One Body Too Many, is an approved old dark house film from 1944 staring Jack Haley, Jean Parker, Douglas Fowley, Blanch Yurka, and the count himself Bela Lugosi. Directed by Frank McDonald, written by Winston Miller (of A Private’s Affair and other light classics) and Maxwell Shane (of The Invisible Killer fame) both writers with a number of suspense, horror, mystery, and comedy titles under their belts penned this under-loved gem of a flick. Horror and comedy are the strangest of bedfellows for when done right it becomes the thing of legend; think Abbott and Costello, American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead II, Cabin in the Woods and many-many-more…(sorry my late night infomercial alter ego peered his Hyde-ian head out for a moment) but when done poorly it becomes obscure almost after viewing, I’d give you the name of one but that would undermine the point I’m attempting to make.
I use the word, ‘approved’ when describing this film as it was made before the Jack Valenti ratings system swap of ’68. We’re talking Hays Code days there, kids. When a movie was held for review of approval by a board to determine whether or not it’s morally acceptable or vulgar beyond belief, ‘cus ‘member nuance didn’t exist before the sixties got swingin’. Though you may not be likely to find this on anyone’s top ten or labeled as ground breaking, other than coining the word of being a ‘drip’ as an insult for a needlessly fastidious person, it still exists in the public eye and is easily accessible. You don’t have to go hunting for archived footage in the back of that haunted abandoned video store or visit obscure streaming sites to find while a virus spirits away your bank info. I can’t recall the first time I saw it, or why, perhaps in my pirate days I was backtracking the filmography of Jack Haley or Bela Lugosi, or maybe it was in with those early-to-mid-2000’s collection of 50 horror films that were mainly filled with creature features or forgotten films with no plots, but in those lots-of-fifty did have a notable jewel or two a la William Castel or Ed Wood, but either way this one has always stuck with me.
The plot is your classic Old Dark House set up, a stranger finds their way into a manner where they do not belong that may or may not be haunted, some times alone, sometimes with others, and due to the necessity of plot they are unable to leave for whatever reason. The formula is simple, and it can, on occasion, be executed quite well. This I also, personally feel, is the easiest to blend horror and comedy. It’s a two for one; a creepy setting and a fish out of water tale. The vulnerability and personality of the protagonist are the defining features of whether the film is intended to give chills or get laughs. Here’s where we meet Albert L. Tuttle played by Jack ‘The Tinman’ Haley, who is an insurance agent trying to sell a 200K life insurance policy to an eccentric millionaire, Cyrus J. Rutherford. Jack’s had the meeting scheduled for over a month. Well, Cyrus died, at his will reading the lawyer notes a stipulation that states he must be buried in a glass mausoleum where he can be overlooked by the stars for all eternity or else the ratios of who gets the most and who gets the least of his estate would be flipped. No one is supposed to know the distribution amounts until he is entombed to keep things fair, but some people have an inkling. Thus comes in our protagonist who is confused, frightened, and aroused (no not by the body, well… not Cyrus’s). Tuttle is persuaded to stay and guard the body by the deceased niece Carol, played by Jean Parker, and hilarity ensues.
The movie establishes the characters well and quickly. Tuttle, in the first few minutes is shown to be a clever and determined individual by getting the account that no other insurance man in the business could, by appealing (or pandering) to the eccentrics interest in astrology. The family isn’t Knives Out levels of character depth, but you get to meet the rest of the ensemble and find out who Cyrus liked and who he didn’t. Cyrus’s testimonial preamble reads like something I would write, just roasting his family from beyond the grave. The acting is done well, no one goes against the motivation of their characters. The humour isn’t misplaced; it’s a situational comedy just a little macabre with a hint of a, ‘who done it’. Lugosi is not wasted, though I think it takes multiple viewings to see his possible poisoning subplot. The effects for it’s time; the angle and devil shoulder gag, some of the transitions, film distortion to simulate being under water, are all very good. The writing is quick, poking fun at over used tropes in the pulp genre that Tuttle seems to be in, or the showing of hypocrisy in pseudoscientists, an astrologer calling palm reading hokum was funny.
There’s nothing in this movie I can say I hated or didn’t like. This is far from a perfect movie, but that adds to the charm; the audio has some issues, what do you expect it’s from the 40’s. Though it is a quick watch, less than 80 minutes, the way in which some shots linger disrupt the pace and make it feel longer. I hesitate to call some of the gags cliché since it predates most of the famous movies that reused the jokes. A few scenes are a little too dark. The constant putting down of coffee, I don’t care if it keeps you up or you’re a drip, you take the damn cup and enjoy that delicious dark liquid energy.
