Sep 21, 2019

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995)


It goes without saying that John Carpenter gave the world the absolute greatest horror remake with The Thing. I highly doubt you could find many individuals willing to contest that. Fourteen years later, he gave the world another remake of a classic from the golden age. Utterly reviled upon its release (much like The Thing), Village of the Damned enjoyed a fine opening weekend at the box office and made enough money to be considered a success. But unlike The Thing, most critics and fans have not done a 180 as far as Village is concerned. They hated it then and they hate it now. Their reasoning for their distaste runs rampant: miscasting, a severe lack of character development, a thinly-plotted and inconsistent script.

I can’t say I disagree with any of that. But more on that in a minute.

A quick rundown of the plot for those who have never seen it (and you should be warned, spoilers abound from here till the end): the town of Midwich falls victim to a mysterious black-out of sorts that causes everything with a pulse to pass out. For hours, all lay crumpled on the floor, or the ground (or yikes...the roaring grill). They eventually awake, unsure of what’s happened, but try to get on with their lives...until it’s revealed that all of the women in town are now mysteriously pregnant, including the virgin, or the biologically barren. The government catches wind, shows up to see what’s the what, and once there, never actually leaves again. The children are born with blonde hair and a very special skill set: they have the power to control your mind and make you do things you would never normally do - to others as well as yourself. Carnage, as always, ensues.


Even the most ardent Carpenter fan (and I certainly count myself as one) has to admit that he peaked with The Thing, and after They Live, never quite reached the same heights of quality again. (In the Mouth of Madness is the only exception.) And Village of the Damned is nestled somewhere in his run of entertaining-but-maudlin offerings of the 1990s.

Nothing against Christopher Reeve, but he doesn’t quite bring his A-game to this production, and I doubt it was an indifference to the material, considering (and not to speak ill of the dead) that he wasn’t really one of the more celebrated thespians of his generations for a reason. Still, he’s perfectly satisfying as Dr. Alan Chaffee, and from time to time even feels more at home playing the father of an evil alien leader than he ever did as Superman. Given their working relationship and lasting friendship, it’s way too easy to picture Kurt Russell in the Chaffee role - that kind of simple fan-casting has the power to make you look back on the film with incredibly different, what-could-have-been eyes. Linda Kozlowski (mostly known for the Crocodile Dundee franchise) also provides a perfectly serviceable performance as Jill McGowan, but spends most of the film looking dour and downtrodden. The only one apparently having any fun is Kirstie Alley as Dr. Vurner, the cigarette-smoking, fed-clothes wearing bitch who seems to know from the very beginning just what is happening to the town of Midwich... but doesn't feel the need to clue in anyone else until it’s basically too late. (Oh, let's not forget Mark Hamill, cheesing it up as Reverend George, just pleased as punch to be part of a major studio production again.)

The problem is there is barely any interaction between characters in this film. Reeve has scenes with everyone, but the other supporting characters barely speak to each other. Though they both have major roles, Kozlowski and Alley don’t exchange a single word to each other. Perhaps it was a purposeful choice to limit Dr. Vurner’s interaction with other members of the town, but there doesn't seem to be an endgame to support it. Much more information could have been fed to the audience; more opportunities for human drama were missed. For instance, Vurner wants to dissect the kids, knowing that they're evil. Yet, Jill's blond son seems decent and good. Right there could have been an interesting conflict worth pursuing.


The biggest flaw with the script by David Himmelstein (including an uncredited rewrite by occasional Carpenter writing partner Larry Sulkis [Ghosts of Mars] and Steven Siebert) is that it feels like whole sections were removed - either in the writing stage or the editing stage. Obviously there have to be leaps through time in order for the newborns to age, from infant to toddler to elementary-school age, but often time it feels as if important developments are also being left behind. For instance, at a town hall meeting, Dr. Vurner confirms that every fertile female in town has become mysteriously pregnant, and therefore has attracted government attention. She presents them with a choice: Have an abortion and the government will pay for it, or carry the children to term and the government will pay for that, too - along with a monthly allowance of three thousand dollars. (The catch for this second choice is that Dr. Vurner or her team of scientists would like access to the children on a weekly basis for research purposes.) After the pregnant women have dreams featuring some really bad ‘80s music-video-inspired set dressing, they all decide to keep their kids. This really fucks up Vurner’s plan to cut open one of the aborted fetuses to see what they’re made of. Long preamble aside, this is the point: All the women in town are pregnant. Earlier I described them as “fertile” women, but that’s really just an assumption. It’s never stated if it really is every woman (the young? the elderly?) or just the ones biologically capable of carrying to term. Vurner confirms that “all [the women] have decided to keep their babies.” When the time comes, dozens (dozens!) of women go into labor. There is only one confirmed miscarriage. But yet, we jump through time, and there are only nine of the special children. So what happened to the rest? Were there more? Did the others die? Were the other children born normally? If so, where are they? And why wasn’t this ever mentioned?

