Sunday, 22 August 2010

The 100 Best Horror Films #2

Thrill Fiction is proud to present guest blogger Ross Tipograph. His contribution is welcome because Gore Vidal won’t speak to me. The following are Ross’ views and all hate mail should be directed to him. 

Or just leave a comment.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 is the definition of ghoulish.
Let’s begin by first discarding the recent remake, released April 2010, a plague to cinemas around the globe. It was poorly written, with acting performances to make even the least movie-savvy watcher cringe and a script that attempted to rewrite history – the history of a man named Fred, who knows only one true creator: Wes Craven.
In 1984, the first Elm Street came out and started a revolution. Nancy, Glen, Tina, Rod, and the poor Springwood parents: the gang was all here. These unsuspecting victims played prey to a child-killer: Freddy Krueger – more evil than Jason more mysterious than Michael and wittier than Chucky could ever dream of being. Freddy is menace and cinematic legend.
He kills you in your dreams. That was the thought I had to wrap my head around upon my first viewing. It was amazing and impossible and horrifying. By this time, I was already obsessed with Scream 1996 and I knew most of the ‘50s-‘70s classics like the back of my DVD binders. Elm Street was the cherry on top of the cake and oh what a cherry.
It opens with the black and red flickering New Line Cinema logo. It’s also eerily silent until the first moment of Charles Bernstein’s masterful score sets the chilling and original mood. It is an ambient electronic pulse like an alien invasion accompanied by a growing growl and a woman’s choral vocals. Then the image: the Man’s dusty boots, his bag of knives, the shrill piercing sounds of the score grow louder. The sharpening of a knife, the booming title card, a jump in the opening credits with a mock childhood theme that is both crude and scary. Here a movie and a legend are born in the span of one minute. That’s all we need to know what we’re in for.
It’s genius. Throw a bunch of ‘80s (clichĂ©) high school students into the midst of what would be the most harrowing experience of any young (or grown) person’s life – a dream killer. A Nightmare. The students are plucky but deaths are more entertaining. We begin with Tina then Rod then they all start to drop like flies until it’s all up to Nancy Thompson to save the day – after her friends and boyfriend are viciously slashed.
The dream sequences most definitely hold up to today – and to think, it was all without CGI. It was Craven’s brilliant direction that keeps us teetering insanely between dreams and reality, cutting quick to the knifed glove slashing through a sheet, set to the sound of a girl’s scream, or the mechanically over-stretched arms of the villain in a dark alley, or a tongue popping out of a phone’s receiver. There are almost no explanations – except that there is nowhere to hide. It’s very surreal and very unprecedented.
It’s interesting: the sequels came in truckloads, and yet Freddy remained an icon. With the exception of Dream Warriors 1987 the sequels were abysmal. Freddy evolved into comedy and the filmmaking devolved into a poor excuse for stale popcorn. Even Craven’s return to the series, his own New Nightmare 1994 (more of a re-vamp than a sequel, really), poked fun at the Freddy phenomena. There’s no getting around the fact that this character is forever cemented in gold.
For fans of the series, seek out and find Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, a horror-comedy mockumentary about serial killers from 2006, featuring a cameo from our own dear Robert Englund.
Nine, ten, never sleep again.
Read more Thrill Fiction: Re/Made: A Nightmare on Elm Street [part 1]
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Ross Tipograph is a film buff and Emerson College screenwriting major. When he’s not reviewing movies, he writes about Halloween costumes.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Communique: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (remake) Freddy's Return

Due to a lousy summer, a horrendous World Cup campaign and the new Tory government with their Liberal turncoat coalition partners my spec screenplay Freddy's Return is being pushed back to October 5th. This will coincide with the DVD and Blu Ray release of the remake.

I'd like to thank all who voted. For all of you who haven't voted the poll hasn't closed. The wait will be worth it. 

Read more Thrill Fiction: A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984
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Thursday, 12 August 2010

La Horde

Full disclosure: I’m a 2nd generation Briton of West African descent. I am 100% Yoruba. Following the Holocaust of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade our diaspora is stretched across the New World: the United States, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil, Colombia. Haiti.

(Nigerian) Yoruba are majority Christian minority Muslim but the old ways are still believed. To wit should you worship Christ or Allah you believe the devil exists. The weak spirited will look for short cuts. The ones with evil intent will approach sorcery. In Haiti the old ways merged with Catholicism. The resulting new religion is called voodoo.  
America didn’t invent zombies but they sure know how to mass market them.

The zombie film is distinct in its two sub genres; the allegorical and the action/thriller. The respective yardsticks are the ingenuity of George A Romero and the bombastic gluttony of Lucio Fulci. There is a further (undefined) division – that of foreign zombies (the exemplar being Danny Boyle). La Horde 2009 is a French action/thriller zombie flick. Its raison d’ĂȘtre is to kill as kill can but every movie has subtext – intentional or otherwise.

The premise is grand larceny of the crumbs from the mouth of [Rec] 2007. Be that as it may there remains mileage in an undead siege of a tower block. La Horde has two factions at war; the cops and the robbers they have come to kill. After the initial shootout the survivors of both teams must band together to fight off the horde.

Alas the moment is lost.

What should become an exploration of friend and foe whilst under death stress instead descends into a shouting match. In zombie films the characters typically do not have backstory. It is their actions and decisions that define them and induce our empathy-sympathy. The actions and decisions of the characters in La Horde render them irritating, idiotic and – yes – ultimately boring. Ergo who cares who dies?

There is incoherent editing during hand to hand combat scenes. Since the focus of this film is action that decision is baffling. The movie also fails to follow its own logic. In one scene a zombie has super human strength. In another a mass of zombies have no strength. Then there is the usual time lapse inconsistency between bite and infection found in all zombie flicks.

Yet at one point it seemed this story was going to go beyond the films that had come before it: A female zombie is being tortured. Her shirt is removed. Her body is beautiful. The filmmakers step back from the rape. It’s a missed opportunity to register the reaction of the survivors. How much humanity they have left and how the dynamic would change from cops and robbers to rapists vs righteous. Alas this film had already made the decision to abandon character/audience challenges.

There is a theme in this film I will challenge. It is something as pervasive in Western cinema as to be almost invisible. Two of the crooks are called Ade and Bola. Them’s Yoruba names. They talk of Nigeria as if it is a war zone. Ade mentions the horde reminds him of (federal capital) Abuja.

Other films have pulled this dirty trick; X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2009 depicted Lagos as a war zone. The Bruce Willis vehicle Tears of the Sun 2003 depicted Nigeria in a contemporary civil war. The Nigerian civil war 1967 – 1970 is over. Just like the American civil war, the Irish civil war, the Spanish civil war, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Yugoslav Wars. Abuja has never been in a war zone or experienced any form of civil or military strife. Nigeria is a multi-party democracy, a partner in the war on terror and an American ally.

Yet this is how we’re treated.

This is how the West would like to see us –torn apart by war. This is the wishful thinking of the Hollywood hate mongers. This is the disinformation constructed and consumed by their willing audience. It is an eye opener for all Nigerians at home and abroad. Be careful who your friends are: the West wants us dead.

Special mention to the South African made District 9 2009. It portrayed Nigerians as savages showing that the Afrikaner has learnt nothing and appreciates less. It also shows that the African should be more temperate in forgiveness. District 9 scored a 91% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Nazis had their great filmmakers too.
 Read more Thrill Fiction: Re/Made: The Thing
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