Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Rats, Djinn, and the Vampyre

January 17th, 2017 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.


A Crack in the Wall (Fiction, Claudia Piñeiro, 2009)  Thwarted, middle-aged architect falls for a young woman who drops by his office to ask about a man he and his superiors at the firm buried in the foundations of an apartment building three years previous. Sharply conceived literary crime novel provides a master class in setting up expectations and then going somewhere more interesting.—RDL

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: The Gangster Film (Nonfiction, Phil Hardy, 1998) Sadly the last in Overlook’s exceptional series, this massive crime-film reference covers 1,500+ films from Gang War (Bert Glennon, 1928) to Underworld (Roger Christian, 1997), including plenty of French and Hong Kong classics alongside the caper films, policiers, Mafia movies, and other subtypes of this fuzzy genre. (It excludes some “individualist” crime and noir films, which Hardy was saving for a sadly never-completed detective film encyclopedia.) Entries’ critical judgements are a little wonkier than in Hardy’s horror and Western compendia, but you can’t beat the scope. –KH

The Poet and the Vampyre (Nonfiction, Andrew McConnell Stott, 2014) Gossipy, divagatory, and hence entertaining, discussion of the menage (Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin, John Polidori, and Claire Clairmont) that briefly met in the Villa Diodati in June 1816 and galvanized the horror genre in between bouts of fornication, bickering, and laudanum. Not quite the hour-by-hour blow-by-blow I was looking for, but I found lots of other good stuff in it nonetheless. –KH

Rats (Film, US, Morgan Spurlock, 2016) From the hardboiled exterminators of NYC to pathologists in New Orleans, from the restaurant tables of Vietnam to a Hindu temple in India, humans confront the ingenious, disease-ridden, ever-multiplying rodent that swarms wherever we do. Urban nature documentary jazzed up by horror movie techniques revels in unflinching gross-out. I sure was surprised by the moment where about a dozen rats rise up on their haunches to chitter, “Your friee-e-e-ee-end Ke-e-e-e-enne-e-e-e-th, we are coming for him, we are coming for Ke-e-e-e-enne-e-e-e-th…”—RDL

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Film, US, Joseph Sargent, 1974) Mister Blue (Robert Shaw) leads a fractious team of criminals in the hijacking of a New York City subway car, locking horns with coarse improviser Lt. Garber (Walter Matthau) of the NYC Transit Police. A profane, ironic tribute to New York City, its infrastructure, and its irritated, wiseass officials and citizenry, it’s now a period piece that doesn’t seem dated. David Shire’s score likewise nails it, a 70s jazz groove veering between atonalism and funk. –KH

Under the Shadow (Film, UK/Qatar/Jordan/Iran, Babak Anvari, 2016) As missiles rain down on Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War, a woman whose career ambitions have been stifled by the regime reluctantly concludes that maybe her preschool daughter and her neighbors are right to say that djinn have invaded their apartment building. Lays down a baseline of naturalism that makes its ever so incremental shift into jump scares and supernatural imagery all the more unsettling.—RDL


Inspector Pancakes Helps the President of France* (Fiction, Karla Pacheco, 2014) Presented as a charming kids’ board book with fun illustrations by Maren Marmulla, this tale of a dog in a little hat finding a stolen croissant conceals a mystery! Specifically, a brutal, hardboiled mystery full of very bad words, told in tiny print throughout the book, which I am not kidding you do not want your kids to read. The joke is funny and carried off well, but I don’t envy any parents who forget to filch this from the nursery once little Abigail learns to sound out words. –KH   *solve the white orchid murders


The Limits of Control (Film, US, Jim Jarmusch, 2009) Taciturn assassin (Isaach de Bankolé) travels through Spain, making a series of rendezvous with mysterious messengers (Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, Paz de la Huerta) on his way to a  hit. Jarmusch’s most experimental feature mostly cares about beautiful compositions, the feeling that comes when you’re waiting to act, and paying homage to fellow director Claire Denis.—RDL

The Outfit (Film, US, John Flynn, 1973) Flynn’s adaptation of my favorite Richard Stark novel is great when it sticks to its source material, which sadly it only does intermittently. Watching Robert Duvall care about people and laugh and discuss his backstory badly damages what could have been a really great Parker performance, because hey Robert Duvall. Joe Don Baker, on the other hand, exceeds himself as a composite Parker sidekick; the all-hey-it’s-that-guy cast is the other reason to watch. –KH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
Flying Clock
Film Cannister