Monday, January 28, 2008

"This is a lot harder than it looks on the Internet."

I've thought to myself a few times, what would I do if I had for some reason been put under house arrest? D.J. Caruso's 2007 thriller Disturbia answers this question while still managing to throw on the horror and suspense. Spending just enough time watching girls swim to keep you interested if the tried and true thrills fall short. This "hip" updating of the Hitchcock classic Rear Window(1956) does little more than just that, all the while still managing to entertain and keep its head above the water.

The story opens with a bang. The catalyst to the story is thrust in within the first 5 minutes of the film when a tragic event brings out the worst in Kale, a high school slacker who makes a mistake and gets put under house arrest for the entire summer. We see Kale deal with his boredom in many ways, very few of those ways please his mom who just wants him to gain some responsibility. At first he kills time by playing X-Box and watching television but when he has these things taken away because his mom doesn't want this to be "another vacation like usual" he starts watching out the window for entertainment. He picks up on the quirks and overall oddness of suburban life and before long he's showing his friend Ronnie, who seems to be his only connection with the world until he is caught spying by Ashley while she's swimming. She stops by and finds out just what he does all day and when the two of them stumble upon seeing a young lady go over to a neighbors house she is unsuspecting but after she goes home Kale sees exactly what he had thought he might, or did he?

Laced with traces of technology, paranoia and voyeurism Disturbia follows the typical Hollywood fare to the tee, while still adding some food for thought. When left alone to watch people how do you tell the difference between true stories and ones you've made up yourself? When no one is there to tell you that you didn't see something, than how do you know if anything you see is real? Kale tends to have trouble with this throughout the film. While thinking he has just seen a brunette be murdered he then sees her walk out to her car and drive off, is his mind playing tricks?

Characters mention Youtube and the Internet frequently, enough that it becomes a major component of the film. Could D.J. Caruso be telling us that by watching these videos on Youtube we are acting just as voyeuristic as Kale does in the movie? It seems to me the film is trying to make the statement that we are all people watchers. Most of us don't sit at our windows and watch our neighbors with a pair of binoculars in hand but we will mindlessly watch far stranger things than what lies behind the glass of our window. The thing is, these things are being done by our neighbors and us. So the only difference is we are cutting out the boredom by not waiting for something interesting to happen out our front door and cutting straight to the chase by people watching through our computer screen.

While the film might be trying to say this, it isn't saying it loud enough. It focuses to much time on making you jump than making any type of statement at all. While it is a popcorn movie, I will say I didn't mind it, it is a well crafted thriller and Shia LaBeouf is very likable and funny. There is a great scene where Ronny has broken into someones house to get something he had left behind earlier and we are only seeing Ronny through a camcorder he is carrying. By doing this it creates an element of suspense, while also eventually leading to a clue, and not explaining to us right away what exactly just happened.

On the flip side, the dialogue is very cardboard, as are the characters. They are very broadly written, even the "bad guy". This takes away from what could have been a smart update of a film that is already realized as a classic. A subplot involving a very doubtful and unbelievable love story does more to distract from what is good about this film than what it does to bring you deeper into the characters.

The film doesn't take a step away from exactly what you expect and does this on purpose. It really couldn't have been written any broader than it already is, and that's disappointing because there is a good movie buried in here. The films message gets caught up in the static of all that is the Hollywood storyline and while still being a well crafted and decently executed thriller all hope is lost on the film that could have been.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Bride Of Frankenstein

James Whales’ The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is, among other things, a tale of redemption. We see in the monster that love and kindness can come from the most unlikeliest of places.

The story takes place just where Frankenstein left off. A building is burning to the ground with The Monster inside. He is proclaimed to be dead but when the father of one of The Monster's victims must know for sure, he ignorantly climbs into the burning building only to find The Monster taking refuge in what seems like a water filled cellar. The Monster of course escapes and begins terrorizing the town again. Dr. Frankenstein is talked into helping an old mentor of his, Dr. Pretorious; create a bride for The Monster.

Pretorious is a man who feels the world would be better off if we were all devils. "Sometimes I wonder if we'd all be better off being devils, and no nonsense about angels."

The theological aspects of this film, particularly this plot, cannot be excluded as they are heavily prevalent. It is much like The Garden of Eden and The Tree Of Knowledge. Pretorious representing the serpent and Dr. Frankenstein is representing Adam and Eve. They want to become like God. They want to know what it feels like to have generations come of something you have created with your own bare hands. They want to create a world where “Gods and Monsters” rule, in which they would be the gods and the monsters their creations.

The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) has been most notably talked about as a manifestation of Whale's homosexuality. Through this film, it is said, he made gays acceptable to an unaccepting public without them even realizing it. Though I can see where they are coming from, and definitely see this correlation. I find that focusing on Whales personal sexual preference, overshadows the overall message of the film, which I don’t feel as being a gay parable as much as a story of accepting those who are different.

In the film we reach the point where the monster escapes and he has run into the forest to get away from his would-be capturers. He comes across a small cottage in the middle of the woods after hearing a violin playing, which has a sort of soothing effect on The Monster. We come to find out a blind hermit is living here and playing this music to pass the time. The Monster bursts open the door and lets out a yell, but the blind man doesn’t scream, or run in fear. He shows love and kindness by calling the Monster friend and asking him what it is he can do for him. A question The Monster has never heard. Through this meeting comes a few of the most heartfelt, human scenes in the film. The Blind man feeds The Monster and lets him rest. He prays and thanks God for sending him a friend to help the days pass by. We see this is a lonely man, but he holds no resentment towards God or any man for his injustices. He accepts what he is, and where he is and simply enjoys when something good comes his way. The next morning when we see him teach The Monster to speak we realize that he is willing to go to any great lengths for this friend. Through this scene we also see that The Monster isn’t really a monster at all but very human. He isn’t out to quench a blood lust after all, but simply misunderstood. He loves wine, bread and having a friend, just as any human being would. In this scene we find the heart of the film. When later on a few men come asking for directions and see The Monster, the blind man stands in front and refuses to allow them to hurt his friend.

Being blind to others faults and accepting them for what they are is what this film represents. An ending filled with redemption and extreme humanity shown by the monster follows, only to prove that The Monster, the creation, was less a monster than Pretorious.