Antichrist
Directed and written by Lars Von Trier
Starring Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg
2009, Zentropa, 104 minutes

***

Lars Von Trier puts on his Haneke-helmet, and winks at Ingmar Bergman’s Vargtimmen and Persona in the rear-view mirror, giving his own charming little nightmare production a critical spin on modern western psychology as religion (plus how people, mostly males, continually fuck up the earth in trying to understand it when there’s nothing to understand).

I have to admire that the movie was able to take something graphically sexual, and remove it from being sexually intoxicating or in any way erotic or enticing. Furthermore it did so via building up the sexual tension and increasing the power of sexuality on the main characters. The theater I went to was an indie, liberal theater in a city known for its liberal social scenes, and yet even this place came with a warning that tickets were not going to be refunded because viewers were offended by the pornographic imagery therein.

The sexual intimacy in the beginning is portrayed as a poetic, romantic act — a beautiful affair of the sensual world, the animal kingdom’s complimentary embrace to the tranquil snowy paradise taking place outside. But the couple’s sexual encounters become progressively more animated, vivid, tangible, strange and finally disgusting. However, the passion itself is expansive, as emotional heights and tension improve the dynamic of the sexual act, and make it more powerful, until it is likened to an occult force of exaggerated natural drives.

The path of love is fraught with negative emotions and the error of mainstream, puritanical religious thinking is to assume that sex is bad because it suggests sex — which is exciting and dangerous, when the error is actually that sex is questionable because people see it as something beautiful to begin with. Nature’s laws are raw and callous and sexual desire is the beast of burden.

Although Eve was created out of Adam’s limb in the western biblical creation story, is that an idealized male narrative, absolved of responsibility? The Antichrist figure — the intentional weaver of illusion who brings stark malicious truths, exposes that man specifically creates woman as a vessel for his desire. Woman is the Victorian “angel in the house”, a symbol for male romantic illusions of linear purpose, which are nothing but a self-made path through existence. But as a charming CGI fox sez* 2 Dafoe, da antichrist in question: Chaos reigns! Linear desire is somehow illogical! And true dat, fox, for what could be more bullshit than the belief that some kind of male-imposed illusory narrative can overwhelm the eye of the tempest? Existence is a black hole, brah!

And this is all a good time to be had in the theater! In the modern urban garden of eden where man and woman are being reborn into new social roles (being pulled together, inverted, combined) what is sacred and inspires awe? Lush, gorgeous aesthetics and depictions of idealized domestic retreat (think resort advertisements and New Agers — the whole movie is set in a deceivingly romantic getaway, which as is the traditional horror motif, quickly becomes dangerously isolated for all its rustic splendor), sexual intercourse and offspring, and Freudian-Jungian psychology. Freudian psychology is properly expressed to be dead, quite literally, in the film, and the rest plays out to the Jungian stereotypes, a la the visions of divine messengers and the breathing visualization/hypnosis exercises Dafoe keeps tossing out to his beloved (Jung is still pretty hip, or so I’ve heard from my crazy friends who have psychiatrists that double as meditation teachers). I should also add that the couple from the movie kept me thinking of how relevant the whole deal was to the yuppie/yoga types I see everywhere near the theater in my city, who are getting ready to raise a family with a partner.

Ah, raising a family! In some ways, isn’t it a malicious act — an abuse of power — to have a child? To have a little being to mold to your whim (to say nothing of the impending environmental calamity or social decay taking place in the world). And that’s the symbolism I saw in that opening scene before it was put in context to the rest of the film: the self-absorbed pleasures of parents who create offspring to fulfill a personal need that is bequeathed to their child, as it climbs through pain, grief and despair to fling open the doors to the world, which is revealed to be a beautiful but cold, callous place, where you’ll likely fall before you fly. Death comes from life.

But hey, we haven’t even talked about The Road yet. Oh boy oh boy ohboyohboyohboy….

***

In other news… Ann Hornaday reviewed this one and tried to set it straight for us in The Washington Post: “Von Trier fails to elevate torture porn”

“A horror film tricked out in the trappings of psycho-sexual dynamics and exegetical musings, this latest provocation from Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier qualifies as torture porn for art-house fans.”

Exegeminal what-now? *drool* Durr…. I like movies!

Hornaday’s review may be readable and way less insane in-depth, but her description sounds lazy or inaccurate to me. With regards to the above quote: that’s sort of what Haneke did with his Funny Games remake a couple years back, mocking the viewer in the classic Clockwork fashion and also deliberately emulating the actual sad state of modern Hollywood “horror” flicks; an industry that now relies on shitty horror/action remakes by music video directors, and torture porn scripted by video store clerks. Pop culture totalitarianism: you give the companies the power to enslave you.

