Monthly Archives: February 2018

Black Magic (1975)

*. I don’t think I’ve seen another movie shot in Kuala Lumpur, so in that respect at least Black Magic was, for me, a unique experience.
*. Aside from the handful of location shots I didn’t find much else interesting about Black Magic. That feels like a weird thing to say, since it’s a zany movie. But it’s not zany enough.
*. The actual story is just an updated folktale involving a bad rich girl who wants a love potion to make a decent working fellow leave his fiance and become her toy boy. She gets said potion from a wicked wizard who carries a skull around. But the young man’s fiance and friends fight back by enlisting the aid of a good wizard.
*. That’s the outline, and you’d think it would be hard to screw up. But Black Magic is a total mess. It’s basically a sort of exploitation horror flick, but it isn’t scary or erotic in the slightest. The subdermal worms are the only creepy part (aside, that is, from the ghastly wallpaper), and the way the women have to be milked by hand to make the love potions will only appeal to the (hopefully) small percentage of the population with a lactation fetish.

*. The effects are laughable, but they make for the few enjoyable moments. The final battle is like something out of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but a lot cheaper. This cheapness has some unfortunate results elsewhere in the film. The severed finger, for example, has an uncomfortable similarity to a dog turd.
*. Speaking of dogs, the one we see here has to be the most unthreatening guard dog in film history. It’s so obvious he just wants to play.
*. I can’t think of much to recommend this one. It’s basically a bunch of bits and pieces thrown together without any strong connecting thread. We spend far too long, effectively the entire first half of the movie, dealing with extraneous plot elements. Then we’re left wondering if the evil magician was in love with the rich girl himself or if he was just interested in a one-night stand. If the latter, why does he keep hanging around? By the end I didn’t care, and all the Italian-style zooms and campy special effects didn’t make much of a difference to me.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

*. These notes are going to seem schematic but there’s no getting around it.
*. First we have Susan (Amy Adams). She is a visual artist living in L.A., which is every bit as awful as it sounds. The “scene” is phony as hell and everyone in Susan’s elite circle knows it. They describe the culture, by which they mean the narrow cultural environment they inhabit, as junk. They take drugs, go to therapists, live in barren modernist mansions, attend vacuous parties, wear ridiculous costumes, get plastic surgery, and sleep around. You know the drill.
*. Into this artificial hot-house ArtWorld comes a nasty bit of rough in the form of a manuscript novel written by Susan’s ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). It arrives wrapped in what looks like butcher’s paper and Susan gets a paper cut that blossoms in blood when she opens it. Yes, it’s that raw. The novel, titled Nocturnal Animals, deals with a horrific double murder in the very un-tony wastelands of West Texas. Confronted with the Real Thing, Susan is forced to reassess the mess of her vacuous life. Why did she ever leave Edward to marry the worthless pretty boy Hutton anyway? And why did she abort Edward’s child? That wasn’t right.

*. All of this adds up to a pretty conventional way of thinking about artistic production, and in particular a way of thinking that’s deep within the American grain. Authenticity is rated as one of the supreme virtues among artists, and the phoniness of the L.A. scene disqualifies it from our serious consideration. What is it, though, that makes Edward’s novel more real? It’s a dusty Texas tale of crime and revenge, rather conventional itself in almost every way. One imagines Edward wrote it with one eye on selling the film rights, as it seems geared toward that audience. Is it violence alone that makes us see it as a more authentic form of art? Because it draws forth such a visceral response? More of a response anyway than the RE/VEN/GE painting hanging in Susan’s gallery.
*. By this way of looking at things (and this is the way Nocturnal Animals looks at things), Susan has committed a sin against art by trading her passion for . . . well, if not glory then at least a really nice home. Writer-director Tom Ford thought this was a movie “about not throwing people away,” but even more than that it’s about not throwing one’s dreams away. Susan throws away both people and dreams and so she must be punished.
*. Her punishment takes the form of being stood up at a fancy restaurant by Edward at the end. This seems a bit petty to me, but then Susan lives in a social milieu where such a snub might be expected to hurt. For her it’s an act of violence. Why she doesn’t just use her cellphone to call him up or text him is a mystery though.

