Friday, April 30, 2010

Long Week On Elm St.: Part 8: Freddy Vs. Jason



I have been accused of undervaluing the "fun" entries of The Nightmare On Elm Street series. And to a certain extent that’s true. I can’t help but hold these movies to a higher standard. I can’t enjoy them on the same level that I enjoy say Friday The 13th 1-5 (That’s right 5) because Friday The 13th has never produced an objectively good movie. Oh don’t get me wrong they’ve made some incredible enjoyable ones. But never have they come close to the resonance great horror provides. To borrow a phrase from Stephen King, they give the gross out. They don’t achieve Terror. A Nightmare On Elm Street at its best, achieves terror. So yeah perhaps I have been a little hard on the “fun” Nightmare films.

But then how can you explain the absurd amount of affection I have for this beautifully dumb little movie? Maybe its easier to accept Freddy as fun when he’s hacking up an undead backwoods mongoloid, as opposed to weeping begging teenagers. Its not perfect by any means, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and its just as epic of a smackdown as you could hope for (Yu’s directed some great Kung Fu films and brings a real sense of geography and choreography to make the final duel improbably exciting).

Pulling together the two titans for a kaiju beat down, Freddy VS. Jason is a delicious slice of 80’s horror smack dab in the middle in the aughts wasteland. And I unabashedly kind of love it.

It’s a movie where even the flaws work in its favor. The cast is fodder, even by slasher movie standards. And with damn good reason as far as I’m concerened. When one watches a movie entitled Freddy Vs. Jason, its not for psychological realism. Its two watch two unholy monsters do what they do best as a prelude beating the shit out of eachother. And the film delivers in spades.

But that’s not even doing the movie justice. As I’ve said what bothered me most about the other Nightmare films isn’t their light tone but their utter lazyness, Freddy Vs. Jason fits in some clever ideas that harken back to the series. Basing the premise on the hypnocil subplot in Dream Warriors in a way that’s actually, dare I say, clever (I mean come on, they even thought enough about it to presuppose what could go wrong) alongside a nice turn on the ending of part one. The concept of having Freddy and Jason end their battle using their opposite’s signature weapons is kind of brilliant. And There are all sorts of shout outs to both sides of the series including the return of the DREAM GOAT!!!

The film even manages to fit in some genuinely creepy moments, the First dream that gets Freddy back in the game, with the eyeless little girls is genuinely creepy. And on the other end of the spectrum Jason gets in some giddy kills that rank among his best.

Everything is played broad here, but its a lot of fun. The “Oh Shit” Face Freddy gets when he realized he’s been pulled into the real world and must now deal with an eight foot tall, three hundred pound undead mongoloid whose mother he insulted mere moments prior, is worth its weight in gold.

The only compaint here are for fans of the fedora’d one. The plot to bring the two together (not a bad one actually) necessitates that Freddy be kept on the sidelines for most of the on goings. He really gets in one kill, and his defeat at the hands of Jason, after dominating for most of the battle, feels like a cheat.

Really though, watching these all in close proximity made me feel a little less sorry for Robert Englund, who apparently took his ousting from the series hard. Sure, it’s a shame he’s not happy. But he got to do serious Freddy one last time in New, and Goofy Freddy one last time in this. Even if he didn’t want to leave the stage, he got in two pretty fine bows.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Long Week On Elm St: Part 7: Wes Craven's New Nightmare



After the terrible stain that is Freddy’s Dead, one almost wants to weep when beholding A New Nightmare. Like The Dream Warriors (and to be honest I’m a bit dissatisfied for the review I did of that title. Not that its not an accurate representation of how I feel. Its just that I did a better job articulating what annoyed me about that title then what I liked about it. As penance I’m trying to be more even handed here), I liked this one a lot better this time out. And like The Dream Warriors, I have no doubt that it has something to do with the fact that it directly follows the worst two entries in the series. I mean come on, anything looks good after watching Freddy’s Revenge/Dead. You don't want to praise one for simply not being the other.

New Nightmare is greatly aided by the fact that its purpose couldn’t be clearer. Its Wes Craven’s mission to restore dignity to his greatest creation. His mission is so simple, that its kind of genius. To make Freddy scary again. But No matter how noble the movie’s intentions are they can’t fully absorb the silliness of Wes Craven solemnly explaining that his film was so awesome that it enslaved a demon.

Perhaps some explaining is in order. For those of you not in the know, New Nightmare takes place in the “real world”. New Line has scuttled the Nightmare series with dead, but Craven has a mysterious idea to bring it back, and he wants Heather Langenkamp for it. Langenkamp is initially reluctant to take the part, but when people start dying, and by all appearances Krueger has appeared in the real world and is apparently fixated with her troubled son (some truly dire child acting) . She realizes she might not have a choice. She’ll have to act out her role as Freddy’s adversary, either onscreen, or in her real world.

Now this is pretty potent stuff. Like Bret Eaton Ellis’s criminally underrated Lunar Park, it’s a portrait of an artist many believe to be amoral grappling with the responsibility an artist has when he brings, both figuratively and literally, something into the world. The problem, and if I may use another Literary allusion it would be Under The Dome, is that if Craven had left the reason for Freddy's return unexplained, the piece would be infinitely more effective. But Craven is a man who likes to explain things. And his explanation for this event is that the story for A Nightmare On Elm Street was so awesome that it imprisoned a demon, and now that the demon is free its going to kill off everyone whose involved in the movies (guess it didn’t foresee remakes) so the story can never be told… And he’s causing earthquakes…

And I’m sorry, but that never gets any less stupid, no matter how many times I hear it. If I can be inelegant for a moment, A New Nightmare is like receiving a meal from a five star restaurant that someone has taken a dump on. The Asparagus may be braised just so, the potatoes rich and creamy, and the Steak juicy and cooked to perfection, but you simply cannot ignore the steaming pile of shit that is at its center.

Which is a shame because there is a lot of great stuff in New Nightmare, the metaphorical meal is pretty great. Englund embraces the chance to make Freddy scary again and he plays it with his old unrelenting viciousness and a sense of humor appropriately pitch black. (He even gets to do a pretty damning criticism of the unscary Freddy, when he hams it up on a talk show with Langenkamp, dancing to his theme song and high fiving to his adoring fans.) Craven Keeps the “real” Freddy off screen for over half the movie, it’s a great slow burn technique building some genuine dread. Langenkamp and Saxon make the most out of their chance to be on the big screen again. Craven shoots what’s arguably the greatest looking film of his career. The effects work is phenomenal (Some of it doesn't hold up but a lot of it does. The matte work in Freddy's lair is pretty great). The set where the film has its suitably apocalyptic ending Nightmarish. The scare scenes scare (One of the film’s most brutal scares is one of it’s a most simple. A scene where one of the first films most famous scares is coupled with the chilling line “I touched him.” It blows away ten years of not taking Freddy seriously in an instant). The proto Scream commentary on horror films is insightful. The commentary on Freddy interesting (“Every kid knows Freddy…”)

It has more ideas in any given five minute stretch then the entire rest of the series has in total. I mean fuck Freddy's Dead could you not even realize that Freddy has to meet his final end in a boiler! That's the base line of- Oh shit my blood pressure is going up again. My Doctor tells me I need to avoid sodium and all mentions of Freddy's Dead.

