This Has Been a Test


As you might have guessed when I was running my Project Horror series, I really enjoy movies.  I don't get to watch as many as I did back when I was a childless bachelor, but that's probably for the best - it's good to leave the darkened room every now and then, right?  Whenever I'm asked what my favorite movies are, after listing off two or three of my all-time tops, I usually add, "But really I just enjoy any movie that can show me something new."

I can forgive a lot if you can just put something different on the screen.  I know people who will beg to differ (wassup, Scott?), but I think that Kevin Smith is just a terrible writer.  I still like Dogma, though, because it's a really interesting premise.  The low budget effects in the first Evil Dead and Dead Alive don't take away from the fact that they're still really great and fun horror movies.  Harrison Ford, star of Blade Runner (my very favorite movie) hates that movie, and calls it "a detective movie in which no actual detective work happens."  I don't agree with him, but even if I did I wouldn't care, because I don't think that anybody has ever presented a more breathtaking and believable look at a futuristic dystopia than Ridley Scott did in that film.

I was thinking of my "just show me something new" rule earlier this week while I watched a movie that I'd been kind of interested in, The Box.  You may remember the commercials from last year - a strange box is left on a family's doorstep, and a man visits them to tell them that if they push the button in the box two things will happen.  First, a person who they do not know will die.  Second, they will receive one million dollars, free of taxes.  I hear that this was also the plot of an old Twilight Zone episode, called "Button, Button," though I've never seen that episode.

What interested me going into this was the thought of watching the characters make and deal with their decision.  Let's be honest, you know that they aren't going to push the button and live happily ever after - there's bound to be some kind of monkey's paw twist.  (Also, I find Cameron Diaz pretty easy on the eyes, and kind of enjoy her in dramatic roles, even if she's not exactly Streeping it out there.)

Here's what was disappointing, though.  It really barely touched on that aspect of the story at all.  It turned into a mystery-thriller as they tried to discover the backstory of the guy who brought the box and the money, and it turned into a muddled mess that falls apart if you examine it too closely.  SPOILERS FOLLOW  Worst of all, the big twist is that the box and whether people push the button is actually a test given to humans by an advanced alien race to see if we are deserving of continued existence.  Seriously?

Do you know why nobody cared about The Others, even though it was a pretty good movie?  Because all of us had already seen The Sixth Sense.  Some twists are so bold that they can work only once, and as soon as The Box revealed that holier-than-thou aliens were testing us I immediately thought of all the other movies that had beaten it to that punch - The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Forgotten, and Dark City all come to mind, and that's without even thinking too hard about it.  Dark City is the only one on that list that really nails it, IMHO.

Thanks for indulging my trip into movie snobbery.


Will Meekin said...

While I agree with your critical theory and would like to subscribe to your newsletter, if you ever "IMHO" again, I'm coming for you with a pillow.

The living Will.

Danny said...

Yeah, it felt weird, but I went with it. Somehow it seemed less pretentious than actually typing out "in my humble opinion," but the trade-off is that it's more stupid.

When you mention coming for me with a pillow, though, it makes me think of Nicholson and the Chief in Cuckoo's Nest, and wish that I could see you smash out a window with a water fountain.

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