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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hilarity and Murder Afoot in ‘Knives Out’


There is a sweet spot where the classic whodunit (think: Deathtrap or Gosford Park or The Cat and the Canary or Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap) meets comedy (think: Murder by Death or Clue or Private Eyes). And it’s writer-director Rian Johnson’s great affection for and shrewd understanding of that intersection between murder and laughter where audiences will find him in his cinematic wheelhouse, as evidenced by the brilliant Knives Out.

On the morning following his 85th birthday celebration, bestselling mystery writer Harlan Thrombey is found dead in his study—the victim of a seemingly self-inflicted throat slashing. But when renowned,  idiosyncratic private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) shows up on the scene, it’s quickly established that he suspects foul play, with each member of the immediate—and pathologically dysfunctional—Thrombey family and household staff suspect in his murder. Flanked by local law enforcement—the straight-shooting Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan)—Blanc questions each member of the Thrombey clan, during which  murderous motivations aplenty come to light as each spins a web of self-serving lies. Like a well-worn Agatha Christie paperback, clues are uncovered, red herrings misdirect, and the suspect list grows—then narrows—then grows again, with Johnson skillfully turning narrative tables before the big drawing room denouement.

The acting ensemble—a virtual who’s who of several generations of reputable Hollywood actors—includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Ana de Armas, Katherine Langford, Riki Lindhome, Jaeden Martell, and the venerable Christopher Plummer, who—despite his early demise—has much to do in the film’s ample flashbacks. Even veteran character actors K Callan and M. Emmet Walsh show up for memorable bit parts, as does actor-director-puppet voice actor Frank Oz in the role of Harlan’s attorney. It’s enormous fun to watch these actors let loose onscreen with each other as evidenced to no greater effect than the “Eat Shit” scene that went viral from the film’s first trailer.

Each member of the cast is in top form—thanks in large part to Johnson’s astute ability to write good characters and snappy dialogue. Craig and de Armas are, arguably, the film’s leads and do much of the heavy lifting, their characters and performances serving as nice contrasts to each other. Craig is all wild-eyed energy and an oversized southern drawl—think a chicken-fried facsimile of Christie’s Hercule Poirot—while de Armas earnestly plays the more subdued moral center of the film as Marta, Harlan’s doe-eyed private nurse and surprising confidant. The rest of the cast, although largely relegated to the kind of supporting roles common to the ensemble whodunit, are each put to good use, with Johnson giving every single actor in his troupe some juicy material to work with—two, in particular.

Evans—in a nice change of pace from the do-gooder action hero roles that have largely defined his career in recent years—goes full-tilt rogue as Harlan’s trust-fund grandson, Ransom. He’s smarmy and snarky, swaggering and sneering throughout the film with gleeful abandon. Curtis also gets to flex her acting range nicely as Harlan’s eldest child, Linda, a driven real estate mogul who envisions herself as family matriarch in the wake of her father’s passing. She’s all business—crisp, and cutting right to the point—yet Curtis manages to use the character’s no-bullshit gravitas to great comedic effect, reminding audiences that she’s a deft comedienne who knows how to deliver a funny line. I’m also going to give a well-deserved shout-out here to Segan, who really proves himself to be a scene-stealer several times in the film, with genuinely funny outbursts that find his giddy superfan to the late mystery writer extraordinaire at odds with the dignified reserve required of his occupation.

From the opening scene—a wide shot of Thrombey’s stately (if not slightly sinister) mansion nestled in an autumnal-hued wooded countryside setting that’s accompanied by Nathan Johnson’s dramatic orchestral score—Johnson aims for a grandiose and archetypal cinematic composition. Setting is integral to Johnson’s visual storytelling, with the Thrombey family mansion dripping in an old-world New England neo-gothic aesthetic that’s almost a character onto itself. “The guy practically lives in a Clue board,” observes Stanfield’s Detective Elliot at one point in the film. Indeed, the house is cluttered with old-fashioned flamboyances like antique dolls and overstuffed furniture, ornate moldings and stained glass windows, and a writer’s study on the attic floor that will make any author—established or aspiring—drool. There’s even a spectacular chair made of knives that not only illustrates the film’s title but perhaps not-so-subtly suggests the deadly power grab at play à la Game of Thrones. Hats off to production designer David Crank, aided to immeasurable extent by David Schlesinger’s impeccable set décor, for a set design that really pops and saturates the film with much of its visual ambiance.

