International Weirdness : “When Animals Dream”


Trash Film Guru

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They tell me that the new season of some popular purported “quality drama” is now available on Netflix and that everyone is staying in this weekend to “binge watch” it, but if you’re no more a fan of sleazy soap operas with delusions of grandeur than I am (and really, what is House Of Cards other than Dynasty, with a better cast, transposed from a mansion in Denver to the White House?), you may be looking for something else on there to watch — if so, allow me to humbly recommend the recently-added 2014 Danish supernatural horror/thriller When Animals Dream, an artfully-crafted, beautifully-shot, often harrowing look at a teenage girl going through some serious changes.

I’ve seen some folks comparing this austere film to another Scandinavian genre entry from a few years back, Let The Right One In,  and while on paper that makes sense, please don’t…

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Cleaning Out The DVR: The Wrong Car (dir by John Stimpson)


The Wrong Car

Ever since the start of this month, I have been cleaning out my DVR and I am happy to say that I’ve managed to go from only having 9 hours of space available to now having 17 hours.  Progress is a wonderful thing!

Last night, I decided, after watching Picnic, to take a two-hour break from watching movies that I had recorded off of TCM.  Instead, I watched a film that I recorded off of Lifetime way back in January, The Wrong Car.

If you’ve watched enough Lifetime movies, you know that there are three things that all Lifetime movies distrust: men, teenagers, and technology.  The Wrong Car doesn’t feature any teenagers but it does feature some really bad men who use technology to do some really bad things.  In the past, Lifetime has exposed the dangers of Facebook, Match.com, twitter, and YouTube.  With this movie, they take on Uber.

Except, of course, they don’t actually call it Uber.  Instead, they call it “NetCar.”  But it’s totally Uber.

Trudy (Danielle Savre) is a law student who doesn’t have much of a social life because she is always either too busy studying or arguing that criminals can be reformed.  Her best friend, Gretchen (Francia Raisa), is constantly begging her to go out and have a good time but Trudy refuses.  (Isn’t that always the role of a best friend in a Lifetime movie?)  Finally, Gretchen is somehow able to convince Trudy to go to a club with her.  However, Trudy get bored and decides to leave.  Standing outside the club, she calls for a NetCar.

Usually, whenever Trudy uses NetCar, her driver is another law student named Charles (Kevin G. Cox).  However, this time, she doesn’t know the driver.  However, she still gets in the car and accepts his offer of bottled water.  The next thing that Trudy knows, she’s waking up naked in a totally sleazy motel.

With the police unable to help, Trudy takes matters into her own hands.  In this case, that means that she decides to become a NetCar driver herself.  She now spends her time driving around the city, looking for the man who raped her.  Along the way, she lectures two women about proper car safety, deals with an angry but later helpful criminal, and meets a cute investment manager (Jackson Davis).

She also has flashbacks to her rape and these are pure nightmare fuel.  The man who assaulted her is frequently seeing wearing a giant baby mask, much like the one pictured below:

Technically, the scene above is from Terry Gilliam’s 1985 dystopian satire Brazil.  But it’s the same baby mask!  AGCK!

To be honest, though, the entire film is nightmare fuel.  The Wrong Car is one of the few genuinely disturbing Lifetime films that I’ve ever seen because it does get at some very important truths.  We all give out way too much information about ourselves to total strangers.  And, much like Trudy, I probably would have gotten into that NetCar and drank that bottled water.  Nobody wants to spend their life paranoid but The Wrong Car suggests that perhaps a little paranoia might be justified.

Director John Stimpson fills the screen with shadowy and menacing images while Danielle Savre does an excellent job in the sometimes difficult role of Trudy.  The entire film is well-cast, with Rhett Kidd turning in a memorable performance in the small role of the world’s sleaziest desk clerk.  And that baby mask … at the risk of repeating myself, AGCK!

The Wrong Car is definitely a Lifetime film to keep an eye out for.

Insomnia File #12: Beyond The Law (dir by Larry Ferguson)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

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Last night, if you were awake at one in the morning, you could have turned on FLIX and watched the 1993 film Beyond The Law.

Now, you may look at the title and think to yourself, “That movie sounds way too generic for anyone to watch.”  And, to a certain extent, you’re right.  Based, so the narrated epilogue insists, on a true story, Beyond The Law is about a troubled cop who goes undercover and joins a biker gang.  After gaining the trust and friendship of the gang’s ruthless leader, the cop struggles to maintain a between order and chaos.  Sometimes, he succeeds.  Sometimes, he doesn’t.  Largely, his success is dependent on whatever the narrative requires at the moment.

It’s totally predictable but, at the same time, it’s hard not to watch.  When a film starts with an Indian shaman telling Charlie Sheen that his dark side is going to destroy him, how can you not keep watching?

That’s right … the undercover cop is played by Charlie Sheen.  Fortunately, since Beyond the Law was made in 1993, we’re talking about the sexy and dangerous Charlie Sheen who showed up at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and not the sad and bloated Charlie Sheen who co-starred on Two And A Half Men.

Charlie’s a deputy in Arizona who, as a result of his traumatic childhood, has a violent temper.  After he gets into a fist fight with another deputy (played by Rip Torn), he is told that he can either quit the force or he can go undercover.  He chooses to go undercover.  Fortunately, he knows an informant (Leon Rippy) who can teach him how to pass for a biker.  The informant’s nickname is Dildo (no, really) but later, we find out that his given name is Virgil.  And he’s Charlie’s guide through the Hell of the Arizona underworld, just as another Virgil led Dante through another Hell…

Yes, it’s totally heavy-handed but somehow, it’s appropriate.  The title may be generic but, within the first 30 minutes of the film, Beyond the Law gives us Indian wisdom, strange flashbacks, references to Dante, a guy named Dildo, and Charlie Sheen.  But that’s not all!  Beyond the Law also has Michael Madsen!

Michael Madsen plays Blood, the leader of the biker gang that Charlie has to infiltrate. And he gives a classic Michael Madsen performance, full of random squints, arched eyebrows, menacing pauses in the middle of dialogue, and that famous Michael Madsen half-smirk.  Predictable as its plot may be, Beyond The Law is your only chance to see Charlie Sheen and Michael Madsen compete to see who can chew the most scenery.  Charlie does his crazy eyes.  Madsen does his half-smirk.  In the end, I would say that Madsen wins.

Charlie also ends up having a relationship with an photojournalist (Linda Fiorentino).  Before going undercover, he gave her a speeding ticket and, when they later meet at a biker gathering, she immediately recognizes him but keeps his secret.  She doesn’t really get to do much in the film but I still liked the character because she was tough and she was the only person in the film who could outsmirk Michael Madsen.

Beyond The Law is nothing special but it’s worth watching just for the chance to see Michael Madsen and Charlie Sheen acting opposite each other.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch