Heaven and Hell: the VK-a-thon continues

I am the bestest, bravest LJ friend ever. Make a note of it. I watch Vincent Kartheiser movies so you don’t have to.

The Vincent Kartheiser-a-thon continues with “Heaven Sent” and “Ricky 6”.

I decided to watch “Heaven Sent” first. I figured if Heaven Sent was as bad as I’d heard, then “Ricky 6” (which I’d heard was a scary gore flick) would come across as rather refreshing. Believe me, that was, this wasn’t, and it worked.

Heaven Sent (1994)

Other notables: Wilford Brimley, William Christopher

Summary: A juvenile delinquent gets hit by a car, which becomes the opportunity for an angelic intervention (sadly, that’s “angel” with a small ‘a’). The angel puts Eddie Chandler through his moral paces and lots of nifty lessons are learned about Being A Good Person.

Happy Vinnie/Fucked-up Vinnie: Fucked-up Vinnie (no really, he’s a certified juvenile delinquent – he has probation officers and everything!) who learns how to be Stepford! Happy Vinnie. But it’s Fucked-up Vinnie with rosy cheeks and roller blades (*so cute*).

Brat quotient: 4/10. Alas, a movie where Vinnie is taught how *not* to be a brat and learns his lesson! Ergo, in the early part of the movie, the brat quotient is high. Yelling at his mom, leering at girls (who aren’t interested because “he’s a jerk!”), stealing things. Vinnie with an attitude! Then that blasted *angel* has to go mucking everything up. *sigh*

The Hair: Did I or did I not predict baseball caps! Yeah! Sadly, they only appear in the first scene. After that, you must contend with VK’s mid-length girly-hair.

And O.M.G. could VK look MORE like Michelle Trachtenberg? Yikes! Watch early Season 5 Dawn (or better yet, Harriet the Spy). They have the exact same face.

Bottom line: Campy acting, cheesy script, bad accents, plot devices that telegraph themselves from miles away, and religious allusions painted in primary colors without a hint of irony (seriously. Churches appear. Hymns get sung. Prayers are made and answered. The words F-A-I-T-H and P-R-A-I-S-E G-O-D get mentioned, more than once).

You gotta be in it purely for the adorable almost pre-teen VKness (he’s 14, but of course, on VK, that means he looks 10), otherwise, save yourself the pain of the anvil falling on your head. Unless you’re rather religious and have impressionable 5-year olds on the verge of a life of crime. Then it might be a family must-see.

There are some cute moments. VK in a bicycle helmet on the phone to heaven is very cute, and actually funny.

Ricky 6 (2000)

Summary: Ricky Cowen is an earnest enough, but insecure skinny high school loser (I mean, he’s on the football team, and the football players *still* beat him up in the halls) with an immature jerk for a father and stoners for friends. He just wants to have control of his own life, and discovers hallucinogens and Satanism one fine day. It’s a drug-addled roller-coaster ride from there, with ups and downs and pauses and the big stomach-lurching hill at the end.

Fucked-up Vinnie: Moogoo-mega Classical Fucked-up Vinnie. Angel Dust, Acid, Mescaline and Satan! In “Heaven Sent” one of the morals is you get the girl by being a nice guy, but Ricky gets the (very sweet) girl while drug-dealing and spouting Satanist doctrines. But honestly, he stays rather sympathetic up to the end. VK’s acting is, of course, stellar (if it wasn’t for that beatific smile and those other little facial expressions we know so well, I’d forget it was Vinnie).

Brat quotient: 4/10. Ricky goes from being the kid who gets stepped on to the kid who does the steppin’, but he’s really more of a messed-up kid than an actual get-on-your-nerves *brat*.

The Hair: VK with early 80’s stoner hair. Sometimes clean but stiff (when he’s trying to pick up chicks), sometimes limp and greasy (when he’s on a drug bender), sometimes in a ponytail (mostly during the Satan-worshiping) – a look never seen before or after for our boy.

Other notes: As a philosopher, I was intrigued by the depiction of Satanism in this movie. My knowledge of it is a bit sketchy, but it seemed a rather realistic portrayal of the religion (which is a motley mix of pre-Christian Paganism and distinctly anti-Christian ritual and symbolism).

The “religion” appeals to Ricky because it seems to be about empowerment: not putting up with shit the world dumps on you, embracing humanity’s “natural” instincts, throwing out hypocrisy. With the Devil backing him up, Ricky finds a new-found confidence and authority over others that was probably inside him all along but that he didn’t express out of fear.

The problem is, Satanism isn’t going to make the basic fear go away. It’s a religion that defines itself in direct opposition to another religion, and therefore takes as a basic premise the very authority it claims to reject.

Ricky mocks Christianity as “the religion of slaves, invented to comfort the poor and the weak”. He thinks if you reject Christianity’s doctrines, you embrace power. So you invert Christian symbols and rituals and tenets. You read passages of scripture backwards and say prayers and give praise to the villain of the Bible.

But that kind of direct rebellion and rejection of something is itself a sign of weakness and resentment. Ricky isn’t empowering himself so much as impotently announcing to the world that that the Establishment that is making his life such hell (whether it be his parents, the police, or the popular kids in the high school) “can’t touch me!”

But watch the scene where “Jesus Christ” chases him through the grocery store. He hasn’t empowered anything but his own weakness.

The movie is told from the point of view of Ricky’s best friend Tommy, so the ultimate conclusions are Tommy’s, not Ricky’s. Ricky’s friends are atheists to a person, and they interpret everything that happens as a journey into drug-induced psychosis (although mostly, they think it’s a joke. This was still the era of “play your records backwards and hear the rock group chant a message to the devil!!” after all).

Tommy’s conclusion is that Satan, if he even exists, is a trickster that screwed Ricky over, not giving him the power he “promised’ in exchange for devotion. But Ricky never loses his faith.

Bottom line: A must-see for Vinnie fans. If you can handle Another Day in Paradise, you can handle this. I like it better than ADiP, but that’s just me.

I think the only reason this movie isn’t available in the US is because the producer doesn’t know the distribution business. There certainly isn’t anything in this movie more disturbing than any other Vinnie outing (e.g., ADiP, C&PiS, Inside Out); it’s both visually and psychologically intriguing. There’s a murder scene, yes, but I wouldn’t call this movie a slasher or gore flick at all.

Ooh, I even have R6 icons:

Update: I just read on the Ricky 6 website that the guy who wrote Ricky 6 also wrote “The Craft” and “Flatliners”. Which should tell you something about the tone and quality of R6.

87 thoughts on “Heaven and Hell: the VK-a-thon continues

  1. Really?

    I think I prefer Luckytown to Heaven Sent. Luckytown was pretty bad during the gangster/casino parts. Pretty cliched and close to unwatchable. But the bits with Colonel/Lidda were kind of sweet. Pretty much any scene in Luckytown with VK in it was watchable. Which I can’t say for Heaven Sent.

  2. Re: Really?

    No, I’ll grant you Lucky Town was better than Heaven Sent (I tend to FORGET this one). Did you see All I Wanna Do? (she asks, feelign too fried to go look up your list, be lucky if I can string together coherent thoughts for the other posts)

  3. Re: Really?

    Ah, yes All I Wanna Do. Indeed, I have seen it, although so far it’s the only one I have seen I don’t own. Not because i didn’t like it, but because I haven’t found cheap enough.

    AIWD is the opposite of Luckytown. I liked AIWD *except* the VK parts. His character was *so cheesy*. His dialogue was embarassing. I felt sorry for VK, who, btw, looked dapper and snappy in the flick.

    OK, granted, I’ve only seen it once and maybe the VKness would work better for me on multiple viewings.

  4. Thanks for the link. I tend to agree with much of it (barring the very first comment about any of it being too much)

    Ex-Philosphy, now that’s interesting. How’s the novel going? I think I’m running out of agents to try at this point. Sigh. Wondering if I’d have more success if I concentrated on the mystery over the horror

    Like the example you gave from your own novel, I’d say that first sex scene with a woman is important. Just from accounts of my lesbian friends and how it effected them (and how different it was from their first time with men in cases where that applied), those emotions and thoughts are probably better not completely glossed over, if they’re important later on.

    I think it’s a matter of knowing when to cut it (Or in my case write it and go BACK and cut it. I do that a lot, get a scene out so it quits bugging me then go and look to see if it’s necessary or not). Sometimes it’s not needed, as I just pointed out to one of my beta’s in Hyperion’s Son, who wondered why I wasn’t taking certain scenes NC-17 and my thoughts were, we didn’t need to see Connor having full on sex with his tricks to get his drugs. It seemed out of balance with the story which otherwise had no nice, loving sex scenes. It seemed too crass to just include the ugly. We all know what he’s doing. It’s ugly enough without word pictures.

  5. Re: Hyperion’s Son: Especially in that case where the sex is not about titillating the audience, it’s about showing the degredation of the character in his life, you can accomplish more with less. You just have to have the *right* less.