But the biggest star of Knives Out is Johnson’s masterful, slyly subversive script, which transcends the typical wink-wink, slapstick genre spoof. It’s fiendishly funny while remaining true to its classical drawing-room mystery roots, with a cunning labyrinth of a plot that never weighs it down or insults the audience’s ability to keep up. Johnson expertly toys with his audience’s narrative expectations—especially in the film’s second act when the reading of Harlan’s will drops a bombshell and the proverbial knives come out—allowing him an opportunity to layer in some razor-sharp commentary on upper-class entitlement and Trumpian politics. In one of the film’s funnier satiric threads, for example, the Thrombeys inability to remember Marta’s Latin American country of origin—despite their demonstrative declarations that she’s a member of the family—cuts to the bone of current national discourse on immigration. That Johnson’s able to take such shrewd political potshots without the heavy-handedness that might otherwise detract from the simple pleasures of the film’s popcorn entertainment pedigree is the true masterstroke of Knives Out.

The game is afoot, dear readers, and in Knives Out it’s best to surrender to being a pawn masterfully manipulated by Johnson’s ingenuity and adept juggling of his byzantine plot. By removing the stodgy seriousness of the standard whodunit without sacrificing its familiar conventions, he repositions and deconstructs the genre without descending into parody or losing sight of the source material that inspired this supersized romp. In the end, though, Johnson proves that people—like a poison-filled syringe—can be just as toxic.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

'Self' Progress: First-Quarter Report

Those of you who follow me on social media know that every year—at least for the past few years—I compose an annual New Year’s themed blog post in which I lay out my resolutions for the coming year. Why do I do this? Mainly, to hold myself accountable in the public square. I’ve learned over the years that resolutions kept to oneself are easier to take shortcuts around, gloss over, or just conveniently forget altogether. Each year, I establish at least three goals, laid out within the holistic framework of mind, body, and soul. This year’s post can be found here.

For this year’s mind-centric resolution, I set out to drastically limit political postings to my Facebook wall and have tried to refrain from commenting on political threads elsewhere. Three months in to 2019, and I’d deem progress on this goal well underway. One scroll through my social media feeds and you’ll see a tremendous (dare I say, “bigly”?) reduction in the number of posts about our current administration. Yes, there are a few—times when I simply can’t contain the myriad thoughts that pour out of my mind onto the keyboard, times when I feel like I really have something of value to add to the conversation. And, yes, I’ve succumbed to the demonic pull of commenting on others’ political posts on occasion, try as I might not to. But, overall, vast improvement noted in this area. I’ve also continued the strides made in the year-prior’s slate of resolutions, continuing to limit my news sources, filtering out biased sources in favor of more unbiased, legitimate ones.

After tanking both of my 2018 body-related resolutions—re-gaining forty of the fifty pounds lost in 2017 and failing miserably to decrease my psychological reliance on Starbucks coffee—I’m proud to say that Stella’s got her groove back in this area. After a shaky start in January, I’ve now dramatically decreased my Starbucks consumption—the iced Cinnamon Dolce latte and accursed bacon, egg, and gouda breakfast sandwich were my mainstays—to once per week, down from daily. I went cold turkey, suffered through the psychological withdrawal and am now no longer dependent on that daily fix. In addition, after failing last year to recalibrate following Oprah’s tinkering with the Weight Watchers’ successful SmartPoints program by adding the nonsensical “freestyle” element, I’ve finally found my way through the program’s changes and lost just over 15 pounds over this first quarter (and, really, more like since the middle of February when I finally re-grouped enough and got serious). That puts me at 25% of my 60-pound year-end goal—exactly where I should be. More than enough to declare first-quarter success on my “body” goals for 2019!

