October 7, 2009

A Num Num on Elm Street, Part 2

I lived in the south for oh, 17 years, and in those years me and my family did a lot of roadtripping. I've always found long, deserted southern highways to be the definition of creepy. It's the perfect setting for a horror film, and when Jeepers Creepers begins, it takes advantage of it at full throttle. The concept, the setup, it's just so brilliant in its simplicity: You're on this lonely highway and you see something you shouldn't have, and it sees you too. Nobody else is around to save you. Whattayagonnado? Well if you're the director of this movie, you're going to ruin everything good you've got going for it once the first act is over. The middle act manages to coast on the success of the beginning, but it's coasting steadily downhill. The minute the sibling protagonists get off the highway and go to the police, the scary sensation of isolation is gone. Introducing other characters may have given the filmmakers an excuse to increase the body count, but it's poorly handled. And then the anticlimactic reveal of a creature that looks like the bastard child of a rubber duck and Mr. Scrooge, some random crazy black lady acting like the Oracle on a bender who is trying to explain what this creature is and failing spectacularly without even offering the protagonists a cookie, and somehow all of this has to do with that old song that goes "jeepers, creepers, where'd you get those peepers?" I'd compare the finale to a car accident but that would suggest some pretty gnarly explosions and twisted metal. It's more like a car that takes a wrong turn and runs out of gas out in the boonies and sputters to a dry, wheezing halt.

A Num Num on Elm Street, Part 1

So… horror movies. That's what we're all here for. What are they if not nightmares we can visit during our waking hours with our good friend Orville Redenbacher? (I just googled Orville Redenbacher to check the spelling on Redenbacher and discovered they do a jalapeno popcorn now. That sounds potentially revolting, has anybody had this junk? Is it good?). Ok so what are they if not that? A lot of times they usually become unintentionally hilarious comedies. And that is why A Nightmare on Elm Street is such a perfect movie to kick off this year's horrorpalooza with. It's a straight-up horror film that plays with the line between what we percieve as reality and what we percieve as dreams. And it spawned a series of sequels so goobery they remind me more of romantic teen comedies (albeit gory ones) than they do genuine horror movies.

Of the Holy Trinity of slasher franchises (Halloween, Friday the 13th and Elm Street), Elm Street has been my favorite place to visit and revisit each year for the last four or five years. I'm beyond reasoning when it comes to this series… they are all my children (hoho). I'll be talking about all the others in due time, but for now let's go back to the Wes Craven original.

Here's the funny thing: even before he started cracking one liners, Freddy himself was never really scary. It's the concept that's scary: dying gruesomely in your sleep at the hands of your very own dreams. Unless you're a lucid dreamer, you're pretty much screwed unless you can manage to wake yourself up before it's lights out. This makes something as simple as taking a cat nap a life or death ordeal, a fact that's not lost on final girl Nancy, who caffienates the heck out of herself to keep from zonking out until she can figure out how to outsmart Krueger. Craven puts these ideas to good use, creating a sleepy atmosphere around the "waking" scenes that makes it difficult to discern where the real world ends and where the nightmare begins. Which makes even more sense when the film later reveals its big twist. It's a great vibe, and it's even more effective if you watch it when your eyelids are starting to feel a bit droopy too.

If I have one complaint with the film it's the tacked on extra surprise ending that New Line forced on Craven. I still don't get why they made him slap it on, it totally contradicts the logic of the film up until that point. Nancy vanquishing Freddy wouldn't have negated a sequel at all. She kicked him out of HER dream. All the audience needs to know is that Freddy was visiting the dreams of some other unlucky teenagers. Oh well, whatever. I still love this movie dearly.

Horrorpalooza '09 Kick-Off

I've watched a lot of movies over the years and I've lost a lot of feelings in the process, but I can still feel fear, I can! Horror movies frighten me, they really do. Even a lot of the old ones, maybe even especially the old ones. I've become a junkie for the genre, addicted to the rush I get from having my pants scared off. And for the last few years, around this time of year, I overdose on horror. 31 movies. 31 reviews. Let the screaming start. Or something. Yes. So without any further ado, let's watch horror movies until we can't feel feelings anymore!