August 21st, 2007

Nuts to Emily Dickinson *

I almost got evicted from a sneak preview last night, because I foolishly filled in the right circle under the question: Are you or is anyone in your family employed by the media?


Unfortunately, when I was closely questioned about my media ties, I emphasized the patient-focused health magazine that I edit. The Movie People decided that I was therefore safe to admit to the preview.


Oh, if only I’d been less selectively honest!


Instead, I spent about an hour sitting in the theater, waiting for the show to start. (Note to Movie People: why not assign Preview Seats? Then the theater will fill up in a speedy fashion and we can all get on with our lives. Just a thought.)


Then I spent 90 minutes alternately moaning “Oh, no!” and groaning inarticulately.


This movie was Bad. By which I decidedly do not mean “Wicker Man” bad, which is so bad that it’s actually fabulous.


This was Just Plain Bad.


Despite my media connections, I will maintain the secrecy that is supposed to enveil this horrifying production like marsh vapor. In other words, I will not tell you the holiday-related title. Or name the two actors whose names I recognized in the credits. Instead, I will ask you to consider the following:


If you are planning to tell a story in nonlinear fashion, don’t you think you should in some way clue the viewer/ reader in? Either do it early in the story or don’t do it at all—but definitely, definitely don’t label one scene two-thirds of the way through the movie “Earlier,” and the next scene “Later,” and not label any other scenes at all.


Seriously: if you are going to have busty, busty co-eds strip off their skin and become werewolves—can’t you just have them strip and be done? Do you have to have them caressing their bustiness too? (Answer: no. No, you don’t.)


If you are going to incorporate a local urban legend into your tale, wouldn’t you want to foreshadow the legend a little? Just a little. It won’t hurt, I promise!


If the school principal is a homicidal maniac, you might want to think about introducing him earlier in the story, not just all of a sudden show him feeding poisoned candy to a student who them projectilely vomits blood. All over the porch. And inside the house. And on the principal’s shirt.


Seriously, folks: you do not need to kill children. Unless it’s a true-to-life serial killer movie, there is just no need for that. We all know who gets it in horror movies (oops—did I just give away the genre? Shame on me!): the former “nice girl” who gives in to her boyfriend’s advances. (We did all watch “Scream,” right? We know the horror movie rules?) But children? Elementary school children? With the sharp ends of shoves, and violent kicks to the head? In scenes that are supposed to be kinda funny? No, no, and no.


If you’re going to have a strange little person running around, looking like a cross between Jack Skellington and the Boogieman from “Nightmare Before Christmas” (that’s before the mask is removed from his head. After the mask is removed, he looks more like a cross between an angry Eartha Kitt and E.T., as my brother and I determined), and that little person enjoys killing some people, but not others, don’t you think the viewers might appreciate knowing why some people get it and some people don’t? And whether the little person is focused on getting revenge on people who don’t follow the “Halloween rules?” (Hey—did I just reveal the holiday? I am so, so bad!) And if there are Halloween rules, shouldn’t you tell the viewers what they are? (Again—we all saw “Scream,” right? We know how it can be done?)


And if you’re going to have multiple stories in a movie, don’t you think it might be wise to explain the connections between them? Like was the Witch Girl just an unfortunate kid, or was she something Bigger and More Powerful Than That? Was the EK-ET little person at all connected to the troubled kids who died in the bus crash? And—on another note—how did the principal manage to maul a girl with his fake vampire teeth, and yet the girl didn’t realize that he had moved considerably far afield from love bites until she saw the blood streaming down her arms? (Come on!)


On the plus side: a movie like this really makes me feel ever so much more confident about my own creative work. That being said, I will terminate the rant here and pull out my MG fantasy. I only hope I don’t find my characters eager to hack at each other with buzz saws, or make terrible puns while they’re torturing each other. Sigh. 

* Wondering about the title, are you? "Tell all the truth... but tell it slant." Hah! Tell all the truth or don't, that's my motto. And I'm sure it will help me avoid terrible movie previews in the future.

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