Faust: Love of the Damned

A good deal of the time, one has a difficult time of distinguishing “good” superhero movies from “bad”ones.  Between plot, acting, adaptation, and special effects-there are so many different ways it can go so horribly wrong.

Then there are movies like Faust: Love of the Damned.

Based on the comic book of the same name, Faust is the story of tortured artist John Jaspers (not Jasper Johns) who, after witnessing the brutal murder of his girlfriend and muse, Blue, makes a deal with the mysterious “M” (The Devil), and becomes a nigh-unstoppable demon of vengeance complete with 2 razor sharp claws on each hand (three would infringe on a certain ol’ Canucklehead) and an organic devil-looking costume.  Before you make the comparison, the Faust comic actually predates Todd McFarlane’s Spawn even though the Spawn movie came out first.

The movie suffers from an overabundance of plot, as well as characters and motivations which change almost from scene-to-scene.  At different moments, Faust is a: revenge film, a vigilante picture, a discussion on the nature of good and evil, a "what is the role of violence in society" morality tale, a detective, a love, and a "Beauty and the Beast" story, cult cinema, a film about dealing with being a victim of violence...oh, and a soft-core porno picture.  The only consistent and amusing theme of the entire show is the interchangeability of sex and violence...which is probably a bad thing.

But there are so many good things too!

For starters, the “What the hell am I looking at?” factor is very strong.  Highlights include:

  • Hot, naked women turned into quivering puddles of goo.
  • Sharp-fanged tongues growing out of a man’s chest and eating another man.
  • Spontaneous, slimy tumor growth.
  • A giant, scary metaphorical penis-demon.
  • A woman giving birth to a boa constrictor.

and

  • Jeffery Combs deep-throating that same boa constrictor!

The casting and performances are strong including the aforementioned Combs playing a lone-wolf police detective who plays by his own rules.  He even has sideburns and a leather jacket to signify his rebellious nature!  Mark Frost plays our hero delivering some of the most ridiculous dialogue this side of Dark Shadows with cross-eyed gusto.  Andrew Divoff is our bad guy, and the only thing more fun than his creepy voice is his creepier smile.  Well, that or his blinding white wig.  Isabel Brook plays the Damsel in Distress, and I only bring her up to make sure you keep an eye out for her incredible lower teeth.  It’s like she’s perpetually chomping on Chiclets.  Hypnotizing….

Anyway.

Director Brian Yuzna-of Re-Animator fame-made Faust in Spain, which makes for some wonderful situations; such as no location even remotely resembling America, and every other actor being dubbed.  This also accounts for the wonderfully graphic make-up effects provided by Screaming Mad George (yes, that is the name of the company).

You know what?  I take it back.

Despite the presence of a costumed, super-powered person, this is just not a superhero movie.  This is something much more fun and disgusting.

Frighteners, The

As the omnipresent eye of the audience hovers above the dark mansion in the woods, a storm is brewing-both outside and within. passing through an attic window, the camera drops down past the rats, and through the hole in the floor as screams rush up out of the speakers. Eventually our view settles on a woman rushing through a house as the carpet and the walls themselves reach out to take hold of her. Suddenly,  an elderly woman appears in her bedroom door wielding a long-barreled shotgun and, while backlit by a clash of lightning, blasts the possessed floor covering right between the indistinct eye-sockets, causing the spirit housed within to rush out towards the us, blanketing our eye in darkness, as the ghostly titles materialize into view. Here we are again, ladies and gentlesirs, rollicking through another night with another typical Peter Jackson film family.

While working on the script for Heavenly Creatures (which if you haven't seen it, stop reading this and go do so now-- --we'll wait), Jackson and partner Fran Walsh met with Robert Zemeckis (Back to the FutureWho Framed Roger Rabbit), and pitched the idea of a con-man using ghosts to swindle customers. The original idea was to have it be a segment directed by Zemeckis in a Tales from the Crypt movie, but after reading the first draft and seeing an early preview of Heavenly Creatures , he felt that it would be better if the Kiwi headed up the project.  The result is a movie that at times is damn scary, at others cartoonish, and as a whole-pretty good.

Focusing on the previously mentioned psychic con-man Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox), his merry band of spooks (played by Chi McbrideJim Fyfe, and John Astin), and their run-in with the supernatural serial bully known as "The Reaper". Along the way, Bannister tussles with an "eccentric" FBI agent brilliantly played by Jeffrey Combs (Bride of the ReanimatorThe 4400), finds love with a widow (Trini Alvarado), and shares a few tender moments with his kooky neighbors (Dee WallaceR. Lee Emry).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Somebody needs to get Peter Jackson to write a family sit-com.

On to the movie itself: The special effects, AMAZING ten years ago,  are still intriguing, but dated (Funny: 80's movies, with their practical muppetry, strobe lights, and hand-drawn animated lightning, ended up aging much better than the early CG powerhouses like Stargate). Of special note is The Reaper and his WICKED scythe. Why they didn't make a holiday toy out of that, I'll never know. Imagine, kids running around with a big, sharp implement of grim decapitating destruction. Laughs for the whole family!

The story has an internal logic, but is basically there to move you from plot point to plot point.  A word about the director's cut: While it makes more sense than the theatrical, it also seriously drags in parts, especially early-on, when they're setting up the relationship between Bannister and friends.   So while this film is completely recommended for the Cavalcade, grab the shorter theatrical cut to keep things moving along.