This week is World Fantasy, so I’m flying out Wednesday to Columbus, OH. I’ll be speaking on a panel at 2 on Friday about why we like villains, and working at the Prime table during a lot of it, so come find me and say what up!
I’d likely feel a lot more enthusiastic had I not just contracted some sort of icky virus or something, which is making me feel insanely foggy-headed and like everything is, I dunno, really heavy when I pick it up? So I’m trying to drink lots of fluids and rest and kick the bug before I get on a plane.
Tonight I’m celebrating my birthday a little early with my husband and my friends Raechel and Jesse. We’ll likely get chinese food and watch a movie! I’m thinking of inflicting Friendly Persuasion on them, but I might show mercy and pick something made within the last 20 years.
Anyways, the long and short of it is (1) I’m sick, and (2) I don’t want to be sick. But I’m not too sick to watch crazypants YouTube videos, and thus I leave you with a series of messages from one William Tapley, the self-proclaimed “third eagle of the apocalypse” and “co-prophet of the end times.” Mr. Tapley is pretty convinced there are Satanic messages in the (admittedly kinda weird) murals at the Denver Airport (the very airport I’ll be traveling through to get to Columbus!). Enjoy watching him talk about “his sources on the Internet” and how a leopard with two cubs represents Barak Obama and his kids! Or something. I’m still not entirely sure.
Jesse Bullington and Molly Tanzer have decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of their childhoods. These columns will run every Wednesday on their blogs, excluding the last post of each month, which will appear over at Fantasy Magazine. This week, as they prepare to go out of town for a conference, they asked us, their respective spouses Raechel and John, to take over for them. Sure, we said. We’ll take great care of your column. We’ll treat it like our own. Hey, it’s October. How about a classic Halloween film? Something classy and intelligent, yet terrifying. Leave it to us. Really, don’t worry about a thing. Have fun at the conference!
Film: Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Jim Varney and the gentle hand of a loving God. Mostly Jim Varney (Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Rides Again, and The Beverly Hillbillies) as Ernest, of course. Written and directed by John R. Cherry III (Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Rides Again, and shockingly enough not The Beverly Hillbillies). Child acting by a bunch of children who went on to do literally nothing else (with the notable exception of Shay Astar, who rockets from the success of this film right into your nightmares as the “imaginary” friend Isabella in a terrible early episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.) The voice of Ernie Fosselius as the voice of Trantor the Troll! (Who’s Ernie Fosselius? Only the director of Hardware Wars, the greatest Star Wars parody ever made! Also, apparently, the voice of most of the “ack-ack” noises in Mars Attacks!) Oh, and Eartha Kitt (classic Catwoman, of course) setting this film apart from all other Ernest films by actually acting and being awesome in that way that only Eartha Kitt could.
Quote: “You’re the seventh son of the seventh son, you’re the baby, you’re the boy. . . you are the great redneck hope!”
Alternate quote: “You don’t want to fight me. . . I know tai chi, kung fu, chow mein, and. . . I saw Hulkamania three times, once in slow-mo!”
Alternate alternate quote: “Oh! I sure hope you’re from Keebler!”
And one more for good measure: “Well, nobody’s home! I guess they’re out robbing graves or biting the heads off of chickens or whatever’s in voodoo vogue.”
First viewing by John: The moment it came out on video. I’m guessing ’92, making it pretty much the perfect end to the Reagan/Bush years. I imagine W watched this at least a million times while he was supposed to be running his father’s re-election campaign.
First viewing by Raechel: Same here. Also, I’m pretty sure this movie was the cause of my dad’s dramatic breakup with Blockbuster. Upon returning Ernest Scared Stupid for what must have been the hundredth time, he incurred yet another $4/day late fee and finally snapped.
Most recent viewing by both: Too long ago, that’s for sure. Two weeks ago? Maybe more. Too long.