Speaking of the one woman who miscarried, why is so she so upset about it? At this point it’s well-established that there is something off about the kids - and that they’re kinda jerks. So why wait five or six or seven years to blow her head off? One would think she’d be relieved she didn’t squeeze out one of the little blond turds.

But hey, we’re here to defend Village of the Damned, right?


It’s no surprise that, muddied screenplay aside, Carpenter’s direction and choices manage to shine through and make some of the more absurd aspects of the film interesting. For someone who questioned his ability as an "actor's director" in the beginning of his career, his ease with successfully utilizing children - nine, in fact - is cause for celebration.

First, it's rare when the performances by a child outshine those of their adult counterparts. Lindsey Haun as Mara, the children's ringleader, is quite good. Her role is atypical, and her task is memorizing large chunks of somewhat complicated and technical dialogue while removing any semblance of emotion from her voice. She very much manages to be eerie and intimidating, and as far as evil kids go, is far more effective than the kid from The Omen

Playing the thorn in Mara's side is the young Thomas Dekker as David, the only of the children seemingly born with humanity. His role is actually surprisingly complex in a philosophical aspect. He questions himself constantly, confused by these "emotions" he sometimes feels. He questions why he mourns for someone he's never met - that of the baby which miscarried, which would have been his "partner." From the very beginning he seems different from the rest, and his mother recognizes this. Dekker is quite good as well, and would go on to have a rather successful career for a young actor, his most high profile role as that of John Connor in television's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." (Although, to me, he'll always be the hospital-bound Bobby in the episode of "Seinfeld" who demands that Kramer tell Yankee Paul O'Neill he needs to hit two home runs.)

(As an aside, I'll mention that one of the other children is played by Shawna Waldron, best known as having played Icebox in Little Giants. She has one line of dialogue - it's not bad. The end.)

There's an especially well-constructed montage which takes place at the funeral of the young woman who opted to remove herself from earth following her miscarriage. Reverend George gives an impassioned eulogy for the departed, all the while (and it would seem, for the first time), acknowledging the evil that has plagued their small town.
God said, "Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” But image does not mean outer image, or every statue or photograph would be man. It means the inner image—the spirit, the soul. But what of those in our midst who do not have individual souls? Or spirits? They have one mind that they share between them—one spirit. They have the look of man, but not the nature of mankind…
It's the first and perhaps only time in the film a parent attempts to reach out to the other parents and ask them, basically, "Our kids are the fucking devil. Is there anything we can do?" Juxtaposed against this scene are the children out and about, doing some single-file marching. It sounds stupid, and Hammil's monologue borders on the cheesy, but with Carpenter's eye and music, it works quite well.

The visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is impressive. What was a somewhat hokey effect in the original Village has been re-imagined, utilizing the full color spectrum that changes in accordance to the children's level of intensity they are exhibiting, and sometimes even revealing the children's interior physical structure at key moments. Granted, what looked impressive in 1995, compared to the CGI extravaganzas of today in which entire countries are eviscerated, might seem somewhat simple, but ILM, who worked with Carpenter previously on Starman and Memoirs of an Invisible Man, does nice work here.


Ohhh...and the finale. How I love this finale. Once again, the use of Carpenter’s superior musical skills (sharing duty with Dave Davies) makes the finale incredibly affecting. From the first shotgun shell to the final explosion, the music, the quick (and quickening) cuts, and the jumping back and forth among the carnage outside - it’s all immensely suspenseful and satisfying. It gets your blood pumping and works on a very simplistic level - it appeals to what Carpenter calls “the lizard brain” the human race still possesses from our very early genetic roots; our need for destruction and domination. The finale is quite literally a race against time, permeated by the ticking clock counting down to the detonation of the explosives hidden inside Chaffee’s briefcase. And the brick wall he envisions in his head to block the children from seeing his motivations for keeping them in the old barn begins to slowly chip away. The music builds and builds and - in one of my favorite moments of any Carpenter film - finally ceases, a small choir on the soundtrack lets out a single sigh, all goes quiet, the kids look at the clock realizing this has been his plan all along...and quite literally, the roof is blown off the place. It's the stuff of film boners.

