March 29, 2006
The horror, etc.
, the first film Seattle Times
critic Moira Macdonald
ever walked out on, the horror movie with a rating of 52 at Metacritic
, "announced the arrival of an immensely gifted new director named Greg McLean
- whose patience, control and ability to play the audience like a very cheap fiddle would have done Alfred Hitchcock
proud - seemed lost on most adult moviegoers," argues Christopher Kelly
, throwing down the gauntlet in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram
. Similarly, Eli Roth
), James Wong
's Final Destination 3
) and Alexandre Aja
's The Hills Have Eyes
Are the critics simply out of touch? Well, yes. Because if you can't recognize the often-astonishing level of craft on display in these films, then you're watching them with your eyes closed.
But the teenagers are
getting it - and embracing perhaps the only movies around that dare to speak to larger social concerns and anxieties, especially about the often-faceless, unfathomably evil villains we must contend with in the aftermath of Sept 11.
at Cinema Strikes Back
: Xavier Mendik
(check his creds at the bottom of the page) in Kamera
: "[W]hile the Bush administration's failure to apprehend high profile terrorists such as Osama bin Laden or quell the violence inherent in oversees campaigns such as Iraq can be read as wider signs of a neoconservative malaise, they have undoubtedly generated a widespread anti-American hostility that Eli Roth's pulp horror narrative cleverly taps into."
Update, 4/1: Matt Zoller Seitz
has invited Christopher Kelly to discuss his article at the House Next Door
, and he has indeed appeared to address several points brought up by Matt's readers.
Posted by dwhudson at March 29, 2006 1:24 PM
garsh. i didna know the officer losing his ear to mr blonde was foreshadowing for 9/11. does that mean stuck in the middle with you was the coded message to begin the attack?
also, battle royale, i stand alone, snuff films, hardcore porn, extreme sports, reality television (esp. COPS etc). the change to a more visceral subjectivity is not a coping mechanism, it's an event.
Isn't this just a really nice way of saying that this next generation of teenagers are largely a crop of dead-eyed, bloodthirsty morons?
Kidding. sorta. I actually know people that liked wolf creek a lot. I missed it.
Interesting poster art for Wolf Creek. Very "American" somehow.
It's a marvellous film but I can understand people walking out of it. It's nasty stuff.
The whole thing is reminiscent of, "Parents call it noise, but the kids sure do love that rock-n-roll." At the same time, though, Kelly's right about one thing: Critics, for the most part, don't just dislike these movies, they abhor them (see also the piece from David Ansen in Newsweek I linked to earlier), while someone - and maybe they are mostly young - is making them hits.
I'm as skeptical as chirp, though, as to whether or not it really has anything to do with these movies serving as a "coping mechanism." Though the criticism that usually speaks most to me places films within larger contexts, Bordwell may have a point when he writes in Cinema Scope that we may be taking this whole zeitgeist approach too far.
i could argue for a zeitgeist thing. the trouble with them though is if you miss and argue for a new pickled shrimp fetish behind everything, you look like a doof. that could be a good test. if i replace my explanation with "pickled shrimp," does it sound different?
here's the thing. watching/being watched. controlling/being controlled. jumping/wiping out. that's basically the thing. it's not a bad thing. well maybe it is because maybe it comes from over-identification with television people.
urk - just this and then i'll cut it out - this article kicked my butt into dealing with this which i've been sneaking away from - the sight of competitors cheering excitedly for an olympic snowboarder who creamed herself by trying to fly higher than anybody had ever done --
what is the legacy of the mosh pit? how did the various ecstatic musics of punk, hip hop, house, metal, etc change public life in the industrial world? culture observer people so busy exploring the hippy impact except, not thinking that headbanging is a transcendental state, not thinking that the noise was the strongest drug those people brought to the wide world.
people do watch too much teevee tho. judging people is not useful.
Wolf Creek I can argue in favor of, too, it's well crafted and genuinely unnerving. Hostel, however, made me feel... hostile. It makes you feel really awful, it's beyond nihilistic. I can like sick, but not sick for the sake of sick. Still, that article's a worthy read.
I enjoy reading Kelly, but he's a vapid provocateur, and proof of a certain strain of movie criticism that promotes a pseudo-intellectual style over true substance. Kelly fails the basic reporting test: Where is one shred of verifiable evidence that this spate of creepfests has anything to do with 9/11 and an uncertain world? Kids have always loved horror movies and they buy the tickets. That's why these movies are doing well. Kids loved Frankenstein in the 30s, they loved atomic horror movies in the '50s and now they love the coarser horror movies that emanate from our coarser society. Big deal. Now, sure, Eli Roth, Craven and some academic get asked by Kelly to buttress his "theory" and what are they going to say? ? Uh, no, I was just trying to be more gross than the next guy and sell tickets. Ay yi. Like too many writers of today, Kelly can put together a mean sentence but he has nothing to say.
Christopher Kelly's argument is an easy and not uncommon rationalization for the "state of cinema" at any give moment. It just happens to be wrong. The same sort of thinking supplied the foundation for film noir -- that the whole after-the-fact genre existed because of the malaise of WWII veterans trying to find their place in a post-war society. There is a thread of truth to that line of thinking. Only a thread, though.
I have a similar oversimplification that, unlike Kelly's piece, is likely closer to the truth. Someone makes a film. It performs well. Shortly thereafter, other folks are able to put the financing together for movies that resemble, in part, the earlier successful film. If they also prove to be successful, the cycle repeats. If not, other sorts of films will be made.