Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ReMarathon 2011, Part 3, And Soon The Nightmare Ends

And now for the final installment! And this's personal!

Children of the Corn
by Donald P. Borchers
Well here's your problem, you hired children! You needed actors! If I was to count the ways in which this made-for-tv remake of an already terrible movie that last I checked was still producing execrable sequels fucked the dog, I'd need about a hundred more fingers. I mean fucking wow! The child actors are across the board horrible, each of them giving performances that might charitably be called performances. It's kind of astonishing to think that not a single one of these kids was worth a damn with the camera rolling, but here you have it. That'd be alright if the film had a solid anchor in its two leads but David Anders and Kandyse McClure manage to be even more horrid than the children. Sweet Christ, does this film shit the bed on the bad acting front. After a sermon that counts as the high point of the kid who plays Isaac's time in this movie, we meet the shrieking, horrible, no-fucking-way-are-these-dickbags-married, protagonists. Vicki and Burt are their names and they're headed christ knows where, literally screaming at each other the whole time. They hit a kid, stop in the town of Gatlin, get attacked by the cult, and are killed, but not fast enough for me. These two give shameful performances, but McClure really takes the cake. Right after Burt hits the kid, she takes the reins and doesn't relent. "It's Maaaan Slaughter!!!! Don't you wanna come and see? So you can tell all your NRA buddies what you bagged in Nebraska!" She delivers this horrible dialogue in a new kind of cadence that humans haven't gotten around to using yet. She's hysterically awful from start to finish and I'd say the movie was worth seeing just for her histrionic lunacy, but frankly it gets old after the first twenty minutes. A minute with Vicki Stanton is funny, two is hysterical, three makes you want to kill yourself. And from there it just gets worse. Truly, nothing goes right with this film and to top it off, Anders says "Why don't you put that in your god and smoke it?" To children. Who have probably never even heard the original saying before. Wow, wow, wow!

The Stepfather
by Nelson McCormick
McCormick and Cardone at least stuck much closer to the outline of the original film, a great Reagan-era family values parable, but you have to ask why when they maintain nothing of that film's underlying motifs or importance. Subtext is verboten here, it's all about the murder, but even that takes its sweet ass time getting here. If the remake money ever dries up, these two would be at home making Lifetime originals. The murders in this film are too tame because McCormick doesn't have the balls so really it's all very whitebread and boring and you wonder why you're here. In order to draw the teenage boy set they hired Amber Heard, who's something of a fixture here these days. Mark Kermode hypothesized that McCormick stuck her in her underwear everytime the film was starting to lag. That woman's vagina gets more screentime than Penn Badgley. I'd like to ask a practical question: are these movies funded in part by record companies? Badgely's hero puts on headphones and they play songs that all sound the same, but I'm sure are from different bands. Why? There's no way this kid listens to this shit, so is someone paying to have these bands played? As for the movie, just fuckin' skip it, it ain't worth your time. Jon Tenney's the best thing about it and he's got ten minutes of screentime.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
by Samuel Bayer
Ah, well it was bound to happen I guess. And wouldn't you know that they fucked it up in one of the dumbest possible ways. Samuel Bayer, the guy who directed videos for "Stand" by Poison and Sheryl Crow's "My Favorite Mistake," a ghastly resume indeed, at least has an eye for visuals that escapes Dave Meyers, but this still winds up being one of the most rancorous of the Michael Bay remakes. Turning The Hitcher into a commercial slightly better than having your balls cut off was bad enough, but remaking A Nightmare On Elm Street and making it about molestation would be like remaking Dr. Strangelove and playing it as gripping drama. But that's exactly what Bayer and writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer did. I hope some day they remake fuckin' Hostel and make it even dumber just so this generation gets what its like to have your movie raped quite so bad as this. To his credit the movie is lit very well, but Bayer also manages to make Freddie Krueger seem more silly than anything else, and he keeps fucking with the dream rules. And as much as I like Rooney Mara (she got out of bad horror movie land but quick after this. Look for her, appropriately enough, in the remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), there is no performance here that makes this worth watching. Jackie Earle Haley embarasses himself as the villain and the screenwriters fuck up his motivation in one of the most egregious ways imaginable. They go right for the whole pedophile aspect, making that his sole motivator. The problem is this: he sexualizes the girls he kills, Mara especially. Can anyone tell me what pedophiles find attractive again? Oh right, children! Yeah, that's right. He wouldn't like these kids anymore. And worse still, you know without a shadow of a doubt that he did it, erasing all of the subtext from Craven's film. And as if that weren't enough, there's nothing dreamlike about the dreams. Craven's film is remembered as having revolutionized the way dreams are conveyed in film and his techniques are still being copied today. Bayer seems content to steal, except in one instance, and everything he steals that was practical and revolutionary in 1984, is cold, digital and stupid here. Bayer perversely changes nothing about the real world and the dream world in the vane hope of catching the audience off guard, but in doing so he negates what the fuck he's doing. Dreams don't look or feel real (if only he'd waited to see Inception!) but the ones Bayer cooks up are supposed to look real and confuse you because the characters don't know they're dreaming half the time. In other words, this movie gets less than zero right and its creators should be made barren at first light.

