Archive for surrealism

The David Lynch Chronicles Volume One: MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

Posted in 2012, Art Movies, Classic Films, David Lynch, Experimental Films, Film Noir, Just Plain Weird, Plot Twists, Surrealism, The David Lynch Chronicles with tags , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by knifefighter

The David Lynch Chronicles Volume One:
Two Lynchians Take on MULHOLLAND DRIVE
By Nick Cato and Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

Nick Cato: There are two kinds of people in the world: those who “get” and enjoy the films of David Lynch and those who think he’s simply filming whatever comes to mind in an attempt to con the artsy-fartsy crowd out of their money and validity.  When I was about 20 minutes into my first viewing of Lynch’s iconic ERASERHEAD (1977), on VHS back in the early 80s, I became fascinated with the surreal director, both by his demented images, and later with the craft of unraveling his stories: yes, I said the CRAFT, because a single viewing of most of Lynch’s films won’t reveal too much.  His films demand multiple viewings, and more often than not, major contemplation.  And while some of his films, such as ERASERHEAD and WILD AT HEART (1990), are easier to decipher than later titles such as THE LOST HIGHWAY (1997) and the super-brain twisting INLAND EMPIRE (2006), this first look for CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT at a David Lynch classic goes to 2001’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE, that, while head-scratching enough and open to various interpretations, does have several ideas running through it that a vast majority of the director’s fans agree on.

Sort of.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: “Sort of” is right. When it comes to interpretations, we could spend days going over the elaborate details and symbols. I’ve seen Lynch films with people who insist he’s just messing with the audience. On the surface, perhaps that’s true. It might even be just another trick up the genius’s sleeve. My first Lynch experience was also ERASERHEAD. It was an English major’s dream come true. As someone who had been taught to look for symbols under every bed and in every corner, the film clicked with me. MULHOLLAND DRIVE brings me back to that experience, as do many of Lynch’s films, sitting in a darkened room, unraveling these intricate knots he’s woven for us.

Nick Cato: Like most of Lynch’s films, I didn’t even bother trying to interpret what was going on during my initial viewing of MULHOLLAND DRIVE.  I was taken aback by just how addictive this gorgeously-shot film was, plus, as usual, simply enjoyed Lynch’s surreal images and several scenes that are creepier than anything you’ll see in a solid, seriously made horror film.  But things began to take shape in my mind, even before the second screening.  A brunette woman (played by the beautiful Laura Harring) survives a nasty car collision, seconds before two men were apparently about to shoot her.  She stumbles out of the wreck and makes her way down the Hollywood hills, taking refuge in an apartment where she notices the owner (and older woman) is on her way out.  Another woman named Betty (played by Naomi Watts) arrives in Hollywood to take her first screen test, and stays at an apartment owned by her aunt.  She soon discovers the brunette woman in her aunt’s bathroom, and discovers she’s suffering from amnesia.

So far, MULHOLLAND DRIVE gives an interesting and some might say “normal” set up, despite the unusual opening credits sequence, where Betty is superimposed over what looks like some kind of 50s dance program, and the sequences of the amnesiac surviving the wreck and eventually meeting Betty are divided by one of the most head-scratching things Lynch has ever done: Two men are in a restaurant, one claiming he wanted to be there as he’s been having nightmares about the place, as well as a spooky figure who lives outside behind it.  The men discover that the figure behind the diner IS real, causing the one who dreamt of him to pass out.

During the early meetings of Betty and Rita (a name the brunette takes off a film poster when Betty asks her name), we see mysterious men talking on the phone, saying things like “she got away” and “we missed her.”  Evidently, someone is trying to kill Rita.  Lynch’s mystery is off.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: There’s something dream-like about the opening sequences that really made me take note. To say the setup is “normal” would probably be misleading. Betty seems so saccharine that she can’t be real. Chipper to a fault, optimistic beyond belief, she charges into Hollywood, ready to take on her first audition with the kind of aplomb reserved for the mentally ill or children. She’s Dorothy headed down the Yellow Brick Road. Even the elderly people she meets on her flight out to Hollywood seem odd beyond imagination, excessively cheerful, nearly insane with joy, wishing their fellow passenger all the best on her journey to become a star. They also have the creepiest smiles this side of Mr. X’s in ERASERHEAD.

