Hello nasties, and welcome to a new feature at Film Threat called “Sight Unseen,” our showcase for new movies withheld from pre-release scrutiny. Studios are increasingly in the habit these days of not screening their movies for critics (because daring to point out that Rob Schneider isn’t funny or that PG-13 horror isn’t scary is somehow damaging to the industry, I guess). Sometimes all media are excluded, sometimes just us online schlubs, and often a late screening the Thursday night before opening is all we get. The end result is the same: reviews aren’t available when the film opens, meaning “cold opening” movies get a free pass. As a result, we’ve been forced to offer a more… speculative account. Enjoy!
Venerated director Ingmar Bergman produced a body of work rarely surpassed in cinema. When he passed away in 2007, many assumed the genius who captured the variegated tapestry of the human condition had been silenced forever. What none of us could have known at the time is that he actually directed one last film, and select theaters across the United States will be among the first to get a look at the genius director’s final opus.
“Prom Night,” or ”Studentbalnatt” as it’s known in the original Swedish, will go down as one of Bergman’s strangest yet most affecting works. An unofficial sequel to “Fanny and Alexander,” “Prom Night” finds the Ekdahl kids almost grown up and attending an American high school, where they look back on the events of their life (much of the film is told is told through flashbacks of the children’s travels to America aboard a freighter laden with produce, thus touching again upon Bergman’s recurring themes of loneliness, betrayal, and fresh fruit).
Unable to find dates to the big dance, and troubled repeatedly by the principal’s eerie resemblance to Death (in a sure-to-be controversial move, Bergman elected for the first time to use modern technology to create a computer generated replica of “The Seventh Seal’s” Bengt Ekerot), the children see they have no other choice but to conduct an exorcism ritual to rid Alexander of the ghost of Bishop Vergerus, which has interrupted his attempts at scoring with chicks all these years. The climax is a special effects spectacular that – in spite of the profusion of exploding heads – still retains that je ne sais quois of Bergman’s.
“Prom Night’s” casting will raise many eyebrows (though perhaps not as many as the extended breakdance battle between Fanny and Alexander’s crew and a group of Norwegian breakers that highlights the film’s second act). Bergman newcomer Seth Green captures Alexander’s whimsical side, and his diminutive stature helps us buy the illusion of the 34-year old as a high school junior. Bergman mainstay Max von Sydow’s portrayal of Fanny is somewhat less successful.
With “Prom Night,” Bergman’s legacy is complete. Not only has the recently deceased director produced another instant classic, but this time an Academy Award for Best Director, posthumous though it might be, seems assured. And be sure to stay through the end credits for a hilarious “blooper” reel, another Bergman first.