Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Today I saw Dunkirk, starring Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance.

The true story of Dunkirk is miraculous, and an often overlooked moment in history. Director Christopher Nolan does a brilliant job of not re-telling the story, but bringing the human pieces of it into a relatable, terrifying narrative.

Instead of bringing us war scenes as we are used to seeing them, he goes one step further. He takes us to the ground, to the water, to the sky into the adrenaline rushes of the men suffering through it.

We don't know their backstories or see them longingly looking at photos of wives back home; we see them catching leaflets telling them they're surrounded moments before being shot at (and in some cases killed). We see them suffocating inside a shot-down plane as they try to break out using the lens of a camera. We see them numb from PTSD, just moments after being pulled to safety.

We experience war, we don't watch it.

Though the tension was excruciating and the sounds of the haunting score will probably echo in my nightmares, I appreciated the first-hand approach.

If only those in power would realize the eternal damage war does to the collective human spirit and put an end to it for the rest of time.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Last night I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street, starring Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund.

Nancy (Langenkamp) attends a sleepover with a friend only to wake in the middle of the night to the sounds of that friend's murder. They both had the same nightmare about a burnt-faced man with knives on his fingers. Nancy fears because of this commonality, she is next.

After more nightmares and an eventual confession from her own alcoholic mother, Nancy learns the man in their dreams is Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), and gets his backstory. With this new information, she, along with her boyfriend across the street, Glenn (a very young Johnny Depp), attempt to defeat this monster with a mix of sleep deprivation and calculated nightmare-planning.

This film came out in 1984. I first saw it a year later at a friend's slumber party, much to the dismay of my mother, who forbid me from such parties when I came home afterword, terrified. I refused to sleep for days.

"1 ... 2 ... Freddy's coming for you, 3 ... 4 ... " The song the kids sing as they jump rope in the background of the film stayed with me all these years, and hearing it again gave me a visceral reaction.

It's funny what you remember and what you don't.

For example, I had clear recollections of Freddy: everything from his voice to his nails to his legendary sweater. I also remembered that Nancy was a "good girl" and her house was nice, in a good neighborhood.

What I failed to remember was Nancy's alcoholic mother, the sexual jokes and references (perhaps they just went over my head in youth) and the somewhat shocking ending. All were hilarious and satisfying last night.

The score by Charles Bernstein is a big factor as well—each time the music enters, it's hard not to put your guard up; you know something is coming.

Wes Craven knew how to do horror.

As silly and dated as many of the references and occurrences are, the film holds up. It is spooky, it is creepy, and it makes you jump. The origin story of the villain is also horrific and effective.

A classic already, and surely for years to come.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Fright Night

Last night I saw Fright Night, starring Chris Sarandon and William Ragsdale.

Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a typical 1980s teenager—he enjoys late night television, making out with his girlfriend and spying on neighbors. One evening, he sees the guys next door carry a coffin into their yard and suspects they may be vampires. His fears are confirmed as he witnesses an intimate moment between one of them and their partner. The trouble is, they're onto him.

Soon enough said vampire, Jerry (Chris Sarandon), covets Charlie's naive mother and all hell breaks loose. Charley attempts to kill Jerry unsuccessfully, so he solicits the help of a late night show host who claims to be a vampire killer. Along with him, Charley's recruits his best friend and girlfriend, and the group attempt to eliminate this neighborhood threat.

Here, the film surpasses all attempts at actual horror and becomes a full-on camp fest. But that's not a bad thing—the special effects are so over-the-top, they leave you fascinated by the work that must have gone into creating them.

As for the acting, Sarandon chews scenery like the best of them, smirking and flirting his way across the screen, seducing the audience along with his desired victims. They couldn't have cast a more perfect, pompous vampire. And William Ragsdale's Charley is desperate and scared and paranoid just as a hormonal teenager with a great imagination would be (even though he turns out to be right).

Over 30 years later, I still enjoyed this ride and will continue to return to it in the Octobers to yet to come.