Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.
Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.
Because of the VHS boom of the mid to late 80’s, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a video camera became an instant director. Because the video stores needed to fill shelves, there was a constant demand for product, so they were taking anything that had a box and a cover.
Dirt cheap independents were sitting along side major blockbusters. It was the wild fucking west. But for horror fans, it was heaven. These were the halcyon days, were aisle after aisle were nothing but horror cheese. The films predominately involved lunatics in some sort of mask hunting coeds but every once in awhile, there would be a film that bucked the trend. One that didn’t just follow what everyone else was doing. The Vagrant is one of these films.
Now before I get into the plot and my thoughts of the film, humor me for a minute while I wax poetic for one of the most underrated actors in cinema history–Bill Paxton. When you think of versatility, you think of the heavy hitters like Brando, Day-Lewis and Oldman and when you think of naturalistic, actors like Harry Dean Stanton and Bruce Dern pop up but right in the middle of that venn diagram was Paxton. He had an everyman quality that you can’t fake but also the talent to do anything. He could carry a film like a lead or steal the film as a one scene killer. He could do drama, comedy, horror and wasn’t afraid of sacrificing his ego to embrace the craziness genre films are known for. I mean, he did The Dark Backward for godsakes. He was a supreme talent and with his tragic passing, cinema lost one of its greatest character actors.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, Paxton is in The Vagrant. You’re forgiven for being confused, I am known for my rambling incoherent thoughts but I assure you, this time, the ramblings are on topic.
Speaking of crazy incoherent ramblings, you know what else is known for insane babbling? Homeless people. Guess what The Vagrant is about? A crazy homeless man. Boom motherfucker. That segue just exploded your fucking mind.
Bill Paxton plays mild mannered (Translation: white collar ass kisser) accountant Graham Krackowski who’s decided to bite the bullet and buy a house. He gets a realtor and the whole shebang but instead of showing him the house, she wants to bang him which freaks him the fuck out and he immediately decides to buy the house.
The first night in his new house, he witnesses a vagrant (title drop) drinking from his kitchen faucet who then leaves without a word. He starts seeing the homeless man around the neighborhood and starts to believe he’s being followed. Thats the hook that propels the rest of the narrative. Does the vagrant have sinister ulterior motives or is Paxton slowly going insane from paranoia? Played seriously, this could easily be a Hitchcock thriller but the tone of this film is very Looney Tunes.
Paxton plays the main character extremely broad, with huge reactions that really show how adept he was at slapstick comedy. It’s Nic Cage by way of Bruce Campbell. Very over the top but never annoyingly so. He’s fantastic.
It’s a live action cartoon that’s very reminiscent of early Joe Dante. The humor is screwball but it still has an edge to it. People die in grisly ways but it’s never off putting or gross. It’s like seeing Daffy Duck get chopped up in a cartoon, technically he’s being dismembered but it’s always played for laughs so it doesn’t register as horrific.
It’s not exactly scary nor is it thrilling but the hook of “is the bum actually doing anything or is Paxton just a sleepwalker?’ Is fun enough that you’re always engaged. And it goes places you’d never expect. The third act of this film might lose a lot of people but I was in because I had no idea where the fuck it was going.
If you’re looking to recreate the feeling of watching USA up all night or MonsterVision, this is the perfect film to do it. It’s fun and Michael Ironside is in it, so you kind of have to see it. It’s the law.