It may come as a shock to today's teens, but Scream wasn't the first horror
flick to be self-referential and genre-savvy. See, we children of the Eighties know
movies that reworked the classic monster-movie archetypes -- Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein -- to fit modern style and sensibility when Kevin Williamson was still in diapers, or at least in Members Only sportswear.
Far superior to Michael J. Fox's imminently forgettable Teen Wolf, the
other wolfman redux of the Eighties, American Werewolf in London, written
and directed by yukmeister John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers),
finds David Kessler (Naughton) backpacking through the moors of Scotland when he
and college pal Jack (Dunne) are mauled by a werewolf. Shipped off to a London hospital
and minus one shredded friend, Naughton recoups only to fulfill the prophecy of the
movie's title. Startling dream imagery and some flashes of gore poke fun at horror
movie archetypes, but are also genuinely scary. Anyone who endured last year's marginally
related Julie Delpy-Tom Everett Scott sequel can testify that 15-plus years of technical
wizardry sometimes don't mean diddly. Most enjoyable, however, is the goofy fun Landis
and company are having playing against audience expectations. And as the American
Werewolf at the center of it all, Naughton proves sarcastic, bright-eyed charmers
existed long before George Clooney was learning the Facts of Life.
In his campy vamp time capsule of Eighties chic, Schumacher uses a cast jam-packed
with Bop bigshots along with gory comic book goofiness to tell his story of
rock & roll nightstalkers in the fictional "murder capital of the world"
Santa Carla (real-life Santa Cruz). For these wayward cool kids of the night, it's
all mesh tops and mousse, long hair and leather jackets (plus one dangling earring).
But equally as interesting is looking at these actors in terms of their career tracks:
Watch then-unknown Jason Patric debut his chiseled jaw and ram heads with then-cool
Kiefer Sutherland years before they were rivals for Julia Roberts' love; watch Jami
Gertz in her brief stint as a screen siren; watch the two Coreys at the 14-minute
mark; and who knew Dianne Wiest was in this thing? Unlike more complicated takes
in the vampire canon, Lost Boys maintains a fairly blue-collar attitude toward
the mythology: It's just holy water, blood sucking, and stakes through the heart
here. But like the memorable INXS soundtrack song of the same name, Schumacher is
more interested in giving us a "good time tonight," as he intersperses
shots of the glitzy, towering rollercoasters, the shrill cries of those riding it
out, all to remind us: Hey, you love this stuff.
Even sillier is Frankenhooker, the ridiculous cult knockoff of the gothic
classic that, although it opened at the beginning of this decade, still maintains
the Eighties offensiveness of a pre-PC era. When tinkering scientist Jeffrey's fiancée
is sliced and diced in a bizarre gardening accident, he seeks out the perfect body
with which to reassemble her sundry parts. Armed with his special strain of "supercrack,"
he lures a gaggle of big-bosomed, drug-loving hookers to his hotel room who, upon
smoking the stuff, are impelled to do such things as scamper about scantily clad,
rubbing each other in ecstasy until -- quicker than you can say Marion Barry -- their
bodies explode. It's easy to jeer at the appalling dearth of acting talent here,
or at the ludicrous plot barren of plausibility or suspense. It's simple to be provoked
by such angry, hostile treatment of female body parts. I contend, however, that it
is more difficult to find the traces of Mary Shelley's 19th-century novel. Okay,
it's impossible to find. But Frankenhooker does offer an assortment of laughs,
especially for the discriminating connoisseur of soft-core porn, and while not quite
as technically adept as the former two, any movie with a beefed-up überpimp
named Zorro fretting, "Where my bitches at?" gets my vote.