I found that even the scene in which Rita is about to be eliminated is so cliché as to be unreal. Lynch seems to be setting us up for something that is so far from reality that it has to be questioned immediately. Hit men only take beautiful women out in limousines to murder them in movies. It’s almost as if Lynch has established a film within a film. It’s even suggested early on that the real hit man in the story is a bumbling low-life who can’t even carry out a simple task without causing utter chaos. He’s no suave mobster in a limo, that’s for certain.

The man in the diner scene near the beginning gnawed at me for a long time. I have an idea that meshes with a sort of WIZARD OF OZ retelling, but to keep it simple, I feel he’s a cowardly lion of sorts.

Nick Cato: MULHOLLAND does a fine job of balancing suspense and straight drama, especially when Betty goes to her first audition, a sequence that not only displays the acting skills of Naomi Watts, but one that leaves me breathless every time I see it.  Between this scene, and the scenes of movie director Adam (Lynch favorite Justin Theroux) being threatened to alter his film by a group of gangsters and an extremely strange cowboy (played by real-life cult film producer Monty Montgomery), the film develops a deeper story on a few levels.  One classic Lynch staple put into play here are mysterious, underground people seemingly causing things to happen behind the scenes.  We’re never sure if they’re the mafia, or corrupt studio executives, or everyday goons hired out by a rival of the aforementioned director.  Either way, their presence here gives MULHOLLAND much of its mystery, and in the case of the cowboy enforcer, some latent humor that doesn’t take away from the film’s serious tone.

Betty (Naomi Watts) and Rita (Laura Harring) dealing with Rita’s amnesia

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: There’s certainly no shortage of suspense here. As a Lynch addict, I try not to take any plot point for granted. You never know when there’s a trick. I really do feel that Lynch is a magician of sorts. If you blink, you’re likely to miss something.

The cowboy is one of the more mystifying characters. He seems to be the enforcer for this whole underworld operation, at least on the surface. He tells Adam to pick a girl in a photograph, a blonde woman named Camilla Rhodes, to play the lead role in his film – the one that has been grabbed away from him by the Castiglione brothers (one of whom is portrayed by famed composer Angelo Badalamenti, who provides the chilling music to many of Lynch’s works). The brothers may be the leaders of this mob-like organization. Adam’s choices, the cowboy tells him, are to either pick that girl or have his career ruined. It’s the only option he has left after being kicked out of his house by his wife, who is having an affair with the pool boy (portrayed hilariously by Billy Ray Cyrus).

Nick Cato: When Betty and Rita visit an apartment that happened to pop into Rita’s memory, what they discover provides a turning point in the film, one that throws a curveball that put MULHOLLAND on a path I’m assuming most viewers never saw coming.  Now fully convinced someone is out to get Rita, they disguise her in a blonde wig, making the two look like sisters.

Shortly after they discover Rita’s pocket book contains $50,000 in cash, as well as a mysterious blue key, the women have their first sexual encounter, cleverly placed by Lynch where it is in the film’s progress; we’re so taken with the sight of these two beautiful ladies in bed together (and apparently falling truly in love) that the little hints Lynch has left for eagle-eyed viewers to notice are all but forgotten.  But it’s at this point where Betty and Rita really try to find out just WHO Rita is and where she came from.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: I’m not so sure this steamy scene is intended as a way to distract viewers from the clues. I think it’s a very big clue in and of itself. Rita is a vulnerable woman, someone who has forgotten who she is. Betty plays a traditionally masculine role here. She’s sweeping in to save the damsel in distress. She is compelled to save Rita, to help her remember who she is. I think you’ll find this extremely important later in the film.

Nick Cato: Perhaps some of us guys became more easily distracted than most female viewers?

