Thursday, August 27, 2009


Directed by Pascal Laugier
France / Canada, 2008
Horror, 95min
Distributed by: Pan Vision

Two young woman become friends in an institution during the seventies. As adults one of them takes her revenge on the people who held her captive as a child. This revenge is the start of an ordeal that will take them both beyond the limits of human suffering…

There’s been a lot of really great movies coming out of France these last years, and if you start with
Haute Tension, and follow the blood line from there, Haute Tension [Alexandre Aja 2003], Calvaire [Fabrice du Welz 2004], ils [David Moreau & Xavier Palud 2006], Frontièr(s) [Xavier Gens 2007], À l’intérieur [Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury 2007], Vinyan [Fabrice du Welz 2008], and now Martyrs [Pascal Laugier 2008] it’s definitely worth calling it the New Wave of French Horror that gets darker and darker, and so much more sinister with each movie that is released. Perhaps much more than the recent wave of Spanish horror, the French stays more on psychological ground where the Spaniards have made some very impressive ventures into the real of the paranormal. And we all know that a realistic psychological driven horror movie will scar you more than the average ghost story does. So yet again a French movie storms the scoreboard and pushes France back to the top of the current European capital of horror once again.

If you have not seen this movie, I will for a change stop you here and advise you to watch this movie, because I have been thinking about this film for the last two weeks, and I’m going to blow this one right open here and now and I will spoil the crap out of it for you if you continue reading. But the choice is yours, you could read on and then watch, or if you have seen it, read on and let’s discuss this amazing movie.

This is a very dark, misogynistic disturbing movie. Really it is. It’s nothing like those other movies claiming to be the most violent horror of the decade and all that bull. This is the real deal and honestly you will be disturbed, you will be affected and you will feel nauseous. But at the same it’s perhaps one of the most fascinating movies of the wave of new nihilistic horror that has been put forth during the last five years, as
Pascal Laugier actually manages to tell a story through the disturbing violence and sadistic torture scenes that make up the core of Martyrs.

The movie opens in the late 70’s where a young girl, obviously battered and assaulted, stumbles out of a desolate building and starts running down the street. The further away from the building she gets, the more she starts to realize that she has managed to escape (from an off-screen threat) and starts sobbing in relief in a scene that for sure had me conjuring up mental images of those iconic Nick Ut photographs of the naked Kim Phùc running down the road after the South Vietnamese napalm bombed the hell out of her village. And I can’t say that it’s unintended that Laugier wants these images to be brought to mind, as this definitely is the sort of imagery that will be used in the narrative later on. Anyhow, the young girl, Lucie is placed in an institution with other disturbed children and soon befriends Anna. After the exposition we understand that something really terrible happened to Lucie in that dark house, so terrible that she won’t talk about it. The pre-title sequence comes towards its end, and just as a sense of calm settles around the two young girls, the demon haunting Lucie makes its entrance. Calm bursts into unease once again. Cut forward fifteen years. A family goes about its morning rituals. Effectively the family is established, the good daughter, the dropout son, the proud father, and a wonderful red herring, the strong independent mom who has been fixing the water mains in the garden. As an audience we start looking for identification traits to see which of the two girls from the prologue is here. Is it Anna or is it Lucie who has been adopted into this happy family?

But you will soon understand that neither of the two pre-title girls are part of this family as Lucie [Mylène Jampanoï] makes her dramatic entrance into the house and slays all of the family with a shotgun and her emotional stare. This is also the first of many cunning plot twists that Laugier has written into Martyrs. Deceiving the audience into believing that one of the girls from the prologue is part of the family is a cunning device, and it also plays along with our familiarity with the genre. The poor traumatized child gets adopted and adapts into a new family before all hell breaks loose. But here the hell breaks loose as Lucie storms through the house taking her vengeance on the people she claims to be responsible for her abduction and torture all those years ago. Also we generally think of people who adopt lesser fortunate children to be nice people, so this really makes us uneasy, as we are not prepared for these “Seemingly nice” people to be gunned down. Little did we know, and this is an interesting topic for discussion; how do we define good and evil?