But that oh so important suspension of Disbelief never clicks. And the movie gets crushed under its weight… and the weight of said dreadful child acting (I mean the kid is BAD, single handedly killing some potentially effective moments) and the dubious decision to put Freddy in Leather pants like he’s Chris Cornell.

At the end of the day New Nightmare is a worthy effort from everyone involved. And I really can’t fault it for that. I just can’t help but wish it had been an entirely successful one.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Long Week On Elm St: Part 6: Freddy's Dead



There are movies that are merely bad, simple run of the mill product put out by an indifferent studio to an apathetic public, and then there are movies which are so bad that they cross the line into startling. Movies that fall so low below the bar of competence, that they don’t even deserve the enjoyable bad movie award bestowed upon the likes of Charles B. Pierce and Ed Wood. The only reaction to these types of films is horror and anger. Its based in the same kind of reaction that made angry Cavemen smash snakes with sticks.

Freddy’s Dead is that kind of movie. A film so bad that it more then justifies the “Maybe if we hit it enough times with this machete it’ll stop twitching.” Hard reboot that led to New Nightmare And Freddy Vs. Jason. It’s the sort of movie so bad that it makes you not just dislike it but forget what you liked about the series in the first place.

It’s opening sums up the problem, starting with one of Nightmare’s trademark high falutin quotes in red, by Nietchze this time, before cutting to a simialarly type faced quote saying “Welcome To Prime Time Bitch”. I know its just a joke but it makes me mad, communicating nothing more then “Ambition iz ghey lulz.” Well fuck you too movie.

Anyway a bunch of Orphans, aw fuck it, I don’t care anymore. The movie doesn’t so why should I. We for some reason get treated to Freddy’s origin story, this despite the fact that he has become at this point such a complete caricature that its like giving a backstory to an “inanimate carbon rod”. Who cares? I mean, does the fact that Freddy has a daughter bring anything to him? Does he act at all different to her then he did to Nancy, Tina and all the other female victims he’s gone after? No? Then why fucking bother? Am I supposed to care about the fact that Alice Cooper was mean to him when he enters the movie doing a Wicked Witch of the West impersonation?

I mean what is there to even talk about here? The “Now You’re Playing With Power?” sequence that’s probably the dream world’s nadir. The embarrassed appearance by Johnny Depp? The embarrassing appearance by Roseaane and Tom Arnold? God every fucking thing in this movie is awful. There is literally nothing redeeming about it. Not one remotely scary shot, or funny joke, or clever idea. Say what you will about Part 2 and 5 but they at least had the ambition to be offensively bad, Freddy’s Dead can’t even muster up that. Its bland. A sad little one trick pony going through the motions for the last time.

This movie killed Freddy alright, and he died of fucking shame.

Long Week On Elm St: Intermission

What would a Nightmare On Elm Street without a tribute to the great* (*note "great" music might not actually be great) that the movie has inspired.

(I love that Will Smith is more horrified by Freddy's habit of dressing in the same clothes then his habit of murdering the innocents.)



(So I'm assuming he's an uncle by marriage then?)



(I have nothing bad to say about Dokken)



(And lastly man do you remember when the AVGN was funny? ... No neither do I... Well do you remember when it was something better then an collection of increasingly desperate swears and increasingly unfunny non sequiturs? Yeah those where good times.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Long Week On Elm St.: Part 5: The Unseen 26: Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

(Colon) (Subtitle)

Why'd I Buy It?: Came with the Freddy Four Pack I bought.

Why Haven't I Watched It?: Films reputation isn't that good, even among die hard Nightmare Fans. Renny Harlin considered this movie above his dignity.

How Was It?: Pretty fucking bad actually.



The movie gets off on the wrong foot by giving us a good look at the conception of Freddy. The scenes starts the film off on a nasty exploitive tone, and I’m someone for whom those two words are often compliments. Sure its mostly implied, but there are some things that can’t be done tastefully, and the gang rape of a nun by an asylum full of lunatics is one of them.

The problem is this tone carries over into the rest of the film. Whatever fun may be had is lost in the fact that Freddy is basically trying to rape Tina in several of his scenes. Now true sexualized menace has always been a part of Freddy’s persona. Unlike those knife wielding puritans Michael and Jason; always there to punish the unlucky teen foolhardy enough to light up a joint or have some sex outside the bonds of matrimony, Freddy is himself a lavacious libertine. There was certainly no small amount of sexual menace in Freddy’s treatment of Nancy, take the infamous Bathtub shot, or “I’m your boyfriend now.” It even showed up in Part 4 with the "wanna suck face?" sequence. The problem is his actions don’t have the weight they did. He’s still the same old goofy serial killer, except now he likes non consensual sex and the movie's not up to the task of grounding it within anything resembling the weight that it deserves. In other words if you want to have themes of sexual assault because you want to examine them, and use them to explore the things that truly frighten us (ala Nightmare) thats fine. If you want to use it because you need something to shoot in between the one liners and scenes of creepy unborn children, that's not so fine.

But its not just the movies sense of common decency that's hitting an all time low. The film’s dream sequences hit a new gimmicky low here, the nadir probably being the one where Freddy turns into a motorcycle and bonds with Tina’s boyfriend, in a scene that probably only frightened JG Ballard. Assuming of course that it didn’t just make him furiously masturbate.

A big plot point is made of the fact that Kruger is able to kill while Tina is awake. The odd thing is that it appears that he is able to kill the characters when THEY are awake to. Its sloppy filmmaking pure and simple on just about every level.

By this time the films formula’s have become completely see through. Kid likes Comics? Do you think he’ll get A-Haed?

"

Girl a swimmer? Perhaps that will fit in some way in her nightmares. Its far fetched I know but here me out.

Now this isn’t a problem in an of itself, as Dream Master Proved this formula can be a whole hell of a lot of fun when done right. The problem is, after the warm big budget look of Master, and the twisted imagitiveness of Warriors, Child is firmly back in the cheap and terrible looking mode of Freddy’s Revenge. It fails even as eye candy. And there's a lot less sequences then in your average Nightmare as well. Yes the food is terrible and such small portions.

Compounding the problem is the fact that even Englund seems to have given up at this point. If Part 4 had to deal with the problem that Freddy was no longer particularly scary Part 5 embraces it and makes sweet passionate love to it. Englund dresses up in something stupid like a chef’s suit, or a superhero costume, he makes some bad puns, and then he kills some unlucky actor working for scale. Rinse and repeat. I mean Super Freddy? Seriously. Fucking Super Freddy? Are you kidding me?

At the worst these two problem combine and we get results like the scene in which Englund literally slashes up a cardboard cut out while cackling for like a minute. Man you remember that scene where Freddy took Tina up the ceiling? Man that was scary and visually arresting. It seems like so long ago.

While Dream Child isn't as ideologically horrendous as Freddy's Revenge or as utterly incompetent as Freddy's Dead, this is a matter of degrees here people. Sure stubbing my toe may not suck as bad as losing my genitals in a fire, but I'd like to keep from doing either if I could help it.

But I know the Dream Child is just lulling me into a false sense of security, making me think I've seen the worse. When, just like in the horror movies we all know the slasher isn't dead. The bad Freddy movies have one more showing to make before I'm back on semi solid ground. And brother. Its a doozy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Long Week On Elm St.: Part 4 Nightmare On Elm Street The Dream Warriors



I was just as surprised as anyone when I ended up giving Nightmare On Elm Street 4 a positive review. After all this is the installment that is not without reason often blamed for ruining the entire series. Call it massive head trauma if you must but taken without the baggage of the series surrounding it. Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, remains a fun, if stoopid, big budget eighties horror movie. Its not what you would call good, but its good enough to qualify as my favorite Renny Harlin movie.

