Sunday, November 27, 2011

FRIGHT NIGHT: It Didn't Mean to Suck, but It Did

In the original Fright Night there are some bad things.  William Ragsdale’s Charlie Brewster is pretty much a frantic asshole especially to his friend Evil Ed.  Over the years I accepted Chris Sarandon’s Jerry Dandridge and always thought he could’ve been scarier, but the fact that he wasn’t was part of the appeal because vampires were supposed to be scary monsters.  But with all the bad, the good outweighed everything else.  Roddy McDowall’s Peter Vincent brings so much heart and soul (even when he watches Evil Ed die) that makes you attached enough to care about these people surviving a horror flick.  Now, there’s Fright Night Las Vegas.  There are a few good things, but the bad far outweighs any good.    

I guess what bugs me the most is that it hardly feels like this has any personality.  It feels like a standard genre piece with no mounting conflict.  It’s just like things happen for the sake of happening because they have the structure of the original to tell them basically what to do.  For most of the film it does feel like there are a couple scenes that aren’t in the first.  And the tone is different in the sense it does try to be scary, but honestly are we really afraid of vampires?  Especially, blatant CGI-mouthed vampires?  If you are then you have every reason to be scared because Colin Farrel does have that child molester vibe that’s needed for this and pulls it off well.  

What probably could’ve been cut out was the Peter Vincent character.  There is nothing interesting or appealing about David Tennet’s character unless you just want to watch Dr. Who in a horror flick, but really why would Charlie Brewster need to visit Peter Vincent in the first place if he was doing his own research anyway?  So, why would he try to go and visit him to ask him how to kill a vampire?  It kind of works in the original on account that William Ragsdale played it as more frantic and na├»ve.  And if you’re trying to do a scarier and “smarter” Fright Night why would a big-ass Vegas celebrity give a shit about some kid?  The only real piece of information that Peter Vincent provides is the alter that Jerry Dandrich has stashed in his house which leads him to believe Jerry is a 400 year-old warrior vampire—and a shitty one at that if he’s hunting teenagers.   The reason the Peter and Charlie pairing works in the original is for one Roddy McDowall’s Peter Vincent is a failing local celebrity on late night public television show airing old horror flicks and needs the money.  So, he helps him at first just for the cash and then he realizes he’s in over his head then Peter must now fight the good fight no matter how frightened he is.  It’s true that David Tennet’s Peter Vincent is coward as well, but there is like no life to him.  He’s a superficial celebrity with an even less interesting base character.  There’s no sense of build to really get invested in him and would’ve been best if during all Charlie’s “porn” research he just came across these Mediterranean vampires in some old book.  It would’ve eliminated the half-assed shoehorning of David Tennet.  

Is it fair to compare two movies made 28 years apart?  Well, when Hollywood is asking for what few dollars we have in a shitty economy then I shouldn’t have to see a shittier version of the same movie.  I should just see a brand-new shitty movie that way I wouldn’t feel so ripped off. 

And for those interested in the original...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

WONDER WOMAN: Amazonian Fail

  Well, this is as bad as it looks and as you’ve heard.  Wonder Woman has no secret identity, but is the big boss of a company that manufactures Wonder Woman merchandise and everyone knows she’s a superhero.  Wonder Woman is a mixed up character.  She doesn’t want to make an action figure who sells her “tits and ass” as she puts it, but in the next scene not only does she wear the outfit, but says to some dude who won’t let her in a door, “Do you like my outfit?  It opens doors for me.”  Let’s not also forget that Diana Themyscira (the bosslady of this company) also designed this outfit.  And Adrianne Palicki is just plain horrible in this.  The only time she’s actually comfortable is when she’s playing another character named Diana Prince which makes no sense if she’s already Wonder Woman and Diana Themyscira.  She plays Wonder Woman as an angry bitch and totally unlikable.  I was kind of okay with that in the Nathan Fillion Wonder Woman because she was a consistent character, but this was a total missed mark because it seems like a full-on identity crisis—especially so for someone concerned about image.  Perhaps it was just the way it was performed, but it came off all wrong.   But to give an actor three roles to play may be a bit much at once especially when none of the characters are clearly thought out.

  Then there’s the action stuff.   It’s hit and miss.  The action is sped up sometimes and looks about as cheesey as the Six Million Dollar Man bionic sound, but we’re not supposed to think it’s kitsch. Then there’s the bracelets and bullets stuff which actually looked a little cool, but maybe after so much lameness that it just came off as the only awesome thing in the entire run.   But then there’s some weird stuff.  There’s a moment during the action where she graphically impales a security guard in the throat with a metal pipe.  Albeit he was shooting at her, but that’s kind of his job as an armed guard.  It’s not like he was a goon or a henchman.   In the Wonder Woman 2009 cartoon, that might be acceptable because that Wonder Woman was new to the way things go, but this one is supposed to be more responsible and have a greater understanding of not just killing random working class dudes.

