Scary True Stories
(MPI, $19.99 138 min)
Compilation of three volumes of direct-to-video supernatural quickies — allegedly based on true stories — touting itself, with the help of a quote from Grudge director Takashi Shimizu, as “the beginning of all modern Japanese horror.”
“The embryonic stage” must not have scanned as well; the zero-budget production values are actually an asset, but the slapdash setups and painful reliance on voice-over suggest amateurs learning their grammar on the fly (as do the notably less uneven later episodes). It’s easy enough to point out the long-haired ghosts, screeching music cues, and female terrorizees (men play primary roles in just one of the ten episodes that make up the feature-length disc) that have proved resilient devices in more sophisticated atmospheric creep-outs; other parts, especially the paranormal photo prologues insisting upon the veracity and spiritual implications of the alleged source material, seem at least as dated as the baggy Bart Simpson sweatshirt sported by a girl who will later be tormented by a spirit over a recovered earring.
The meager bonus section dredges up the relatively spare storyboards for one episode and trailers for the first two volumes; given the wild variance in quality of the episodes, though, the DVD feature that any repeat viewer is most certain to appreciate is the Chapter Selection function. But: repeat viewers? Once you know what’s behind her on the stairs, it’s really just diminishing returns, innit?
Maybe significant, but definitely skimpy; there’s nothing up its sleeve you can’t spot at first glance.
The Grand Role
(First Run, $29.95 90 min) Nov 22
Billed as “The best love story since Love Story.” Um, ok. After getting good notices but seemingly making only a small ripple theatrically this is the second feature by director Steve Suissa. It’s based on Daniel Goldberg’s novel Le Grand Rôle.
What begins as a slight but biting comedy about a struggling actor and his zany thespian buddies changes gears to become a weepy tragic love story in the second half. Up for the role of Shylock in an all-Yiddish production by a noted American director (Peter Coyote), Maurice pines for the role in a way only a struggling actor of a certain age can. His cohorts who rediscover their Judaism only when American director Rudolph Grichenberg makes an appearance at the local temple are great comic relief. After getting the role, then losing it, his wife Perla, with whom he is desperately in love floors him with devastating news. It’s instructive as a cultural comparison to contrast this French approach to a classic theme with the American version. The one orchestral and schmaltzy, the other truer, sharper and inhabited by characters who breathe life into stale clichés.
Minimal. Some production stills. But Berenic Bejo’s gorgeous mug is welcome in any context.
Love means never having to say you’re French.
(TLA Releasing, $19.99 90 min) Nov 8
Paul Black wrote, directed and produced this piece of crap.
America Brown is a big ol’ hunka football player from Texas and he’s done run away from home. See he’s all tore up on account of his brother dying and all and even though he was kinda a jerk and sort had it comin’ he don’t know what to do… So he goes in search of his football idol and Texas football legend John Cross, who’s now a Catholic priest in New York City with the collar and the blessings and everythin’. So he goes to visit him and he ain’t none too pleased and is kinda ornery and all… but ‘ventually after getting in a fight and talking it out with him (and hell, even getting some Jewish tail!) he reckoned it was time to go. So anyways his momma was real worried but eventually he got out of Brooklyn and decided that playing ball ain’t all bad, even if the coaches are sort of jerks and all. It’s better than hangin’ out in Williamsburg with a colored priest and a slutty Jewess, though and that’s a fact!
Unenlightening making of doc and pointless blooper.
Apart from the appearance of the wonderful horror of Karen Black, a uniquely terrible film.