Lets see if it can keep its title.

0:00:20: Well that’s how you throw down the gautlent. “Hey Dream Warriors you think your Edgar Allen Poe quote is high falutin? Well we’re taking our intro quote from the fucking BIBLE!!!” The difference of course being while the Poe quote worked as a statement of purpose, the passage from Job is so out of place that it’s a prime example of cognitive dissonance.

0:02:30: Oh hi “Not Patricia Arquette” I never really got the recast here. In what universe is Patricia Arquette too expensive?


0:02:46: NO NOT CHALK!!! Man even when he was the poor man’s Ridley Scott rather then the expensive man’s Uwe Boll Harlin couldn’t establish tone to save his life.

0:03:55: If the Dream Warriors pioneered the concept of utterly undreamlike dreams, The Dream Master embraces it. To give credit where its due, though Harlin earns his keep here as a stylist. I’d teach this film as an example of eighties film stock at its best. Everything is polished to a high sheen, the light is warm. It’s a look that bothers the shit out of some people, I’ve always liked this vintage of stock. Especially when you compare it to the desaturation and blue tint vogue that held sway in the nineties.

0:04:22: Lets hear it for Brian Hegeland! Whooo! I don’t think you can accuse Dream Master of genuinely trying to push its characters past fodder the way that Warriors does. But at least it makes all its characters unique and likable enough that I’m normally genuinely sorry to see them die. Most of the credit for which I’ll give to Hegeland, not Harlan.

0:05:44: I don’t know why I have a soft spot for direct horror sequels. Especially since all they usually mean is that the characters I liked who survived the first one are now going to die (I’m looking at you Danielle Harris in Halloween II). But I do. Seeing Kinkaid getting brought back into things is just outright bizarre. Also, one thing I didn’t mention in my warriors review, whats with the weird “being pulled back on a wire thing” they do whenever someone enters someone elses dream? Its just such a weird effect. Could they really not think of a better way to show this?

0:06:01: Its an odd horror movie where the skeptics are right. Had Kristen just left well enough alone Freddy would have been stuck in limbo. Epic Fail, as the kids say.

0:07:08: OK serious question is Kinkaid’s dog the biggest canine asshole in cinema history? Between savaging our heroine for no reason and bringing Krueger back to life with his magic urine (not a joke), I can’t think of another Dog on film who has ever been potrayed as so manifestly not man’s best friend.

I guess Harlin is a cat person.

0:08:08: Another question, what does the Elm Street series have against fathers? I mean horror movie parents in general are clueless, if they’re present at all. But in The Nightmare series they always seem to be particular assholes when they’re played by people not named John Saxon. Mr. Johnson is appropriately enough a giant cock.

0:08:37: Alcholics too. I don’t know if there is an entry in the series where an alcoholic parent isn’t present. I don’t know if there’s anything deep to this. But considering how many different people have helmed these movies its an odd coincidence.

0:09:06: EIGHTEIS HAIR. Another sign of the eighties? The boyfriend is played by a Christian Slater wannabe. Bringing to light the disturbing fact that there was a time when people WANTED to be like Christian Slater.

10:16: Oh Shelia, you African American, Moped riding, nerd hottie. If Arbogast ever does The One You Might Have Saved again, you better believe I will choose you. She’s the perfect example of what The script does right without ever being exceptional. Every inch a cliché sure, but an appealing well acted cliché. "Dynasty Again?"

0:12:18: Dramarama and white people Karate. How can you not like this movie a little?

0:16:03: Oh the asshole dog’s name is Jason that explains it.

0:16:24: No matter how many times I see that dog resurrect Freddy with a flaming stream of urine, I can never quite believe it. I mean Jesus. Jesus Christ. Has there ever been a surer sign in any franchise ever, that the people involved just didn’t give a fuck? Had the word’s “WE REALLY COULDN’T GIVE A SHIT!!!” Flashed across the screen in neon the effect would have been the same. And it probably would have been more honest.



0:16:55: I love how the dog goes to all this trouble to resurrect Freddy and then gets all scared and pissed and starts barking. THIS IS YOUR DOING ASSHOLE!!!



0:17:05: Once again though the effects are GOOD. Freddy’s resurrection (dog piss aside) has a wet organic feel. It’s the height of eighties practical. I’d love to know what the budget was on this one. If it was the most expensive I wouldn’t be surprised. Then again for all his many many… MANY directorial sins one thing Harlin has always been good at is making less look like more. So maybe not.

0:17:26: Oh sure dog. Walk away.

0:19:05: Kinkaid why are you so fucking dumb. You where there in Dream Warriors and you know what it takes to kill Freddy. And a falling car ain’t it.

0:21:45: I know it’s a cliché but man do remember when MTV used to play music? That was weird.

0:22:24: Oh shit now we’re back in Freddy’s Revenge territory. This is of course doubly ironic given that this is a movie where in Freddy actually is getting revenge rather then just hassling some random dudes.

0:23:00: Oh shit! Looks like we got a metaphor!

0:24:30: In another example of the movies “nothing special, but nice enough” style. Most horror movie’s figure that mentioning that two characters are siblings is enough. Dream Masters goes the extra mile to actually sketch some semblance of a relationship between the two. Which is nice.

0:25:00: (Brother That Shit Ain’t Canonical Pt. 1) Having Joey sealed in the waterbed makes no sense. The whole idea, with the series is that what happens in the dream world crosses over into the physical world. But not to the point where it ALTERS REALITY. What Did Freddy come out of the dream world with a sodering iron so he could reseal the water bed? Its stupid.

Now some would suggest that I am thinking far too much about something like The Nightmare On Elm Street series in this case. And they would be absolutely correct. I have no rebuttal. I'm deeply ashamed of myself now.

0:27:30: When you think about it Freddy’s character has gotten even weirder in this one. Sure he was doing these weird transformations in the last two movies, but it was either to play on their fears, or lull them into a false sense of security. In Part 4 he starts doing it just cause? Why does he show up in Drag and go through a long conversation before attempting to murder “Not Patricia Arquette” Why!?!

0:33:33: I take back what I said about Fathers. There’s never been a decent adult in the Elm Street series.

0:36:00: Yes and the first "post giving a fuck" nightmare devolves into a Jaws Parody. Because seriously, the filmmakers don’t want to scare you. At all.

And also because they like boobs.

0:36:15: Yes. Yes Freddy Krueger did just don sunglasses. No. No they really don't care anymore.



0:38:44: Goodbye “Not Patricia Arquette” even though you have doomed mankind in ways that aren’t exactly clear (Wait so since one person was pulled into the dreams Freddy can kill anyone now? And wait a second who said that Freddy was limited to killing the Elm Street Kidz in the first place? He was doing just fine on Jesse) You will be missed. Well not really. Enjoy your tenure as one of Freddy’s chest faces.

0:44:09: Whelp goodbye Shelia. Her death is one of the most grisly creative in the film, and maybe even the series, even if its not remotely scary and makes absolutely no fucking sense (Hello Random Robot Hand from another dimension) even in the internal logic of the dreamworld. Like I said, I’ll see you in the next The One You Would Have Saved.



