Friday, December 11, 2015


One is tempted to believe that director Curt McDowell demanded no rewrites from screenwriter/performer George Kuchar for this black-and-white, nearly three-hour art/porn psychodrama. This is not a complaint: THUNDERCRACK! may be the most uninhibited movie your proprietor has ever seen, and its ultra-low-budget, super-staged histrionics are so forthright that it feels like an emanation directly from the id of its makers.

James Whale's The Old Dark House is a clear, direct inspiration for this movie, and hovers over it like a sleazy uncle at Thanksgiving. Like that movie, a raging thunderstorm strands a disparate set of travelers at Prairie Blossom, a remote and creepy house. Also like that movie, yet even moreso, the storm seems the result of heavy psychic vibes emanating from the disturbed inhabitants of the house, in this case the wildly unhinged Mrs. Gert Hammond (a fearless Marion Eaton). The audience is voyeur to a number of unsimulated sex acts, and eventually we feel as swept away by the deranged undercurrents as any of the characters.

But for all of the movie's campy theatrics and melodramatically overblown dialogue, there's an undeniable artistry at work within it, with the characters' emotional states rendered powerfully through off-kilter but intense closeups. And the commitment to the juicy excesses of Kuchar's dialogue is heroic across the board. And Mark Ellinger's piano-driven score plays at just the right distance, adding with gentle irony yet another level to the lunacy on hand (even the slide whistle deployed during one memorable erotic moment is perfectly placed.)

Thundercrack! isn't a movie I'm sure I need to see again, but damn right it's a movie I'll never forget.

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