Daily Mail newspaper

THE MOVIE CHALLENGES

THE REZORT

UK 2015

The-Rezort-cast 

Karl Marx and Herbert Marcuse have to take some responsibility. Before they mentioned industrial alienation and the one-dimensional man of consumer capitalism human beings only had to worry about classical pessimism. Now you cannot trip over a discarded zombie without thinking about the absence of free will in the modern world. As this is being typed, the inhabitants of the UK are searching for Black Friday deals from retailers. This hysteria has already been celebrated on social media as if it is the next stage in human fulfilment. Zombie moviemakers think differently. The notion of what separates one-dimensional humans in a materialist society from empty-headed zombies has been explored for half a century. In The Rezort the idea is made explicit. Two women sit on the bonnet of a Range Rover and ask whatever happened to free will. They are confused as to what is supposed to be the difference between hungry zombies and glutinous humans obsessed with spending money.

 

the-rezort-10

The Rezort is a low budget British horror movie. It has a mix of actors and accents from various countries and continents. A harsh landscape filmed in dark blue filter helps  Australian actress Jessica De Gouw to feel at home. The Rezort is available on DVD and can be streamed from Netflix but the only cinemas that have shown the film are in Spain and the Philippines. Not everyone has been sympathetic to the film. It has been condemned for lacking originality but if using Jurassic Park as a model for a zombie horror film feels obvious, it is a neat notion. The 4.33 concerto by John Cage that was premiered in 1952 has no notes. He believed that silence did not exist, and to prove him right all you had to do was listen to it.  Cage was both praised and condemned for producing something that required no effort from him other than walking to a redundant piano.  We all could have done what John Cage did but he thought of it first.    An out of control tourist resort provides a good setting for a zombie picture.  What succeeded in Westworld and Jurassic Park works for The Rezort.  Perhaps its jaundiced view about modern humanity is nothing new but we should be wary of knocking critical continuity and consistency.

MV5BYjBmMzQ0YTgtZjQ4My00Mjc4LTk4NmMtZWJjYzI2MzVhYzUwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTk5MjkzMjU@._V1_

The Rezort is a movie aimed at horror fans.  It has zombies, exploding heads, gruesome deaths and for once the zombies are not just interested in eating brains.  In The Rezort the desire for vengeance unites both zombies and humans. The Rezort may not be the equal of Last Train To Busan, The Girl With All The Gifts or Maggie but those films lifted and extended the zombie genre. They are all exceptional efforts. The Rezort has a couple of implausible moments and the social satire is heavy handed but it is more watchable than either the pointless World War Z or the overwrought The Walking Dead.  The Rezort demonstrates that modest B movie ambition and serious purpose are not incompatible. The connection the film makes between the fear and persecution of zombies and our treatment of refugees is valid.  Jurassic Park asked us to worry about extinct dinosaurs and possibly the planet but was softened by Spielberg caramel. The Rezort avoids the sugar. It examines what we are and our willingness to dismiss the existence of others. In Spain the film was called Generación Z.  For the self-centred holidaymakers the zombies are a source of amusement. Apart from the businessmen who see them as a resource that will generate a profit the refugees camped outside the zombie park are ignored. When someone in the media half-heartedly suggests possible exploitation, an executive spouts the normal clichés about creating jobs.

MV5BYWMzMzgwMjItMGI1ZC00MGY0LTgwY2MtMWQ0NzQ2MDZiMDE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjExMDIwNzA@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,717,1000_AL_

Much of the film is familiar but that is the point. Nothing has changed since the original movie warnings were made about the lives we live and the resources we consume. At least familiar scenes have the virtue of provoking cineaste memories. In The Rezort the cast spends time walking between possible zombie hideouts and looking around anxiously.  At times it has the feel of a Budd Boetticher Western. Dougray Scott leads the group through the hazards and makes a few nods to his namesake Randolph. He plays a man of strength and few words but we also have a hint of his demons through one simple line of dialogue. The presence of Dougray Scott as Archer in The Rezort should interest more than a few movie fans. He was the alternative choice to Daniel Craig for James Bond.  Scott has the Celtic roots of Brosnan but the nihilistic insouciance of Craig. We root for this lonely leader. Jessica De Gouw plays the weakened but still strong Melanie. She attends the resort because her psychiatrist has the idea that those traumatised by the previous apocalypse can seek solace by taking pot shots at tamed zombies. This is another neat concept in a film that has more than a few sly intelligent moments.

RezortSadie

The characterisation in the movie may be thin but there is sharp delineation between the main protaganists.  The perhaps crude distinctions do not prevent the existence of ‘doubles’ within the film. All the main characters are the other side of the same coin to someone else.  The two computer technicians who fail to spot the security lapse are insular and have no understanding of their culpability.  The zombie that is used for display purposes and to welcome the tourists resembles the evil female boss of the zombie park.  Melanie and Sadie the left wing activist have some sympathy for the zombies and share a similar conscience. Their empathy and decency are underlined after it is revealed that Sadie has unwittingly created the tragedy in the resort.  Again it is achieved by just one short line of dialogue.  Archer and Lewis, the boyfriend of Melanie, are ex-Army men scarred by the experience of conflict. The two teenage dudes are empty headed and adrenaline fed.  These adolescents are a weakness in the film.  Their parts are overwritten and overplayed. Watch this excitable pair and you have a sense of how Ant and Dec must have been the day Dec was admitted to rehab.  More impressive is how the plot dovetails between the fates of two sets of twin characters. The end of the film emphasises the importance of doubles and alternatives in our lives.