0:50:00: That’s right expostion keep telling yourself that and one day it might be true.

0:50:20: I kind of mentioned this in part one. But has anyone else noticed that Nightmare On Elm Street has a weird fifties fixation? These kid’s social lives revolve around malt shops, drive ins, and letterman’s jackets. Isn’t it just a little odd?

0:54:40: Remember how dumb it was when Busta Rhymes beat up Michael Myers with Kung Fu? Well I’m not saying this is dumber. But its pretty damn close.

0:59:27: “I know Kung FU!”

1:01:00: Another good example of the film at least going for two dimensional stereotypes rather then one, with Tina’s Alkie dad.

1:02:44: Holy shit. Had Renny Harlin seen Messiah Of Evil?? The theater sequence seriously seems to think so. I’m trying to wrap my head around that and its not working.

This dream sequence is a great example of what Harlin does right, and what the series did wrong. Simply put the scene looks good, and the scale is impressive. Not so simply put, the idea of such a specific dream makes it ludicrous and completely unrelatable. The only person this dream is scary to is Tina. If the series was still interested in being frightening this might be a problem.

1:06:35: “I love soul food” Wah Waaahhh Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

1:08:21: Man a clever idea that plays on something that actually happens in dreams and actually builds suspense. Why its just like the old days… No musn’t think about the old days. It’ll just make the next two days hurt all the more.

1:08:40: Freddy is kind of like Jesus that way. (I bet you didn’t expect to read that sentence today).

1:09:20: The Roach Motel has got to be one of the weirdest, most contrived, nonsensical dreams in the series. Which is, if you’ve been paying attention, really saying a lot.



1:15:49: Yes that’s an eighties montage set to hair metal. I may have ascended to a higher plain of consciousness.

1:16:39: OH SHIT! Looks like that metaphor is complete.

1:17:10: GET AWAY FROM HIM YOU BITCH!!! Oops wrong movie.

1:19:44: Man remember how dumb Kung Fu against Freddy looked. Now it looks even dumber with obvious stunt doubles and an actress who in no way knows Kung Fu.

1:22:18: Wait what the fuck? What’s this new bullshit extra verse to the rhyme? You mean all anyone had to do to beat Krueger was show him a mirror? That bullshit logic wouldn’t fly in a Dario Argento movie.

Hey filmmakers remember how in the last movie Krueger was possessing the mirrors? No of course you don’t. Because as has been established. You just plain don’t give a fuck.

1:24:16: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The practical effects in this movie are fucking awesome.

1:24:55: Uh… I don’t think hell is known as a particularly restful place.

Like I said despite the fact that its not, you know, any good I stubbornly kind of like The Dream Master. Like The Burning and Friday The 13th Part 2 it’s a movie that seems to personify the appeal and tropes of its own red headed stepchild place in the sub genre. It may not have the ambition of Part 1 and 3, but it delivers the goods. ;

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Long Week On Elm St.: Part 3: Nightmare On Elm Street 3 The Dream Warriors



Nightmare On Elm Street 3, opens with a sure sign that the series high minded ideals have returned, with a crimson quote from Edgar Allen Poe. Making the second part of the “trilogy” along with New Nightmare and the original (and also confusingly kickstarting its own trilogy of sorts alongside 4 and 5) The Dream Warriors made the smart move of going back to the basics. Bringing back Craven for script duties (why he didn’t direct has never been made quite clear to me), reuniting John Saxon and Heather Langenkamp (again proving that she's smarter then the average final girl) from the original, and stocking the cast with ringers like Patricia Arquette and Laurence Muther Fucking Fishburne (his given name), and bizarrely Zsa Zsa Gabor. The Dream Warriors is a movie that appears to do everything right.

And yet, it never quite came together for me. Maybe its just heightened expectations. The Dream Warriors reputation precedes it as a movie far better then the average slasher sequel. But there’s something else nagging me here. Most mark the next installment as the one where the franchise went well and truly off the tracks. Marking the moment when the bulldog pisses on Freddy’s ashes and the series remaining dignity as its nadir. But to my mind, the seeds of the series problems are all sown here. They may not become as extreme or as eye gougingly bad as they’d later become but they’re all here. The uncomfortable fact is, that while Freddy’s Revenge is a movie that never wanted to be anything then a shitty horror movie that gouged gullible fans from their money, The Dream Warriors is a movie that desperately wants to be more and fails.



You gotta give the movie credit, its trying. The script and actors try to create characters who are more then mere body bag fodder. The film is paced like a real movie, the difference between Elm St. 2 and 3 is the difference between slow and slow burn. Dream Warriors takes time to build its rules and its characters so when things get crazy at the end, it matters. The first fifteen minutes or so are golden. Craven cooks up a dream worthy of the original Nightmare. By keeping him off screen for the first ten minutes rather then cramming him in every shot, they allow a real sense of dread to build around Freddy. You can see Englund and Craven trying to build him into a real threat again, as opposed to the goofy jackass of Part 2.

The problem is simply put the mother fucker talks too much. Freddy has such a reputation as joking killer, that people forget that Englund was quite in the first Nightmare. Oh he had lines, and he made them fucking count. But that was because they where so seldom. Starting here he doesn’t shut up.

Of course the dreams around him aren’t as good as they used to be either. The concept of the Dream Warriors itself is a good one, and interestingly pre Matrixy. And it solves the problem of having the characters be able to last against Krueger, rather then just helplessly die like they did in the first two. The problem is it’s the start of the theme dreams. Where every dream sequence is wrapped around one central gimmick.

An undervalued piece of what makes the first Elm Street work, is how dreamlike the dreams are. Oh it’ll pull out the big images when it needs to. But most of the dreams subsist on the lapses in logic, odd details, and rationalizations that real dreams are built on. Of course my boyfriend whose supposed to be awake is behind that tree, of course theirs a dead pile of leaves inside my school, of course the hall moniter is threatening to kill me and I don’t really care. Logic gets suspended. Dream Warriors on the other hands turns into a literal haunted house movie by the end.

Its in the real world that logic gets suspended. We get a bizarrely involved back story for Kruger (Even if it doesn’t make any biological sense the phrase “The Bastard Son Of A Thousand Maniacs.” is pretty awesome.) And it also features the sight of John Saxon (in what I actually think is one of his best performances) fighting the stop motion (and like 8 foot tall) skeleton of Freddy Krueger. Which is one of those sights that manages to be completely awesome and completely fucking stupid at the exact same time. In either case to say it’s a jarring tonal shift is an understatement.

I feel like I might be being to hard on this movie (Then again after Nightmare On Elm Street 2 it might feel like I'm being too hard on any movie). What we have is a horror sequel with cool effects, a better then average cast and story, and some genuine imagination. But its still not enough to bump it from better then OK to actually good. Maybe I’m just being tough on this film, it’s the kind of sequel I usually like, that imaginely expands on original while staying true to its spirit.

But at the end of the day. A Nightmare Before Elm Street 3 is one of those annoying films that is both more then it has to be and less then it should be.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Long Week On Elm St.: Part 2: A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge



Hooboy. I reviewed Nightmare On Elm Street 2 once before and it was not pretty. Look maybe I’m being to hard on this film but its tough to find anything nice to say about a movie that plays like the ultimate horror movie, if the thing that scares you most is that you might be gay.

