Feb 18, 2008

The Living and the Dead

Schizophrenia is a common showcase in thriller/horror films. They create these one layered villains and slap the illness on them to give some insight or explanation for their deeds. Director Simon Rumley pulls out all the stops in delivering us a new kind of mental and medicinal evil.

The story is an unfamiliar one. After the father of an ill family goes bankrupt, he must leave to take care of his assets, thus leaving poor James in charge of his mum. This is such a saccharine thing to do, but then he is plagued by his ill mother who is bedridden. Determined to keep her healthy on his own means, and becoming the man of the house in the process, he decides to lock the nurse out and quit taking his medication. This begins a spiraling decay of character as reality is blurred with nightmares.

This is but another film to bring the Oedipus Complex to the cinemas but with horrifying context. This isn't a children's tale. There is nothing to grab your attention other than the acting and the fun house rapid-fire frantic music. This one is purely a family study. Not just focusing on the ill son, it expands into the terror of the father and the mother. The theme of family dysfunction is not new, in fact, it is used too commonly now a days. Since the release of Baumbach's The Squid & The Whale and maybe even before that, dysfunction has been commercialized to be a great footnote to a story.

Examples can be seen in The Host, Running With Scissors, and Donnie Darko. The difference here is this film is a wasteland of emotions. Nothing good in sight, and the worst kind of emotional torture around. This wont be the last time we see dysfunction in a film but i'll be damned if it will have anywhere near the effectiveness of this.

Leo Bill as the schizo mothers boy, James Brocklebank, is a godsend to the shrinking list of actors who can play out a sickness amazingly. The last one who did this amazing was Ewen Bremner from the Dogme 95 film JULIEN DONKEY-BOY. The father strangely reminds me of Donald Pleasance and the mother is amazing in her role, playing a frail, tormented mother. The scenes where he starts to lose his sanity and when the hyper-camera work is implemented, make me feel as if my brain is leaking.

I really must hand it to Danger After Dark for releasing some of the most melancholy films i have seen recently. Films like Strange Circus and The Living and the Dead is the reason why i love film so much.


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