20 July 2013

THE WONDERFUL, WHACKY, WEIRD WORLD OF MOVIES/MOVIE THEMES AND GIMMICKS/THE BROODING TEENAGER IN THE BACKSEAT


This post sort of marks a turning point in the direction I want to take The Uranium Cafe. It originally appeared in a defunct and abandoned side project I took on a while back. I am reposting the original post here and will add to the series now and then. The series will become a bit broader than it was originally intended to and will include topics I have yet to imagine. In fact I do not yet have a name for the new series or category in general but that will come to me shortly along with a unique and groovy little post graphic, have no fear. The reason it marks a turning point is that it will be a series that is less focused on a particular film and will try to look at films in general and so allow me some opinions I would not normally be able to give. It also marks my return after a long hiatus to blogging (even if it is just a repost) after spending some time behind the scenes here (removing all Matinee posts and posts with hosted music MP3 files, change the look a little and updating my A to Z index).

I don't wanna live in the creepy old house 
in the woods with the Boggles and Ogres!
I love to look for recurring themes, motifs or plain old fashioned gimmicks in any sort of movie genre. Horror movies are so full of these type of recurring characters and situations that the theme themselves often become mere parodies in movies anymore. An example might be the jumping, squealing cat (usually that appears to be in a state of being tossed by a stagehand) or the closing of the medicine cabinet and revealing, or not revealing though creating the anticipation, of someone in the background being reflected back in the mirror. Maybe it will be the killer or the gal's boyfriend, or nothing at all. Who knows. What we do know that is almost every other horror movie being made these days employs some sort of trick like this to either jolt the audience with a cheap shot or to make the filmmakers appear clever. In this little series I will explore some of these little themes and characters I have come to notice over and over  as they are  repeated ad nauseam in horror and thriller type films. Is it always a bad thing? No, not really. In fact I would go so far as to say these little tricks are necessary to move the story along, and to veer too far from the formula can make a movie unwatchable. That is why pop songs are popular. They follow a formula that usually works. Music that tries totally different ways to structure a song may be better in some higher artistic sense, but no body for the most part listens to that stuff. Except weirdos like myself maybe. But that is why when people talk of pop music you will hear them talk abut The Beatles and Elton John more than King Crimson or Steve Vai. And so, after that vague analogy,  onto the film aspect of this post.
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I don't wanna live in the house in the country 
with the spooky people in the basement!

In this first post I will talk about a character we have all come to recognize -though hopefully not identify with- in  modern horror films, and that is the brooding, bitter teen in the backseat of the car. This character is usually introduced at the very beginning of the film and often has tuned out the rest of the family and world with their MP3 player. They are usually pissed off about something like the fact they have to leave the big city and relocate to the country, thereby leaving their friends and familiar surroundings, like cool pizza parlors, music stores and coffee shops. The reasons for this are usually something like the parents have gotten divorced and -typically- the mother has to find a new job and live in a decrepit old mansion that is located next to a cemetery, funeral parlor or crop circle.  No wonder the teenager is pissed off. I would be too. The teen is often dealing with issues, like the screen capture I gave from the film The Spiderwick Chronicles, where the boy Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore) is coping with the split up of his parents and subsequent relocation to a dark old mansion in the woods.

I guess I can live in the house in 
the country with the psycho.
The theme is all the over the place these days but I only have this film on my hard-drive to make a screen capture of a teen actually in the state of brooding in the backseat. It is a really good movie I think and I am not meaning to pick on it. More I am just saying that this character is as common in modern horror movies as the young gun in an old western who wants to make a reputation for himself and so challenges a character played by John Wayne or Gregory Peck to a gunfight. Again not to say that that character can't be developed more, as is Jared in Spiderwick. But more often they can get a bit stuck in the mud early on and stay there, sinking, as did the Kristen Stewart character in Messengers, who is also begrudgingly leaving the city for the a new life in the sticks. This time there is no divorce and the whole family is trying to start over  and their last make-or-break chance in life seems to be by becoming sunflower seed farmers. Again, who wouldn't sit in the backseat and brood over this. The way Stewart's character is introduced is similar to the girl in the slasher film Bereavement, who is (as I recall) suddenly orphaned and has to leave the big city to go live with uncle Micheal Biehn and sort out things in life while local folks are being butchered by a freaky serial killer. Of course all these characters wind up confronting the evil force in the film eventually. In some of these films I mentioned they conquer evil and in at least one other evil defeats them in the "surprise twist ending" (another gimmick/motif to be explored later, along with the "written out of the script adults" who pay the room and board for these melancholy teens while they are fighting the forces of hell but who seem to vanish from the storyline suddenly).
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There is no way I could list all the movies that come to mind and that I have forgotten about with this character. Or maybe more with how this character is introduced into the story. It is a plot gimmick and not really a bad one but a little worn. If readers can think of some more such characters I will compile a little list and share it.
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1 comment:

Bill D. Courtney said...

Chad HelderApril 12, 2013 at 10:18 AM

I recently saw a horror film that opens with the brooding teenager--Joe Dante's The Hole. Also, another example with Freddie Highmore, the new Bates Motel begins this way too
Reply
Bill D. CourtneyApril 12, 2013 at 9:55 PM

Yes you're right. I saw The Hole. Not a bad movie over all of course though I gather it was meant to be seen in 3-D. Sort of weird without the glasses. It also features the "written out of the script adult" character in that movie. Thanks Chad!
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Juliet Jones_TexicanApril 21, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Bates Motel is better than I thought!
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Bill D. CourtneyApril 24, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Bates Hotel is on my list of course. I did not like the ones where Anthony Perkins redid his character. The original character as portrayed by Perkins was so iconic that any film with him reprising the role would have had to have been fantastic, and of course they weren't and he appeared to showing up for the check in them. His later films were all pretty bad in my opinion. I never saw the Gus Van Sant remake and am not a huge fan of his meandering, slow artsy style of film-making for the most part. Like a few things, like To Die For, but his films space me out too much.

I like Freddie Highmore as a child actor and look forward to this one and am keeping my expectations in the middle of things.