A Snake, a Brain, a Cabbie, a Duke and the President Of The USA.
It's 1997 and Manhattan Island is a walled off prison, during the flight of Air Force One, the president's plane is taken over by a terrorist and the president ejects out in the safety pod. Sadly for him he lands right in the middle of Manhattan Island, when an armed unit lands inside the walls they are told that the president has been taken hostage and they must get out of their prison ASAP. At a loss what to do, the authorities decide to send one man in alone, ex war hero turned criminal, Snake Plissken, not only does he have to contend with surviving the incredibly hostile prison, he also has a time bomb implanted in his body that, should he not get the president out safely within 24 hours, will explode and mean no more Snake Plissken!.
Made in 1981 and set in 1997, it's safe to say John Carpenter is not the best predictor of the future around. However his vision of a future where America has thrown all it's criminals on one island, where they create their own society out of harms way, has to rank as an incredibly adroit piece of work. This place is grim and deadly, the flotsam and jetsam of society thrust together in this bleak and desolate place of class separation. What Carpenter has achieved with his usual minimal budget allowance is a smouldering sci-fi classic that may be as daft as they come, but it pulses with cool and cheekily slaps you round the face with its cheeky satirical edginess. I must give kudos at this point to the great production design from Joe Alves, who along with Carpenter has crafted this brilliantly dirty netherworld of crime.
Our anti-hero of the piece, Snake Plissken, is superbly played by Kurt Russell, the original choice interestingly was Tommy Lee Jones, but Russell fuels Plissken's mantra to make him one of the eighties coolest grumpy bastards!, and his work here is first class in terms of the films apocalyptic structure. Surroundning Russell is a wealth of quality performers each adding their personal bits to this tick-tock stew, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasance, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau and Isaac Hayes all earn their money and flesh out the story to the end.
Calling Escape From New York an action picture would be setting first time viewers up for a real let down, what action there is is minimal but highly effective, the machismo flourishes acting more as a point of reference to the pictures time bomb urgency. I like to think of the film as more a sci-fi adventure yarn laced with darkly comic humour, with of course machismo thrown in as a side salad to accentuate the bleakness of it all, wonderful. 9/10
ProSyntrex. Pro-9. Warning: Side Effects May Be Fatal...
To be perfectly honest, after just viewing Ian Clark's (director/writer) The Facility, I jumped onto IMDb to find that the rating for it was exactly as I predicted. At the time of writing the film sits at just under 5/10, perhaps not a true marker since it's largely under seen and very few people have bothered to review it, but not a surprising score thus far since familiarity of formula breeds contempt...
Plot basically finds a group of human guinea pigs enrolling for a two week trial at a remote research centre. They are to be injected with a new drug called Pro-9, and after their two week stay they will pocket a cool Â£2000 each. The group consists of the needy, the inquisitive, the bold and the stupid, and sure enough once night falls and the lock down commences, some of the participants get a reaction to the drug...
It follows the standard trajectory for such a set-up. Characters are introduced, we get to know them for half hour, you quickly learn who the A-Hole is, and then it's drug reaction time and we are thrust into murder death kill and locked in siege panic. Tis a time for heroes, maybe even some interesting revelations? Who will survive? If anyone? Maybe there's a twist in the tale as well?
For his debut feature film Ian Clark has played safe and utilised the low budget wisely. The pic shows him to have great promise in the horror genre, his keen sense of claustrophobic atmosphere is evident and carries the story well, and he knows how to construct a horror scene. He also gets more than solid performances from his lively cast, where Alex Reid (The Descent/Wilderness) is a reassuring presence.
It isn't over bloody, or even terrifying and full of boo jump shocks, but it tickles away at the nerve that doesn't like to be unhinged, and it has a good ending to boot! If you are searching for something new in the sub-genre of zombie/infected siege movies you will be disappointed, but this is actually better than some of those bigger budgeted sub-genre movies. While it marks Clark out as someone British Horror fans might like to keep an eye on. 6.5/10
Exposed myself to some Jerry Lewis:
Who's Minding the Store?
The Errand Boy
Found The Errand Boy and Who's Minding the Store? to be the funniest. Great to finally see JL and Dean Martin work together on screen in Scared Stiff. After that, it was mostly more modern stuff.