I’m continuing my bl-g series devoted to bringing back the spirit of the mixtape. This past Wednesday I found inspiration in the song played at the end of my yoga practice. Though “practice” may be a bit of misnomer with me lately. Jen always plays a killer song during cool down. This particular evening she ended with Al Green’s “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”
As I laid in an ever-increasing puddle of my own perspiration, I contemplated the perfection of that song as an individual piece of music, as yogic wisdom, and workout turndown. The song’s pace and depth of soundscape that Al Green conveys with such minimal production. The choice inspired me to explore what other songs from my library might also function as admirably at the end of a brutal series of sun salutations and core strengthening. I humbly present Al Green and 11 other soulful songs to soundtrack your own personal well-earned exhaustion, yogic or otherwise, presented as both an 8tracks.com and Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.
Two 31 Days of Horror a go (so, like, 2014), I caught the second half of A Nightmare on Elm Street on a cable movie network in HD. The image blew me away. Let me qualify that last statement. I hadn’t seen the film since I first watched it in a friend’s basement when his parents thought we were playing video games. In other words, like how many teenagers smoke pot. We watched a VHS tape on one of those 13″ TV/VCR combo jobbers. My baseline for this film: tiny and square.
This year, I decided to put this movie to bed, so to speak. I’d never properly seen A Nightmare on Elm Street or any of its sequels except, oddly enough, for New Nightmare, which came out on video at roughly the same time I first started watching Italian horror. Very loose causal connections at play.
With proper viewing conditions, A Nightmare on Elm Street remains an effective horror experience, despite the ways in which the formula has been ripped off and regurgitated throughout the 30+ years since its original release. I won’t suggest that Nightmare provides an experience in pure terror. The story undermines its own ability to terrorize by playing fast and loose with dream logic and Freddy’s ability to reach beyond his dreamscape. By doing so, the Elm Street flicks fostered Freddy as a monstrous personality, rather than a slasher figure as innately terrifying as Leatherface or Michael Myers. If Michael Myers is a Tom Brokaw, Freddy Kreuger is a Ryan Seacrest.
(I’m honestly not sure about that above analogy, but I think it works so I’m moving forward.)
Friday the 13th (1980) and Halloween (1978) had set the table years prior with straight-up psycho slashers. A Nightmare on Elm Street landed at theaters rather late in the 1980’s teenage pop-culture slasher cycle to be just another slasher film. Wes Craven understood that his monster needed more personality, that Freddy Kreuger needed to be something a little off center and a little self-aware. A Nightmare on Elm Street never properly breaks the 4th wall (Craven saves up all his proper nudging and winking for the Scream series) but Craven certainly tests the waters with Freddy.
In addition to Kreuger’s slice of self-awareness, Craven further inserts a twist in the Kreuger mythos. Freddy Kreuger assumed the role of “boogie man” because the community parents had tracked down the serial child murderer and burned him alive. Everyone on Elm Street became complicit in the murder and mayhem. When the film plays the “parents just don’t understand” card to cater to its teenage audience, this makes sense because the parents have already been established as a source of negative energy.
The primary conflict isn’t actually “Teenagers vs. Freddy Kreuger,” but rather “Teenagers vs. Parents.” Freddy Kreuger serves as the physical manifestation of teenage angst and anxiety. The burden of escalating sexuality, pending assignation of adulthood and the teenagers’ inability to confront their parents with mature conversations about their fears. The teenagers lack the maturity to palatably present these concerns, and parents, well, lack the maturity to address their teenagers as near-adult human beings rather than children.
Nature of Shame: Long overdue rewatch on Blu-ray / Unseen sequels
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist: Decade – 1990’s Crazy Animal Movie
#20. Tremors (1990)
I hold Tremors up as the pinnacle of modern creature features. After watching Komodo last week, I felt compelled to conclude the “Crazy Animal Movie” requirement of the Hooptober Challenge with this old favorite. I’ve owned the Tremors Attack Pack Blu-ray release for a few years now and I’ve failed, despite my intentions, to watch Tremors each of the past two Halloweens. I’d had it up to here with lackluster animal movies. Killerfish, Day of the Animals, Komodo — all of these films have only reinforced my aggravation over lazy savage animal movies.
I couldn’t decide if fictional animals counted towards the requirement, but I decided I didn’t care either. These were animals. They were crazy. Bring on the big ass worms.
Tremors works because it embraces the historical absurdity of the animal attack genre. Giant Leeches. Slugs. Killer shrews. You name the creature, it’s attacked people on cinema. With an eye on a retro-brand of filmmaking and a nod toward self-awareness, director Ron Underwood downplays terror in favor of spectacle and humor. In the place of exposition or a brief origin story, Tremors substitutes ecological wonder. Characters marvel at the existence of the Graboids, their physiological adaptations that have allowed them to exist undetected in the earth for millions of years.
They might want to eat you, but by god that’s an impressive specimen! Check out those independently operated tongue snakes! And spikes that allow them to push themselves through the dirt!
Impressive creature effects only carry a film so far. The tone of the film must reflect the creatures themselves. First, the creatures cannot be the joke. While the face-value of Tremors suggests otherwise, (giant carnivorous worms!) the Graboids never become the punchline. The high-concept narrative allows the tremendous, entertaining collection of character actors to act and react to a preposterous scenario. An isolated Nevada town under siege by subterranean monsters. A pair of mostly capable handymen, a geologist and a right-wing gun nut hold the fort.
Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire and Victor Wong (Big Trouble in Little China) buy in completely. (Though, Kevin Bacon has confessed that at the time he felt the film represented a career low.) With the worms presented as the Abbott to the humans’ Costello, the creatures can afford to just be monstrous. The rest of the humor comes naturally.
I might be blinded by irrational love for Tremors because it’s really not actually quite that good… but I’d be lying if I gave it anything short of five Hertzies.
30Hz Movie Rating:
So what would happen to this balance when the sequel loses its director and goes direct-to-video six years later?
#21. Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)
The film carries on.
The budget has been noticeably downgraded. The worms lose their independently operating snake-tongues and most of the special effects involve fountains of exploded worm goo. The actors outside Ward and Gross barely passed the “acting their way out of a paper bag” test. Chris Gartin replaces Kevin Bacon with a less mature version of Bacon’s already immature character and he’s only mostly annoying. Gartin comes around by the end of the movie but still reminds me of a low-rent Justin Bartha. Michael Gross inflates the NRA survivalist persona, filling up some of the personality vacancy.
Fans of the original will find enjoy #2. Aftershocks finds new creative ways to attack with worms. Recommended. Even the wife got into this one. Extra half star because reasons.
I will save this picture on the off chance that one day I can build my DREAM house and find this architect and this decorator and tell them to make me a dining room like this. I think it's one of the first formal dining rooms I've ever really liked.