Just as in the pre-title sequence, when the calm returns and the gun smoke settles, Lucie’s demon appears again and this time we take part of the full fledged attack. Despite Lucie putting her hand in the blood of her victims and showing it to the demon, it still attacks, proving that it probably wasn’t the demons blood lust that drove Lucie to killing the family. But something else… The Demon savagely attacks Lucie, slashing at her back and body driving her out of the house and into the arms of her childhood friend Anna [Morjana Alaoui].

Anna arrives at the scene and starts to sort things out. Lucie tells Anna of the unseen demon attacking her again, and Anna indicates that she’s not quite on the same page as Lucie when it comes to the demon. But still, her love for Lucie is her drive and she goes about disposing of the bodies. Anna is the stable counterpart to Lucie’s frenzied psychosis. Anna sends Lucie to bed and starts clearing the bodies from the house. As mentioned in the pre-title sequence Anna has taken quite a mother role towards Lucie, and apparently still does, as she comforts, tends to and cleans up after Lucie. As Anna tries to dispose of the bodies, she also realizes that the mother is still alive!

Torn between her loyalty towards Lucie and her senses and values, she tries to help the mother to escape. A complex problem, as she acts out of empathy, but betrays Lucie at the same time. Once again the question of what is good and what is bad is raised. Should she help the surviving victim even though her lifelong friend was held captive and tortured by her? At the same time makes it known that she doesn’t really believe in Lucie’s motive for the killings. The heart broken Lucie observes Anna trying to aid the mother out, and after attacking the mother and making sure that she is dead this time, she turns her sights to Anna.

Once again the narrative makes a 180 turn and sports the two women against each other. Love and betrayal are strong themes that drive this part of the movie, as Lucie devastated and heartbroken after realizing that Anna has betrayed her, and on top of that exposed the tormenting demon to be just an inner demon of Lucie’s has a final break down. All these years of torment are too much for her and she rushes out of the house only to take her own life! The audience gasps in shock! This is probably the most effective shock death of the lead character since
Hitchcock first thought up the device back in Psycho in fifty years ago. It hits really really hard, and the audience never sees this one coming. Once again a brilliant plot device used to perfection by Laugier and this is still only early stages of the movie.

With her best friend and love interest dead, Anna turns to the only person that she has left in the world, her mother. Once again the Love/betrayal/disappointment card is played as the comfort she seeks in her mother is not received. At the same time the mallet that Lucie previously trashed the apartment with topples into a cavity behind the wall revealing an entrance to a hidden underground dungeon. Anna puts down the receiver on the counter and investigates the secret passage only to find that there is indeed a dungeon down below. A rush of insight hit’s us/Anna, as we realize that Lucie was telling the truth. The people she killed where the fiends that kidnapped and tortured her. Ironically the neglect of belief led to her suicide and Anna has to deal with the guilt of disbelieving her friend. But to make things worse, Anna finds a captive woman in the dungeon, solidly proving that this is the family Lucie was searching for all those years.

Anna helps the woman up from the torture chamber, tends to her wounds and tries to communicate with the harrowed figure but in a final twist the members of the cult responsible for the kidnappings, break into the house and seize Anna, imprisoning her in the dungeon.

Finally the movie moves into shocking new ground as it with out resistance moves into the harrowing last third of the movie, an even darker tone that what has gone before. Anna, now a held captive in the underground dungeon, meets Mademoiselle [Catherine Bégin], the ringleader, who explains what the cult are dedicated to; creating martyrs. By showing Anna images of severe death and torture (remember the Kim Phùc reference earlier on? Well here those images come back as part of the narrative), where the victims, have reached an almost trance like state. Mademoiselle explains that these people have overcome their pain and have found peace in their suffering, hence becoming Martyrs. Needless to say the twenty five minutes that follow are horrific and agonizing as Anna is tortured and battered continuously in the cult’s strange attempt to create a martyr. But at the same time there is something rather unique that happens here, as Laugier uses the final torture sequence to tell his story. Avoiding the traditional convention of close-up’s on special effects and shock realism Laugier’s prolonged suffering becomes part of the narrative.

