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The Films of Richard Franklin

The True Story of Eskimo Nell




Psycho II (October 8/11)

A surprisingly decent sequel to Alfred Hitchcock's landmark slasher, Psycho II follows Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) as he's released from a mental institution and given a job in a local diner - with problems naturally ensuing as a shadowy female figure again begins offing anyone and everyone in Norman's immediate proximity. Director Richard Franklin, working from Tom Holland's screenplay, has infused Psycho II with a deliberate sensibility that echoes the original film's slow build, and although the pacing is occasionally just a little too sedate for its own good (ie the first half feels more like a psychological drama than a horror flick), Franklin effectively lures the viewer into the proceedings by emphasizing Perkins' striking performance and by offering up a handful of admittedly suspenseful interludes (eg a pair of stoned teenagers foolishly break into Norman's iconic home). It is, however, awfully difficult to overlook the relatively flat nature of the movie's visuals, as Franklin, perhaps hampered by the transition from black-and-white to color, is simply unable to replicate the lush, intensely cinematic atmosphere contained within Hitchcock's consistently superior predecessor. And although the excessively deliberate pace remains a problem right through to the end, Psycho II boasts an increasingly compelling mystery at its core that ensures the film grows more and more engrossing as it progresses - with the inclusion of a few unexpected twists lending the movie's third act a surprisingly engrossing quality that proves impossible to resist. The end result is an uneven yet watchable horror sequel that never feels like a rehash of the original, which is, for the most part, reason enough to overlook the movie's various deficiencies.

out of

Cloak & Dagger



Running Delilah

Hotel Sorrento

Brilliant Lies (May 6/02)

Based on a play by David Williamson, Brilliant Lies details the sexual harassment charge leveled against a successful businessman (Anthony LaPaglia) by his former secretary (Gia Carides). Both characters have their own versions of what actually transpired, and it's not until the final 15 minutes that the viewer discovers what really happened. Brilliant Lies is admittedly quite interesting for a while, and there's no doubt that LaPaglia delivers yet another in a long line of amazing performances, but the flick inevitably becomes bogged down by needless subplots. Carides' character has a strained relationship with her father, who may or may not have molested her as a child, and she and her sister aren't exactly on great terms either. All of those elements were basically disposable and seemed as though they were added to pad out the running time. But the stuff dealing with the lawsuit and the initial attempt to resolve it without going to court is certainly interesting. Let's face it: LaPaglia can make reading the alphabet exciting and it's on that basis that I'm partially recommending Brilliant Lies.

out of

One Way Ticket

The Lost World

Visitors (November 10/03)

Set almost entirely on a 44-foot ship, Visitors follows Georgia Perry (Radha Mitchell) as she attempts to beat the women's record for sailing around the world. The journey is expected to take around six months, and though Georgia's brought along a pet cat for company, she ultimately doesn't fare too well without human companionship. Though Visitors has been stylishly directed by Richard Franklin and star Mitchell gives an above-average performance, the film never quite manages to make an overtly positive impact. The movie's core problem is the fact that Georgia goes crazy almost immediately, which makes it virtually impossible to sympathize with her plight. She's barely made her way past dry land before she's conversing with the cat, who - in her mind - responds with a deep male voice. It's sort of the Jack-Nicholson-in-The-Shining syndrome; we never really get to see what this character is like while, you know, sane. But rapping with the cat proves to be the least of Georgia's problems, as she's soon convinced that various folks are trying to kill her - including her looney tunes mother and a gang of vicious pirates (no, really). It gets to the point where we're unsure of what's real and what isn't; logic dictates that the pirates are a figment of Georgia's overactive imagination, but how to explain the hickey left after she makes out with one of them? Presumably that's in her mind as well, and if that's the case, the entire movie could be one long daydream for all we know. There has to be some semblance of reality to keep us interested; this isn't a Bunuel flick, after all. It's the sort of thing that would've worked far better as a 22-minute Twilight Zone episode, as the film eventually becomes awfully repetitive. Having said that, Franklin does a nice job of creating a creepy atmosphere in which literally nothing is what it seems. And Mitchell, best known for her work in Pitch Black, is far better than one would expect from a movie of this ilk. She's completely believable as this determined yet clearly unhinged woman that often behaves like someone with manic depressive tendencies (she'll go from pure joy to all-out rage within seconds). In the end, though, the movie just isn't entertaining enough to warrant a recommendation. Despite what the packaging promises, there's not much chance fans of Dead Calm will find themselves similarly thrilled by Visitors.

out of

© David Nusair