Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mother's Day (2010)

In classic Netflix fashion, Mother's Day sat in my Saved queue for over a year--but the the wait was well worth it.  Knowing little else about the movie save for it being loosely based on an old Troma B-movie, I fully expected it to be one of those "filler" movies, as in a movie that fills in the gaps between releases that are really worth watching.  Well, Mother's Day set me straight on that account.  The experience was like being slugged in the jaw.  Never again will I doubt the potential strength of a (falsely categorized) "'filler" movie.

It is one of those horror movies you have to be in the mood for.  Some say, of course, that one has to be in the proper mood for any horror movie; but as this is a blog for horror movie fans, I'm not speaking to the lay moviewatcher.  Still, this is the type of horror movie that I believe even genre fans need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy.  Because, otherwise, I could see some of the movie's antics becoming increasingly annoying.  Don't get me wrong, though, it isn't like an exploitation film or an all-out bananas massacre like Cannibal Holocaust.  It's a well-executed, intense home-invasion, survival genre flick that has all the staging of a stock, cliché movie we've become desensitized to, yet has managed to be fresh and exciting.

Exciting is probably the best word to describe the movie.  My ADD threshold is capped at the standard horror-movie 90-minute mark, and when I saw that this was 112 minutes I was concerned.  Then, by the end, I realized that I was so enthralled I completely ignored my internal ADD alarm.  The movie's plot and pacing are such that the movie never sags.  The mood, tone, etc. intensify throughout each of the three acts.  There's no overwhelming exposition, and the violence increases in a balanced manner so as to not go overboard too easily (thereby peaking the audience's attention too early in the film).  In terms of the violent bits, the audience is constantly put into a cringe-inducing state of oh-man-no-way-this-can't-happen, which is offset by sudden blasts of visual stimulation that will catch you off-guard in the best possible way.  

As an added bonus, almost every character is interesting and fresh despite being a stock character.  So again with the pattern of what should be a lame movie actually being fresh.  It feels contradictory to me to be saying this, seeing as how I'm constantly berating movies for "not giving us anything new."  But somehow this movie works without giving us anything new.  Anyway, back to the characters.  The antagonists come complete with the hot-headed, unstable psychopath; the even-tempered, controlled character who can equalize the former; the shy, outcast who is psychologically brainwashed; and the tyrannical leader of the pack.  In this case, the tyrannical leader is played by Rebecca De Mornay, who plays "Mother" and is a perfect fit for the role.  As for the protagonists, no one really stands out from the group except Briana Evigan (they're more just nice, glossy characters to look at) and yet they all do exactly what they're supposed to do.  No one underacts or attempts to overact.  The composite of the captives' personalities creates an enjoyable on-screen chemistry.

I guess it's clear that I'm giving Mother's Day my stamp of approval.  It's definitely a surprising little gem of entertainment that proves the home-invasion thriller (mixed with elements of splatter film, I might add) isn't dead yet.  And like the recently reviewed Kidnapped (where we also meet some of these same stock characters), it remains intense and interesting for the entire duration of the film, which is a big plus when there's nothing about the film (i.e. no buzz) compelling you to watch it.  I mean, look, what other proof do you need?  I've basically wasted five paragraphs saying the same thing, without really telling you anything about the movie.  Watch it now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rabies (2010)

As with my last review (Sauna), Rabies is the production of a country from which I've never seen any cinema, let alone horror.  And, interestingly, they both take place entirely within a forest, despite the Finnish film being set in the 16th century and this one being set in, presumably, modern day.  Luckily this film is completely different from Sauna, and, in fact, this film--the first ever horror movie out of Israel--gave me an immediate respect for the filmmakers.  Their thorough understanding of the genre is apparent, and with this knowledge of horror conventions, the filmmakers deliver what I saw to be the film's biggest strength: its bending of the rules.

Splitting the movie into thirds (acts if you prefer), my interest peaked during the first act, drifted during the second, and then sparked again in the third.  (Picture a parabola effect on a chart where the x-axis represents movie duration and the y-axis represents interest.)  The movie had a strong opening, but the middle portion seemed aimless and chaotic (in terms of plot).  In the end, though, I realized what this film was about.  And perhaps this experience is the result of my rule of not reading anything about the movie, including the terse synopses on the Netflix envelopes.  Because it says right there on the slip, "But what happens next is hardly the familiar horror formula you might expect."  Had I read this, I probably wouldn't have begun to write the film off as clunky, halfway through.  Then again, having not read this I don't think I would've enjoyed the closing act as much.  For it was in the end that all my questions (chief among which was what is the purpose of this film?) were answered and I was satisfied with my experience.

