Never Bet The Devil Your Head…

So I finally watched my brother’s movie last night.

Backstory: Last summer (or the summer before? I can’t remember…) my brother David and a bunch of his friends made a movie based on three short stories by Edgar Allan Poe called Betting The Devil Your Head. The film itself is three stories stitched together, kind of like Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye, but without the one unifying element in each story. They finished editing the film and ended up screening it in Ottawa a few months ago and for Christmas, my brother provided each of us with a screener so we can watch it for ourselves in case it never gets distributed.

Truth be told, I was unsure what to expect from the film. Up to this point most of the projects my brother and his friends have made have been really weird YouTube videos and a crazy Christmas video about a stuffed monkey they found. But I was actually surprised with how professional the whole thing was. While I’m not 100% sold on the quality of the thing, no one can say they didn’t try to do the best they could with what they had. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t think it was good. I’m just not sure it was supposed to be as funny as I found it.

The first story was “The Tell-Tale Heart,” one of Poe’s better known stories and a smart story to start the film with. By choosing a story that audiences can recognize, the filmmakers (Kristian Lariviere and Garrett Quirk) ensure that they grab the audience’s attention, if only for this first segment. The story is pretty well-known – a young mad goes mad and murders the elderly man he lives with and proceeds to chop up his body and hide it beneath the floorboards. When the police come to investigate, he believes he’s gotten away with it… until he starts to hear the beating of the dead man’s heart from beneath the floor. The dialogue is all written in Poe’s original style, which is an interesting choice since neither of the other segments follow this style. The unfolding of the tale was all very melodramatic and even a little corny, but I’m not entirely sure that wasn’t intentional. It doesn’t help that Garrett, who helped write the screenplay and plays a main character in all three stories, is my brother’s best friend and therefore hard for me to take too seriously. He’s usually such a joker that to watch him staring at a sleeping old man is not so much menacing as it is comical. But maybe it was supposed to be taken that way? Maybe we’re not supposed to find it suspenseful. Maybe the performances were so over-the-top in the hopes that those who knew what to expect from the story could at least find humour in it. Or maybe I’m giving them too much credit.

The second segment was actually my favourite and incidentally was also the one my brother had a major role in. The story is called “King Pest” and is about two young dudes who try to skip out on a bar tab by hiding in a plague-ridden quarantine zone. While wandering around there they stumble upon an outdoor dinner party that David’s character “Legs” accurately describes as “….Odd.” What I found most entertaining about this story is that it appears to take place in modern-day and most of the dialogue is very modern. But when the two “heros” stumble upon the bizarre tableau in the quarantine zone, everyone there speaks in the manner as originally written by Poe. Most of the dialogue spoken by these six characters is taken word-for-word from Poe’s original story, while “Legs” and his compatriot continue to speak in modern-day vernacular and view their new “hosts” as incredibly bizarre for speaking the way they do. This is an interesting way to place the story in context and make it more accessible to modern-day audiences. It also makes the incredibly bizarre scene even more amusing when the heros try to speak in the same over-dramatic manner as the people they’ve run into in the hopes of fitting in. I’m stillnot entirely sure I understand what was happening in this scene, but I found it all too funny to care too much.

The final tale is called “William Wilson” and while not quite as entertaining as “King Pest,” it was more enthralling than “The Tell-Tale Heart” and not nearly as melodramatic. Yet another tale set in the modern-day, “William Wilson” is about a young man named, surprise surprise, William Wilson. William is very smart, well liked, and doesn’t seem to have a care in the world above being the best at everything. Slowly, his life starts to come apart at the seams as a mysterious man keeps showing up and exposing every lie, scheme or indiscretion William performs, yet no one but William seems to notice him. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you liked The Machinist then you’ll probably be able to tell where the story is going. Still, you can’t really fault the story for its predictability since William Wilson was published over 150 years ago and The Machinist was released in 2004. Knowing that the story helped inspire films like The Machinist (and, to a lesser extent, probably Fight Club) is what made the segement more interesting for me. Despite a sense of knowing where the story was going, I found that this was the part of the film I was most drawn into, the one where I actually forgot that these were actors I knew and began to actually think of them as their characters.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the movie. I think Garrett did a fantasic job as the lead in all three stories and found my brother to be incrediblyamusing, but I usually do. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure the film will ever be seen outside of the cast & crew who made it, and their closest friends and family. But I don’t think that should stop any of them from doing this again because the effort and the passion that was put into it was evident throughout the film. I don’t have a film rating system in mind yet, but if I did I’d give Betting The Devil your head 3 out of 5 whatevers. Any suggestions? Stars seems so cliché…

Yesterday I:

  • Did another 30 minutes on the treadmill. I’m actually really liking this simple workout regime. It doesn’t wind me too quickly but when I finish I am indeed sweating and feel accomplished. Plus, with my pretty new laptop I can watch my shows while I do it.
  • Caught up on The Good Wife, Gossip Girl, Mercy, Melrose Place and finished off Californication. VICTORIOUS! Next up: FlashForward. I was doing so well with watching this when it was on, but then I fell behind and now I have like, 6 episodes to watch. Eeep.
  • Read more of King Tut. I’m almost done! It’s starting to get more interesting and it’s definitely getting me in the mood for the exhibit on Sunday.

Today I:

  • Did piss all.

Instead of working out on the treadmill I helped my dad with some manual labour around the house. Not really the same exercise-wise, but I was too pooped to bother with the treadmill. I downloaded music instead of catching up on the many shows I should have been watching and didn’t clean anything. The house is a sty.

Tomorrow I:

  • WILL get back on the treadmill. I need to get myself into a routine with this. I’m such a creature of habit that the only way to ensure I keep doing this is to make it a part of my daily routine: Wake up, check the interwebs for overnight developments, eat, brush my teeth, run whilst watching one of my shows, shower, write, etc. Hopefully I can stick to this plan, but tomorrow might not be the best day to start since I
  • WILL clean this house, top to bottom. Friday is chore day and the only way I can sustain anything resembling a life is by having my mother pay  me to scrub her floors and dust her shelves. Demeaning, yes, but also lucrative. And if I listen to the songs of Glee as I go, it will seem less tedious. At least that’s my theory.
  • WILL finish Tut. I need to get this done so I can start on “Under The Dome” by Stephen King. It’s currently sitting on my bookshelf, mocking me with its massive size and tantalizing chapter that I heard Stephen King read in person when I saw him in Toronto in November. How have I not begun devouring this yet?! No more. Starting Saturday, it’s Sandra vs Stephen.

“I have great faith in fools — self-confidence my friends will call it.” Edgar Allan Poe in “Marginalia”


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