Be warned, this movie is disturbing, very disturbing. And
Laugier has said on record that the movie is the result of a severe depression in which he envisioned the movie, which is appropriate, because it is a very dark and depressing movie. But after letting it sink in I started to appreciate the finer details of this movie, the innovative way that Laugier tells his tale and despite the terrifying ending actually gives us a somewhat “Happy Ending” and just how the hell do get to that conclusion you may be asking? Well with the smart and cunning use of a contrast frame which forces us to choose the lesser of two evils you can interpret this movie in the following way, but first ask the following question; Does Anna simply become a victim of the cult and die a terrible pointless death or does she turn into a heroic figure as she becomes a martyr?

Here’s how it works: the cult have been capturing and torturing young women systematically for years, and the chance of Anna escaping is minuscule. We understand that Anna will be beaten and tortured repeatedly until she dies in pain, goes insane or becomes a martyr. (And then dies elevated above the pain. Remember that’s what Mademoiselle told her happens to martyrs.) We come to the insight that Anna gives in to the pain and suffering when she hears the voice of Lucie telling her it’s Ok to let go and rise about the pain. (Lucie is Anna’s inner demon, but instead of a terrorizing one, she is a supportive, loving one. Facing your inner demons is part of the martyr process; Lucie had the caged woman she failed to save upon her escape, meaning that her demon is metaphorically her guilt coming back to haunt and punish her.) The tremendous amount of disturbing imagery we view as Anna is pushed further and further into oblivion, and finally skinned alive, we know that if she becomes a martyr she will be in no pain. So obviously by using the contrast frame we are manipulated into hoping that Anna becomes a martyr, for then she will be free of her suffering and will feel no pain of a continued beating and torment until she goes insane like the woman she freed earlier on in the movie.

So in a sinister and poetic way, by becoming a martyr Anna achieves the ultimate goal, she became free of our world and feels no pain hence escaping the tortures of the dungeon and the cult. Anna wins.

The added ending, with Mademoiselle and the cult is strange, but does offer a wide range of suggestive ending interptetations. Did Anna tell her what the afterlife is like, is there an after life or not? There are many questions to ask, and I feel that this ending, contrary to what many others have said, does not justify the violence towards Anna. This is a simple chance ending with no real logic, and I feel that this small appendix should have been clipped. Keep the ending with the cult gathering to show their respects and worship of Anna the martyr, but ditch this confusing last scene that really doesn’t add anything to the movie. The shock death of Lucie works, but you won’t catch me twice, so as soon as Anna is dead so is the movie. Time to brush off the popcorn, find the remote and flip over to the extra features…

In many ways I feel that
Laugier actually manages to achieve what many before him have feebly tried, but only failed. He brings the pain - pleasure, life- death full circle and by using a contrast frame he manipulates the audience to finding relief in the death of Anna. Her martyrdom becomes our salvation too.

In a brief summary the movie can be broken down into three parts with three different approaches to the narrative. All with equally disturbing impacts at the climax of each part. The first sees the back-story of the two young girls which ends with Anna being appointed a “real mother [platonic] to Lucie” and the crazed demon attacking Lucie. We understand that she is still not free of her tormentor.

The second part is the revenge and divergence of the two women Lucie takes her revenge, Anna helps to sort things out, we understand that Anna still is the Mother character in this relationship, and when Lucie takes her life Anna regresses to a child again, and calls her own mother for comfort.