The ugly- my opinion
It’s a quick watch, entertaining, with mood and humour. The writing and acting are good and it’s not too scary to put on if you’re a lightweight or have kids. Put it on your watchlist if you want a good lark. See Jack outside of the silver makeup. He’s far more reserved than the likes of his comedic contemporaries but I feel that uniqueness plays in his favour. Throw it in your rotation if you like House on Haunted Hill, Abbot and Costello, And Then There Were None, or just like classic movies it’s worth the view.(3.5 / 5)
Shutter Island (2010): Review
Leonardo Dicaprio’s films rarely disappoint. It was interesting to see him flex different acting muscles in this psychological thriller Shutter Island alongside Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams. When I say that I was not expecting such a turn in the story, I mean that my jaw was pretty much on the floor the entire time. Without any further ado, let’s dive into its mastery, shall we?
A cliché setup done right
We have been here before a million times. A character stumbles into a scene to solve a mystery. Everyone is acting just the right amount of suspicion to make you wonder. Dicaprio’s Edward ‘Teddy’ travels to an extremely remote island where a woman goes missing from a psychiatric institution. He’s experiencing migraines and flashbacks to his murdered wife while receiving little to no help from the hospital staff.
Teddy soon suspects that the hospital is experimenting on patients which fuels his theories on what happened to the missing woman. Things take even more of a turn when his partner also disappears. Unsurprisingly, everyone insists Teddy came to the island alone. Feeling like he’s losing his mind, our protagonist finds out that this is exactly the case. He is a patient in the hospital and the entire investigation is an attempt to get him to understand the truth.
While the whole ‘it was all in your head’ trope has a bad rep for the fans of any genre, this film uses it masterfully. Watching it for the first time not knowing what to expect is obviously a shock and then watching it again, looking at all the clues that were the which you missed – that’s a treat on its own. After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using cliches if they are done the right way.
Things that go bump in our minds
A huge part of this movie’s storyline is Andrew’s inability to process the truth. The roots for it stretch far beyond the plot twist. Andrew is unable to acknowledge that his wife is mentally ill and believes that moving them to the countryside will fix everything. After she murders their children, he is further pushed into the world of delusion, convincing himself to be a hero because he couldn’t save his own family.
It’s interesting to note that in his delusion, Andrew is the one who set fire to their house. Is this a little sliver of his mind whispering the truth to him? Is it his subconscious villainizing himself out of contempt, searching for answers that are never going to come? Andrew’s psychiatrist pointed out that his moment of clarity has happened before, only to be undone quite quickly. Perhaps it was easier for Andrew to shut it off rather than live with the knowledge that he could’ve done something to prevent a terrible tragedy.
Shutter Island is a movie that provides both the entertainment value you would expect from a suspense thriller and a deeper layer of thought. Coated with a perfect atmosphere and amazing acting, it’s a piece that will definitely hold the test of time. (4.5 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Daughter of The Night
We’ve reached episode four of Wheel of Time, which means we’re halfway through the season. While it doesn’t seem like much has happened so far, this is the episode where things start heating up.
We begin this episode with a flashback. Ishamael is raising something dark and twisted. As we watch, it takes the shape of a woman.
More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, Nynaeve is healing from her time in the arches. She is quiet and withdrawn. She’s also awkward and uncomfortable around Egwene now that she’s initiated and Egwene is not. Her new friendship with Elayne isn’t helping.
But the three girls come together when Liandrin tells Nynaeve that Perrin has been captured by the Seanchan.
However, Perrin is no longer in the clutches of the Seanchan. He was rescued by Elyas and a pack of beautiful wolves. Beautiful and deadly AF by the way. If you have any fear of dogs, this episode might not help that.
Elyas explains to Perrin that he is a Wolf Brother. This means that he can communicate with the wolves, and eventually will gain some of their abilities. While Perrin and Elyas don’t exactly get off on the right foot, he does find a fast friendship with one specific wolf. After a time, he introduces himself by showing Perrin an image of himself jumping up and down. From this, Perrin assumes his name is Hopper.
Finally, we return to Rand. He and Selene have been off in the mountains. They haven’t done much more than each other so far.
And that’s exactly what it appears they’re about to do when Moiraine bursts into the cottage and cuts Selene’s throat.
Rand is surprised and furious until Moiraine explains that the woman he knows as Selene is the Dark Friend Lanfear. With this shocking revelation, the two run off into the night.
