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Movie Review: Split
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I’m not really a “connaisseur” of Canuck Bruce McDonald's career. I know his name, I know his last film (which I didn’t see) was the revered PONTYPOOL (2008) and I know he’s a big deal on the Canuck film circuit and that Telefilm (government film funding) has no problem dropping bags of coin in his lap. Upon some research, I realized that I have seen one of the lads movies before, it was called PICTURE CLAIRE (2001), it starred Mickey Rourke, Juliette Lewis and Gina Gershon and looking back at it all I recollect is that it failed to make an impression on me one way or another i.e. I don't remember shit. What about HELLIONS (WATCH IT HERE) though? Polar opposite reaction from this twat! I’ll remember this one!
I love mindf*ck films, movies that play by their own rules and that use symbolism and or physical action to convey their substance. And if I had to take a “wild guess” that’s what HELLIONS was all about. The first act of the flick was straightforward enough: dame terrorized by hooded demon-kids who have their sick version of what trick or treating is all about. It actually reminded me of the wrap-around story in TRICK R TREAT with that little Demon the Menace Sam running amuck. But once the half an hour mark or so hit; the rug was pulled from under my feet, and HELLIONS went all “Rider on the Storm” on my ass! Yup, McDonald went buck nuts in the surreal LSD laced imagery and the mind numbing chain of events. Was it all a dream? An inner monologue communicated via symbolism? Was it hell? Purgatory? My ex's bathroom? Who knows! I opted for theory number 2 on my end. Actually as the end credits rolled, I couldn’t help but feel that beneath all of it, this was at its core an “anti-abortion” film. But hey that’s just me! Who knows what you’ll think it's all about!
The "meat" aside, hot to trot Chloe Rose admirably carried the picture on her shoulder in what was for the most part a “one woman show”. Intensity, vulnerability, strenght! The lady pimped them all! It was also great to see Robert Patrick pop up. Although I must that he looked a tad unsure as to what the bleep his purpose (and I don’t blame him). But even a shaky RP always classes a movie up. Visually, McDonald directed with a firm hand. I dug his old school approach to the material. I’m talking static shots, slow push-ins and pans etc. Moreover, some of his shots looked like “look like macabre paintings, he used slow motion in an arresting fashion, he ;managed to milk some tension out of his whacked out scenarios and got me once with a curve ball boo scare. Add to all that stellar production designs (so many pumpkins in one movie – loved it), menacing baddies and a eerie “kids chanting heavy” score (by Todor Kobakov and Ian LeFeuvre) that accentuated the film's "Halloween" mood and you get a gripping, if not too elusive for its own good mind trip!
On the flipside, well it’s easy, even for a huge fan of the mindf*ck subgenre like myself, this one went too far in the "aloof" department for my liking. When I watch LOST HIGHWAY, I sense that even though confusing, Lynch knows what it means to him. Here, and this is just how it came off to me, not necessarily “how it was”; it felt like the film had a base in terms of what it was saying (abortion = bad – having baby = good) but the horror conventions and set pieces that were tossed my way didn’t always feel like they had much of a purpose other than looking cool, odd and filling time. But that’s just my perception. Lastly, there were some serious redundancy and pacing issues during the middle act and I can't say the ending did it for me.
All in all though; I respected HELLIONS. It was technically superb, it took chances and gave me quite the macabre eye/earful! It’s definitely not a film for everybody but I’ll take this over yet another cookie cutter McProduct any day! In the words of Freddy Krueger: “Hey Spence, lets trip out!”