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Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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Legendary horror director Wes Craven is back with something new for us to feast our eyes upon — but if you are looking for a classic slasher picture with plenty of blood and guts — look elsewhere.

Wes is Craven

McAdams is pretty good
McAdams is pretty good

I’ll get it on the table now and say that I’m a huge closet Wes Craven fan. A Nightmare on Elm Street was a revolutionary horror saga that terrified audiences across the country. Then Scream came along, an incredible mock-tribute to the late horror films, and gave the genre a jump-start. As for his latest film, Red Eye, I can safely say this is like nothing he has ever done before. Three quarters of the film is straight thriller; no creatures with stripped shirts and finger-blades, no ghost-faced serial killers — this is nearly a murderless suspense film.

But the film tries much too hard to be what it’s not, and eventually turns into a half-assed version of his earlier work. Something like this might have been too tame for him to produce, though I can definitely say he still has a great talent for thrilling an audience.

This is the second film this month I have seen with actress Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls) as the lead. I don’t fancy her stage presence in the lest bit; she looks remarkably like the Joker from the old Batman TV series, and the resemblance haunts my dreams. But if you can get over her looks, she isn’t a bad actress, and I was actually impressed with her performance.

Jack the Rippner

After the film’s cheesy opening credits, we meet McAdam’s character, Lisa Reisert, a young hotel manager who is trying to get home after attending the funeral of her grandmother. She settles some intense business matters over the phone on the way to the airport, only to find that her flight to Florida has been delayed. While waiting, she meets a young, good-lookin’ guy and has a few drinks with him. When they start boarding the plane, she finds that her seat is right next to his.

It turns out this guy isn’t so great after all. After the plane takes off, he informs her that if she doesn’t use her connections to facilitate the assassination of the Deputy of Homeland Security, who’s checking into her hotel in a few hours, he’ll kill her father. By the way, Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins villain, the Scarecrow) plays our bad guy here — and he is one crazy SOB. His character’s name is Jackson Rippner (get it?), and after she refuses to make the call, he head-butts her unconscious.

(Spoilers ahead.) After she wakes up, we pretty much have the Joker vs. the Scarecrow for the rest of the flight. She consistently tries to inform someone about what’s going on, and he stops her every time. When the flight finally lands, the fun of watching these two battle is over; things turn into just another cliched slasher flick with the killer chasing the victim.

His Old Tricks

The constant thrills and surprises make this film really enjoyable, especially for my audience, who were screaming and gasping through the duration. Craven does have a few tricks up his sleeve, but he goes back to his old habits of creating a cliched killer and ending, rather than continuing the original concepts.

The strange thing is that in Scream, there is discussion, in great length, about the cliched old horror flicks, particularly on their habits and mistakes as films. For example — Why should the girl run up the stairs, while the killer is chasing her, instead of going through the front door? Yet some of the same illogical mistakes are right here in Craven’s latest film. Why does she run up the stairs? Why doesn’t she just call the cops? Why, Wes, why?!

But aside from the disappointing ending, this film is a pleasure to see. The good acting, clever ideas and constant surprises made it, and unless you completely hate the genre, I’d say Red Eye is real fun.