Second Time Around: Ghost Protocol, Shallow Grave and Night of the Demons Edition

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I watch a lot of movies on the weekends, most of which are rentals (shout out to Videoport).

I am going to start recapping them here, because what else am I going to do with those experiences? 

Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) 

The most frustrating thing about how enjoyable the Mission: Impossible franchise is that no matter how many times Tom Cruise is exposed as zany and sort of sinister, he remains totally likable in these movies (along with Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, Minority Report, and others). I instinctively want to bypass whatever he is in, but so much of what he has made is a lot of fun.

The latest Mission: Impossible entry is directed by The Iron Giant and The Incredibles mastermind Brad Bird, and like those two films it is at once fun and packed with action. In contrast to its predecessor, Mission: Impossible III, Ghost Protocol spends more time with its heroes than it does with its villain. In doing so, it makes it clear who you are rooting for, but does not necessarily make clear who you are rooting against. While I prefer to watch superbly acted villains (like Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen Davian in the third installment), I respect that it goes out of its way to be obtuse about who, exactly, the “bad guys” are. In reality, sometimes it is clear who to rally against and sometimes it isn’t.  Also, there are a lot of explosions, self aware jokes, and Simon Pegg led hilarity.

Shallow Grave (1994) 

As is the case with all of Danny Boyle’s movies, Shallow Grave is about one thing on the surface, but underneath it is stuffed with commentary about how crazy and greedy people can be when there is something on the line. Like all of Boyle’s early 90s movies, there is a great deal of techno, miscellaneous dance music, and beautiful shots of not-so-beautiful things. It stars Ewan McGregor’s 90s mane and co-stars McGregor himself as the epitome of the Generation X sarcastic slacker. There are twists and turns and it ends up being totally unpredictable. It also contains what is now my seventh favorite body disposal scene (behind Eastern Promises, Goodfellas, La Femme Nikita, Pulp Fiction, the bathtub mishap Breaking Bad, and Fargo.)

Night of the Demons (1988)

While They Live holds the record for creating the best fight scene in an 80s science fiction film, Night of the Demons holds the record for creating the best dance scene in an 80s horror film (with that stop motion corpse ballet routine from The Evil Dead II coming in as a close second). The writing is terrible and none of the characters are likable. There is little rationale for any of the actions taken in the film, and there is Stooge, a grating “punk” character (so punk, in fact, that he tapes his band bumper stickers onto his car windows, presumably fearing depreciating the resale value of the vehicle) who never misses an opportunity to call his girlfriend a bitch. I have seen the movie criticized as misogynistic, but I don’t know that it is smart enough to have taken a stance on any issues. In fact, Stooge makes over misogyny appear so undeniably ugly and shrill that it does feminism a service, though I am are many out there who end up cheering him on.

There remains something inexplicably likable about Night of the Demons, though. It is like a crappy drawing by small child. “Oh, that’s a… a… What is it again? A puppy! Yes, of course, a puppy. I see, I see. Of course it is.” It is fun to see what they were going for, and what they ended up with even if it is a mess. The make up effects are a lot of fun. Also hilarious to keep in mind while watching it is the fact that as poorly acted as Night of the Demons is, Stooge is now an acting coach (LOL) and the dancer is an animal psychic (of course she is). And there is a scene where notorious scream queen Linnea Quigley—as a demon—smears lipstick all over her face and then stores then stores the canister in her nipple. AND the one black character ends up escaping unscathed, eschewing a horror movie trope criticized and inverted in the Scream franchise a decade later, and so—very likely accidentally—the movie is shockingly ahead of its time.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.