THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS
The People Under the Stairs (18) (Wes Craven, US, 1991) Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Ruble, A.J. Langer. 102 mins. Even the most ardant horror fan has problems when it comes to the irustratingly erratic career at Wes Craven. In recent years the creator oi Freddy Kruger has had his highs (the terrllying overlap oi Haitian voodoo and secret police brutality in The Serpent and the Rainbow) and his lows (the ‘is it a seriel killer/body swap/slapstick comedy’ mess of Shocker). With The People Under The Stairs, he's at least part at the way back to doing something original and scary with the genre.
Well-meaning poor kid Fool (Adams) is iorced into burgllng his landlord’s house to try to lend oii eviction and help his dying mother. inside he iinds a psychotic couple (Twin Peak's Hurley household, mom and Hobie) and a twisted world oi child abuse and cannibalism. The diabolical duo happily mutilate disobedient youngsters and keep them locked up in a dark and clammy basement.
Craven still doesn't know how to integrate comedy with horror - McGill’s role is embarrassing — but l-‘tobie's angular lace is periect for a modern day witch. And that is the key to the lilm: it’s a dark lairy story ior the 90s (boy goes into isolated witch's cottage to lind hidden treasure) where
The People Under The Stairs: ‘a twisted world of child abuse and cannibalism.’
the perverse logic oi the claustrophobic house is the equivalent oi the vicious dreamworld oi the Elm Street original. Unconvinclng make-up eiiects are compensated ior by some genuine shocks and a social conscience that is not cheapened by the genre. A quick glance at recent tabloid stories oi a reclusive mother and child found in a house lull oi dead pets and this kind oi iilm doesn‘t seem like iantasy anymore. (Alan Morrison)
From 26 Dec: General release.
V.l. Warshawski (18) (Jell Kanew, US, 1991) Kathleen Turner, J.D. Sanders, Charles Durning, Angela Goethals. 89 mins. Best known as the breathin seductive lemme iatale in Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat, Kathleen Turner is no longer svelte enough to convince as crime novelist Sarah Paretsky’s lelsty, health-conscious private eye v.1. Warshawski. Despite her classy good looks, Turner gives a reasonable impersonation oi street-wise toughness, delivering her wisecracks smartly enough and dishing out some dell, bone-crunching karate chops to slimeball criminals. But by trying too hard not to be butch, Turner misses the mark and overplays her character's lemlnlne vulnerability. To be iair, much oi the blame lies with director Jell Kanew and the illm's three scriptwrlters, who make hard work at a complicated plot that starts with the murder oi a hunky ice-hockey player,
\i.l. Warshawski: ‘a reasonable imersonation oi treetwise
A” ‘ <~ oughness) lands V.l. with his irritatineg precocious teenage daughter, and then embroils her in big city corruption on Chicago's mean streets.
The producers paid a small iortune lor the rights to Paretsky’s novels, but what was meant to be the ilrsl oi an on-golng series now looks like being a ialse start. The introduction at a phllandering but lovable boyirlend, Warshawskl's grudging attachment to the young girl, and Charles Dumlng’s avuncular detective all contribute to a general soltenlng oi the Warshawski character. ‘l don’t think oi this as a feminist lllm,’ Turner has said. ‘This movie deals with how a woman tits into what is traditionally a man's world.’ While v.1. is cracking wise or beating up male creeps, this works well -the rest oi the time it's too busy hedging its ieminist bets. (lllgei Floyd)
From 3 Jan: General release.
damaged characters. In the end, Almodovar manages creditably to wring moments of emotional resonance out of the most unpromising material. Glasgow: GFT.
I Toto The Hero (15) (Jaco Van Dormael, Belgium, 1991) Michel Bouquet, Mireille Perrier, Jo De Backer. 90 mins. Fresh from ﬁlm festival success across Europe, Van Dormael‘s intelligent first feature goes out on general release. Elderly Thomas reﬂects on his life, beginning with his rescue as a baby from a hospital fire, an event which he believes caused him to be mixed up with another child, with the result that he feels that he should be enjoying the comfortable existence of rich neighbour Alfred. Past and present, childhood and adulthood, are edited together to create a wonderfully absorbing whole. Glasgow: GET. Edinburgh: Filmhouse.
I Truly, Madly, Deeply (PG) (Anthony Minghella, UK, 1990) Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Bill Paterson. 103 mins. Nina, a young translator, thinks her life is falling apart when her lover dies. But when he returns, albeit with a cold and looking a little paler, she begins to question her previous notions of happiness. A wonderfully literate screenplay by ﬁrst-time director Minghella and a faultless performance by Stevenson raise Truly, Madly, Deeply above the level of its American counterpart, Ghost. Glasgow: GFT.
I The Two Jakes (15) (Jack Nicholson, US, 1990) Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel. Meg Tilly, Madeleine Stowe. 132 mins. Troubled sequel to Roman Polanski's Chinatown sees Nicholson’s private eye J.J. Gittes back from the war and specialising in divorce work. A murder case involving one client (Keitel) unearths some sleazy LA corruption and a few uncomfortable memories for the drawling one. intelligent script, again by Robert Towne, ﬂeshes out the original characters but builds a plot that is just too complicated. Could have been better, but still manages to come in as a stylish and intriguing alternative to typically formulaic sequels. See preview. Edinburgh: Cameo.
