Thursday, August 18, 2005

Gloria Estefan: Splatterpunk Death Queen

Red Eye
2005, USA
Wes Craven

At one point in his career, Wes Craven was making some of the best horror movies of the 20th century, films that were simultaneously brutal and intelligent, films that provoked both thought and screams. You know, like Swamp Thing. Nothing strikes terror into the hearts of an audience like the Jolly Green Giant living in the Bayou. That particular misstep aside, Craven was responsible for The Last House of the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, three films that dished out thrills and gore for teenage audiences while touching the fears and concerns that hid in the collective unconscious. Anti-war sentiment and issues of violence in the media lay at the heart of Last House…, the demise of the family linked The Hills Have Eyes to 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and A Nightmare On Elm Street dealt with the mounting fear of John Saxon that has plagued society since Enter the Dragon.

Then, all of a sudden, Craven gave up on life, and the innovative ways to end it. After Nightmare, things went steadily south, dragging us through the terrors of robot girlfriends and Bill Pullman’s genitals before depositing us squarely in the midst of Eddie Murphy’s slump with Vampire In Brooklyn. It was as if Craven had given up on his relationship with horror. The bloom was off the rose, the romance had left, and the sex had gone from wild, passionate, shocking carnality to rushing a quickie before CSI: Miami comes back on. That’s not to say that the relationship was completely over. Craven apparently bought some flavoured condoms and a hardback edition of the Kama Sutra in time for one last flurry of passion, in the form of the excellent Scream, but soon, things cooled off again. Horror went back to living vicariously through Danielle Steele novels and Craven lost interest, eventually wandering off and having a torrid affair with Gloria Estefan and an inner city music school before crawling back shamefaced with the abysmal Cursed. Red Eye is no exception to this pattern, coming off less as a thriller than a paint-by-numbers exercise, only the paint is tempra and the painting is a bunch of dogs playing poker, making it about as close to art as the Max 5 jingle is to music.

Red Eye stars Rachel McAdams as Lisa Reisert, a hotel manager returning from her grandmother’s funeral when her flight goes straight to hell at the hands of Cillian Murphy, who plays a manager of some vague Murder Incorporated rip-off. McAdams is proving herself to be a versatile actor, playing a wide variety of characters in a wide variety of crap, and this film is no exception. She’s reason enough to watch it, even if the story is so full of holes you could drive a truck full of swiss cheese and various other clichéd closers to that sentence through it. Murphy threatens to kill Reisert’s father unless she helps him assassinate the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, which he has apparently elected to do in the most convoluted way possible. I’m no assassination expert, preferring to limit my homicidal impulses to online death-threats aimed at Lindsay Lohan and the occasional bell-tower spree killing, but even I can figure out that there are probably more efficient ways to murder someone than firing a missile through their hotel window, unless of course you’re either a James Bond villain or the Israeli army. While the film has a relatively tense first two acts, when Reisert is trapped on a plane with Murphy, things really start to fall apart right before the climax, when the paperclips holding the script together begin to degrade in the high altitude. Once she’s off the plane, there’s no point in even arguing with the film, as Reisert rapidly turns into Sidney Prescott and the movie reaches the point where logic and reason give up and head down to the strip club for the lunch buffet, sick and tired of arguing with the screenplay about how a low cell-phone battery isn’t really a tension building device when you’re near a pay phone. My advice to Craven, if asked, would be to bring home a bottle of nice champagne, and a bouquet of expensive roses, and remind the horror genre why you two got together in the first place. Either than, or go back to Gloria. You two made such beautiful music together.


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