Monday, October 24, 2005

Must-See TV (no, for real)

All right, cats and kittens, mark this down on your calendar. This Wednesday, AMC's MonsterFest offerings include a showing of "The Devil's Rain." It's at 6:45 a.m., but you could always record it and watch it later.

How could you not like a movie that has this kind of a tagline: "Heaven help us all when The Devil's Rain!"

No, I'm not mistyping that. Look for yourself.My head just about exploded when I tried to figure out what they thought they were saying. I suppose you could think of it as a play on words that works when you say it out loud, but even that's being generous.

I presume they mean "Heaven help us all when the devils reign," but there's a real easy way to do that.

Spell it right.

Aw, but then it doesn't match the title of the movie.

How about "Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's The Devil's Rain!" or "Don't let your soul get dampened by The Devil's Rain!"

Or they could change the name of the movie.

But The Devil's Rain refers to a container in which people's souls are kept.

Well, now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Ernest Borgnine is devil worshipper Jonathan Corbis. He wants a book that has names of people who sold their souls to the devil. The Preston family has been keeping that book safe for a kajillion or so years, which is why Corbis has it in for them.

This movie is interesting in a weird kind of way. It's not train-wreck bad, but it's not a really good flick, either. I think the thing that is most unsettling about it (and is probably its best quality) is its off-kilter feel.

During the whole movie, things just seemed like they were a little off. I really don't know why. It's a lot quieter than you'd expect it to be, and people don't always react the way you'd think.

For example, at the beginning, Mark Preston (my boy William Shatner) and his mother (Ida Lupino) are worried that Mark's father is missing. Right on cue, the elder Preston shows up, and right off the bat, you can see that something's not right.

For starters, he's a little melty. His skin looks like someone dumped a couple of Yoplaits on his head on a summer day. How he managed to get home, I don't know, as he sports empty-looking eye sockets. He warns his family about who did this to him, a man named Corbis, and he melts away, saying "What a world, what a world."

Or something like that.

Now, I don't know about you, but if one of my family members shows up and melts if front of me, I'd be a little upset.

But not Mark Preston. With Shatner playing this guy, you'd think there would be some kind of emotional reaction. Okay, maybe not him shaking in anger before bellowing "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!" (Sound on that link, btw.), but a little something. Nope.

Another unsettling thing about this movie, and I think this works against it a little, is that there isn't a main protagonist to focus on. At first, you think Mark Preston is the main guy, but then we meet his brother, who the story follows as well. It seems a little distracted. This is exacerbated by the casting.

Don't get me wrong; it's an impressive cast. Besides Shatner and Lupino, there's also Eddie Albert, Tom Skerritt and Ernest Borgnine. Oh, and John Travolta, but you'd never know it's him if you weren't looking.

Often in horror movies, the "name" actor is your main character, with lesser-known supporting players. Ideally, it's because the name actor is the best suited for the role, but failing that, it helps the viewer keep track of the action because they know who he is.

How many times have you seen a horror movie with a bunch of unknowns and you weren't always sure what was going on? Even when you're paying attention, it's not always easy -- characterization isn't always a big component in horror flicks.

But here, almost all of the main characters are familiar faces.

Oh, well, I guess that means you just have to pay more attention. The running time goes by pretty quickly if quietly. The ghost town setting helps with the creepy feel.

This movie is known for its big ending. They even hype it on the DVD cover.

They still didn't fix the grammar, but that's the way it goes, I guess.

There are two things about the ending that are notable, but the primary one is a mass melting in which a bunch of people melt into puddles of goo. Why this happens or what happens after that, I won't tell you, but it's an interesting looking effect.

It makes me wonder if that effect is what the movie was built around. The Incredible Melting Man seems to have been made around similar but even more disgusting melting flesh effects.

To make a long story short (too late), this is a pretty decent watch. Check it out, preferably in a dark room with a few friends and a bowl of popcorn.

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