While calling it “torture porn for art-house fans” might describe the tale’s aesthetic quality to the layman (it is gorgeous, has a lot of brilliantly crafted haunting scenes taken from the landscape and various abstract tricks — and there is hard-to-watch brutality at certain segments) but is actually an incorrect assessment. What Hornaday diagnoses as torture porn has always been a staple of art-house or cult fans, but as a separate genre entirely. Torture porn actually refers to lucrative mainstream perversions of cult and art-house cinema, like giallo or sexploitation films. Torture porn doesn’t actually have an artistic foundation; it is mired in more nihilistic sexual catharsis than sexual repulsion (and making ze moneys!). The fundamental aspect of Von Trier’s film is how it subverts that — it builds up the sexual elements and tension until sex becomes disgusting and is identified as the causal drive of the brutality in question. Putting Hanneke and Von Trier (and hell, even Argento) in the same camp as Roth and Tarantino is the same thing as mistaking love for lust, or integrity and substance for the medium they manifest through. They have similar aesthetic manifestations, but they ain’t the same.

@ IMDb

______

* I couldn’t help but laugh at that scene, not because of its over-emphasis, but because I simultaneously heard the Gecko muse that “greed is good” a la Wall Street. I can’t wait for Wall Street 2! Sike.

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Directed & Written by Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn,
Rob Corddry, Neil Patrick Harris
2008, Warner Bros./New Line/Mandate, 102/107 minutes.

***

Harold and Kumar isn’t brilliant artistic comedy, but it is pretty up-to-date on how it engages in conventional social stereotypes and subverts them to good comic effect. Occasionally basic character elements lag, such as the retarded government official or the villainous white alpha-male with connections. They rely on the typical absurd comic exaggeration (which, par example (yes par example) Rob Corddry is certainly apt for in his role) which normally would work, but the villain character and presentation is often too tired and/or stale to engage anyone but really young or naive stoners viewers. The weed-smoking jokes do work (especially in the beginning) but the whole Amsterdam spiel is played and strangely outdated compared to the rest of the script’s social references.

Where the film shines is in how it flips slapstick/screwball movie cliches to surprise the audience and plays Harold and Kumar’s respectively pathetic romantic fantasies against each other. Some of the scenes are very impressive. But being Hollywood and the world of romantic-comedy (as opposed to tragi-comedy) the story stays in the fantasy realm and never ventures forth into the Beckett-like territory it could have accessed. There’s not too much to spoil, but the real failure of the film is that it did nothing original with the way the plot played itself out in the second act. The original film did this too, but under an appreciable absurd premise of trying to make it to a fast-food joint in the midst of a weekend late-night weed blaze. This time around, since the conditions of the story are already so spectacularly lofty, exaggerated and dumb, the smooth resolution of loose ends is a let-down. I was expecting a clever Wayne’s World or Blazing Saddles sort of twist, with a wink at the audience. Instead we get the exact last 10 minutes of Deuce Bigalowe 2.

Good stuff, even if it is only an aesthetic/social update of Cheech & Chong, Bill & Ted, and other clever stoner duos, for a new commercially viable generation. And they’re making another one, too. Yay!

@ Amazon

@ IMDb

Made in Britain
Directed by Alan Clarke
Written by David Leland
Starring Tim Roth, Christopher Fulford, David Baldwin, etc.
1982, Blue Underground (?), 76 minutes.

***

A Roth Co. original!Time to flip the script we’re using to investigate the repressed-male-violent-fantasy genre! This time it’s not martial arts fantasy, but working-class docudrama: ultra-gritty-realism and tangible fear instead of dangerously idealized narrative perspective and interactive irony. This one’s a docu-style short, made-for-TV film from the ’80s directed by the late, cult-acclaimed British director, Alan Clarke.

Tim Roth’s first starring role is a solid one. He gives a preview of the pivotal role Gary Oldman would soon after realize (maybe with a “romantic” twist a la John Osborne?), in the later Alan Clarke project, The Firm: the intelligent, emotionally damaged anti-social young man of Thatcher England. Roth’s Trevor is a skinhead, but his actions of themselves do not necessarily betray this. Without Trevor’s Swastika tattoo and a shaved head, he’d be any explosive anarchist or aggressively active punk.

