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Posts tagged ‘3d’

Kill More, Talk Less

My Soul To Keep (2010, d. Wes Craven)

The reason I never really followed the Nightmare On Elm Street horror series beyond the first movie was because the concept never attacked  me, so to speak.  I know people enjoy their serial killers, or blood and mayhem but I have to believe in what I’m watching for 93 minutes.  Nightmare, directed by Wes Craven was about a serial killer, Freddy Kreuger, a nine-inched nailed spector who hunts teenage victims in their dreams.   The teenagers are the surviving children of a mob who burned Kreuger to death because he had murdered children (molested in the 2010 remake).  It’s a pretty simple, although supernatural,  slasher concept that was understandably popular and basically repeated for 10 sequels.  I, personally, found it too simple and too separate from my anxiety portfolio to ever be interesting.  Craven has returned now with something called My Soul To Take and comparing the coherency of this new concept makes Nightmare On Elm Street read like “Ulysses.”

Here goes.  A guy who has been mis-diagnosed as schizophrenic, stabbs seven people  to death, stealing their souls, while in unconscious thrall to his evil personality nicknamed “The Riverton Ripper.”  When he is captured and demobilized, the souls within him escape and infiltrate the bodies of seven babies born that same night at Riverton General.  Fast-forward 16 years.  The Riverton Seven, now teenagers, are marking the solemn anniversary of Ripper Day by participating in a ritualized puppet show that is supposed to call The Ripper back for a confrontation.  Among the seven is Bug, the fearful, perhaps schizophrenic, perhaps telepathic, surviving son of The Riverton Ripper (Bug, doesn’t know he’s the son, but everybody else in town does).  Someone wearing the ugly, lifesize Ripper puppet costume, acquires the Ripper’s signature weapon, a fold-out knife with  the word “vengence” engraved, and starts the business of murdering the Riverton Seven one-by-one.  As it appears The Ripper is finally coming for him, Bug goes through a mild metamorphosis and decides to face his fears.  When only Bug and his best friend Alex are left, they accuse each other of carrying the inhabitant soul of The Ripper.  Bug, stopping to explain in great deatail how he traced back Alex’s movements, proves how only Alex can be The Ripper.  He stabs Alex in the abdomen with The Ripper’s knife.  Bug, once the object of everyone’s quiet pity is now a hero for rescuing Riverton from The Ripper, even though everyone The Ripper returned to kill is now dead.

Come to think of it, an ugly, vengeful killer returning from the dead to possess people and murder a circle of impartial teenagers is the same story as A Nightmare On Elm Street!   But what’s most ironic about this convoluted supernatural/natural movie is the amount of time dedicated to having characters try to explain it to the audience.  The murders aren’t very gory and The Ripper’s appearances are never much of a surprise.  Given all of Craven’s experience in depicting bloody murder and horror cinema’s advancements in senseless torture, I find the killings here rather uninspired.  Yet, characters take an inordinate amount of on-screen time explaining what they’re going to do, what they’re doing as they’re doing it, and why they did it.  There is a lot of dialoge but I’m not sure what it’s ever  in service too.  It doesn’t help much in combing out all the tangles over who The Ripper was, who The Ripper is now, and what’s really bugging Bug.    I’m not a fan of violence for violence sake, but this movie would have benefited from not taking itself so damn seriously, telling less, showing more, and hacking up more pre-maritally lustful teenagers.

By the way, My Soul To Take was cynically released as 3D.  There’s not much real 3D in it.  It was a trend-driven afterthought, added to bump the ticket price up by $4 and probably is not the least of  reasons why it flopped at the box office.  Don’t fall for it either.  Any of it.