Lastly, regarding those soul/spirit-centric goals I’ve set for myself in 2019, I’m also off to a solid start there as well. I’ve already accomplished my priority this year: Completion of my first poetry collection(!). While it resides with a select handful of beta readers who I trust to offer unflinching feedback, I will next begin to scout out an appropriate publishing home for it. I will now commence completion of that handful of unfinished short stories I mentioned in my New Year’s post and find fitting homes for those while I await word on the one that was submitted to a very cool themed anthology earlier in the year. I also set out to perform more acts of kindness this year, with a goal of performing one random act of charity/kindness per month. Although the acts have been small, I’ve kept kindness on my mind through the first three months of the year—and will continue to do so. Good progress on the “soul” goals!

So, enough about me. How are YOU doing on your goals for 2019?

Friday, March 8, 2019

Revisiting 'Amityville'


Among the sequel craze that started in the 1980s with Halloween and Friday the 13th, many might be surprised to learn that the modern-day horror film franchise with the most films to its name is The Amityville Horror. With a canon of 21 associated films (including sequels, reboots, and in-name-only knockoffs), The Amityville Horror franchise has eclipsed both Halloween (with 11) and Friday the 13th (with 12).
So it might come as a bit of a surprise when noted genre veteran Daniel Farrands—whose credits include screenplays for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and the 2007 adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, directorial work on a number of notable documentary features on film franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, and Friday the 13th, and numerous producer gigs—would mine the Amityville archives for his feature film directorial debut.
The Amityville Murders, which Farrands also wrote and produced, goes back to the real-life events that led to the original horror: The six gunshot murders at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, carried out by Ronald DeFeo on the night of November 13th, 1974. DeFeo, in court testimony, claimed that voices coming from within the house drove him to kill every member of his immediate family. Although DeFeo was sentenced to (and remains in) prison, a mythos developed around the house itself when the Lutz family, who moved into the titular residence in late 1975, fled after less than a month because of the alleged supernatural events that served as the source material for Jay Anson’s bestselling 1977 book of the same name, which was based on about 45 hours of tape-recorded recollections from the Lutz family. The book became the ’79 film starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder, and Rod Steiger that went on to gross $86.4 million on a $4.7 million budget. In one of the longest-running acts of source material cannibalism, The Amityville Horror story has been artistically excavated, twisted and reconfigured, retold, and expanded upon for nearly four decades—with varying results.
Enter Farrands. Wisely, he opts to return to the scene of the crime—literally and creatively. Rather than add to the convoluted Amityville mythos, he chooses to revisit the story of Ronald DeFeo in what amounts to a proper prequel to the ’79 film. Diehard Amityville aficionados will note that 1982’s Amityville II: The Possession also attempted to loosely prequelize the pre-Lutz events, but Farrands’ outing is a more faithful retelling, coated with a nice period piece sheen.
The 1974 DeFeo’s are a suburban Long Island family whose outward picture-postcard success belies the dysfunction within. Patriarch Ronnie (an excellent Paul Ben-Victor) is the quintessential abusive husband and father, offering intimidation and beatings in private and paternal hugs in public. Wife and mother Louise (Diane Franklin) is that typical abused spouse who walks a fine line between trying to keep Ronnie’s rage at bay while facilitating some semblance of normalcy for her children. Eldest son Ronald (nicknamed “Butch”) is a directionless slacker and drug user while eldest daughter Dawn (Chelsea Ricketts) is smart, pretty, and protective of her older brother. There are three other siblings—Alison, Marc, and Jody—but they’re largely relegated to the periphery here, with Farrands choosing to focus his narrative on the DeFeo parents and their two oldest offspring.
Farrands spends time painting his cinematic picture of the DeFeo’s and their dysfunction—from Ronnie’s shady mafia dealings to Ronald Jr’s drug use and the especially volatile relationship between the two. At some point early on, both Lainie Kazan and Burt Young (who, in a nice wink to franchise fans, was also in Amityville 2 with Franklin) show up as Louise’s parents—with grandpa Brigante gifting Ronald and Dawn new cars on their shared birthday and Nona getting her hackles up when Louise casually mentions a possible West Coast relocation. “You’re going to sell my house?” she asks, practically drooling ill-omen. These early scenes are outstanding, even if the Long Island accents are a tad too exaggerated and the family’s Italian-Americanness bordering on caricature at times.
It’s revealed that Ronald Jr. and Dawn also mess around with the occult down in a little basement crawlspace with red cinderblock walls (aka the infamous “Red Room”). At some point, the dark forces within the house (it’s purported to be built upon land where the local Shinnecock Indian tribe had once abandoned their mentally ill and dying, an idea rejected by local Native American leaders) start their whispering through the walls and take possession of Ronald Jr. that culminates in the murders. The supernatural foreplay is effective although most of the visuals and set pieces will ring familiar to anyone who’s seen a Paranormal Activity film. Recycled but competent scares abound as the tension escalates.
Overall, The Amityville Murders hits its marks. Caveat: I’ve not seen a single Amityville film since the three-dimensional third so I may not be as jaded or franchise-weary as many reviewers seem to be. Farrands’s direction is solid, his pacing tight, and he really knows how to strikingly frame his shots. He also gets some major props for giving Diane Franklin a role befitting her talent. She’s been too-long relegated to shorts and subpar material in recent years for an actress of her stature and talent.
The standout here is John Robinson who does most of the film’s heavy lifting as Ronald Jr. He convincingly portrays a man slipping into madness, seamlessly shifting from anger and rage to vulnerability and melancholy with all the requisite raw emotion. It’s actually in considering Robinson’s performance where one might realize that Farrands missed a golden opportunity to muddy the waters a bit and aim higher with his franchise contribution. Instead of presenting the audience with a predetermined supernatural origin to Ronald Jr’s slip down the rabbit hole, layer in some ambiguity to suggest it might have been the drugs or PTSD from years of mental and physical abuse or even an undiagnosed mental illness like schizophrenia (the onset of which would correspond with the character’s age)—perhaps a combination of all these internal and external factors. When you make a movie based on real-life events and your audience knows the story’s ending from the outset, you need something else to make your mark. Leaving the audience pondering—and ultimately deciding for themselves—the origin of Ronald DeFeo’s eventual murderous snap would have added a decidedly cerebral element that would have elevated The Amityville Murders beyond the limits of its well-trodden zip code. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Hell Hath No Fury (Like Women in Horror)