There’s just something intrinsically distasteful about a horror movie that uses a burnt demonic child molester as a metaphor for homosexuality.

But when I revisit a series I revisit it, warts an all. So with a bit of patience and a lot of alchol, I’m going to make it through Nightmare On Elm Street 2. Even if God help me I can’t quite stomach the idea of constructing an articulate review. Hopefully this stream of conscienceness post will more accurately reflect my annoyance.

So without further review lets start, Freddy’s Revenge, or as the great Outlaw Vern pointed out.

Technically Freddy already got his revenge in part 1 by going after the children of the people who burned him alive. In this one he’s just messing with a new kid who moves into the same house. It really is not revenge when you do it to a stranger who never did anything to you before and is not related to anyone who did anything to you before. Not to be pedantic but, come on dude, titles are important. Make ‘em count.


So things are off to a auspicious start then.



0:00:21: I’ve always wondered if the demonic Freddy school bus that begins the film was meant to reflect on the Freddymobile of the first film’s infamously inconclusive ending. I can’t help but feel that this would be giving the makers of Freddy’s Revenge way to much credit for the thought they put into it. Aside from the obivious thought which was “Bob Shaye will parade around the New Line Offices wearing our skin if we don’t get this out fast enough.”

0:02:55: Somehow I doubt Freddy has the proper Class A licensce to drive that thing. And my isn’t it funny how Midwestern Elm Street is surrounded by Californian desert. Look I know it’s a dream but give me a fucking break.

0:03:02: One of the things I love about horror films is how even the worst of them are able to document their time period with pretty startling precision. I mean holy Christ do you remember fucking Body Glove? Freddy's Revenge does! Bet you we see some sweet No Fear Gear in Freddy’s Dead.



0:04:05: Bet you wish the last act of your life wasn’t being such a snooty bitch now don’t you.

0:04:45: You know how I usually talk about how model work and practical FX no matter how corny has something CGI doesn’t? This will not be one of those times.



0:05:00: Just realized they really did just immediately stop trying to have the dreams mirror real dreams didn’t they? I mean Christ don’t you hate those dreams where you’re on a school bus and then the school bus is on a pinnacle, and there’s a burnt child molestor with knives for hands menacing you and two snooty girls? I hate that one.

0:06:00: Is it just me or has Jesse’s family always seemed like a refuge from a John Waters movie.


0:06:10: Enjoy that shot of oiled supple young man flesh! It’s the first of many!

0:07:10: Truth In Criticism Part 1!: "Fu Man Chews", heh OK that’s a genuinely good gag.

0:09:20: Just your usual pants and grappling by virile young men. Nothing to see here folks.



0:10:17: “Assume The Position” Jesus Christ, I can’t add anything if I wanted to.

(Second Beer + Shot Of Jameson)

0:11:04: Note The movie doesn’t even try to explain just what happened at the end of Nightmare On Elm St.

0:13:55: Whelp nothing to see here.

0:15:22: Truth in Criticism part 2. Freddy ripping out his brain is a pretty good gore gag. Nice of him to complement Jesse’s body like that. I mean whatever could he mean?

0:17:22: Yep just a giant phallic snake wrapping around our young protagonists body. No subtext here.

0:19:38: Yep just a completely surperfulous shot of our heroes ass gyrating to “All Night Long.” While he wears Elton John Glasses and plays with a minature baseball bat he’s pretending is his dick… Its like an outtake from The Rules Of Attraction here.

0:25:55: At this point they're still trying to treat Freddy seriously, but I honestly don't know what's worse. Failing to make him serious or succeeding in making him harmless.

0:29:33: The fucking exploding bird. Do I need to add anything? Can I add anything?



Did anyone think this would be scary? I mean really. I can take a joke, but this just a has an ugly whiff of desperation to it. "Animals Don't Expode Into Flames for no reason. You set this all up!" God his dad is an asshole. I mean Jesus Christ.

0:31:55:I never understood this scene. I mean in his grief over his exploding bird he seeks out his sadistic Coach, to um… er… teach him a thing or two? Honestly this scene makes no sense except to say “Remember Kids Homosexuality is frightening, and practiced by sick deviants.”

I mean fuck its not even subtext anymore. Its just plain fucking text.



0:33:17: And the world’s worst time cut. Ending the scene before anything resembling reason has been established. How this ended up in the final cut is astounding.

0:33:20: This does make me realize that in addition to its other sins, Freddy's Revenge is a SLOW moving horror movie. Aside from its opening scene, and a few that could best be described as "Freddy Kruger shoots the shit." Nothing approaching a horror scene has happened.

0:35:07: Oh No! The coach is taking so many balls to the face!

0:35:20: Oh no! Now the coach is getting all tied up while Jesse rubs himself in the shower!


0:36:32: And lets pile voyeurism, sadomasochism, and bondage on top of some implied anal rape, because there's nothing too unsavory for this movie.



0:37:00: Man Jesse screams like a girl.

0:38:50: My whatever is bothering Jesse he seems to think his parents just won't understand. Oh yeah and if there's one thing I know its that psychiatrists are for pussies.

0:39:00: You called it Pop, the thing Jesse needs is Anal Punishment.

0:41:20: Yeah silly woman what’s a legacy of madness and murder compared to good deals on real estate? Jesse's Dad is an Asshole.

0:46:46: Memo from New Line: Yes. Yes we have devolved to threatened child molestation and incest in order to scare you desensitized sons of bitches. No No we really have no shame at all.

Beer #4

53:21



Sigh

53:53:" Nope just running away from my "girlfriend" to the place where I really feel comfortable. The bed of my "best friend" which he is in. Naked."

Honestly what subtext?

54:42: Please Jesse tell us about this feeling inside of you that you just can't control. You know, that thing that wants to get inside your body.


0:58:04: Truth In Criticism: Okay, fairs fair. The scene where Freddy grows out of Jesse is a pretty decent scene, with some pretty interesting practical FX and Englund gets to be scary for his one (1) time in the movie. Again though I have to point out that its too little too late. I mean this is the second scare scene. Almost an hour into the movie. THE SECOND! Who the fuck directed this Monte Helleman?

1:02:14: Yes Jesse tell us again about this thing that’s inside you that you’re scared of.



1:06:40: Is it just me or does Krueger seem kind of pitiful and pathetic in the real world. Particuarly at a pool party. He looks like the nerd who helped tutor the jock to a passing grade, but looks miserable the entire time, as though he is constantly expecting someone to throw him in the pool.

1:09:00: And it's time for New Lines Un Authorized Remake of Horror At Party Beach!

Beer Five

1:09:40: I love this kid who tries to fucking talk Freddy down. I mean how optimistic can you be?

1:11:53: Ok Doberman’s with weird fucked up Brazil Baby faces? Genuinely creepy. There’s something intrinsically wrong about a dog with a human face. It also provided The Unborn with its one genuinely frightening moment. (And that's right I found three (3) good things to say about this film).

Beer Six

1:16:38: Don’t worry Jesse Heterosexual love will drive the demon from your body. After all its not like you where born this way.

1:21:14: That's right Jesse remember its always healthier to repress things. With the help of your girlfriend it should be easy!

1:22:18: DUN DUN DUN!!!!

