The idea that demons feed on our suffering isn’t new. It’s been a staple of fantasy and horror for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. The specifics vary, but one fact remains true: our misery is delicious. (To demons, at least.)
I had a craving for a little 13th century English history (like you do), but wanted it a little cheap; a little, um, dirty. Like when you could get steak, but you want a greasy hamburger. These movies looked like they might fit the bill: they were set at the right time and had about a dozen people from Game of Thrones in them.
Way back in the 13th century, King John of England (Paul Giamatti [IMDB]) was a tool. A royal tool. Such a tool, in fact, that his barons rebelled and, with the help of the Knights Templar, defeated him. They forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which limited the power of the king. He promptly ignored it and brought in an army of Danes (who dressed like Scots, for some reason) to help him reclaim the country (that he hadn’t actually lost).
While technology remains incapable of creating anything resembling true artificial intelligence, the topic has been popular amongst philosophers and futurists for well over a century. One of the most debated questions is deceptively simple: how can we tell if something is really intelligent and not just faking it? This is the question of the film.
Despite it seemingly being tailor-fit to my taste, this completely failed to register on my radar when it was released. It was only when I started researching movies to include in this Month of A.I. that I discovered it.
The 80’s was a great time for A.I. in film. We had reached a point, technologically, where the idea of smart machines seemed more inevitable than fantastical. Crucially, filmmakers could also assume their audiences were computer literate enough to understand more advanced concepts. Just as importantly, they knew that the audience wasn’t too savvy. A flurry of technobabble could make ridiculous claims sound reasonable and in the 80’s we got a lot of technobabble.
When I previously reviewed The Whole Damn Poltergeist Franchise, I lamented the sad decline of the sequels, but marveled at how well the first movie has held up. It’s a classic that remains just as effective today as it did 30 years ago. There is no earthly reason to remake it.
As widely reported, 80’s icon “Rowdy” Roddy Piper [IMDB] died peacefully in his sleep on July 31st at the age of 61. Roderick George “Roddy” Toombs was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on April 17, 1954 to parents of Scottish and Irish descent. He left home at a young age after a dispute with his father and ended up doing gopher work for professional wrestlers.
He received the stage name “Roddy Piper” when he made his wrestling debut at the age of 15 in Winnipeg. He approached the ring playing the bagpipes, a gimmick that would become his trademark. The announcer gave his name as “Roddy the Piper”, but fans heard “Roddy Piper” and the name stuck.
Piper had numerous acting credits across a long, interesting career, but I’m going to focus on two of his earliest and, for me, most fondly remembered.
This one screams “INDIE!” louder than Marion Ravenwood in a basket. It’s a very small, tight cast: only five people total, two of which you barely see. It’s shot in, essentially, a single location: a lonely house on a deserted island. It has a good, but not quite “A” list, cast that probably brings more effort to the material than it really deserves. It also, by law, has a healthy collection of twist endings.
This is one of the new breed of hybrid found-footage movies. In the past filmmakers invented all new classes of mental gymnastics to explain why somebody would continue filming while a monster gnawed away at their ankle. Here, as in other recent offerings, “found” footage is intermixed with traditional cinematography to provide flavor without tying the whole production down.
Call them what you like – bottle movies, gimmick flicks or just plain “single location films” – they are an inherently mixed bag. Completely dependent upon the audience being intrigued enough by the single location and the few characters, they have to grab your attention early and hold it to the end. This one does pass that test, but only barely.