Two movies about characters who just go mental. First up writter/ director Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. Based on Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. Here's a early version of the script by Charlie Kaufman. I read the book several years ago and don't remember much about the story, so I can't compare the two. Sperhauk and the Wikipedia say it's a pretty good adaptation. There is a good synopsis there. I mostly remember not liking the book as much as I had when I read it even more years earlier. That happens for me. Authors go in and out of favor. Mostly out. Linklater himself goes in and out of my favor. Most of his movies don't appeal to me. I like two of his films much better than ASD. Dazed and Confused is a fun night out with some teenagers and School of Rock is musical fun with younger kids. DAC revels in it's rebelousness and it shares that with SOR. But what those movies have, and ASD doesn't, is an upbeatedness, and I'd pick a movie with that over it's depressing pal anyday. Not to say there aren't some downbeat movies out there that I do like. I just don't watch them very often.
In A Scanner Darkly Keanu Reeves is an undercover detective on a police force in the very watchful future just down the road. He's living in a house on that road with Robert Downey Jr and Woody Harrelson, with visits from Winona Rider and Rory Cochrane. They're all addicted to this new drug called Substance D. They're all fucked up one way or another. The drug eventually causes the user to loose cognitive skills and their hold on reality. I know I'd want to take that. Undercover officer Keanu has been taking D so he can "fit in" and he's become really addicted. That's not good. His head is pretty fucked up and he can't focus. The undercover cops are literally undercover, from each other as well as the people they are watching. It's slightly complicated. The undercover cops wear a total body covering called a scramble suit. The surface of the suit changes all the time with images of over a million people blenderized and displayed on it's surface. Sort of like some fucked up every man. I didn't buy the covering. It's constantly changing surface was annoying and in reality it would be disconcerting to people looking at it. Also somewhat disconcerting is the rotoscoped style of the film. Linklater shoots the movie on film with actors and takes those images and turns them into a sort of cartoon. Here's a page imitating how it was done. You can see the trailer on YouTube. According to one review he did it for budget reasons. Linklatter used this technique on his earlier film Waking Life. It makes more sense on ASD with it's changing reality. It can work and not work at the same time. Some of the faces look weird from the shadows on them. There's a good script and some good actors playing the parts. It mostly kept my interest once I got past the first bug infested part. I fear being covered with insects. I could understand Rory's freakin' out, even though his bugs were imaginary. I lived in a cockroach infested apartment when I moved to Minneapolis in the late 70's. I didn't stay there very long, but that memory haunts me to this day. Now that's some horror. We meet the rest of the characters and as the movie progresses we get more information about the brave new world with it's ongoing drug war. While looking forward it still mirror's the 70's drug world of PKD. I don't think that world changes much at the end user level. Bob changes. For the worse. He gets a fine at work and he's sent off for rehabilitation. It's sad and there's an even more fucked up back story. What's a human life worth in the battle. Is the movie worth a look? Absolutely. I'm glad I saw it. I don't know if I would buy a copy. Maybe if it was cheap enough. It's just not that rewatchable for me. I don't need to be reminded of what a fucked up real world we live in. Why do you think I stay home so much.
The guy in our next feature should have stayed home. Instead he goes to college and gets killed by a rat. Rats. Gave away the ending. Oh, well. I don't care if I know the end of a story ahead of time. Spoilers aren't. For me. I recently heard a professor lady on MPR talking about just that. She's of the opinion that knowing the ending of a story makes you a more discerning reader. Being forwarned makes your perceptions of the story different. I believe this to be true, but I believe that spoilers piss some people off. What doesn't. We all got our cross to bear.
Our second feature was also adapted from a story. This time from a horror writer. Maybe you heard of him. H. P. Lovecraft. Just kiddin'. Dreams in the Witch House is part of the Masters Of Horror series that runs on Showtime. This is Stuart Gordon's film. It's not too bad. A student at Miskatonic University looks for a room in a rundown boarding house. His landlord is a creep, there's an old guy who worships loudly by banging his head on a table, and a single mom with small baby. The room is cheap because the house is haunted. An old witch haunts it. She's got a rat pal with a human face. She's written up, with a picture drawn in blood, in the Necrominicon that fabled Lovecraft book of evil. There's a copy in the Miskatonic U Library. Our student starts having dreams, weirder and weirder ones, about the witch and her rat pal. The witch seduces our boy and that turns out pretty bad for him. It's even worse for the mom and her baby. Poor baby. DITWH is not as good of an adaptation as ASD. They cut some story out and changed the characters to fit the films needs. I tried reading the story and find I can barely read Lovecraft anymore. It just doesn't appeal to me anymore. Some mathmaticians have some trouble with the math in Lovecraft's story, too. If I have to be exposed to Lovecraft I would rather take it in
suppository movie form. And again this one wasn't too bad. There are some changes in people from the story to the movie and there's some sex that wouldn't be in Lovecraft. The acting is fair to good. No one stands out. The production value is ok. A few minor scares and you're all set. An average piece of average entertainment, with some gore. Not worth buying in it's solo packaging for 12 bucks. Some guy I know thinks they will package them all together sometime in the future. Ah, the future, when all of our problems will be fixed and there will be free cheese for everyone. And good cheese, not that crappy cheese. While I'm waiting for that to happen I think I'll have some Cheetos and finish watching Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. That's some good cheese.