Friday, June 22, 2007

Bumper to Bumper

So, my friend Rod and I are headed to the movies on Saturday afternoon - and we hit bumper to bumper traffic on the 405. We could have got out and walked faster than the cars were moving. This is on the weekend, in the middle of the afternoon. Not rush hour. No reason we could see for the slow down - no fender bender or stalled cars... people just driving slow. A great deal of lane jockying - and I think that creates slow down. One car sees the traffic moving just a little faster in the other land and changes lanes... slowing down both the lane they were in and the lane they are now in. Multiply that by hundreds of drivers and you have gridlock.

We missed our movie, and waited for two hours until the next showing.

Warned you I was going to bitch about traffic on the 405...


Yesterday’s Lunch: Caesar Salad with chicken, no anchovies.
Movies: I saw a whole bunch of films bumper-to-bumper, too, including.... HOSTEL 2 in a cinema... The original plan was to see OCEAN’S 13, but it was sold out and the only other thing showing at that time was the torture porn sequel.

Much better than the first film. It actually develops the characters, and has some good suspense, and some really good twists. But in the end, it's about bathing in virgin blood and skillsaws jammed in people's faces and head removals... Even though it gives us more information about characters, it still keeps its distance from them - they are meat.

That's the main problem - we never get involved, we are spectators.Movie starts strong with the survivor of the last film worried that they will find him - and plagued by nightmares. They actually lift a scene from Hitchcock's 39 STEPS, which it a plus - stealing from the best.

Eventually we get to our 3 gals on a backpacking vacation. The rich girl, the slut and the ugly duckling (Heather Matarazzo - who steals every movie she's in). Where, in the first film we just got to see the guys exploiting everyone (making us hate them and hope they get that drill through the head later), this time around our gals are on the Eurorail from hell - filled with thieves and potential rapists and all kinds of threats - that generate some suspense early on.

Though the rich girl is supposed to be our ID character, Roth seems unable to pull this off - and that's where the film goes wrong. It's almost as if he knows she's just going to be meat later in the story, so he treats her like meat throughout the film. Too bad. She's the "normal one" who feels responsible for the slut and the ugly duckling... but that never really comes across.

Once they get to the Hostel, the movie shifts focus. We get this great sequence where our 3 gals are basically put on e-bay and members of the "hunting club" bid to torture them. It's almost funny as they show people all over the world bidding while in the middle of their normal day.

Two of the winners are American businessmen - and we follow them for a while. Interesting stuff here, too - one is gung-ho, the other really isn't sure he can do this. So we actually get into the minds of the torturers. My favorite line pops up with these two guys - discussing lawless 3rd world places like Chad and New Orleans.

More suspense at the Hostel, as there seems to be danger all around the gals - but they don't see it or don't understand it. There is s great harvest festival sequence where everything seems to be a threat - and some scary costumed people, and scary regular people... and a cool bit where the torturers and soon-to-be-tortured cross paths: neither knowing who the others are.

This is in the middle of act 2 - pacing is much better this time around. After that, people go missing and there are some twists and turns and early escapes and recaptures and later escapes and more twists and... well, all of those power tools.

And here's where things come crashing down for me. Because, though this is better than the first film - it's still a freakin' snuff movie at heart. It's still about skill saws to the face. And more character stuff about the people who get tortured and killed doesn't make me feel any better about it. Maybe it makes me feel worse. It makes me feel sick and dirty. I don't like the other people in the cinema - and I kind of fear them. And I kind of fear myself - I paid to see this, didn't I?

It's strange, because I can laugh my butt off at BAGMAN and cheer some violent revenge film... but torture just because it's "cool" repulses me. Maybe it's because violence as a biproduct of revenge means there is a motivation - and revenge is about someone who has been wronged. But violence just as something cool seems unmotivated (insane, depraved, sick). I'm all for killing the guy who tried to kill you... but killing some randomly selected person for sport? I think the problem with HOSTEL 2 is that its point is that we all like to see skill saws tear up people's heads... and I don't.

