A few nights ago, I was in the mood to watch a horror movie that I thought was summer-y. This movie was released in March, so I guess I don’t have that good of a reason to associate it with summer. Well, except maybe for the fact that it takes place in the middle of summer in the middle of the desert where it’s really goddamned hot. Also, any excuse to watch the film that introduced me to Alexandre Aja is a good excuse, as he quickly became a direct with a unique style that I wanted to keep tabs on. Not, like, keep tabs on his personal life, just, ya know, keep my eyes out for his movies. By the way, super happy that there isn’t an accent in his name, because I don’t think I’ve figured out how to make accented characters through WordPress yet.
Congrats on getting off that crazy island, Claire! And you even got rid of that stupid baby you gave birth to!
The film opens with a title card that talks about the testing of nuclear weapons in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. A montage follows that information which shows houses blowing up from atomic and nuclear weapons, inter-cut with images of deformed babies and adults, demonstrating the effects of those tests, as well as a brief scene showing a group of researchers in the desert being attacked and killed by a really huge dude. We then see a gas station attendant inspecting a mysterious bag that he found mysteriously on his doorstep, full of valuable items like wallets, jewelry, and an earring still attached to an ear. GROSS. The inspection gets interrupted by a family stopping at this gas station. The attendant tips them off to a “shortcut,” which actually sends them deeper into the desert along with hitting a spike strip, causing the family to crash. Some of the family seek help while others remain with their vehicles, which is when they are attacked by deformed adults. Ted Levine, his wife, and his daughter all get killed, his granddaughter gets stolen by the maniacs, but his son and other daughter are left alive. His son-in-law goes in search of the baby and finds an abandoned community whose only inhabitants are some of these freaky, deformed weirdo baby stealers. Son-in-law manages to kill some weirdo jerks and save his baby while his in-laws back at their vehicles kill some other freaks. We think everything is okay, but then the camera pans out and we learn that they are still being monitored by some unseen hill people. RUH-ROH.
If you’re going to breakdance, I don’t recommend doing it in a refrigerator.
Anytime there is a discussion about horror movie remakes, this is the example I bring up to defend why the should be made. Blood-soaked films following the exploits of genetically deformed “others” have been grown tiresome and there are only so many new areas to explore in with this concept. To add a slight spin on the generic tale, this film framed the motives of the hill people by expanding on the idea that these genetic deformities were done to them by the government and their experiments, giving motivation for them to seek vengeance across anyone leading “normal” lives. This is true of both the original version of the film and this remake, but given the thirty year span between the films, the revenge against normalcy might have been a little more unique bck in ’77.
A lot of people told me how intense they thought the rape scene was, so I don’t know what it says about me that I wasn’t bothered by it.
What really makes this version of the story so successful was the harmonious tone create by director Alexandre Aja, cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, editor Baxter, composers tomandandy, and special effects makeup designer Greg Nicotero. Although this movie took place in present day, the only thing that alerted the viewer of this were the attempts to get cell phone reception. Viewers felt the heat of the desert, feel the grit of the sand, and felt like you should be putting on sunblock. The music jumped back and forth between oldies, which both comforted you and reminded you of the time period of when these monsters came into existence, to heavily distorted electric guitars that reverberated in your skull, making you feel as uncomfortable as some of the characters looked, the musical equivalent of a chainsaw being held next to your ear. I think the best word to describe Greg Nicotero and his grotesque creations would be “swollen”, with all of his deformed creatures giving viewers a sense of discomfort without ever looking cartoonish or unreal. All of these elements were brought together with the help of Baxter’s editing, and were you to remove any single one of these elements, this movie could have been a complete failure. The film is more of a highlight reel of some really talented individuals who were able to make names for themselves and go on to do other cool things, but this was the movie where they were all able to feed off each other to create a unique vision of deformed monstrosities being a bunch of dickheads for no real reason.
Wolfman Moon Scale