The highlight and centerpiece of the story is the beginning of the second act where a corrections officer summarizes in visual detail on a blackboard, the way Britain”s legal and educational system functions, and by contrast the various life choices Trevor has made. The scene acts to fill in Trevor’s background — why he is locked up in a halfway-house without a job or school or family at 16 years of age. It becomes apparent that Trevor (and all like him) float around the system in a circular fashion, a kind of criminal water cycle, in which each step of the way becomes more pronounced until he is imprisoned, expired or helpless. Because they will not change to meet the system’s criteria.

But his cyclical position in society’s shadow also corresponds to his emotional state. A narcissist on the border of sociopathy, with serious anger issues, every minor disturbance to Trevor’s waking state becomes an emotional wave he has to justify through anti-social behavior. He actually cannot see the perspective of others because as soon as he hears their views, he becomes angry, and his anger is merely an ongoing fuel with which he rationalizes his behavior. His anger is the ultimate justifier and the only thing that is true, in a world he deems to be full of “fake wankers”.

To proclaim the world is fake is an honest, intuitively “true” statement, and therein lies the misery of entertaining it. The world IS fake. The fakeness and shallowness of it all, our compromises of integrity or morals — they’re a convenience to grease the wheels of society so that our basic needs and passions may be met. Society is a group compromise, a group effort — the ultimate corporate team. Meanwhile, noticing that everyone is a liar and is shallow or fake or whatever is also misery-inducing because it’s the incorrect assumption of taking everything to be tangibly REAL, when our sense organs provide only reflections of the physical world, and our personal beliefs themselves are malleable conveniences.

Likewise, Trevor’s position as a skinhead is a convenience more than it is a branding of any belief system. He uses the skinhead image as a platform for his explosive, aversive attitude. He cannot maintain any party-line agenda because his only goal is to reject authority or hierarchy beyond himself. Much is made of Trevor’s intelligence, how his test scores show that he is bright and smart — gifts he has used merely for methodical moments of destructive nihilism or anarchy. Much sensation is often made in media of the brilliant criminal — the brilliant deviant with no moral compass. But intelligence itself is not some human virtue. Like science, it can be pointed towards whatever human desire and reason yearns to explore, including negative ambitions.

Society’s conundrum in dealing with Trevor is played out through the voices of the two halfway-house personnel who try to reason with him. One wants to ship him off to be locked up in a mental institution until his court date, the other wants to coddle him and hope he finds something pleasurable to point his life towards — a hobby or interest. But the system is incapable of changing such people, who indeed are identified by their strong aversion to authority. And Clarke pieces rarely have a neatly conclusive narrative, or if they do, they intentionally don’t have any moral answers. Moral answers come from within the structure of the system, which Trevor rebels against.

There are some production qualities typical of Clarke’s works. There is no music except briefly during credits, and what music is provided is merely there to provide caustic augmentation for the nature of the story. The camera work is mainly subject to the isometric, over-the-shoulder approach found in The Firm and Elephant. In general the camera is a stand-in for us, the observer. The visual orientation works to make us a part of the story, forced to follow Trevor around and accomodate, witness or participate in his behavior. This is because Trevor is one of us (both symbolically and literally), as a member of our social networks, and as a purer arbiter of our darker moments.

It’s too bad Alan Clarke never got a chance to do more movies, but his small body of work is unique. He had a knack for making very moving, gripping portraits of dangerous, fringe, anti-social demographics. But then who is the audience? Using the charisma found in great talents like Tim Roth and Gary Oldman in casting these roles is, in a way, almost emotionally suspect. So at the end of the day, we have another glorification of society’s gutter and the path it takes to get there. But it’s a pretty honest one and even endearing at times.

@ Amazon
@ IMDb

No Retreat, No Surrender
Directed by Corey Yuen
Written by Ng-See Yuen and Corey Yuen
Starring Kurt McKinney, Jean Claude Van-Damme
1986, New World Pictures, 85 minutes.