*. It’s that analogy and mirroring between the “real” but fictional violence of Edward’s novel and the real but abstract violence of Susan’s fake world that drives Nocturnal Animals, though I don’t think it’s all that successful in the end. The thing is, Ford stacks the deck too high against poor Susan. One comes away thinking there is more that might have been said in her defence. Edward, on the other hand, becomes the hero of his own story. He is no longer the weakling or wimp who teaches creative writing, and is allowed his fictional and real-life revenge on the art snobs. But since we never meet the new Edward we have no idea how much satisfaction this brings.
*. I think in part because of Ford’s background in fashion and design more attention is paid to these elements in the film than they deserve. I don’t think this is a particularly stylish film, aside from the effect that is gone after in a handful of well-arranged shots. In some ways I think the overripe visuals are meant as a kind of a joke, from the strange glasses Susan and her assistant wear to the odd recurring motif of women’s bums. As for the dancing fat lady who does the opening credits, I sense an homage to David Lynch, but without any further meaning.
*. Individually, neither of the two stories in the movie stands up as all that compelling, though Michael Shannon’s ungraceful sheriff is worth a tip of the Stetson. Nevertheless, as mutually reinforcing threads they do weave together in an interesting way. The novel expresses Edward’s bitterness and rage, and there’s an argument that has been made that such bitterness is an artist’s primary fuel. This is why Susan gets the dedication. Out of his need for revenge Edward can create art, whereas Susan only has regrets. One day, however, might she not use Hutton in a similar way? There’s hope for her yet, if life makes her miserable enough to be great.

The Ring Two (2005)

*. Wow. What a way to (almost?) kill a franchise. I liked The Ring and even thought it in some ways the equal to Ringu. To go from that to this . . .
*. What the hell were they thinking? This is one of those sequels that’s so bad it made me reconsider my feelings toward the first film. Was it really as good as I remembered it?
*. Is there any point even getting into a deeper discussion of a movie that fails at absolutely everything? Probably not, but here we go.
*. The story makes no sense at all, and just follows the same basic structure as the first movie. In their defence, they seem to have been hamstrung by the character of Samara. Exactly who or what she is has never been all that clear. She’s a demon in the first film, an abused child with mommy issues here, and a dark avenger in the subsequent Rings. But what do we really know about her? What are the limits of her powers and what does she want?
*. We start off with one of those terrible intro kills that are meant to set the tone. Some asshole wants to trick his girlfriend — who, by the way, looks way out of his league — into watching the haunted videotape. The usual mayhem ensues. This has been a fairly standard opening line in horror films for the last ten or twenty years now, and indeed it’s how The Ring starts as well. But they could have at least had some fun with it here, as they would in Rings.
*. The CGI is terrible. That deer attack? You have to laugh.
*. I don’t like calling out actors, but Naomi Watts clearly isn’t feeling this awful script and David Dorfman (who plays Aidan) doesn’t up his game to what is a leading role.
*. I didn’t even recognize Sissy Spacek. It’s been so long since I’ve seen her in anything. I wonder whatever . . . well. I guess stuff like this is what happened.
*. How and why does Max (a woefully underused Simon Baker) die? What does it have to do with his wanting to take Aidan’s picture? And most of all, why is his body sitting out in his truck?
*. There’s another point about this sequence: It isn’t scary. Nothing in it, from Max’s arrival at the house to Rachel’s discovery of his body, even attempts to be scary. There is no building of suspense. There aren’t even any jump scares. And this sequence follows on the heels of the earlier scene in the hospital when Aidan/Samara gets the psychologist to kill herself. What was scary about that? What did anyone think might have been scary about it? Was anyone involved with this project aware that they were making a horror movie?
*. There’s no point saying much more. There are no scares, and there’s no suspense, no atmosphere, no point to any of it. It’s actually one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. Things could only get better. Right?

The Enforcer (1995)

*. I wonder if Jet Li is more of an acquired taste, or if he loses something in the horrific dubbing of his films. He’s always been a huge star in China, and is the real deal as a champion martial artist, but in all the movies I’ve seen him in he tends to fade into the background. He’s good looking, but doesn’t have star presence. In the Expendables franchise he almost disappears, and even in this movie he’s upstaged by Anita Mui and child star Mo Tse (credited as Xia Miao).
*. Maybe he’s just too low key. In The Enforcer Rongguang Yu is a lot more fun as the bad guy Po Kwong. I don’t think he takes his white gloves and sunglasses off once, and his playing against the transgender villain Miss Li was a zany highlight.

