Double Review: Escape from New York and The Omen

Escape from New York (1981 dir. John Carpenter) is a very good movie. I recently watched it for the first time on TCM recently and was blown away. The film is that good.

The film is set in a near future 1997 (now an alternate 1997) America racked by crime (up 400%!) and Manhattan  Island is a maximum security penal colony. In this authoritarian and dystopic America comes Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a sociopathic criminal and ex black ops. With the hope of a pardon, he is tasked with infiltrating the prison island and rescuing the stranded POTUS (Donald Pleasance).

The movie is very similar in style to the Mad Max franchise, although considerably darker and lacking the postapocalyptic setting of MM. Even though the setting is not explicitly apocalyptic, there is a strong sense that the end has already come for Manhattan. The prisoners are on their own. Left to their own devices, the world at large seems to not care about what happens to them.

And the prisoners themselves don’t seem to care about each other, either. This is a dog eat dog world, literally. The only character who is not in it for himself is the Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine). Even the President is a sociopath (he shows no concern, no sympathy for the people who died to free him or his aides who died on Air Force One).

In this dark world, how does an audience enjoy the movie? Because Snake Plissken is a remarkable charismatic character. Despite his sociopathy, or maybe because of it, he is a hero. He risks his life to get his pardon and he honors his companions’ sacrifice by playing the President for a fool.

I also enjoyed this movie because it clearly provided the inspiration for The Suicide Squad and Salvation Run from DC Comics. On the whole, this movie is excellent. If you haven’t seen it, take the time to do so.

The Omen (1976 dir. Richard Donner) is an equally good movie. I’ve been wanting to watch this for some years now and have finally taken the opportunity to do so.

Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) becomes convinced that his secretly adopted son, Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens) is the antichrist. What follows is a string of build horror and deaths to a frightening conclusion.

The Omen is a classic changeling story. Damien is a monster child who is Other. He is adopted and brought into the home. And he grows up, things begin to happen.

Now, this movie forces one to bring up the other great movie about the birth of an antichrist, Rosemary’s Baby. Which film, though, is the more terrifying?

The movie itself is excellent. Especially the acting. Led by Peck, the cast of characters are all well realized.

Again, if you haven’t seen this movie, why not?

 

That’s it for this post. I’m aiming to get another one in later today discussing the theoretical inspirations of sf/f authors’ works.

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Posted on May 16, 2012, in Movies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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