***

The formula here is literally a formula — the movie is a series of sequential vignettes of training montages; and storyline

events which signify the presence of a narrative, but no actual character development.
Hence the movie is blatantly surreal, its rails constantly wandering off. It protrays karate as the center of the universe.
The best part is when the protag’s ravished mental state actually procures a ghost of Bruce Lee, who trains him to a new level
of martial expertise. At this point it makes no bones about being a fantasy, but is also a hilarious indictment of Bruce Lee
fanboys across the universe.
This is actually a pretty interesting presentation,
for it blatantly disregards the cinematic desire to produce realism. Guys like Tarantino lap this approach up and have made it the
cornerstone of their canon.
It is pornographic in one sense, for the attention of the creators is mainly given to the center character, the avatar of the weird
juvenile male fantasy, and all other
characters are somehow even simpler — 1-dimensional stand-ins for the protagonist’s personal demons. In other words, we have the
starlet at the center of the orgy, the camera focused on her emotional engagements, surrounded by numerous faceless male partners
absent of detail or real relevance.
The movie has no real conclusion either. None of the character’s social ties are remedied until he proves he is a more efficient
killing machine (in the ring, of course) than the rest of the crowd. The love interest is concocted as another background color,
but the female character really is nothing more than a prize to be won. Amusingly, the lead can’t do this until he has the
self-confidence won by beating everybody up, even though she doesn’t seem to actually respond to that quality, but likes his
effeminate exuberance. The plot is a mere sketch, but this is part of the appeal.
Flicks like this are pure escapist role-playing fantasy. The fantasy is an extension of unfulfilled male drives — it ventures off
into harmless fantasy, but also strange solipsism and anti-social narcissism. Because anyone who deeply entertains these kinds of
fantasies seriously is either a little kid, or a dysfunctional adult. Separating the world into such simplistic and convenient
notions is villainous work. It makes me think the presentation of the protagonist, fighting against such boring and obvious evil
landing right in one’s lap,
is actually the way the dysfunctional villain of the story (and society) sees themselves.
This is evident in how much the badass master tries to talk down the criminal, who manifests some kind of insane anger out of
nowhere and pushes the guy to no end. Violent thugs also justify their actions to themselves by often asserting blame upon others,
that others pushed them to behave in the way they did. What is common amongst cheesy, cathartic action movies is the notion that
the protagonist just wants peace, but others force them to maim and kill.
This is the condition of most action movies, particularly those of the ’70s onward. Bruce Lee managed to make everyone think he
was a super badass, whether he was or not. By reveling in himself and his desire for fame and recognition (why did he care if
white people liked his movies?), he managed to become the pinnacle of the male pubescent fantasy.
It’s also Van Damme’s first starring role. He doesn’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but he gets to show off his kicking chops
and do at least one good 180 split. Supposedly the guy only got an initial $250 for working on the film — kinda cheap considering
the quality of his acrobatic work here.
Anyway, Van Damme playing an evil Cold-War Russian is pretty funny, right? I suppose the underhanded agenda is that the Russians
want to take over the karate schools in the USA or something, but it’s not really all that clear. My favorite moment was definitely
the awkward highlight when JCVD grabs the girlfriend’s hair. An evil action, but so necessary to awaken the volitional spark in the
protagonist!
It’s fascinating in how it further defines her role.
–protagonist treats her like a princess (the way a repressed male treats a woman)
–school rival treats her like an object or objective (the way a hedonistic or cynical male treats a woman)
–villain treats her like a victim (serial killer or process predator)
So we have the three
Of course, cinema can be blatantly fake and still influence our own narratives.
LET THE FLIRTING BEGINNo Retreat, No Surrender is a cheesy martial arts movie from the mid-80s, starring Kurt McKinney, who would later go on to do… a few other things. The series incarnations don’t have much to do with each other, but the second and third (and unofficially titled fourth) of the series are notable for being higher budget, well-choreographed, with a recurring lead role played by Loren Avedon (who actually trained under Best of the Best star, Philip Rhee).
The formula here is literally a formula — the movie is a series of sequential vignettes of training montages; and storyline events which signify the presence of a narrative, but no actual character development. Hence the movie is blatantly surreal, its rails constantly wandering off. The plot is a mere sketch — but this is part of the appeal (as a bonus, karate is featured as the center of the universe in the town the movie takes place in).
Flicks like this are unabashedly awesome escapism. The fantasy is an extension of unfulfilled male drives — it ventures off into harmless fantasy, but also strange solipsism and anti-social narcissism. Because anyone who deeply entertains these kinds of fantasies, with any serious intent, is either a little kid or a dysfunctional adult. Separating the world into such simplistic and convenient notions is villainous work. The presentation of the protagonist, fighting against such boring and obvious evil landing right in one’s lap, is actually the way the dysfunctional villain of the story (and society) sees themselves.
Protagonists in action movies are based on narratives actually woven by narcissistic villains.

