February 1, 2023

THE VAGRANT Squats at Home

THE VAGRANT (Blu-ray Review)
1992 / 91 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😾

Bill Paxton (RIP) was just one of those guys. You know…the kind of actor who may not have displayed a ton of range, but there was always an endearing sincerity to his performances, even when playing slimeballs. Most of his career consisted of supporting roles, but they were almost always memorable. He even managed to steal a movie or two from under the noses of his bigger co-stars. 

In retrospect, it’s too bad he wasn’t cast as a leading man more often. Those films are out there, of course, Twister being his biggest, A Simple Plan his best. There’s been some other good ones, too. However, The Vagrant ain’t one of ‘em.

Barely released to theaters back in 1992, The Vagrant later found a bit of cult success on home video. But while the film certainly has its share of fans, it’s mostly a misguided attempt at horror-comedy. A shame, really, considering the talent on both sides of the camera. In addition to Paxton as paranoid homeowner Graham Krakowski, there’s Marshall Bell as the titular character who makes the man’s life a living hell, going so far as to murder a few people and setting up Krakowski to take the fall. Enter Michael Ironside as Barfuss, an intimidating cop who really has it in for Krakowski. But despite their efforts, Krakowski isn’t an engaging protagonist (nor is he very sympathetic) and the other two are broadly drawn caricatures.

"No, Bill...game NOT over!"
Elsewhere, make-up artist-turned-director Chris Walas’ previous film, The Fly II, was superfluous but better than it had a right to be, while screenwriter Richard Jeffries co-wrote one of the best ‘80s horror movies hardly anyone saw (Scarecrows). However, The Vagrant is a tonal and narrative mess, noisily grinding gears between horror and black comedy but ultimately failing at both, compounded by screenplay that’s never as clever as everyone involved seem to think it is. The story grows increasingly outlandish - and implausible - as it goes along, with only Christopher Young’s evocative score to remind us the whole thing is supposed to be funny. 

The film has its admirers, though, perhaps enjoying its exaggerated approach to the story. Those fans will certainly prefer this new Blu-ray from Arrow over the bare-bones disc Shout Factory released a few years ago. I don’t know if the picture or sound is an improvement, but it includes several charming and informative interviews with Walas, Ironside, Bell and actor Colleen Camp, who all take the time to express their admiration for the late Bill Paxton. While we all miss him, too, The Vagrant is hardly one of his essential films.


INTERVIEWS - All new, individual interviews with director Chris Walas, actor Michael Ironside, actor Marshall Bell and actor Colleen Camp.




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