For the Look, Listen, Analyze assignment I chose Kids in the Hall’s The Monkeys. The video in the playlist was disabled, so here’s a version from the Nerdist. I love Kids in the Hall and wish it was still on Netflix, so I’m really excited to look at/listen to/analyze a skit.
The scene opens to a dimly lit, hazy room. Two columns of light pour through what looks like a crack in the front door. In one long take, the camera pans back from the door until it meets Dave, who had just been looking at the door and then turns to face the camera. The camera is at eye-level with Dave. The setting is established by this long, panning shot. The take continues, uncut, with Dave in the dark, sitting just left of center. The only light source is a fireplace in the background and a natural light that illuminates his right hand.
The camera cuts away to Dave and Mark (tall dude on the right) standing with their backs to a window, its curtains pulled closed. Two lamps are lit behind them as well. Despite the light sources, the men seem to be in the dark.
Cut back to Dave at the front door, even darker than before. He opens the door a crack, letting bright natural light pour into the house, then slams the door shut. Back in darkness, he speaks to the camera as it slowly zooms toward him.
Cut again to Dave and Mark, still in front of the window, and still poorly lit.
Another cut back to Dave in the dark. Again, he is slightly left of center, but now facing right of frame and speaking into the telephone. The only light in this shot is what is reflected off the glass of a framed picture hanging on the wall.
Now some change! We cut to the three men seated in a car – the man up front driving, with Mark behind the driver’s seat and Dave next to Mark. It almost seems like the camera itself is mounted on the hood of the car. It bounces along with the movement of the car. The driver in the foreground, but he doesn’t block Mark or Dave. There is a long take of the car ride as Dave continues speaking from the back seat. The inside of the car still seems dark and desaturated.
The camera then cuts to a side shot of the car. We see it pull up and come to a stop, and through the passenger side window we can see the driver turn to his left to say something to the guys in the back. The window is closed, and makes the shot look really dark.
Then a cut back to just Dave, still seated in the back seat. It looks like we’re seeing him through the windshield and against the back windshield, creating another effect of darkness. A person walks by in the background, but Dave is totally still.
Next up are multiple quick cuts between Dave and the driver, who end up laughing about something. Then an outside shot that looks in through the back passenger side window at Dave and Mark, and as Dave opens the back door, the scene changes immediately to a low angle shot of Dave back home in the dark. The two columns of light from the crack in the door are visible in the background. His face is in shadow, but again, his hand is illuminated by natural light. This time, he is seated just right of center.
There is another cut back to Dave and Mark in front of the window. It is identical to their first appearance. Creepy!
Finally, it cuts to Dave in the chair. Once again the camera is eye level with him. He is still in the dark, with the fireplace in the background, and with only his hand illuminated by natural light. Dave looks over his shoulder at the door, and the camera follows his eyeline and zooms toward the door.
First off, there’s some seriously weird noise at the beginning! Like something rattling a chest of drawers that’s 2 rooms over. Then there are shrieks, followed by Dave sighing and saying gruffly that the monkeys are loose. The way he says it makes it sound like it happens all the time. There’s also a laugh track in the video! This doesn’t seem like a skit that was done in front of a studio audience, so the laugh track is interesting.
In the background you can hear air moving, like howling wind, and the crackle of a fireplace. And of course, the monkeys – growling and shrieking!!! They just keep getting crazier the longer the skit goes on. Any scene with Dave monologuing, you can hear the monkeys absolutely losing it in the background. When he opens the door to show the viewer where he keeps them, the monkey sound effect intensifies until he shuts the door again. The door slamming shut has a reverberating echo that makes it seem really heavy, or makes the house seem huge.
Dave’s dialogue is delivered in a gravelly voice and between exaggerated inhales and exhales. He’s smoking throughout the skit, but having a bunch of evil monkeys is probably pretty exhausting too. Neither is very good healthwise.
What’s kind of funny is that when the other person starts talking, the monkey sounds disappear. Where are he and Dave standing? Are they even in the same room anymore? I’m thinking maybe they were being interviewed by the camera person. That’s probably why they were standing in the exact same spot the second time they showed up.
It’s not obvious when Dave is on the phone – this is going to make me sound like a total dingdong, but when he was threatening to let the monkeys loose if he didn’t get a pizza delivered in 15 minutes, I was confused about what was going on. There was a metallic ringing noise when he slammed the receiver down, but I had to listen a few times to hear it.
The car trip is weird. The hum of the engine and bumps in the road are easy enough to recognize, but it’s the seemingly irrelevant conversation and tone of Dave’s voice that’s so off-putting. He shouldn’t have those monkeys.
He wouldn’t wish those monkeys on his worst enemy because he likes having the monkeys. Obviously.
Anyway, there are a couple of things I wanted to look at using Ebert’s How to Read a Movie article. The first is kind of simple and deals with what he calls a two-shot. I’m assuming based on context that it means a shot where there are two people, and I hope I’m right.
This is just the weirdest looking still. Dave is looking right into the camera with that Kubrick stare, but the overall picture has this American Gothic vibe. According to Ebert, in a two-shot frame, the person to the right of center will seem more “positive,” or have dominance over the person that is to the left of center. Here, it’s Mark that’s on the right. I think the contrast with Dave’s creepy stare is what makes Mark’s character seem like the “positive,” while “loose-the-monkeys” Dave is the negative, standing to the left of center. Mark’s dialogue and manner of speech is much different from Dave’s as well – kinda doofy, but not scary. Putting him on the right highlights both his positivity and Dave’s negativity.
Back to this low angle shot toward the end of the skit. This comes after Dave threatens to release the monkeys on the driver (as a joke! haha! so funny!), and here he’s explaining exactly how the monkeys give him “power.” Shooting from below eye level makes him look bigger, and as Ebert writes, “low angles make [people] into gods.” Being able to loose some evil monkeys on a hapless pizza delivery person who arrives 1 minute late probably gives you some sense of importance. All the angles that Dave had been shot at before had been eye level, but this one is quite low.
Another thing that’s interesting about this particular shot is that Dave is positioned just right of center. In the other scenes he’s been in, he’s either been on the left (in the first monologue, paired with Mark, on the phone, or in the car) or if he wasn’t on the left, he was facing left (opening and closing the monkey door). Here, however, he’s facing right and the majority of the space he takes up is in the right side of the screen. The only thing to the left is the monkey door, its light creeping into the room. The true evil! Dun dun dunnnnnnnn!!!