The final third is the horrendous torture and suffering of Anna at the hands of the cult. Abandoned by all, Anna regresses even further, and when Lucie talks to her (through visions) the roles are flipped over, it is now Lucie who is taking care and comforting Anna, by speaking to Anna in her visions, Lucie clearly forgives the previous betrayal and allows Anna to give in to the torture, feel no pain and achieve the martyrdom.

Let me wrap this one up with some fun trivia, during the two weeks I have been turning and flipping this movie over in my head since watching it, I conducted an interviewing with
John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of fantastic book Let The Right One In for the TV show I’m working for. We ended up talking about Martyrs, which he saw at a horror convention in London, and his impression of the film was briliantly summed up the following five words; “Great Movie, Don’t Watch It!”

It’s a fascinating movie that
Laugier presents, it’s vile, foul, evil, disturbing and at the same time very poetic, philosophical and existential. We all have a fundamental fear of dying; it’s in our basic programming as humans. So forcing us to participate and by facing that fear and pushing boundaries is obviously part of the reason why people make and fans watch horror movies. And I definitely feel that Laugier manages to turn torture porn into torture art and in years to come I’m sure that the polarized Martyrs camps will still be as far apart as they are today, but Martyrs will have become a landmark movie in gene history.

Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

French Dialogue, Dolby Digital 5.1 Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Norwegian subtitles are optional.

An 85 minute long documentary on the
Making of Martyrs where Laugier talks about the movie his feelings about the movie, the process of making it. (Although no reference to that depression but references to his previous movie House of Voices) Cast and crew talk on the movie and there’s the equally amazing story of the cursed shoot with its accidents and obstacles to make this a very interesting insight into the film making process. Subtitled in English. Teaser trailers and the theatrical trailer.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Special! A - Z Taught By Italian Exploitation Movie Posters.

C is for Cat O'Nine Tails
Il gatto a nove code
Directed by Dario Argento, 1971
[UK Semi-Quad - Signed]

C is for Challenge to White Fang
Il ritorno di Zanna Blanca
Directed by Lucio Fucli, 1974
[Australian Day Bill]

C is for City of the Living Dead
Paura nella città dei morti vivanti
Directed by Lucio Fulci, 1980
[UK Quad]

C is for Conquest
Directed by Lucio Fulci, 1983
[US One Sheet]

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion

The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion
Original Title: Le foto prohibite di una signora per bene

Directed by: Luciano Ercoli

Giallo, 1970

Italy, 96 min

Distributed by: Blue Underground

A young woman, Minou is lured into a fiendish web of blackmail and extortion as she tries to protect her husband. Slowly but surely she is tangled up in a terrible game which forces her to engage in lurid sexual activity while the Blackmailer shoots photographs of her. When she finally tells her husband all, and they together with the police breakdown the door to the sex fiends’ apartment, it is empty and Minou’s sanity is questioned. But guess who shows up outside their house in the middle of the night in the pouring rain… The Blackmailer. Minou confronts him and the horrific truth is finally revealed in a plot twist that you never saw coming…
…if you never saw a Giallo before that is.

Me: Luciano Ercoli’s first attempt at directing a Giallo proves that you don’t need a bunch of violent killings to keep the story going. All you need is to delicately plant your red herrings here and there along the way to keep your audience guessing where the movie is going. The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion is a great example of this, and although it’s not my favorite of Ercoli’s Gialli, I found it to be a damned fine and entertaining movie.

Having produced a few dramas, some comedies and three movies for among others
Duccio Tessari [both his Ringo Spaghetti Westerns and the action/comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang from 1966 ] it is no surprise that Luciano Ercoli wanted to get himself behind the camera and direct a few movies. And you have to give it to the man, of the eight movies he did direct, there are at least half of them really fabulous genre pieces.

