In memory of the legendary director and man who had more than 20,000 sexual partners, Joel Schumacher, this week we are taking a look at some of his greatest films.
Joel Schumacher had a real talent for taking any genre and making it his own. A Time to Kill, his second attempt at adapting a John Grisham novel and capitalizing on the 90s wave of legal thrillers, is a prime example of that. With a case that bears more than a few similarities to the one in Anatomy of a Murder, concerning a man who took justice into his own hands and a lawyer trying to let him walk free through claiming temporary insanity, there’s plenty of room for overworked courtroom drama. It is a racial aspect however, with the accused killer being a Black man who murdered two white men who beat and raped his daughter, that leads to most of the film’s drama and more potent messages, as racists band together to oppose a verdict of not guilty and launch a number of violent attacks. The film doesn’t always go into the depth on issues that might have served it better, instead opting for dramatics and cinematic presentation, but nevertheless, it presents a compelling story illustrating the flaws inherent to the American justice system that would punish some people more harshly for lesser crimes while denying them a fair trial by their peers and bulldozing anyone who attempts to fight for true justice. A Time to Kill is often a moving event to watch unfold and a testament to Schumacher’s control as a director. [Henry Baime]
Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is a better film than any entry of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. There, now I’ve got your attention. The unfairly maligned final part of the Batman film series that started in 1989 was trashed by critics and nerds for being unapologetic and bold in its camp. And what camp! No superhero film since has come close to its level of unabashed extravagance, where the costumes, sets, and lighting bring the pulpiest concepts of Batman to life. It’s all here: the bat nipples, the bat credit card, rubber lips, and an entrance by Poison Ivy at a party worthy of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
All these years later, the major Batman films following this cinematic celebration of the inherent queerness of the Caped Crusader has been smothered in self-importance by two of the most heterosexual filmmakers currently working. It has been a slow march of dourness, stripping Batman of what makes him special: the oddities of a multibillionaire who runs around at night in a leather or spandex costume fighting crime, one that lost his family and then built a family of his own choosing. Schumacher understood these aspects and ran with them, bringing a truly unique and special touch to what would be an otherwise trite superhero flick.
Alas, it looks like that won’t be coming back any time soon. We’ll still have this bizarre, out-and-proud gem to cherish, but in the meantime, say it with me: #MakeBatmanGayAgain. [Cole Duffy]
The Lost Boys is the perfect example of a short lived stint of 80s horror that would serve as a gateway for many young adults into the genre, even generations later. It strikes a perfect balance between the fearful and comedic, the goofy desperation of the kids contrasted with the fierce and cult-like behavior of the older vampires. Schumacher schlock is on full display here as the vampiric Kiefer Sutherland dominates the screen, oozing charisma as leader David. Much like similar films of the era, The Lost Boys has a childlike energy to it, the fear of the unknown compounded by the naive belief that there is an easy way out. Here that childlike whimsy is put together with the story of an older brother who gets caught up with the vampires, increasing the tension as David terrorizes the entire Emerson family. It makes sense then that the entire family plays a role in the climax, instead of the old “parents aren’t around” trope that terrorized genre films of the time for convenience’s sake. It’s a highlight of its time that has aged incredibly well. [Jen]
Fast-talking publicist Stu Shepard picks up a ringing pay phone in Times Square. The caller threatens to kill him if he hangs up the phone. It’s a simple and brilliant high-concept premise—written by legendary filmmaker Larry Cohen and initially pitched to Hitchcock—which immediately grabs the audience’s attention, but unlike many other real-time thrillers which eventually lose steam, Phone Booth manages to sustain the tension from the moment Stu picks up the phone through the film’s final minute, largely due to Schumacher’s impressive, kinetic filmmaking, and Colin Farrell’s magnetic performance (in one of his earliest major roles).
Through the frenetic editing and blaring sound design/mixing, Schumacher depicts the loud city streets of New York City, and by contrast, Matthew Libatique’s dynamic cinematography instills a sense of claustrophobia in the phone booth, crafting a locked-room thriller in America’s biggest city. Farrell is perfectly cast as the arrogant PR agent who gradually unravels over the course of the film’s compact 81-minute runtime, with Forest Whitaker and Kiefer Sutherland providing excellent supporting roles as well. Joel Schumacher’s filmography is filled with underappreciated gems, and Phone Booth is one of his strongest.[Kern Wheeling]
I have been itching to rewatch this hidden Nazi-occult horror film starring Shea Whigham, Dominic Purcell, Henry Cavill, and Michael Fassbender, for some time. Unfortunately being under sad circumstances, I figured Joel Schumacher’s recent passing called for this revisit of the strangest entry in his eclectic filmography. You read that right, Cavill and Fassbender do star in this 2009 film where the latter plays a Nazi officer sent by Himmler’s dark arts unit to track down ancient nordic runes left behind by Vikings when they first discovered North America. You’d think Fassbender would be above such a seemingly low-budget practical effects gore-fest— having just come off of Hunger, Fish Tank, and Inglourious Basterds—but under all that monstrous make-up and scarred-silicone, he looked to be having a blast. Blood Creek seems like it’d come from a Guillermo del Toro/Clive Barker collab, but it is written by recent Luca Guadagnino scribe, David Kajganich (A Bigger Splash, Suspiria). There’s nothing technically outstanding, but it just serves to bolster Schumacher’s ability to work in almost any genre—be it cult, locked-room thriller, comicbook, war, psychological, sci-fi, true story, romance, or courtroom. What we get is a lean, mean, 90 minute bloody affair that fits alongside the likes of Outpost and Overlord, and the atmospheric-conceptual blend of video games Resident Evil 4 (especially David Buckley’s eerie score) and Call of Duty: WWII zombies. A solid recommendation for fellow fans of cult movies and Clive Barker.[Lee]
Staff Selects a bigger splash alfred hitchcock anatomy of a murder batman and robin blood creek christopher nolan clive barker colin farrell david kajganich fish tank forest whitaker guillermo del toro henry cavill hunger inglourious basterds kiefer sutherland larry cohen luca guadagnino michael fassbender outpost overlord phone booth shea whigham suspiria the lost boys