Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Seizure (guest review by Aaron)

Thanks once again to my buddy Aaron for contributing a guest review.

Edmund (Jonathan Frid) is an accomplished horror author who's referred to as "the modern-day Edgar Allan Poe". He has recurring nightmares about being terrorized by three of his own characters, but the nightmares eventually become a reality for Edmund and his houseguests one weekend when they actually show up at his home and force everyone to partake in a series of sadistic games. There's Spider, the Dwarf (Herve Villechaize), Jackal, the Executioner (played by the naked black cop with the cowboy hat from CRUISING), and their leader, the Queen (Martine Beswick). Jackal is a mute, whereas Spider constantly runs his mouth and talks a big game, but the Queen calls the shots.

If anyone knows how to make a grand entrance, it's Herve Villechaize's character in this film. Edmund and his houseguests are understandably startled by a brick that crashes through a window, which, unbeknownst to them at the time, signifies the beginning of the end. Following the breaking of the window, Spider calmly crawls through it and plants himself in the center of the living room with his hair pulled back into a tight ponytail to reveal his beady eyes. In his thick French accent, Herve recites the following lines:

"Now, we will play a lillah game. The game is fun for da young, but penful for da old. It will match each of you against the uzzer in a razor un'da rouse [ed. 'race around the house']. Supair-vised by my poor mute friend Jackal, five time you will make da circle. Until the [inaudible] of you cross the finishing line. Last. He... or she... will be executed."

Not much is known about Spider, other than the fact that he obviously slays animals much larger than he, such as bears or tigers. This is evidenced by his trophy necklace made of animal teeth. He's killed so many animals that he ran out of room around his neck and made a belt from the leftover fangs he's collected. And, the reason why I'm putting a lot of focus on Spider instead of talking about the film's FAUST influences and whatnot is because he's one of the highlights of this surprisingly "OK" film. For me, there's nothing scarier in this world than sharks and a hairy Herve Villechaize running at you with a knife in hand, and why more horror movies didn't capitalize on this while the troubled French actor was still alive, I have no idea. I'd rather be visited in the middle of the night by a clown covered in spiders than Herve Villechaize... or a shark.

It should be noted that Spider, the Dwarf makes small appearances (get it?) earlier in the film before making his presence known to Edmund and the rest of the houseguests. One of the older female houseguests reaches out to her dead husband on a nightly basis by basically having conversations with herself, and he supposedly replies back from beyond the grave, which is most likely a figment of this crazy bitch's imagination. Anyway, while doing so on the night that all hell eventually breaks loose, she's greeted by Villechaize's character who proceeds to moisturize her face with some sort of anti-aging cream. I shit you not.

Allow me to go back a little and talk about some of the supporting characters (Edmund's houseguests). I'm not exactly clear as to why this odd assortment of characters were staying the weekend at Edmund's in the first place, and it's either my fault for not paying enough attention to the film, or the film's fault for not really elaborating on what was going on. Let's just say it was the film's fault. Anyway, one of the characters is played by Mary Woronov, who starred in pretty much every cult movie ever made. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Mary Woronov, but, for what it's worth, this is the only film I've seen her in where she actually looks attractive. However, this could be due to the poor quality of the film masking her man-like facial features. Her character is married to an obnoxious rich dude named Charles (he owns 2% of Texaco), with whom she has an open relationship with (they openly cheat on each other). The other characters aren't really worth talking about.

Early in the film, when all of the characters are hanging out around the lake near Edmund's estate and Charles is trying to hit on some random teenage girl who just happens to be there, a message is broadcast over the radio in regards to three escaped mental patients, led by a former female professor at Harvard who was responsible for fatally stabbing one of her students. Yes, the old "escaped mental patients" convention. It's a very cliche horror/thriller convention, but it works here for reasons that I don't need to get into.

I love that the Queen is a very dominant character in SEIZURE!, which adds an element of female empowerment to the film, but it doesn't serve any particular purpose in the overall theme; this isn't a bad thing, but merely an observation. If these evil characters are in fact a figment of their creator's imagination, there's nothing that would suggest he has any strong negative or positive emotional connections to women, which eliminates any symbolism as far as the Queen is concerned.

SEIZURE!, as a whole, is a very bizarre film in both theme and atmosphere. As I mentioned earlier, it's surprisingly not as bad as I expected it to be. The Mill Creek-ish quality of the DVD left much to be desired, and I think a good print of the film would do it justice, whereas something like, say, DRILLER KILLER should be viewed in the lowest type of quality possible in order to preserve that sleazy Grindhouse feeling. Perhaps even more bizarre than the film itself is that there seems to be a lot of downtime in between the antagonists mentally and physically torturing Edmund and his family and friends. For example, Edmund and another older gentleman have enough time to discuss the parallels between the Queen and the Hindu goddess Kali, and at one point Edmund even has time to bump uglies with his wife who may or may not be a ghost, or something.

Did I mention that this is Oliver Stone's directorial debut? Yeah, there's that, too. Overall, an odd and mildly interesting fever dream of a film that some will find nonsensical and boring as shit and others will appreciate for its psychological elements and general weirdness. I definitely fall into the latter category. It's no U-TURN, but - in all fairness - what is?


Dusty said...

Nice review! I have not seen Seizure, but I have seen Stone's follow up The Hand. I expected it to be a laugh fest and was surprised when it turned out to be a fairly well executed, smart horror flick. I think the guy could have been an interesting horror director, had he chosen that direction. And I love U-Turn as well.

A.D. said...

Thanks, Dusty! I'm gonna have to check out THE HAND some time. Just based on this film, I totally agree that Stone could have been an interesting horror director if he chose to go that route and really embrace the genre. This wasn't a great movie by any means, but it really stuck with me since I saw it about a month ago.

A.D. said...

By the way, I forgot to mention in this review that this movie has one of the dumbest and laziest endings I have ever seen. That's all.