It should be a surprise to no one that I loved the wolves in this episode. Hopper himself was worth an extra Cthulhu. But this is not just because dogs are cute. It’s also because the dog playing Hopper just does a great job.
On a more serious note, I loved how Nynaeve responded upon coming back to the real world. She isn’t okay.
And it’s a good thing that she isn’t. Too often in fiction we don’t see the fallout of emotional damage. Hell, we don’t usually see realistic fallout from physical damage.
But she is hurt by what she experienced. And you can tell. That’s realistic character building, and we don’t see that enough.
I also really appreciate the special effects in this episode. The first time we see Lanfear, she’s eerie. She’s frightening. Part of this is thanks to Natasha O’Keeffe, who does a great job. But the effects are what really sells this.
What didn’t work
If Wheel of Time has any fault, it’s that there is far too much sitting about and talking about things. In this case, there’s a lot of standing about and talking about things. Some of this was necessary, and some of it could have been done better. Honestly, there just has to be a better way to convey that characters are struggling.
This was most apparent with Rand and Selene/Lanfear. Honestly, anytime the two of them were on screen it was a great time for me to catch up on Instagram.
This might come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t read the books, but Rand is supposed to be the main character. And here we are, four episodes into an eight-episode season, and so far all he’s done is mess about with his emo girlfriend!
That being said, the story is starting to pick up. With four episodes left, I can’t wait to see how far we go.
(3 / 5)
Elevator Game, a Film Review
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks.
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks. It adapts the supernatural myth and creepypasta of the same name while providing an original plot. This unrated Shudder exclusive stars Gino Anania, Samantha Halas, and Verity Marks. In full disclosure, I had the opportunity to interview Gino Anania and Stefan Brunner about the film.
Ryan seeks to find answers to his sister’s mysterious disappearance. To do this, he infiltrates a myth-busting web series that seems to have some ties to her final confirmed moments. Desperate to force a confrontation, he encourages them to play the elevator game. Unfortunately, there seems to be more truth to the myth than expected.
What I Like about Elevator Game & as an Adaptation
I am lucky to have additional insight into the development hell this movie overcame due to COVID. It’s commendable that the film manages to make it of that, even if it requires a lengthy delay of the film.
Usually, I provide a separate section for adaptation quality. However, the source material remains the ritual, which Elevator Game performs accurately. While the myth inspires many creepypastas, Elevator Game doesn’t directly take or adapt any of these works from what I’ve seen. Instead, it makes its own film based on the legend.
As the Fifth Floor Woman, Samantha Halas creates an eerie and disturbing character. While I won’t go so far as to say terrifying, she certainly makes an impression. The revelation that the stunts and performance are all her, as an actual contortionist, I give her more credit.
Gino Anania, given a more complex role than most of his cast members, really does bring a strong performance that creates either friction or synergy with his cast members. I suppose I wanted more of these interactions as some cut sooner than appreciated.
Another amusing element is that the entire motivation for the plot to follow is a forced advertisement from an investor. Something about the chaos being a product of appeasing some investors feels uncomfortably real.
The alternate reality remains surprisingly effective. To be clear, it’s not impressively realistic but stylistic. It genuinely seems like an alternate world with a skewered impression.
Tired Tropes or Trigger Warning
I feel weird mentioning this, but endangering a sister’s life to push the brother’s story forward seems a common trend beyond one form of media.
No discredit to the actors, but the romance feels rushed and unnecessary. Without going into too much detail, to avoid spoilers, there is synergy between the actors but little chemistry in the plot.
What I Dislike or Considerations
Elevator Game remains set in providing a B-movie experience. Its tight budget leaves little room to surprise the viewer visually. While I am surprised at what it accomplishes, it’s far from overwhelming. This film also remains the first production of Fearworks, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m interested in the future, but Elevator Game leaves much to grow from.
Rebekah McKendry may have a directorial style that influences dialogue, but the line delivery evokes an overexpression that’s common in Lovecraftian films. I say this not as a direct negative, but it remains a required taste best known before viewing. As this isn’t Lovecraftian, I fear it removes some of the reality and tension of those haunting elements.
Many of the characters feel underdeveloped, making me wonder if cutting these roles might lead to more invested characters. While the performances hit their marks, a tighter cast might give each role more to work toward. As this is a tight cast already, it seems an odd issue to rectify.
Elevator Game provides an interesting B-movie experience for those who know the legend. For those expecting something different, this film may not work for you. This film overcame a lot to exist but doesn’t break the mold. While I am excited to see Fearworks pursue further ventures toward its ambitious mission statement, I find Elevator Game falling short of its goal.
(2 / 5)