Your Netflix Instant Weekend: DAGON, THE WINDMILL MOVIE, and more

Brian Kelley

by: Brian Kelley
March 24th, 2011

First and foremost I have to apologize for the lack of a column last week. SXSW turned out to be far busier than I had anticipated. The good news is, though, we have incredible SXSW coverage for you to check out. I'm going to make sure I pull from the past two weeks here so we don't miss anything. I think this column has pretty much the most eclectic mix of recommendations yet- there's something for everyone! This week we'll take a look at one of the best H.P. Lovecraft adaptations available, a documentary that you may very well hate, and one of Fellin's best.

DAGON

Stuart Gordon has tapped into the H.P. Lovecraft well throughout most of his career for inspiration. Never has he made a film so fully awash in the writers trademark atmosphere than the when he directed the 2001 film DAGON. A combination of the short stories "Dagon" and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", the film sees Paul and his girlfriend Barbara stranded in a dreary and nearly desolate fishing village called Imboca after a boating accident. As night approaches, the few people inhabiting Imboca begin to disappear and strange, fish-like creatures start roaming the streets.

Working on a small budget, Gordon has created a masterpiece of atmosphere. The rainy, damp village feels slimy and humid to the audience and the makeup effects on the creatures is top notch. One begins to develop a true sense of dread as the mystery of Imboca unravels that is not unlike reading a Lovecraft tale late at night. There is a bit of corny CGI business in the finale, but it doesn't even come close to derailing what is a great horror film that has been truly overlooked for far too long.

THE WINDMILL MOVIE

Out of all the films I've recommended in this column I expect this to be one of the most divisive. Over the course of two decades, filmmaker and professor Richard P. Rogers tried, in vain, to create a documentary about his own life. Raised in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in the Hamptons, Rogers was bred of privilege but sought to show the downside of a life of luxury and success and how a man in his position can still be unhappy at times. Busy with creating the films for which he is now remembered, the documentary (dubbed the "Windmill" project) was unfinished when he died in 2001. His widow handed the footage over to Rogers' former student, Alexander Olch, and asked him to the put the pieces together.

There are generally two reactions to this film. You will either love its honest portrait of a life of advantage and its portrayal of the "money can't buy happiness" adage or you will be angered, feeling mocked by a grand display of hubris. I have my own feelings towards this film but what I think doesn't matter. Regardless of your end reaction, this is a fascinating film that will make you feel something (good or bad) and, for that, it it recommended. (Available in HD)

NIGHTS OF CABIRIA

Fellini feels like an easy "go to" for this column, but NIGHTS OF CABIRIA is a special creature. Of all the faces used to fill Fellini's frames he found none better than his own wife, Giulietta Masina, and of the performances she gave him her headstrong prostitute, Maria 'Cabiria' Ceccarelli, is the best. NIGHTS OF CABIRIA follows the titular character as she finds her self in one bad situation after another working the streets of Rome. Through all the attacks at her morale, though, Cabiria's wide-eyed lust for the silver lining (an innocent optimism that works for and against her) endears her to some unseen higher consciousness- she's a undeniable piece of the greater human spirit.

Masina's portrayal of Cabiria is a performance of a performance. She has a Chaplinesque swagger and overstated reactions to her surroundings. Because she never breaks from this persona, its not easy to tell if it's Masina or Cabiria acting. I suspect it's Cabiria, the unflinching desire to find the good in all situations commanding her to channel something so sweet, innocent and playful. Fellini puts Cabiria through trials that, taken collectively, would break most people but hope always lingers in the dirtiest of gutters. This is easily one of Fellini's best films.

The Wildcard - BANGKOK ADRENALINE

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. I'm a sucker for some great, low-budget action, especially if it's violent. This film adds a fish out of water element in that a group of Westerners becomes mixed up in some not-so-good in Thailand and ass-kicking ensues. These kinds of films can go either way (ignoring the plot/acting issues that are almost aways present)- either it's going to be a fun action romp that's easy to digest or it's going to be a poorly filmed and choreographed mess, the actions scenes unable to save the film from its own mundane setups. Hopefully this is the former. (Available in HD)

If you're looking for more...

Absurd but action packed, ALIEN VS. NINJA slashes its way onto Instant Netflix. Another Japanese gore flick, VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL was added. For your horror fix, check out Frank Henenlotter's '80s Times Square grunge horror masterwork BASKET CASE. Re-added is BOY EATS GIRL, a silly horror-comedy from Ireland about love and zombies. Another fun horror romp, DANCE OF THE DEAD, was added as well. Things get seriously scary (and sometimes wacky) in TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE. Rounding out horror offerings is a movie I recommend you only watch in a big group with lots of beer, SANTA'S SLAY. Goldberg (yes, the wrestler) plays Santa! John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK will fill all your testosterone needs for one weekend. Lastly in the action world, Russell Mulcahy (RAZORBACK, HIGHLANDER) directs Dolph Lundgren in SILENT TRIGGER. The indie comedy MYSTERY TEAM is about a group of young men who never outgrew their boyhood games of playing detectives. THIS IS SPINAL TAP is still the most hilarious rockumentary around. CHALK is another mokumentary, this time about teachers. QUITTING is a touching autobiopic from China about a depressed and substance-abusing young actor. The Pedro Almodóvar film TALK TO HER has been added. WHALE RIDER is another foreign drama, a story about tradition in New Zealand. LE CERCLE ROUGE is Jean-Pierre Melville's beautifully crafted crime saga. GOD GREW TIRED OF US is a free-flowing documentary about Sudanese refugees. Finally, THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE is a look at the story of her and husband Jim Bakker's rise and fall as televangelists.

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