Horror often works because of its outlandishness, from David Lynch to Rob Zombie. But there is another level upon which horror works well; the level wherein there might be something supernatural involved, but the gritty realism and focus on character in the story refuses to allow the audience to dismiss the project as simply a “scary movie.” It is in the latter category that you will find most of the films of filmmaker Eric Red.
Red’s career began very promisingly, with the audacious and darkly humorous screenplay for “The Hitcher,” where a wild-eyed Rutger Hauer played the world’s worst carpool partner. Continuing his exploration of the heart of human darkness and the expansive emptiness of the American West, he partnered with Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow to create “Near Dark,” a brilliantly violent reinvention of the vampire mythos that, along with “The Lost Boys” and “Fright Night,” reinvented the vampire movie for the 1980’s.
Those successes took Red to his directorial debut, a crime drama about hitmen starring Roy Scheider and “Firefly” alum Adam Baldwin. “Cohen and Tate” was a classic crime thriller, and equally as murky and surprising as his horror efforts. He partnered with Bigelow again for the script to “Undertow,” a psycho-thriller that he directed and which starred Lou Diamond Phillips and Charles Dance.
Though he still continues to work in film, he has written novels (Don’t Stand So Close and The Guns of Santa Sangre) and comic books (Wild Work), but he will probably be most well remembered for his dark and uncompromising horror film work.
The challenge must have tempted director Red: a werewolf movie based on a novel that was from the point of view of the family dog. The book, “Thor,” was turned into “Bad Moon,” Red’s second foray into full-on horror directing. Though some of the effects may not stand up today (the early and mid-1990’s felt some growing pains with the newly available world of visual effects), the film itself is a clever and interesting film with a great central story conceit. From the impressing opening passage to the surprisingly touching end, “Bad Moon” was a surprise in the werewolf genre that was ignored and exhausted at the time, and which deserves a second look.
Based on the novel “Choice Cuts” (which was co-written by “Planet of the Apes” author Pierre Boileau), “Body Parts” is an interesting hybrid film resulting from the late 1980’s, a slightly supernatural horror-action movie that has its foot as much in the arena of great car chases as it does in psychological chills. With a great lead performance from Jeff Fahey (who was sadly relegated to television and direct-to-video fare for much of the 1990’s, until “Lost” and “Machete” reminded everyone why they liked him so much), Red’s medical crime thriller has elements of the best of Michael Crichton and William Friedkin. Using the classic trope of the new limb having old tendencies, Red finds a way to inject realism and action to create a surprisingly effective film.
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Tapping effectively into the classic premise of the trapped heroine, “100 Feet” brings modern technology (the ankle monitor) and classic film noir plotting (a dead police officer, an ex-partner with questions, and hidden money) to create a suspenseful and claustrophobic tale of an abusive relationship taken past the death of the abuser. Famke Janssen is excellent in the lead role, which keeps her on-screen for almost every second of the movie, and great supporting roles from Bobby Cannavale and “Gossip Girl” co-star Ed Westwick give a strong premise weight.