The absurd ending to
Ercoli’s career is as enigmatic and strange as the Gialli he directed. His final movie, the Poliziotteschi The Rip Off [La Bidonata 1977] was shelved after the producer Niccolo De Nora was kidnapped! De Nora was held captive for an amazing 524 days, and the ransom was supposedly well over four million. Not long after Ercoli came into a large inheritance, packed up his offices and retired from the movie industry. With a mind filled of red herrings and warped plots makes it easy to fantasize about the strange events and their conclusions. Ercoli obviously had nothing to do with the kidnapping, but it’s a fantastic story. Thanks to the age of restored movies on DVD, Ercoli’s The Rip Off, just like Mario Bava’s last shelved project, Rabid Dogs has finally been able to be presented to it's audience.

Often critiqued for his Gialli first and foremost being vehicle for his girlfriend (or wife, nobody knows for sure)
Nieves Navarro aka Susan Scott, I still can’t help to find myself feeling that there is indeed more to these movies in Ercoli’s Giallo suite than just showcasing his fabulous wife. Navarro was a decent enough actress even before Ercoli started directing his own movies, and in some way that kind of diminishes the craft that the rest of the crew put into these pieces. I can certainly understand that one may like to claim that Ercoli only made the movies to show off his marvelous partner, but in all honestly there’s no way they could assemble the casts and crew if that where the case.

All three of the Gialli,
The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion 1970, Death Walks on High Heels 1971 and Death Walks at Midnight 1972, where all written by the master of the genre, Ernesto Gastaldi (Midnight was co-written by the great Sergio Corbucci). And, The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion is a great script which definitely has an engaging narrative, wonderful plot twists, even if there are no genre typical killings. It builds empathy for Dagmar Lassander's Minou character as she is lured deeper and deeper into a sinister blackmail scheme set to force her into bed with the stalker. Friend and ally Dominique, played to perfection by Nieves Navarro (as Susan Scott) uses her emancipation to trick the viewers into never quite knowing who’s side she is on, is she really concerned for Minou or is she in cohorts with the blackmailer. The sleazy Blackmailer played by Simón Andreu is excellent, (Andreu returned in all three of the Giallo movies) and Minou’s husband Peter [Pier Paolo Capponi – no stranger to the Giallo genre or the Nunsploitation genre for that part…] once again prove that in an Italian Gialli you can’t trust any man at all, unless it’s the old reliable police commissioner of course. The shock surprise end doesn’t really come as a bombshell after seeing a reasonable amount of movies in the Giallo niche, but at the same time it doesn’t really take all that much away from the story as the final twist is held for an as late as possible reveal, and there’s plenty of red herrings along the way to keep you guessing who masterminded the plan against Minou. It’s pretty common Gialli ground, and entertaining enough to keep the steam going all the way through.

The editing on both
Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight was performed by Angelo Curi. Ercoli himself edited The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion, with Curi as his assistant, and Curi stayed on as first editor on all the films Ercoli directed from there on. The Cinematography by Alejandro Ulloa on The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion is probably the simplest of the three Gialli, but brooding sinister reds and deep dark blues create some wonderfully lit scenes. Fernando Arribas on the other hand used the frame much better on Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight, setting the camera at low angles and using wide lenses for some really delicious shots that can’t be found in The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion.

Then there’s the soundtrack.
Ennio Morricone’s score for The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion is standard Morricone fare, which is easily summed up in the word fantastic. The music of Morricone does wonders to add to the lush feeling of the Gialli and this one is no exception.

Finally a small reflection on the actors, I’ve never been much of a fan of
Dagmar Lassander. She has the same two, three facial expressions in her repertoire and never does much to surprise. (With perhaps Piero Schivazappa’s The Frightened Woman being the exception) and there’s not really any surprises here either, she just get’s the job done. Navarro is almost always fabulous as she constantly wears clothes that look dazzling on her (contrary to Lassander who looks like she got makeup and dressed in the dark), perfect makeup and that stunning smile. I think that if Ercoli had flipped the parts here, had Navarro in the Lassander part, put in Anita Strindberg, Edwige Fenech or Marisa Mell in that ferocious part I'm positive that the movie would have become a classic of the genre. Not taking anything away from The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion, it is a great movie, and it really keeps you trying to figure out who is in on the scam and how far they are going to go with it. But a re-shuffle of the cast would have been beneficial. This could possibly have been in the mind of Ercoli too, as this is exactly what he did with the next two installments of his Gialli suite, giving Navarro the lead, Andreau the male lead, and probably what ignited that reputation of his movies only being a vehicle for Navarro. But if you are married to a woman like that you’d be insane not to have her lead your movie.