Impact on John’s childhood development: Huge.Ernest Goes to Camp was the Ernest film that kicked my childhood in the nuts (Molly says: wait, what? What does that even mean? Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? How did it come to pass that I married you?), but I only saw it once, at a friend’s house. Scared Stupid came out when my younger brothers were coming of age, and someone gave it to us as a gift, so it was screened in my living room pretty much every day between its release and the release of Major Payne. If I wasn’t watching Ernest I was hearing him in the background or listening to my brothers quote him. Sometimes when I listen to the rain I hear it tap out a soft, whispering “knowhatimean” on the rooftop.
Impact on Raechel’s childhood development: Like John, I was hooked on Ernest after seeing Ernest Goes to Camp, and really, how could one not be? Scared Stupid is the first cinematic masterpiece I ever watched, and I watched it over and over and over.
Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:
John’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Hells yeah! It’s like Christmas in October!
Raechel’s thoughts prior to re-watching: What the fuck is wrong with Molly and Jesse? Who wouldn’t want to watch this!? Whatever, they’re probably watching some period piece about ladies who die of sadness and people who live off of accrued interest. (Editorial note: Molly believes at least the latter half of that was actually true at the time.)
John’s thoughts post-viewing: God, this movie is even better than I remembered! Seeing Jim Varney and Eartha Kitt in a movie together is like watching a ninja make love to a supernova. It takes your breath away, but it leaves you with a feeling of deep, untarnished joy (Raechel says: this is perhaps the only time I have ever agreed with John’s assessment of a movie). Ernest Scared Stupid has everything that a movie should have: Ernest, Eartha Kitt, a troll named Trantor, an ancient prophecy, Jim Varney playing Ernest’s great-great-etc. grandfather, Ernest driving a garbage truck, a dog. . . everything! And it’s only an hour and a half! You can watch it twice in the time that it takes to watch a lot of movies that have neither Jim Varney nor Eartha Kitt! This movie is perfection.
Raechel’s thoughts post-viewing: Okay, confession time: I developed a severe allergy to slapstick and potty humor quite early in life. I hate most things that can be described as “silly,” and of all the silly things in the world, one of my least favorites is the category of Halloween movies that aren’t about people being gruesomely murdered (Jesse says: someday you’ll have to fess up to owning the Criterion Collection dvd of Hocus Pocus. . .). In short, if I must suffer a Halloween movie that is not rated R for “graphic horror violence and gore,” it’d better be a damn good one. Ernest Scared Stupid is just that. In truth, I was a little worried about re-watching this one because it prominently features children, which I dislike almost as much as slapstick. But in the end, it didn’t matter because Eartha Kitt screaming at Jim Varney while wielding a motherfucking flamethrower is pretty much the best thing ever to grace the big screen. Also, the main troll’s name is Trantor. Oh, and I’m glad I didn’t watch this film with Jesse because I cried when Ernest’s tiny dog, Rimshot, was transformed into a wooden doll, and while John at least tried to comfort me, Jesse is dogscriminatory and would have laughed at my tears. (Molly says: I just asked John “Is the dog really named Rimshot? Like. . . the thing that happens in a bad comedy routine?” John replied: “Yes, it is a joke about humor.” Oh my god.)
High Points: Jim Varney as Ernest. Jim Varney as a dozen other characters. Eartha Kitt. Eartha Kitt screaming and brandishing a flamethrower. The opening credits, which feature Jim Varney making silly faces interspersed with clips from old horror movies. Also, for all you history buffs out there, Ernest’s take on the Ottoman Empire’s attempts to expand into south Africa:
Low Points: The sad, sad fact that it does, no matter how hard you wish it wouldn’t, end.
Final Verdict: Watch it every October and you will achieve enlightenment.
Next Time: Who knows? Probably not an Ernest movie, so who cares?
Jesse Bullington and I have decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. These columns will run every Wednesday on our blogs, excluding the last post of each month, which will appear over at Fantasy Magazine. This week Jesse decided it was time for me to see a movie wherein the monsters are called graboids and Kevin Bacon displays his trademark floppy hair. . .
