By G. Michael Dobbs
A ghost story worth watching and a television show from the vaults are in this week’s movie review column.
The hot creatures in horror films these days are definitely zombies, vampire and ghosts, but this new film starring Abigail Breslin definitely doesn’t fall into the conventions of films such as the “Paranormal” series.
This is a film that puts the emphasis on setting up a unique story with an appealing central character and a villain who is revealed to be more and more evil as the film progresses. It manages to scare you without gimmicks or gore, as well. That’s a rarity these days.
When I realized the film was directed by Vincenzo Natali that explained a lot. Natali directed two of the most clever fright films I’ve seen in a long time: “Cube” and “Splice.” He is clearly drawn to stories that could, at first, be seen as carrying on horror genre traditions and then tips our expectations over.
In “Haunter,” Breslin plays Lisa, a 15-year-old in 1985, who has an uncomfortable realization: she and her family are repeating the same Sunday over and over. Now, until “Ground Hog Day,” there is a very sinister reason for this: they are dead and Lisa is the only one to have awakened to this fact.
She now sets out to find out how they died, where they are and what are the voices she keeps hearing. The evidence points to whatever had happened to her family has happened to others and is still continuing,
I hate revealing too much more of the plot, which has some great twists and turns, but I can assure you it certainly held my attention.
Breslin, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in “Little Miss Sunshine,” does well in her role of a normal teen turned heroine. She certainly holds her own against Stephen McHattie, the character actor known for his many sinister roles.
If you like a good ghost story, “Haunter” is for you.
Dancing, A Man’s Game
It’s difficult to believe in this wrap of cheap reality shows that at one point network television actually had a soul. Advertisers and network executives were willing to spend time and money doing something that was entertaining, informative and couldn’t be easily pigeonholed.
During the 1950s the weekly show “Omnibus” did just that. It presented material that ranged from classical concerts to a production of “King Lear” with Orson Welles to a profile on Dr. Seuss.
A number of these shows have made their way to home video and the latest is a treat for anyone who appreciates dance. In 1958, Gene Kelly – do I have explain who Gene Kelly was? – wrote, co-directed and choreographed an hour dedicated to showing the link between how athletes move and dance.
It’s clear that Kelly wanted to show that dancing was just as masculine a pursuit as football, basketball or boxing and he did so by involving some of the best known sports figures of the day: Mickey Mantle, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bob Cousy and Johnny Unitas.
Now before you think this is some recipe for a hideous variety show, it’s not. Kelly wrote in his notes for the show, “My two loves are dancing and sports. I love to watch them and I love to participate in them. I know that the foundation of my dancing style is a 50-50 mixture of ballet and athletic training and where one leaves off and the other begins I am never quite sure.”
This show is fascinating as it reveals much about Kelly’s own philosophy about dancing.
Mastered from the only 16mm kinescope print, the visual quality of the DVD isn’t top-notch, but give Kelly a few minutes and you’ll forget that. It’s a compelling show for anyone who appreciates dance.