Monthly Archives: October 2006

SHORTBUS

Writer-director John Cameron Mitchell?s Shortbus is the director?s brilliant follow-up to his edgy musical comedy, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). This time, Mitchell has cast largely amateur and unknown actors as a group of lonely, sad people post-9/11 who are searching for sex and, ultimately, love. They all converge upon a nightly salon (hence the title), where games, orgies, conversations and art emerge from the miasma to form a sort of sexual underground that deserves to be above ground. Among the standouts in this terrific unknown cast are Sook-Yin Lee as Sofie, a sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, Lindsay Beamish as Severin, the melancholy dominatrix who takes polaroids and labels them in her spare time as an aspiring artist, and Justin Bond as?himself(?), the host and emcee of Shortbus. It?s a remarkably moving, funny and beautiful film to behold! Look for Mitchell in the orgy scene.

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THE WOODS

Lucky McKee’s The Woods is the director’s follow-up to his great 2003 debut May. That was a masterful horror/black comedy mixing elements of Frankenstein and Carrie to tell the wrenchingly sad and achingly beautiful – if horrific and disturbing – story of a lonely young girl who simply wants to make a connection and learns “if you can’t meet a friend, make one.”

McKee is in no less homage-y territory here: There are elements reminiscent of both Carrie (yet again) and Dario Argento’s classic Suspiria within this tale set in 1965 New England (I’d assume that’s where it’s set, but it’s never revealed). We meet Heather (Bruckner), a troubled youth who has started a fire in her home and whose parents (including hammy actor extraordinaire Bruce Campbell) decide to ship her off to a private all-girls Academy.

This school is somewhat off-putting and strange, and ultimately the headmistress (Patricia Clarkson, creepy and realistic all at once) is near-immediately suspicious of the young upstart she’s admitted to her school.

Soon, disturbing noises, darkly lit sojourns to off-the-beaten-path territories within the school grounds, and more than a few cliched myths and confrontations between  adversarial students rear their ugly heads, and we have a rather straight-forward thriller – especially coming from the young and promising writer-director of one of my all-time favorite horror films.

Mr. McKee, as I’ve read, may have had this film taken away from him. Still, some if not all of the old McKee touches are present: especially a creepily slowed down version of the classic “You Don’t Own Me” straining on the soundtrack at various intervals – including the end credits.

Ultimately, this is a very standard and mildly boring horror-lite effort that neither engages that much, nor wows us with anything really new. Well-made and intriguing, it’s worth checking out on a cold, dark and scary night…

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