Film: Tremors (1990)
WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Direction by Ron Underwood, he of City Slickers and The Adventures of Pluto Nash, um, “fame.” Script by Brent Maddock (Short Circuit 2, Wild Wild West) and his longtime writing partner S.S. Wilson, who, in addition to the aforementioned masterpieces, also co-wrote the Tremors sequels and Ghost Dad with Maddock. Zydeco soundtrack by Ernest Troost, with some help from Reba McEntire and some other country music standards. The acting of a lifetime from Kevin “You Can Do It In Six, Guaranteed” Bacon, Fred “Remo Williams” Ward, Victor “Egg Shen” Wong, Michael “J. Fox’s Dad in Family Ties” Gross, Finn “Whatever Happened To Your Career” Carter, and, of course Reba.
Quote: “That’s how they gitcha! They’re under the gottdamn ground!”
Alternate quote: “Who died and made you Einstein?”
First viewing by Molly: Last Thursday.
First viewing by Jesse: As soon as it came out on video. I was eight, and as we were watching it my dad decided I was too scared and so he kicked me out so he could finish it by himself. After much begging it was re-rented and finished a week or two later.
Most recent viewing by both: Last Thursday.
Impact on Molly’s childhood development:None. I don’t think I even ever saw a preview.
Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Big. To this day I have no idea why, but for some reason graboids were the coolest thing ever to young Jesse—chalk it up to my phobia of/fascination with snakes combined with my love of monsters. I would jump from tree to tree in the woods behind our house to avoid them, and run along the rim of the nearby shale quarry to trick them into falling to their splattery doom. I rarely fell from the trees and never from the quarry, which is why I’m alive today despite the odds I stacked against myself.
Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:
Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Somewhat mystified and suspicious, given the variety of reactions. Jesse couldn’t believe I’d never seen it and insisted it was amazing. John just laughed and shook his head sadly, as he does at every movie Jesse and I watch for FoHA. Raechel cackled. I told my ace dawgg Brad that we were viewing it and he said “I sincerely hope it’s for your column,” but then I recalled that Brad has a serious but perhaps not wholly unwarranted longstanding hatred for Kevin Bacon, so I chalked it up to that.
Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Oh hells yes.
Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Well, OK, the thing is, I like Footloose and absolutely love Dune, so one would think I should enjoy what is essentially a mashup of the two. . . but Tremors has in abundance pretty much everything I hate in movies: comical movie-style rednecks gaping at things, painful set-ups such as the whole rock-paper-scissors gag that you know from the first time it’s trotted out for something trivial that it will later-on be trotted out for more sincere reasons, doo-doo jokes, “scientists” who are highly versed in every field, “and then this happens”-style plots. I could go on. But I won’t, because oddly enough, I. . . I didn’t hate Tremors.
I found it baffling, and balls-dumb, and not really my sort of film, but I think the last complaint is really just a packaging issue. Tremors is basically Big Trouble in Little China with dusty yokels in the mountains instead of Chinese people in San Francisco, and I’m not just saying that because both have Victor Wong doing. . . whatever it is that he did in movies that I suppose we’ll call acting but really just amounts to saying things ominously and scowling in a comical fashion. Seriously, though—both are films about men having no clue what’s up in a complicated, unfamiliar, and potentially dangerous situation, and yet by virtue of playing along and being crafty, they overcome monstrous adversity. It’s not Tremors’s fault that I personally find Chinese apothecary shops more appealing than “the local diner,” six-demon bags more interesting than shotguns, odd subterranean lairs with neon-lighted skulls policed by elemental forces more. . . just all around better than pretty much everything else in the universe. But my preferred brand of stupid doesn’t make it objectively better, and I’m willing to admit that. At least on the internet.
That said, Kurt Russell is better than Kevin Bacon. Objectively (Jesse says: well, yeah, but can you connect Kurt to Goldie Hawn or Sly Stallone in only…oh. Never mind.).
Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: The old magic is still there. I went in expecting to be amused by Molly’s reactions, given that this has high quantities of banter, macho posturing, potty humor, and everything that else she has limited patience for in the best of times, but what I got was so much more. What I got was the thing of beauty that is the motion picture Tremorsand Molly’s reactions to the same, which is about as good as it gets, although Molly was admittedly more sedate during this than many a FoHA.