    In the case of my novel, two things happen in the teen’s first gay experience. (a) it’s her first experience with a woman, and the audience needs to know why she decides to pursue a sexual relationship with that woman despite the fact that she has a perfectly nice ex-boyfriend. To do that, you need to get a little into how the first experience was for her. (b) her partner quickly falls in love with her, and the sex is certainly not irrelevant to why that happens, so we need to know the effect it had on her partner. So, yeah, you need to see the sex to get the character’s motives later on. On the other hand, in their subsequent sexual interactions, I basically close the curtain as the bed sheets go down.

  6. Hopefully this new chapter of Hyperion’s Son will have the right less…it’s right there on the border or R/Nc-17. There’s absolutely no doubt what was about to happen or had happened. Guess I’ll know once I get it cleaned up and posted.

    From this description of your novel, I’d say (without having read any of it) that it sounds totally justified. I’m kinda staring that in the face with another original fic of mine, one of the characters is rather a sad, lonely boy and he eventually does get the girl he’s always thought wouldn’t want him and personally I think that first time would be important. On the other hand since this is in college and I COULD market it to the YA market I’d have to rethink that

  7. Oh, yeah, the audience is another matter. You have to consider how much to include when the age of the audience is an issue. (My novel is definitely not in the YA category. Older teenagers could probably deal with it, but it’s about grown-ups and grown-up concerns, for the most part.)

    On the other hand, there is stuff marketed to *kids* that goes too far in the other direction. The Harry Potter books drive me nuts. These are not books for 8-year olds. They’re too morally and metaphysically complex for one thing, and too long, for another. Rowling expects a lot of intellectual maturity from her audience. Yet does she have her 15 year olds even *kissing* each other? No. No one gets any action, and once, when Harry had ONE little kiss, Rowling didn’t even show it.

    OK, my issues, obviously. ; )

  8. True. Angel/Buffy books are marketed as YA and some of them I’d think are too old. And agreed, HP is for an older market than the one it’s being sold to. Hell I can’t even lift the bloody last book.

    Most of my novels aren’t in the YA genre either. This one with Tru (no relation to that TV show) is the closest I’ve ever come to one. Ijust need to decide if we need hot 80’s sex between a RObert Smith look a like and a purple haired psychic chick

  9. Was sex done differently in the ’80’s than it is now? I’m only asking because I think I got more sex in the ’80’s. ; )

  10. Maybe that’s why is seems different to me to…I guess really it was. AIDS was just beginning to be an epidemic. We worried about condoms less (which wasn’t exactly good), I was young and nubile then but still quick with the whip

  11. I have no idea what PAL format is. I think that there’s a way to copy a tape to a computer. My dad fixed the VCR to the computer, but I have no idea how.

  12. What I know: the US and Canada have VHS tapes in NTSC format. Europe and the UK has VHS tapes in PAL format. I did some more research, and while most of the Middle East uses SECAM format, Israel uses PAL.

  13. I hate to admit it but I actually own “Heaven Sent” as well. :-[ How could you have possibly left out the whole subplot with the computers? Come on it’s so “my subplot is pastede on YAY!”

    Have I mentioned that I love these reviews? πŸ™‚

    Also, where did you get a copy of “Ricky 6”

  14. Have I mentioned that I love these reviews? πŸ™‚

    Thanks! So you read my other review with all his *other* movies in it?

    Oh, I didn’t forget the Heaven Sent computer sub-plot. I summed it up with:

    “plot devices that telegraph themselves from miles away”. You just *knew* the mom’s boyfriend was behind the whole scam she’d discovered on her computer.

    I got Ricky 6 on e-Bay. For more money than I care to mention (nothing outrageous, but *still*). It was worth it, though. It’s an excellent film, and I’ve been able to share it with friends.

  15. Yeah I found them through… I want to say Furious Boy.

    Ah, ok. You know the real sad thing is that someone actually wrote that down on a piece of paper and thought it was a brilliant idea to throw in.

    Gotcha. I’ve seen it there a few times myself but couldn’t decide whether I wanted to order it or not just since it tends to go for a lot. :-\

  16. Average price Ricky 6 tends to go for on E-Bay is around $40-45. I got it for $42, so that’s about… average!

    I don’t mind though. It turned out to be a good investment, one of VK’s best films, IMO.

    As for “Heaven Sent”, the WHOLE MOVIE is something somebody thought would be a brilliant idea. *yikes* was it bad! Except for the adorable baby!VK factor. So it’ll stay in my movie collection, and maybe I’ll pull it out again and watch it on “mute”! ; )

  17. I’m determined to find one less than that one day. Although I’ll probably cave in and buy it. Although at the moment I’m saving up for a trip to England to go to Quor’toth so I doubt it’s in the cards in the immediate future.

    haha “Heaven Sent” seriously reminds me of when I was in Catholic Grade School and they gathered all us little kids into the church basement and made us watch morality plays. Sadly, this would have been one of the better ones. But he really is freakin’ adorable in it, so I guess it’s not that bad. He’s like drowning in those clothes. So cute. :-[

  18. Yeah, I wonder who produced/wrote Heaven Sent, anyway. Was it a religious organization? Because the movie struck me as presupposing a particular idea about God and morality that wouldn’t necessarily be a mainstream movie theater kind of thing. More of a Sunday School kind of thing.

