Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Anguish (1987) with Zelda Rubenstein LIVE!!!!
HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!! THIS ONE CATAPULTS INTO MY ALL-TIME TOP 10 THEATER-GOING EXPERIENCES WITH EASE.
I seriously don't know where to begin with this Terror Thursday classic. It was the second part of a double-feature of Zelda Rubenstein movies, the first part being "Teen Witch." I was at the "Teen Witch" screening, but since I fell asleep during it, I chose not to review it.
I had no idea what "Anguish" was about when I walked into the theater that night, and I'm so glad that I got to experience it completely cold. I'm even more pleased though that I got to view it in pretty much the best possible manner that I can think of, with maybe one exception that I won't go into right now.
Having an enthusiastic sold-out crowd fawning over the film's diminutive star, a Horror cinema legend, and one of the most adorable creatures to ever walk the earth, Zelda Rubinstein, only amplified the surrealism of not only the film, but the night as well. When Terror Thursday host, Zack Carlson, explained to the crowd that Zelda and him had taken to calling each other Big Z and Little Z, and then from somewhere in the audience Zelda's squeaky voice eked out "I love you Big Z," my heart exploded from unrivaled sweetness.
The film, made by Spanish director, Bigas Luna, opens with a scene of uncomfortable despair as John (Michael Lerner), the meek optometrist and son of Alice (Rubinstein), tries frantically to retrieve his pet bird from behind a standing closet. As we watch the bird flap it wings, wedged between the furniture and the wall, we sense that something awful is about to happen. The feeling of entrapment that the bird experiences is merely foreshadowing of what other characters in the film will feel later on, and maybe even some of the audience members in our theater.
John is a perpetually nervous and bad optometrist. He is also a severe momma's boy. When he suffers a humiliation at work from a customer that threatens to cost him his job, his "extra perceptive" mother hypnotizes him to enact revenge on the customer. His payback is brutal and stomach-churning. When it's all said and done is when the real fun begins. To say anymore would ruin the fun. I know the film has been available for 20 years, but there's got to be some magic left in the world, so I will end my synopisis here.
"Anguish" is really quite remarkable; it's a Slasher film, a Dark Comedy, a Thriller, and above all else, a movie-going-experience. In this age of home theaters and creatively lazy multiplexes, it difficult to go to movies and have significantly different experiences from week to week. Rarely does a movie offer something that's completely different from everything else, and although the central devise in "Anguish" has been reused into cliche, it's arguable that it's never been done as well as it is here. At one point in the film, the audience simultaneously marveled at a solitary shot, so simple, yet so completely uncommon, that we had no choice, but to laugh with awe.
Sometimes people will tell you a joke that they think is really clever even if it's not. "Anguish" is so clever that you never suspect that you are being told the joke.
On a side note, the most fascinating piece of information that Zelda offered about this gem was that it was that the entire production crew was made up of 5 people and that it was the best production that she had ever been apart of.