Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Shuttered Room


1967 ***1/2

Based on a couple of lines H.P. Lovecraft wrote on a napkin once, The Shuttered Room shows you what happens when you have the chance to live in Mad Men's New York City but instead you opt for the nearby New England version of Straw Dogs. On the plus side, you are inheriting an accursed house festooned with cobwebs.

"You know what, honey? That really rumples my face."

Our story opens with Mike and Susannah, one of those old guy/hot young chick married couples that populate a lot of old movies. They trek to a small island off the New England coast, the island Susannah last saw when she was four years old, having been sent away after her parents were struck by lightning.

Of course, there are worse things.

The island's pleasant Lord of the Flies vibe is made immediately apparent when the local hooligans, packed rowdily into a muddy old pickup truck, honk and yell and ram the couple's Thunderbird in an effort to get past them. Upon meeting this pack of apes in person, Susannah is acquainted with Ethan, who turns out to be her cousin. Remember that alarming feeling you got when you first saw the buffed-out Anthony Michael Hall in Edward Scissorhands? Played with frightening enthusiasm by Oliver Reed, Alpha Ape Ethan is the amalgam for every leering jerk and scary bully you ever met. He's all coiled energy and blunt menace, making those around him perpetually uncomfortable and loving every second of it.

The rowdy level of the whole group is over the top, as if Peter Pan's boy posse grew up and discovered booze and meth. They're one big group id, and Ethan is their front man. The physicality Reed brings to the performance is intense to the point of hilarious, especially when he's running around the island like a bulky Forrest Gump.

"SquirrelsquirrelsquirrelSQUIRREL!"

Which brings me to the thing I never would have suspected of the existing body of cinematic work: a movie made primarily to champion Oliver Reed's big, muddy, denim-clad ass. Check it out.

"Whoops! Fallsies!... Ass."

The knife points to it like an arrow.

He helps them up the hill with ass gravity.

Kaaa-pwing!

I'm pleased to report that along with the ass comes a satisfying measure of proverbial pipe, as Mike is an unexpectedly talented martial artist. I say "unexpectedly" because you'd sooner expect Tony Randall in his yacht club whites to successfully karate chop somebody.

"Give up, boy. I know blazer-fu."

Meanwhile the house they're fighting so doggedly to live in probably has a mysterious dweller in the upstairs room, which doesn't have amenities like shutters because it was clearly added to the house by Homer Simpson.

Built in the days when one sneeze meant death anyway.

I'm giving this movie a lot of crap but in truth it's pretty damn fun. The troublesome locals are so theatrical it's almost like West Side Story sometimes, but there's an edge to their bleak existence (at one point Ethan's posse are gathered around on the beach about to watch him have sex with one of the island's few women; it's sick). In the end the purity of the awful experience of knowing them completely won me over. So too did Oliver Reed, who balances Ethan's lurching demeanor with an undercurrent of fear, a sneaking realization that anywhere else in the world he's a colossal loser.

The plot may seem obvious, but the story works because it's kept tight and lean. The situation with the locals escalates with extreme speed, and the revelations about all the guy-in-the-attic-cam footage come right behind. And it's a real treat watching Reed bring his A game to a B movie. Worth your time.

7 comments:

Landshark said...

I'm doubtful the movie can live up to that review. Awesome stuff.

AC said...

even if oliver himself only made one such movie, maybe there's a subgenre featuring other big, muddy, denim-clad asses?

Catfreeek said...

Excellent review and I'm always glad to see when someone likes something I recommend. I'm assuming this means a stunning review of It! will soon be following this.

DCD said...

Great review, Octo! You are really making them sing this year. I may have to tune in if only for denim-clad ass!

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Excellent buttcheeks, excuse me "review". At first glance I thought the knife was a tear in his jeans!

Octopunk said...

You wish!

JPX said...

Love this, "He's all coiled energy and blunt menace, making those around him perpetually uncomfortable and loving every second of it." What a great way to describe every bully I've ever known. This actually sounds like a lot of fun and your review is hilarious. You're on fire this year, Octo! I've watched 6 movies so far but I haven't written a word yet, stay tuned...

I suspect that "denim-clad ass" will quickly become this year's favorite saying!