Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bad Dreams


(1988) ****1/2

If I've got time after I've seen all my holiday horror and anthology flicks, I think I'm going to add cults to the list. I've always found cults utterly chilling. It isn't so much that they're beholden to their beliefs until death, it's the warmth with which they are beholden which shakes me so.

Young Cynthia is guided into the living room, surrounded by her cohorts, all on their knees in front of their Davidian leader, Harris. Some wear the purest of smiles, some are merely tentative. They are all united in fear, but they are also united in their lofty courage. They carry the singular terrifying element in the minds and souls of terrorists. They know the reality of their destruction. They refuse to inure themselves to it. They can't. Their bodies will crisp and sizzle. Skin will melt. Eyes will pop. They know that the pain that awaits them will be of terminal severity. But they face it unflinching, guided by the gentle voice and imperative will of their leader. I'm reminded of the last words of Joan of Arc, "Hold the crucifix up before my eyes so I may see it until I die. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!"

Bad Dreams nails this emotion. 85% effective FX aside, I am haunted by the suicide scene. By all of the suicide scenes. The looks on the faces of Ed and Connie, the amorous lovers of Cynthia's therapy group, as they pop their last pills and leap into the turbine blades in the engine room, it's the same look -- our love is pure and it will never die, and our death, though awful, will ensure this.

Emotionally the movie never makes a misstep. Taken out of context, the death scenes are all brilliantly handled. But resting as they do atop such bold and profound emotions, so well illustrated, they become something more than just death scenes. They become ritual.

I was absolutely stunned by Bad Dreams. The best I've seen this year.

2 comments:

I'mnotMarcbutmyboyfriendis said...

So Octo refers to Richard Lynch as "the other Rutger Hauer." When he first said this to me last night, I commented, "yes, the Rutger Hauer with all the horrible burn scars."

This was before I even knew what the movie was about, so I wasn't attempting to be referential in the slightest. I just took one look at the guy and thought, "burning."

I shouldn't have found it surprising, therefore, to find this fact on his wiki page:

"Lynch was once a heavy drug user and in 1967 he nearly killed himself during a bad "trip" with LSD, when he doused himself with gasoline and put a match to it."

And I didn't think this movie could get more eerie and uncomfortable, but it just did.

Watching the flashbacks of the kids at the suicide camp saying, "Death is like the ultimate trip," it occurred to me that that is why our parents wanted us to stay away from drugs. The worst-case scenario for doing acid is becoming enabled to do harm while you're so disconnected from planet Earth.

And unfortunately for the legalization movement, it happened. More than once. There are some bad, bad people out there.

Octopunk said...

Ah, but they've got nothing on the stupid ones.

I unsuccessfully tried to find something definitive that Richard Lynch was in, something that would make everyone say "ohhhh, that guy." For me it's always been this movie, but hardly anyone's seen it. He was the Jesus-like figure in the movie God Told Me To, which I watched for H-thon '04. He's got guest villain cred in practically every major TV show of the 70's and 80's, and some 90's standouts as well. He was the lead bad guy in a Star Trek TNG two-parter called Gambit.

All of this makes me think my "other Rutger Hauer" label is pretty apt.