Low light photography is pushed to the limit in The Rezort.  A major set piece takes place in nothing but a dark room yet it succeeds in adding to the suspense and action.  No doubt it put a smile on the face of the person who managed the budget for the film. When not being entertained, the tourists inhabit dark interiors.  These contrast with the outdoors and bright colours of the resort. The darkness symbolises empty personal confusion and the dependency on distraction. Life is even tougher for the refugees in their camp outside the resort. The vision of the powerful for the future of the refugees is heartless, as of course it is in the real world.

rezort6

 

The figures for the actual refugee problem are as disturbing and as overwhelming as the zombie mass that we see run through the landscape in The Rezort . In 2017 there are 152m people in need of humanitarian assistance. 64m have been forced to flee their homes, and 94m lack access to clean water. Fixing the problem will cost a lot more than making a low budget zombie movie. The estimate is $23.1bn.  Some countries are helping.  Global authorities classify countries and their economies as either strong or fragile. The 36 most fragile countries account for just 2.65% of the global gross domestic product but are the hosts to 71% of the population of the world that has been internally displaced. South Sudan wins the prize for being the most fragile country in the world but hosts 219 displaced people per 1000 inhabitants. The UK, Canada and Australia host 3 displaced people per 1000 inhabitants. The European Union has 24% of global gross domestic product but hosts just 1% of the forcibly displaced people that exist on the planet. The USA has 23% and also hosts 1% of refugees. There are excuses for the poor performance of the UK. The British economy has tanked, the Daily Mail spouts prejudice and the British Government no longer has the competence to provide jobs and income for its own citizens.

2.-The-Rezort-survivors-guns

The Rezort is a low budget zombie movie. The technical expertise hides those budgetary limitations, and accomplished editing ensures that the film moves along without any hitches. The celebratory scenes in the resort lack the scale of The Hunger Games but they are realistic. More important than any of that is the accusatory heart that pumps the pulse of the film.   Daily Mail readers could do a lot worse at the end of the night than sit down and sample The Rezort. They should fold their newspaper, pour a whisky perhaps, switch on the streaming account with Amazon or Netflix and then watch the movie. After being entertained they can think again about what they should do on their holidays. They may also want to consider why so many of their generation voted for Brexit and a Government that believes additional tax breaks are essential for the rich but the absence of clean water, education, a home and medical care for millions of people can be ignored.

Howard Jackson has had six books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and Horror Pickers, a collection of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

THE MOVIE CHALLENGES

TRILOGY OF TERROR

USA, 1975

 maxresdefault

Dan Curtis must have had strong teeth. No one in authority in 70s American television programming would have encouraged him to make The Night Stalker and Trilogy Of Terror. Back then American TV executives were determined to embrace what they thought was the lowest common denominator. These executives claimed to understand the power of what used to be called media networks. Independent minded producers like Dan Curtis survived by gritting their teeth and staying determined. Trilogy Of Terror is a portmanteau movie that collects together three stories by the great Richard Matheson.  His vampire and Robinson Crusoe inspired novel I Am Legend is unsurpassed.  Amongst his always readable short stories are an exceptional handful, most of which made it into The Twilight Zone.  Curtis directed Trilogy Of Terror and produced The Night Stalker. Trilogy Of Terror is not as great as the vampire classic The Night Stalker but it deserves its cult status amongst movie fans.

If Trilogy Of Terror succeeds as a TV movie, the individual stories are not memorable. Most people will anticipate the twists in the first two episodes.   The third is less predictable but, because of what has preceded it in Trilogy Of Terror, we soon have an idea of what will happen. The influence of American TV executives is also more pronounced in Trilogy Of Terror than in The Night Stalker. This influence manifests itself as soft focus photography, over-exposed colour film and self-censorship. Oddly, none of this diminishes Trilogy Of Terror. Albeit mainly in passing, Trilogy Of Terror refers ever so politely to rape, Satanism, incest, voyeurism, pornography, diabolic possession, sexual sadism and masochism and, of course, murder. It even has a savage and relentless monster with dreadful teeth although it is only a foot tall.

maxresdefault (1)

The title of the first story is changed from The Likeness Of Julie to just Julie. The original title by Matheson is clever. It refers to image and authenticity and the confusion that exists between men and women over identity. But the title of the movie episode is restricted to just the female name. The second story is called Millicent And Therese. In print the title of the third story by Richard Matheson is Prey but in Trilogy Of Terror this becomes Amelia.  All three stories in the TV movie have short titles that are nothing more than the names of females. The names alone constitute ambiguity and mystery.  In each episode a woman uses fashion and available grooming alternatives to construct a persona. The identities of these women are not just shaped by their emotional needs but by their physical appearance, the influence of other women, circumstance and male expectations and assumptions.