I remember reading at one point that Wes Craven was attached to this remake, a stipulation of his current contract with Universal Studios, and John Carpenter offered to Craven that he would take it on instead. This knowledge, coupled with his own comments on the original movie calling it "hilarious," would make one think that Village of the Damned wasn't exactly a passion project. But the aforementioned finale on which I heaped all my praise was evidently enough for the filmmaker to take on the assignment.

He said:
"The reason I wanted to remake The Thing was because of the blood test [scene]. The reason I wanted to remake this one [Village] was because of the brick wall scene."
When I was a wee one, I remember sitting down at the dinner table with my family and listening to my parents discuss the winners and losers at that year's Academy Awards, which had aired a night or two before. (Braveheart took home best picture.) I remember asking, in all of my naivety, if Village of the Damned had won any awards (as I had just seen it on video that week). My father gave me a funny look and asked, "For what? Worst movie of the year?" Also during this time, I had known someone personally who had gone to see Village in theaters, and had become so terrified that she began having a panic attack and an ambulance had to be called. This was kind of a defining moment for me as a film fan. At this young age I realized there was a real chasm between films that critics liked and films that general moviegoers liked - and an additional chasm strictly between moviegoers, who have never and will never agree on the quality of any one film.


I would never call Village of the Damned a great film, because, to be honest, it's not. But there are enough good things about it to justify its own existence. 

Sep 20, 2019

BIOLOGICAL OBLIGATION


"If we coexist, we shall dominate you. That is inevitable. Eventually you will try to eliminate us. We are all creatures of the life force. Now it has set us at one another to see who will survive."

Sep 18, 2019

VAMPIRES (1998)


  
John Carpenter grew up watching westerns. 

One of his very first short films, The Resurrection of Billy Bronco, was inspired by them. And although known as a horror director, he’s really been making westerns since the very beginning: Assault on Precinct 13, They Live, Escape from New York/L.A., Ghosts of Mars and there are even more. But when it comes to the weary and embattled few taking on many in the dusty, sandy landscapes of the Midwest, complemented by the appropriate acoustic-guitar-driven musical score, it’s Vampires that claims the top spot as the western Carpenter always wanted to make. Sure, the enemy might be sunlight-avoiding bloodsuckers, but they spring up from everywhere – from behind buildings, or elevator shafts – and it’s up to Woods’ Malcolm Crow and his desperadoes to mow them down with a glorious collection of weaponry. The only thing scarier than facing your certain death in the OK Corral at sundown is being out there in the New Mexico desert at all once the sun begins to set, allowing the legion of vampires beneath the sandy surface to rise, looking for necks to suck on.


Vampires is a hell of a lot of fun – the type of fun of which only Carpenter is capable – the type of fun that is completely without pretension, and which only wants to entertain, emboldened by that “to hell with mainstream audiences” mentality that Carpenter has been rocking since The Fog. It’s never spoken of fondly among cinephiles, but for the ardent Carpenter fan, it’s generally regarded as the last great feature from the filmmaker. It opened # 1 at the box office its debut weekend and enjoyed a laudable collection of favorable reviews – again, and sadly, it may be the last time of Carpenter’s career. To follow would be the box-office and critical bomb Ghosts of Mars, followed by the little-seen The Ward, and then endless speculation of just what projects Carpenter might tackle next, should the necessary funding come together (which seems more and more like a red herring as time goes on).

Carpenter films contain a certain energy and swagger that’s not commonly seen in other films of the genre. There’s something about the way he crafts the story and develops the lead that feels different – that establish their own identity. His siege-like tales always center around that one strong lead fighting back against adversity; heroes either anti or reluctant leading a small squad of people against the threat coming down hard upon them; heroes taking on the establishment with little hope for success.


Malcolm Crow is among them, and he is brought to boisterous, cigar-chomping, scenery-chewing life by James Woods, not only enjoying a rare lead performance, but enjoying one in which he gets to play the hero. And man is he shooting for the rafters. Woods’ performance exudes a kind of energy rarely seen in a genre project within the confines of a major studio release. (Watching him stake vampires while screaming, “Motherfucker, die! Die!” over and over is the stuff of dreams.) This wasn’t just a relatively unknown Kurt Russell taking on Snake Plissken, free of the constraints of having achieved mainstream success and straddling that line between risk-taking and reputation-maintaining. This was James Woods, a twice Oscar-nominated actor (the second nomination having been the year prior for Ghosts of Mississippi); who had, in the few years leading up to Vampires‘ release, worked with Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and Robert Zemeckis; who, in the following year, would work with Clint Eastwood. Not to belabor the point, but this was an actor who had a lot to lose, creatively, by taking on a project of such potential embarrassment. But he threw caution to the wind, likely so he could let back his proverbial hair and just have fun.

