Teacher Needs to See Me After School: Detention

I’ve usually got my tongue di-rectly on the pulse of anything slasher, but somehow — two months of book tour? — Detention slipped past. In April, yes, when Growing Up Dead in Texas was just advance copies. And just a couple of days ago I was having a big talk with a good friend about slashers that are probing the edges of the genre, feeling out the limits, poking the necessary fun: Cabin Fever, Leslie Vernon, Tucker & Dale, Scream, Severance. The Killage. Then stuff like Mandy Lane or Cry_Wolf or The Hole, that are taking a less funsy angle into that particular interrogation. And, for me, of course, all these are in the coming context of my The Last Final Girl, in October (from Lazy Fascist, but I don’t think we’ve officially announced yet). You know that feeling when you have something coming out, and you get all sensitized to everything even remotely like it, suddenly certain that you’re going to get undercut?

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Dead Man’s Curve

Man, I know: last week I hit Prometheus, and just did a status update somewhere saying it was decent, it was cool, and now here I am with a non-review of a movie fourteen years old already. Still. This one I want to talk about it for a short bit: 1998. Dan Rosen’s Dead Man’s Curve (on Netflix Instant as The Curve). This is two years after Scream changed the horror scene once and forever. One year after Scream 2 made the sequel legit again. One year after I Know What You Did Last Summer revived a nearly twenty-year-old YA novel, just to cash in on Scream’s success. The same year as The Faculty (Williamson again) and Urban Legend and IKWYDLS’s second installment. All of which is to say that the horror landscape post-Scream, you couldn’t even stand up, there were so many clones. And that’s not at all a bad thing. This makes slasher kind of stuff easy to ramp into production. Pretty soon we’d have Final Destination and its own clone, Soul Survivors. When the box office gets packed with gore like that, then competition breeds desperate escalations, each new film trying to outdo the last, and once the big budgets tail off, then you get true innovation. Stuff like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. And then a Cabin in the Woods comes along to reset everything, in much the same way Scream did.

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Parental Guide (RUBBER)

Sex & Nudity

A woman is seen naked, from behind, but it’s through two doors, and in the point-of-view of a killer tire, so it’s not really anything you can do much with.

Profanity

Not excessive, and what’s there’s mostly from the ‘spectators’—the embedded horror-movie audience meant to offer the same objections we would, or already are, thereby anticipating and perhaps deflating those objections (think the pirate contingent in the theater watching Spongebob, or the Woody-Allen-ish ‘chorus’ offering their commentary on the various goings-on, or even the narrator-cum-singer in Dead & Breakfast, etc.  Not at all an uncommon conceit, the problem only arising when/if the our stand-ins in the movie are only there to pad it out, or make it ‘smart’ and art-housy). However, those objections: a tire in a music montage? Specifically, a psychokinetic tire with malicious intent (and still a lot of tread) and a taste for blood and NASCAR getting the soft-focus, Baywatch kind of musical interlude?

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Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

tucker & dale

Some movies just make you happy. Feast was this was for me. And Severance. And Leslie Vernon. And, though it’s more over-the-top, Club Dread. Horror comedy’s where it’s at, I think, though there’s a line, yeah; while I’ll sign up any day of the week for a Decampitated viewing, I don’t do so well at the Scary Movie series. I get all the references and jokes, sure, but it’s always a very painful kind of humor, as what they’re lampooning up there, it’s what I love, it’s the horror I hold so close to my heart. No, what I like best is when there’s gore and comedy together. Dead-Alive kind of stuff, or Shaun, or Slither. Fido was even funny, and Scream’s self-deprecating brand of humor is what set it off so well (and, rhetorically, made us believe it in the way we need to believe in horror)—unlike, say with Student Bodies, which is more about gags. Though Return to Horror High got it about right.

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Demon Theory

DT

Description from what used to be the MacAdam/Cage website:

On Halloween night, following an unnerving phone call from his diabetic mother, Hale and six of his med school classmates return to the house where his sister disappeared years ago. While there is no sign of his mother, something is waiting for them there, and has been waiting a long time. Written as a literary film treatment littered with footnotes and experimental nuances, Demon Theory is even parts camp and terror, combining glib dialogue, fascinating pop culture references, and an intricate subtext as it pursues the events of a haunting movie trilogy too real to dismiss. There are books about movies and movies about books, and then there’s Demon Theory – a refreshing and occasionally shocking addition to the increasingly popular “intelligent horror” genre.

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The Ruins: Poison Ivy (postdate:2008)

In Five Words or Less:

Boring title, good movie.

In More than Five Words, with / without spoilers:

In 1998, Sam Raimi adapted Scott Smith’s debut sensation A Simple Plan (1993) for us, and, though a lot of the narrator’s nuances were lost in the compression, still, Smith had written a strong enough dramatic spine that his story survived the transition, and made Paramount some money. Ten years later, now, Ron Howard has adapted Smith’s sophomore novel The Ruins to the screen, and though he didn’t have a Billy Bob Thornton to anchor the cast, still, the finished product is perhaps even more compelling. Not to slight Howard here either, but it’s really Smith that deserves the credit for this, as The Ruins, though a largely ‘internal’ novel (as was A Simple Plan—it was Hank’s desperate rationalizing which led us to identify with him), owes a lot more to Aristotle’s rules of drama than most novels on the shelf: it’s got unity of place (one hill); unity of time (three days); and economy of character (six).

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A Sentimental Education: Saw 6

One of the big axioms of storytelling is that you know a character best by the decisions he or she makes under extreme circumstances. It’s why you push your characters out into the street, see how they react when traffic’s slamming in from all sides at once. Granted, you can rig your story so that it’s all kitchen sink drama, low-key enough that ‘extreme circumstances’ gets redefined as a standoff about who’s going to answer a ringing phone, but that kind of slow-handed approach, yeah, it takes a while, right? And Saw VI here, it clocks in at a cool ninety minutes, including credits, and has just a host of characters, meaning that, first, there’ll be no going slow here, and, second, in lieu of taking time to ‘know’ these characters, we’ll just jump straight into the extremest circumstances possible, know those characters immediately. Some of them from the inside-out, yeah. Okay: most of them.

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State of the Slasher Address

Man, came home Friday after watching Prom Night, just all conflicted and twitchy from it, and then the next morning woke early, slammed down an essay-thing about it, and then of course hit the wrong button, lost it all, so, when I finally had time (that night), I re-did what of it I could, and bam, now it’s up at PopMatters, one of the sites I respect the most:

Author Stephen Graham Jones looks into the disappointments of the Prom Night remake, finds pause to reflect back on the past of the slasher film and sees a glimmer of hope for the future.

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