Sunday, October 02, 2005

Day 2: The Nesting (1981)

Lauren Cochran: I may be sick, but I’m not retarded!

The irony of low expectations

I’m not really into the whole watching bad movies for irony’s sake thing. Not really. I mean, I love MST3K and I’ve been guilty of watching something in this mindset a time or two (to wit: the ending of Stayin’ Alive… oh man is that just brilliantly bad). But, I don’t get the point of intentionally sitting down to watch a bad movie just to prove to yourself, or those with and around you, that you’re smarter than it. Ha ha ha! What a dumb looking effect. Ha ha ha! What a cheesy line! Generally, I try to watch movies I suspect will not be up to par with the same diligence and attention I’d give to, oh, Broken Blossoms. Sometimes this enables me to be receptive to little gifts that these movies have to offer (see my post about The Mind Snatchers) but then…

Some movies are really, really, really trying on my intentions to not watch them ironically and The Nesting is definitely one of them. It’s a ghost story dealing with neurosis made in the early 80s and, so, it’s hard to know if it’s trying to cash in more on the success of Friday the 13th or Woody Allen. This isn’t a screamingly bad movie. It’s mediocre at best, bad at worst, but never awful. That translates into boredom. And in that boredom, ironic comments grow, flourish, and multiply. Nevertheless, let’s pretend that I didn’t say anything to my TV (you broke a window with your bare elbow and didn’t get cut? What?) while this movie was playing and move on.

Lauren Cochran is a writer with a book called The Nesting. We first see her suffering from agoraphobia. She sweats profusely as she walks toward the front door of her house. When she walks outside, we learn that one of the things agoraphobics suffer from is seeing the world through wide-angled lenses. After failing to get into a cab that she’s successfully hailed, it’s off to see her psychiatrist. Somehow. I don’t know how, she’s just in his office suddenly. He stridently informs her that agoraphobia can be treated and we immediately see her back in her apartment with hypnotherapy tapes and books in her house, soon to be interrupted by her overbearingly jovial friend, Mark.

At this point, I had learned 2 things about the movie. The first was that lead actress Robin Groves reminded me of an odd combination of Sally Field, Judy Davis, and Judy Garland (2 parts Field, one part Garland, a pinch of Davis). The second was that this movie was going to have one of those “oh they didn’t shoot enough coverage” editing styles. After the scene with her questionably platonic friend Mark in her apartment, the movie cuts directly to her back in her therapist’s office talking about going to the country. It’s one of those cuts that feel so jarring because there seemed to be no reason for her to be going back to her therapist’s so soon and there’s no transition material from one scene to the next. Not in the shots, not in the dialogue, not in the editing. Bam. Back to the therapist.

Anyway, Lauren decides (despite her therapist’s objections) to go to the country to treat her agoraphobia. She and Mark drive up to the country where she rents a suitably spooky house in the middle of the woods. The nicest scene in the entire movie happens around this time. The annoyingly jokey and cheerful Mark is about to leave to go back to the city. There is a discussion about who will drive Mark to the train station, Lauren or the quantum physicist(!) who rented the house to her. It’s a very naturally done scene and actually managed to evoke a bit of nervous empathy in me for Lauren who was going to be separated from Mark, a representation of everything safe for her. Though I found Mark’s character annoying, I also didn’t want him to go away. Nicely done, The Nesting!

But soon after this scene, it dawned on me that Lauren’s walking around and interacting with a few locals, including the friendly quantum physicist, with no problems whatsoever. I immediately understood that the agoraphobia she was suffering from earlier would be ignored until it suited the plot. You know, like the car that doesn’t start when the hero needs it to (a cliché this movie uses two times in quick succession, getting quite a groan out of me both times). I was correct about this. The agoraphobia happens at the worst times imaginable. But then, I guess, there’s never a good time to have agoraphobia.

Then the haunted house stuff begins and it’s pretty standard stuff. Creaking noises, strange dreams, doors opening and closing, and a mysterious cackling woman who appears at unfortunate times. In true 80s horror fashion, Lauren disrobes at one point in front of a three-way mirror (giving the movie three-times the nudity for the price of one willing actress) and there’s a ghost-related gory death here or there. One local tries to rape her, another tries to kill her and both are offed in grisly fashion. There’s a car chase with zero kinetic energy and obvious repetition in the sound effects of squealing tires. After learning of all this horror, Mark comes rushing back to save Lauren, but, on the way, his own car develops a bad case of sound effects, thus delaying his return and forcing Lauren to fend for herself.

The weirdest and most illogical thing about this movie is the way the ghosts in the movie act. They, like all movie ghosts, just want to communicate something to her that they feel she needs to know. And, accordingly, the ghosties start out trying to protect her, but, toward the end they start attacking her after she’s learned what they wanted her to know. This seems a very ineffective method of communication to me. Maybe there’s a psychological thing going on there that I didn’t pick up.

Ultimately, The Nesting is a movie with one or two nice scenes and a quantum physicist who serves no purpose, really, other than a brief philosophical discussion about the nature of the unknown in science. Hmph. Why waste a good quantum physicist in this way? He could probably have built a time machine to save them all from the perils of the past. The movie’s not bad, not good, and not very enjoyable unless you’re feeling extra-generous one evening or are a Gloria Grahame completist. She’s the cackling woman.


M. Gants v4.0 said...

This "Lauren / Mark" combo sounds awfully similar to Sigourney Weaver's character (and her gay pal) in Copycat...hmmm.

Holly Woodard said...

What a shame! I'd never heard what The Nesting was about, but an agoraphobic "trapped" in a haunted house probably could have been a very interesting premise, in a slasher movie kind of way. Too bad it wasn't done better. Great blog, by the way! I hope you review a move I've actually seen soon!

Quiggy said...

God save me from the ridiculous. I watched just about every monster/horror flick during this time span. Some of them were real corkers (in a negative context), sometimes for the plot ("Trick or Treat"), and sometimes for the acting. ("The Howling" Great movie plotwise, but some terrible actors)

That said, I missed "The Nesting" for some reason. It was not on my radar screen, probably because at that time the only movie theater in town only had 3 screens. I would bet that the three screens at this time were showing the adolescent sex comedy (insert title here), the sappy love story (once again...), and "E.T."

I don't watch much horror these days, I think because I outgrew it. (Not that I'm claiming watching them is childish, just that I feel the audiences they are striving to attract are much younger than me). But I may check this one out just to see it in a more mature light than I would have at a younger age.