Isle of Dogs
As entertaining as it is to look at Isle of Dogs, I couldn’t get past Anderson’s usual clumsiness when dealing with minorities.
“Intruder” gets down to business with an arguably commendable dispatch: A dark and stormy night. A nice house in a scenic setting. Through a roomy side window, the view of an attractive young woman speaking on a phone. Then the action cuts to the interior, the woman is telling a friend that her husband’s on his way to Japan—so he’s gone for a while. And, in a little while, unseen by the woman, an out-of-focus figure comes up from behind, wraps a white plastic bag over her head (for that time-proven “Scream” ghostface effect) and asphyxiates the woman until she’s dead.
So, having established that there’s a murdering intruder on the loose, the film shifts to an attractive young woman playing a cello. Hmmm, wonder if she’ll be the next endangered woman in the movie? The cellist, Elizabeth, played by Scottish actor Louise Linton (also a producer of the film) sounds pretty good to the untutored ear, but soon along comes Vincent, a conductor or tutor or something—his professional function in the character’s life is never made entirely clear—to tell her “I always thought your little hands were too small for Dvořák.” Sick burn. Vincent is played by Moby, of all people, and he’s actually pretty good—his condescension soon morphs into outright hostility, and voilà, we now have Suspect Number One.
Elizabeth drives home and sees a neighbor leaving her apartment house for the weekend; they both spy a creepy-looking dude with a goatee skulking about in the rain for no good reason: Suspect Number Two. On entering her apartment, she plays some messages on her old-school answering machine (later she’ll explain that she still has one because she likes old technology, and, as Donald Trump would say, that’s fine) one of which is from a friend who’s bringing a cat over for Elizabeth to look after over the weekend. This is a signal for the viewer to say “one dead cat coming up” BUT—spoiler alert—this is actually a fakeout, the cat lives. Another message is from a tetchy-sounding boyfriend, Suspect Number Three.
While all this is going on, the film’s title character, or someone like him, has been skulking about in soft-focus backgrounds and such. He does super-anti-social-things like stand outside the curtain while Elizabeth showers—and Elizabeth showers A LOT, like she’s Frank Sinatra or something—and peeing in Elizabeth’s sink. But, the first night with the new roommate goes pretty uneventfully, and the next day the rain has let up enough to allow Elizabeth to go to the laundromat, where she meets a dough-faced post-adolescent named John (John Robinson), who knows who she is because he lives across the street and sees her at the local coffee joint. He informs her that he makes his living blogging (!!!) and that his blog is a website providing dating advice for young men such as himself (!!!!!) and that he’d love to interview her some time so his “readers” can find out what it takes to get “a girl like you.” Hmmm. Definitely Suspect Number Four. Upon returning home, Elizabeth is surprised by Tetchy Boyfriend, with whom Elizabeth falls into bed (and yes, she does take a shower afterwards). “Was that make-up sex or break-up sex?” Tetchy Boyfriend asks, and you think, “I hope he dies first.”
Anyway, in certain respects writer/director Travis Zariwny, who recently essayed an abysmal remake of Eli Roth’s “Cabin Fever,” knows how to give the audience what it wants. And he’s also got a better-than-average technical facility. But he’s hopelessly addicted to horror movie bulls**t. The shallow focus shots of the menacing character, the way the orchestral scores strikes up a mess of dissonant chords whenever something creepy is happening, or maybe happening, would be annoying in almost any context. They’re particularly annoying in a 90-minute movie whose story would better be told in a 20-minute segment of an Amicus omnibus film. Actually, I think the story WAS told in an Amicus omnibus film, 1972’s “Tales From The Crypt”—the segment with Joan Collins and Santa Claus to be specific. And THAT episode had more meaningful plot twists than this movie does. And you can buy the DVD of the movie for about seven bucks. Just saying.
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