And Soon The Darkness
by Marcos Efron
Well, at least they're remaking something relatively obscure. And managed another extraordinary feat: they made a horror movie of almost total predictability and safety. I can think of no one aspect to recommend it. It's bland and ordinary and one of the only mysteries in recent memory where the only suspects are actually the guys who did it. It might be them, you think it's them, it's them. The usually splendid Karl Urban is a non-entity. Odette Yustman and Amber Heard lead the cast. Odette Yustman's most unique feature is that she's better looking than Megan Fox. And Amber Heard; I've seen her in five or six movies, three of them recently and I don't think I could pick her out of a line-up if the other people were old chinese men. She exudes nothing but a willingness to appear in horror films. There's less than nothing to see here, not a shock or a scare to be found and has a future as one of those movies you rent thinking it'll be gory fun and then it isn't and your party sucks as a result. The only thing that got my attention about this movie was that it was produced by Anchor Bay, the one-time champions of schlocky home video. I was wondering how they were getting along these days and then realized they put Children of the Corn and our next film, I Spit On Your Grave on DVD. And then I stopped caring.

I Spit On Your Grave
by Stephen R. Monroe
The original movie had a hard enough time escaping controversy in '78 without a fuckwit like Stephen Monroe ignoring the subtext and making it a backwoods Saw clone with an emphasis on sex, if the poster wasn't a big enough clue. Using sex to sell a movie about rape earns you a one-way-ticket to hell in my book. Hobos should pee on you. Muggers should be given your address. I have no time for someone who'd turn in a second-rate piece of shit like this and name it after one of the most widely misunderstood/infamous films of all time, a movie that earned its reputation thanks to continued hand wringing over something people still won't talk about. It's happening today. Look at Lucky McKee's The Woman. That movie went out of its way to stare a very uncomfortable subject in the mouth because it had an incredibly specific point to make about the nature of white masculinity and people flipped the fuck out. Monroe's shitstain of a remake is in borrowed spotlight and has nothing to say. If they'd called this movie anything else, Always Lock Your Door or She Waits In The Woods, something generic like that, no one would have bothered with it because it turns rape into a supposedly compelling argument to turn into the Jigsaw Killer for a weekend. But Sarah Butler's performance is barely there (it's certainly nothing like it needed to be to acquit this movie of its crimes. Camille Keaton's performance alone answers any and all questions of mysogyny as far as I'm concerned) and Monroe never misses an opportunity to get her naked, which negates any argument he may have had in the first place. It's all boundlessly stupid and even more so considering that Steven R. Monroe makes shitty made-for-syfy movies like Ice Twisters and Ogre and the second he was done with this deeply unpleasant assignment, he went right back to making Mongolian Death Worm. Andrew Howard gives a good performance, but it's not worth sifting through shit to get to it. Before I go ahead and write this off and encourage you to do the same, I want to draw your attention to this bit of trivia from the IMDB:
According to director Steven R. Monroe, the studio submitted an uncut version of the film to the MPAA to see if by chance they would get an R rating. The MPAA came back and said "look, you've got an NC-17 movie, but we don't recommend that you cut it down because we feel like it's really impactful." Yeah...I bet they said that.