The movie is really well shot, aside from a few ultra shaky moments that made my head swim--I don't care what the favorable argument is, the shaky cam distracts me from the intended tension-building, because I'm trying to keep my eyes straight and not throw up!  Speaking of tension, the Israelis definitely know how to build cringe-inducing moments, even if they do, in my opinion, cut away too quickly.  For example, the bear trap.  We've all seen moments like this before: the character mustn't make a false move or something terrible will happen; or the character must choose between one form of pain or another (the Saw franchise).  This tactic is always effective for me, and it got me here, too--but I didn't like that the result of the predicament took place off-camera.  Another example is the revelation that there are land mines, setting the characters on edge, painstakingly watching their steps, and leaving me, the viewer, on edge, waiting for the inevitable.  Thankfully, the inevitable bang is delivered with perfectly timed execution (no pun intended).

Spoiler Alert!  Back to the film's biggest strength.  I will not overlook the fact that there are what can be considered major plot holes.  But whether the loose ends are a problem or not depends on how you look at the film as a composite of characters, scenes, and genre conventions.  In the end, the loose ends don't really matter; the largest of which--the plot concerning the killer--is comically (in a good way) intentional.  The big secret between the brother and sister: laughable; again, in a good way.  And what I believe to be the film's biggest genre convention breaker concerns the Final Character.  I was initially put off by all the sexual banter between the four friends, but by the end I realized that the point was to establish who was really the virgin, and thus who lived (unless I missed something).

Equal parts nihilism, absurdism, parody, and black humor, Rabies exceeded my expectations, leaving me impressed with this first horror offering from Israel and eager for more.  Full of stock horror plots and characters that are sent spiraling in seemingly aimless directions, the film's antics are sure to please any genre fan.  Why it's called Rabies, I couldn't tell you.  There is a dog in it, but no one--if memory serves--is ever bitten by the dog; and it isn't clear how the dog would've gotten rabies anyway.  What I can say is that this is a film made for a group viewing.  Though I watched it by myself and still enjoyed it, I can see having a blast with friends.  Plus, it's one of those rare movies that has a great beginning and and a great ending.  Definitely worth a watch.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sauna (2008)

Thanks to some articles I read the other day, written by none other than BC of Horror Movie a Day, I have the pleasure of experiencing horror from two countries I've never seen any movies out of, let alone horror: Finland--in the case of Sauna--and Israel (Rabies), which I look forward to next week.  My knowledge of Scandinavian horror films is quite limited (Frostbitten, Let the Right One In, Troll Hunter, Hidden, and Dead Snow), so Sauna was more than welcome.  As a bonus, the film was more than good; it was great.  I've said repeatedly on this blog that my favorite horror movie is the psychological slow-burn with careful attention to mood and tone.  Well, direct from Finland comes the perfect psychological slow-burn with careful attention to mood and tone!

The atmosphere and pacing remind me of an H. P. Lovecraft story.  Even in the case of his shorter pieces, such as "From Beyond," each sentence is meticulously crafted with attention to building extreme feelings of mystery, ambiguity, and uncanny.  ("From Beyond," by the way, was adapted by Stuart Gordon for the 1986 movie of the same name.)  Consider also "The Festival," wherein Lovecraft is able to effect a single simile that reinforces the atmosphere of dread: "...black gravestones stuck ghoulishly through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse" (now that's just superb imagery).  All of these little devices culminate, in most of his pieces, in a quick, cutting ending, an ending that seems almost truncated, leaving the reader unsettled and the horror fiend within the reader satisfied, yearning to come back again and again to the murky, shadowy dreamworld of Lovecraft.  Such is the format of Sauna, with its creeping sensation that patiently unravels until the visually stunning ending that left me dying for the chance to watch the film again.