I buy the Big Trouble comparison, and agree that it is the superior film. But one of the greatest things about this damn fine country is that here in the US of A we don’t have to pick between Russelling up some adventure in Chinatown or frying some Bacon to Perfection, no, here in America we can have both, and that’s a beautiful thing. Especially since in both cases monsters are involved.
Monsters movies are better than just about any other kind of horror movie, hell, they’re better than just about any other kind of movie, period, and self-referential ones are maybe the best of the bunch. Taken as an homage to the giant monster movies of the fifties and sixties, Tremors works perfectly, and manages to both be dumb as a sack of hammers and aware that it is dumb as a sack of hammers, and thus never takes itself seriously. It is, in a word, schlock, but the best schlock imaginable, and highly quotable—though admittedly not nearly so quotable as its urban, urbane cousin Big Trouble in Little China. To diss this stupid, clunky action-comedy-monsterfest is to diss everything that is awesome about America, and for all this country’s faults I for one hope the wings of liberty never lose a feather.
High Points: The part where the survivalists battle a graboid. The part where Earl and Valentine are chased into the culvert. Egg Shen’s nigh-Shakespearean death scene. Hell, let’s just say “everything” and leave it at that.
Low Points: These are all Molly’s: the septic tank joke, the annoying hippie-mom and her terrible male child, the absence of one of the characters being a slick city-bred out-of-towner trapped in the boonies due to circumstances, which was pretty much the only monster-movie cliché Tremors lacked.
Final Verdict: “GET OUT OF YOUR PANTS!!!”
Next Time: It’s goddamn October already, and thus for the next two weeks, expect Halloween-themed Films of High Adventure. Next week we allow two special guests to pick the film and review it; for Fantasy we’re doing an iconic movie featuring Tim Curry that just so happens to be watched quite frequently around Halloween. . .
Ever since I saw the trailer on Twitch I’ve been eager to see The Secret of Kells (2009), an Irish-French-Belgian animated film about a young monk running around in the woods, as well as his and other people’s efforts to save the Book of Kells from evil Vikings. Here’s why:
I know, right?
Well, I watched it Saturday and I had mixed feelings. It is even more breathtakingly gorgeous than the trailer reveals, which is awesome–it’s not like they put the pretty scenes in there and the rest is sloppy. It’s a total omg!-fest for fans of Irish stuff, medieval manuscripts, abbeys, vikings, all that sort of thing. I mean, for ultimate Hibernophile-squee, there is a character named Aisling and she uses her magic powers to great effect while she sings a song. Woo! And yet, for me at least, The Secret of Kells had substantially less cross-appeal than other films intended for a younger audience, like, say, Ponyo. I was surprised by this, since, well, I mean. . . you saw the trailer.
I think the lack of resonance was, for me, largely due to what I felt was a whisper-thin plot, a clunky script, and a dearth of compelling non-magical female characters. They are complaints that feed one another, in the end. And I KNOW ALREADY that this is a kid’s movie, but I still feel like it bears a bit of scrutiny since by all accounts I should be typing up a big old praise-fest for this film.
Here’s a not-too-spoilery plot setup: Brendan is a young monk who wants to be an illuminator. His uncle, the Abbot, used to be an illuminator, but now is consumed by his obsessive desire to build a wall strong enough to keep out the aforementioned evil Vikings, and is also so scared of Vikings that he’s demanded Brendan stay within the walls of the Abbey. Anyone who’s ever once seen a kid’s movie can guess what happens: Brendan disobeys; plot ensues.
Now, to be entirely fair to my complaint regarding female characters, I thought most of the characters were ossified and lacking any sort of meaningful three-dimensonality. Stern Abbot is stern; Encouraging Monk is encouraging. Italian Monk is Italian, Moorish Monk is Moorish, Evil Vikings are evil, Whimsical Forest-Spirit is whimsical. The plot happens because it happens, not because of real character development except sorta-kinda for Brendan. He grows during the course of the film, literally and figuratively, but only a little.
