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Coroners Corner | horror | movie | column | Lollipop

Coroner's Corner

Broken Expectations???

by John Bikowski
illustration by Eric Johnson

I'm liking the latest trend in Hollywood. It seems that more and more filmmakers are no longer afraid to end a film on a downbeat note or with a shocking surprise. Consider the chain of events leading to the brain splatter in American Beauty. Or how about the realization concerning Bruce Willis in the final moments of The Sixth Sense. When I saw that film I was like, "Whoa... dude!" and then I wanted to see it again. If you are one of those people who say "I knew he was dead. Man, it was so freakin' obvious!" Well, you're full of shit. I don't believe you. So it seems that M. Night Shyamalan (the director) and Bruce Willis have teamed up again to bewilder audiences with Unbreakable.

This time Willis plays a troubled husband whose young son is suffering greatly because their family unit is crumbling. Bruce is out pondering a career move to New York which will separate him from his wife and child. To make matters much worse, the train bringing him home derails and tears apart everyone on board. Everyone, that is, except for him. He escapes without a scratch. Word of this minor miracle makes it to Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a comic book junkie with a nasty bone disorder. Whenever he sustains even a minor injury, his bones shatter like glass. After suffering through almost 60 breaks, he understandably finds Bruce's seemingly indestructible bones quite interesting.

Dramatic tension unfolds as Samuel begins to hound Bruce's family with bizarre ideas. He thinks that Bruce is some type of super hero destined to protect the human race. From here, the plot slowly unfurls in a sequence of circumstances that either support Samuel's claims or are merely coincidences. We find out that Bruce has never been ill. We also find out that Bruce was not even injured in a car accident that probably should have been fatal. There is also a bit about his uncanny instincts as a security guard; he can pinpoint people who have violent or criminal tendencies. During the course of all of these revelations, Bruce transforms from thinking that Samuel is nuts to an unwilling believer himself. As the super hero angle builds in tension, the relationship between wife, husband and son seems to ease and begin healing. Bruce no longer feels something is missing in his life and starts to feel his true purpose. There is a great scene between him and his son in which Bruce's curiosity about his special powers urges him to bench press everything they can find.

Samuel eventually convinces Bruce to actually use his supposed abilities to save a family from a psychotic killer. Finally realizing that Samuel has changed his life for the better, Bruce visits him and learns the terrible secret that provides the twist ending. I won't give it away. However, I didn't think Unbreakable had the same impact as The Sixth Sense with the twist technique. Granted, the theme of living in a comic book also contributed to the film style, but the final revelation has an artificial feel that reminds me of Creepshow (a silly but entertaining film). See this film, because despite its minor flaws, there is some highly stylized filmwork and interesting character development. Much more so than in your everyday comic book.

Even though the holiday season has left us, I wanted to point out a must-see film with a twist ending uncommon for its time (1974). The film is called Black Christmas and it's definitely worthy of a DVD release. You can find it at many video stores. It stars Margot Kidder as a sexy lush of a sorority chick alongside the prim, proper but pregnant Olivia Hussey. They're getting ready to leave for the holiday break when they discover one of their house sisters is missing. More alarming, they keep getting obscene (using the C-word... yikes!) phone calls from a person who can speak in different screaming voices. The viewer is aware that there is a very mentally-deranged psycho in the house who stores some of his victims up in the attic. We don't see the killer, but we get POV shots of him playing with the corpses and snarling nursery rhymes. Twisted stuff. Well, it seems that Olivia Hussey has a strung-out boyfriend who goes into a rage at the thought of her aborting their baby. This guy is ready to snap and understandably becomes a suspect in the murders. The next time a call comes to the house, the police trace it and find it is coming from an upstairs bedroom. They scream for Olivia to leave the house, but she feels the need to alert the other girls. At this point, they're already mutilated, of course. In her search, she comes upon the killer staring out at her and sneering crazy shit from a dark closet (scary). He grabs for her but misses and she manages to barricade herself in the cellar. She hears her boyfriend's voice at the cellar window and she starts to realize the trouble she's in. He smashes the window, climbs in and finds her cowering in the corner. We then hear a scream and the police finally rush in. They find Olivia on top of her boyfriend's bludgeoned corpse. Case closed, no need for a trial. Don't read another sentence unless you want to know the ending. Things are tidied up, the police head out to file their paperwork, and Olivia is tucked into bed. Then the camera trails off down the hall and up the attic stairs to focus on the corpses not yet discovered. We then see a hand push forward to play with them and sing them twisted nursery rhymes again. Check it out!

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