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M. Narcissus Shyamalan

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Edmond is reductionist, and since Mamet’s vision of life is vinegary to begin with, that’s some acrid reduction. There were walkouts at the screening I attended—people repelled by the racism, sexism, misogyny, and carnage. I was repelled, too. But on the movie’s own terms, it’s impressive. The director, Stuart Gordon, once ran Chicago’s Organic Theater before finding fame with the masterful mad-scientist splatter comedy Re-Animator, and you can taste his relish in staging each of Edmond’s (mostly emasculating) encounters with actors like Joe Mantegna (chummy racist philosopher), Mena Suvari (brass-tacks prostitute), Lionel Mark Smith (raffish pimp turned icy mugger), and Bokeem Woodbine (demanding cellmate). Julia Stiles can’t make sense of the waitress who brings Edmond home—maybe she’s too realistic an actress, or maybe such a confused innocent is outside Mamet’s range. More likely it’s that Macy’s Edmond—blood-spattered, grandiose, his ears standing out from his white and slightly wattled face—is a scary dude even by the standards of Mamet Land. Depressing, disgusting, and dated, Edmond is worth braving to experience America’s best-known serious playwright at his most gruesomely undiluted.

The animated feature Monster House might one day become an amusement-park ride—it’s all about synergy, you know—but it couldn’t be much more fun than in its present incarnation. Directed by Gil Kenan, it’s a variation on Gothic horror pictures in which ramshackle houses have fiendish holds over helpless inhabitants. Here, a Persian rug like a tongue rolls out and curls around unwary passersby, while the lawn sucks down tricycles, basketballs, etc. The movie might be scary for small kids—but good scary, with goose-bump-inducing frames, witty repartee, and three resourceful kid protagonists (a cute geek, a chubster, and a smart preppy girl) who risk their hides to get to the bottom (the skeletal foundation) of the pissed-off manse before it gobbles all the trick-or-treaters down. Among the peerless vocal talents are Maggie Gyllenhaal as a refreshingly mean teen babysitter, and Steve Buscemi as nasty, spindly old Nebbercracker, among the most touchingly complex house-husbands I’ve ever seen.

Lady in the Water
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Warner Bros. PG-13.

Monster House
Directed by Gil Kenan. Sony. PG.

Edmond
Directed by Stuart Gordon. First Independent Pictures. R.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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