In one of my favorite sequences, Rita has a dream where she takes Betty to a vaudeville-style show at an old theater.  It’s here where we’re told “This is all a tape recording.  It’s an illusion,” as performers lip-sync to music and verse.  Perhaps Lynch is telling us that the events going on in Betty and Rita’s lives have been pre-recorded, maybe even by the same people who are attempting to control Adam’s new film.  As the women sit watching one opera singer pass out as her song still plays on, we’re left to wonder if Betty and Rita have been brought here as a way to accept their coming fates.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: At the club, called Silencio, they encounter a dream-world emcee who firmly states, “No hay banda!” There is no band. It’s all an illusion. This seems to be the pivot point in the plot. We start to move into reality. Lynch is telling us, quite literally, everything leading up to this point has been an illusion. But whose illusion is this? Is it Betty’s illusion? Is there someone else pulling the strings?

Nick Cato: MULHOLLAND DRIVE really kicks into weird gear when Betty and Rita return home from the show.  Rita goes to get her hidden pocketbook from the closet, and when she turns around she discovers Betty is nowhere to be found.  Not knowing what else to do, she takes that blue key and sticks it into an odd, small blue box, and from her POV we’re sucked into the box, and then taken back to the apartment where they had just visited.  It turns out Betty is really named Diane and is in a relationship with Rita, whose real name we learn is Camilla, the same actress the corrupt studio execs were trying to force onto Adam’s film.

Don’t worry folks…it get’s even trippier from here.

Apparently Camilla is the real movie star, and has fallen for Adam, leaving Diane behind.  Diane acts out her rage in a furious masturbation scene, then the phone rings, and brings us back to an alternate (or is it the real?) opening sequence of the film.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: Mr. Lynch really loves doubles. He’s used them in myriad films, and even in his seminal series TWIN PEAKS. When Betty and Rita visit the club Silencio, they look nearly identical, both sporting short, blonde tresses. I see this as a huge symbol of Diane’s own disgust with herself, and her desire to pull Camilla down with her. She wants Camilla to be just like her, a loser who can’t get a starring role. Instead, Camilla is a rising star, living out Diane’s dream, and now about to marry a man. I feel the box has a very obvious sexual connotation. There’s a key in Camilla’s box now, folks. And Diane is not happy about that. The box is reality.

Rita is Diane’s way of handling her lover’s decision to leave her for a man. Rita has forgotten who she is. As far as Diane is concerned, Camilla has also forgotten who she is. She belongs to Diane, not to Adam. This anger and frustration drives her to plot a very nasty demise for her former lover.

Nick Cato: In the circular final section of MULHOLLAND, we learn Diane/Betty had paid hit men to take out her girlfriend Rita/Camilla, and we see the creepy homeless man behind the diner now holding the mysterious blue box in his hands, perhaps a symbol of a supernatural string puller.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: Everything up to this point is merely Diane’s way of justifying her decision to take a hit out on Camilla. She’s not the villain here. She’s really Betty, a confident, happy woman who will make her way in Hollywood. If only Camilla would remember who she really is, Diane wouldn’t be forced to hire that hit man. This is the story of a woman who has lost touch with reality.

Nick Cato: As Sheri mentioned, when Betty first arrived in Hollywood, she had befriended an elderly couple on the plane.  Now, they reappear during the final sequence, taunting Betty/Diane around her apartment to the point she blows her own brains out, falling onto the bed in the same manner they found the corpse upon their earlier visit in search of Rita’s memory.  While there’s plenty of discussion on who this elderly couple is, Betty had mentioned her parents during one conversation, making me believe this was her way of dealing with failing to do them proud.  And perhaps the entire film is a picture of Betty/Diane battling her demons as she tries to make a life for herself in Tinsel Town, the success of her lover making things that much harder.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: Much like the WIZARD OF OZ, the story all starts and ends in a bed. In the very beginning, we see sheets and a pillow, and we hear someone gasping for air. This comes full circle at the end. We now know that Diane shot herself in the head and collapsed onto her bed after being accosted by these menacing elderly people. Could these older people be symbolic of her mental breakdown? The film up to this point, it seems to me, all comes from within Diane’s mind. Betty is her breakdown version of herself. Camilla has been successful, and she can’t handle that success coupled with her own failure. Like Dorothy, Diane discovers the truth about herself in the end. And it’s too terrible to bear. Reality is a tough pill to swallow.