And man, that’s what Vampires is. It’s fun.

As for the supporting cast, Daniel Baldwin (the most underrated Baldwin, for serious) as Montoya doesn’t get enough credit for his abilities as an actor. His contributions to the film are to offer a believable and somewhat restrained counterpart to Crow’s eccentric and bigger-than-life persona. That he begins to slowly fall for Katrina (Sheryl Lee), a prostitute bitten by the film’s main baddie, only adds to his likability. He’s written as the loyal and dependable partner – the ideal person to have in your corner when you’re up against it – and you completely buy the rapport he shares with his fellow vamp-killer. 


Thomas Ian Griffith also does a fine job retreading very old and established ground with his take on Valek, likely the fifth hundred vampire to hit the screen since the film medium began. With one foot each in the sexual-being and the monstrous-killer camps, his Valek is an interesting addition to the vampire sub-genre, which, by now, is in desperate need of rejuvenation following too many years of so many pretty bloodsucking boys. (Also look for brief appearances by Mark Boone Junior of Sons of Anarchy and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, a.k.a. Shang Tsung of Mortal Kombat.)

To suggest that Vampires is within throwing distance of Carpenter’s top films wouldn’t be accurate, but it’s deserving of so much more respect than it receives – not just from the genre community, but audiences in general. Allegedly, Carpenter, at this point in his career, had become burned out by the filmmaking process; however, it would be his experience making Vampires that would cause him to reassess his feelings and decided to stick with it. Only when Ghosts of Mars came along three years later would the director lapse into a half-retirement/hiatus for nine years before returning to feature filmmaking with The Ward.

Spoiler.
With each passing day, as Carpenter prefers to focus on graphic novels, video games, and his beloved Lakers, it seems more and more to be the case that he could very well be done with the film business for good. While it would be terrible for The Ward to serve as his swan song, perhaps it would offer the opportunity for the ’90s portion of his career – one not nearly as celebrated as his two previous decades – to enjoy the same kind of rightful adoration. Second only to In the Mouth of Madness in terms of ’90s era-Carpenter, Vampires is deserving of that kind of adoration.

If, for whatever reason, you may have dismissed Vampires after a one-time viewing, or perhaps none at all, it's time for you to consider a reevaluation. A manic performance from James Woods, a healthy dose of violence and blood-covered grue, and a full-on embracing of western aesthetics makes Vampires an underrated addition to Carpenter’s filmography and one of the more unique contributions to the vampire genre.


Sep 17, 2019

DO YOU READ SUTTER CANE?

SUTTER CANE TAKES US HOME TO HOBB’S END FOR THE FINAL CONFRONTATION. THIS TIME NO ONE GETS OUT OF HERE ALIVE AND THAT INCLUDES YOU! 

Excerpt: And then, suddenly, he felt a greater terror than that which any of the Forms could give – a terror from which he could not flee, because it was connected with himself. In a chaos of scenes, whose infinite multiplicity and monstrous diversity brought him close to the brink of madness, were a limitless confusion of beings which he knew were himself. Forms both human and non-human.

He reeled in the clutch of supreme horror. He was no longer a being distinguished from other beings. He had reached the nameless summit of agony and dread…

The picturesque town hadn’t changed much since the turn-of-the-century. Even the people seemed out of time. There’s something about being in a small, rural community which Carl found both refreshing, and at the same time, a little unnerving. But there was something about this place which was making him feel more unnerved than anything else. Helen said it was withdrawal, not enough neon and police sirens. Maybe she was right, maybe Carl was just wound a little too tight. But Carl’s gut said otherwise, and it was never wrong. He had made a fortune relying on his instinct, and now it was telling him that here was something very wrong with this place. Helen called it nervous stomach, a symptom of post-retirement withdrawal. But Carl wasn’t nervous, he was scared. There was something in Hobb’s End which was making him sick. Maybe this was one of those quaint little towns which was being used as a dump site for toxic waste. That could explain the bleeding ulcer which was devouring Carl from the inside out. But the truth was far more terrifying than industrial pollutants. Carl knew the truth, always had, it was ingrained deep within his psyche. Psychologists called it social conscience, Carl called it his gut, and it was as much a part of his genetic makeup as the gene which had given him his white forelock. Unfortunately, Carl had also inherited the gene for male patterned baldness and lost his distinctive white forelock, along with the rest of his hair, several years ago. But he hadn’t lost the knowledge. He couldn’t. It was a part of him, and every other member of his species. It was what they had been created for.