  19. I thought the same thing. It really gave the feeling as something that would be shown to a class or something like that. Especially considering the horrific production value. I’ve seen much better looking movies come out of Production II at my school.

  20. Ricky 6 was actually filmed here in NB…and my husband worked on the film. A good friend of ours played VK’s dad…and although it wasn’t a great flick, I thought VK did a pretty good job. I think I may even have b and w stills lying around somewhere.

  21. Wow, that’s cool.

    Do you have a better version of the movie than a grainy VHS copy of the editor’s cut with a digital timer counting up at the bottom of the screen?

    I think I may even have b and w stills lying around somewhere.

    Something you can post on-line??

  22. I’m trying to remember how we saw the movie- I think it was on VHS, but you know what- it was pre- Angel and I think we might have *horrors!* thrown it out!

    The pictures I could definitely scan and post, tho!

  23. Ricky 6

    Hihi, er..this is going to be really odd cos I’m going to ask you a favour. I know we juz know each other not too long ago but I was reading your previous post on Aug30 2004 which is pretty long ago about your reviews on Ricky 6 and as I was reading the replies, I spotted that you were asking if she wants a copy of Ricky 6?? I mean the tape, urm..I know I’m being thick-skin here but I was wondering are you still be available to make a copy for me too?? I was debating myself to ask or not to ask cos we juz know each other and I do not want to lose a new friend. But if you are not able to do so, then it okay..really πŸ™‚ thanks

  24. Ricky 6 – Forgot to Mention

    Oh I forgot to ask you this..if you are able to get a copy for me, do you want anything in return?? Anything you ask, I’ll try to provide. I feel really bad not giving in return when someone helps me up. If there’s isn’t anything, I’ll try to find something in gratitude to my thanks πŸ™‚

  25. Re: Ricky 6

    It wouldn’t be high quality, but it would be doable, once I figure out the new VHS set up I have on my new TV.

  26. Re: Ricky 6

    OMG really, you can help me record a copy, wow thanks πŸ™‚
    Its okay, neva mind about the low quality..to me as long as I’m able to watch Vinnie movies, I’ll be most satisfied. *sign*
    Hmm..but what about the sending over to Singapore. Won’t it be troublesome?? By the way, about the VHS Formats, Singapore belongs to PAL format for VHS if I remember cos we belong to the UK side. Oh ya, I do have RAR Files for Dandelion and I’m trying to upload it so that whoever wants to see the movie can download it but the files are pretty heavy, I was wondering is there someway that I can upload it. I’m kinda having some problems uploading it. Do you know any way??

  27. Ricky6

    Maybe I didn’t understood the movie right because of my lack of English, but for me it was as much about Satanism as about not detected and therefor not properly medicate schizophrenia – which is a very difficult issue, I know. For me the movie worked out on both levels: you can watch it as a psychological teenage drama about schizophrenia, which only looks from Vincents point of view as Satanism and you can see it a Horror movie. If this impression is correct, I think it’s the reason, why it never was released: Because it only will have a small audience. I showed movies like this on Film Festivals before and to my experience, they are successful there (Ricky6 won the audience award on the Fant-Asia Film Festival in 2000), but I’m afraid it will be basically the only audience they ever get – which I deeply regret, don’t get me wrong.

  28. Re: Ricky6

    Film festival audiences are a little more accepting of movies that cross genre boundaries than mainstream audiences. I can’t imagine what anyone expecting a classic horror flick would think of this film, which is deeply psychological.

  29. Re: Ricky6

    “Film festival audiences are a little more accepting of movies that cross genre boundaries than mainstream audiences”

    That’s exactly why I go for at least 3 film festivals each year (as a visitor and as someone who works there) πŸ™‚ To see all the movies which are more complex, more unexpected and which in most cases never get released if not on DVDs. I’m really tired of watching movies which I can tell the next dialogue during my first screening. I prefer seeing a movie with a fresh idea, even when it means that some things might not work out perfectly.

    “I can’t imagine what anyone expecting a classic horror flick would think of this film, which is deeply psychological”
    Besides the typically “fantasy film festival” audience? I guess nobody, I agree 😦

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