Movies

Top One Movie of the Week

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Our critics choose from A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Human Centipede, and Please Give.

SCOTT: One, two, Freddy’s coming for you… or maybe not. This weekend looks like the calm before the storm, as the summer blockbuster season is set to kick off next Friday with the release of Iron Man 2. Until then, we’ve got the latest Wes Craven reboot to contend with, as the erstwhile master of horror continues to pad his retirement account by selling off what remains of his legacy. The recent remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left traded in the primal Manson-era skeeviness of the originals for slick, machine-tooled "thrills," and while there’s probably no good reason to expect anything different from A Nightmare on Elm Street, I do see a couple of potential points of interest. As it happens, last Halloween I watched and reviewed every existing Elm Street movie, and one thing that struck me as a missed opportunity was the failure to explore Fred Krueger’s early career as a child-killer and his subsequent capture and torture by the good citizens of Springwood. Word has it that the new version does go a little more in-depth with the nightmare man’s pre-dreamworld life. Then there’s star Jackie Earle Haley, who was the best thing about the Watchmen movie as hard-boiled vigilante Rorschach and might be able to transform Freddy into something scarier than Henny Youngman with razor fingernails. Nightmare is at least a possible Top One Movie of the Week for me… although I’m guessing your enthusiasm is somewhat more, ah, muted.

ANDREW: Well, on the one hand, Jackie Earle Haley is a really good actor and, by all accounts, a sweetheart of a guy, so I think it’s cool that he’s the new face of the franchise (replacing Robert Englund, whose own face nearly fell off — or at least got pretty damn irritated — after donning the Krueger make-up one too many times). And, you’re right: even though Freddy eventually became a beloved pop icon (immortalized in adorable child-killer Halloween costumes and talking dolls… y’know, for kids!), the trailers make it seem like Haley and director Samuel Bayer are actually attempting to make the character scary again. But the problem is that, um, I’ve already seen A Nightmare on Elm Street. Like, a lot. And no matter how good the remake may be, it’ll never recapture what made the original so great: namely, originality. Because part of the fun of low-budget horror is the queasy sense of uncertainty you get when you’re not really sure what you’re watching or what kind of weirdness the filmmaker has in store for you. And judging by those standards, horror fans would be hard-pressed to find anything more uniquely unnerving this (or any other) week than the icky, what the fuck? spectacle of Tom Six‘s The Human Centipede. So what do you think? Can I interest you in a little mad-scientist ass-to-mouth action?

SCOTT: Oh, I’ve been intrigued by The Human Centipede since it played Fantastic Fest in Austin last fall, when the ashen-faced viewers emerging from the screening described it in terms generally associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. The story of two American girls road-tripping through Europe who find themselves the prisoner of a psycho surgeon planning to stitch them into the titular creature has been described as one of the most disturbing and one of the most disgusting movies ever made — and it’s also "100% medically accurate"! (So claims the trailer, anyway, and who am I to argue?) Obviously I’m not going to pitch this as the ideal first-date movie of the week, but how can anyone who thinks they’ve already seen it all resist the opportunity to witness this groundbreaking binding of orifices? On second thought, nine out of ten people reading this can probably resist it very easily, but I doubt I’m one of them. And since we already covered Furry Vengeance the last time it was scheduled for release, that only leaves the latest from Lovely & Amazing director Nicole Holofcener, Please Give, to consider. A little Catherine Keener/Oliver Platt New York indie for ya this week?

ANDREW: I thought Furry Vengeance sounded familiar… and yet totally forgettable at the same time! And so we essentially come down to a three-way Rorschach test (and I’m not talking Jackie Earle Haley). On the one hand, there are some people who want their cinematic nightmares nostalgic and pre-digested. And then, there are those who want to see the middle section of a human centipede swallowing the post-digested waste of the first section. But me, I’ll take door #3, thank you very much. I mean, sure, I’m fairly curious about Mr. Six’s deeply disturbed/disturbing vision, and with the right mix of friends (and intoxicants), I’d probably have a fine old time subjecting myself to it. In terms of movies I actually want to see, however, the only real choice this week is the latest effete indie comedy from Holofcener (who, in addition to Lovely & Amazing, also auteured Walking and Talking and Friends With Money). To be honest, I don’t even care what her latest movie is about: I simply dig Holofcener’s sardonic sensibility and flawed but relatable characters (who live in a neighborhood somewhere between Noah Baumbach‘s caustic misanthropes and Miranda July‘s loopy eccentrics). I also like the cast (including Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet, as well as Platt and the writer/director’s go-to muse, Keener), and the fact that I won’t have to give my eyes and brain a Silkwood shower after watching (unless Platt has a nude scene or something). And since I’ll definitely be giving Please Give my popcorn money this weekend, it seems we may once again be segmenting off into another Top One Movie split decision!

SCOTT: It looks that way, especially since I’ve somehow managed to miss all of Holofcener’s work to date (off to the Netflix queue!) and the trailer for Please Give is a little too heavy on sassy grandma jokes to really rope me in. I may catch up with the new version of Nightmare eventually, but this weekend I’ll be taking the bullet for all of us, barf bag in hand, and subjecting myself to the stomach-churning horrors of Human Centipede. See you all next week… if I survive.

Andrew’s Top One Movie of the Week: Please Give

Scott’s Top One Movie of the Week: The Human Centipede

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