Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Night Train Murders (Aldo Lado, 1975)

One of the films Eli Roth name-checked and raved about during the Q&A I attended (thus I had to see it), Night Train Murders was envisioned by its producer, and inevitably marketed, as "Last House on the Left...on a train!" I am not a big fan of the Wes Craven original (neither did I like The Hills Have Eyes but loved Alexandre Aja's remake, go figure), but I definitely wanted to check this out because of how Roth described it as a big influence on Hostel Part II. Am I glad that I did, not only because I enjoyed the film itself, but also because it shed some light on Roth's sequel (that scene on the train couldn't have been more influenced by this movie). As you might have guessed, the film follows two college girls who take a train from Germany to Italy for Christmas and meet some very unsavory characters. If you've seen Last House on the Left, you can imagine what comes next.

Although Night Train Murders necessarily has a more convoluted plot than LHotL (why did everyone get on that second train?), it is ultimately more disturbing and effecting than Craven's movie because of Lado's underlying social criticism. Although there is very little gore and no nudity in the film, it was banned in England and became one of the video nasties (and, according to wikipedia, is still banned in the UK today). Why? The only answer is because of the disturbing social commentary that lies underneath. The villians of the movie are two drug-addicted thieves, and an upper-class woman that they meet on the train and who orchestrates all the rest of the goings-on. The woman, played by Macha Meril, is delightfully cold and evil, but not so much that it feels unrealistic. The scariest thing about this film is that 30 years later, I feel this could still happen. I feel it could happen to me.

The bonus material on the DVD includes an interview with Lado in which he talks about exactly what he wanted to do with the film, including the commentary he wanted and the fact that he had never (and still has never) seen Last House on the Left. He took a template that a money-hungry producer gave him and made it his own, the sign of a true filmmaker. This is opening my giallo floodgates, and should be seen by anyone who loves a subtext to their thrills.

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