It's baaack! For the second straight year, in the spirit of the season, the weekly compilation of first-run indie offerings has been replaced with seven movies guaranteed to titillate, nauseate and leave you maddeningly unsettled. Once again, rather than rounding up the usual suspects – cyberspace is already littered with zealous endorsements of The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby – I've made a conscientious effort to name less obvious shockers, all available at your local video store (if it still exists) or via the now-maligned Netflix.
We open with a helicopter soaring across the Antarctic plain, chasing down a terrified husky. A sharpshooter rains bullets on the snowy terrain, every one missing its target. The scene is almost comical, these hapless predators devoting such effort to a frivolous hunt. But the question remains: How did the dog set them off?
Alas, we’ll never know. Before long, the hunters are dead and the husky is settled in the arms of a new master. But that initial hint of unrest throws all that follows into uncertainty. Something is amiss, and we know it’s just a matter of time before the movie’s darkness comes to light.
Summer is officially over, but Hollywood is still churning out enough remakes (Footloose, The Thing), tech-savvy adventures (Real Steel) and physics-defying thrillers (In Time) to make the adjustment that much smoother. With the first weekend of October about to begin, let's take a look at what the month has to offer.
Real Steel (Oct. 7)
The fighters: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie
Calling the shots: Shawn Levy
Give Rob Zombie his due. Asked to remake one of the most influential horror films in history – one of the few that remains as effectively jarring today as it was at the time of its 1978 release, when an up-and-coming director named John Carpenter reinvented the slasher genre with his stark portrayal of a lunatic killer loosed on suburbia – and the White Zombie singer has done so in a way that is unique and, surprisingly, still shocking.
Carpenter, recruited to direct Halloween, his third feature, on the heels of his similarly unrelenting 1976 thriller Assault on Precinct 13, may have raised the bar too high, but Zombie offers a broader yet compelling take on the mythology that has made Michael Myers one of the big screen's creepiest bogeymen.
The 34th Toronto International Film Festival, billed by organizers as "the most important festival after Cannes," concluded Sunday, Sept. 19, with the announcement of this year's Audience Award winner: The King's Speech, Tom Hooper's account of Bertie (A Single Man's Colin Firth), the man who overcame a humiliating stutter to become King George VI. (Bay Area moviegoers will get a sneak peek of Speech when it opens the 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.) Here's an account of the 10-day Toronto festival's highlights, lowlights and (almost) everything in between.
Late-breaking news: Midnites for Maniacs programmer Jesse Hawthorne Ficks will be hosting a must-see '80s marathon all day Saturday at the Castro Theatre, featuring Sylvester Stallone's criminally overlooked Nighthawks, Jean-Claude Van Damme kicking ass in Bloodsport, a pair of John Carpenter gems (a newly restored print of Big Trouble in Little China, followed by They Live), and a "secret midnite film" rumored to be none other than Hulk Hogan's No Holds Barred.
Ballads of whiskey, women and heartbreak are a country music cliché, the wistful laments of road-weary troubadours resigned to lives of mistakes and regret.
Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) leads just such a life. Some country crooners sing the blues for the money, but Bad is the genuine article. He has walked away from every relationship he's ever known, drunk himself into a stupor more times than he can remember, and fathered a son, now in his 20s, that he's never met. Once he played to packed houses, but when we meet him he's preparing for his latest show – at a bowling alley, with a pickup band – by drowning himself in the hard stuff.