Tuesday, October 10, 2006
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.