Now, don't confuse my description of the movie's patience and atmosphere with the trademarks of Ti West.  The two are in a similar category, but what I'm getting at is something of a different flavor.  At its core, the effect of the film is somewhat ineffable, but you'll know it when you see it.  It would, however, be interesting to watch The House of the Devil and Sauna back-to-back and note the differences and similarities (not in terms of story, obviously).  For example: the period settings of the 1980s and the 16th century, respectively.  When it comes to suspense-building and atmosphere, nothing ruins it, for me, worse than modern technology.  This is the reason why so many horror novels are devoid of periods during which the home computer or cell phone was proliferated.  Because without these familiar objects there is immediately a literal and, concomitantly, psychological disconnectedness.  Some writers, if settings a story in the present day, take pains to remove these familiar fear-limiting obstacles (obstacles not only due to familiarity, but also because they place help a few clicks away).  This is why cars break down, gas tanks are purged, and cell phone can't get reception.  In Stephen King's Bag of Bones, the main character begins inexplicably fainting and throwing up, and otherwise reacting violently, to his computer.  Thus, he cannot use it; and thus we are stripped of the objects of comfort that keep us from the stillness, the abyss that we so fear.

Unlike a babysitter stuck in a beautiful Victorian house far from town, with a mysterious unseen character somewhere upstairs, and without a cell phone or computer (though there is a standard phone mounted on the wall with a coiled cord that brought back memories of unraveling those wretched things!), Sauna gives us the northern forests of sixteenth-century Scandinavia/Russia.  This monotonous setting used to bother me, but filmmakers have stepped it up a lot and have even found ways of making a movie that takes place entirely inside a coffin intense and entertaining.  The cinematography and composition of Sauna keep the viewer unaware of the monotony of the locale.  The proverbial sauna, situated in the water, in the middle of the woods is beautifully captured.  There are a few key shots of the sauna that would've been much more visually sensational had I been able to forgo subtitles.  But it's not that bad, and don't even think of switching from the original audio track--it would be ridiculous with dubbing.  Anyway, the water slowly lapping against the bizarre structure and the black abyss of the only opening in the building are just a few examples of the film's pleasing aesthetics.

On top of all this, we get a perfectly matched score and chilling horror sequences, especially the finale.  Interestingly, some of the horror bits (the apparition following Knut) tended to remind me of the myriad Japanese revenge films (The Eye, The Ring, etc.) both in story and execution, and I kept waiting for the movie to allow some goofy jump-scare or such nonsense to ruin the mood.  Luckily, the movie measured out the scares commensurately to the collective film.  And aside from all the elements that went into making the movie enjoyable for nearly any film fan, Sauna boasts the proper story for any film with a cerebral/psychological bent.  It's not one of those films that appears to purposely derail its viewers and obscure details (Skew), but it's not a film with an in-your-face twist either (High Tension).  Sauna, simply put, is a well rounded movie ready to invigorate any serious horror fan.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Devil Inside (2012)

For me, one of the most memorable episodes of How I Met Your Mother features Barney's video resume.  Throughout the television series, Barney makes references to his blog and his web site, and in this particular episode he has his friends pull up his video resume online.  To my memory no address is given, but at this point, after reading his blog online and his printed book The Bro Code (also referenced throughout the series), I knew a quick Google search would take me directly to the video featured on the show.  Tactics like these--pulling the viewer into the world of the show via external sources--works well with How I Met Your Mother.  In the case of The Devil Inside, however, such devices have left me unmoved and slightly annoyed.

But before jumping to the matter external to the movie (matter I didn't even discover until the end of the movie), let's focus on the movie itself, which opens in the documentary style.  I wondered if it were going to remain like this throughout--which would've been more than welcome in my opinion--but, sadly, it does not.  Sadly?  Yes, sadly.  I say this because, after having seen the film, I can say that it would've been fresher had it remained a collage of newspaper clippings, interviews, etc., as the opening sequences gripped me much more than the switch-over to a mockumentary/found-footage form.  I thought perhaps I'm just too immune to this stuff now.  Sticking strictly to documentary made Lake Mungo and Cropsey great because it was so different (to be fair, people have pointed out that I wouldn't feel this way if I watched Unsolved Mysteries more often!).  But that's not to say found-footage still doesn't have life in it--all it takes is a good story with some change-ups to keep it fresh (The Last Exorcism, for example).

Coincidentally, I fell asleep shortly after the film switched from documentary to found-footage.  (I do realize that the film was intended to be "turned into a documentary"; I'm just referring to the form that we actually get as the audience).  The film kept jolting me awake to the raucous sounds of exorcisms, and I would rewind and try to get into it again, only to return to my slumber moments later.  Finally, as I awoke to the credits lethargically moving up the screen, I decided to go to bed.  Thus I had to give the move a proper watch the next day.  This time, I realized why I kept falling asleep.  The movie is barely 80 minutes long, but it is congested with politico-religious banter, none of which is anything new: the Church doesn't do what's right; the Church won't condone our attempts at finding out what's wrong; I need to do what I believe is right; they just keep her drugged up and won't properly evaluate her; the institution versus the individual; and so on ad infinitum.  I get that the film has to establish each character's conflict to justify their actions, but can I please get a fresh story?

