You might’ve noticed there’s not been a lot of activity on this blog recently, owing to a certain lockdown and cinema closure. While I desperately hope that cinemas reopen soon, it can’t be denied that they should remain closed until the public threat is minimised. HOWEVER, this isn’t a political blog, this is a film one, so instead it’s about time I brought Reel To Real back to life with a new series: Catching Up on The Classics.
All this extra time I’d usually spend commuting, socialising or having my haircut has meant I’m finally able to catch up on films from the past that I’ve been desperately waiting to see. I’ll be reporting back on their quality and seeing whether they’re a relic of the past or still a classic to be loved. Coming up in this volume: Risky Business, Fatal Attraction and Ghost Stories!
Risky Business (1983)
One of Tom Cruise’s first major hits, ‘Risky Business’ is a coming of age drama that precedes ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Sixteen Candles’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ (my favourite of the bunch). When his parents go away for a week, Joel (Cruise) is encouraged by his friends to think “F*ck it” and goes on a journey to lose his innocence (and other stuff). Though the premise sounds very ‘American Pie’, this film is much classier, dealing with themes of capitalism, greed, entitlement and legacy.
Cruise delivers a fantastic performance, from his iconic dance in his underpants to Bob Seger’s ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’ to his tortured emotions as he wrestles between his parents chosen life path and his own plans. Another fabulous performance is that of Rebecca De Mornay who plays Lana, a young prostitute who befriends Joel. The chemistry of these two stars is great, and I really enjoyed their on-off relationship. Throw in a meddling performance from Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix, Memento) and the story has a key antagonist to keep the pace and momentum.
As with every story from this era, the narrative is depressing but hopeful, and has a great balance of emotion and comedy. It’s satirical portrayal of society is nicely juxtaposed by the lightheartedness of the characters actions, and overall it makes for a great snapshot of 1980’s youth.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
This American psychological thriller stars Michael Douglas as a married man (Dan) who has a weekend affair with Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) while his wife (Anne Archer) is out of town. After Dan realises it was a mistake, Alex begins to have other ideas as she slowly becomes more and more dangerous. What started as a romantic weekend affair becomes a terrifying event that could risk his not only his reputation, but also his life.
I found this to be a fantastic erotic thriller well worthy of its classic status. Dark twists are constantly around the corner, and the fantastic performances of the two leads propel the narrative with constant momentum. It very nicely explores the themes of guilt, devotion and psychosis, and has several scenes that have become part of common English lexicon (look no further than “Bunny Boiler”).
This film caused a lot of controversy at the time for its sexual themes and harsh graphic violence, and even by today’s standards, the film isn’t tame. However, it all feels very justified and never gratuitous, similar to 2018’s ‘Red Sparrow’ where the story justifies the sexual violence. Overall, it’s a fun but dark thriller that revels in bleak twists and horrific circumstances.
Ghost Stories (2017)
The least ‘classic’ of the bunch, Ghost Stories is a British horror from Jeremy Dyson (of The League of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman. Based on their hit 2010 play, it tells of a paranormal debunker who has devoted his life to proving the supernatural doesn’t exist. When he is tasked with solving three seemingly unexplainable cases of paranormal encounters, he’ll travel around England to meet each of the survivors and learn their stories. But as things progress, it seems there may be darker things afoot, things that can’t so easily be explained away.
I found ‘Ghost Stories’ to be a really compelling horror, and one that normally I wouldn’t encounter (due to being an easily terrified guy). I admit it was the ‘League of Gentlemen’ link that enticed me in, and I’m really glad it did. At a little over an hour and a half long, it’s a fun story where not a minute is wasted on unneeded exposition.
The cast includes Andy Nyman as the lead investigator Phillip Goodman, but then also stars Paul Whitehouse (The Fast Show), Alex Lawther (End of The F***ing World) and Martin Freeman (yeah, him). All four deliver great tormented performances, and it’s that compelling character work that makes the story so enticing. Granted the majority of it relies on jump scares rather than psychological ones, and unfortunately due to the relatively small budget, some of the makeup effects do look a little cheap. But that doesn’t distract from what is an intriguing story, filled with twists and turns throughout, and a final payoff that felt justified and genuinely disturbing.
Overall I’d say that all three of the films are well worth your time – if you haven’t already seen them (and quite frankly, even if you have seen them, now is as good a time as ever to revisit). Thanks for joining me, look after yourselves, and I’ll see you soon for the next volume of Catching Up on The Classics!