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The Vagrant tells the story of Graham Krackowski (the always magnificent Paxton), who moves into his new home only to be terrorized by an unruly vagrant that lives across the street in an abandon lot. What begins as simply an inconvenience to him, escalates into an all out war of head games, wit, and eventually murder. Written by
There are good movies and there are bad movies, and then there are movies so delightfully skewed that the terms "good" and "bad" cease to apply. The Vagrant is of this last variety.
Bill Paxton stars as Graham Krakowski, the epitome of young professionalism, who is buying his first home. On his first day in the new house (although "new" is a misnomer; the kitchen looks as if it was last updated around 1966), he walks in on a vagrant (Marshall Bell) hunched over the kitchen sink. Shortly after, he discovers the vagrant living on the vacant lot across the street. What follows is a paranoiac's nightmare; a hilariously twisted game of cat-and-mouse, with the vagrant testing the limits of Krakowski's sanity. The vagrant does such a good job of driving him crazy that nobody believes Krakowski when he insists the vagrant is out to get him. Especially skeptical is Michael Ironside, playing a dense-as-a-cement-block police lieutenant (with the unlikely name of Ralf Barfuss, no less). When Krakowski calls the police after finding the vagrant in his house eating a sandwich, Barfuss asks (with a sort of gleeful maliciousness), "And what kind of sandwich was this alleged man eating?"
When the murders start, nobody listens to Krakowski, who is convinced the vagrant is to blame. Barfuss is dead-set on nailing Krakowski for the murders, and even Graham's best friend questions his sanity.
This is the first horror movie I've watched where I was sure everything I was laughing at was actually intended to be funny. I knew I was having fun about 15 minutes into the movie, when the following exchange took place -
KRAKOWSKI: Quick, I think he(the vagrant)'s getting ready to urinate!
COP 1: Should we call for back-up?
COP 2: There's no time!
The Vagrant moves along at a pretty good clip, and the story, particularly the second half, plays out like one of the more surreal episodes of Tales from the Crypt. The balance between horror and comedy is a bit uneven, bordering on the ridiculously stupid at times, but still enjoyable. Michael Ironside is great in a rare comedic performance (although a larger role would have been nice); Marshall Bell's vagrant is an over-the-top boogyman who jumps out periodically to scare Bill Paxton; and it's just plain FUN watching Paxton degenerate from an uptight, neurotic yuppie to a scruffy, gun-toting trailer-park manager.
B+ if you're a fan of tongue-in-cheek horror-comedy or the main stars;
C- (or less) if you're a cinematic snob.
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