February marks the annual celebration of women’s contributions to the horror genre, aptly dubbed “Women in Horror Month.” This international, grassroots initiative is now in its tenth year of encouraging support and recognition of the underrepresented work of women in the horror field.

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to celebrate “Women in Horror Month” by focusing on horror in its written forms by showcasing 51 female horror writers and 49 of their works—10 poetry collections, 13 single-author short story collections, 12 novels, 10 non-fiction books, and even a trio of anthologies for good measure. With no disrespect intended, I’m purposefully omitting the obvious suspects like Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley in favor of exposing readers to some names they may not be immediately familiar with. I’m also limiting mention of each author to a single representative work (with the exception of one whose scope of work garners mention of three titles), noting that several of these gifted writers have written and published in numerous forms and formats. 

Since poetry is my new jam, I’m beginning here with ten of my favorite dark poets of the female persuasion and a representative collection from each:
·         Helen Marshall – The Sex Lives of Monsters

·         Claire C. Holland – I Am Not Your Final Girl

·         Saba Syed Razvi – In Crocodile Gardens

·         Stephanie M. Wytovich – Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

·         Angela Yuriko Smith – In Favor of Pain

·         Daphne Gottlieb – Final Girl

·         Charlee Jacob – Heresy

·         Linda Addison – Being Full of Light, Insubstantial

·         Rain Graves – Barfodder: Poetry Written in Dark Bars and Questionable Cafes

·         Marge Simon – The Mad Hattery

Let’s move on to short-form prose by highlighting a baker’s dozen of exemplary fiction collections by female writers:
·         Joyce Carol Oates – Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque

·         Helen Oyeyemi – What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

·         Gemma Files – Drawn Up from Deep Places

·         Yōko Ogawa – Revenge

·         Caitlín R. KiernanThe Ammonite Violin & Others

·         Daphne du Maurier – The Birds and Other Stories

·         Carmen Maria Machado – Her Body and Other Parties

·         Tananarive Due – Ghost Summer: Stories

·         Karen Russell – Vampires in the Lemon Grove

·         Lisa Morton – Monsters of L.A.