*. I’ve already mentioned the horrific dubbing. It’s par for the course here, with the voices not matching up with the actors and several scenes where the characters clearly aren’t speaking but you can still hear them nattering on. What I was most curious about, however, was Blackie Ko’s street name, which is rendered as G-Dawg (or, alternatively, “Darkie”). I wonder why they decided on G-Dawg. To replace a potentially racist nickname with one even more inappropriate?
*. What can you say about a genre movie where the most memorable bit is also the worst or most ridiculous thing in it? Like the sleeping bag scene in Prophecy, for example. On the plus side, you have to admit that such a movie does at least have one scene or sequence that stands out from all its more conventional peers. On the other hand, that one thing . . .
*. If you’ve seen The Enforcer you’ve likely forgotten all about it except for the fight scene at the end where Kung Wei uses his son as a human yo-yo, tying a rope around him and flinging him toward bad guys that he (the kid) punches out before being yanked back. It’s physically impossible, and not even convincingly rendered as a stunt, but once seen it can’t be forgotten.
*. Aside from this, the fight scenes are nothing special. Li does a great turn with the tonfas, but that only lasts a couple of minutes. Most of the rest of the fighting relies on interesting settings (the catwalk over a huge auditorium, a specially-built glass cube of a restaurant with an indoor waterfall), assisted by some pretty obvious cable work. I mean, people can’t really jump that high, or that slowly.

*. Bey Logan, who seems to know every single thing there is to know about martial arts movies, has a good DVD commentary where he talks about the stylized, over-the-top quality of Hong Kong action films as opposed to what you get from Hollywood. Is that still true? I wonder how much the superhero franchises of the twenty-first century borrowed from the former in fashioning what has become the new house style for action flicks.
*. Logan suggests the freeway under construction might have been borrowed from Lethal Weapon 3. It also made me think of the (much) earlier Don Siegel vehicle The Lineup. There was probably just some construction going on that they decided to get production value out of. That was that happened in the Siegel film.
*. I couldn’t credit the story for a second. I didn’t understand Anita Mui tracking Li all the way back to Beijing, and immediately not only injecting herself into his family but actively supplanting the dying mother. She even starts wearing the mother’s dresses the very next day! At the end, “the newly put together family unit” (Logan) struck me as having been established in unseemly haste. Did Li even get a chance to mourn his wife?
*. So one good fight, a whole lot of silliness, good performances all around, and some nice photography and direction by Corey Yuen. Aside from the human yo-yo scene, however, it still doesn’t add up to much. A week after watching it the only part I could still remember was the kid on a rope.

Old Boy (2013)

