Tuesday, October 29, 2019

freakboy on film: SCREAM 4 (2011)

"Well, sick is the new sane." - Jill Roberts 

      written by Kevin Williamson 
          directed by Wes Craven 


I originally planned a 4 in 1 SCREAM franchise post.  I would have praised the brilliance of SCREAM (1996) where Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) & friends are being hunted by a masked killer as they dissect the intricacies of horror films.  I would have went on to say that SCREAM 2 (1997) has some good moments, despite pacing problems and one too many familiar faces.  I would then have to admit SCREAM 3 (2000) is a bit of a mess, but how I enjoy Parker Posey and a clever cameo from Carrie Fisher so much that I forgive a lot of its deficiencies.  Finally, to top it all off, I would have complained about SCREAM 4.  Instead, I decided to devote a whole post to this final misfire, not that it really deserves it. 

I was stoked to see SCREAM 4.  Everything I read sounded promising.  Wes Craven was once again directing and Kevin Williamson was back as the screenplay writer.  The latter was noticeably absent for the third installment.  If my memory serves me well, I read that SCREAM 4 was going to kick off a new trilogy, and maybe that's why I get so irritated with it.  

SCREAM 4 had so much potential to be nearly as brilliant as the first SCREAM, but there are very specific aspects that keep it from achieving all that it could have been.  To keep my emotional filmic mind in order, I could go on long-winded tangents, I am going to attempt to focus on the three reasons why SCREAM 4 is so frustrating to me..

1.) The Gay Rule...
In SCREAM, a film geek named Randy gave us the rules to successfully survive a horror film.  They were clever, funny and made sense when looking back at the genre, especially slasher flicks.  In SCREAM 4, two film geeks (Erik Knudsen & Rory Culkin) give us a new rule for a new decade.  The only way to survive a modern horror film is to be gay.  Maybe this would be clever or amusing if there was more of a history of openly gay characters in horror films.  Much like black characters surviving the killer, gay characters are a rare commodity in the genre.  So, the rule comes off as a joke that might have been cool and edgy in the 1990's but is just backwards in the 21st Century.  Even more so when one of the film geeks claims to be gay, if it helps, before being killed.  That ill-timed jokey moment emphasizes my next reason for frustration... 

Please kill them, Ghostface, they don't deserve to be in any future reboots! 

2.) Bruce Willis...
I recall watching an interview with Wes Craven, many years before SCREAM 4, about the challenges of balancing humor and horror.  He explained you have to keep the two opposing components separate or risk becoming a parody.  In other words, you can make a joke before or after a killing, but never during a character's death.  After two police officers discuss the only way for a cop to survive in the movies is to be Bruce Willis, both officers are killed, but it's one that annoys me.  The killer has stabbed one cop (Anthony Anderson) in the head.  In a disturbing scene, with a perfectly ominous music score, the killer simply watches the cop slowly die...but...the horror is ruined by a joke.  Right before his last breath, the officer says, "F*** Bruce Willis."  So, at this point SCREAM 4 becomes part of the SCARY MOVIE parody franchise.

No joke.

3.) The Ending...
Maybe, just maybe, I could forgive those two grievances if the ending had ended differently.  Don't get me wrong, I love-love-love the main killer is revealed  to be Sidney Prescott's cousin Jill (a brilliant Emma Roberts).  I also love her motive.  Jill grew up in the shadow of Sidney's notoriety of surviving three rounds of serial killings and now she wants the spotlight.  In this era of becoming internet famous without really doing anything, it's a wickedly clever twist.  Jill has killed her accomplice, her friends and her own mother, and it appears she has killed Sidney.  Oh, but no.  Sidney is alive and she, along with Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), once again stops the killer dead.  I recall leaving the theater thinking how I had already seen this film three times before.  If Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson had really wanted to reboot this franchise for another trilogy, SCREAM 4 should've ended with Jill killing Sidney, therefore successfully becoming the survivor girl by being the killer.  This would have set up a fresh scenario for the next installment and made the final line of the film that much more profound.  

"An American hero, right out of the movies." - a news reporter waxes poetic about Jill, unaware she was the killer and that Sidney & friends have killed her and the film franchise. 

They call me Jill. 
 Ms. Ghostface, if you’re psycho.

In conclusion, I don't completely hate SCREAM 4.  I just wish it would've truly had the guts to go beyond what audiences had seen in the first three films.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out,

P.S. An old post where I take a trip through a different horror franchise...

Friday, October 25, 2019

freakboy on film: CHILD'S PLAY (2019)

"If they don't let us play, they all go away." - Chucky 

screenplay by Tyler Burton Smith 
directed by Lars Klevberg
Any horror film fan knows Chucky, the possessed killer  doll who is hell bent on transferring his soul into a young boy named Andy.  Well, that is the plot of the first three CHILD'S PLAY films.  A 7th film in the series was released not so long ago.  Being a fan of this crazy, stylistic franchise, I was skeptical about a remake.  Hearing Mark Hamill would be the voice of Chucky and then seeing the intriguingly intense trailer changed my mind.  I became eager to see the film. 

Irritatingly, I missed it in the theater.  So, sight unseen, I purchased the DVD.  This is something I rarely do and the last time I did, I was painfully disappointed. (I'm still regretting you, THE BABADOOK)  Besides, my undiagnosed filmic OCD compelled me to complete my CHILD'S PLAY collection. 

