic Horror Movie that should be watched every Halloween.  Don’t believe me? Then what else would you call a movie whose major themes are insanity, lobotomies, implied incest, pedophilia, cannibalism and ritual murder/sacrifice? A movie that takes place mostly in an asylum?

Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) is fed up with the poor working conditions at the state hospital and he’s ready to quit. But then a lucrative offer is dangled in front of him by the hospital’s alcoholic, sleazy administrator (Albert Dekker) This offer involves Dr. Cukrowicz meeting with the obscenely wealthy and eccentric Violet Venable (Katherine Hepburn). Violet Venable will finance a brand spanking new wing of the hospital with state of the art equipment if Dr. Cukrowicz will do a favor for her.  Seeing as how he’s a brilliant surgeon who is considered the leading pioneer in the field of lobotomy, Violet will come across with the filthy lucre if Dr. Cukrowicz will lobotomize her niece Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor)

suddenly_last_summer_01

Quite naturally, Dr. Cukrowicz wants to know why such a radical procedure has to be done. Especially after he meets the extraordinarily beautiful Catherine.  It’s his opinion that she has suffered from a severe emotional shock but she’s not lobotomy material.  But it cannot be denied that Catherine’s cousin Sebastian died under highly mysterious circumstances while he and Catherine were on vacation in Europe last summer. Circumstances so frightening that Catherine suffered a nervous breakdown and has blocked the memory of what really happened.

In fact, after having some really bizarre conversations with Violet, Catherine’s mother, Grace (Mercedes McCambridge) and Catherine’s brother George (Gary Raymond) Cukrowicz discovers that they all have reasons to want Catherine to be lobotomized so that the truth about Sebastian’s death can never be known.

Suddenly_Last_Summer-hepburn

Why did Sebastian suddenly leave his mother behind last summer and take Catherine along with him on that fateful vacation?  During her talks with Cukrowicz, Catherine hints of a possible incestuous relationship between Violet and Sebastian and that Sebastian used his mother on previous vacations to procure underage boys for him to satisfy his pedophiliac lust.  A job that Catherine suggests Violet was a more than willing participant in. A job that Sebastian hoped Catherine would be willing to take over.

Dr. Cukrowicz finally decides to use a combination of truth serum and hypnosis to unlock Catherine’s suppressed memories of what happened the day Sebastian died.  Cukrowicz assembles the family members in an almost Agatha Christie-like gathering where he puts together the clues he’s gotten from all of them and along with the frightening story that Catherine at last remembers and tells he is able to solve the mystery of what happened to Sebastian.

suddenly-last-summer-1959

SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER to me qualifies as a Horror Movie because of not only the subject matter but halfway through the movie I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to know what had happened to Sebastian Venable. And trust me, when I finally did find out what happened to Sebastian, I wish I hadn’t.  His horrific fate is revealed in a tour de force scene described by Catherine that Shirley Jackson herself would be proud of.

8e2f19d81d9cd47e6fac73ed961b405a

The acting in SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER is absolutely first rate. After all, we’re talking about Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Katherine Hepburn here. The only one that let me down in this movie is Mercedes McCambridge.  But that’s only because I’ve seen her play kick-ass women in movies such as “Giant” “Johnny Guitar” and “All The King’s Men” and I really don’t like seeing her play such a wimpy character. But otherwise, you couldn’t wish for better.  Especially Elizabeth Taylor who demonstrates fully the range of her acting ability and more than holds her own in her scenes with Katherine Hepburn.

Take my advice and put SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER on your list of movies to watch. For the first twenty minutes it may not seem like a horror movie but keep watching and by the time you get to the last twenty minutes, I think you’ll agree with me that it is.

114 Minutes

The Innkeepers

2011

Glass Eye Pix/Magnet Releasing

Directed and Written by Ti West

Produced by Larry Fessenden

There’s a lot of folks who are horror fans who are not going to like THE INNKEEPERS. And that’s okay. I fully understand that there’s an entire generation that has been brought up on horror film franchises such as “Saw” “Final Destination” “Wrong Turn” and “Paranormal Activity” and while those movies aren’t exactly what I consider horror, I recognize that they have entertained a whole lotta folks. That’s why they’re franchises. And when I’m in the mood I even enjoy watching a “Final Destination” movie myself. Those things are the best live-action Looney Tunes cartoons ever made.

But there’s a genre of horror movie that I don’t see much of today that I love and that’s The Ghost Story. Most of them are also Haunted House movies as well since it’s usually a house that the ghosts are haunting. I’m thinking of movies such as “The Innocents” “Poltergeist” “The Shining” “Stir of Echoes” “The Legend of Hell House” “The Haunting” and “The Others.” And now I can add a new one to that list: THE INNKEEPERS.