IF THIS BOOK DOESN'T SCARE YOU TO DEATH... 

YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD.

The sleepy colonial town of Hobb’s End was right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. 

It seemed like the perfect retirement community for Carl and Helen Pickman, who had always dreamed of running a cozy little bed and breakfast inn. 

But there is something which is making Carl sick to his stomach… something which is changing his wife.

IT KNOWS NO FEARS.

IT HAS NO WEAKNESS.

IT LIVES TO KILL.

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T GO DOWNSTAIRS 

After losing both her job, and her boyfriend, Lauren Mitchell is confronted with her worst fear – she must move back in with her parents. But her nightmare is just beginning. For things have changed back home. Her parents have a new border living in their basement, and he’s not very friendly. In fact, he’s not even human. But that doesn’t stop the ghastly creature from wanting Lauren for it’s mate. It has chosen her to bear it’s parasitic offspring - a hideous new brood of creatures – a vicious new breed of evil. Lauren isn’t giving up without one hell of a fight. But even then, she may wind up dead… if she’s lucky.

THE REIGNING KING OF HORROR IS ABOUT TO TAKE YOU TO HELL… HANG ON FOR YOUR LIFE!

Tourist guides say that it was part of the underground railroad – a secret route to freedom for Southern slaves. But there are those who know otherwise. Many families fled into the tunnel in a desperate flight to liberty, but very few ever came back out. 

Jesse Washington’s grandfather was one of the few who survived. He told stories of a cavernous labyrinth which led to the very bowels of the earth… And of something living deep within the darkness, more terrifying than death itself; something which fed upon his entire family. But Jesse never paid much attention to the old man’s stories. The tunnel had been closed up long ago for safety reasons, and no one had ventured inside for years. But it was sealed not to keep people out, but to keep something in. And that something has gotten lonely over the years… lonely and hungry. And now it’s coming to the surface to hunt… and to feed. Now Jesse believes, but now it may already be too late…


SIX-YEAR-OLD JOSH TANNER LIKED HIS DOG SCOUT. BUT THE LITTLE BEAGLE DIDN’T TASTE NEARLY AS GOOD AS MARY WALKER’S CAT… YOU MAY NEVER WANT TO BABYSIT AGAIN

Summer has finally come, and for the first time since the divorce, Jack Sullivan is getting custody of his two children, Max and Amanda, for an entire month. But soon after the arrival, Jack notices a sudden and dramatic change come over his children. The games they play grow increasingly dangerous. And their behavior becomes more violent and cruel with each passing day. But it’s not just Max and Amanda. Every kid in town is changing, becoming more and more vicious. In desperation the town’s people gather to decide upon a plan. But the children have already chosen their fate. It’s time to get rid of the adults once and for all, by any means possible. Jack and the rest of the adults soon find themselves being hunted down by sadistic hordes of their very own children. And what the children have in store for them is even more horrifying than the most frightening childhood nightmare.

THE WEATHER BUREAU IS CALLING IT, ‘THE MOST VISCIOUS STORM OF THE CENTURY.’ THEY DON’T KNOW HOW RIGHT THEY ARE

Plague and Pestilence, War and Famine… Throughout history, mankind has been ravaged with horrific tragedy. And on each and every occasion it was there, gorging itself on humanity’s pain and suffering. Since the dawn of civilization, it has haunted the shadows of human existence, infecting agony and death upon all it embraces. It has been more than a hundred years since the darkness fell upon the new world. But the hour of evil is upon us once again. There is a vicious storm brewing, bringing winds of torment and a rain of terror. And with it comes the haunter, a parasitic monster who feeds on man’s most primal emotions; seeking ecstasy in the torturous throes of human misery. No man, woman or child is safe from its wickedness. And only the strongest will survive… The question is, survive as what? 

SUTTER CANE WELCOMES YOU TO THE PLACE WHERE NIGHTMARES ARE BORN AND DEATH COMES IN A WHISPER

The rugged wilderness is a haven for hikers and nature lovers who enjoy it’s natural beauty and unspoiled majesty. And as autumn sets in, the forests come alive with their beautiful palettes of fall colors. But there’s something else which comes alive as the sun goes down, and the woods become a nocturnal playground for the creatures of the night.

