Manic Monday, a new film by first time film director Dex Baxter ( known mainly for his music videos of Canadian indie bands) has turned out to be an impressive debut feature.
No one wants to talk about this film, which I just don't understand. I see nothing online about it. There's no "official Manic Monday site." I get early press releases for a lot of stuff, good and bad, but none on this film. At the last minute, I got a Facebook mail message to see "an exclusive 'one night only' preview. " This was also "by invitation only."I gave my name and the name of my blog at the door of the twin cineplex where the screening was, a theater that was closed two years ago.
No one at the screening wanted to discuss the film with me afterward; not film reviewers or publicity people. Which amazed me because it's THE MOST TERRIFYING, SURREAL FILM I'VE SEEN IN DECADES. I mean it. I haven't felt that tense since The Blair Witch Project.
Yet it has musical numbers and comedy bits with cameo appearances! (Though the haha bits are brief. Nice to see Adam Sandler get killed, though.) It's a hard film to classify.
The publicity people did give me a few stills (seen in this post), a synopsis and the cast list. THAT'S IT. Here:
The plot that'll make you plotz:
A middle class couple discovers a horrifying secret when their daughter inadvertently opens a portal to hell while innocently playing with a Ouija board. Can they save their daughter? Can they save humanity? And how is the mysterious neighbor, Mr. Smit, involved in all of this? And why does a local garbageman develop the power to hear dead people complain about the afterlife?
Okay, I added that last line. But dead people do complain in the film, and there is a garbageman cameo by Tom Savini, a horror film buff's nod to his garbageman cameo in the film Creepshow.
Jeremy Winston as Peter Gamble
Elaine Barstow as Miranda Gamble
Melissa Jost as Heather Gamble
George Salem as Officer Walter Simon
Tom Huston as Ezekiel Smit
Mary Johnson as Doctor Jessica Strong
Maybe the filmmakers were embarrassed at the stupid opening title sequence, which features the words "Manic Monday" gradually darkening and turning blood red, while that dumb Bangles song of the same name played. Ey-yi-yi. Who insisted on that?
But the film is mostly a masterpiece-- of unexpected shocks, hard-to-take suspense and atmosphere. In fact, there just isn't enough room in a blog post to list and describe all the truly inventive and scary scenes. I'll mention one or two.
A bizarre, Guy Maddin- or David Lynch-worthy sequence has little Melissa Jost (as Heather) getting her hand caught in the garbage disposal while Aerosmith's song, Dream On plays, then becomes part of the nightmare as band members come out of her parent's stereo system, fighting the Heather's mom! Ultimately, the child is saved by her mother and not harmed. Manipulation of two-dimensional, ethereal images into 3-D solid ones is one of the themes in this film, which warns of taking entertainment too seriously, and letting it substitute for real experiences with family.
And one performance REALLY stands out: 6'11" Tom Huston's. The former Pittsburgh defensive lineman-turned-actor plays the malevolent "Ezekiel Smit" in one of the most eerie performances since Angus Scrimm's in Huston, thanks to makeup wizardry, a personal trainer, and dialect coach, appears as I've never seen him: bald and very slim, middle aged, and speaking with a thick Yankee accent. It's Huston as you never imagined he could be-- physically repulsive and oddly charismatic.
The fiery ending was a bit reminiscent of Carrie, although it takes place in giant meat locker, rather than a high school gym. But to see John Travolta (credited as "Lazlo Revik") appear briefly with a bucket of gasoline to throw on Huston, (which backfires spectacularly) is pure in-joke genius.
If this film comes within a hundred miles of you, MAKE THE EFFORT TO SEE IT. Better than sitting at home watching TV, reading blog posts, or hunting Snipes! (I mean, if Blade or its sequels shows up once more on cable, I'm gonna scream.)