A steadfast rule of criticism, says prevailing wisdom:
Do not bemoan what a piece of art isn’t, nor suggest what it could/should have been. Rather, a reviewer’s job is to assess the art as it is, not how we want it to be.
Well, fuck that noise.
There’s merit in keeping track of what you think a movie might become while watching its early scenes. Even if the end result is radically different, these initial conceptions can enter into a refracted conversation with the actual movie, digging up undercurrents of possible intent.
Two new flicks elucidate this thesis, both of which mash together 1970s genre tropes into a cinematic stew:
Alice’s execution left me cold, but it boasts a ripe conceit. The movie starts as a typical American slavery tale, with the tropes to match; the main character is trapped in the conventions — historical and cinematic — of this woeful genre. But then, she flees the plantation…only to land in a brave new world of 1970s blaxploitation tropes. When in Rome: she gets her Pam Grier on, utilizing these newfound genre tropes of liberation to exact bloody sweet revenge on her former persecutors, AND to liberate the still enslaved.
I’d love to see a movie that actively explores this clashing of genres, and the overlapping tropes of each…because Alice fails to totally deliver on that front, at least to these eyes (I cede the floor to voices more in touch with its hidden depths).
My eyes are capable, however, of finding the virtues in the movie that X ultimately turns out to be (more on those virtues later in the week). Even so, in its opening minutes (true to horror, the beginning drags), I yearned for the movie-within-the-movie to just be the whole movie: found-footage horror porn.
In late 1970s backwoods Texas, a film crew of young bohemians rent out a faraway, derelict shed to shoot a porno. A bummer for them: the proprietors are sick fuckos who immediately start murdering them, one by one. X takes its own worthy course, far afield from where I’m about to veer…but imagine if the entire movie was their period-drenched “found footage!” A porno that becomes a horror!
Much like Alice, this version could examine — through paralleling — how the tropes of two historically-related genres intersect.
Granted, X as it currently exists does exactly that, albeit in alternative ways.
Ways that shall be discussed on these very pages imminently.