Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Carpenter Brut - The Widow Maker feat. Alex Westaway

Sorcerer Rogier by Muraena

CORP81 - Was Here

YOUTH 83 - Slow Stride

The Abyss - Special Edition

The Abyss is a cacophony of drips. Anxiety rolls off the film in waves; the viewer made to feel the cold, pruning, ache that comes with occupying a leaky metal box that has been sunken into the pit of the ocean. Tasked with providing a base of operations for Michael Biehn's jittery SEAL rescue team when an American nuclear submarine goes bottom up, Ed Harris' Bud Brigman, and the crew of the Deep Core experimental drill platform, suffer their way through a steady stream of escalating dangers. The personal hell of having to share a collapsing space with an inflexible ex-wife he's still very much in love with - Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's Dr Lindsey Brigman - turns out to be a minor discomfort for Bud when compared to the litany of hazards that await them all beneath the waves. A flooded Ohio-class tomb gives way to a series of close encounters compounded by swirling topside storms, a spiralling international crisis, and a dead-eyed psychopath who has taken possession of a Trident warhead. 

Rather than contrive a film's worth of interjecting hazards, writer-director James Cameron wrings drama out of his established milieu: bad oxygen tank mixes cause comas in the early going, while bulkheads buckle and burst when placed under incredible pressures as we plummet into the second act. These disasters don't present as contrivance either, they are a checklist of worst-case scenarios. The nightmare thoughts that have, quite obviously, crept in while Cameron was himself living through his own, practical, research. Every calamity feels strangely inevitable, the logical outcome of the film's obstinately perilous circumstances. Even Biehn's Lt Coffey, although happy to follow whatever apocalyptic orders are beamed down to him from his bloodthirsty superiors, explicitly suffers through a neurological episode caused by the intense physical strain of diving, then maintaining, the human body at so deep a depth. Typically a sensitive, even romantic, proposition in Cameron's other films, this Biehn performance exists at the other end of the emotional scale. Coffey is tremulous and chlorine-stained; a highly strung soldier attempting to power through a failing physical and mental state by repeatedly drawing a boot knife across his own forearm. 

As great as Biehn is, the film belongs to Harris and Mastrantonio. The hysteria their later scenes generate is so strong - so violently and nakedly distressing - that they actually end up unbalancing the film, vanquishing CG sequences that explicitly entertain the total destruction of mankind. This being a James Cameron film, The Abyss does not have just one finale. A tense submarine chase resolves to the estranged Brigmans trapped in a flooded, sparking, submersible. With one oxygen mask and tank between them, the decision is made - by Lindsey - to allow herself to drown while Bud tows her body back to the remains of the Deep Core. Harris screams and slaps his way through a seemingly hopeless resuscitation, the actor appearing to purge himself of the nervous breakdown-level exasperations associated with shooting a special effects film while genuinely submerged in stinging water. Everything that follows feels like a winding, superfluous, comedown by comparison. The scale of potential destruction may have increased massively - as well as having a sunken nuclear warhead in play, this Special extended Edition ratchets up the Cold War tensions and introduces the threat of mile-high tidal waves - but the claustrophobic terror we intruded upon earlier has been settled and, to a degree, dispelled. Lindsey and Bud have already reconciled. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Spider-Man by Giannis Milonogiannis

John Dunder - Redshifted

ALISON & Hotel Pools - Stellar

The Sadness

What The Sadness lacks in plot it more than makes up for in pulsing viscera. Set in pandemic era Taiwan, writer-director Rob Jabbaz's film stalks the well-trodden path of two disentangled lovers fighting their way back to each other while the world falls apart. Berant Zhu's Jim and Regina Lei's Katie are the young co-habiting couple who find themselves at the opposite ends of Taipei when a highly contagious sniffle suddenly mutates into the catalyst for ultraviolent mayhem. The Sadness differentiates itself from the rest of the endlessly shuffling pack by shifting the undead's focus from pure calories to a kind of consumption that views other people in transactional or material terms. The goal then is for these zombies to make playthings of the uninfected: they tease and torture their prey, delighting in the horrifying power they hold over other people's bodies. 

Neither Jim nor Katie is afforded any real depth in The Sadness. Jabbaz's film preferring to consider the actors and their characters in purely utilitarian terms - both are simply good-looking focal points for the incoming waves of terror. In fact, the role through which we receive the most insight into this bubbling frenzy is Tzu-Chiang Wang's ominous Businessman. Initially encountered as a pestering presence on a packed commuter train, Businessman's mumblings quickly transform from a lonely, inexpert, attempt to trap Katie in a conversation to a frothing, stated, desire to rape her. He never shuts up, verbalising and even acting out every terrible thought that flickers across his mind. This explicit threat of sexual violence is woven throughout Jabbaz's film, positioned as the direct result of diseased brains that are no longer able to filter or thwart their invasive thoughts. The Sadness is a despairing film then, one in which the male example of the human animal is firmly, and repeatedly, contextualised in hopelessly predatory terms.