Nick Cato: MULHOLLAND DRIVE is David Lynch’s love/hate letter to Hollywood.  It’s pretty easy to figure out Betty and Diane are the same person: Diane the real-life failure, with Betty being Diane’s fantasized version of herself, as well as her desired relationship with Rita/Camilla.  Lynch—an independent filmmaker using Hollywood actors and sets here—basically portrays his own apprehensions and pleasures as a director and as one trying to deal with the Hollywood system.  And though at first the film may seem like the tired “it’s all a dream” thing, it’s a bit more complex than that, especially in the light of Diane/Betty’s dreams possibly being manipulated by other entities.

 Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: It might be the clichéd “it was all just a dream” story, but the person dreaming it is significantly disturbed, if not destroyed. Hollywood is very much like the Emerald City. Betty took a jaunt to find her calling, her home in a sense. But Hollywood, not unlike the Emerald City, is not all that it seems. There are mysterious forces that determine who makes it big and who doesn’t. It’s a tough world, baby, and the guaranteed success that Betty hopes to find rarely happens in reality.

Nick Cato: MULHOLLAND DRIVE is basically a surreal, modern film noir, with an incredible performance by Naomi Watts, complimented by co-star Laura Hanning’s often speechless speech and deathly-sexy mannerisms.  While we could easily take up another 15 pages breaking down what the cowboy symbolized, who the homeless man behind the diner was, and just WHY on earth Billy Ray Cyrus was cast as Adam’s wife’s lover (!), MULHOLLAND DRIVE is one of those films that reveals itself more and more upon each viewing.  It’s like staring at a surreal painting for hours on end, when suddenly things start to appear you hadn’t noticed before.

And with each viewing the film seems to unravel itself a little bit more, almost like Lynch somehow caused the film to work over periods of time.  Am I giving him too much credit as a director here?  Maybe.  Some would say definitely.  Either way, this is how MULHOLLAND DRIVE happens to work.

There are few films like it.

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel: MULHOLLAND DRIVE demands several viewings. Even taken at the surface level, it’s a thrill ride through a twisted world. The most cynical viewer will likely take something away from the film. Things crop up after a few viewings that never occurred to me before. Part film noir, part horror flick, part crime drama, it all comes together in a collage that sometimes leaves the viewer with just as many questions as they resolve.

The legendary Ann Miller makes her final screen appearance as Betty’s landlord.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato and Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel

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Meals for Monsters: SANTA SANGRE (1989)

Posted in 2012, Classic Films, Highly Stylized Films, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Weird, Madness, Meals for Monsters, Religious Cults, Surrealism with tags , , , , , on February 1, 2012 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: SANTA SANGRE (1989)
By Jenny Orosel

 

I have to preface this by saying just how much I love Alejandro Jodorowsky.  The man is insane.  Beautifully, wonderfully insane, and it’s reflected in his movies.  Watching one of his movies is like going to a four star restaurant in a foreign country—you may not understand all of what you’re consuming, but my God, it might be one of the best things you’ve ever consumed.  That’s how I feel about his movies.  And it thrills me to come up with a delicious meal for SANTA SANGRE (1989).

SANTA SANGRE was the last movie Jodorowsky directed (well, there was one work-for-hire the year after, but he refuses to acknowledge it, so I shall not) before moving into the realm of comics.  Our hero, the young Fenix, grew up in a circus but has been in a mental institution since, years earlier as a child, he saw his father cut off his mother’s arms before killing himself.  He stayed there in willing silence until his armless mother helps him escape.  They make a good living doing a mime act, but Mom’s got a grudge and, since she doesn’t have the hands to do it herself, forces the sad Fenix to murder beautiful women for her.  It sounds like a simple slasher flick.  However, this is nothing like any splatterpunk you’ve seen before.  There’s enough blatant symbolism to make Freud weep.  Temptation is a running theme (the family mime act is about the Garden of Eden), poor Fenix has strange hallucinations of white doves and giant snakes growing from his crotch.  And the ever-present holiness of blood.