*. In my notes on Oldboy I mentioned my confusion as to why it was so quickly seized upon as a project ripe for adaptation. While a good movie, something about its sensibility seemed distinctly other, or at least outside a North American audience’s comfort zone. Why remake it then?
*. Why indeed. But, here we are.
*. I can think of maybe only one creative change that is an improvement on the original. That is the ending. I’m sure many people would disagree, but I like the idea of Joe checking himself back in to the Heartbreak Hotel. I thought the ending of the original was too obscure, and I never bought all the hypnosis stuff. Of course, the ending here was probably part of what sank the film at the box office, but despite it’s apparent bleakness it does affirm the American gospel that there’s no problem a lot of money can’t solve.
*. Aside from the ending, nothing else measures up. This goes for little things as well as big. An example of the former being the ants Dae-su Oh imagines crawling out of his skin in the original, and which are genuinely creepy and fit his state of mental breakdown, here turning into the apparently real pet mouse Joe has which is served up to him, with its babies, à la What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Who thought that was a change for the better?
*. A bigger example is the torture of the keeper. Who can forget the way that claw hammer gets put to use on the keeper’s teeth in the original? That scene has become a classic. I suppose there was a feeling that they didn’t want to just do the same thing again, especially with such a well-known sequence, but what they came up with as a replacement was lame. Basically Joe cuts a necklace into Chaney’s skin and then shakes some salt into the wounds. Chaney seems more angry than in pain.
*. Even the back story is sanitized. The incest in the original felt wrong in a way that what’s on display here doesn’t. Is it because the aristocratic Pryce family just seems so weird from the start? The decadent Brit is a cliché, and given the wardrobe Sharlto Copley affects we can’t be surprised at any merely sexual eccentricities. And don’t get me started on his hot ninja bodyguard. Is this a Bond movie?
*. Speaking of eccentric wardrobe, what’s up with Chaney’s outfit? Or his mohawk? Or his lip band? Was this really a character where they wanted to push the envelope on weird so far? It’s hard to take him seriously. I get the impression Jackson likes to play these odd types (witness his lisping Valentine in Kingsman: The Secret Service, which came out around the same time). But someone needed to pull him back on this one.
*. The weakness of the bad guys offsets what are a couple of good performances from Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen. There were a lot of other names attached to these parts in the early stages of development, but I think they ended up with a good pairing. Brolin looks suitably pale and weather-beaten, while Olsen is convincingly vulnerable and strung-out. It’s a shame they couldn’t have been in a better movie.
*. I find it curious that, as in the first film, the character of Joe’s friend (“Chucky” here, played by Michael Imperioli) seems to be at least as culpable as Joe in unwinding the Pryce family’s dark secret, but doesn’t figure into the scheme of vengeance at all. In both films he is killed almost incidentally, as collateral damage. Presumably if he’d kept his mouth shut he’d have been left alive. Why?
*. It’s not a terrible movie, but it looks bad when making the inevitable comparison. It has none of the visual interest or emotional impact of the original. The bad guys, as mentioned, are made to appear ridiculous. Despite being shorter it seems longer. I think getting rid of so much of the narration hurts. Apparently the studio made extensive cuts to Lee’s preferred version, but given the poor pacing and other flaws I’m not sure an extra 30 minutes of running time would have helped. More would likely not mean better.

Oldboy (2003)

*. I’ll start off with a confession. The first time I saw Oldboy I didn’t like it much. In fact, I disliked it. I think this was mainly due to my not understanding what was going on, especially at the end. I’m not referring to Dae-su Oh’s enigmatic or ambiguous facial expression, but a more general sense that I must have missed something.
*. After getting the plot straight I still found it preposterous. Not only has the villain infinite resources and a long memory, he has a scheme for revenge so ridiculously elaborate and contrived it is hard to credit. Other questions also popped up. Do facilities like the prison hotel exist? Can we credit Dae-su’s mastery of the martial arts through fifteen years of shadow boxing and watching infomercials? And what of the use of hypnosis as a rather strained plot device? They might as well have made it a love potion, borrowed from some medieval fairy tale.

*. But after living with Oldboy for several years, and giving it some second chances, I’ve come around. I still think it’s a fantasy, but I’m more sympathetic toward where it’s coming from.
*. Like most fantasies, it’s meant to point a simple moral. As I see it, the moral here, and I think it’s a profound and important one, is that things that we personally experience as trivial and inconsequential may in fact have enormous impact on the lives of others. It takes Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) so long to figure out what he did to Woo-jin Lee precisely because it didn’t mean anything to him at the time. As Woo-jin tells him at the end, he didn’t have to be hypnotized to forget. “You just forgot because it wasn’t important to you.” For Dae-su, it was only Tuesday.
*. If you keep that moral in mind then I think a lot of the rest of the film’s highly questionable morality can be got around, leaving it to provide a garish backdrop that matches the horrific wallpaper. Speaking of which, is Korea the land of ugly wallpaper and even uglier bathrooms? I’m not talking about the prison hotel here but also Mi-do’s apartment, which is even worse in both regards. This was clearly a deliberate style choice (Oldboy is a very designed film) but I wonder why they wanted the sets to look so bad. Perhaps just to add to the sense of a hellish, dystopic world.