But for all my negativity, the movie isn't a flop.  There are some pleasing elements, such as the overhead camera perspective during the exorcisms, which provided some nice angles and effects.  (The car-mounted cameras, on the other hand, are a strange and useless choice.)  And the exorcisms themselves (well, at least the first one) are pretty intense.  The verbal intensity isn't quite on the level of the film that spearheaded the exorcism genre 40 years ago, but it definitely pays its mandatory homage.  Audio design is well done, and there is more than one blood spattering, which threw me a curve-ball in light of the fact that this was a wide theatrical release.  In fact, I'm really surprised this dark indie horror was picked up and distributed on such a wide scale.  I'm used to films like this being packaged as unforgivingly horrific masterpieces, but actually being glossy PG-13 thrillers designed to reach the widest demographic scope possible (read: make the most money possible).  So, the film, within it's scant 80-minute runtime, does offer some pleasing effects--especially the contortionist effects, which always stir me (The Last Exorcism, The Exorcism of Emily Rose).

Another saving grace of the film is Fernanda Andrade, whom I had never seen before.  Aside from the obvious placement of a beautiful girl at the forefront of the film, she is a superb choice for the role.  And there are times when the movie seems to be aware of itself, though not in quite the meta-film way of, say, the Scream franchise.  For example, the dog-jumping-against-the-fence stock scare; and the I'm-just-the-annoying-camera-guy bit.  In the end, the film's subtle self-awareness and the fresh face of Fernanda Andrade weren't enough to bring me back (unless you count the fact that I fell asleep the first time and had to re-watch it the next day).  And when the film ended and I promptly visited the supplemental web site, as directed, I found myself annoyed at the marketing of external resources to generate forced controversy and buzz around the film.  But they've sure done a great job.  Don't believe me?  Just check out the lengthy discussion on said supplemental web site, which prompts you to "be a part of the ongoing investigation."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kidnapped (2010)

"A new genre classic."  Not exactly, but it is a solid home-invasion flick that made me jump several times (no easy feat after years and years of horror movies) and kept me on edge until the end credits reminded me to breathe.  I admit up-front that there isn't a genre out there that startles me more than home-invasion.  Films in this vein really provoke me, and I can't help but think about what I would do in such a situation.  By the end of a film like this I stay up half the night coming up with ways I could've stopped all the devastation before it started--which inevitably leads down the path of paranoia.  Kidnapped is definitely a film that sticks with you, even if it isn't "a new genre classic."

If you're planning to give this film a proper viewing, I suggest omitting the convenience of Netflix Instant and procuring the DVD with the original audio.  for whatever reason, you can't change the audio option on Instant (ten minutes into the film, I attempted to change the audio on iPad, Wii, and Firefox on PC; but it would only let me choose English).  This makes for a jarring experience, as, with a movie like this, English-speaking voice actors sitting in a recording booth cannot come close to achieving the level of drama needed to compliment the situation on the screen.  When a character is supposed to sound frightened it comes out like cheesy stage-acting.  Normally I would abandon the movie until I could watch it with the original audio, but I was already hooked.  I needed to watch it.  Plus, I like to think of myself as a mature enough viewer to look past dubbing, which proved true.

There is nothing new in the film.  Usually, when something is heralded as a classic, that means that it offers something pioneering that will endure.  It's too early to know whether it will endure, but as for being pioneering, or offering something new to the home-invasion genre, the only observation I can offer is that it made use of the split-screen technique, which reminded me of Brian De Palma's choice in Carrie.  Unlike Carrie, however, the split-screen, at times, gives us a view of the father, who has been separated from the familial triad, and the goings on back at the home--that is, we get a split-screen of two different settings and tones.  This I liked, not only for the nice juxtaposition of perspectives (the father has no clue of the calamity taking place at home); but also for the time it was able to shave off of the film's duration.  What can I say?  Eighty to ninety minutes, after years of watching horror movies, has become a sort of immutable threshold.  When the split-screen is used within the same setting--even if separate rooms--I didn't care for it as much.  In fact, I thought it would've been better to have left it in the perspective of the captives (what you can't see is always more frightening).