It makes sense that, for a cocktail, to mix up a few Santa Sangrias:

SANTA SANGRIA

 

Ingredients:
Chopped fruit
Seltzer water
Cheap red wine.

Directions:

Drop a handful of the chopped fruit into the glass.  Fill half with red wine and half with seltzer water.  Enjoy.

The opening scene of Fenix in the institution shows them trying to get him to eat a meal like a normal person.  When that fails, they offer him a whole fish, which he devours.  While I’m not going to have you serve up anything with a face or eyes, I think fish would be an appropriate main course:

BLOOD ORANGE BAKED COD (serves four)

Ingredients:
4 pieces cod
2 blood oranges
1 stick butter
Salt, pepper & dried parsley to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter.  Juice one of the blood oranges and mix with the butter.  Dip each piece of cod in the mixture, coating it, and place in baking pan.  Drizzle some of the excess onto the fish.  Salt, pepper and parsley to taste.  Slice remaining blood orange and place one slice on each piece of fish.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Serve with rice, potatoes or toast.

With all the temptation symbolism, it should come as no surprise that apples are in a number of scenes.  Why not, for dessert, have some apple dumplings?

GARDEN OF EDEN APPLE DUMPLINGS: (serves four)

 

Ingredients:
4 apples
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed if frozen
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tbs cinnamon
1 beaten egg with a splash of water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Peel and core the apples.  Cut each sheet of puff pastry in half.  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Place the apple in the center of the pastry, fill the core hole with the sugar/cinnamon mix, and sprinkle a little extra on top.  Bring the corners up, pinch them closed and seal up the sides.  Place on greased baking sheet.  Brush the egg over the dumpling and bake at 425 for ten minutes.  Lower the temperature to 375 and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Serve warm.

If you’ve heard of Alejandro Jodorowsky but never seen any of his movies, this is a great one to start with.  It has all his signature style and weirdness, but the plot is the most linear of any of his movies (minus that one film-that-shall-not-be-named).  If you’re willing to sit through a little weirdness, you won’t be disappointed.  Or, at least, you’ll have a yummy meal to get you through the night.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET!

Posted in 2010, Cinema Knife Fights, Lame Remakes, Remakes, Slasher Movies with tags , , , , , , , on May 3, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE:  a living room with a TV set turned on to static. The camera pans back to reveal L.L. SOARES asleep on a sofa, the remote still in his hands. LS slowly opens his eyes and then screams in horror. Playing now on the TV is a scene from NEW MOON.)

LS:  Who put that on?  (shuts off TV with remote)  Michael must be up to his old tricks again. I’ll fix him. (FREDDY KRUEGER suddenly pops up from behind the sofa)

FREDDY:  Ready for a new nightmare?

LS:  It can’t be any worse than what was just on TV. Wanna pass me a beer?

FREDDY:  Huh?

LS:  Make yourself useful. I’m still groggy from falling asleep.

FREDDY (snickers):  Yes, you’re asleep, and I’m real!

LS:  So’s the beer. How about it, huh?  Toss me one from the cooler?

FREDDY:  Wake up!  Wake up!

LS:  Huh?  (opens his eyes to see MICHAEL ARRUDA standing over him).

MA:  You fell asleep again.

LS:  What did you wake me up for?  I was about to have a beer!

MA:  Really?  That’s not what it sounded like. You were screaming.

LS:  That’s because I dreamt I was watching NEW MOON again.

(MA SHRIEKS!)

LS:  Calm down. It’s okay. It was just a dream.

MA (wiping sweat from his face):  I don’t even want to think about that!  Talk about scary dreams!  Speaking of which, we’re reviewing the new A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET today.

LS:  Yes we are. Wanna start this one?

