Movie of the Month: An Evening with Richard Kelly: A Southland Tales (2007) Q&A

This was originally posted on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. This article was published as a follow-up to the discussion of MotM The Box on September 19, 2016. 

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“No film is every really finished, just abandoned by the filmmaker.”

This is the philosophy, or rather one of the facets of the real-life and filmmaking philosophies, of Richard Kelly. In something of a MotM miracle, I received an email last week advising that Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse would be hosting a screening of Kelly’s 2007 opus Southland Tales, with an introduction by the director and a Q&A following the film. As discussed in our email roundtable, I was a fan of Donnie Darko when it was first brought to my attention in 2003, when a DVD of the film was passed around like wildfire at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. Although time and distance (and a strong wave of hype backlash as the film caught on outside of the cult scene) have dulled my teenage enthusiasm for the film, my interest in Kelly’s work was piqued again by our viewing of The Box, a film I didn’t love but haven’t been able to stop thinking about. I never got the chance to see Southland Tales before this past Sunday, but I’m glad that my first viewing experience was on the big screen and not limited to the comparatively tiny television in my living room.

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on September 15, 2016. The rating was 4/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

EPSON MFP imageDon’t Breathe is quite the experience. It’s being touted as a return to form for the horror genre, and while it’s certainly memorable, tense, and well-acted, there’s a fine line between well-earned praise and overhype, and the promotion of this film may have already crossed that event horizon.

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on September 5, 2016. The rating was 4/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

EPSON MFP imageDon’t Breathe is quite the experience. It’s being touted as a return to form for the horror genre, and while it’s certainly memorable, tense, and well-acted, there’s a fine line between well-earned praise and overhype, and the promotion of this film may have already crossed that event horizon.

The film follows Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto, of the strangely similar It Follows, but more on that in a moment), three Detroit teenagers whose varying levels of desperation to get out of their dying city lead them to theft. Using Alex’s father’s private security company connections to get in and out of homes without setting off any alarms, the trio land on the idea of robbing the home of a blind military veteran (Stephen Lang) who was given a large civil settlement when the daughter of a rich family was found not guilty of vehicular manslaughter of his only child. Once they make their way inside, they find that the Blind Man is more than they bargained for, and is hiding secrets that they could not have imagined.

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Movie of the Month: The Box (2009)

The post from which this was excerpted was originally published on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. For September 2016, Brandon made Britnee, Alli, and me watch The Box (2009).

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Although I definitely like the spookiness of the Steward hive mind followers and the general impenetrability of concept that is a hallmark of Richard Kelly’s work (like Brandon, Donnie Darko served as a kind of Baby’s First Jacob’s Ladder for me as well), there’s a certain simplicity to the existential dread of the original Richard Matheson short story that is absent here. In the short “Button, Button,” the story ends with the enigmatic Steward retrieving the button in a box from the protagonists, departing as he “reassures” the couple that they should not worry, as the next recipients of the box won’t be anyone that they know, with all the implications thereof. Does that mean that there is a direct link between the immediate recipients of the button and the previous button-pushers, or just a chilling reminder that their karmic comeuppance will come someday, without warning? It’s classic Matheson that way, and I adore the story (it’s adaptation in the eighties Twilight Zone revival has a different, more obvious ending, and I, like Matheson, don’t care for it; he went so far as to have the story idea credited to a pseudonym). There’s a quietness and intrigue to the original story that this film, which uses the original story less as a template and more of a jumping-off point for spiraling but utterly watchable madness, doesn’t possess.

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