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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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IN OTHER BOOKS
E.C. McMullen Jr.'s
CEDO LOOKED LIKE PEOPLE
in the anthology
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The Silver Scream
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Extensively quoted in
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Robert S. Rhine's
CIRCUS OF HELL
GAHAN WILSON &
Featuring comics by
E.C. McMullen Jr.
Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
"It's your choice."
You have old, and I mean really old people sitting around, staring off into space. Some are playing card games, others are watching TV, but most are just sitting there like they're waiting to die. And the sound over this visual is a loud obnoxious rap song, harking back to a time when youth is full of presumption, ego, wallowing in its own pride and chest beating. These old folks are long past the point of such youthful, stupid posturing, yet the incongruous rap reminds you that they too were once like me and you and them.
This is how STUCK starts.
STUCK is Director Stuart Gordon's latest release, and like KING OF THE ANTS a few years ago, it's Stuart's foray back out of Horror Thriller - which he does from time to time. But STUCK is not a stray too far. This is a Thriller Suspense film based upon the actual 2001 hit and run crime in Fort Worth, Texas*. That and the fact that the lead actress of this movie, Mena Suvari (TRAUMA) is also the producer so she can be the lead actress if she wants it.
Fortunately, Mena must have really wanted it because she truly becomes her character, Brandi.
We meet Brandi working in the nursing home. She is courteous to the patients and at least one even trusts her so implicitly that he asks for her by name.
Brandi is accustomed to incontinent patients who defecate themselves. She soothingly washes them in the shower as they cry out in their humiliation, and cleans their shitty bed sheets. It's just routine. But when her manipulative boss, Peterson (played with smirking cordial dominance by Carolyn-Purdy Gordon: RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, DOLLS, THE ARRIVAL), dangles a promotion and a chance to get out of such shit detail, Brandi jumps at the chance. We'll soon see how much Brandi wants that promotion.
Since Brandi is a hard worker in a lousy job, she turns to night-clubbing and drugs for release. That party life also comes with her friend and co-worker, Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) who drugs it up with her during off hours, and her boyfriend, Rashid (Russell Hornsby: HAUNTED [TV]) who supplies the drugs.
Meanwhile, across town, things aren't going so well for Tom (Stephen Rea: FEAR DOTCOM). While young Brandi is moving up, old Tom is falling down.
Kicked out of his flophouse apartment by his slovenly landlord, who insists on keeping Tom's meager possessions, Tom is without a home or car. He makes his way to a job interview at a questionable employment agency. The main purpose of the agency seems to be keeping their clientele unemployed and Tom finds no friends or sympathy there. He also doesn't get the promised job interview (such places get Federal money for how many people they process every day, not how many find work. More employed means less processing).
When night falls, Tom finds himself alone, homeless, without prospects or hope, and abandoned in the city park. It's here that one of the many brilliant scenes of STUCK are played out. Tom sits on his bench, silently staring off into space, when he's approached by another homeless man (Lionel Mark Smith: GALAXINA, KING OF THE ANTS, EDMUND). Tom is white, the other man is black. Tom looks new to homeless-ness, the black man is dressed in rags. They size each other up and what follows is both humorous and poignant.
Eventually Tom is alone again and approached by a policeman who gives him two options for leaving the city park. Tom has been given these choices all day and all of them push him farther down the hole he's sliding into. Stephen Rea's natural hang-dog expression pulls us right into Tom's world of lifelong frustration.
Brandi, meanwhile, leaves the nightclub both drunk and drugged and drives back home. Tom walks along the sidewalk, wandering to even he isn't sure where. He crosses the street, not watching for cars, while Brandi runs an intersection not looking for pedestrians. As you see from the poster above, Merry Mishaps occur.
And it's here that STUCK coalesces into what the rest of the movie is actually about. Brandi hits Tom with her car and he becomes "stuck" in her windshield, hanging half in and half out of her car. Cut, sliced, broken, traumatized and losing blood, Tom is at first unconscious and Brandi, in an instant makes a choice that will only compound all of her bad choices until she contemplates the worst parts of her character.
STUCK is a movie about the dual nature of pretty much everyone. Tom is a well educated man who is on skid row due to company layoffs. He is not, by nature, an unemployed bum, and is ignorant and unprepared for life physically lived on the street. His landlord takes away his home and possessions. The tax-funded employment agency doesn't offer jobs. The policemen neither Protect or Serve.
Brandi meanwhile, as kind and helpful as can be at her job, leaves such humanity behind on her own time: She gets paid for her compassion.
Her boyfriend Rashid talks the good game of a hard core made-man drug dealer, but when push comes to shove, is squeamish at the sight of blood.
Brandi never held down a job as good as the one that Tom lost, but she only sees Tom as a homeless bum whose life isn't worth the punishment and loss of promotion she will get (and possibly lose), should she do the right thing. So she hides Tom, still stuck in her car window, in her garage, promising him (in the moments when he awakes in pain) that she's called for help and that someone is coming. Eventually between black-outs, Tom realizes Brandi is lying to him and knows he has to make his own escape, and soon, or he'll die: Which is what Brandi wants. The damage to her car is bad enough. The fact that Tom isn't dead only adds to her frustration. Why is this lousy bum wrecking her life just when everything was going so well?
As you would expect from a Stuart Gordon movie, the pain Tom goes through is bloodily visualized and the movie keeps amping up the misfortune that Tom must suffer through as he attempts to save his own life. Mena Suvari meanwhile, does a wickedly good job of portraying a young woman whose mask of compassionate kindness hides a psychotic selfishness. As Brandi, Mena pulls off moments of true malevolent evil. At 94 minutes, this movie is reasonably short, but Brandi's descent feels neither rushed or false. Russell Hornsby's Rashid is a beautiful tempo of trainwreck hilarity. Hornsby owns his every scene as a man who is called upon to live up to his false bravado.
STUCK, as directed and co-written by Stuart Gordon - and co-written by John Strysik (DEATHBED) - is a fiendish layered tale of people forced to confront their true selves. Flinching painful and morbidly humorous: STUCK has a low rent magnificence that's compelling and fascinating.
Four Shriek Girls.