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Friday, 19 June 2015

This One or That One?

For various reasons I've not been to the cinema of late and the problem each Friday has become to decide which of the many movies I've seen at home should take centre stage in my weekly blog. It's not an easy choice, since as I have noted before, I do tend to endure a number of occasionally diverting but largely forgettable movies each week and few linger pleasantly.

The fact that I occasionally do not remember films that I have previously viewed is highlighted by the first of today's choices, "The Gathering" (2003). From the opening scenes, the story seemed more and more familiar, but I was unable to trace where I could have seen it previously. (For the record, I am normally scrupulous at recording all of the films I have seen and where in general I have seen them, but this one apparently evaded my listings.) I suspect the reason I had totally wiped the previous viewing from my memory is that while it is a potentially interesting semi-horror movie with a potentially intriguing premise, it's not really terribly good film-making and is, in the end, forgettable.

It's a British movie directed by Brian Gilbert from a script by Antony Horowitz with a strong cast including Christina Ricci, Ioan Gruffudd, Stephen Dillane, Kerry Fox, and Simon Russell Beale. Ricci made her screen debut at age nine in "Mermaids" (1990), indelibly became Wednesday Addams, and was a strong presence in "The Ice Storm" and "Sleepy Hollow". However her recent roles have become less and less memorable and this one didn't add much lustre to her filmography either. She plays an American tourist who is hit by a car near Glastonbury, England and who is taken into Fox's and Dillane's home while she recovers from her temporary amnesia; there she befriends their somewhat fey and/or psychic young son, Michael. Meanwhile Dillane and holy-Joe Russell have discovered an early underground church, with a strange tableau of the Crucifixion, observed from the rear by its original witnesses, their heads and bodies embedded in the stone walls. So far, so eerie.

These witnesses are so-called Gatherers, personages who are doomed to silently congregate at every and all bloody or murderous events. They are cursed to observe each atrocity, early forerunners of the modern ghouls who crane their necks at road accidents. As Ricci recovers she has strange visions of death and decay amongst the locals -- a quick vision of a men's faces beginning to rot -- while Dillane and Russell begin to piece together why so many of the locals resemble the stone-bound witnesses. Her growing friendship with the strange Gruffudd (apparently they have a sex-scene together, removed from the copy I viewed) suggests that she too is one of the ancient folk of the wall. Meanwhile a local farmer is seeking revenge on the villagers who abused him as a child and he also has it in for young Michael, for reasons that escape me. The whole scenario doesn't bear too much deep thought or logical analysis, but in the end Ricci finds salvation.

The second movie that I want to comment upon briefly is a Swedish flick "Echoes from the Dead" (2013). Scandi-Noir is all the rage here at the moment but this is a somewhat minor entry. Julia returns to her childhood home on the island of Oland, when her father is taken into a care home. Twenty one years earlier her five-year old son disappeared in the fenlands, while Daddy-dear should have been looking after him. (Vanishing kiddies seems to be a favourite theme in this genre, viz. the current serial "Jordskott"). The local police claim that the boy probably drowned, but Daddy and his equally aged pal believe that the child was abducted; the fact that said pal is found dead the following day is a complete red (Scandinavian) herring.

The old-timers think that local bogeyman Nils Kant was responsible, although the latter no-goodnik supposedly died in Havana in 1968, some years before the incident. However we learn that the body in his coffin was that of an unfortunate seaman and Kant could well have been at large. Julia investigates the new possibilities with the assistance of the local copper who originally led the search for her son and whose own father had been murdered by Kant, and soon middle-aged romance blossoms. The story is rather ploddingly told, up until a sudden and unexpected twist near the end, which leaves the viewer feeling both cheated and depressed.

I bet I could inadvertently watch this film again in a few years' time and think, I'm sure I've seen this before, without remembering where or when or why!   
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