Cody Youngblood’s people also believed the Wanago could come into the land of the living if enough people shared the infectious nightmares. Cody, however, has spent his entire life trying to distance himself from his native roots. But as his nightmares, and those of his friends, start taking shape in the real world; he soon finds himself forced to embrace the Shamanistic teachings of his ancestors. To save himself and the ones he loves he must believe in the Indian magic he denounced as a young man. And even that may not be enough to save them from the savage terror which whispers in the dark.


Sep 15, 2019

MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN (1992)


Memoirs of Invisible Man is probably the least discussed film of John Carpenter’s career outside of his first feature credit, Dark Star. There are a handful of reasons for this, which may be due to its so-so reputation, but it’s likely because it just doesn’t feel like a Carpenter film. Stepping in after original director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) left the production over disagreements with Chevy Chase about its tone, Memoirs of an Invisible Man remains the only film Carpenter made for Warner Bros. That may sound like random boring trivia, but considering his terrible experience with the production, which he’s talked about freely over the years, it serves as a reminder as to why he avoided working with major studios whenever feasible — and they don’t get more major than Warner Bros.

A byproduct of Carpenter becoming a senior citizen has been his adorable irascibility and his total loss of a social filter. He publicly called Rob Zombie a “piece of shit” for the shock-rocker’s fudging of reality regarding how Carpenter allegedly responded to Zombie’s intent to remake Halloween. (The two later mended fences.) In addition, his candid misery on the set of The Fog remake (on which he served as producer) became legendary around the horror community for how salty one human being could be for being paid handsomely to sit in a corner. In keeping with all this, he’s made it pretty clear over the years that there’s one actor, above all others, he absolutely hated working with, and though you’ll never find any written confirmation of this, it was most assuredly Chevy Chase. 


If you’ve read up on the comedian and actor, followed his behavior on the set of Community, or tangled with the gigantic tome Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, then you know he’s an extremely difficult personality to wrangle. Carpenter, not naming names, once said during an interview on the set of Escape from L.A. that an actor he’d just finished working with could “burn in hell for all eternity.” (I once pointedly asked Carpenter which actor this was, and if that same actor happened to share the name of a city in Maryland, and I received “no comment” as a response. However, he later disclosed during an interview that Chase “still sends [him] a Christmas card every year.”)

All that tabloid fodder aside, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, as a film, is very very…okay. Perhaps the most jarring thing about it is its somewhat confused tone. Though marketed as a comedy/romance, and in spite of its moments of levity (all, naturally, deriving from Chase’s invisible antics), the tone is fairly straight and even a bit dark. Memoirs of an Invisible Man just might be the only comedy/drama/thriller/romance/film noir in existence. (Chase’s character recording a pseudo-memoir of the events of his life over the last few days is a clear callback to Double Indemnity.) Chase and love interest Daryl Hannah show close to zero chemistry, but Michael McKean is typically great, if underused, and Sam Neill (yay!) as a shadowy government official in steady pursuit of Chase’s invisi-dude offers the best character – he’s certainly one of the main reasons to watch.


Memoirs of an Invisible Man has unfairly garnered a shitty reputation over the years – as a title that’s easy to dismiss and a very minor footnote in an otherwise celebrated artist’s career. I can somewhat understand why: as someone who considers Carpenter his all-time favorite filmmaker, Memoirs of an Invisible Man doesn’t feel like a Carpenter flick at all, and as any cinephile will tell you, one of the joys of watching films is to zero in on a filmmaker or writer’s style that speaks to you and to revel in that style for every one of his or her creations. (That the director’s name doesn’t precede the title, as it has otherwise ever since 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13, seems to suggest that Carpenter feels the same.) It very much embodies the kind of too-many-cooks, compromised, and flavorless productions that studios pump out dozens of times per year. Carpenter doesn’t script, ghost-script, or score, and his usual cadre of cast and crew aren’t on board. There’s a new director of photography, a new composer, a new editor…and no Peter Jason.

Memoirs of an Invisible is the definition of disposable entertainment. It’s not offensive enough to be terrible, but if you’re someone like me who’d sooner watch a lesser Carpenter film that at least feels like a Carpenter film, then you may wonder when you’d ever get the urge to watch it at all. Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a lot like its titular character: you know he’s there in the room with you, but you can’t see him at all.