Mother's Day
by Darren Lynn Bousman
I admit that I was interested in seeing this, though not without reservation. It was Darren Bousman's first feature outside the Saw franchise, excepting his misbegotten musical Repo! The Genetic Opera, which he'd made once before as a short. So this was his first movie with a clean slate. I was willing to look past the Saw films because I really wanted to see if he had something to say. James Wan, left to his own devices, has less-than-nothing to say. After laughing my way through Insidious, I though perhaps Bousman had a better chance at my respect. Bousman's talent remains in question, though Mother's Day proves he's a perfectly decent director when he wants to be. If I compare this to The Woman again, just as it's the last thing I saw, I can say that though I thought that film smarter and more cunning, I have to admit that Bousman has a tighter grasp on mechanics. His screenwriting, on the other hand, needs work. The problem with Mother's Day is that it's made of punishing vignettes that pit people against each other in an impossible situation, which if you'll recall is what he spent the last ten years doing making Saw sequels. Call it SawBurbia but all that it means is that he didn't remake Mother's Day so much as The House on the Edge of the Park. A woman and her insane sons crash a housewarming party after a botched bank robbery (think Reservoir Dogs, actually, no, think Last House on the Beach) under the impression that the house is theirs and that their mother is there waiting for them. It was, at least up until a few months ago when it was foreclosed upon and the newlywed Sohapis won it in an auction. There's just one problem. Ike and his brothers have been sending money to this house because they thought their mother still lived there. If the Sohapis and their guests want to leave alive they have to fork over the money, keep gutshot brother Johnny alive, not make trigger happy Addley mad and most of all not upset their crazy fucking mother.

Fitting that we should end our marathon remake fest with this one as it features cast members from My Bloody Valentine, Sorority Row and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In this movie's corner is tight if not particularly discerning direction from Darren Bousman and characteristically strong work from Jaime King, Shawn Ashmore and Briana Evigan, who I rooted for the whole film. You survive Sorority Row, you earn my respect. That she's very cute helps too, but I digress. On the other hand none of the set-pieces that make up the film's second and third act haven't been done before and better; people beat each other to a pulp though they keep getting back up past the point of that being reasonable and I really can't shake the feeling that this was a bunch of Saw ideas recycled into another screenplay, just as Bousman's Saw 2 was once something else entirely that was retrofitted into the series. And beyond that the film's thesis is tired and without the green-and-grey scale or the amped up theatricality of the murders, I can kinda see why its producers shelved it so long (it wrapped in 2009 and has seen very few screens, legally that is, since then): it's a joyless slog. It doesn't matter how likable everyone is because you know pretty much from the beginning that no one's survival is guaranteed; it doesn't help that people are killed in that annoying "thought you were the villain" way that horror directors are so fond of. So why watch nice people get killed? Well, that's a question that you have to ask yourself before watching most horror remakes because 14 times out of 20, that's what you'll be watching. I'm not opposed to remaking a movie if you do it well and have a reason. Eli Roth talks a big fucking game about being able to do justice to Tobe Hooper's Funhouse. Guess what? Tobe Hooper did justice to Tobe Hooper's Funhouse. It needs Eli Roth remaking it like the human body needs heroin. I say unless you prove you can make your own movie, something Eli and the rest of this crew have proven rather sad at lately, you shouldn't be allowed to remake someone else's. Until then, do some research, find these movies and appreciate why they were optioned in the first place: they're worth watching....well, maybe not Children of the Corn. We'll just have to see if everyone learns their lesson in another ten years.

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