I was, of course, most bothered by this when it came to the (lone) female character. The ghostly girl you saw in the trailer is the aforementioned Aisling, a standard forest sprite-type who helps Brendan when he makes his first venture into the woods around the Abbey. She is, quite seriously, the only female character in the entire movie. . . which just seemed weird to me because sure, the action takes place at the Abbey of Kells, but it’s filled with refugees! Surely there must be a plucky adventurous refugee girl somewhere there they could’ve give a role to? Because the way it comes across is Standard Kid’s Movie Gender Breakdown: the Boy Character is active, comprehensible, intellectual, questioning, and driven by morality; the Girl Character is unknowable, giggling, whimsical, static, and though a bazillion times more powerful, way more of a fraidy-cat than the Boy Character.
For example, there’s a scary old god who haunts the woods for An Important Plot Reason I shan’t reveal here. Of course, Aisling tells us why she won’t go and why Brendan shouldn’t (one guess as to whether or not he does):
So yeah, given that Aisling is an ancient and wise spirit with powerful magics at her disposal, it just comes across as some kwizatz haderach nonsense. I mean. . . really. Brendan is an 8 year old chump who’s never left the abbey where he grew up. AND YET! Somehow he has what it takes, of course, and blah blah boycakes. Paired with the angsty “A Serious Man’s Serious Expectations For His Successor” theme that takes up so much screentime I felt totally unable to find emotional purchase in the movie.
Which, given the visuals, wasn’t a complete deal-breaker. . . I could sit back and let the gorgeousness pour over me again and again and again. I just wanted The Secret of Kells to be more than that. I mean, the complaints I’m making about Aisling could be applied 100% to Ponyo’s character in Ponyo. . . but Ponyo isn’t the only girl in that film. She isn’t put in the position of Token Girl Who Represents Her Sex because we have, among others, the little girls at Sosuke’s school, we have Lisa, Sosuke’s mother, who is a complicated, engaging character, we have many older women at the retirement home, etc. In fact, pains are taken to “other” Ponyo so that we keep in mind that she is a fish and not a little girl. Aisling doesn’t get anything close to that sort of nuanced treatment, and I kind of wish she did.
In the end, however, I feel that The Secret of Kells is a worthwhile film and I recommend it (with reservations). It is just my personal opinion that contemporary films that tokenize women and people of color should be (gently) called out for doing such when it seems to be oversight (in the case of Kells) as opposed to sexist malice, which is not at all what I felt was happening here. I’m not saying they should’ve made, I dunno, Brendan a girl who wants to be an illuminator, but is hamstrung by her sex because Monks Are Sexist or something. And, though I found Aisling to be slightly too precious, I’m not saying they should have cut her character. I simply wish they chosen to include a human girl who, like Brendan, was interested in the world, and who had goals and desires and a well-rounded psychology. Then again. . . I kind of wish that same thing for all the rest of the characters.
World Fantasy is looming; projects are calling. I’m taking a stern internet break–email, facebook, LJ, lots of stuff will be verboten for a while, except at certain intervals. I’ll still be doing “Films of High Adventure” with Jesse and doing what it is I do for Fantasy, but if I’m slow to get back to anyone or anything, it’s because I have to do this for me. I tend to get caught up in online stuff too frequently–or, as I said to someone recently, I am Eve to the apple of the internet.
LOL, we’ll see how long this lasts. I anticipate full withdrawal symptoms–the shakes, the sweats, the, um, whatever else it is that happens to people in withdrawal. But hopefully the internet will be like cigarettes or something, and after the three-day hump I’ll be feeling OK. Right? RIGHT?
Jesse Bullington and I have decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. These columns will run every Wednesday on our blogs, excluding the last post of each month, which will appear over at Fantasy Magazine. This week we re-watched a movie that Wikipedia tells us was awarded the somewhat dubious honor of being “the 7th highest grossing movie since 1980 dealing with the genre of witches.” With a pedigree like that, it can’t be bad–right? RIGHT?!