One of the things that intrigues me about
The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion is that the opening sequence is terrible! The movie opens on Lassander in the bath, she gets out and ponders around her house talking to herself how she’s going to seduce Peter when he get’s back from work. Not until she gets outside and Andreau starts stalking her on the beach does it start to pick up pace. But that opening is just so ridiculous, and it would have been much better to start with her on the beach, roll the credits over shots of her walking and then start straight off with the attack instead of that meaningless five minute blotch at the start.

Widescreen, 2.35:1 [16x9 Anamorphic]

English Dubbed version. Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. No subtitles.
Forbidden Screenplays. A short interview with Ernesto Gastaldi on the script and movie and the Theatrical Trailer.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saturday Special! A - Z Taught By Italian Exploitation Movie Posters.

B is for Baron Blood.
Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga
Directed by Mario Bava, 1972
[US One Sheet]

B is for Black Sabbath
I tre volti della paura
Directed by Mario Bava, 1963
[US One Sheet]
[ Danish One Sheet]

B is for Black Cat
Gatto Nero
Directed by Lucio Fulci, 1981
[US One Sheet]

B is for Bronx Warriors
1990: I guerieri del Bronx
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari, 1982
[US One Sheet]

Friday, August 07, 2009


Directed by: Kyle Newman
Comedy, 2008
USA, 90min
Distributed by: SF

Set in 1998, five die had Star Wars fans set to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a work print of Star Wars Episode I so that their friend, who is terminally ill, can watch the most awaited prequel of his life.

If you have been anywhere near a Star Wars movie since 1974, then you HAVE to see this movie! It was made for YOU! It’s a complete riot. I honestly can’t remember when I last laughed so much at a big, dumb comedy. Sure, I’ve laughed at some good stuff in the past months, but Fanboys took the trophy and ran with it. Its jus tone big nudge-nudge, nod nod, parody, homage in joke, reference bonanza. And there will be laughs!

It’s a simple plot, a group of friends, Linus [Chris Marquette], Hutch [Dan Fogler], Windows [Jay Baruchel] and Eric [Sam Huntington] used to be a geeky clique at school. Hutch and Windows run a comic book store, where also Zoë [Kristen Bell, who once again does nothing for me onscreen.] works with the two dudes. Eric works at his father’s car sales shop and therefore has fallen out with the rest of the gang due to breaking the deal he and Linus had as kids, to become the biggest comic book authors/illustrators ever. The falling out is primarily what split the group. Then the knowledge of Linus terminal illness is what motivates the quest, hence reuniting the group, with the new addition of Zoë, who they all look upon as one of the boys. Relationships are rebound, love is found, obstacles are overcome, death strikes. It’s all classic storytelling 101.

Perhaps Fanboys isn’t really a movie set for analysis because it plays straight off the bat and doesn’t try to disguise it’s self as anything else but a big goofy comedy. But if you know your Star Wars, and other sci-fi mythologies you will spend a fair deal of this movie laughing at references, cameos, familiar Star Wars faces in new roles, classic dialogue twisted around (there’s a hilarious Solo-Leia “I Love You! – I Know!” joke that will have you in tears.) There are even sound references throughout the movie to add to the constant array of well crafted jokes. Unfortunately no Wilhelm scream, but R2-D2’s classic scream of despair. And if you think that it’s only Star Wars, think again, Indiana Jones, THX 1138, Star Trek are all brought into the circle of laughs. Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Ray Park (see if you don’t know your Star Wars those names mean nothing to you and you won’t get this movie), add Seth Rogen, Danny Trejo, Ethan Suplee (in a great Harry Knowles disguise) Jamie King (who now two years later becomes an in-joke unintentionally as she provides the voice of Aura Sing in Star Wars The Clone Wars) Kevin Smith (who always refers to Star Wars in his movies) Jay Mews, William Shatner all turn up in bits that you easily can connect to earlier science fiction worlds seen on TV or Movies.

