THINGS I FEEL COMPELLED TO FINNISH

A variation on the request from @BWN_7
  1. The films of Renny Harlin.
  2. Finland native Harlin, while not necessarily a household name, has directed many efficient, suitably stylish genre movies since the late 80s.
  3. Like:
  4. Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
    Not the best in the series, yet it's a completely satisfying execution of the basic ELM STREET formula (every other NOES movie varies the recipe in some way, whereas 4 just straight-down-the- middle delivers the goods. Have I thought too much about this?, wondered the single man . . . )
  5. Die Hard 2. Like many 80s/90s first sequels, 2 plays like a sick-day version of the original movie.
    Take that either way: DIE HARD is too sick to be watched today and all we could get on short notice was this dumbed-down, cynical cash-in, or when *I* am sick I watch DIE HARDER* because the rich complexity of the first film** is simply too much for my congested head to process. Yet even flu-ridden, DH2 has the courage of its modest convictions. (*= not the real title of the movie, but it's fun to type things.) (**= Not just having fun typing; DIE REGULAR-HARD is a masterpiece.)
  6. The Adventures of Ford Fairlane
    Despite a script from HEATHERS' Daniel Waters, this snoozer did not establish Andrew Dice Clay as a movie star. Not much else to say here. I've seen half of it 4 times on cable. (This trivia will get you nowhere: Harlin worked on DIE HARD 2 and FORD FAIRLANE almost simultaneously. They were released on the same day.)
  7. Cliffhanger
    Except the moment when Stallone burns the pile of money with the line, "it costs a fortune to heat this place," this is a must-finish every time it's on (which is all of the times; CLIFFHANGER could be a debate, it's on TV so much.) John Lithgow bad-guys the shit out of his bad guy character here.
  8. Here is Renny Harlin with his one-time wife, Geena Davis. They made two films together:
  9. Cutthroat Island
    Real talk, never saw this.
  10. and Long Kiss Goodnight
    By default, Harlin's best movie, thanks to a Shane Black script. But despite Black's singular snark,
  11. Samuel L. Jackson's wardrobe,
  12. And an excellent villain in Craig Bierko, LKG is pretty basic.
  13. Deep Blue Sea
    The twist of Sam Jackson being eaten by a shark while delivering a rousing speech is considered a high point, but to me it's a narratively useless moment.
  14. Still, it's a lot of fun, and there's a closing-credits song by LL Cool J.
  15. I find myself using a lot of "despite"s and "he the job done!"s in my casual defense of this rank & file movie director. Which brings us to -
  16. Exorcist: The Beginning
    A cinematic garbage fire. And yet (despite!), it's a great look at the creative process of nervous movie studios. This EXORCIST prequel has a great original script about the loss of faith. Original director Paul Schrader made a version called DOMINION that was more "loss of faith" drama than "Devil-town Horror Jam." Not knowing how to profit from introspection, the studio replaced him with my man in Finland.
  17. Harlin hurriedly fulfilled the more-horror mandate with poorly executed scares and a new, "sexier" cast (everyone is sleeker and greased up, including Stellan Skarsgaard, the original lead, apparently having done a quick training regimen to keep up with the Joneses).
    While E: B was a career low point, Harlin at least got to work with great cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (APOCALYPSE NOW), so good on him.
  18. Mindhunters
    This was my first review during the hot minute I wrote about movies for a horror web site called Creature Corner. I vaguely remember not hating it. LL Cool J is back!
  19. The Covenant
    Never seen this one, but it's featured on the most recent episode of the How Did This Get Made? podcast. Heck of a listen.
  20. The Cleaner
    This attempt at a career-resetting low-budget noir mostly fails.
  21. And from there I fell off. Clearly, Harlin's oeuvre is not my fiercest compulsion.
  22. But I still return to these films regularly.
  23. It's probably because of PRISON, Harlin's first American film.
    A haunted house movie where the house is a prison. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  24. PRISON is Viggo Mortenson's first staring role.
  25. The movie uses its low budget to its advantage, bringing out great atmosphere in an actual dilapidated prison.
  26. PRISON has a panache that can't quite lift it above fun trash, but is nice to have regardless.
    All of RH's movies have this quality. I also recognize it from many other movies I first saw in the Mom & Pop video stores of my youth.
  27. As Stephen King wrote in DANSE MACABRE, his essential non-fiction book on the horror genre, you can't appreciate the cream unless you've had a lot of milk, and you can't appreciate plain milk until you've had a lot of milk that's gone sour.
  28. Here's to Renny Harlin, purveyor of plain milk since 1986. 🇫🇮