MA:  Sure. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010) is a remake of the 1984 Wes Craven film of the same name. That film caused a sensation and led to an entire series of movies, as well as a television show, and introduced the world to a new horror movie icon, the relentless, wise-cracking killer in your dreams, Freddy Krueger.

The remake follows the plot of the original rather closely. There are a few changes here and there, most of them minor.

Like the original, the story follows a group of teens who discover they’ve been dreaming about the same person, a scary figure who is trying to kill them in their dreams. In this one, it’s Kris (Katie Cassidy) who realizes this first, when her boyfriend is murdered in an effective pre-credit sequence just after telling her he’d been threatened by someone in his dreams. In the original, the character’s name was Tina. Like Tina, Kris meets an untimely end, as she is killed by Freddy in a gruesome sequence that is pretty much the same scene from the original. If you’ve seen that one, you’ve seen this one.

LS: I have to admit, I was surprised when Kris got killed. I thought she was the main character in this one and figured she’d be around for awhile. They totally got me by surprise.

MA: From here, Nancy (Rooney Mara) takes over, and along with Quentin (Kyle Gallner), she attempts to unravel the mystery of Freddy Krueger. Their investigation leads them to discover the truth behind Freddy’s identity and the reason why he is murdering them in their dreams. What remains a mystery, as it did in the original, is just how it is that Freddy is in their dreams in the first place. When he died, did he make a deal with the devil to come back as a dream demon?  We don’t know, and if I had to wager a guess, I’d say the filmmakers don’t know either.

LS: Yeah, I always wondered that, too. How did he get his powers?

MA: I’ll cut right to the chase. I was largely unimpressed with this new version of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. While it got off to a good start with a scary pre-credit sequence, the rest of the movie pretty much lacked any decent scares. The murder scenes weren’t as creative as the ones in the Wes Craven original or even in some of the sequels. The scariest scene in this version is the murder of Kris, and that’s just a carbon copy of the same scene in the original. It works because the original scene worked.

LS: Yeah, I gotta agree with you about the lack of creativity…..and scares.

MA: Later on, there’s a scene when Nancy is in the bathtub, and it uses the same image from a similar scene in the original, with Freddy’s hand coming out of the water.

LS: Like the shark fin from JAWS!

MA: Now, this is a very memorable image. But again, it’s not original. And that can pretty much be said for the entire movie.

I did think there was a decent attempt this time around to explain things better: to explain that the dreams the teens are having are real and that Freddy is real. And who Freddy was before he died. But still, the answer that is ultimately needed, the “how is this really happening?” bit is not answered.

What was the strongest part of the original movie is the weakest part of this movie, and that is, the character of Freddy Krueger. Now, he looks good in this one, and I’m a big fan of Jackie Earle Haley, and I thought Haley gave Krueger some genuine moments of menace, but as a screen presence, he just didn’t have it here. Robert Englund is sorely missed.

LS: You know, I like Jackie Earle Haley a lot, too. He was great in LITTLE CHILDREN (2006), and was excellent as Rorschach in WATCHMEN (2009). He was even a highlight in this year’s SHUTTER ISLAND. But here, he definitely comes off badly in comparison to Englund’s classic portrayal of the character. They took a big chance getting someone else to play Freddy, and I think it was a big mistake. Englund could easily have continued playing Freddy, and the change does not improve anything.

MA: This new Freddy went to the Michael Myers school of terrorizing. He shows up here and there, and appears out of nowhere when you least expect him, but unlike Robert Englund’s interpretation, he doesn’t run. Englund was unpredictable, and he was fast, and this combination was scary. This new Freddy walks, and he walks, and he walks. Not so scary.

LS: Yeah, he DOES kind of plod along through the movie. And yeah, I wasn’t scared once. And his delivery is so deadpan that even when he’s telling a joke, it’s not funny. Englund could deliver a line with relish! He’d chew the scenery until it was soggy. I miss him!

MA: Also gone are the various transformations Freddy use to go through, whether it be long arms or appearing as different people, none of that occurs in the remake. Freddy’s just kind of there. I was very disappointed with this new Freddy.

