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Shot in the Salt Lake City area on a budget of about 11 cents, Woods would have ranked as amateur night even with the Reagan-era drive-in crowd. Now it’s a cult item of dubious distinction, mostly because Bryan’s camerawork of the dense foliage occasionally feels like you’re lost amid nature’s wild, and several of the demises boast a tongue-in-cheek black comedy element, especially what happens to a couple named Cherry and Dick in their wedding van (note the Farrah Fawcett poster on the van’s ceiling).
Bryan’s career has included work on the G-rated In Search of Historic Jesus for Sunn Classic Pictures (there’s an inside joke near the end) and triple-X fare, but this grubby item will likely be his sole claim to greatness, as well as an inspiration to low-budget horrormeisters everywhere, all of which amounts to lowbrow fun on a Friday night. Admission to the double bill of My Bloody Valentine and Don’t Go in the Woods is $8, although those who come dressed as a 1980s-era movie slasher or victim will pay $5. For information, call 463-9240.
My Bloody Valentine. (Paramount; 90 minutes; R; 1981). Hollywood is currently copycatting the terror-movie antics of Hong Kong-based properties, yet in the early 1980s it was Canadian filmmakers who were cashing in on the wave of slasher flicks with knockoffs of indie creepshows like Halloween and Friday the 13th. Paramount crossed the border to pick up this holiday horror yarn and issued it, natch, on Valentine’s Day weekend in 1981.
In director George Mihalka’s thriller, the mining community of Valentine Bluffs is planning for a resurrection of the once-popular Valentine’s Day dance. The dances were halted 20 years earlier, when it was discovered that the townspeople were partying at the same time a methane explosion in the shafts resulted in several dead miners and one crazed survivor named Harry Warden—who lasted several weeks underground thanks to an impromptu cuisine that recalled the bizarre doings in the Buoys’ novelty hit “Timothy.” Since Warden has been committed to the asylum, however, who’s knocking off the members of the dance committee?
At the time, the ratings board forced Paramount to remove some of makeup artist Tom Burman’s most splatterrific gore to secure an R, the type of nastiness that now routinely turns up in Hostel and other 21st-century bloodbaths. With the stigma of Canadian horror flicks long over, however, this movie’s not that bad in retrospect. Sure, it’s got the standard killer’s point-of-view shots, yet Valentine isn’t the usual unstoppable bogeyman nonsense, functioning instead as an OK whodunit with lots of disposable characters quaffing Moosehead beer (notably Alf Humphreys as the nitwit comic relief) and blood-red herrings, such as actor Paul Kelman’s turn as the townie who mysteriously left Valentine Bluffs, but has now returned to reclaim his gal (blonde screamer Lori Hallier).
My Bloody Valentine apparently has enough of a pedigree to ensure a 3-D remake, due next February from Lionsgate, so local gorehounds can savor the original version in a 35mm print on Friday, Sept. 26, 10 p.m., at Eastwood’s Palace Theatre, 2384 James St. It’s part of the second annual 1980s Slasher Party Film Festival, along with the 35mm co-feature. . .
Frozen River. (Sony Classics; 97 minutes; R; 2008). The twisty plot of writer-director Courtney Hunt’s new drama would give Pat Buchanan the heebie-jeebies. Melissa Leo, whose credits stretch from TV’s Homicide: Life on the Streets to the Tommy Lee Jones movie The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, plays Ray Eddy, a tattooed slice of northern New York trailer trash. She’s in a financial bind when her good-for-nothing gambler husband lights out a week before Christmas with the balloon payment on their planned double wide. With two sons, ages 15 and 5, to feed and a nowhere part-time job at a dollar store, Ray’s in a tough spot.
The Marx Brothers’ 1933 satire Duck Soup (above) is still their best, with its still-timely jabs at world politics and classic moments like the wordless mirror sequence. Savor the madcap madness on Monday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m., at the Spaghetti Warehouse, 689 N. Clinton St.; admission is $3, call 468-6147 for information. Speaking of madness, Walter Huston (below, left) plays a bank president fighting the country’s money woes in director Frank Capra’s populist drama American Madness (bottom), to be screened on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2:30 and 7 p.m., at Rome’s Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St. Also on the 35mm program will be the racy Bette Davis drama Three on a Match, plus a newsreel and a cartoon, as the Capitol recreates a presentation that ran at the theater in November 1932. The admission is from 1932, too: just 35 cents for adults and 15 cents for children, easily the year’s best movie deal. For information, call 337-6453.
If you’ve got a goal, just put on your running shoes and chase after it—literally. That’s the overriding theme of Plan 9 from Syracuse (Ascension 3; 100 minutes; unrated; 2007), a documentary based on local filmmaker Ryan Dacko’s ambitious, cockamamie and endearing cross-country road trip to secure a Hollywood deal. Better make that five pairs of running shoes.
In 2006, Dacko already had one indie flick under his belt: And I Lived, a 2004 ode to high school angst and slow-motion car chases that garnered some acclaim at the 2005 B-Movie Film Festival orchestrated by local horrormeister Ron Bonk. And I Lived was an early culmination of Dacko’s filmmaking dream, as the budding Spielberg toiled at the film’s story during his stint with the Coast Guard. Area moviegoers with longer memories may also recall Dacko as a gangly, bespectacled teen cleaning theaters as an usher at the then-Hoyts Carousel Center multiplex in the mid-1990s.
Syracuse is one of the few markets nationwide slated to open the new romantic comedy Everybody Wants to be Italian (Roadside Attractions; 105 minutes; R; 2008), and maybe the Salt City’s North Side heritage has something to do with it. Just think of the local connections: Everybody received its official Hollywood premiere at last October’s Feast of San Gennaro in Los Angeles, and the local spinoff Feast of San Gennaro is taking place this weekend at Verona’s Turning Stone and Casino Resort. (Hey, it’s a stretch, but work with me here.) Whatever the reasons why this limited release has received a Central New York booking, this mildly pleasant sitcom is much less Mean Streets and more like a My Big Fat Greek Wedding-styled date movie for the Guido set.
Popeye the Sailor, Volume 2: 1938-1940. (Warner Home Video; 218 minutes; unrated; 2008). The two-disc sequel to last summer’s hefty four-disc edition may lack the historical breadth of that blowout, which encompassed five years’ worth of animated treasures, although it does give Warner Home Video more time to prepare for the politically incorrect wartime cartoons yet to come down the Popeye pipeline. Still, the prospect of two discs filled with 31 remastered cartoons, all of them to be savored in such pristine condition since their initial release, ultimately triumphs over the nitpicking.
A teen drug dealer experiences life lessons in The Wackness
The piquant coming-of-age comedy-drama The Wackness (Sony Classics; 99 minutes; R; widescreen; 2008) adheres to the time-honored tropes of the genre. You just know, for instance, that the storybook romance between the shlumpy nice guy and the seemingly unattainable popular gal ultimately won’t work out. Yet writer-director Jonathan Levine constantly keeps this indie flick fresh and funny, with sympathetic characters brought to life by a top-shelf cast.
Pixar animator Dylan Brown discusses the painstaking
computer process behind cartoon hits like Wall-E
By Meaghan Arbital Pixar Animation Studios continues to break new cartooning ground with its current crowd-pleaser Wall-E, which concerns the outer space antics of a lonely robot. Such a cutting-edge success story explains why the fifth annual Syracuse International Film Festival hosted a May 2 seminar on “New Technologies in Animation” at Armory Square’s Museum of Science and Technology. Area high school students learned plenty on the subject from someone in the know: Dylan Brown, a supervising animator for the Emeryville, Calif.-based company.