It’s either that David E. Kelley hated the fact that this could’ve been his cash cow and tried to sabotage it or he really doesn’t know anything about how to make a show like this work.  I’ve never seen his shows, but I was a huge fan of Lake Placid.  But it seems that anything that carries with it so much weight and history either calls for complete and utter faithfulness to the source material or full-on re-envisioning.  Sometimes it hits, but this fails on 95% of its fronts.

In the meantime, while Hollywood tries to figure things out, this is the only Wonder Woman that matters until a new one comes along.

Monday, June 27, 2011

INSIDIOUS: A Full-on Creature Creamertorium

I'd been really annoyed with horror movies as of late.  For the longest time there were so many horror movies that didn't actually get the ball rolling until nearly an hour into the film and most of those were like only 90 minutes.  Much like Drag Me to Hell, this at least makes no bones about letting you know what kind of film it is or even allowing you to see the face of some malevolent creature.  Many horror movies seem to have characters that exist as if the genre had never been invented.  It's like it's not part of their pop culture so the movie itself is treated as if you don't know anything about what you're about to watch.  Then there's the other side of the coin where you have characters that are horrorholics, but still make the same dumbass mistakes.  This at the very least assumes you know what kind of movie you're watching and a little something about it.  It doesn't fuck around with you by watching doors open close without a reason.  From the opening shot you know there's something fucked up sitting around and waiting. This something fucked up is what I like to call Tim Burton with a flashlight.

While this follows all the conventions of a horror flick it still manages to keep things happening all the time.  You may not know all the reasons, but at least you're not bored.  And that's the trick.  Just have more of the creepout moments and spookout happen in more rapid succession instead of lingering on characters that we may not have time to care about in a 90-minute flick anyway.  And that's what I hate about where modern horror was going for a while there.  The time spent on attempting to make you care for characters that could be murdered.  Most of the characters that occupy movies and the actors that play them are typically dull and uninteresting people to appeal to a wider audience.  And it's certainly true here.  At least you have Lin Shaye and Patrick Wilson, but you already know these actors and they're likable from other things you've seen.  But of course, the real star of the show here is James Wan and all the creatures.  But still.  Don't ask me what Darth Maul was doing here.  I guess this is where The Force shat his ass out. 

You know who else is in this?  Barbara Hershey.  Not the Academy Award nominated actress, but the one who was ecto-raped in The Entity and is geekly famous for that.  Well, that and being Naveen Andrews sugar mama.  But for the most part everyone else knows her as the Oscar-bate actress from Hoosiers, The Natural and Hannah and Her Sisters.  Watching her back in a genre flick was actually quite interesting.  She helps serve a lot to one of the many creatures in one of her anecdotes about a creature in the corner of her grandson's room. 

But this flick is not without problems.  There are moments where it's already established that the mom believes that there is at least one entity in the house, but when a child starts screaming, she doesn’t run or come to the aid as quickly as you would think.  And it’s not like she’s scared.  It’s more like, “Hey, I wonder what my kid is screaming at.  I hope it’s not that creepy-ass voice on the baby monitor or my kid falling off a ladder in the attic and landing himself in a coma.”  Many of the characters are in fact cutouts because what’s not import are the characters but the array of monsters, ghosts, beasts or whatever.  And the biggest problem of the movie is when Lin Shaye arrives on the scene a la Zelda Rubinstein in Poltergeist about 45 minutes into the flick and then proceeds to establish the mythology of the ghosts and what she calls The Further which is a dimension where all ghosts like to party and shit.  Once she explains all the physics and how things work, you immediately know how the movie is going to end and what this is all about.  I don’t expect to be fooled by a film’s twist ending.  In fact, many of them are actually figured out beat for beat mainly because we’ve been down this road in countless stories.  But if your movie is going to end on a twist that you can see five miles out, you might as well add another 10 minutes to deal with it.  Otherwise it feels like the writer said, “Hey, I’ve got 90 pages and a lot of shit so far.  Page 90.  Fade out.”  Sorry, Leigh Whannel.  You needed another 10 pages.  You didn’t have to put a pretty, little bow on it, but you didn’t have up look like you just up and quit.  However, at least it wasn’t the other side of the coin where NOTHING fucking happens and then you’re forced into a shitty twist ending. 

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