What makes this movie so much more sophisticated over say, the parody movies like Epic Movie, Superhero Movie, Scary Movie, etc, is that this movie instead of mocking the movies it refers to jokes lovingly with them. It uses popular cultural references to show feelings towards everyday situations, Vader/Skywalker references to show animosity towards parents, Death Star references as metaphors for achieving that one thing you will be famous for and so on. It’s really excellent stuff.

But if you want analysis, you will get it. Its safe to say that Fanboys plays straight off a classical Joseph Campbell / Chris Vogler Hero’s Journey structure. The twelve steps are all there, and here’s a breakdown. You might want to see the movie first, but this is just the narrative, not the absolutely fantastic writing and jokes, so it won’t bust or spoil your Death Star at all.

Stabilize your rear deflectors... Watch for enemy fighters.

The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.

Linus, Windows and Hutch, all arrive at the Halloween party in full Stormtrooper/Darth Vader regalia. Their childhood friend Eric, [I chose to see Eric as the Hero] is the only one without a disguise. He comes in his salesman suit, straight from work at his father “Big Chuck’s” car shop. Eric gave up on his promising career as a comic book artist, and grew apart from his “Geek” friends when he started working for his father. In reality he doesn’t want to work for Big Chuck, but get back to his comic art.

Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.

Linus, drunk and too impatient to wait six months to see Episode One, presents the guys with the plan to break into Skywalker Ranch. The three friends are disappointed with Eric for dropping out of the gang, and are humiliated when he says their plan is ridiculous. Windows tells Eric that Linus has Cancer and they have to make the journey. Eric sets up a plan, but points out that it’s only over the weekend. He has to be back at work on Monday.

The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.

Eric thinks that the guys are losers, wasting their lives. But still follows with the guys. On the road to Texas they make a stop, where they fight the Trekkies. In Texas they learn that Rouge Leader isn’t who they think. Eric really makes clear that he has to be back at work on Monday. He hasn’t got the time for silly games because his Father has given him the car company.

The hero comes across a seasoned traveller of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.

After the debacle in Texas they are confronted by the Mentor, Ain’t it Cool News’ Harry Knowles. When confronted by a Star Wars quiz, Eric gives the final answer to prove they are worthy of the Mentor’s help. The gang meets the mystical “Chief” who helps them fix their van and gives them guidance.

At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.

The guys are busted by the cops, Zoë arrives, busts them out and they are all stood before the Judge. The Judge lets them go, after learning that Big Chuck is demanding Eric come home right away or gets fired. Eric feels confused. Looking out over the Grand Canyon, he makes a life changing decision, Linus and He reconnect, and Eric re-evaluates his goal in life, he sets forth towards his own Death Star. Going to Las Vegas They have to enter enemy territory as a Star Trek Convention is at large in the rendezvous location. Eric and Linus re kindle their friendship. They meet the “mystery man”, gain the floor plans to Skywalker Ranch, and escape the vengeance of the Trekkies. Now they have everything they need to enter the Ranch.

The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.

Las Vegas: Alliances are tested, the gang split up, should they pick up some chicks or should they stay on the path of the quest. Linus and Eric stick to the plan, Hutch and Windows go home with Call Girls. Windows understands that he really loves Zoë. The pimp tries to beat them up, the Convention Trekkies try to beat them up, and the battle on two fronts re-unites the group. Linus is forced into hospital and the group finds a surprise ally there.

