The Toronto International Film Festival, now in its 34th year, is a massive media gongshow that takes place in my hometown, right around the corner from my house. I get to bike to my first screening in the morning. I take lunch breaks and meet my wife and son for little walks between movies. I don’t have to sleep in some weird sterile hotel room, staying up late because I get to watch TV in bed which, for some reason, I always seem compelled to do. I don’t have to eat every meal at fast food joints (which means I don’t yet feel like a bag of dump, though all I have done for three full days now is sit in a dark room). And, finally, I can share in the whole, admittedly intoxicating, irrepressible thrill of seeing stars as they walk down my streets, the streets I’ve been walking along past nobodies and whocareses for my whole life. I mean, if I saw a celeb in New York, would that be weird? But, when George Clooney or Jennifer Connolly comes sliding by, all graceful and elegant and not-quite-human, I dunno. It just feels, electrifying. Is that lame? Probably.
Truth is: I haven’t actually seen celeb one this year. (Last year, I did way better. I even chatted with Tim Robbins. Well, the truth is that I actually had an astoundingly unnecessary conversation with him since the poor guy was just trying to get a drink and I accosted him, all 5’8” of me, and he, who is much closer to 18 or 19 feet tall, had to lean down so far he was basically assuming “the position” and looking for all the world like a big storky bird bending over to pluck up a teeny worm (me), and all so that he could be polite to this random dude who felt the unstoppable urge to waylay him. Also, I bumped into a guy I recognized from a car commercial.) Instead of star-annoying, I have actually been watching films this year. As I sat down to write this, your first instalment of a five-part series of reviews and randomness from your humble(ish) correspondent, I had already sat through 12. By the end of the ten day festival I will have seen about 30. Dear God.
This horror-comedy, Diablo Cody’s first screenplay since her Oscar-winning Juno, is so poorly thought out that even if it had been directed by someone with a sense of tone or suspense or mystery it still would never have worked. Stars Amanda Seyfried (who continues to impress), Megan Fox (who is apparently really really super-famous, though it remains difficult to see why), and a villainous Adam Brody (here playing “evil Seth”) do what they can, but have few opportunities to give this thing life. With a plot so straightforward that at no moment is there ever any question as to the next move from any character, and with dialogue so crass and preposterous as to simultaneously disgust and annoy, Cody hasn’t brought anything to this table but her suddenly eminent name and a few zingers. But, unlike the generally sweet banter and inventive wordplay of Juno, most of the contrived dialogue that pops up here isn’t funny so much as it’s just shockingly vulgar. (Example: “It smells like Thai food in here. Have you guys been fucking?”)
The template for the horror-comedy is, of course, Evil Dead, a film which is referenced twice here, but which the people behind the cameras clearly didn’t spend enough time studying. The lesson from that seminal picture is that you can’t have your cake and eat it. At least, not in every scene. Sometimes, things have to get just plain terrifying so that when the next joke sneaks up, you’ve earned the laugh. In
, all the attempts at horror are undermined by poorly placed gags – in a key fight scene one character asks another for a tampon after she gets stabbed. In another, Fox gets on all fours, barks like a dog, and then barfs up a gallon or two of sticky black tar. In another, a ritual sacrifice is performed on a terrified victim by a group of boys singing a one-hit wonder from the early 1980s.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this film is that it pretends to be a radical feminist reworking of the slasher film, some kind of re-invention of the whole sex=death thing in horror, while in reality there isn’t much to distinguish it from scores of other films working with the black widow cliché. So, the evil force is a powerful woman who must use her extraordinary sexuality to lure men to their deaths, feeding on them to survive? I saw that movie: it was called Species. Plus, Amanda Seyfried has ESP for some reason, a plot point which one would think would bear some discussion, but which is instead employed as a convenient way to get her character to do stuff, or to know when stuff is happening, or something. Basically, it doesn’t make any sense.
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