By Matthew E. Milliken
March 24, 2015
Last week, while I was sleeping, I dreamed up a horror movie. It involved vampires.
The movie had a prologue set in World War II that showed the origin of the vampires. It apparently also showed their containment — at least, for the next several decades… (Yes, much of my recollection of this dream is vague. So sue me.)
Then the movie switched to the present day. Most of the rest of the story took place in a large modern skyscraper. I dreamed about the vampire menace being unleashed inside the building and the numbers of the contaminated quickly growing. Vampires preyed upon unsuspecting regular people and converted them into the undead. As they threatened to outnumber people, the creatures began attacking openly.
A small group cottoned to what was happening. They headed to some kind of upper-level business in order to make their escape from the building. The ploy was successful: A few heroic survivors donned some kind of parachute or glider gear and leapt from the balcony. The final act of the movie, by far the vaguest in my mind, involved the heroes heading to the source of the evil — a mansion somewhere in the city, where the vampires had set up their nest or headquarters? — and ending the threat.
But after the story ended, a funny thing happened: The movie rewound. (That’s an anachronistic way of saying… well, of saying that the narrative began playing from an earlier point.) I began “watching” the movie again.
Only this time, it was being picked apart and deconstructed, with all of the goofs and the inconsistencies and implausibilities being pointed out. What was doing the pointing out? Well, some kind of voice, or maybe combination of voices.
A quick (OK, OK — maybe it’s not so quick) interjection here: Lately, I’ve watched several “Everything Wrong With…” videos on the CinemaSins channel on YouTube.
The concept is simple: As clips from a given film play, the narrator dissects visual mismatches (an object or body part suddenly shifting location from shot to shot), loose ends (in Star Trek Into Darkness, McCoy twice mentions that Kirk appears to be ill as the mission to find the fugitive is getting started, but then the matter is dropped entirely), plot holes (how is it possible in The Dark Knight Rises that a set of trades that completely bankrupt Bruce Wayne are allowed to stand when they occur at the exact same time that the stock market is openly hijacked by terrorists?) and other issues.
Some of these critiques are serious; some of them are funny; some are entirely frivolous. The narrator frequently snarks “Scene does not contain a lap dance” during clips in which a man and a woman get close to one another. (In the takedown of the 2012 James Bond film, Skyfall, when Javier Bardem’s villain flirts with Daniel Craig’s captive 007, the narrator undercuts his own chauvinism by deploying the lap dance line.)
These videos are funny and fast-paced, and I get a big kick out of them. You can get a sense of the series by watching this dissection of the first Hunger Games movie; it’s only three and a half minutes long, and by the time 60 seconds have gone by, most people ought to know whether this is something they’re going to love or hate.
All right; digression over.
Wait, wait, wait! It’s not over yet!
I also enjoy reading the reviews on Richard Scheib’s great fantasy, horror and science-fiction film site, Moria. Scheib doesn’t hesitate to call out acting, writing or special effects that don’t meet the sniff test. For instance, Scheib’s write-up of the 2008 fantasy movie Inkheart (which I’ve never seen) features these questions about the plot:
The idea of Brendan Fraser as a ‘silvertongue’ who can bring objects from fiction into this world is never explored any more than that — it is just a power he has and we are given no explanation of how and crucially why it works. I kept wanting to ask questions about how the premise worked — can a character from fiction die once they are brought into the real world … when their fate is [already] spelled out in the [text’s original] story…? When they are killed in the real world, does that mean they are erased from the book as well? Once a character has emerged from fiction into the real world, what happens to the character in the story? Surely there must be some kind of absence in the narrative that would be noticeable to people reading. More importantly, what happens to the people who are transported into the story…?
All right, now the digression is finished. Ended. Over. Kaput.
So as I was saying, this imaginary movie was being critiqued as the latter part of it replayed in my head. Here are some of the points my dream critic(s) was making.
As mentioned above, the story’s heroes planned to escape the skyscraper cum deathtrap by going to a high floor and leaping into the air with glider apparatus. (Apparatuses? Apparati?) But my inner critic asked why taking an elevator ride to an upper level would be safer than using a ground-level exit. An elevator is a small, enclosed space; if a vampire attacks here, there’s basically nowhere to escape to. In addition, elevators open into elevator lobbies, so even if you happen board a vampire-free car, you’re vulnerable to attack on either end.
Part of me argued that elevators were safer than the exits because the vampires were guarding the exits and attacking people who tried to use them. The counterargument, however, was that the vampires would probably at least guard the building’s main elevator lobby (if not necessarily all elevator lobbies on every single floor).
Another implausibility pointed out by my inner critic was the portrayal of the actual elevator ride. We had (at least) one hero in the car along with a vampire and several regular people. But the movie made a big point of building up suspense in this sequence — the vampire was waiting to attack until the hero exited the cab on his or her floor, apparently fearful of being discovered by the “regular” people in the cab.
At this point, my critic replayed an earlier scene from the movie in which one or more vampires tore up a person in a public spot. The critic pointed out that vampires are stronger than regular people and that they’d reached a point where they were no longer trying to conceal their existence (at least from people within the building), so why wouldn’t the vampire attack in the elevator? Why take the chance that the hero might escape once she or he reached the floor, which might afford at least a slim opportunity to flee or fight back — something that wouldn’t exist on the elevator? This was something for which I had no response…
Generally, I love these kinds of critical takes on movies and books, both serious and snarky. But in this case, I was torn. Part of me enjoyed the critiques, while another part of me felt disappointed. After all, I’d dreamed up this movie; apparently, I also felt responsible for its faults. I think part of me took pride in coming up with smart criticisms, but the positive feeling was offset by my disappointment in myself.
The moral of the story: I’ve got a complicated mind, don’t I? (Also: Aren’t you glad that I don’t blog about my dreams more often?)