Film: The Craft (1996)
WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Direction by Andrew Fleming (Dick, Hamlet 2), from a truly odious script by Fleming and Peter Filardi, who wrote Flatliners and TNT’s Salem’s Lot remake. Soundtrack allegedly by Graeme Revell (Pitch Black, Sin City), but mostly it’s Letters to Cleo, Juliana Hatfield, Elastica, and other 90s bands you’d expect to find in such a production (I, Molly, will admit here that I owned a CD by every one of those artists). The teenagers are played by a host of 20-something actors, including Fairuza Balk (Return to Oz, American History X), Robin Tunney (End of Days—the movie where Schwarzenegger fights the devil), Rachel True (Nowhere, Half Baked), Neve Campbell (Scream, the perfectly respectable Wild Things), and Skeet Ulrich (Heh, Chill Factor) and Breckin Meyer (Clueless) as douchey high school dudes.
Quote: “If God and the Devil were playing football, Manon would be the stadium that they played on.”
Alternate quote: Bus driver: “watch out for weirdos, girls.”
Fairuza Balk: “We are the weirdos, mister.”
First viewing by Molly: Lord, I guess. . . 1996 or 1997? Soon after it came out. I remember watching it while lying on the floor of my friend’s bedroom. We had met at drama camp (!) and she decided it was high time I watched more movies about witches and serial killers, thus we watched The Craft and also all the death scenes from Se7en, which I have still yet to see in its entirety.
First viewing by Jesse: Around the time it came out on video—maybe 97? Early high school, probably.
Most recent viewing by both: Last week.
Impact on Molly’s childhood development:Thankfully less than it might have been? I remember thinking it was pretty OK but being underwhelmed by the conclusion, which had far too much of Fairuza Balk’s teeth-baring craziness and the obnoxious rich girl being rewarded for her highly-questionable virtue.
Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Negligible. I was really excited about the movie when it came out, especially the prospect of Fairuza Balk playing some badass witch wrecking havoc at a Catholic school, but remember being disappointed and never bothered re-watching it.
Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:
Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: EXCITED. All I remembered was gothed-out schoolgirls successfully executing the “light as a feather, stiff as a board” trick and a scene wherein an icky racist blonde girl tells the lone black character that her hair looks like pubes. I had high, high hopes—the sort of hopes that only make the gods laugh and rub their hands together, as it turns out. Also, Jesse has a huge crush on Fairuza Balk and is totally and weirdly embarrassed about that, and so I anticipated teasing him a lot during the screening (Jesse says: I am not, in fact, embarrassed about respecting her work and talent, but I am hurt at the allegation that this appreciation for an actor’s ability and seemingly pretty cool personality stems from a simple “crush.” Which I also have for her). This anticipation was only bolstered by knowing that 10 Things I Hate About You is in no way a candidate for FoHA and thus I was immune from similar taunting regarding Heath Ledger.
Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Hopeful it would be better the second time around, but not exactly counting on it—the odds that the movie had miraculously altered into a state of not-sucking since my inaugural viewing seemed unlikely.
Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Shit, this movie sucks. It sucks so, so hard. Harder than any movie about teenage schoolgirl witches has a right to suck because really, who could screw that up? These screenwriters, apparently. I just. . . OK. Pretty much any plot that only works if you believe the old chestnut “Girls! Ha ha! They just don’t get along!!” is stupid and should be called out as such ruthlessly and tirelessly. As Jesse will point out below, the “characters” are all dreadful stereotypes who act the way you’d expect dreadful stereotypes to do, especially when those stereotypes are thrown into a movie so classically sexist and repulsively classist I can’t even speculate as to what the writers must have been thinking. I mean, ok, here’s a brief run-down of the main players in this travesty and what they do with their magic powers:
The Pretty White Rich Girl who tried to commit suicide for no stated reason and likes the Male Lead even though he’s a complete fucking douchebag to her and her friends. When she casts a magic spell it’s to make the Male Lead like her even though. . .yeah. She gets to win at the end because she realizes what she has done is wrong and that she’s better than everyone else by virtue of being pretty, white, and rich. YAY!