In the final analysis A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 is a boring, hateful, ugly little movie. One I won’t waste my time on again. I’m only sorry that it took a second viewing to convince me of this.
God I hate this fucking movie.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Long Week On Elm St.: Part 1: A Nightmare On Elm Street

(An unfortunately prophetic slogan in my case)

So a week from now Platinum Dunes will release their latest monstrosity on the world. I’m still desperately trying to remain cautiously optimistic about The Nightmare On Elm Street remake, based off of the fact that Jackie Earle Haley is awesome. But that’s becoming more and more difficult with the reports of reshoots that have apparently deballed what was initially a fresh look at a horror icon. Sigh.

(Yay?)

So to celebrate (?) the release of the thing that I will go to see against my better judgement, I’ve decided to revisit The Nightmare On Elm Street Franchise. The whole damn thing. Yes. Even fucking Part 2. There’s probably going to be some alchol involved. It might get messy. Yes I know that gives me seven days to cover 8 films. Something is going to get shafted and covered as an addendum here. I’m not going to lie, it’ll probably be part six. There are only so many ways you can write IT’S TERRIBLE.

I’ve written about my thoughts on Freddy Krueger and The Nightmare franchise before (For the installments I’ve covered I’m probably going to end up doing more of live blog type thing). But lets start at the very beginning here (Which I’m told is a very good place to start).

(Yay!)

The problem with reviewing Nightmare On Elm Street, is it feels like an anomaly. In oh so many ways. An elegant film in the ouerve of a crude director, a deadly serious film in a franchise known for its jokeiness, and a film that is still genuinely scary from an era of horror now most beloved for its tube socks, gore tricks, and endless nudity. A Nightmare On Elm Street is playing so above its means that its almost hard to believe that its creators, franchise, and time period produced it. It remains, against the odds, a genuinely great little film.

A Nightmare On Elm Street, is still so effective because its still a powerful idea for a story (and honestly do I even have to give a synopsis?). Like all great horror stories A Nightmare On Elm Street works because it taps in a very direct way into a very potent area of unease. As David Foster Wallace said, “The mind is a wonderful servant and a terrible master.” The world of the subconscience, the world of dreams, is a place we have no control over. It is an uneasy truth, that the one place where we are not safe, is inside our own heads.

Lets start with Craven. Craven is a filmmaker whose power is derived from his blunt lack of artistry. At their best Craven’s films have an effortless authenticy precisely because they are so clumsy.At best his films feel raw and unpremeditated (The Hills Have Eyes, The Serpent and The Rainbow). At worst his films have a kind of amateurish schlockyness that’s truly embarrassing (Cursed, Shocker) most of the time the two combine in a sort of depressing mélange, which we get Scream, The Last House On The Left, and The People Under The Stairs. The final two being perhaps the most tonally confused movies I’ve ever seen, with the former just ghastly with its bumbling comedic relief cops and bizarre “Mother performing Oral Sex on the guy who just raped her daughter” sequence, and the latter playing like an R rated version of The Never Ending Story.

The fact is that Craven has never before or since turned in a movie that looks this damn good. From the opening frames with its rich saturated colors, deep shadows, creative imagery (love the surprise of the offhand goat in the opening frames) and inventive staging (though Craven does occasionally show some of his obvious side in this regard. Still it’s forgivable because it always works. The image of Freddy’s arm shooting up between Nancy’s legs in the bathtub may be crude,but there is no denying that it is a repulsively effective and communitive piece of imagery) . Nightmare looks so immeasurably better then most of its brethren in both Craven’s filmography and it’s eighties horror cousins that its frankly baffling.

Sure things aren’t perfect. Outside of the dream world, some of the old clumsy Craven often comes roaring back. The tone in the real world is off. Johnny Depp, is still Johnny Depp and has never seemed uncomfortable on camera (Even in the bizarre borscht belt comic relief he’s forced to play involving his Mom and a malfunctioning Sound Effects Tape). Heather Langenkamp who always seemed like she should have been a bigger star from her role here. Its not what you’d call polished, but has a real talent to it and John Saxon is well John Saxon. But the rest of Craven’s cast, particularly Layne the bizarre anachronistic greaser who is first blamed for Krueger’s crimes is too often broad, hammy, and bizarrely off note. Though give Craven credit all the teenagers do actually look like teenagers. (The movies only other real flaw is its cheesy eighties score, which lacks both the unsettling oddness of Carpenter’s Halloween score, and the Herrman lite score of Friday The 13th. And the oddly confused ending Which even Part 3’s direct sequel is unable to clarify.)

But complaining about what Craven does wrong inside the real world seems to be missing The Forest for the trees. Inside the dream world, it's all golden. And Englund rules as its dark Jester King. His performance is, all in the body language contrasted to the mostly verbal killer he'd become. The way he cocks his neck as far from his torso as it’ll go, the eager way he shuffles forward, the jutting tongue flickering between his charred lips. He’s not funny or clever in this. Not a quipping VFX tech demo, allowing you to see the cool shit that KNB dreamed up this week. No he is a genuine terrifying threat. When he holds up his claws and starts carving off pieces of himself cackling “This is your God.” Its not for chuckles but genuinely diseased. He’s a perverse, all powerful boogeyman without a shred of mercy and a real mean streak. In a recent piece Drew McWeeney summed it up more or less perfectly…

I hate wise-cracking Freddy. This is a guy who was murdered by a group of parents because of what he did to their children. This is a vile, repulsive human being whose evil was so strong that he he came back from beyond the grave to keep hurting his victims

Go back and look at that first film Wes Craven made. It's great because it's cheap, and because it unfolds with an awful dreamlike quality, where the lines of what is or isn't real blur completely, and anything can happen. Freddy barely speaks, and the "jokes" in the film aren't funny at all. "I'm your boyfriend now" is not a joke. It's just a wretched, awful jab from a sick mind.


Perhaps the thing to ponder isn’t that the later grinning VJ of killer has diluted the power of Englund’s inaugural run on the character. Instead one should marvel at the miracle that after the relentless whoring of the character for the past twenty five years that Englund’s performance retains any of its frightening malevolent power at all.

To give credit where its due though Craven created some startling images and ideas to help him out. I don’t care how many times I see it in how many clip shows and compilations, the sight of Tina getting eviscerated on her own ceiling, in that grisly Astaire parody, never fails to shock and disturb. For exactly one time in the series the series dreams have the nonsensical feel of real dreams rather then FX reels. It’s the odd details that make them unsettling, the maggots that erupt from Freddy’s wound, the pile of dead leaves in the classroom, the hall moniter who turns into Freddy by degrees, the unsettling asymmetrical way Freddy’s arms stretch akimbo. Even the effects that don’t exactly hold up today, like Freddy’s pop eyed skull face when Tina claws off his face, or the weird Dummy Craven uses when Freddy kills Nancy's mother, have a weird organic feel to them. The film is simply put, fucking relentless when it comes to scares.

Craven came up with more ways to play with the conventions and rules of his horror story then anyone else did in all the sequels combined (and judging from the trailer, if nothing else the remake came up with at least one clever idea). There’s one great scene where the nightmare is played entirely outside of the body from the perspective of psychiatrists observing Nancy. We know that it’s a question of when not if, things will go wrong, but we don’t know precisely when its going to turn. It’s the kind of trick De Palma would envy, generating suspense from what we know and the characters don't.