My copy 

I removed the plastic wrap and opened the case.  Holding my breath, I popped in the disc and clicked play.  Even with my eagerness, I was still expecting an utterly tired, boring and derivative remake, like so many others. (I'm thinking of you, Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN)  What I watched was an entertaining, emotionally challenging and thought-provoking horror film. 

Andy (Gabriel Bateman) just wants a buddy.

Entertaining...because CHILD'S PLAY 2019 does what any good remake should do.  It pays homage to the original film while doing its own thing.  Other than the trailer & Mark Hamill, I went media dark with the remake, so I was truly surprised by how similar, yet how radically different the plot was to the 1988 original.  Chucky, in the remake, is not a possessed doll wanting to transfer his soul into Andy.  He's an A.I. with a hardcore definition of what being a friend to Andy means.  Maybe my lack of knowledge added to the entertainment, so I apologize for the spoiler.

Andy's mom (Aubrey Plaza) has horrible gift-giving skills. 

Emotionally challenging...at least for me, because this film forced me to deal with one of my neurotic filmic  issues.  Ever since I was a kid, I have hated it when an animal is killed in a film.  Usually it's not vital to the plot and more often than not the animal's death is treated like a joke. (I'm giving you a cold, hard stare, THE BROTHERS GRIMM)  Andy has a cat and I knew it would die because, except for ALIEN and CRITTERS, the cat always dies in this kind of film.  Thankfully, the death is offscreen and is not treated like a joke.  After a second viewing, I concluded it was necessary to the plot.  Believe me, I don't say that lightly.  And yes, I'm a total hypocrite because human deaths are often treated like a joke in these films.  Plus, I enjoy John Waters' PINK FLAMINGOES.  

Chucky and Andy at play.

Thought-provoking...because CHILD'S PLAY 2019 has a lot to say about abusive relationships, our reliance on technology and our careless, flippant, violent ways.  The relationship between Andy and Chucky plays out as Chucky as the abuser and Andy, who was feeling lonely until he connected with Chucky, as the abused.  He covers up and makes excuses for the doll's behavior.  To make matters worse, Chucky can connect to other household appliances and use them.  The doll has a lot of access and opportunity to control Andy's life.  Plus, Chucky is learning from Andy by seriously watching and listening to him.  Everything Andy says and does is taken very literally by the doll.  It's a fascinating comment on how an outsider might view the human race.  

In conclusion, a remake of a classic 1980's horror flick should not be this good, but it really is.  So, manually switch on your TV or device, sit back and enjoy CHILD'S PLAY.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 

P.S.  A different horror film that may make you think... 
🎃'Tis the season to be eerie...🎃
A modern take on 1950's sci-fi/horror films...

is available to read as...

a Kindle e-book


a blog serial

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

freakboy on film: A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)

This is my contribution to THE SHELLEY WINTERS BLOGATHON. 
Thank you to this blogathon's hosts...
Erica D. of Poppity Talks Classic Film 
Gill J. of Realweegiemidget Reviews.

"If you're an Eastman, you're not in the same boat with anyone."  - Alice Tripp
screenplay by...
Michael Wilson & Harry Brown 
directed by...
George Stevens 

I could blog about how this film transformed me into an instant Montgomery Clift fan.  Seriously, I sat through a John Wayne film (Red River) just for Clift...and he was totally worth it! 

I could blog about how this film slowly, and sometimes painfully caused Theodore Dreiser to become one of my favorite dead authors.  His 1925 literary masterpiece An American Tragedy is the source material for this cinematic masterpiece. 

Perhaps another time, for I am here to blog about Shelley Winters.  If all you know about Miss Winters is her terrific and heartbreaking role in The Poseidon Adventure, then pull up a chair and allow me to introduce you to Alice Tripp. 

Alice Tripp is a sweet, young factory worker.  She spends her days folding and boxing garments on an assembly line. She spends her nights alone in a room she is renting from a conservative landlady.  Her routine life is given a jolt when her employer's nephew arrives on the scene.  

Alice is attracted to George Eastman, and he seems to return her feelings.  Going against company policy, they begin seeing each other outside of work.  This attraction grows until George and Alice succumb to their physical desire. 

This desire leads Alice to discover she is pregnant.  The shocking news throws a wrench in George's social-climbing as he simultaneously woos a young socialite by the name of Angela Vickers.  There are decisions to be made.  Being an unwed pregnant woman in the 1950's, Alice has limited options.  Unfortunately for Alice, George Eastman is beginning to see her as an obstacle to his place in the sun.   

A PLACE IN THE SUN is an emotionally complicated film.  It's easy to root for Alice and George in the beginning, but it's even easier to get swept up in the romance between George and Angela.  Elizabeth Taylor as the perpetual breath of fresh air Angela Vickers, who knows nothing of Alice, makes that romance innocently beautiful and painfully tragic.  Montgomery Clift somehow makes George sympathetic despite the character being such a hot mess.  The pretty boys usually are. 

Shelley Winters, who was not an ordinary woman, had the monumental task of portraying a lonely, plain, naive, ordinary young woman.  Alice could even be seen as dull and withdrawn, at least compared to Angela.  Through her mesmerizing talent, Ms. Winters manages to make Alice Tripp a complex and sympathetic character.  It's utterly heartbreaking to watch Alice developing feelings for George while simultaneously losing him, and that heartbreak is because of Shelley Winters' nuanced performance. 

So sit back, imagine a loon calling in the distance and enjoy the incomparable Shelly Winters in A PLACE IN THE SUN.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 

P.S.  A post from the last blogathon I participated in...