Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Legion of the Liar - 2006

Director:                 Daniel McLemore Stanton
Written by:               Daniel McLemore Stanton

The Tormentor              David Johnson
Eve                              Stephanie Snook
Voice of Eve                Alicia Winowiecki
Voices of the Dead        T.J. Humlinski

The definition of “motion picture” according to Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1989) is: “a sequence of consecutive pictures of objects photographed in motion … thrown on a screen by a projector in such rapid succession as to give the illusion of natural movement”.  This one is not going to be used as an example of that anytime soon.

“Legion of the Liar” is an abstract, surreal series of images and feels like an experimental film.  It is made up almost entirely of different, seemingly random shots – of various objects or of characters either looking evil or being bedeviled by the Evil Ones.  It took me awhile to realize that there is actually a linear plot, sort of.  Just don’t be expecting any regular storytelling.  [SPOILER ALERT!!!  If you feel like doing something else at any time during the movie… like taking a shower or making a sandwich or folding your laundry, trust me you won’t have missed much when you return.]

It was filmed in Michigan at an old, suitably creepy abandoned hospital and there are so many, many repetitive views of the dilapidated buildings, it started to feel like one of those 360 degree virtual realtor tours:  If your realtor happens to be Rob Zombie.  The most effective shots were of things you couldn’t quite make out exactly.  One character is seen as a shadowy figure with pointed ears.  Another favorite is someone sitting in a chair wearing a pillowcase over his head with eye and mouth cutouts – very Elephant Man.  (He is also doing tongue exercises, or maybe it’s a Gene Simmons impression.)

There is a good bit of blood and gore for those who are into that sort of thing.  Of course why would you be watching this movie if you were not into that sort of thing?  There are many shots of maggots, bloody faces, vampire girls licking lollipops, goths drinking blood from broken goblets, endless empty corridors, candles, snakes, cemeteries, and the like.  One of the characters is seen several times pawing through a bucket of bloody organs – sorting out his entrails collection, I guess.  (Oh right, like you don’t have one!)   

The only voices we hear are on a tape recording of a fictional interview and exorcism conducted a long time ago at the hospital by Rev. McAddams with a young woman named Eve.  We see various shots of what I suppose is Eve’s backstory -  drinking, having an abortion (I think), and either having an affair with some middle management type or possibly working as a hooker. 

The actresses portraying Eve - the Eve we see, and the voice of Eve - are very good.  They express the shifting horror, fear, hopelessness, and demonic possession of the character.  They both appear and sound earnest, and put life into the role.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the actor playing the Reverend McAddams.  He speaks his lines in a monotone that sounds like he is not reading the Rite of Exorcism so much as the left side of the menu at Denny’s.  I was stunned to find that the ritual worked, and the demons departed from Eve.  They must have been wimps to have been cast out so easily by this guy.  Max Von Sydow he ain’t.

Suddenly, in the final 10 minutes it becomes Your Daily Devotion, or possibly a yoga video.  There is shining sunlight, flowers, and a man holding a very “open your heart to the spirit” pose.  We also see Eve, now looking much less goth, her hair brown and not dyed blonde (so you know she’s ok).  Eve is journaling while sitting in a flower filled meadow by the sea, and she writes – “I have been forgiven!”   I swear the mellow piano track has been in the background when I got a massage. 

All of a sudden it hit me.  This is like a walk through one of those Christian haunted houses.  You know the ones, you walk through various rooms that demonstrate the torture that you will endure in the afterworld if you are a sinner.  “On our left, we see the punishment for fornication, and here on our right, we see the eternal damnation of a woman who had an abortion, over there are the damned souls of teenagers who smoked marijuana”, etc.  And the last room is where you see the light of redemption and forgiveness.   Please.  Call me old fashioned but darn it, if I’m going to watch an exorcism movie, I want more demons! more priests!  crosses bursting into flames!  desecrations!  vomit!  And at least one person jumping out a window and falling down a long flight of stairs!!   

However, I have to give props to the film makers for trying something a little different.  It has more visual style and imagination than is seen in many big budget pictures.  There is nice use of color, sometimes a little over or under saturated for effect.  Some shots are in grainy black and white.  The camera is used statically or at different angles or speeds, sometimes with a hand held effect.  It really is beautifully filmed and the director definitely has an eye for how to light a scene.  The score is mostly effective – it combines Metal with demon voices and screams, and an evocative solo cello.  I was not surprised to find out that many of the bands used on the soundtrack and/or thanked in the credits are Christian Metal bands.

So, I’m giving it one and a half kisses.  It might be fun to have on a big screen in the background at your next party.  But, I would want to say to the film makers…Ok guys, you’ve nailed mood and atmosphere, next time move on to plot.  Even though it clocks in at just under 60 minutes, this would have played better if it were much shorter; it feels like an extended music video.  But I have to say that if it were a 60 second commercial for a Halloween haunted house, it would sell it for me   

The whole thing is kind of interesting for awhile, but the ending ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth.  And unlike some, I am not always all that forgiving. 

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