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The Nightmare Before Now Playing

By: Jeff Ford
By: Jeff Ford

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I have always loved dressing up as a creature of the night or as the most horrifying entity known to man (for a few years, I’ve gone as a clown…still gives me the shudders).

Anything can happen on Halloween.

Your dog could turn into a cat.

There may be a toad in your base guitar

Or your sister could turn into a bat.

Tim Curry

“Anything Can Happen on Halloween”

 From the cinematic classic “The Worst Witch”

 

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I have always loved dressing up as a creature of the night or as the most horrifying entity known to man (for a few years, I’ve gone as a clown…still gives me the shudders).  It is one of the few times when neighborhoods can get together to hand out treats meant to rot your teeth and also have some fun trying to scare each other.  Who doesn’t enjoy a good scare every now and then?

When I was younger, the smallest of things used to scare me senseless.  I’d like to think I have grown out of that phase, but it still crawls inside me every now and then.  I think that is why I gravitate towards the horror film genre.  It’s is one of my favorites.  Many times I enjoy being that small kid again, shielding my eyes from what is unfolding in front of me.  I love the slow buildup of the scare as every fiber of my being wants to scream out, “Don’t open that door,” yet knowing I really want her to do.  I’m as curious as she is to know what lies behind that barrier. 

Inevitably, the payoff will be a disappointment.  The monster will end up being a CGI mess or it will devolve into a splattering of gore.  I believe filmmakers today think that is what the audience wants.  The messier the death, the more the audience will eat it up. They seem to shy away from establishing atmosphere and go straight for the pay dirt.  The journey is just a means to an end.  Who cares about characters we can relate to when there is handy dumb jock or promiscuous girl just ready for the knifing?

One of my favorite horror films is one that is very divisive among moviegoers.  “The Blair Witch Project” was made on a budget where even shoestrings would have been considered a luxury.  It’s a movie that is almost entirely atmosphere.  There is no big gotcha moment.  There is no release of tension at the end.  For me, it is a movie of someone approaching that closed door, reaching it, turning the door handle, and…end credits.  The Blair Witch is never seen and that is why it fails for many.  In my opinion, if she had been seen, it would have ruined it.

We have been preconceived with the notion that a jump scare constitutes horror.  The sudden boo moment may involuntarily remove us from our seats, allowing a moment to laugh and settle down before the movie can proceed.  It releases the tension built up so the sequence can start all over again.  “The Blair Witch Project” does not have that release.  Instead, we are witnessing the complete psychological destruction of three once happy college students to the catatonic state that they resemble in the end.  That’s the best part of the movie. That is why I return to it every year.  In this, I don’t care about the destination.  The journey will more than suffice. 

It breaks my heart every time I see Josh ripping into Heather toward the end because she refuses to stop recording what transpires.  The camera is her crutch, her last bit of sanity in the insanity unfolding around her.  It is all she has left.  In that moment, all her dreams, her ambitions, everything that makes her who she is disappears and what is left is someone who is more vulnerable, more human than almost any other final girl in a horror movie I’ve seen.  That, to me, is true horror.  It is not Jigsaw’s traps nor is it Jason’s machete.  It is the fact that someone or something is out there stalking a victim and he or she is powerless against it.  It is the irrational in a rational world.

In this I am pleased to see the “Paranormal Activity” movies doing so well.  I’ve not seen the last two so I can’t comment on those but the first, while having its jump moments, creates an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty.  It’s creepy and effective in all the right ways, and I hope this type of film will become more prevalent going forward, instead of the torture porn genre (hopefully on its last legs).  I’m not referring to the shaky camera found footage aspect (that has run its course) but the fear of the unknown.  Of course, I’m guessing producers will only see it as money franchise as I’m sure Paranormal Activity 4, 5 and 6 are already in the planning stages (this time with more death and destruction).

 

That went longer than I expected.  What was it I was supposed to do?  I’m supposed to talk about new releases.  Sometimes my mind can wander.  I promised a bad director last week, but Sony decided that Roland Emmerich was to get a limited release for now instead of the wider theater count as originally planned.  From what I’ve heard, Anonymous could be good, but that does not forgive Emmerich from his previous discretions.  His time in my sights will come soon enough.  In the meantime, let’s get the actual content rolling!

PUSS IN BOOTS

The swashbuckling cat is taking a departure from his ogre sized cohort in this new prequel adventure starring the voices of Antonio Banderas (Una Mujer Bajo la Lluvia), Salma Hayek (Fair Game) and Zach Galifianakis (Out Cold).  The three join up in a quest to steal the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.  I’m not the biggest fan of the Shrek series (liked the first, indifferent to the second and have not seen the others) but that hasn’t dissuaded me from taken an interest in this.  I see it mostly as “The Mask of Zorro” with a splash of “Desperado”, two films I did like.  I would rate my interest as 3 El Mariachi’s out of 5.  I may check it out, if I have the time.  Puss in Boots is rated PG for some adventure action and mild rude humor.

IN TIME

Justin Timberlake (Longshot) keeps his musical inklings in check in this Andrew Niccol (Lord of War) directed thriller of a future where people stop aging at 25.  If you have the money, you can keep on living.  If not…  There is talent in this production from the director to some of the costars that has me intrigued.  It’s the Timberlake factor that is keeping me at bay, at least until the reviews start creeping in.  Still the premise is there.  I’ll probably end up waiting for it on DVD or Netflix instant streaming.  I’ll wager 2 boxes with a surprise inside out of 5.  In Time is rated PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and partial nudity, and strong language.

THE RUM DIARY

Johnny Depp (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare) returns to Hunter S. Thompson territory as a journalist who travels to Puerto Rico in the 1950’s.  His encounters with the local denizens are of the variety that only Mr. Thompson can conjure.  Depp had signed on to this before Pirates of the Caribbean and it has apparently been in post-production for 2 years.  The trailer made me laugh and I wouldn’t mind seeing more.  I’ll rate it as 4 Bat Countries out of 5.  The Rum Diary is rated R for language, brief drug use and sexuality.

AND THEY’RE OFF…

The movie everybody has been waiting for is finally here!  Sean Astin (White Water Summer) is Dusty, a failed horse trainer looking for his chance to return to the winner’s circle.  With his jockey, portrayed by Cheri Oteri (Small Soldiers), he thinks he may have found his winner.  The director is a TV veteran and from the looks of things, he should have stayed there.  It tries to rip off the shooting style of The Office or a Christopher Guest movie but it doesn’t look like it has neither the style nor substance of either.  Only if there is a horse named Don with the voice of John Candy and owned by Bobcat Goldthwait will I be interested (that’s right.  I worked in a “Hot to Trot” reference). I’m rating this 1 horse dropping out of 5.  And They’re Off is rated PG-13 for some crude and sexual references.

Thus ends another Now Playing.  I hope everybody has a safe and Happy Halloween.

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