The Token Black Girl who is. . . mad. . . about racism? And swims? And. . . is overlooked constantly because the only reason she’s in the movie is to be the Token Black Girl because it was 1996 and they knew they needed one? Her spell is something like “help me resist the hatred of haters” or something and it makes the aforementioned racist blonde girl’s hair fall out. Which in turn makes the swim coach notice Token Black Girl is a good diver? OMG.
The Ugly White Girl who is generally treated as a heinous monster by her classmates because she has a few totally average-looking scars on her shoulders from being burned as a kid. OH NOEZ. Let us note that her face is totally fine—more than, as it is NEVE CAMPBELL—and yet. And yet. All she wants is to be pretty!! ALL SHE WANTS IS TO BE PRETTY. Her spell is, you guessed it, to be pretty, and it makes her burns go away! But once she’s pretty she’s a bitch! Women, amiright?
The Batshit Crazy White Trash Girl who is batshit crazy and white trash. Let me say right now I tried like hell to find a different way of describing Fairuza Balk’s “character” but it’s so obvious the writers were thinking “she’ll be white trash!” as they wrote her that it’s literally impossible to think of her as anything else, as problematic as we all know that term to be (Jesse says: at least Fairuza does what she can with the role, turning a lemon role into a delicious Tom Collins of camp craziness). She (1) lives in a leaky trailer with her (2) wandering-handed wifebeater-wearing stepdad and (3) bleach-blonde mother who gets beat on when she’s uppity and then later-on (4) buys a jukebox with her insurance money and (5) wears a lavender silk pants suit while (6) smoking in her new house. Jesus Tapdancing Christ. Her spell is something like being powerful and stuff I guess? But it mostly just makes. . . a bunch of sharks die? Or something. God. GOD.
The Gypsy Woman Who Owns the Local Witch Emporium and what can I say other than that? Her magic spells are all about nurturing the white girl because the white girl is a “natural witch” of course.
I’m too disheartened to continue this. Honestly, I had to struggle to type anything other than “this movie is stupid” over and over again but I gave up my freebie on Aeon Flux. I had every intention of being amusing and teasing Jesse for crushing on Fairuza Balk but I can’t even (Jesse says: I guess that makes this week my “freebie?”). I’ll just conclude with the ardent wish that I never ever have to think about this movie again because it is enraging me simply to write about it.
Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Yup, it’s still terrible. The thing is it could have been awesome, it should have been awesome, and yet it’s not. I suspect the reason for this falls entirely on my gender—I can’t be sure, but I suspect if this movie had been at least co-written by a woman it wouldn’t be so offensively bad.
The reason it pissed me off so much as a teenager, I remembered as we were watching it, is that as an erstwhile outsider I really wanted the teen coven to use their powers to fuck up the jocks and bullies who had been making their lives miserable. That is what this movie should have been about. Instead, we get some of that before, natch, the young women either a) realize that they were too hard on their tormentors, or b) go bugfuck crazy from the power they have gained and turn on each other. Only the rich, pretty white girl maintains perspective, and natch, the rest of the coven— rich black girl, poor white girl, formerly “ugly” white girl—tries to murder her fucking ass. Why? Well, uh, cause they’re crazy? And stuff? You know, like women get when they’re allowed to have too much power without being white and rich, I mean, mature enough to handle it.
As a teenager I felt like my intelligence was being insulted watching this turkey, and the only thing that’s changed is that I can better articulate what makes it so horrible. I’m going to cover some of the same ground as Molly did above, but like a fire marshal investigating arson, just because the earth is scorched doesn’t mean you can’t look closer at it for clues to how the house burned down. What better place to start than with the main character, Pretty White Rich Girl (PWRG)? PWRG thinks Hunky Jerk is cute, so they go on a date—when she doesn’t want to go back to his place he acts like a turd about it, and then tells the school he slept with her and she’s “a bad lay.” When she confronts him he makes fun of her, and the rest of the coven tries to cheer her up by telling her that he does that to girls all the time.