*. Returning to my main point, when I refer to the film’s “highly questionable morality” what I’m talking about are things like (1) how Dae-su is punished far beyond the nature of his crime (though this fits with the disproportionality between cause and effect that is the movie’s theme); (2) how Woo-jin basically gets away with his entire scheme, despite being a wicked man; and (3) how Dae-su’s friend is, if anything, even more culpable than he is, since he is the one who apparently starts the ball of gossip rolling. But Woo-jin only kills him in a momentary pique of anger.
*. To an audience raised on Hollywood fare, which is nothing if not conventional in its morality, I think all of this must come across as very strange. At least that’s how it struck me. But shouldn’t movies from other countries be different? I think they should. The puzzling question is why so many people in Hollywood wanted to remake Oldboy. Couldn’t they see that there was something here that was never going to translate? And before Spike Lee finally signed on Spielberg was going to take it on. I can’t think of two directors less naturally inclined to handle such material.
*. I won’t say anything more about the remake here aside from noting that it was ill-advised and turned out badly. In addition to flubbing the basic moral message, it had none of the artistry of what is a remarkably well made film.

*. What impresses me the most is the way the look and design of the film is used to evoke the variety of psychological and emotional states we travel through, and how this is done in such a way as to be both obvious and subtle. On the DVD commentary director Chan-wook Park and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung spent almost all their time talking about technical matters, and mention how they used a lot of different techniques but that they didn’t want them to show. They wanted to hide the art of the film as much as possible. How did they manage to do this, in such an almost flamboyantly artistic film?
*. I think they did it by ramping up the extremity of the psychological and emotional states I mentioned, to the point where the audience is more interested in what is happening to the characters than in how they are being presented.

*. I’ll give one example, which is the brilliant bit of filmmaking that has Dae-su remembering what he saw at his private school. The first part of this is wonderful, using the various staircases with characters running in and out of frame to mirror the mental work that Dae-su is doing in trying to get back to the moment in the classroom. The Piranesi-like setting makes us feel like we’re inside the architecture of his brain, and while it’s very flashy, because we’re caught up in the same mental process, hot on the trail of the answer the puzzle the movie has set us right from the beginning, it’s not a flashiness that seems obtrusive.
*. This is followed by the scene where Dae-su sees the tryst in the classroom, which involves a complete change in style. Now we’re stuck with a long take shot from a single fixed camera position. It’s a real change of gear, but again you don’t notice the style so much (at least on a first viewing) because we’re stuck in the same position as Dae-su, as a voyeur to something that’s revealing on a couple of different levels. We’re just as obsessed as he is.
*. Now this is what I call filmmaking: when you can change up styles so smoothly, be so inventive, and yet perfectly match the direction to the exigencies of plot and character. And I think it’s something I didn’t appreciate enough the first time I saw the movie.

*. There are a lot of other great moments along the way. There’s some of the best use of a split screen I’ve ever seen, for one thing. Then there’s some great set design (I love the stained carpets in the prison hotel). But I think what I liked the most was the physicality of how Min-sik Choi plays Dae-su. The way he feels and tastes the rain outside his prison. The way he rubs himself over the suicidal man on the roof and tries to smell him. And perhaps best of all I like how tired he gets in the long fight scene. He’s not a superhero. He goes down a few times, gets hurt, and has to rest for a bit to get his breath back. Josh Brolin doesn’t do any of these things in the remake. He is a superman.

*. But even while coming around to Oldboy I have to say that I still find it a little too weird to fully get on board with. A really great movie shouldn’t have this crazy a plot. That is, however, the same problem I have with Vertigo. It’s just a matter of taste.

Call of Cuteness (2017)