A Nightmare On Elm Street, is damn close to a masterpiece. A creative, frightening movie, from a director franchise and era that would never be quite as good again. A film that gets a lot of mileage from its audacious concept but has enough on its mind to remain a good film long after the novelty has warn off.

And It’s a good thing I enjoyed it because Its all down hill from here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The 25: Part 7: JFK

(The twenty five is an examination of the twenty five films that made me a cinephile. These aren’t necessarily what I consider best movies, nor are they necessarily my favorite. Though in some cases they are both. Instead these are the films that made the biggest most indenialable impression on me. Films that if they hadn’t hit a certain way at a certain time I would not be the same film goer that I am today. They’re the twenty five.)



Finally.

Believe it or not I wanted to do this Cinematic Autobiography more or less continuously. But life does have a nasty habit of getting in the way. The reason its taking me so long, is that, I really am making an effort to revisit these films before writing them up. Especially the ones like today’s title which I haven’t seen in awhile. But that’s just the thing, have you ever tried to just “pencil in” a screening of JFK? Try fitting it into your morning before work some time, its only a three and a half hour paranoid rant, it should fly by.

It might seem an odd choice, but I’m writing up JFK because it is the first, consciously “adult” film I can remember seeing. This holds a certain irony as Stone is regarded today as a profoundly adolescent filmmaker. In the sixth grade I took a powerful interest in the Kennedy Assassination (You try being Irish Catholic in America and not) and a teacher, secure enough in his tenure to lend a twelve year old boy at a Catholic School, a film which prominently featured a Gay Orgy (The teacher is still teaching so I believe I will omit their name, and say merely, “Thanks”). It wasn’t just the “mature content” that made the film different, it was that the film was “serious”. Up to that time film was still just entertainment, but here’s one that burned with something to prove. I never knew film could be used that way.

Oliver Stone is a filmmaker so powerfully out of vogue now that its almost hard to remember that there was a time when he was considered one of the most important filmmakers in the world. I’ve spoken about my feelings of Stone before. But to briefly rehash, the run of films from Salvador to Nixon is pretty much perfect in my mind. And while he has spent a lot of that good will in unworthy places in the past decade or so, people seem to have been far to willing to through out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to Stone. His modern films may be embarrassing, and Platoon might be a little long in tooth, but he’s still a vibrant vital filmmaker who has made America confront some harsh truths about itself. And JFK might be his masterpiece

Those who harp on the films factual inaccuracies and lurid sensationalist tone miss the point entirely. Like its protagonist, the film claws at the fragments left in the aftermath, knowing that it connects somehow but missing those last little pieces that would make it hold together. Its not that the film reveals the truth, but the fact that it, Like Ellroy’s excellent American Trilogy articulates the feeling that SOMETHING happened damn it. The idea that it has to add up somehow. The idea lodged in the American conscience that The Kennedy assassination was nothing less then a coup. And that since then America has been changed in a fundamental way. It may not tell us what really happen, but it convincingly shreds the case that the government’s story is a true one, showing it to be nothing but a collection of lies and misinformation. As Roger Ebert put it, it’s a film that screams “Murder” at the top of its lungs.

In a lot of ways JFK is a different film now then it was in 1991. The JFK conspiracy is in its own way as much of the Clinton era as Grunge Rock, Friends and well Oliver Stone himself. One only needs to watch the films of Richard Linklater or listen to Bill Hicks to know what a pervasive chunk of the American psyche it took up. But Conspiracy theories themselves, have morphed (I recently rewatched the first X Files Movie and was greatly amused to see that a big part of the plot hinges on the fact that FEMA will take over the country). They’re no long a bastion of leftists and libertarians worried about what happened at Waco. Now they are more the hallmark of the increasingly paranoid Loose Changers and the raving delusions of the Tea Partiers.


Stone’s bracing often parodied style, of mixing film stocks and formats, has never been better employed then here. Thanks in large part to Stone’s not so secret weapon of Robert Richardson, who seems to be finally getting his dues as perhaps the best working cinematographer today. Those who dismiss the style as a tic, or “acid flashback light” miss the point. The style is disconcerting, it does draw attention to itself, thowing different stocks and styles as quickly as the characters throw out facts, coincidences and connections and it leaves us, like the characters with no place to stand. It’s the world viewed through a kaleidoscope.

And standing at the center is Costner. This is Costner at the heart of his greatness, before Waterworld, The Postman, and even to a certain extent Prince Of Thieves, took the glow off his golden boy image. When he seemed not a vain, pretentious, jackass with a CGI hairline, but the reincarnation of Gary Cooper. A Boy scout straight symbol of Americana at its best. Using that symbolism against the government was a powerful statement. He makes Jim Garrison a figure of quiet decency, as American as Jimmy Stewart eating a slice of apple pie.

Stone was smart to cast him in the part. Stone’s eye for casting has long been one of his most unappreciated gifts, and perhaps its never been better then here. The film is loaded with stars, but it never feels like an overstuffed star vehicle ala Stanley Kramer. Instead everyone; Gary Oldman’s ghostly Oswald, Michael Rooker as Costner’s shady number two man, Tommy Lee Jones’ sinister aristocratic Clay Shaw, Kevin Bacon’s facist, gay, Nixon loving hustler (a phrase I bet you didn’t think you’d read today), Joe Pesci’s paranoid commando, hell even John Candy gives a great performance as a corrupt hipster New Orleans Lawyer. Even seemingly superfluous cameos by the likes of Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon prove invaluable, in giving the movie credibility. Want to sell the idea that American Government is guilty of regicide? Put it in the mouths of Hollywood icons.

JFK is certainly a flawed film, particularly in its director’s cut, which takes a film that wasn’t exactly svelte in the first place and turns it downright flabby. But it remains an arresting one, both in its imagery and ideas. It was a fitting baptism into the ambitious and sometimes unsatisfying world of adult cinema.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The One You Would Have Saved: Evil Dead: Cheryl

For those of you unfamiliar with the respected horror blogger Arbogast (For shame) he has a recently revived reoccurring column involving horror characters that even a lot as pitiless as the horror fan would spare. Like I said, he’s brought it shambling back from the grave, so I gleefully took the chance to participate. Taking the chance to talk about Evil Dead, which face it, never takes much prompting for me.




Is there a character in a horror film with worst luck then Cheryl in Evil Dead? Even if the woods hadn’t been infested with Kandarian Demons its doubtful that she would have had much of a good time. After all here she is on a lover’s weekend, tagging along with her brother without a date, destined to play the fifth wheel and party to many, many uncomfortable silences.

Of course what should have been merely awkward and unpleasant soon turns downright nasty when she comes on the wrong end of some amorous trees. Her rape at the hands of the foliage, like the talking asshole in Pink Flamingos, still has the unlikely power to shock in our desensitized age. In a series known for its campy laughs and gore cartoon thrills, there’s something pervasively and perversely wrong about that scene. And it has enough power to provide a residual sinister edge to three films, no matter how silly the on goings get.



Now normally getting raped by the woods would be the low point for any young girl’s weekend. But things keep getting worse for old Cheryl. She gets to play the inevitable role of horror film Cassandra to her friends and relations (perhaps the movies one real flaw is that Ash is apparently the world's least protective and concerned older brother), treated as crazy despite the fact that she’s been obviously traumatized. She’s soon possessed by a demon, and goes on the attack, Ends up
thrown in the fire, and then unceremoniously dumped in the fruit cellar.

