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Stuart Gordon Comes Un-Stuck

June 2, 2009

What would you do if, while rolling on ecstasy and making a phone call, the homeless man you smashed into with your car  flew violently through the windshield and, while moaning in agony, spilled blood all over your passenger seat?  If it was real life, you might do what the young nurse in Texas did and let the poor indigent bleed to death in your garage and then dump the body in the lake.  But if you are in a fictional retelling of said  incident, you would most likely end up wishing you were the one stuck helplessly in the windshield; this would be the only way to avoid the ridiculous pitfalls and sheer idiocy of our culprit.

Reas Bardo gets stuck

Rea's Bardo gets stuck

And so we have Stuart Gordon’s follow up to the superbly crafted, David Mamet scripted, Edmond.  Mena Suvari, returning to Gordon’s world after a brief stint in Edmond, plays Brandi Boski, a working nurse in a retirement home.  During a strangely constructed opening scene, complete with pulse pounding rap music and slow moving elderly, we learn that Brandi’s days are spent changing diapers and pleasing her demanding boss, while her nights are spent high on pills with her drug peddling boyfriend.

Gordon fills Suvari’s Brandi with numerous contradictions, but these are oddly transparent and serve mainly to seduce some brief moments of sympathy from the audience.  Unfortunately, by the time Brandi carelessly runs down Stephen Rea’s Thomas Bardo, we can only feel disgust toward the girl who longs for a promotion, makes fun of her boss while within eye shot, and rolls on X until the wee hours.  Unfortunately, I found myself wondering how she would make it to work tomorrow?  I am sure this is not the reaction that Gordon was going for, but it is these questions that continued to pop into my mind throughout the film.

Gordon spends the first twenty minutes setting up the tragic encounter. Rea’s character is evicted from his apartment and forced into the streets with a handful of clothes and a picture of young man, presumably his lost son.  Revisiting a similar theme from Edmond, Rea is desperate for human kindness; but there is none to be found.  He faces the constant reminder that sometimes our choices, though we are free to make them, are often severely limited.  Wandering the streets alone, he chooses to spend the night on a park bench.  Of course, the police have little sympathy for the homeless, and when the officer firmly states, “it is your choice,” we can feel Rea’s character break apart inside.

and the moment when the brakes lock

"and the moment when the brakes lock"

Finally, Brandi is in the car and heading home.  Thomas is on the move, complete with shopping cart and slumping physique.  The moment we have been waiting for, and at least at this moment, it is worth the wait.  Equal parts violent, grotesque, and sad, the collision is a powerful reminder of the frailty of the human body when facing down a speeding automobile.  As his body crumbles, his head flies through the windshield shattering glass and sending blood and hair into the air.  It is horrifying, and Gordon’s direction is flawless.  It is powerful and revolting.

From here, Gordon works hard to create an emotional connection.  While Brandi’s actions following the accident are imaginable, the ultimate decisions are heart wrenching, disgusting and vile.  Much of the rest of the movie plays out like a bad horror movie: 911 quickly dismisses the dying man’s call, the neighbors are illegals and afraid to get involved, and when the effeminate neighbor’s dog exits the garage covered in blood, the distraught owner reprimands the puppy for eating garbage.

There are no redeemable characters in the movie, making the prospect of being stuck in the windshield more appealing than living anywhere near these dregs.  Stephen Rea is brilliant as the victim, and his pain is conveyed flawlessly during his initial time stuck.  However, he seems to gain strength and agility throughout even though the blood continues to flow from his mangled body.

 

the oft overlooked, underviewed From Beyond

the oft overlooked, underviewed From Beyond

Gordon’s directorial credits are eclectic, and his early work on Re-Animator and From Beyond are rivaled only by his later work on King of the Ants and Edmond.  Stuck falls somewhere just below these dynamic efforts, but can’t  quite overcome the cliche’s that claim so many horror victims.  Now bring on House of Re-Animator.

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