Laserblast Podcast 3:46.2: Universal Soldier, Red vs. Blue, Jack & Diane, Bava

Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning crop
The Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast returns, bringing you news and reviews of the latest horror, fantasy, and science fiction films on home video – DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, and instant streaming. Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski take a look at new releases for Tuesday, November 20, including the Japanese anime title GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, now on Blu-ray for the first time, and the DOCTOR WHO LIMITED EDITION GIFT SET on DVD (featuring the three most recent doctors: Matt Smith, David Tennant, and Christopher Eccleston).
But wait, there’s more! Dan Persons reviews Season 10 of RED VS. BLUE. Steve Biodrowski reviews two films in limited theatrical release that are also currently available via Video on Demand: JACK & DIANE (a teen romance with weird, artsy horror elements spliced in) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (the film that asks whether the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER franchise can successfully incorporate elements of MEMENTO and APOCALYPSE NOW). And things wrap up with a look at some titles from the late Italian horror specialist Mario Bava, which have recently become available on Netflix Instant Viewing.


Jack & Diane review

Teasing glimpses of horror pose as manifestations of alleged inner psychological turmoil.

Diane is overwhelmed by her powerful new feelings, and they begin to manifest themselves in terrifying ways, causing unexplainable violent changes to her body. Young love is a monster – can Jack and Diane survive? – from the JACK & DIANE press notes

This lesbian love story is not quite what SOUTH PARK was spoofing with the independent film festival that showed up in the “Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls” episode: there are no gay cowboys eating pudding, but there is the same kind of pseudo-importance meant to make an artistic mountain out of a narrative molehill. What is interesting in this case – at least briefly – is that this particular mountain is eaten through with wormholes, filled with creepy-crawling things suggestive of sinister psychological forces that may erupt at any moment – but never do. You see, JACK & DIANE (which managed to draw the attention of a few a few media outlets devoted to horror films, thanks to a log-line that implies Cronenberg-style body horror) features darkly disturbing animation inserts by the Brothers Quay and two or three scenes of bestial man-in-a-suit monster action. Unfortunately, these teasing glimpses of horror merely pose as manifestations of an inner psychological turmoil that is nowhere else evident. They make the trailer seem interesting, but they are too brief and too disconnected to enliven an uneventful story stretched out to an interminable 110-minute running time.
Strangely, the monster is revealed almost immediately, startling Diane (Juno Temple) in a public restroom. This “WTF?” moment is presented as a prologue to intrigue us, before the narrative slips back in time to show how Diane met her girlfriend Jack (Riley Keough). The love story that ensues is marked by some of the most trivial dialogue ever recorded on film – which, to be charitable, is meant to convey two young people who are not articulate enough to convey their profound attachment for each other.

Quay Brothers animation shows what's going on inside Diane.
Quay Brothers animation shows what's going on inside Diane.

In order to portray the depth of feeling that the characters cannot express, writer-director Bradly Rust Gray utilizes the Brothers Quay animation: as the camera slowly tilts down from Jack and Diane, a seamless cut transitions us to what looks like the interior of a human body, where long strands of female hair twist and twine around what could be bone and internal organs. The imagery is clearly metaphoric – a literal representation of the impact this new emotion is having on Diane.*
Sadly, this is all that the film has to say on the subject. We will periodically see this imagery throughout the running time, without ever learning anything new. Nor will we see any hint – in the narrative, the dialogue or Temple’s performance – justify the turmoil supposedly boiling beneath her placid surface expression. Consequently, the imagery (as marvelous as it is on its own) feels gratuitous, as if it were added in post-production in a desperate attempt to goose a film otherwise devoid of memorable developments.
Mostly, JACK & DIANE consists of the two characters floundering through their relationship, at length. The editing pace is deliberately slow: the camera lingers over every glance as if imparting some secret significance; the long pauses between lines are lovingly recorded as if their mere passage of time somehow conveys simmering passions that never ignite on screen.
JACK & DIANE earns its place in Fangoria
JACK & DIANE earns its place in Fangoria

Eventually, the monster shows up again, attacking Jack in scene suggestive of sexual violence – which is ultimately revealed as Diane’s dream. The impact on the story is nil. Jack seems rather nonchalant upon hearing Diane say, “I dreamed I ate you.” After all, what’s a little cannibalism between lovers? Still, this is the most significant event in the entire relationship – you would think it would merit at least a “What the hell are you talking about?”
Ultimately, the horror element in JACK & DIANE is a ploy, apparently meant to convey a message: love reaches down inside your guts and changes you; the changes hurt; and they can even turn monstrous. You have to give Bradly Rust Gray credit for making himself clear; unfortunately, the message fits snugly into the two-minute trailer. There is nothing in the feature film that in anyway expands or develops the idea. Despite the gristle and bone, and the drooling creature, love as portrayed in JACK & DIANE is not a catalyst for monstrous transformation; it is an inert gas that wafts invisibly across the screen, failing to spark a chemical reaction.
Love is a monster. Get it? It's a metaphor!
Love is a monster. Get it? It's a metaphor!

JACK & DIANE is currently in exclusive theatrical engagements in New York and Los Angeles, with subsequent dates scheduled in Kansas, Seattle, and Salem. It is also available via VOD.
JACK & DIANE (Magnolia Pictures, theatrical release November 2, 2012). Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray. Cast: Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Kylie Minogue, Dane DeHaan, Leo Fitzpatrick, Haviland Morris, Cara Seymour.

  • The effect is not too dissimilar from one that David Lynch pulled off in BLUE VELVET, tilting down into the grass to reveal swarming insects, suggestive of strange things lurking unseen beneath the surface. The difference is that Lynch knew he had made his point, and moved on. Gray continually reprises the move, without ever adding anything.

Jack & Diane Theatrical Engagements

Magnolia Pictures offers a limited platform release to this weird little love story, which is currently available on VOD. Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray, with animation by Brothers Quay, JACK & DIANE stars Juno Temple and Riley Keough as two teenage girls – one sweet and innocent, one tough as nails – who fall in love. Unfortunately, when the relationship sours, Diane’s body manifests her emotional torment in unexpected ways. The plotline is vague about the genre element, but the suggestion of Cronenberg-style body horror comes through a bit more in the trailer. The supporting cast includes Kylie Minogue, Dane DeHaan, Leo Fitzpatrick, Haviland Morris, Cara Seymour. 110 minutes. Rated R.
Limited theatrical engagements begin on November 2 in New York and Los Angeles, with more to follow:

November 2
West Hollywood, CA: Sundance Cinema Sunset 5
New York, NY: Cinema Village
November 23
Seattle, WA: Northwest Film Forum
November 30
North Kansas City, MO: Screenland Armour 2
December 14
Salem, MA: Cinema Salem 3

Click here to check for any additional playdates that may be added later.