Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cold Snap: The Donner Party (2009)

With that Polar Vortex gone now, it only seems fitting to put it all into perspective.  It may have been cold outside, but I bet you never once thought about eating your co-worker!  Well, except for you Mr. Lecter.  You're just all kinds of messed up- cold or otherwise.  Let's jump in the way-back machine to see the story of some folks who said 'Utah- screw that!'  They trusted a Guide to lead them on a super-safe, much quicker path to California's Land of Promise.  It doesn't go well.  On a related note, the Production of the film about said journey had its own problems.  It didn't end in Cannibalism or anything, but alot of funding fell through and things changed.  The big thing is that you have to just sort of accept the Donner Party at the end being about eight people, as opposed to forty-eight.  That said, they do just about everything right here.  The film is bleak, depressing (as a positive) and all of the color appears to be washed out.  It is a better use of Color Correction than just making Underworld films look all blue.  The film has a couple of notable Actors in it, namely Cripin Glover and Christian Kane.  A co-worker of mine has a thing for Mr. Kane, so that's just a bonus for them.  To find out if a film about people eating each other 'eats' or is an underrated effort, read on...
It is important to note that they focused on just the final leg of the journey.  In other words, the part when things really went to shit.

After seeing bloated scripts like the one for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, i'm not complaining about the tight focus here.
At this point, there's some serious tension.  They have been at Camp hoping to wait for rescue, but food is scarce.  The guy on the left doesn't want to share, especially since his wife and baby are sharing his residence.
The rescue has arrived.  It's...three sick people with no wagons or support.  Well, shit.
The group leaves their Cabin to head to a stash of supplies roughly three days away.  It turns out to be a lot longer, actually, as things aren't quite what they were originally told.
As you can see, they're doing just fine with almost no food and constant freezing winds.
Sadly, Kane doesn't stick through this movie to the End.  I won't SPOIL what all happens in case you want to see the movie though.  He's...had better days, it seems.
When food runs out and hope runs low, the group must resort to eating each other.  I got that way once at a really-long traffic light.

I mostly drive by myself now.  I don't know why.
Most of them take part, but obviously are not happy about it.  Will this be enough to help them make it through to the Spring?
While the general historical facts about what happened are readily-available/known, I don't want to really SPOIL the movie's take on them.  Sorry.  The End.
Damn, this is bleak!  To be fair, if they made the story of the Donner Party fun or amusing, it would be kind of freaky.  I think only Trey Parker and Matt Stone can do that.  The film has some interesting hurdles to tackle.  One of the big ones is the fact that the story (in a general sense) is well-known.  How do you make a suspenseful film about well-known facts?  Mind you, films like United 93 and World Trade Center worked (for some people), so go figure.  They do a good job of making the story play out naturally and mining what drama they can have.  On the flip-side, there is an extra bit of suspense because you know what is going to happen.  You see things going bad and just know that it is going to get worse.  The Acting is all top-notch, something that is required to make this thing work.  If played as too broad, it would be hard to take seriously.  If played too subtly, it might get boring.  Crispin Glover is the real Star here, playing the charismatic leader of the Party that always acts like he knows what to do.  As things fall apart, he portrays that quite well.  It's a shame that he plays such weird characters and doesn't get alot of mainstream work.  If you are curious about how a story like this could work on film, definitely check it out.  If you're less inclined to see such material, this film will probably be too bleak for you.  Take us away, human version of the SPCA Ads with the sad dog faces...
Next up, let's change tones and genres completely.  Let's see if this Spider is as Big as(s) they say.  Stay tuned...

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