Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, November 03, 2006
      ( 11/03/2006 03:56:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"IT'S A LEGAL DEFENSE FOR HOMICIDE – THE WIND!" – Caught the opening entry of this season's Masters of Horror: Tobe Hooper's filming of Richard Christian Matheson's elaborate modernization of the Ambrose Bierce classic, "The Damned Thing." I was pretty harsh on Hooper's first season offering (also done in collaboration with Matheson), but this 'un was much closer to the mark. The story of a cursed Texas town that is revisited by a malevolent force which drives the townspeople into a murderous/suicidal frenzy, Hooper's entry shows he hasn't entirely forgotten how to build suspense and not incidentally wallop the viewer with a shocking moment or two. A few bobbled bits – a scene where the story's doofus deputy (Brendan Fletcher) rushes into a church confessional in the midst of all the chaos stands out – but the central piece surrounding town sheriff Sean Patrick Flanery (who as a boy survived an earlier visitation) is strong.

Flanery's Sheriff Reddle, traumatized by the memory of his father being eviscerated by an invisible creature, is the story glue here – and he's quite fine as the hard-drinking paranoid who dreads the doom he knows is about to return to his town. There's a moment near the end that plays off Night of the Living Dead quite effectively: Reddle, visited by a group of panicky townspeople desperate to be protected from their neighbors and friends, sends them in the basement where he then proceeds to lock them in. His wife and son are upstairs, and we know that any one of them could suddenly turn violent without any warning. A flash of doubt/guilt goes across Reddle's face as he listens to his neighbors in the basement. He moves to the door to unlock it, begins to do so, then backs away, leaving them trapped beneath the house. A classic case of Damned-If-You-Do-Or-Don't: one of the central tenets of modern horror . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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