Monday, August 9, 2010

Liz and Richie

In light of Buzz's Amy's not giving herself over entirely to the evening. Note that the point which ties the alternating shots together remains a skull and dice, symbols of playful risk and unintended consequences. One wonders sometimes how nerdy Richie and knockout Liz got together. Because he's fun? Like Buzz, Liz wants Amy to "loosen up," and Richie's whole outlook on life is predicated on not taking anything seriously.

Liz's mixed feelings are again shown silently and naturally in the context of a lame stoned joke and small talk from Buzz and Richie. Hooper's occasional marijuana use on film is the only blatant remnant of his Austin hippie roots. The fact he snuck it into the Spielberg-produced Poltergeist is incredible. Here in The Funhouse it's probably one of the more true to life details in any teen movie, as these kids smoke their way into the night without judgment from Hooper. This pair of double dates are real characters, not body count teen meat, and they don't bring punishment on themselves the way a throwaway stoner might take sole ownership of the drug use and its fatal consequences in any other slasher. They're simply teens getting high in places teens get high, the bad behavior contributing to a greater whole which, as JR puts it, "ruminates on the seeming bankrupt logic that is the teenager's impulse towards defecting from the safety of the parental bubble (as imperfect as it could be) to the dark side (or dark theater) of sex and violence."

Joey's metaphorical descent from his safe child's room of phony monsters downstairs into the dangerous real world of grown-up thrills.

As Hooper wrote in the introduction to Robert Englund's autobiography Hollywood Monster, tiny moments turn movies into art. He was referring to a particular acting moment of Englund's, but I think this philosophy can also be seen in silent moments like this brief parking lot duel. Did screenwriter Larry Block actually direct traffic as the kids parked their car, or was Hooper struck with inspiration? The fact the actors are actually inside makes me think this was an improvisation. Either way, it's a great little people-are-assholes moment to help ground the movie in reality.

In a careful diopter shot, great chemistry between Berridge and Cooper Huckabee as he pours on the charm and apologizes for what he said about "the old man." By the way, Cooper Huckabee can currently be seen on the hit show "True Blood."

"I don't think they're hitting it off well. Did they have a fight?"

"Of course they're hitting it off."

"Buzz is a terrific guy."

"You know Richie, when you're stoned, Charles Manson is a terrific guy."

Right on the heels of casual toking comes this snide little anti-pot rejoinder in the odd context of bankrupt teenage logic. Liz's isn't right because Buzz is a bad guy, she's right because pot clouds your judgment and helps someone like Richie maintain the illusions that everything's a joke, there's no danger for the young, and every idea that sounds fun is a good one. This is why he's going to end up getting himself and his friends killed. Some of the Manson family thought they were just in it for fun, until s*** suddenly got real.

Carnivals are supposed to be safe. Most adults know better. Unless you're visiting the Orange County Super Fair or a carnival in the back of a high school parking lot,  you should expect some potential danger and a few glimpses of the seedier side of life. As per Buzz's rebuke to Amy about her father's conerns, if you're a fecklessly thrill seeking teenager you're probably hoping to get some "action." Hooper hints at the underlying dirt to come by placing a single derelict outside the carnival gate, whom Richie glances at for just the half-second reserved by middle class people for the homeless.

A truce is made at the cost of a parental warning, in the name of not spoiling anyone's good time.