Cinemax Friday: Eye See You (2002, directed by Jim Gillespie)

Today, now that he’s received a second Oscar nomination for playing Rocky Balboa, directed several Expendable movies, and reemerged as an icon of American pop culture, it’s easy to forget just how bad Sylvester Stallone’s career was going at the start of the 21st Century.  After appearing in a notable series of flops and going unrewarded after his attempt to reinvent himself as a serious actor in Cop Land, Stallone was in danger of fading into irrelevance.  While Arnold Schwarzenegger was preparing to run for governor, Stallone found himself facing every former star’s nightmare: a career in direct-to-video thrillers.

Eye See You comes from that period of Stallone’s career.  It’s basically a slasher film, except that the victims are all middle-aged alcoholics instead of nubile teens.  Stallone plays FBI agent Jack Malloy, who hits the bottle pretty hard after his girlfriend is murder by a serial killer.  After Malloy attempts suicide, his partner (Charles S. Dutton) sends Malloy to an isolated rehab clinic, one that caters only to cops on the edge.  Unfortunately, the serial killer follows Malloy to the clinic and, when a sudden blizzard hits, the killer starts to pick off all of the cops, one-by-one.

Eye See You (which was originally called D-Tox until someone finally realized that made the movie sound like it was about a robot learning how to be human) is really bad.  Jim Gillespie also directed I Know What You Did Last Summer and he brings out all of the usual slasher tricks but they’re less effective when the people being stalked are adults who should have enough common sense not to split up when there’s a killer on the loose.  The film tries to throw in some of The Thing‘s paranoia and it also tries to duplicate The Shining‘s sense of isolation but none of it really works.  The Thing was set in an arctic research facility while The Shining was set in a hotel that was specifically closed in the winter because of the risk of blizzard.  There’s really no logical reason for Eye See You‘s rehab center to be located out in the middle of nowhere except for the fact that the film needed to get Stallone and the other cops isolated.  Even if you accept that the rehab center needs to be away from civilization, why build it in a location that is certain to get regularly hit by life-threatening weather?

The film is full of great character actors but it wastes them.  If you’re going to have Tom Berenger, Robert Patrick, and Kris Kristofferson all in the same film, one of them should turn out to be the murderer!  Instead, they’re just there to die and it’s hard not to resent a waste of good actors.  For his part, Stallone seems to be mentally checked out, as if he knew during filming that this wasn’t going to be his comeback vehicle.

Fortunately, even after appearing in films like Eye See You,  Stallone was able to eventually make a comeback.  As has often been the case in his career, he did it by taking matters into his own hands and bringing both Rambo and Rocky Balboa back to theaters.  The Expendables films, while hardly being high art, served to remind people of why they liked Stallone in the first place and Creed reminded everyone that Stallone actually can act when he has the right script.  Fortunately, Sly was saved from spend the rest of his career appearing in direct-to-video films and I’m glad.  Direct-to-video is the perfect place for Steven Seagal but Sylvester Stallone belongs on the big screen!

A Scene That I Love: Daria Nicolodi and David Hemmings in Deep Red

Deep Red (1975, dir by Dario Argento)

Today is Daria Nicolodi’s birthday so what better time than now to share a scene that I love from Dario Argento’s 1975 masterpiece, Deep Red?

Now, this might seem like a strange scene to love but you have to understand it in context of the overall film.  (And yes, the scene is in Italian but surely you can figure out that it’s a scene of two people flirting.)  Deep Red is often thought as being merely a superior giallo film but it’s also, in its way, a rather sweet love story.  David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi may investigate a murder but they also fall in love and the two of them have a very sweet chemistry, which is fully displayed in this scene and which elevates the entire film.  Deep Red is a giallo where you care about the characters as much as you care about the murders.

While making this film, Daria Nicolodi and Dario Argento also fell in love and they went on to have a rather tumultuous relationship.  Personally, I think that Argento’s most recent films are underrated but it’s still hard to deny that the ones that he made with Nicolodi have a heart to them that is missing from some of his later work.

So, in honor of Daria Nicolodi and her important role in the history of Italian horror, here she is with David Hemmings in Deep Red!

Music Video of the Day: Who’s Crying Now by Journey (1981, directed by ????)

Love them or hate them, Journey is band that just epitomized an era.  Who’s Crying Now, which was the first single off of their Escape album, was one of their biggest hits.  Until 2009, it was Journey’s top-charting hit in the UK.  (Interestingly, it was Don’t Stop Believin’ that dethroned Who’s Crying Now from that spot as the result of Don’t Stop Believin’ being featured on an episode of The X-Factor 28 years after it was initially released.)

As with most of Journey’s music videos, the video for Who’s Crying Now keeps thing simple with the band performing the song.  Journey wouldn’t try to do a conceptual video until 1983’s infamous video for Separate WaysWe all know how that turned out.