It’s All Connected: Blow Out (1981)

Even though I found my previous Brian De Palma film, Dressed To Kill, wildly problematic, I decided to watch one more of his flicks as part of It’s All Connected 2020: Blow Out. Of all the De Palma films from this era, this was the one that I’d been wanting to see the longest. I even tried giving it a look one time, but the volume was weird and loud, so I had to turn it off, not wanting to wake up my wife and kids. I’m glad I finally got around to it on Amazon Video because Blow Out became my favorite of this particular bunch!

In this film, sound man Jack (John Travolta) is out trying to get new sound effects for the horror films he works on when he accidentally captures a car accident that leads to the death of a presidential candidate. Jack did manage to leap into the water and pull Sally (Nancy Allen) out. Jack begins to question what’s really going on when he’s told to forget the whole thing and not worry about what actually happened.

Not willing to let this go, Jack uses his sound expertise to try and piece together the  truth. One of my favorite aspects of this film is that he takes his sound and puts it to a film he makes using stills that a sleazeball named Manny (Dennis Franz) sold to a tabloid. Both this and Dressed To Kill featured really interesting technology of the time used to solve crimes in a detail that nicely captures how things used to work. I won’t get too deep into the details, but Jack’s sound equipment winds up playing a huge part of the film’s finale which I definitely  was not expecting.

As you can probably tell from the description, Blow Out has more of a conspiracy/thriller vibe to it instead of a straight-ahead horror bent. However, there is one element to this film that does give it that horror edge to me and it comes in the form of John Lithgow’s Burke. See, he’s a fixer or assassin who goes beyond his assignment. When Sally survives, he starts killing women and creating this narrative about a serial killer with a type so it won’t seem too suspicious when Sally winds up dead. He’s still a murderer, but he plies his craft while taking on a more slasher-y M.O. Plus, Jack works in horror films, so you get to see not only a scene from a slasher flick in the beginning, but a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at how they get those authentic screams.

But, hey, it doesn’t really matter what kind of film Blow Out is because it’s awesome. Travolta starts with this cool detachment that develops into near-obsession at a nice rate. Allen’s good too, but there’s not much to her character. She’s such an airhead that I spent most of the film thinking she was in on something bigger. I much prefer her more layered character from Dressed To Kill. And, damn, Lithgow is scary! Not quite Dexter-Lithgow-scary, but up there.

After Blow Out, I thought about watching Body Double and/or Raising Cain, but I felt it was time for something less thriller-y and more straight-up horror. I wound up with a real winner thanks to one of the star’s filmographies, but you’ll have to come back to found out who!

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