A few days ago, seemingly out of the blue, legendary filmmaker Brian De Palma announced he was writing and set to direct a new horror film revolving around the Harvey Weinstein scandal that has completely changed the complexion of Hollywood. In case anyone scoffed at the idea as a faraway dream (or nightmare), De Palma is planning on shooting next summer with the help of a French production company.
One way or another, it appears this movie is coming.
That is, unless the Outrage Machine consumes De Palma. That seems unlikely, however, as the filmmaker responsible for a number of delightfully perverse and voyeuristic thrillers certainly does not give a shit who is clutching their pearls – my dude has never opened Twitter Dot Com. The film may be in poor taste, depending on who you talk to, but when has that ever stopped anyone from making art?
Brian De Palma has not made a decent film in over a decade, true, but to be fair he hasn’t attempted that many films. The Black Dahlia was the aforementioned decent film, which came out in 2006 and was followed up with two stinkers: Redacted and Passion. He is currently in postproduction on Domino, a murder mystery starring Carice van Houten, Guy Pearce, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, but it has yet to find distribution. This one is beginning to reek of VOD fodder.
There is very little redeemable in Redacted, De Palma’s attempt to cash in on the Iraq War with a “serious drama.” It cannot hold a candle to his compelling Vietnam thriller Casualities of War. Passion is at least fascinating on certain visual levels. It is a lurid, shadow-soaked living nightmare where De Palma is most at home – it plays his camera hits – but the story and the direction beyond familiar aesthetics is dull and trite and sometimes suffocating; it does not vibrate with the energy of Dressed to Kill or even Femme Fatale in 2002. De Palma’s most recent films feel like a rock star who used to fill arenas trotting out those same old hits over and over and over again, but the songs just don’t sound the same anymore.
A Weinstein horror movie sounds like an unwatchable mess in the hands of just about anyone. It doesn’t seem like anyone is particularly interested in a dramatic retelling of a disgusting monster preying on women in his industry; but throw Brian De Palma into the mix, and the complexion of the story changes. De Palma’s strengths play right into the sort of predatory monster Weinstein appeared to be; a lurid and disgusting voyeur and rapist perusing Hollywood hotels in his bathrobe could be a character right out of an ’80s De Palma thriller.
The problem is, for many, that Weinstein is not a character from an ’80s movie. He is real, and in jail on rape charges, and he ruined many careers and lives. Dramatizing his horrific life in film feels a little gross and ironic, and most definitely in poor taste, but that doesn’t mean this movie won’t be absolutely fascinating, in one way or another.
This Harvey Weinstein story does not instill confidence that De Palma will be able to redirect his career. Sometimes, directors lose their fastball. It happens in every profession across the board, it should not be any different for the vast majority of film professionals. There are exceptions, sure, but De Palma has shown no signs of rekindling his former glory years. That being said, he can still be interesting, and this might be the right sort of salacious story to bring him back from the brink.
Don’t count on it, though.