·         S.P. Miskowski – Strange Is the Night 

·         Fran Friel – Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales

·         Livia Llewellyn – Engines of Desire: Tales of Love and Other Horrors

As a bonus, I’m also going to include here this generation’s preeminent horror anthologist—Ellen Datlow. Datlow consistently draws from the abounding talent pool of women writers to populate her award-winning anthologies. Personally, I think Datlow shines when she curates themed collections. Three recent favorites to get you started include Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales, The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea, and Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Her tables of contents include a number of talented female contributors including Seanan McGuire, Pat Cadigan, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, Alison Littlewood, and Priya Sharma, among others.

Next up, we move onto novel-length works. Following are ten outstanding horror (horror-adjacent, in one or two cases) novels by female writers that I’d highly recommend:
·         Sarah Langan – The Missing

·         Sarah Schmidt – See What I Have Done

·         A.J. Colucci – Seeders

·         Alexandra Sokoloff – The Harrowing

·         Mariko Koike – The Graveyard Apartment

·         Ania Ahlborn – Within These Walls

·         Liz Nugent – Unraveling Oliver

·         Sarah Lotz – Day Four (which is a sequel to Day Three)

·         Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls

·         Kathy Koja – Under the Poppy

·         Alma Katsu – The Hunger

·         Marisha Pessl – Night Film

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to point out some of the notable academics amongst the female set who have contributed some invaluable non-fiction to the horror genre. Below are a handful of must-have genre reference books written by women—beginning with my all-time favorite academic tome:
·         Carol J. Clover – Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film

·         Stacy Schiff – The Witches: Salem, 1962

·         Lisa Morton – Ghosts: A Haunted History and Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween

·         Margee Kerr – Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear

·         Alexandra West – The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle: Final Girls and a New Hollywood Formula

·         Amanda Reyes (as editor) – Are You In The House Alone?: A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999

·         Lucy Chase Williams – The Complete Films Of Vincent Price

·         Barbara Creed – The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis

·         Kier-La Janisse – House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films

·         Stacie Ponder – Death Count: All of the Deaths in the Friday the 13th Film Series, Illustrated
I hope at least a few of these titles—and the literary virtuosos behind them—have piqued your interest enough to have found their way into your online shopping carts. My hope is that you’ll expand your reading repertoire to consciously incorporate more female dark scribes. Their unique perspective, creativity, and abiding talent will no doubt enrich your reading experience ten-fold.

Now, go forth and celebrate women in horror.

“It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.”
― Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories


