Tim Burton is all about extremes. Though his most recent film, BIG EYES, was a fairly straightforward biopic, his earlier films were stylistically far departures from our typical realities. Often his films feature two opposing factions, and the fun part begins when the two halves meet. BEETLEJUICE is where the dead met the living. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (which Burton produced, but did not direct) is where Christmas meets Halloween. The fissure between worlds in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is much easier to see and feel than it is to describe. While there are many obvious ways to contrast Edward’s (Johnny Depp) world with the suburban pressure cooker he briefly visits, it can be especially interesting to look at the role of industry and mass production in these two worlds, as that is where Burton is especially murky.
Author: Deirdre Crimmins
Certain films have an aura. These are the films people talk about, though few people have actually seen them. There is a myth, a legend, surrounding their production or distribution that makes the film’s presence in cinematic history much greater than the sum of its parts.
Vampires are arguably the most attractive classification of monster. They may want to kill people because they need our blood to live, but that is the lethal end of their powers of human seduction. They are often beautiful, frozen in the prime of their youth. They are wealthy, as their immortality grants them the ability to live long past their mortgage and student loan payments. They are learned and worldly. Authors from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice have recognized this innate sexiness, which has then been brought to screen by actors from Bela Lugosi to Brad Pitt.
“I hate cul-de-sacs. There’s only one way out, and the people are kind of weird.”
THE ‘BURBS makes me anxious. Leaving aside the fact that I saw it far too young (either my babysitter or my parents were under the impression that it was a loveable Tom Hanks comedy; my sister and I both lost sleep because of their mistake) the film still leaves me twitching in my seat. It is funny, but never light, and honestly creepy. The film’s isolation and insulation are the major sources for my angst and the genuine sources for the horror in THE ‘BURBS.
Horror films can have sadness behind them. For every ax-wielding maniac, gleefully chopping his way through a sorority, there is a vampire damned to lonely immortality. I’ve always been struck by the sadness looming at the heart of the werewolf. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON tries to keep the mood light with tongue-in-cheek music and stunning practical effects, but still cannot avoid the tragedy of the werewolf.
I’ve always felt a certain comfort with Luc Besson’s THE FIFTH ELEMENT. This comfort is not due to its relatability, or emotional connection to the characters. In fact, I am grateful to not know what it feels like to have the weight of the universe riding on my shoulders or to have any friends with even a passing resemblance to the aurally offensive Ruby Rhod. The comfort comes from the completeness of the world that Besson creates in the film. It is inclusive and whole, and each time I visit that world it feels like a second home.
Passion inspires. It can drive the creation of beauty but can also cause profound pain. Crimes of passion are especially heartbreaking because intense passion make lovers blind to the outcome of their actions. Their love and lust can spin them into a state where reason and logic are no longer in charge. Revenge, reaction, and punishment are the only things that matter to someone blinded by their passion. Blinded by lust, consequences of actions, long or short term, are not anywhere on the mind of someone in the throes of rage. Where sex meets drama and horror, these crimes of passion make for engaging cinema.
TANK GIRL is a bit of a conundrum. Given the film’s 1995 release and its uniquely 1990s aesthetic is should have been a runaway hit, but instead it flopped at the box office. Big time. Perhaps what set it apart from its contemporaries made it tough for audiences to approach, but these characteristics are also what make it the cult classic that it is today.
The appeal of TREMORS has always baffled me. Not that I dislike the film; it will always hold a place in my monster-loving heart. But rather, I’ve always wondered why the film has such a cult following. I had always thought of it as a slightly campy Kevin Bacon vehicle with no real distinctive features, but on closer inspection I was wrong. TREMORS does set itself aside from the rest of the creature features of its era, and in doing so created a lasting legacy for those darn Graboids.
Artistic depictions of our future can be bleak. Stories of dystopia are so commonplace that we are now accustomed to images of our collective descent into a totalitarian society with limited natural resources. Seeing yet another film that depicts humanity as a wasteland has become familiar. HARDWARE (1990) takes place in a future version of the earth where the government has removed the citizen’s right to procreation as the cities are overcrowded. However, there are greater things to fear in the film.