Tower of Terror Is Unstreamable

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Kirsten Dunst was making bank in the 90s. This is the same year she voiced Young Anastasia in Anastasia.

This is the same year Kirsten Dunst voiced Young Anastasia in Anastasia. Disney / The Tower of Terror

Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can’t watch on major streaming services in the United States.

Why's this hiding in the vault, Disney?! HUH!!

Why’s this hiding in the vault? CB

Tower of Terror should be on Disney+. It’s got an all-star cast (Kirsten Dunst, Steve Guttenberg, Melora Hardin) and I think it’s Disney’s first film based entirely on one of its theme park attractions, laying the groundwork for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Unlike many of Disney’s made-for-TV movies, this one stands up. The elevator scenes are genuinely scary—I’m afraid of elevators because of this. So what’s up with the unstreamability?

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It could have something to do with its Twilight Zone elements. The Tower of Terror, the ride and the film, is significantly inspired by The Twilight Zone, owned by CBS. It’s a Disney film, but I imagine some shuffling going on here between CBS All Access and Disney+.

It could also have to do with a remake. In 2015, Disney got a lot of buzz for hiring Big Fish and Frankenweenie writer John August to create a treatment for a new Tower of Terror movie. Disney hasn’t pursued the project and was unfaithful to the tower. (They scrapped the Tower of Terror ride in California and made it Guardians of the Galaxy themed in 2017.)

Still, in terms of Halloween Disney fare, this one’s a sweet ride. CHASE BURNS

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Never underestimate a relationship between two teen girls...

Never underestimate a relationship between two teen girls… JK

There can be a real intensity to a friendship between teen girls. I remember feeling emotionally entrenched with my best friend from high school—as if little else mattered but our friendship and the dumb jokes we made with each other (spoiler alert: we’re both queer now). But it’s that intensity that Peter Jackson captures in Heavenly Creatures.

Set in Christchurch in the 1950s, Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey play Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, two teen girls who are obsessed with each other and retreat into a world of their own making. They create their own afterlife (called the Fourth World where tenor Mario Lanza is a saint), write books together, get accused of lesbianism, and, erm, murder Pauline’s mom after their parents threaten to break up their relationship.

Jackson gives a lot of space to these girls’ emotions and fantasies—a sweeping soundtrack, epic scenes set on beautiful New Zealand cliffs, fantastical butterflies, a castle populated with living versions of Juliet’s clay figures. He makes their world seem tangible, an appealing retreat from their respective health problems and family troubles. It’s a generous look at how two girls could delude themselves into killing someone. This film also marks the debut of both Winslet and Lynskey, whose chemistry makes the picture congeal.

What’s really wild is that the story is true. Both Juliet and Pauline spent five years in prison before being released in 1959. Juliet changed her name to Anne Perry, becoming a successful novelist (and Mormon) in the US. Pauline also changed her name, became a devout Catholic, and moved to England. They apparently haven’t spoken to each other since the ’50s. What a ride. JASMYNE KEIMIG

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SUGAR
Canada, 2004, 97 minutes, Dir. John Palmer
Theres one cute scene in here.

There’s one cute scene in here. CB

The first half of Sugar is good. Sweet, actually, even though it’s a deranged film about a teen boy who runs away to live with a gay sex worker. And then there’s a brutal and unnecessary rape scene. The scene is dynamic, but it’s mishandled and the story falls into the stereotypes that come with a gay hustler.

The cliched gay hustler has a pretty standard arch: He’s bold. He’s brash. He’s carefree. He’s got a lot of bad johns but it’s fun, you know? It’s chill! And then it’s not. There’s a big monologue somewhere, eventually, where the hustler confesses that his life is a mess. That, you know what, he DOESN’T like getting pissed on for cash. And that if the world were kinder, he wouldn’t have to do this kind of work. He actually HATES doing this kind of work. Usually a kind daddy saves him. This framing almost always comes from a writer who doesn’t know shit about sex work.

It’s a real bummer this one goes from remarkably tender and trashy to spinning down the toilet bowl of hustler cliches. CHASE BURNS

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One Tragic Mulatto storyline coming up!

She starts so many sentences with “My white father…” and I can relate. JK

Mixing Nia follows Nia (Karyn Parsons of Fresh Prince fame), a mixed race woman who quits her job at an ad agency after being asked to market malt liquor to Black kids. Instead, she decides to write the Great Biracial Novel to get in touch with her ~~true identity~~ as the child of a Black mother and a Jewish father. But she feels out of place in both communities, especially as she juggles dating her hot Black literature teacher Lewis (Isaiah Washington) and her white former coworker, Matt (Eric Thal). Blah blah blah.

I think what the film is trying to do is admirable. Wrestling with Black biracial identity requires a certain level of finesse so that you accurately reflect the weird experience of being mixed while also not falling into the Tragic Mulatta trope. However, I don’t think Mixing Nia quite gets it right. Precisely because it boils the “issue” of Nia’s identity down to who she’s fucking. It plays into our American obsession with blood race—as if who you reproduce with determines your racial and ethnic identity. I think that’s a drag! You should be able to fuck whomever you please while sitting in the tranquil-and-sometimes-toxic state of identity confusion. Put THAT in your book, Nia! JASMYNE KEIMIG

[embedded content]Unstreamable means we couldn’t find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn’t find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. We don’t consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.

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