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FOREVER EVIL (Standard Cut) (1987)
MIRRORMASK (2005)


Forever Evil (Standard Cut) Starring: Red Mitchell, Tracey Huffman, Charles L. Trotter, cool dog. Director: Roger Evans. Screenwriter: Freeman Williams.
Some months back, I reviewed the directorís cut of Forever Evil in one of my long-ass snarky things.  You can find it here if you want loads of spoilers, lots of verbatim dialogue, scene-by-scene descriptions and lots of flat jokes. 

Well, Forever Evil came in a two disk set, the other disk being devoted to the Standard Cut, the one that was originally released on home video some years back.  And like a lot of Standard Cuts, I thought it was a better film than the Directorís Cut. 

For one thing, the scenes are organized in a more coherent order.  The other film began with a flash-forward to the end, which then led to the cabin sequence.   The flash forward made no narrative sense at all where it was; if I were a doctor from the 50ís, Iíd ascribe this to overwork. 

Similarly, the scene with the Dr. Freex Kinda Guy was placed right smack in the middle of the film in the DC, where it jumped out like a scene from another, entirely different film.  Here, itís placed at the beginning where it does a much better job of setting up the story. 

The film still has its awkward parts, though.  The pregnancy was still in there, and seemed just as gratuitous; the heroís invention might as well been named the Plot Device; the zombie still looks more silly than scary.

But the film still has a lot more imagination than a half-dozen slashers and Italian gut-munchers of its era, and the sense of an ever-widening menace is purveyed very well.   If you want to see Forever Evil, this is the version to see.

What is it about ďdirectorís cutsĒ?  Iím really baffled by how few of them I think are better than the original versionóalmost none of them, to tell the truth.  It maybe that directors, like most artists, feel that what they create is beyond consideration of an audienceís expectations and should not have to bend to commercial whims.  This feeling extends to the tiniest aspects of what they make, even to the point of jumbling the order of scenes to make less sense.  Why?  Itís an artistic impulse, if you question it, it may vanish and the muse depart.

But unlike books or paintings, movies are a commercial commodity.  To be successful, theyíre supposed to appeal to peopleís entertainment desires; frustrating those desires (I overstate the case) just seems baffling to me.  Directors like John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks wanted their films to be seen by as many people as possible, and make tons of money in the process.   Their films still hold up today because they knew they were telling stories, not creating art.

Well, I guess Iím being a little hard on Forever Evil director Roger Evans and I apologize.  Iím not saying he felt this way; I have no idea, really what his motivations were and my guesses are probably wildly off the mark.  It does seem a bit much to go on this way about a low budget horror movie.

Itís just that it does do what it does quite well, for the most part, particularly in the Standard Cut.  Thatís the one that works, thatís the one that is entertaining.   The Directorís Cut raises more questions than it answers, and those questions have nothing to do with the narrative.

Of course, Iím one to talkÖ.

 


Mirrormask
Starring: Stephanie Leonidas, Jason Barry, Gina McKee, Rob Brydon. Director: Dave McKean. Screenwriter: Neil Gaiman.
Ah, if only films could live on design and art direction alone, with no need for anything else.  Mirrormask goes pretty far to show that they can, but ultimately it lives and dies by its images; story doesnít really enter into it.

Well, thatís not entirely true.  Itís just that the story is one weíve seen so many times before.  A young girl defies her mother and falls into a dream.  She has to fight against her motherís dark side to rescue the light side, and herself along the way.   She meets strange characters and creatures, some friendly, some not.  Thereís a Really Useful Book that proves to be really useful.

And of course, thereís one powerful talisman she has to get in order to save everything.  In this case, the talisman is the Mirrormask.  This is the usual storyline of ďthe questĒ and thereís not much variance here.  At shortly after the hour point, I had the idea that the Mirrormask would be found ďhere, in your heart, where itís always been.Ē  To the filmís credit, no one ever said that.

But the point of Mirrormask isnít the storytelling, or the acting (though the performances are pretty good, if a bit precious).  Itís the art direction, and what we have here is a really unique looking film.  It really is like nothing youíve ever seen; even comparisons to the work of the Brothers Quay donít really come that close.  It has the same collection of spindly creatures that look like they were assembled out of bits of junk, but there are also solid, massive structures and floating giants.  Youíve never seen anything like this, honestly.  You have heard it all before, though.  Like Labyrinth, another film from the Jim Henson folks to which it is often compared, it wraps its very familiar story in a really great look.

If youíve ever wondered what a collaboration between Hieronymus Bosch, H.R. Giger and Odelon Redon would look like, hereís your chance.