Saturday, November 15, 2008

reeker vs. drive thru...

Alright, alright, I've been seriously wayyyyyy to slack about writing lately, the problem being mainly a lack of energy and inspiration, plus having to work on a much slower computer than I'm used to since my laptop died. But excuses, excuses, right? The list of films I've been meaning to cover has been getting longer and longer, and so not writing becomes now a part of my regular everyday stress and blah blah blah There isn't really a point to this, it's just that when I don't write i feel the need to address that I haven't been writing, for whatever it's worth, and I don't think it's worth that much.

I've been trying to figure out what to cover first and how I want to format this to cover the most material possible. It's been a few weeks, but I recently caught a few relatively new, relatively decent horror flicks that I felt were worth mentioning. "Reeker," for instance, take a familiar scenario (kids stranded in the middle of nowhere, stalked by some kind of killer), combines it with another familiar scenario (not to ruin it for ya- spoiler alert, as they say- but everybody's already dead and just doesn't know it, ala "Carnival of Souls" [sorry to ruin that one for ya to, but really it's more about the atmosphere]) and comes out on top in large part because of some slick visuals (it's shot on HD, I believe) and a likable cast, including Devon Gummersal from "My So Called Life" (as a blind guy), who I always thought was kind of underrated, and Eric Mabius, from "Ugly Betty," as well as the great Michael Ironside, from "Scanners" and TV's "V."

Thinking back on "Reeker," there's nothing really extraordinary about it, and I really don't mean that as a put down, it's a solid, entertaining piece of filmmaking with credible performances, and it strikes a good balance between horror and humor. I don't have any deep, esoteric insights into what the film is all about, although I'm struck while writing this of thoughts of Ernest Becker's great book "The Denial of Death," and the the connections one could draw between that work of philosophy and "don't know they're dead" sort of films like this, "Carnival of Souls," "Sole Survivor" and "Soul Survivors," or between a film like this and the visions of the afterlife present in films like the Japanese "Afterlife" or the TV series "Dead Like Me." So, yeah, I dunno, maybe there is something to "Reeker," though I'd say skip the mediocre sequel-prequel "No Man's Land- Rise of the Rekker," which is just more of the same only less so.

Less meaningful, but ballsier and funnier, is "Drive Thru," another recent slasher film with comedic overtones (undertones? poptones? whatever, it's funny sometimes). This one has a group of stoned teens being stalked and killed by a murderous fast food clown for the crimes of their parents. Yeah, it's pretty stupid, but it's also kind of charmingly vulgar. Because the situation is again pretty cliched, this film also relies upon a talented cast to stave off toxic shock. Leighton Meester (from the tv show "Gossip Girl") is the lead, with Melora Hardin (Jan from "the Office") is her mom, Nicholas D'Agosto (who played Jan's assistant on "the Office," and was also in the great indie "Rocket Science") is the boyfriend. Humorously, you've also got a police detective teach called Cheese and Crackers (well, Chase and Crockers). Inexplicably, you've also got a badly cast, badly acting Morgan Spurlock (director of "Super Size Me") as the nerdy manager of a fast food joint.

The inclusion of Spulock gives the impression that this is perhaps intended to be some kind of "Fast Food Nation"-inspired anti-MacDonald's track hidden in the form in a gory horror comedy, but truly, it isn't. It's a slight, goofy yet fun movie about a bunch of kids being chased by an evil Ronald MacDonald stand-in that contains a few pointed pokes at the world of fast food, but hardly any incisive criticism. If anything, the film errs towards the "clowns are scary" cliche more than it attempts to wring any terror out of the mysteries of processed foods. It's this, the film's confusion about its' own intent, where it falters the most, where the jokes fall the flattest and the whole proceedings are at their hammiest, so to speak, but it doesn't detract too much from the enjoyability of the overall experience of watching "Drive Thru."

That said, where is the really good horror film about how gross and unhealthy fast food is? The possibilities to do something genuinely kind of unsettling in that arena are great, but to my knowledge no one has ever made a really serious horror film about fast, junk or even just processed foods that gets at not only how they're made, but what they do to your body when you eat them. Larry Cohen's "The Stuff" comes close, but not really, aqnd even Richard Linklatter's narrative adaptation of "Fast Food Nation" was pretty lacking (there's some good information in Spurlock's "Super Size Me," but I find him such an obnoxious screen presence, it's hard to give his film any credence).

Up next, when indie horror goes wrong, gore for the sake of gore, 'Nam vets go wild, Charles Bronson, and Rondo Hatton...

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