Saturday, October 25, 2008

HORROR EPICS: The Stepford Wives

THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975)
Have you ever come across a movie that sounded so great, but fell completely flat in execution? The Stepford Wives is one of those movies, despite its standing in the pop culture lexicon. And what a sinister little story it is, sinking its teeth into the Women’s Liberation movement at a time when radical feminism was still a new thing, and a hot topic. When a pretty young wife and her jackass husband move the kids out of New York City to the town of Stepford, they almost instantly notice that there is more to this place than meets the eye. The picturesque suburb may be devoid of crime and the nasty minorities who commit them, but the values are transplanted straight from the oppressively square 1950s. The men all seem relatively normal and have their own human idiosyncrasies, but the women are all cut from the exact same one-dimensional cloth. None of them retain any sense of individuality—they each have the perfect smile, wardrobe, cooking skills, and figure. Their only goals in life are to please their husbands and maintain a nice home for the kids. They used to be more involved with the community, but when the ladies get together for a discussion group now, the only topic they can cover with any extensive detail is a comparing and contrasting of household cleaners. It’s like everyone became Donna Reed on happy pills. Obviously there’s something rotten in Denmark...er, Stepford...and our fair city maiden is determined to get to the bottom of this. As you might expect, she would be better served to just keep her blinders on. I would imagine that The Stepford Wives was quite effective in its day, but three decades have not been kind to this movie. When I finally saw it a couple of years ago, it felt like I was spending a lot of time waiting for something to happen. When it ended, I literally said, “That’s it?” like how a lot of the Stepford women probably felt about their husbands at one point, if you get my drift. I couldn’t understand why they never quite went all the way, or gave themselves opportunities to with the script. The book, written by Ira Levin, is the same way. Perhaps he was still coasting off his fame from the classic Rosemary’s Baby. The one thing that keeps me from totally writing off The Stepford Wives is the remake, which starred Nicole Kidman and wasted the talents of Christopher Walken. It is an absolute atrocity, turning the story into a comedy and going to great lengths to insult the audience’s intelligence. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the remake was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The original Stepford Wives may be boring, yet it’s fucking brilliant in comparison. Your mom would probably appreciate this movie a lot more than you would, so rent it for her and get a good gorefest for yourself this Halloween. Features a seven-year-old Mary Stuart Masterson in her debut, as well as...wait for it...Dee fuckin’ Wallace.

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