LS: Where was the” tongue coming out of the telephone” scene?

MA: The rest of the acting wasn’t bad. I thought Rooney Mara was pretty good as Nancy, and I think she was better than Heather Langencamp in the original, but that’s not saying much. Kyle Gallner was very good as Quentin. We saw Gallner in THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009), and he was good in that, as well. In the original NIGHTMARE it was Johnny Depp playing a similar role, and the two performances were about the same. Katie Cassidy is OK as Kris, but she looked more like a 25 year-old rather than a high school student.

(FREDDY pops up, laughing, while MA’s voice prattles on in the background)

FREDDY: Hah! You fell asleep again. Now I’ve got you.

LS: Dammit, it’s you again. You never did get me that beer.

FREDDY: But I will get you your DEATH!

LS: C’mon. You’re supposed to scare me? You’re laughable. I bet more people are afraid of ME than you!

FREDDY: That’s their problem. I’M YOURS!

LS (pulls out an axe): You’re not going to be much of a problem when you’re chopped  to pieces!

FREDDY: Where did you get that? This is MY world.

LS: This is a friggin dream. I can do ANYTHING here.

(FREDDY squeals like a little girl and runs away and LS chases him, until he is shaken awake).

MA: That’s pretty insulting. Falling asleep when I’m talking.

LS: Sleep? No, no. I was just resting my eyes.

MA:  No, you were sleeping on the job. That kind of behavior can get you fired. (Suddenly points a blow torch at LS’ face.)

LS: What the—?

(It’s now FREDDY holding the blow torch, and with maniacal laughter, he ignites it.)

LS:  Damn!  It’s the old dream-within-a-dream trick!  Come on, Michael, wake me up!

MA:  Are you sleeping?

LS (opens eyes):  Is it really you?

MA:  Of course it’s me. You were sleeping weren’t you?

LS:  No!

MA:  Then what was I talking about?

LS: Okay, Katie Cassidy might have looked too old to be in high school, but she was definitely some nice eye candy! I wish she’d been in the movie longer. And Kyle Gallner has been showing up in a lot of horror movies lately – he’s a very familiar face – and I’m starting to like him a lot. Not only was he in A HAUNTING IN CONNECITCUT – he was also in JENNIFER’S BODY (2009) and the Jack Ketchum adaptation, RED (2008). So I was happy to see him here. He always looks so sad, but it works for him.

As for Rooney Mara, I thought she was okay. Nothing amazing. But you’re right in saying she was better than Heather Langencamp. At least Mara has a personality here.

MA: I guess you were listening.

The screenplay by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer changed Freddy’s crime from child killer in the original to child molester/mutilator (what he actually did to the children is not clearly defined) in this one, which makes him more of a villain.

LS: You’re right. While I’m pretty sure he was a pedophile in the original as well – they were just too wimpy to spell it out back then – he doesn’t actually kill anyone in this movie until he becomes the dream demon. Or whatever he is.

MA: Director Samuel Bayer offers us nothing fresh and new to separate this movie from the original. The best scenes were those lifted from the original.  I also thought the pacing was dreadfully slow.  At times I thought I was watching A DAYDREAM ON ELM STREET.

LS: Totally. The direction here is pretty boring. Bayer does nothing interesting with the dream sequences, which is a complete letdown. Imagine what someone like Alejandro Jodorowksy (cult director of such surreal classics as EL TOPO (1970) and SANTA SANGRE (1989)) would have done with the dream sequences here! He would have blown our minds. Or David Lynch! Instead, the entire “dreams vs. reality” plotline is a lost opportunity. For me, this is the biggest flaw with the new movie. Total lack of creativity. With dreams, you can do ANYTHING. And Bayer pretty much does NOTHING with it.

MA: I had other problems with the movie as well, in terms of plot. I thought it took the teens an awful long time before they turned to the Internet for help. I would have thought the first thing they would have done would be to do a Google search for “Freddy Krueger,” rather than wasting their time asking their parents about him.

