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Your Netflix Instant Weekend: RAMPAGE (1987), INTO THE ABYSS, and more

Brian Kelley

April 13th, 2012

Despite a week light on new releases to Instant Netflix, there were still two absolute must-sees added. It's only by mere coincidence that both of them touch on the same controversial subject of the death penalty and both were made by master filmmakers (William Friedkin and Werner Herzog). This weekend be sure to check out a serial killer/courtroom drama that's both violent and thoughtful and a documentary about a brutal crime and the effects of capital punishment.

RAMPAGE (1987)

RAMPAGE starts with a series of brutal murders - a kind looking man named Reece (played to chilling perfection by Alex McArthur) shoots someone, slices up the body, drinks some blood, and escapes. The movie takes the procedural route as the police seek out the killer and are a few steps behind as he commits murder again (acts which the movie states are based on a true story). It's when Reece is caught and his trial is underway that the movie becomes more of a reflection on how criminals should be punished, regardless of their sanity. District attorney Anthony Fraser (Michael Biehn) is caught in a sticky web of arguments surrounding Reece's sanity and writer/director William Friedkin certainly provides evidence for both sides. In the end, though, his ultimate question in the face of the death penalty discussion when it comes to the convicted being insane or not insane is, does it really matter? This film was formerly available only on VHS and indeed the presentation on Netflix is a VHS rip but do not let that stop you from discovering one of Friedkin's frequently overlooked gems.


It would seem Werner Herzog and William Friedkin have some fundamental disagreements about the death penalty but you wouldn't really know it from INTO THE ABYSS. In this documentary, which is more or less free from Herzog's trademark esoteric diversions, the brutal murder of a woman, her son, and her son's friend (all over a red Camaro) is the jumping off point for an examination of capital punishment and its far reaching effects. Though Herzog makes his case early in the film (he's staunchly anti-death penalty) ABYSS is surprisingly evenhanded. It's as chilling as it is fair, too. One of the main subjects of the film is Michael Perry, convicted of murder in the case and scheduled to die just 8 days from the filming of the interview. His is just one piece of the story, though, as friends and families of the murdered, men who have made a living by putting people to death, priests, and more are asked to give their thoughts on man's right to take another man's life. It creates a very nuanced and complex portrait of the issue that, despite its creator's own convictions, isn't a straight up anti-death penalty statement. INTO THE ABYSS is truly of one Herzog's great works. (Available in HD)

The Wildcard - SAVING PRIVATE PEREZ (2011)

This adventure-comedy is about a Mexican crime lord who is instructed by his mother to travel to Iraq and retrieve his brother. I first saw the trailer before the low-budget dance movie GO FOR IT! and was immediately intrigued. Its theatrical release passed me by though and now here it is.

If you're looking for more...

Lars von Trier's beautiful and haunting profile of depression, MELANCHOLIA, is now streaming in HD. The old and violent rivalry between two Irish families is captured in the documentary KNUCKLE. Robert Redford's latest, THE CONSPIRATOR, is the story of the efforts to defend Mary Surratt against accusations of playing a part in the plan to assassinate Lincoln. For an indie fix, check out the charming low-budget drama LITTLEROCK. Finally, a title I skipped over several weeks ago and just recently watched, TONY, is a short but effective and engaging slice-of-life about a serial killer.

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  • Conrad99

    Thanks a lot

    • GotWhale

      You’re very welcome! Happy watching.

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