Note: This is a movie review parody, using every film-criticky word I could think of, as listed previously.
Double Note: This isn’t a real movie. It’s a movie I imagined up, based on my latest short story to be published in Eclectizine (December 2011), which was actually a Hallowe’en edition, but came out at Christmas. Better late than never. Hallowe’en will roll around again next year, right on time. (Unless our Mr Harold Camping was just a little bit off in his otherwise sound and logical prediction of Armageddon.)
Good But Flawed
“Hallowe’en Huntsman” is the bold, much anticipated feature debut from astonishing young director Swereterd Madtete*. Viewers will cheer at this rare attempt at a laugh-out-loud black romantic comedy, as lavish as it is intriguing, which leads its audience to a gripping climax of regret and longing. In this unflinching look at what it means to be a lonely suburban actuary, we trace the elegaic evolution of a memorable man — allegorically named Norman — played by the masterful Russell Crowe. With unexpected realism, make-up artists have ensured that Crowe indeed bears an uncanny resemblance to a huntsman spider. This is Crowe at the peak of his powers, with another nuanced and magisterial top-notch performance.
Framing this story is a series of deeply contrived letters to Marjorie (the ethereal Cate Blanchett) – a woman Norman knows only via their shared correspondence. As the pair hope to meet in person, another startling murder comes between them.
The danger in having a well-known thespian appear in this sort of part is that the performer never becomes buried in the character. Nevertheless, this is a pitch-perfect performance from a necessarily lyrical muse of the silver screen.
Rarely does a film seem more obviously a collaboration of love between a director and his production designer. Smart and saucy set design is complemented by frightenly evocative costume choices.
The film has lofty aspirations, but never fails to be accessible. The storyline occasionally flashes back to a young Norman, in which his mother is central to his life, praising him for his smarts but offering harsh criticism of his unfortunate appearance. Whilst these engaging flashbacks achieve a gritty atmosphere, the “modern day” Norman scenes are unremarkable except in that the layered photographic composition remains outstanding.
The most controversial element of “Hallowe’en Huntsman” is the special effects-laden speculation about the guilt of the protagonist. In compelling flashbacks which weave into the present, the viewer is drawn into Norman’s sorry life of tumultuous invisibility. These flashbacks, however, fail to be fully-realised, and interfere at times with the present.
With moments of rollicking hilarity, interwoven with scenes of the middle-aged suburban underworld, it is after several poignant opening scenes that “Midsomer Murders” meets “Wallace and Gromit”. After yet another suspicious death of a local elderly woman, an identikit picture is released by police. It bears a striking resemblance to our antihero.
Few living filmmakers pay as much attention to cinematography and music. Deceptively simply melodies culminate into crescendos charged with schadenfreude. “Hallowe’en Huntsman” has awe-inspiring visuals which achieve the lofty goal of encouraging the audience to really feel the power of loss and redemption.
After being drawn into this gritty, deeply satisfying and layered existence, the audience is asked to eschew what it means to be alone in this world, and reach instead for a less contrived version of humanity.
The film’s coda is one of hope, acknowledging the beauty and joy in small things. The audience is haunted by this devastating parable about a lonely old man locked in a cell for all eternity.
Some reviews have said that “Hallowe’en Huntsman” falls short of masterful. Its harshest detractors say that the film is almost exactly as pretentious and unwittingly absurd as it is powerful, provocative and realistic. Nevertheless, the savvy filmgoer is likely to be riveted at this searing insight into solitude. Such directorial risks are timely, in a climate of superhero remakes, sequels and safe bets.
There is no doubt that with a running time 569 minutes, the scripting could have been more taut. Its greatest strength is its greatest flaw. But this is a witty, sumptuous and riveting feast for those who like their roller-coaster rides epic. The overall impression one has of the film is that it’s breathtakingly beautiful and luminously potent. The stunning Swereterd Madtete is an unexpected tour de force. What more can we ask from the work of this utterly majestically poetic director, who can only get better as she continues to learn her craft?
*Name changed to protect the non-existent
Phew! That was actually pretty hard! But fun. And deliciously procastinatory.