Then the movie just becomes cruel, unforgiving, and ultimately, nihilistic.   As usual, one of the captors is unstable and violent and one is the nice, friendly criminal (the misanthrope and the humanist).  These two begin to clash, and thus begins a microcosm of good versus evil within the film's larger plots, themselves a mix of class conflict and good-versus-evil.  The film offers flickers of hope, the most dramatic of which occurs when an extended sequence of split-screen literally joins characters together.  But then the film becomes cold, pernicious, sharply unsettling.  You know something is going to happen.  The fate of one of the captors is uncertain, leaving the viewer on edge.  And, sure enough, the captor returns for the final scene.  This is where the film becomes absurd, a path I expected from time to time throughout the movie, but not in this way.  And it's apparent that the film is setup to shock audiences into remembering its violent bent toward chaos.  Again, though, this final statement is not something new, even if the deaths of all those involved do follow the guidelines.

I recommend Kidnapped only for those who genuinely enjoy and understand horror movies; not the laywatcher who is roused by the popularity and taboo of horror culture.  If you simply crave violence in your movies I'd try taking a hit of something more potent--like, say, Dream Home.  Regardless of your tastes, though, I do think it's the type of movie you have to be in the right mood to "enjoy."  Don't judge by the reviews (one should never read reviews before watching the movie without pretenses), and don't watch with the English dubbing if you can help it.  If you enjoy films like Funny Games, The Strangers, Eden Lake, and Them (Ils), you'll find something to love here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Final Destination 5 (2011)

Typically when a franchise reaches a certain point the movies become more and more painful to watch.  And especially after forcing my way through the second, third, and fourth installments of the Final Destination franchise, I approached this latest offering apathetically.  It was just a time-filler, a duty as a horror blogger.  I even made a French press of the darkest, strongest coffee available to me, so as to stay awake for the whole thing.  But, lo, in the wake of its infinitely lame predecessor (title The Final Destination, as if the definite article "the" would really lead us to believe they wouldn't try to squeeze more money out of the series), this was the best of the lot since the first film!

But it didn't seem to be headed in that direction for the first ten minutes or so.  What we open with is a tumultuous, seemingly never-ending montage that combines credits with references to deaths throughout the series thus far and to come.  It was sort of cool, but wore out quickly.  Then the actual movie opens and plays out like a glossy teenaged soap opera--highly polished set and lithe, nubile characters with thick makeup (and eyebrows); lingering dramatic stares; and maudlin, melodramatic dialogue.  A recycled introduction of stock, uninteresting characters--check.  Indeed the first fifteen minutes do not promise an good remainder.  Just accept the mandatory Hollywood gloss and move on--the fun is yet to come.

Then follows the trademark of the series: a character has a premonition of a disaster--which in  this movie delivers some amazing effects--and then jolts back to reality in time to save a handful of characters from the impending doom.  Thus, they cheat death, who pursues them for the rest of the movie.  As the horror icon Tony Todd warns them, death does not like to be cheated.  So now the setup is in place, and we've got a lot of movie to go.  I was already thankful to be spared the ridiculous theatrics of the race-track disaster from the previous installment.

The obligatory funeral scene is where the movie takes an interesting turn.  A turn for the best.  It adds in humor that works.  As in, it caught me off guard and I really laughed.  This thread of irony and playful humor would continue throughout the film and was more than welcome.  The humor around the IT Guy, whom the manager thought was dead (a reference during the eulogy and later in the film are perfectly timed), and small ironic comments here and there, combined with the creative, inventive kills--the trademark of FD--work to keep the film entertaining and fresh.

In the final scene (or what I thought was the final scene), I braced myself for the big flop.  I fully expected the film to have lost steam after it's crowd-pleasing middle parts, and fall flat on its face.  And, yes, what was actually the penultimate scene is predictable and unoriginal.  The actual final scene completely won me over and secured my loyalty to the franchise (or, at least, the first and fifth films).  The ending isn't a great epiphany or mind-bender, by any means; it's just pleasantly creative.  And immediately following is another montage of actual footage of the various kills throughout the series (not just references to the instruments of death as in the opening montage).  It's killing me to not talk about the ending, so I'll just throw out an obscure literary reference: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."

Monday, May 7, 2012

Skew (2011)

Probably one of the more confusing movies I seen, Skew's greatest obstacle is its apparently lofty aims of cerebral profundity.  Or perhaps this is one of the better indie films.  I just can't decide because, for every negative of the movie I find a positive, and for that reason I'm simply left unsettled, without any closure.  One thing I can say with certainty: this movie begs for a re-watch, and I honestly wouldn't mind sitting through it again.