The self-indulgent homoerotic fantasy is more than evident in how much the badass master tries to talk down the criminal, who manifests some kind of insane anger out of nowhere and pushes our protag to no end. Violent criminals often justify their actions to themselves by asserting the cause of their actions (blame) upon others — that others pushed them to behave in the way they did. Hence, what is common amongst cheesy, cathartic action movies is the notion that the protagonist just wants peace, but others force them to maim and kill.
This overly simplistic narrative is pornographic (duh!), for the attention of the creators is exclusively given to the center character, the avatar of the weird juvenile male fantasy, and all other characters are somehow even simpler — one-dimensional stand-ins for the protagonist’s personal demons. The movie has no real conclusion either. None of the character’s social ties are remedied until he proves he is a more efficient killing machine (in the ring!!! he’z good guy!) than the rest of the crowd. The love interest is concocted as another background color, but the female character really is more of a prize. Amusingly, the lead can’t sweep her off her feet until he has the self-confidence won by beating everybody up — even though she doesn’t seem to actually respond to that quality, but likes his effeminate exuberance (neither a male nor female fantasy cliche, but just more lazy surreality!).
Of course, cinema can be blatantly fake and still influence our own narratives. That’s part of the beauty here: for all the angsty nonsense that the production embellishes, underneath the whole schemata lies some basic male social need that male viewers can identify with. The best part of the story, for me, is when the protagonist’s ravished mental state actually procures a ghost of Bruce Lee*, who trains him to a new level of martial expertise. At this point it makes no bones about being a fantasy, but is also indirectly a hilarious indictment of Bruce Lee fan-boys across the universe. This is actually a pretty interesting presentation, approaching pure irony. Guys like Tarantino lap this approach up and have made it the cornerstone of their canon, but in Tarantino’s case, the blatancy of such an approach actually kills its fertility. The potential for unintentional irony here creates a thrill not unlike real, “found” or docu footage.
This film is only well-known now for being Jean-Claude Van Damme’s first starring role, playing the villain: Ivan the Soviet kickboxer (Cold War, remember?). He doesn’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but he gets to show off his martial chops and do at least one good 180-split. Supposedly the guy only got an initial $250 for working on the film — kinda cheap considering the dangerous quality of his acrobatic work here. Interestingly, Van Damme has pointed out recently, and rightly so, that action stars today don’t have to physically work for their appeal. The editors just chop the action up so that even complete schlubs like Christian Bale or Liam Neeson can look like efficient killing machines. I mean, at least Arnie had to look tough, even if he couldn’t move like Jet Li.
The film can be seen in 8 or so parts on YouTube, and is worth a look if only for the very alluring soundtrack. It’s pure ’80s low-budget keyboard work, but is surprisingly tasteful. Every single interaction is a bursting bubble of homoeroticism, and on the whole is definitely worth it for the giallo, B-movie, MST3K, chop-socky crowd. Modern ironic film fans need not apply and should stick to mass-marketed nostalgia. This one takes balls!

@ Amazon
@ IMDb

________
*Bruce Lee taught a Chinese martial art of his own design, much much different than any form of karate that the movie portrays. It makes his phantasmic appearance to the karate student all the more amusing.

A pretty good write-up of Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds at Taki’s Mag:

“Put another way, if one were to imagine the ultimate anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi propaganda film about how the Second World War was marked by distinguished German officers being terrorized by a band of Jewish maniacs, would it look much different than Inglourious Basterds?”
–Richard Spencer in Holocaust Revisionism

As a friend pointed out, by branding this whole genre of snuff-action-horror its own genre (“torture porn”), Tarantino, Eli Roth and co. are being intentionally subversive  and manipulative, guaranteeing their films a critical legitimacy that is undeserved (ironic hate speech is beyond criticism!). The popularity of their flicks signal a worrisome trend on the cultural and ethical Richter scale, while simultaneously delivering what is a necessary cathartic experience for the mainstream movie-going public (pop culture) at the present time.

Tarantino’s movies were once clever dialog and characters, spliced with catchy tunes and lesser-known pop and film references. Everything he’s done in this century, “following the box-office failure of Jackie Brown, his sole effort at non-ultra-violence,” have been 90+ minute elaborations of the cop/ear torture scene from Reservoir Dogs, or the “gimp” scene from Pulp Fiction. How Clockwork Orange lolz.



Sex and the City: pink greed

September 20, 2009

Sex and the City
Directed & Written by Michael Patrick King
Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, etc.
2008, New Line Cinema/HBO; 145 minutes.

***

Less sex, more soul, plzThis movie is a bizarre Ayn Randroid, ultra-neo-liberal take on love as a possession for the godless.