So, what do the male screenwriters think would be a sensible reaction for PWRG? If you guessed “cast a spell to make Hunky Jerk fall in love with her” you win, except we’re talking about this stupid movie so actually you lose just by association. Anyway, the love spell works, and because of this he tries to rape PWRG. Yeah, I know, classy film. So PWRG gets away, tells her coven, and Fairuza Balk’s character, who is poor and therefore incredibly mean and jealous of PWRG, sees an opportunity to try to get with Hunky Jerk. You see, Hunky Jerk also treated Fairuza badly but of course she also still has teh hotz for him because she is a female character in this idiotic film. When he doesn’t want to get with Fairuza she freaks out, because she is also crazy as well as poor and jealous and mean, and she thus uses a glamour spell to make herself look like PWRG, whereupon dry-humping ensues. Blah blah blah, Hunky Jerk is a jerk some more, so Fairuza uses her witch powers to kill him (which, in case you forgot, is what this movie should have been about—Fairuza Balk and company offing or at least punishing high school d-bags). So where do we go from here? Directly to a scene of PWRG crying on her father’s shoulder because she knows Hunky Jerk was good on the inside—that taste in your mouth is bile, just choke it back down.
I can’t even talk about the class trash going on where Fairuza’s character is concerned without getting so pissed off I just started mashing the keys unintelligibly, but trust me when I say her character is handled just as poorly as PWRG and everyone else. What could have been an awesome film about empowerment and solidarity and a cautionary tale for bullies and oppressors instead turns into a disenfranchising pile of garbage where the clear lesson is that seeking to redress the racism, misogyny, and general cruelty of your so-called peers inevitably leads you to corruption, jealousy, and madness. Better to just accept that you’re a freak and accept the abuse than try to fix things, amiright bullied teenage girls? What a fucking terrible, terrible movie.
High Points: Seeing Fairuza Balk enroll at the Hammer Horror School for Camp is pretty amazing, and she gets to wear a lot of great outfits to pair with her screaming tirades, so that’s something. The soundtrack, while nowhere near as good as, say, the Tank Girl CD, at least instills one with a sense of nostalgia for an age when this movie hadn’t yet been released but the music videos were on MTV and so you didn’t know how much the film itself was going to hurt your brain. That’s it.
Low Points: Just about everything else. Like, why couldn’t the girls worship Hekate instead of the bogus-sounding male entity Manon? Oh, because that would be cool, that’s why. (Molly adds: don’t forget that Hekate is a girl, and in this movie, only men may award women power and a sense of security.) Ugh.
Final Verdict: Stink, stank, stunk—but we still love you, Ms Balk!
So you guys know about Tea Party Jesus, right? The concept is brilliant–put the words of batshit Tea Partiers into the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself (as envisioned by people who draw Jesus for those little cards that have Him looking beatific and then there’s, like, the 23rd Psalm on the back), and then you get to click on the image to find out who said what! It’s like a game! Except there’s no way to win, and the only prizes awarded are the tears you shed as you realize how truly fucking insane the people leading this growing movement really are.
Now, of course, one has only to spend five minutes in the company of a Tea Partier to find out the socialist implications of goddamn near everything in the universe, but still. What? Here’s the news article and what this insane republican is ACTUALLY talking about (hint: there was never any “danger” of the CDC calling you up to tell you to eat your broccoli). Good times. By which of course I mean the worst of times.
Of course, all the vitriol the Tea Party uses to fire up indignant retirees on medicare is just that. Yet, as we all know, words have power. They have the power to influence people and their actions, and when we see Tea Party politics put into action, people suffer. Terribly. Such as, oh for example, privatizing social services, a truly stupid concept Tea Partiers uniformly agree is fucking awesome and the Right Direction for America. And yet. . . what happens when we privatize, saaaaaay, the fire department?