The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.

Suiting up, prepping for the break in to Skywalker Ranch. Iconistic Armageddon, Rambo, preparing for the approach montage.

Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.

Inside the Skywalker Ranch. The security guards spot them and start to chase them. But at the risk of being caught they finally find the mothership!

The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.

They finally have their goal in hand. Inside George Lucas office, turning on the laptop on the desk they find the rough cut of The Phantom Menace. The goal is reached, the reward is at hand. But the guards break in and seize them.

About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.

They are captured. Set for punishment, but ....All the gang escape punishment through one last Star Wars quiz where they together use their knowledge and weaknesses to master the quiz. Only Linus gets to see the movie. Later he and Eric reunite and talk about Linus impending doom.

At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.

Outside the cinema theatre. Six months have passed. Linus has passed, Windows and Zoë are now a couple, Eric has stopped working at the car shop, and pursued his career as a writer/illustrator and has released his first comic book. Eric and the gang’s sub-plot nemesis Eric’s older brother embraces his brother’s change and passion for Star Wars. After all it is THE WARS BRO!

The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

The gang settles down to the movie. They salute Linus, and ask that final rhetorical question that need’s no answer; “What if it sucks!”

So there you have it, a comedy that plays off the Hero’s Journey (more or less) which is the template used for Star Wars. Fanboys, a movie that runs safe and sound along the tracks of security and convention to make a great movie that is one of the most entertaining films of its kind in a long time ago.

There was a bit of controversy around the movie after it was completed, because Miramax Bosses, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, wanted to re-cut the movie (and did conduct re-shoots, although director Newman took part of these re-shoots in post) and eliminate every single reference to Linus terminal disease. Thankfully the fans of Fanboys rose against the studio threatening to boycott other Weinstein movies and to some extent the movie is as Newman intended. Which is a great benefit to the movie, I don’t think it would have been as grand without that cancer sub plot.

And there has been a lot of varied reactions to the Cancer sub plot, and many thought that it should have been removed, others not, but I feel that this is one of the finer elements of the movie (although Chris Marquette’s Linus looks nothing like a cancer patient with only a few months left in life) as it brings an empathetic value to the story. In all honesty, it is a heart-warming sequence after Linus finally gets to see The Phantom Menace, and how he now accepts his fate in those final moments. It works like a charm to bring all the “silliness” back down to solid ground. And without that subplot there wouldn’t really be anywhere to go after the break in to Skywalker Ranch. Yeah they would have achieved their goal, but to what cost? Nothing. Sure it could have been the story of how Eric decides to change his life, stand up against his father and not work at the car shop, but then there would have been no noble reason for the quest.

Nah, I have to say it, Fanboys surprised me. I thought that it at the best would be along the line of the David Zucker/Jim Abrahams'Wayans Bros. school with a few gags, some in-jokes, a bunch of humoristic references, dorky comedic acting all taking the piss out of the movies they where parodying. But instead I found this wonderfully crafted, well told story that humorously made jokes in context to the Sci-Fi / Star Wars/Lucas Universe with out mocking it. And as I mentioned in the very start of this piece, if you have seen the Star Wars series at least once, then you should check this out.

Widescreen 1.78:1

English Dialogue (with some Klingon!), Dolby Digital 5.1. Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish subtitles are optional

Well being a Scandinavian release coming from one of the larger studio/distributors, who still think that DVD consumers don’t really care about extras this disc has nothing at all to offer as far as the extras are concerned. Which is a crying shame. I’d easily sit though this disc again to hear a commentary track and discover all the references I missed, or spend an hour checking out deleted scenes. Just like the US release offers. Commentary, deleted scenes and much more. This is a niche comedy; you know that Star Wars fans are going to watch it so this ridiculously sparse disc is a disgrace. If you are going to pick it up, get the US version.

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