The Yankee Pedlar Inn is going to close in a few days and the owner is soaking up the sun in Barbados, leaving his last two employees Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) to work the place during the final weekend of operation. Both Claire and Luke are amateur ghost hunters and Luke even has a website detailing the history of the hotel’s history of ghost sightings and hauntings. The hotel’s most prominent ghost legend is the one of Madeline O’Malley. She was abandoned in the hotel by a husband who suddenly decided he didn’t want to be married and ran off. Consumed with grief, Madeline hung herself and the hotel owners buried her body in the basement to avoid scandal. Claire and Luke both hope that sometime during this final weekend they’ll be able to make contact with Madeline’s spirit or record her voice.

The hotel’s few guests are an odd bunch. Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis) is a former actress who has given up that career to become a professional medium. She’s in town for a psychics’ convention and despite her abrasive personality seems to be the real deal. Or is she just that good of an actress still? There’s a perpetually pissed off woman (Alison Bartlett) with her son (Jake Ryan) who has left her husband and is apparently intending to dump her anger on poor Claire and Luke with ceaseless demands for more towels. And the oddest of the lot is an old man (George Riddle) who insists that he must stay in a room on the third floor.

Claire and Luke take turns manning the front desk and looking out for ghosts. Both of them believe in ghosts and desperately want to see one. And as my grandfather used to say: God answers all prayers so it’s on us to be very careful about what it is that we pray for.

I really enjoyed how THE INNKEEPERS takes it’s time slowly putting together it’s story. The first half of the movie is mostly Claire and Luke doing their jobs and talking about what they’re going to do when they’re unemployed. Through some really clever dialog and the likeability of the two actors they had me convinced that Claire and Luke are co-workers who have known each for a long time, possibly even grew up on the same street and went to school together. Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy are really good at helping to establish the mood and pace of the movie and in the second half where things start to go wrong I found myself really concerned and worried about what would happen to them.

Kelly McGillis was a real surprise for me as I totally did not recognize her and it wasn’t until I was doing research for this review that I found out who she was. The only movie I’ve ever seen her in was “Witness” and before you ask; no, I have never seen “Top Gun” which is the movie she’s best known for. Just based on her performance in this movie I’d really wish she’d do more work in film. Lena Dunham shows up in an amusing scene as a barista who wants to confide in Claire about her love life. In fact, there’s quite a bit of humor in the first half of the movie which makes it all the more horrifying when the haunting begins as I had really grown to like the happy-go-lucky Claire and Luke by that point.

Like any good ghost story, THE INNKEEPERS leaves the ending open to the individual’s interpretation of the events they have just witnessed. Is the hotel actually haunted or was everything in Claire’s mind? Is Leanne actually psychic? What did she see in the basement? THE INNKEEPERS succeeds enormously at creating suspense and a feeling of dread without ever showing you anything for much of the movie’s running time. It saves it’s real horrors for when they’ll count the most, as any good horror movie should.

So should you see THE INNKEEPERS? If you’re a movie goer who demands buckets of blood and decapitated heads flying at you, or tons of gory CGI effects then I recommend you stay away. This isn’t your movie. And for those of you who demand your movies move at Warp Factor Five with quick cuts every thirty seconds, this isn’t your movie.

But for those of you who don’t mind chewing on your horror slowly, savoring a natural escalation of atmosphere and the ambiguity of wondering if what is happening is real or just the result of overworked imagination, combined with some really fine acting, then yes, see THE INNKEEPERS and enjoy.

Rated R

101 Minutes

In A Lonely Place

1950
Columbia Pictures

Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Robert Lord
Screenplay by Andrew Solt
Based on the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes

Let’s face it; it’s not easy to make movies about writers. At the end of the day a writer’s job is to sit down at a desk for hours and hours and…well, write. That doesn’t make for a very exciting movie. It’s not like making a movie about a painter or an artist. They at least move around and do grand things when they’re being brilliant. But writers are at their most creative and brilliant when they’re apparently doing nothing or very little at all. Hardly the stuff of exciting motion pictures. Despite that there have been a surprising number of well made movies about writers and they usually focus not only on the writing process but how the writer affects those around him like in “Barton Fink” and “The Whole Wide World.” IN A LONELY PLACE is such a movie. It’s about a writer and it’s about how he affects the lives of people around him. But in a lot of ways it’s unlike any movie about a writer I’ve ever seen.

Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is a hotshot Hollywood screenwriter struggling to come back after a series of flops. While hanging out with his good pal, the alcoholic has-been film legend Charlie Waterman (Robert Warwick) at his favorite watering hole, Dix is thrown a promising job courtesy of his long suffering agent of 20 years, Mel Lippman (Art Smith) There’s a popular book that a top studio is dying to turn into a movie and they want Dix to write the screenplay. The problem is Dix doesn’t want the job and doesn’t even want to read the book.

However, the hat check girl Mildred (Martha Stewart) has read the book and loves it to death. She begs Dix to read it and write the screenplay. Dix asks her to come over to his place and outline the story for him. He figures that he can get enough from that so he can bullshit his way through the actual writing of the screenplay. Mildred is ecstatic to be part of the moviemaking process and agrees. They spend a sociable enough evening where Mildred does indeed tell Dix enough of the book’s story, plot and characters for his purposes and he sends her home with cab fare.

But the following morning Dix is awakened by an old Army buddy of his, Brub Nicholai (Frank Lovejoy) who is now a police detective. And Brub is investigating a murder in which Dixon Steele is the main suspect: Mildred was horribly and brutally killed the night before.  Brub’s superior Captain Lochner (Carl Benton Reid) wants Brub to use his friendship to get close to Dix and prove he killed Mildred. Brub doesn’t believe Dix did it. But Dix has a long history of violent behavior. Lochner believes Dix killed Mildred due to his odd lack of emotional response upon hearing of her death. Brub has known Dix ever since the war and says that Dix has always been like that. Brub plainly admires Dix, calling him a genius, claiming that Dix has ‘a superior mind’ Brub resents his own wife Sylvia (Jeff Donnell) calling Dix ‘sick’. Sylvia makes no secret of the fact she’s uneasy around Dix and tells Brub; “if that’s what a genius is like I’m glad you’re average”

Dix gets a temporary break due to the testimony of his neighbor Laurel Grey (Gloria Grahame) who swears to Lochner that Mildred left Dix’s house alive and well. But even that is called into doubt when Dix and Laurel begin a torrid love affair that jumpstarts Dix’s creative juices. He works on the new screenplay with an energy he hasn’t had in years, fueled by Laurel’s affectionate help. Everybody sees a change in Dix but Laurel is seeing a side of Dix she doesn’t like. Dix has a paranoid streak a yard wide and no control on his temper at all. This is a guy who goes way past nuclear and into supernova when he gets his mad on. And Laurel comes to gradually realize that even if Dix didn’t kill that hat check girl, he may be totally capable of killing her if he lets his anger and paranoia have its way.

IN A LONELY PLACE is one of those movies that was considered campy melodrama when it was first released but now is regarded as a classic of film noir and I’m one of those who agree. It’s a fascinating movie about a talented man with flaws as large as his talent and the most interesting thing about the movie is how his friends deal with him, his talent and his flaws. Humphrey Bogart is a Film Icon due to his tough guy roles but he’s just as good if not better when he plays against type and his Dixon Steele is a guy who I actually believed was a writer. There were a lot of little touches that Bogart gave the character that I’m convinced he must have gotten from writers he knew because they rang true. Dixon Steele is a man who’s intelligent, charming, charismatic and frightfully insightful. But at the same time, he’s a man capable of sudden psychotic rages and near hysterical paranoid fits that terrify even those who love him best. It’s a totally wonderful performance from Bogart.

Gloria Grahame is just as wonderful as Bogart as she matches him line for line in that delightful Old School Hollywood Dialog that the just don’t write anymore. There’s something about her eyes and the way she looks that leads me to think she’s just as psychologically damaged as Dixon but she at least has an awareness of her flaws that Dix’s ego won’t allow him to acknowledge.

The direction by Nicholas Ray is wonderful and if you’re not familiar with him then IN A LONELY PLACE is a great place to start. Some of his other films include the deranged “Bigger Than Life” where James Mason goes totally apeshit thanks to his addiction to Cortisone and tries to murder his family. There’s the excellent noir detective film “On Dangerous Ground” where Robert Ryan plays a burned out homicide cop. He’s sent to a frozen wasteland north of a nameless crime ridden city to investigate the murder of a young girl and ends up falling in love with the blind sister of the chief suspect.

If you’re a fan of film noir, Humphrey Bogart or Nicholas Ray then you definitely should put IN A LONELY PLACE on your list of movies to Netflix or buy. It’s also a popular movie on Turner Classic Movies as they show it on a pretty regular basis. Watch and enjoy.

94 minutes