I Valmont (12) (Milos Forman, France/GB, 1989) Colin Firth, Annette Bening, Meg Tilly, Fairuza Balk. 140 mins. Not so dangerous screen version of Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses, detailing the seductive intrigues of 18th century French aristocracy. Forman successfully emphasises the class aspect of the novel, but as a whole, the film is unlikely to receive the same acclaim as Stephen Frears‘ adaptation of the same material — Dangerous Liaisons — some years ago. Glasgow: GFT. Edinburgh: Cameo.
I V.|. Warshawski (18) (Jeff Kanew, US. 1991) Kathleen Turner, Jay 0. Sanders, Charles Durning, Angela Goethals. 91 mins. See review. General release (from 3 Jan).
I What Have 1 Done To Deserve This? (18) (Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 1984) Carmen Maura, Luis Hostalot. 100 mins. From the camera that brought you Women On The Verge ofa Nervous Breakdown, an earlier, more surreal vision of desperation, sex and bizarre familial interactions in middle-class Spain. The central role is again played by a distracted Maura, this time as a housewife coping with her depression and her ghastly family by taking a wee snort of cleaning ﬂuid with her prescribed amphetamines. Another gem. Edinburgh: Filmhouse.
I White Palace (18) (Luis Mandoki, US. 1990) Susan Sarandon, James Spader, Kathy Bates, Jason Alexander. 102 mins. Comedy-romance which begins a St Louis diner, where Jewish yuppie Spader (familiar but successful casting) meets older fast-food waitress Sarandon. An unlikely, cross-class affair ensues, which allows Mandoki not only to indulge in a predictable but stickily enjoyable love
story, but also provides the backdrop for observant, witty satire on the largely ignored US class system. Edinburgh: Filmhouse.
I Wild At Heart (18) (David Lynch, US, 1990) Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern. Diane Ladd, Willem Dafoe. 127 mins. Lynch’s much-hyped Cannes prize~winner turns out to be weird and wondrous in its own way. if not quite as cohesive as the earlier Blue Velvet. Cage and Dern are the energetic young lovers on the run, pursued by ultrastrange hitman Dafoe on a sometimes comic, sometimes disturbing, trail towards the ultimate rendezvous with Elvis and the Wizard of Oz. Aside from lovingly detailing the pernicious inﬂuence of pop kitsch upon our very consciousness however, the movie isn't really about anything. even if it is a helluva trip. Glasgow: GFT.
I Wise Blood (15) (John Huston, US/Germany, 1979) Brad Dourif, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Daniel Shor. 108 mins. Very weird film in which a young man (Dourif) returns home to the Bible-belt South and starts a private war against evangelism by setting up the Church of Truth Without Jesus Christ. Bizarrer tragic and perverser funny, it revolves around a performance by Dourif in the days between his stunning debut (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest) and his subsequent career as the sole saving grace in countless B-movies. Edinburgh: Cameo.
I The Witches (PG) (Nicholas Roeg, US, 1990) Anjelica Huston, Mai thterling, Rowan Atkinson. 92 mins. Nine year-old Luke is warned by his Norwegian granny about the everpresent threat posed by the existence of witches, which isn't much help actually because within the next half hour he stumbles on their annual convention in a small English hotel and gets himself changed into a mouse for his pains. A pleasing adaption of Roald Dahl's children's story has director Roeg (in unusually straightforward manner) creating a superior kids movie that has you rooting for the mice all the way. Lots of fun. Glasgow: GFT.
I The Wizard 0f 01 (PG) (Victor Fleming. US, 1939) Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolgcr, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Toto. 102 mins. Miserable Dorothy runs away from home but is soon whisked up into a magical land where her adventures teach her that happiness is to be found in her own back yard. Classic stuff indeed, just chockful of great songs, characterisation and memorably garish design. Perhaps marginally less enjoyable for the curmudgeonly element rooting for the Wicked Witch Of The West though. Strathciyde: La Scala.
I Women On The Verge 0i A Nervous Breakdown (15) (Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 1988) Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas. Julieta Serrano. 98 mins. When Pcpa‘s illicit affair with an older man is abruptly terminated, she sets out for revenge, but is distracted by a succession of offbeat visitors seeking her calming inﬂuence. A splendidly bizarre character comedy, with some off-the-wall acting and a plot that pays ironic but affectionate homage to the classic Hollywood comedies of the 1950s. Glasgow: GFT.
I Year oi the Gun (15) (John Frankenheimer, US, 1991) Andrew McCarthy, Sharon Stone, Valeria Golino, John Pankow. 111 mins. American-born journalist and would-be novelist David Raybourne (McCarthy) is working in Rome in 1978, a bloody year hit daily by murders and terrorist acts by the Red Brigade. He tries to pass off his fictional. ‘from the inside' book on the Brigade as fact, and this puts his sources in danger when a pushy photographer (Stone) reads the manuscript. A tight political thriller from one of the masters (The Manchurian Candidate. Seven Days In May) of the genre. General release (from 10 Jan).
32 The List 20 December 1991 — 16 January 1992