Peter Spierig

Predestination (2014, Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig)

With Predestination, the Spierig Brothers take the narrative gimmick to the nth degree. It’s not just a real part of the story, it’s the story. Unlike most films where there’s some satisfaction for the viewer in discovering the gimmick, the Spierigs figure out a way to just push the viewer further down the rabbit hole. The film’s a delicately constructed guided tour of a maze (though the guide isn’t clear) and the film raises a lot of questions it doesn’t want to be responsible for answering. The gimmick gives the Spierigs a way out–because if it’s about the gimmick, there’s no responsibility.

But so much of Predestination is so good–and expertly constructed–it’s hard to imagine how they could do the story with responsibility. They don’t promise it and the gimmick unravels entertainingly throughout. So it’s a success. It’s a moderately budgeted time travel picture and all the settings are great. Between the careful composition and Ben Nott’s delicate photography, the film always looks good.

And the acting is excellent. Ethan Hawke has to perform with the gimmick in mind, which means having an utterly sympathetic, but somewhat obtuse demeanor. It’s impossible to identify with him, more impossible the more his character develops, but the the film still requires the viewer do so. As his protege, Sarah Snook has a rather difficult role (which just gets more difficult) and she does well.

It’s a very strange film (and not). It should be better, it shouldn’t be so good.



Directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig; screenplay by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, based on a story by Robert A. Heinlein; director of photography, Ben Nott; edited by Matt Villa; music by Peter Spierig; production designer, Matthew Putland; produced by Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan and Michael Spierig; released by Pinnacle Films.

Starring Ethan Hawke (The Bartender), Sarah Snook (The Unmarried Mother) and Noah Taylor (Mr. Robertson).

Undead (2003, Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig)

Has copyright lapsed on John Williams’s “Promenade (Tourists on the Menu)” composition from Jaws, because this film uses it all the time. While Undead is a fun little movie, I’m pretty sure Lionsgate would get their butts sued off if it got out they were violating such an obvious copyright, and I have to go with Lionsgate getting sued over the movie keeping the track. Hopefully someone will catch it someday.

Otherwise, Undead is a quirky, pseudo-little zombie movie. It’s pseudo-little because after the first hour mark, there’s a lot of big special effects. One of the few nice things about CG is people can conceivably do it at home, which is what the filmmakers purportedly did with Undead (according to IMDb). Much of the film’s zombie-fighting plays like Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado, only if instead of Antonio Banderas, the action hero was a big fat Australian redneck. This redneck, played by Mungo McKay, is generally Undead‘s greatest fault. Mungo acts about as well as someone named Mungo would be expected to act. The rest of the cast is fine–the lead, Felicity Mason, is good once the film gets going–but Mungo ruins every single line he has. Watching him open his mouth and talk is like a dinging dread-bell.

At first, as the inevitable group of ill-fit comrades on the run from zombies fought for their lives, I thought everyone in the movie shot as bad as the stormtroopers in Star Wars. They kept shooting at the zombies legs and torsos and I thought it was either a joke or just some incredible mistake (like Mungo’s casting and the lame, narratively bankrupt ending). Until the forty-two minute mark when they realize they need to shoot the zombies in the head. Now, I realize Australia is another continent and they still have the Queen of England on their money, but come on–even if these characters hadn’t seen a zombie movie, common-sense would dictate the importance of a head shot. It’s unbelievable. Even more unbelievable than the big fat redneck propelling himself through the air to hang upside down by his spurs.

The film has a really cool resolution, then the stupid horror movie ending. There’s some really nice special effects and some good shots to the resolution, but once it ended and the movie didn’t, I knew I was in for a lame “surprise” ending. The writing and directing Spierig have a lot of low budget inventiveness, but besides the humor, none of it is in their writing.



Directed, written, produced and edited by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig; director of photography, Andrew Strahorn; production designer, Matthew Putland; released by Lions Gate Films.

Starring Felicity Mason (Rene), Mungo McKay (Marion), Rob Jenkins (Wayne), Lisa Cunningham (Sallyanne), Dirk Hunter (Harrison) and Emma Randall (Molly).

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