Fish, Fish, I Got My Subconscious Wish

Piranha 3D (2010, d. Alexandre Aja)

And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. -Genesis 19:28

Spring break at Lake Victoria is a retreat for young people who worship water, sun, and public self-indulgence. But nature has pronounced judgment on this debauchery; a plague of thousands of man eating fish; piranha with teeth like jackals.  Survival or death is gauged largely by one’s moral rectitude.  Jake is a good, local kid who serves as a surrogate parent for his little brother and sister while his mother, the town sheriff, is out busting bad-boys.  Jake isn’t as muscular or cocky as the big knuckleheads who party all day at the beach.  When Jake naively gets hired away from babysitting to chaperone a pornographic film crew on a boat cruise, he doesn’t know that the piranha are coming for he and the girl he likes, and for his family too.  Confronted with temptations of money, drugs, and underwater lesbians, Jake is spared the grizzly, ichthyologic death of his peers by choosing family over fantasy.

This is a seeming twist on a popular theory in horror film criticism, that of the “last surviving girl” as proposed by Carol

"Men Women and Chainsaws"

Clover in her book “Men Women and Chainsaws.”  Through most of Piranha, Jake is the unguided but innocent victim of monsters.  The monsters aren’t just the prehistoric, blood-thirsty fish.  Jake is victim of the macho beach bullies, the sleazy porn producer, his masculinized and absent mother (way out of her acceptable feminine role), and his adolescent sexual impulses.  But by denying these impulses, he survives to become the hero who reconstructs his family and kills all the evil fish.

The use of a male character as victim-hero is only a seeming innovation on the form. The preponderance of female nudity, male prowess, excessive gore, and history of the genre would still indicate a typical young male target audience.  But Jake isn’t like other boys at first.  He is initially effeminate, virginal, a baby-sitter.  In terms of male identification, Jake becomes a hero over this emasculation.  As the collective fantasy of a fully bacchanalian paradise at the beach is literally eaten to pieces in a horrific lake of blood, the audience has Jake, to teach male virtue, to overcome his Freudian father beating (the fish), and survive for an inevitable sequel.  Piranha plays like a Biblical size catastrophe.  The angels save Lot from the doom of the sinful citizens of Sodom.

Personally I don’t care for these kinds of movies so I have a slight objectivity problem.   To me they are just pointless, sadistic voyeurism from a safe vantage.  Despite all the nudity and sex the whole genre is repressed, sexually retarded, and culturally conservative in its stereotypes, conscious and unconscious.  Such films are little more than regurgitated mythology that allow viewers to experience forbidden desires and then displace their punishment onto morally simplistic characters.  Despite the apparent twist in gender roles, the real exercise of Piranha is to advise young males on their castration anxiety.  If you dip your penis in the bloody lake it will become bait.   It will get bitten off.  This is another Freudian complex demonstrated at one point  by a floating, three-dimensional, dismembered penis which gets eaten by the piranha.

In terms of pure filmmaking – the effects, the 3D, a pretty good cast – Piranha is the best made of this genre I can think of.  It’s definitely the grossest movie I’ve ever seen.  For blood and gore it’s the best of the worst.

Step In, It’s Fine

Step-Up 3 (2010)

To enjoy musicals you have step up willingly into a compromised role as viewer.  You must be willing to believe for a couple of hours that it’s normal to break into inconspicuously-orchestrated song as a means of expression, be it exuberant or despairing.  Step-Up 3 is in every way a musical without singing.  The story is preposterous, the acting is histrionic, and life effecting conflicts are resolved mutually by organized dance-offs.  In between the silliness, is some really amazing dance talent.  The “whys” of the film are endless:  why are all the lead characters white and Jewish kids while the secondary cast is mostly made up of better dancing minorities?  Why isn’t it considered a suspicious cult or maybe Communist that a bunch of teenagers live together in nightclub without any blemish of alcohol, drugs, arguments or sex?  Why would an engineering student enroll at NYU while an aspiring film student needs to leave New York?  Again, here I’m patschkieing around.  Step-Up 3 is 3D, it’s fun, and the dancing is fantastic.  That’s about all there is to say, but it’s also probably all there is to know.