I also thought it silly that Nancy and Quentin discover Freddy’s secret “cave” room so easily, when earlier in the film their parents admit they had never been able to find this room. Yet Nancy and Quentin find it without breaking a sweat. Poor storytelling.

LS: I don’t know – I kind of liked the “secret cave.” I thought it was very creepy and was one of the few times in the movie when a location was effective. The dream world surely wasn’t anything exciting!

MA: And last but not least, the very ending of this film is awful. It’s another of those endings that makes no sense and really diminishes the integrity of the movie.

LS: The original had a very similar ending, so you should have hated that one, too.

MA: I did. This new remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is largely a snorefest. During the film’s 90 minutes, the characters in the movie aren’t the only ones fighting to stay awake.

LS: I liked it better than you did. I thought that the darker tone and the more explicit evilness of Freddy was interesting. But this movie is definitely lacking something. And that something is Robert Englund! His absence here is a real liability. Haley gives it a good try, but his take on the character is pretty boring in comparison.

And I know this movie was in color, but for some reason, looking back on it, it seems like it was black and white – and not in a good, “classic movie” kind of way. It just seemed drained of all color, which is the exact opposite of what you should be doing with a movie about dreams.

MA:  That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right about the film and its apparent lack of color. Don’t we dream in black and white?  Maybe the filmmakers were on to something here.

LS:  What do you know?  I dream in friggin TECHNICOLOR, man. Dreams give you carte blanche to do ANYTHING you want. And I don’t think any of the Freddy movies take full advantage of this. But it’s not just the lack of good dream scenes. The new NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET seems to be lacking something else. A soul. This movie seems cold and lifeless a lot of the time. I think the teenagers are fleshed out a little more this time around, and Freddy is a lot darker. But it doesn’t really work. The movie is a cold fish.

It’s a quality that several  recent remakes have in common, whether we’re talking about the new version of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) or last year’s FRIDAY THE 13TH remake. It’s like these movies are the products of an assembly line. And all three have another thing in common – they were all produced by Michael Bay. Coincidence?

That said, I don’t think Wes Craven’s original is all that great, either. A lot of people are angry about this remake, mainly because it is screwing around with the franchise. But I don’t think it’s any worse than most of the sequels we got before this. Which is pretty much the same way I felt about the recent FRIDAY THE 13th remake. Like you said in your review of the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – looking back on it before we saw this one – Craven kind of dropped the ball, too. It’s a great idea – a killer who gets you in dreams – but it has NEVER been done with the kind of total balls-to-the-wall surrealism it deserves. A Freddy movie should be a cinematic acid trip! And Craven was just as pedestrian and boring as any other director who’s tackled the character.

Director Samuel Bayer had a chance to improve on the original here. And he blew it. Like in a lot of remakes, he just wasn’t creative enough to do something new and different.

MA: I agree. Moving along, we’re introducing a new Cinema Knife Fight ratings system today. Would you like to do the honors?

LS:  Sure. Everyone else has stars or thumbs, but here on Cinema Knife Fight, we obviously want something different. So we’ve got knife hands. Here’s the spiel:

One Knife Hand means the movie’s a stinker

Two means it’s so-so, or had potential and blew it.

Three means it’s better than average

Four means it’s a great movie, and you should go see it now.

And, on a rare occasion, we may have a five knife movie. If it’s some kind of masterpiece. I don’t expect that to happen too often.

This rating system makes it a little more explicit how much we liked (or didn’t like) a given movie. And besides, it’s a fun new gimmick. Hope you like it.

MA:  And on that note, I give A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 1 Knife.

LS: I’ll be generous and give it two knives. Barely.

(FREDDY pops up again)

FREDDY: One knife? Two knives?  How about five?  (Flashes his hand of metallic blades.)

MA: This time we both fell asleep.

LS: Yeah. You know what that means.

MA: That we can do whatever the hell we want!

(LS and MA pull out butcher knives and chase FREDDY down a long hallway)

MA: See you next time, folks!

-END-

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

*****

Michael Arruda Gives This Movie: 1 knife

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L.L. Soares Gives This Movie: 2 knives