That I'm considering a re-watch is amusing to me now because within the first half hour I found myself thinking, I will never suffer through this again.  Within another ten minutes I was thinking, What is the real plot here?  My expectations were heightened by the film's opening quote.  Most of these films open with a quote from a more familiar figure (to most of the demographic), like, say, Poe or Lovecraft.  But Skew opens on a quote from none other than the 19th century French literary titan Honoré de Balzac.  A student of literature, familiar with French titans such as Balzac, Rimbaud, Rabelais, Verlaine, et al., this impressed me.  It said to me that this write was deeper than most, influenced by more profound literature.  Later I would find that the writer/director is the Canadian Sevé Schelenz.  (I would also find that the film was 6 years in the making, mostly due to the FX and budgeting.)

Then we're introduced to a trio of some of the most annoying characters I've ever encountered.  I couldn't em/sympathize with any of them at any time throughout the duration of the film.  Whiny, flimsy, volatile, frustrating characters, they are.  It only takes about fifteen minutes to realize what's going on between two of the characters, so I'm not sure if the filmmaker intended for it to be that way or not.  Either way, it's a subplot that permeates the movie and appears to be an intentionally mysterious element to keep the audience engaged.  I imagine a group of people sitting in a room with this script, debating on whether it's too subtle or not, and finally leaning toward the more obvious approach.  The final product is an insult to the audience's intelligence.  Or is it a plot device that is used to distract us from that more important clues?

The mockumentary style, brought to popularity by The Blair Witch Project, is growing old, so it's always interesting to see how certain things will be explained.  I can't remember exactly why our videographer, Simon, has the camera or why he's shooting (other than for fun), but it's a simple little recorder without a flipscreen (as we're specifically told in the film).  Simon also establishes that he does not care to be on camera, and the film sticks with that (except for a brief moment on a police station security camera, and even then we don't see Simon's face).  And with the established constraint that we're going to stay in  the camera's/Simon's perspective, the filmmakers have the obstacle of explaining underlying plot points while dealing with how to get the explanations on film for the audience.  No easy feat.  But Skew has the answer: the camera turns itself on.

And now for a few words about the "main" plot, or what we can think of as the marketed plot.  For this, the film borrows from Final Destination and The Ring, and the end product isn't moving in the least.  There's no creative factor, and there's no mystery (for all of Final Destination's failures, it has always prided itself on inventive deaths and intense buildups).  This plot does, however, setup three of the more unusual scenes in the movie, all involving people who have recently been killed.  These little scares were a mixed bag because (a) they were completely unexpected and inexplicable; and (b) they were completely outside of the scope of the mockumentary subgenre.  Then again, perhaps this is the change-up we're looking for to breathe new life into the genre?  Whatever the explanation for these choices, I don't think the marketed plot is the one the film spent its efforts to develop.

The ending is one of the strangest and most confusing endings I've ever seen.  Or is it the most brilliant ending that begs the viewer to watch the movie again?  (I'll update this post once I've re-watched the film, and let you know!)  Suddenly the film becomes a psychological breakdown that raises a myriad questions.  The whole "what's real" thing starts going on.  At the same time, though, there is no great epiphany.  There is no a-ha! moment.  Just before the movie ends, with several unresolved points that are still driving me crazy, the film is rewound (not for the first time) to moments that occurred before the point at which the movie started.  At first, I was delighted, and I sat up in my chair so as to really take in what they were going to unfold.  The film had me completely engrossed.  Unfortunately, the film only "revealed" explanations I'd ascertained in the first part of the movie.  And not content with leaving me completely disappointed, the film gives one final shot that is rewound a couple times and played back the last time with the slow-step function so as to show an image that I must assume is the key to this movie.

My review seems quite negative.  The only hope is that re-watching the film unlocks the secret of its greatness.  Based on the final confusing shot, I must assume that the movie has subtle clues scattered throughout, clues which the viewer overlooks the first time for their subtlety.  The other explanation is that it's one of these films that prides itself on its inexplicability, which I don't usually favor unless its done strikingly well.  To me that screams of someone who is intelligent and does not want to be able to be explained (forced profundity).  Then again, I'm a huge fan of David Lynch, so, Skew, you'd better have something  to show me this second time around!