*. Cuteness is in the eye of the beholder, which necessarily makes it exploitative. Those cute cats on the Internet aren’t playing piano or dressing up as little people for our benefit. Their cuteness is something that has to be manufactured for mass consumption.
*. Cute cats have long been accepted as shorthand for all that is mindless and trivial about online culture, but their popularity is not without significance. A sick culture can cause real harm, to ourselves and others. In the first place we may only be amusing ourselves to death: cute cats being weapons of mass distraction from more pressing concerns. In the second they are representative of a system of production and consumption that swallows up resources (including other sentient creatures) and pollutes the dominant cultural ecosystem.
*. All of which stands as my introduction to this very short (4 minute) animated film about the cost of cuteness. As noted, that cost isn’t only paid by us, but by the cats. If cuteness is only skin deep then here that skin is pulled back, dissected. Like so many aspects of modern life (a close analogy would be to our own beauty industry) it’s something that doesn’t stand much looking into. Cuteness (like beauty) gets ugly when viewed under a microscope.
*. The visual style fits the film’s theme. The cats are presented as jigsaw or paint-by-numbers mosaics that are then disassembled kaleidoscope-style before our eyes (and the eye of the camera, which is itself a kind of surgical tool). The fact that these are living creatures being so destroyed is underlined by the bookends of birth and death, crammed into a brief span that might be a reference to the viral fame of a YouTube video. And once that fame is achieved it doesn’t last in any eternal form but suffers a reverse apotheosis, with the dead cat now so much biomedical waste or chop-shop jetsam sinking into the waters of a darker sky. Such fame is trash. The cute content of the Internet is crap.
*. You’ll have guessed that I was impressed by Call of Cuteness. I think it’s a powerful and provocative concept piece, skilfully produced by German filmmaker Brenda Lien. Almost every image (and there are a lot, as the film moves quickly) is packed with layers of meaning that open up on repeated viewings. Added to this is a soundtrack accompaniment combining fragmented shards of discordant voices and noises. It’s a very effective mix.
*. The title plays a trick on me. Whenever I see it I think of Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu.” I’m sure no connection was intended, but I feel like there’s another level of resonance there, with the cats appearing as so many sacrificial victims, or ancient gods, set against a blank black background that hints at stygian depths. In short, I find this to be a profoundly pagan film, and one well matched to the corruption of our digital dispensation.

The Comeback (1978)

*. I wonder how bad a director of horror films has to be, to ever be truly forgotten. In 2014 exploitation director Pete Walker was given a retrospective at London’s prestigious Barbican Centre where five of his movies (including The Comeback) were screened. In 2012 Kino bundled together five films (not the same five, but also including The Comeback) as a “Pete Walker Collection” DVD box set. So I guess this means that he’s been accepted as an auteur of sorts. But let’s be honest: these movies are terrible.
*. You can give Walker credit for being independent and even, in some respects, ahead of his time with his grimy proto-slasher flicks, but how independent is any exploitation filmmaker, really? I mean, they’re nakedly just in it for the money. They’re not pursuing any kind of original or personal artistic vision.
*. Yes, there are some consistent themes that inform most of Walker’s work, but it would be hard to avoid all fingerprints. Meanwhile, stylistically he is very dull and his plots are so silly they actually make one yearn for the modern “American” version of the psycho killer. That is to say, a predator with little if any motivation.
*. In short, I found The Comeback to be boring and stupid and silly. The silliness is the only fun to be had. Apparently Walker’s idea of a pop singer in the late ’70s was a lounge-act fellow who takes girls out on dates wearing three-piece pin-stripe suits. The whole feel of the movie is off. I had the feeling that Walker really wanted to do a Hammer film set in an old mansion or country estate, but was stuck making a nod toward swinging London with a pop-music storyline that he had no interest in or affinity for.
*. Also silly is the transvestite angle, which I suppose is meant to operate as a red herring but which in the end turns out to be otherwise gratuitous. Why does the killer get all dressed up anyway?
*. Finally, the motivation behind the murders is priceless. It seems all of Nick Cooper’s “foul contortions” and “lewd, suggestive songs” were receiving their comeuppance. A lot of horror movies from this period were actually quite conservative, or at least had a conservative strain to them. In some respects they’re like the English village mysteries, where murder disrupts a natural, peaceful, aristocratic order that is ultimately reasserted. But The Comeback dials this up to a whole new level.
*. Of course it’s a bit more complicated than that, but like I say, we do often find a conservative, moralistic strain at work in the Brit horror of this time. Think of the cop’s speech against hippies in The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue: “You’re all the same, the lot of you with your long hair and your faggot clothes, drugs, sex, and every sort of filth.” It’s very similar to what the killer says here. The longhaired young man in Manchester Morgue was the hero and the cop a jerk, but the point of view expressed is not discredited in the film. This then led to all those American slasher films in the ’80s where promiscuity would be made a capital crime.
*. Aside from this I don’t think there’s much to comment on here. It’s not a well made movie, and even the gore is pretty dull. As an interesting footnote, the blood doesn’t have that almost acrylic orange look that a lot of horror movie blood had at the time because apparently it was real (outdated donated blood from a hospital). That couldn’t have been fun to work with. It’s also kind of weird that we keep cutting back to Gail’s rotting corpse in lieu of anything else going on. But even the maggots and rats and real blood didn’t do much to change the impression I had that I was, basically, watching paint dry.