IRISH FILM INSTITUTE HORRORTHON 2015: A TRIBUTE TO WES CRAVEN. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. 1988. BASED ON THE BOOK BY ETHNOBOTANIST WADE DAVIS. DIRECTED BY WES CRAVEN. STARRING BILL PULLMAN, CATHY TYSON, ZAKES MOKAE, BRENT JENNINGS, CONRAD ROBERTS, PAUL WINFIELD AND MICHAEL GOUGH.
THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. 1991. DIRECTED BY WES CRAVEN. STARRING VING RHAMES, BRANDON ADAMS, A.J. LANGER, SEAN WHALEN, EVERETT MCGILL AND WENDY ROBIE.
This Wes Craven double bill at the IFI started at 11pm and ended around 2.30am, by which time I was nearly crying with exhaustion. Having already seen THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES as part of the Horrorthon’s Christopher Lee tribute earlier in the day, I’d probably reached my limits by that point. The double bill was great fun though, and a nice tip of the hat to the legendary horror film director who passed away just a few short weeks after Sir Chris during the summer.
The Horrorthon also showed SCREAM, probably Wes Craven’s most famous film, on another night, but the double bill included the two films of his that I hadn’t seen before so I made my choice and stood by it staunchly. I lay back in my nice comfy cinema chair and prepared to be entertained.
I’d never really liked Bill Pullman so I was disappointed to see that he was the star of THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. He’s just so wishy-washy. He plays the nice safe fiancé who gets dumped by Meg Ryan for Tom Hanks in weepie, girly rom-com SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. See what I mean? How wishy-washy do you have to be to get dumped for Tom Hanks, possibly the least dynamic actor in Hollywood? Jeez Louise.
Still, he was actually pretty good in this film. Bill Pullman, I mean. He shows a lot of balls. Literally, when he gets his scrotum nailed to a chair as a warning from the Haitian authorities to stop meddling in their business and bugger off out of their war-torn country. Nice, huh…?
Bill Pullman plays Dennis Alan, an ethnobotanist and anthropologist from Harvard University. He gets sent to Haiti by a big pharmaceutical company to bring back the drug that simulates death and turns people into ‘zombies.’ Why? Well, because the bigwigs think that the drug can be of use to medical science, that’s why. See? It’s elementary, my dear readers. They always think that the drugs can be of use to medical science. I don’t know why that’s so but it just is.
Off Dennis toddles to Haiti, where he encounters the voodoo culture of Haiti, gets buried alive, has his balls to the wall (or the chair) on numerous occasions and has hilarious, poorly-simulated sex with Cathy Tyson’s Dr. Marielle Duchamp. I remember in the ’90s she was in this English drama-serial about prostitutes called BAND OF GOLD. Co-starring with Geraldine James and singer Barbara Dickson, she poured a kettle of boiling water over Jarvis Skelton from EMMERDALE’s goolies because she was sick and tired of him asking her to ‘walk for him.’ His ‘thing’ as a ‘john’ was legs, high heels and stockings, see? I know I’m digressing big-time here but that’s the one thing I’ve always remembered about her. Oh, and that she starred in MONA LISA with the late great Bob Hoskins as well.
Anyway, the dream sequences in the film are good scary fun, Zakes Monae is excellent as the grinning torturer Captain Dargent Peytraud and dear old Michael Gough is in it too. He’s looking terrifically trim and elegant given that it’s a full thirty years after Hammer’s DRACULA in which he played the uptight Arthur Holmwood, brother to Lucy and husband to sexy, sex-starved sex-kitten Mina. Overall, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW was good fun and I’m glad I saw it.
I was probably a little less keen on THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, although some of that could have been because I was starting to wilt a wee bit. I don’t have the stamina I used to have, haha. It’s funny but before this double bill I was absolutely convinced that I could totally handle three films in a row. I was going around saying I wished it was a triple bill that they were putting on. How deluded I was about my own ability to stay awake past one o’clock…!
Anyway, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is a horror comedy about a crazy brother-and-sister couple who live in a big old house with their ‘daughter’ Alice and keep a load of lost souls locked up in their basement for some reason. These lost souls include tradesmen who’ve never been allowed to leave and kids who didn’t adhere to ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’s’ crazy old rules about neither seeing, hearing nor speaking evil. They’re not in the least scary, these cannibalistic lost souls, even though I presume they’re meant to be. They all have long hair and look like rockers or heavy metallers after a particularly rowdy AC/DC gig. There, I’ve said it.
A small boy called ‘Fool’ and Ving Rhames as Leroy break into this madhouse because they think that there are gold coins hidden in there somewhere and, being as poor as church mice, they reckon they could use ’em. When ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ get wind of the alien presences in their house-slash-former funeral-home, the s**t hits the fan and a Benny Hill-style chase ensues around their big old mausoleum of a gaff.
Two things really stood out for me in this film. Only one of ’em was funny. I’ll never forget the scene in which the hygiene-obsessed ‘Mommy’ drops teenage Alice into a bath of boiling water after Alice gets blood on her dress. Blood from cleaning up after one of her parents’ victims, incidentally. That was horrible.
Ving Rhames, on the other hand, got two of the biggest laughs of the night. First, when he tells ‘Fool’ that thirteen is a crappy age for a lad because he’s ‘too old to get tit, too young to get ass.’ Then, when expressing disbelief at something, he says: ‘Yeah, and the President gon’ make me Secretary Of Pussy.’ Priceless.
I stumbled home like a zombie at 2.30am. I didn’t even wait for the credits, and I always watch the credits. Well, you never know what you might miss. I was in bed by about 3.15am, utterly wiped-out, my head full of giant hounds and voodoo rituals and long-haired heavy metallers who needed a good long session on the tanning-bed.
Goodnight, Christopher Lee. You’ll surely rise again in your persona of Dracula and forever stalk the night in search of your bosomy female prey. And goodnight to you too, Wes Craven. May your dreams be sweet and forever Freddy-free…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
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