Seven is the luckiest number. Well, after 13. Is there a theme linking me choices of genre films from the last 10, 20, 30 and 40 years? Maybe. They’ve all got memorable or career-making performances by people I think of as divas. Which doesn’t have to mean that they chew the scenery, just that they make the most of the spotlight. That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) Toss up whether the divas here are Jose Ferrer (as the ultimate in 1970s European mature suaveness) or the two women it takes to play his confounding titular love interest. One is passionate and emotional (Angela Molina), the other chic and cold (Carol Bouquet). But both embody that mystery which the Surrealists could never solve, the alluring attraction of the femme fatale who can’t be avoided but also can never be really understood, especially not by her addictive and lustful victims. The Witches of Eastwick (1987) It’s a film about three divas, played by Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon, three of the best (and most entertaining) popular actresses of the decade. Each character is hobbled in her (brunette, blond, or ginger) own way by personal limitations and fears. Until their encounters with devilish newcomer Jack Nicholson (diva number four, given his megawatt charisma) seem to free each of them to reach new levels of confidence and expression. Cher’s an artist who begins to really sculpt; Susan and Michelle are repressed and shy no more. There’s a price to pay for the town, however, and nobody pays it harder than diva no. 5, Veronica Cartwright, who in her zeal to fight the growing evil she perceives literally embodies political paranoia and conservative anxiety of her era. Her histrionic displays, embarrassing social gaffes and uncontrollable digestive functions made as much since in the Reagan 1980s as they still do today. The special effects were goofy and broad, and subtlety flew out the window pretty quickly as the witchy elements took over, letting Nicholson off his leash completely by movie’s end. But the chemistry of the leads is undeniable, especially the three witches who vie for the power so long denied. Anaconda (1997) This is the beginning (though I suppose it all goes back to Jaws) for me of the big ocean monster movies that have their own deserved genre space. Leviathan, Deep Rising, Deep Blue Sea, even the submersed sequence in Alien: Resurrection (also from this year). This one has South America, it has Ice Cube, and it fills the diva quotient with winsome Owen Wilson and sultry Jennifer Lopez in early roles where they clearly are heading for (intermittently) better things. The story is implausible, the special effects a mix of animatronics and early CGI, but the scale and timing and story beats tend to hit great moments of horrific hilarity more often than not. The cast provides many funny character moments, mostly in their exasperation at having to fight a really giant snake following them down a river, a really welcome sense of self-awareness pervades. Anaconda succeeds in its cheese, going to the bonkers level that Snakes on a Plane tried too hard to pull off years later. 30 Days of Night (2007) Diva action here is almost solely inhabited by Danny Huston, whose relentlessly unsympathetic charisma has made him a go-to villain but who seldom finds a role worthy of how vile he can be. This one is also hardly subtle, but it’s scary as hell, as a group of hungry vamps (who consider themselves a separate tribe or race or something, but act mostly like animals) decide the perfect hunting ground is an Alaskan village isolated from seasonal lifelines and from sunlight itself for a month of bleak winter darkness. It’s relentless, it’s horrifying, and the lack of options for the unsuspecting cattle creates a lot of tension, even as a likable Josh Hartnett and others struggle to come up with any sort of defensive response. These are not your sexy, frilly vampires, they are a pack of carnivores led by Danny Huston and they want to eat your insides. It’s not my favorite type of vampire film, but it’s damned effective. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.