Eventually breaking free, she ends up shot, stabbed, burned, before eventually exploding in the most gleeful and gloriously gross display of Stop Motion I’ve ever seen. (The way that Raimi and Co keep piling it on, brings to mind that Ellen Sandweiss was a childhood friend of Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell. Her scenes often have the naughty sniggering air of schoolboys dipping a girl’s pigtails in ink.)



So yes Cheryl, you got good and screwed. Because of the humilation, and the degrigation and the pitiless way that fate stepped out of its way to boot you in the ass again and again and again, I would have spared you Cheryl. Sadly of course I can't. Like the Lamia, once the Deadites mark you as theirs there is nothing you can do. Unless you are a giant chinned man with a chainsaw for an arm and the heart of a true smartass. Which you weren’t Cheryl. Just a seemingly nice enough person to whom fate dealt a real shit hand. Join the club.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Inevitable 4:20 Reference



If you're going to be unoriginal go with the best.

And a genuine Contender.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rescue Me Season 2



There are two ways a second season can go. The show runners either solidfy and refine what made the show work so well in the first place and produce one of the show’s best seasons (Breaking Bad, Buffy, The Wire) or they realize that they never thought they’d get past the pilot stage, much less through an entire season and create one of the shows worst (Lost, 24). Unfortunately the second season of Rescue Me is in the latter camp.

After a strong first episode which finds Tommy Gavin hitting bottom with astonishing enthusiasm, the show loses its footing, getting mired in the two biggest traps that a second season can fall into; subplots that go absolutely no where, and characters acting stupid. In the former category we have some honeys, including one in which Tommy Gavin finds out that he has a long lost brother (no really) who is a pedophile priest (yes really) and falls briefly in love with the woman who might be his sister (…). True to form, like all the best kind of stupid plots once its resolved, in its inimitable over wrought fashion, its never mentioned again. The other dumb supblot involving, the big hearted Lou falling for a prostitute, is handled so poorly that if you don’t see the end coming you’ve probably never seen a TV show before. Or for that matter read a book, watched a movie, or been outside. And lets not even get into Shelia's affair with an abusive lesbian. This is the kind of frantic flaying for plots that a show does in one of its last seasons not one of its first.

But pedophile priests and good common sense aren’t the only things getting Poochied this season. Laura Miles, the one female firefighter may not turn to the camera and claim “My home planet needs me.” But she stops just short. It’d be easy to say that the writers didn’t know what to do with “the woman” anymore then the crew did, but  ironically she was one of the few characters that they where still writing well. I can only assume that this was some kind of contract dispute (the fact that the actress jumped onto Numbers around the same time doesn’t seem like a coincidence) but come on if that’s the case have her die in a fire, or something get some oomph out of it. To make matters worse, she gets replaced in the female sector in the show (if not on the actual squad) with Tatum O’Neil, an actress I actually like, but whose just God awful here as Tommy's bitchy siser.

The entire season is more of the same but less, for example Tommy’s visitations with the dead have been replaced from visits from Jesus and Mary Magdalane. The problem is, that we and the writers have no idea what to make of these visions. While the ghosts from season 1 where an effective and clear, if crude, metaphor there’s no similar correlation here. Are they Tommy’s Catholic guilt? His better nature? Or actually divine intervention? I don’t know, and I have a sneaking suspicion Dennis Leary doesn’t either.

That’s the real problem with Rescue Me's second season, its just so damn inconsistent with its characters. Everyone does stuff that you can’t believe, and I mean that in a very fundemental way. Would Shelia really go from the standard loud working class ITie type, to one boiled bunny away from Fatal Attraction? Would Tommy’s wife really fall into his arms after the romantic gesture of kidnapping his kids? Would Probie really lose about fifty IQ points inbetween the two seasons? Would Tommy’s Brother really screw Tommy’s wife with his nephew not even cold? The answer is of course- No. Of course they wouldn’t. That’s just stupid. Why are you having these characters say and do stupid things?

The show does find some unlikely good points, once again in Jerry, who at first appeared to be the show’s most one dimensional character, and has slowly turned into its most complex. The depiction of him dealing with his wife’s illness is a touching and real look at the disease, and the subplot involving him coming to terms with his gay son is also handled with sensitivity. This is again tough material to do right, but Rescue Me pulls it off. He doesn’t “accept” his son or breakdown, or whatever his time of character is supposed to do. He just does the math and discovers that he loves his son more then he hates him for being Gay.

The show is finally able to pull things together in its last two episodes. Where the death of his son is handled so well, that you can almost ignore that they more or less did the exact same thing last season with Tommy’s daughter. It briefly snaps the whole of the show into focus.

Yes a dead child is enough to give me hope (that came out wrong) and try again for the next season. But if things don’t improve, look for Rescue Me to be the biggest disappointment, in a show’s potential versus its realization since Heroes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Unseen #25: Wheel Of Time

(The Unseen is the red headed step child of The Things That Don’t Suck columns. No matter how hard I try or how hard it tries to please me, I always seem to miss its ballet recitals and soccer games, and get it carton of cigarettes for Christmas. But here we are again and I’m going to try and do better. At least until the next time I get to drinking)




Why’d I Buy It?: Cheap Herzog film. Nuff said.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: Only bought it recently at the Hollywood Video fire sale.

How Was It?: Buddhism is notoriously uncinematic. Unlike the operatic hemming and hawing of the Abramaric religions, and the exocitism of other Eastern religions like Shintoism or Hindi, there’s just not much to show, when it comes to Buddhism. Inner peace and harmony with ones surroundings is a more then noble goal, its just difficult to film. At one point Herzog even complains, that the "Culmination of the spiritual event is invisible to our cameras."

Wheel Of Time documents the Kalachakra festival (later combined with a second festival, when the Dalai Lama grows ill), held at the place where the Buddha first obtained enlightenment, an event for which over half a million Buddhists assemble. The film cuts between the festival itself; both the events, prayers, rituals and arguments and the logistics of feeding and housing half a million monks and lay people. The long arduous pilgrimage the faithful make. And The construction of the Mandala, at the center of both the film and the festival, a beyond intricate sand painting, which represents nothing less then the visualation of Nirvana.

Herzog captures his subjects and their surroundings with his expert documentarian’s vividness. One of my favorite things Herzog does, as a documentarian, is the way he’s not at all afraid to just let a shot run, unworried about communicating over much in story, character, or theme. Instead he just allows the detail to seep into the film allowing the world to sketch itself in its own intensity. He does it frequently throughout the film, seemingly trying to meditate with its subjects. But there is something furtive and restless about Herzog’s camera.

There are certainly shots here that in their oddity and perfection belong with the best of Herzog, like the long shots of pilgrims stopping at literally every step of their journey, to lie down in prostration on their bellies, on their way to the shrine. Its easy to see in these moments of single mindness what made Herzog want to make the film. Wanting to document those who, as he puts it with his inimitable Teutonic precision “Measure the length of the Earth with his body from head to toe.”

And yet, Herzog is a man who has made his reputation documenting the extremes of both human behavior and the physical world. Ironically this is the first time I’ve ever felt him out of his depth. Not that he makes a bad film, far from it. Its just that where he usually charges forth with teutonic vigor, here he seems not quite sure of himself. Its somewhat Ironic that a man might stare madness directly in the face, and yet be unsure how to react to peace and serenity.