Funk queen Betty Davis reveals little in documentary

Betty Davis documentaryFilmmaker Phil Cox has produced a wonderful documentary exploring the life of funk singer Betty Davis. A model and uninhibited performer—famously described by Miles Davis as being even too wild for him to handle—Davis oozed unbridled sexuality. As the documentary Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different makes clear, she was Prince before Prince and Madonna before Madonna. The challenge for Cox? Davis turned her back on music and society during the 80s, becoming a recluse who refused to come out from the shadows. The documentary is stunning visually. With performance clips, album covers, photo shoots, and music tracks, we easily understand her appeal. Continue reading →

The Changeling: a lost opportunity for horror

The Changeling movie posterThe 1980 horror film The Changeling represents the best and the worst of horror movies. Directed by Peter Medak and conceived by Russell Hunter (purportedly based on his own experience), it stars George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere. Composer John Russell relocates to Seattle after the death of his family and rents an old mansion. Beset by strange occurrences in the house, he becomes obsessed with the mystery behind the haunting and uncovers the hidden past of a powerful senator. It’s a compelling premise, but falls apart toward the end—the bane of many a horror story. I watched the film for the first time recently, having heard good things about it. I can easily see what makes it a good supernatural story: the gradual presence of the spirit, the spooky seance, the enigma that keeps us guessing what the title means in terms of the plot. But why does it end up so disappointing? Continue reading →

10 best movies featuring a ghost story

Movie poster for Gothic ghost story Crimson PeakI love a good ghost story. Movies abound in the horror and slasher genres, some with quite effective soundtracks. Fewer films, however, qualify as a legitimate ghost story. That may be because it’s more challenging to subtly create dread than to shock with jump shots and gore. The 10 movies listed below don’t simply scare us. They use ghosts to explore themes of greed, guilt, loyalty, hubris, jealousy… Whether American, Spanish, British, Australian, Thai, or Japanese, these movies play with our sense of what is real. The characters themselves don’t quite know what to believe, but all of them must ultimately confront something fundamental about themselves or the world. The soundtracks, all using different approaches, effectively enhance the atmosphere. Continue reading →