The film flopped big time, so they are saying that horror is dead. But some of this is probably marketing's fault (and you'll want to save this, because I will never say that again). The poster shows the guy in the outfit ready to torture you - focus on the torture rather than the story or characters. The trailer showed all of the torture stuff - appealing to people who like to see skill saws and people's faces connect.

A *better* trailer would have been the "e-bay sequence" - where people check in to a Hostel, the kindly desk clerk takes their passports, they go to their room - nicer than they expected, the kindly desk clerk takes the passports to a back office and scans in the pictures... then we see people all over the world get calls on their Blackberrys - the passport photo of the guest and a minimum bidding amount... and the bidding becomes a feeding frenzy! Finally, we see the guy who wins.

What's good about this as a trailer is that it feeds into *your* paranoia. It's not about torture, it's about a tourist you can identify being turned into property without them even knowing it. Wait - will that happen when *I* go on vacation later this summer? We can put ourselves in the shoes of the tourists... and that emotionally invests us in the film before we have even seen it. Now we want to see how these tourists will get out of it... and what will happen to them if they don't. It asks a question - rather than gives us an answer (that not many of us are interested in).

Another element is that at the end of the day, it's still the same movie as the first one. Backpackers check in to a hostel where people use power tools on them. Why would an audience want to see the same film again?

But... once you've seen the movie, word of mouth isn't going to help. "The exact same story done better than the first, but still creepy in a bad way."

Other Movies: AURA (French), FIDO, OCEAN’S 13, FANTASTIC 4... more on them later.
Pages: Actually finished the new draft of the Guy Blows Up script... but now I want to cut a quarter page so that I can add a quarter page top the end.

- Bill


Nicolas Van Peteghem said...

I actually like when people get killed with no reason. Because that's what happen in real life, e.g. when young shooters kill random people in a school.

But maybe my view on Hostel is biased, there where so many hot chicks in the first movie that I was quickly seduced. :)

Iain Gibson said...

Hostel and its sequel both sound as if they have a decent premise - and if it have been the MOST DANGEROUS GAME version of the story, I might have been interested.

But watching a film about people getting tortured for 90 minutes (even if it's not torture for the full 90 minutes - no thanks).

If this is the death of torture porn (not horror, mind you) then I'll be bringing balloons and cake to the funeral.

Brett said...

A quarter page? You're sweating the space to add a quarter page you want and like?

It's a quarter page, dude!

Hell, if you change some character's name from "O'shaughnessy" to "Ty" you'll probably save enough room right there.

Christian M. Howell said...

Wow, now I know why I haven't seen either of them. I mean, I like a head in a box or guts exposed as much as anyone, but as soon as you try advance characterization, you've alienated your core, gore audience.

I don't care what a person's fears are if they're about to be hacked into pieces, I just want to see the expression as the knife... sorry wrong movie(9mm).

Anyway, a quarter page can be done combining "one-line" actions into a single action.

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wcmartell said...

The quarter page was found easily... and a new quarter page added at the end.

I think this script ready to be rejected by professionals!

- Bill

Laura Reyna said...

If the torture porn cycle is over like everyone is saying, then i say thank jeebus!

Don't like watching people tortured and killed for no reason either. It's icky & boring.

I didn't like all the 80s slasher movies for the same reason. They all seemed to be about getting a bunch kids together & watching them die one by one.

A movie where the char's are just killed off one by one, with no point to it, really is kinda sick.

I want to see a real STORY unfold. I want to see real DRAMA. Not just anonymous people getting chopped up.

As an example, compare something like THE OMEN to these torture porn movies. THE OMEN had a real story to it.

I'm in the middle of writing a horror story right now. But i don't think of it as just a horror movie. I think of it as a DRAMA first & foremost. I think about the char's, their relationships, what they all want from each other.

The blood, gore and F/X are all there, but hopefully, so is a compelling story underneath.

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