Karen Black appears in all three films.  Across the three episodes she changes her character on five occasions.  Dress, spectacles and manner are as important as personality. Bright make-up alerts us to the threat of one of the three women, and all are the opposite of what they appear. Karen Black is obliged to be the seductive siren, a female psychopath, a homely spinster, a repressed daughter and an awkward but independent academic. Black was a good choice for the film because she was both attractive and physically flawed. She suffered from strabismus. When she wears glasses, her crossed eyes look confused and suggest an excluded, defeated and repressed spirit.  The same eyes, though, when exposed, light a face that has charm.  Her voice is also complicated. It varies between being a timid whisper, an irritating whine or a sharp accusatory whip.

trilogy-of-terror-1

Before Trilogy Of Terror the three stories were stand-alone efforts that appeared in print at different times. Dan Curtis was not stupid and he selected them for a reason. He uses the stories to make a feminist point that in a male American TV producer was unusual in 1975. None of the female characters in Trilogy Of Terror have an authentic self. In two of the stories the men are remote and unimportant figures but in the first story we witness a relationship between a man and a woman. The male thinks that by undressing his professor he will discover something sexual, authentic and perhaps primitive. He is doomed because he fails to understand that the deception between men and woman is not just mutual but complicated. The final victory of the woman includes a triumphant burning of the photographs that the deceitful male has taken.  She has asserted her own identity, defied the deluded masculine gaze, satisfied some peculiar appetites and overcome the technology that the powerful male assumed would enable him to seduce and control. Written down these events sound impressive and classic Matheson. But the predictable ending of the episode is weak and the narrative is underwritten. The episode feels like it has a missing scene. When Julie says, ‘You see, I’m really bored,’ there has been nothing to explain this boredom.

The second story, Millicent And Therese, concerns a schizophrenic identity.   The local doctor who is part GP, psychiatrist and all round good neighbour takes the story towards whimsy and is a weakness in a plot, which already has stretched credibility in an earlier scene with a male lover. The encounter with the child is also unnecessary. Its inclusion is odd considering the excess editing in Julie. The child actor, though, is great. If Millicent And Therese shows sympathy for the female plight and guilt that is a consequence of excessive masculine authority, it also explains male paranoia about women. It may be pleasant for men to have women pander to their expectations and create contrived identities but even men pay a price for these demands being indulged. The continual performance required from women means that men are confused about the authenticity of their own desires.

trilogy-of-terror-amelia-zuni-warrior-evil-doll-he-who-kills-attacks-karen-black-in-bedroom

In the third story a mother dominated woman called Amelia unwraps an exotic purchase from a gift shop. The small statue has powers, and the episode requires her to fight and struggle against a relentless and violent monster. This is both chilling and comic. The episode has at least three surprising and startling moments and it is as terrifying as anything that could be seen on TV screens in that decade.  The identity of Amelia is shaped by a desperate need for maternal approval. At the end of the episode Amelia is free of that need but her identity has paid a terrible price. Life for Mother will not be that good, either.

The confusion between the genders that Dan Curtis identified and highlighted 40 years ago still exists. Michael Fallon is, as The Canary editor Kerry Anne Mendoza describes him, a man educated above his intelligence and promoted above his ability. He was also a competent, pragmatic poodle and he had an important part to play in the Conservative Party as all-purpose lapdog. Fallon is no longer the Defence Secretary of the British Government. Like Chad the male character in Julie, our previous Defence Secretary was poor in evaluating the identities of the women he groped.   He made the assumption that they would be flattered and excited by the presence of his wrinkled hands on their bodies. Damian Green claims to believe in faith, family and flag.   Green is the Minister for the Cabinet Office, or the Deputy to the Prime Minister. Think not to be trusted Alsatian. Colleagues describe this social conservative and alternative terrier as ‘high risk in a taxi’.  According to a certain spreadsheet, there are others. In both the main British political parties there have been occasions when the careers and needs of male politicians have been regarded as more important than offences against women.   Damage to female employees has been regarded as collateral.

trilogy-of-terror-karen-black-julie

Men and women have seduced and been seduced by one another from when they appeared on the planet but we are still hopeless and helpless. Power, privilege and hierarchy have made a complex mix toxic. Not that the Daily Mail has lost its confident step. No worries in that particular media outlet about the authentic female self in a society constructed by a male hierarchy. Not slow to act it has done a smear job on an offended woman and described her as ‘a very pushy lady’.  The message of Trilogy Of Terror was that the authentic self is not available to women.  They are expected to be a construction that will help those who own newspapers like the Daily Mail to maintain order.   The problem for the proprietors of the Daily Mail is that they are not quite so adept these days at keeping the genders in their supposed place. It may feel like chaos on the streets right now but progress has been made since a headstrong TV film producer challenged accepted notions of how men and women saw each other and themselves.  Today there is not just Dan Curtis who has noticed something odd.  Actresses complain of sexual exploitation, and political party activists feel less obliged to indulge men who have either been educated above their intelligence or promoted above their ability.  Meanwhile the Daily Mail sells fewer copies.

Howard Jackson has had six books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and Horror Pickers, a collection of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.