Friday, February 1, 2019

‘Suspiria’: An Exercise in Arthouse Existentialism


Director Luca Guadagnino’s interpretation of Suspiria, Dario Argento’s 1977 cult-classic, supernatural horror film, is ambitious, overstuffed, and dazzlingly convoluted—in other words, it’s brilliant. The film—as an overarching metaphor for insurrection and the transference of power—works on almost every level and establishes itself as less a remake and more a companion piece to Argento’s classic.
Guadagnino’s take is set against the riotous backdrop of a wall-divided, post-war Germany circa 1977, terror-ravaged by Red Army Faction bombings and background news reports chronicling the hijacking of a commercial airliner. Into this sociopolitical bedlam—which is largely superfluous to the film’s narrative—enters Susie (Dakota Johnson), a talented but inexperienced dancer (and former Mennonite) from Ohio who shows up at a legendary all-female dance company in Berlin for a long-shot audition. As luck would have it, a roster spot has opened up after another dancer goes MIA, and her subsequent impromptu audition draws both the attention and tacit approval of the company’s enigmatic artistic director Madame Blanc (the unrivaled Tilda Swinton in yet another memorable role…or three). The preternaturally gifted Susie quickly ascends the ranks as Blanc's protégé, earning her the role of the protagonist in the company’s upcoming recital of Volk, which we quickly surmise has all manner of consequential otherworldly implications.
While most of the hallmarks of Dario Argento’s original giallo are present and accounted for, Guadagnino and screenwriter David Kajganich add a new character named Dr. Josef Klemperer, who is introduced in the updated film’s first few minutes. One of the elderly psychotherapist’s patients is a student from the dance academy named Patricia (whose mania is played well by Chloe Grace Moretz) who rants about a coven of witches that controls Markos Dance Academy and the evil of “the Three Mothers”—a witch mythology Argento refashioned from the writings of Thomas de Quincey—in a nice meta-tribute to Argento’s original trilogy. Klemperer—haunted by the wife he lost in World War II and stricken with an all-consuming survivor's guilt—is particularly invested in helping Patricia. The character is played by a first-time actor credited as Lutz Ebersdorf—but it’s largely known now that the role is played by Swinton in drag. There could be much said here about Guadagnino’s choice with this bit of stunt casting in terms of feminist themes and gender fluidity, but the casting largely misfires because he’s generously peppered the entire film with so much thematically elsewhere. One legacy of the reimagined Suspiria that’s a given: The film will give film scholars and other academics years of material to dissect.
On the surface, Suspiria is an odd choice for the Italian director after the blockbuster success of his plaintive coming-of-age romance of last year’s sublime Call Me by Your Name. Trading in the sun-dappled Italian vistas of his previous film for the darker muted tones of the grittier, concrete jungle of post-war Berlin here, Guadagnino—aided by the superb camerawork of cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom—creates a purposeful contradiction to the Technicolor palette and deep jewel tones of Argento’s original. He opts for a severe and dispiriting look, its colorlessness periodically punctuated by vivid slashes of blood red to excellent dramatic effect. Mukdeeprom’s abrupt, purposefully clumsy whip-zooms charging toward the actors and the unexpected acceleration of cuts during otherwise unhurried scenes lends the film an authentic 1970s aesthetic that unites the two set design approaches.
Argento’s original Suspiria vision established tone largely through set design; Guadagnino opts to use dramatic choreography (mad props to choreographer Damien Jalet) to establish mood and escalate tension. Early on in the film, there’s a gut-churningly intense set-piece in which Susie’s feverish Salome-esque dance for Madame Blanc is juxtaposed against another dancer—whose attempt to flee the academy is thwarted by witchery—whose body is tossed around an adjacent dance studio and contorted in the most unearthly ways until she’s nothing but a protuberance of broken, misplaced bones. Aided by Walter Fasano’s precision-point editing, the scene is a strikingly gross yet captivatingly poetic bit of body horror.
Likewise, Guadagnino opts to choose his own fork in the road instead of following Argento down the same path he took with the original film’s score. That score—by Italian prog-rock band Goblin—was an intense wall of sound that blended screaming guitars, synthesizers, and wordless vocals to create an almost-deafening sound that matched the off-kilter, horror-schlock ambiance and garish visuals of Argento’s film. For his Suspiria, Guadagnino counters by engaging Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who ably captures the idea of descending into madness with his intricately languorous and brooding updated score.
Suspiria ’18 is a bold revisionist interpretation of Argento’s unassailable masterpiece, a refreshingly challenging film infused with an almost existentialist sense of dread. It’s a hypnotic exploration of the catharsis of female rage in which witches cast their spells through dance and, in the end, the ugliness of destruction is offset by the beauty of unexpected absolution. It’s a film that demands repeat viewings, if only to unpack its layers of themes. Loyalists are certain to appreciate Guadagnino’s inclusion of a touching cameo by Jessica Harper (the original film’s heroine) but fans expecting jump scares and a clean, linear narrative should look elsewhere; Guadagnino’s modern re-telling is a dense and cerebral slice of arthouse that’s as satisfyingly trippy as the original in its own right.