In contemporary American culture, nothing could be less subversive than a movie about 40-somethings trotting out their inner spoiled brat, all to the tune of Hollywood film cliches and tired sentimentalities, in order to falsely, maliciously drink from young and middle-aged female doubts about older women’s prospects for sexual liasons.

As is often the case with obtuse “chick-flicks”, no insight into arousing female desire can actually be gleamed from watching it. Yes, being young, healthy, good-looking and wealthy are defining factors which may very well attract the opposite sex (or whomever of interest), but the movie (centering around a marriage) focuses on these factors exclusively and then sporadically injects the ambiguous substance of “true love” between characters — the source of which we can only infer or imagine. This is unacceptable, notably because the movie specifically does not intend for the audience to concoct this love by reading between the lines. Rather, the love in these relationships is implied to exist because these women deserve it like any other material possession.

@ Amazon
@ IMDb

Friday the 13th: TGIF amirite?

September 13, 2009

 

Friday the 13th
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift
Starring Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Travis Van Winkle, etc.
2009, Platinum Dunes/New Line Cinema, 97 minutes.

 

***

where's Ice Cube?

It’s been years since I last saw a movie in this franchise, but I still find the sad, sinister character of Jason Vorhees and what he represents to be interesting. Like in Halloween, the classic slasher flick slinging messages of male sexual repression, Jason’s violent expressions ring of cathartic urges, and immediately befall all characters partaking of lustful behavior. The original 1980 Friday the 13th took place at the fictional Camp Crystal Lake, and the aesthetic, not unlike a summer camp experience, was grimy and budget. Camp counselors are a good symbolic target for a distressed social pariah’s rage, as American summer camp is well-known in the states as the place where all teens (nerds and jocks alike) get a good piece of tail for the first time. Jason’s onslaught is the cumulative rage of all outcasts who share his ostracized position of being without a partner to swap mucus-membranes for the summer (or a lifetime).

This rendition (directed by Marcus Nispel, who did the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is a reinterpretation of certain elements of the slasher franchise, but is set in present day (it isn’t a throwback period piece like several recent horror remakes). Portions of Jason’s background are explored — just enough to make the audience feel slight twinges of sympathy. Interestingly enough, marijuana, as a blatant symbol of the repressed elements of modern American society, is featured heavily as a set-piece within the storyline. There’s fresh crop of illegal pot growing right in Jason’s backyard, which attracts a lot of spoiled yuppie/college types to his macabre corner of the woods. It is amusing here that the ultimate catatonic psychopath lives on a weed grove and then carves up numerous party animals trying to get high. Weed is for thieving nihilists who deserve to be killed!… or something (uh, also, horror fans are often potheads, right?).

21st century Hollywood cliches here are played so hard, they become humorously self-deprecating (the nerdy Asian kid who can’t get girls; the cool, aloof, athletic black guy; the bullying, blonde, spoiled, rich asshole). In that sense it’s treating the cliches of the genre as bare-bones as possible within the ultra-crisp, high-budget framing of this remake. It’s not impressive as cinema goes, but the archetypes of the genre are still entertaining when played correctly.

As I alluded to before, the character of Jason still makes me think of the increasing number of sexually frustrated, economically powerless males that exist in the world today, and how the powerful try to sweep them under the greater social rug instead of embracing their issues, thus socially alienating them absolutely. But in trying to cut off this “problem” that lazily, it comes back again and again, because it’s part-and-parcel to the irresponsible, over-privileged behaviors that spurned it in the first place. And like unresolved problems tend to do, Jason comes back to haunt later generations.

But none of this is new to the horror/slasher genre, and it isn’t very important to anyone watching this on a lazy evening. It’s gory, with some real nasty deaths, and the introduction piece is done in a tasteful manner, foreshadowing while also riding on the prior established monotony of the Friday movies. The settings have a touch of that grimy, greenish-brown “Hostel” vibe to it — which I could do without, but the pacing is tight, the film is crisp and the characters are hollow, shallow and pretty. It’s also pleasantly devoid of direct one-liners, though there are a lot of hilarious moments that don’t require heavy cynicism on the viewer’s behalf. The movie is not original by any stretch, but it has a very quiet sense of humor that actually makes the darker, lonelier portions of the movie resonate a little more, without devolving into Tarantino/Roth-style douchey camp.

And this one’s actually a product of the Michael Bay universe of magic and wonder! Now if he would only get around to making a Super Mario Bros. movie, I’d get off his megalomaniacal case.

***

 

@ Amazon
@ IMDb