FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Sep 11, 2009

opening this weekend: the bite-sized edition

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: Whiteout is not a horror movie. Anyone who's read the 1998 mini-series/graphic novel (or the follow-up, Whiteout: Melt) knows it's a murder mystery. The ad campaign, however, makes the film seem like it's a supernatural creature feature or some such, along the lines of John Carpenter's The Thing. It's not.

It is, however, a pretty terrible movie.

US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is about to end her tenure at a research post in Antarctica- she sought the harsh, remote clime after her time with the Miami PD came to a bloody, abrupt end. Days before she's to ship out to the states, however, a body is found on the ice. Signs point to homicide, and as Stetko gets her detective on, more bodies pile up.

There's not much that Whiteout gets right, and it becomes obvious rather quickly why Dark Castle/Warner Brothers have kept it on a shelf for two years. Greg Rucka (who wrote the comic but, interestingly, not the screenplay- it took four other writers to do that) is rather known for his strong (and flawed) female characters, and on the page, Carrie Stetko is no exception. Here, she's given to exclaiming "Oh my God!" repeatedly as she bumbles her way through her investigation. Most puzzling- and, to an extent, infuriating- is the fact that we're introduced to her via a lengthy, completely gratuitous shower scene. The camera lingers on Kate Beckinsale's underwear-clad ass as she bends over, then we watch her stand on tiptoes in the steam so long that the audience starts giggling. Though it's far too obvious and silly a sequence, it might make a little sense if Stetko were at all sexualized throughout the rest of the film- but she's not. There's no romance, and nothing erotic or sensual about the character otherwise. "Degrading" is almost an appropriate word to use to describe it, but not in the sense of that age-old (and usually erroneous) "nudity in horror degrades women argument"- rather, it's degrading to the character. Beckinsale's wooden performance doesn't help, although she's not given much to work with.

Whiteout feels like a film that was made for the visually impaired- characters continually describe exactly what it is they're doing at the moment. Add to that flashback after flashback after descriptions of flashbacks we've seen as we see the flashbacks again, and the film becomes a dull, never-ending mobius strip of suck. When the words SIX MONTHS LATER flashed on screen at one point, I was sure it was real-time and half a year had gone by since I'd sat down. Six months is a long time, and so is ninety minutes- spend your ticket money on the comic books if you want entertainment.

While Whiteout isn't at all what the trailers convince you it is, Sorority Row totally is. Neither really good nor really bad, it's brainless horror movie fun, far more in line with I Know What You Did Last Summer than the source material- although there's one very subtle, sort of clever, blink and you'll miss it nod to the original.

It's a decent date movie- a few scares, a few laughs, some blood, some vicious kills, and an under-utilized Carrie Fisher...just like the trailers promised. Truth in advertising FTW!


Paul Matwychuk said...

That shower scene really is shameless... it went on for so long that after a while, I assumed some plot point was going to be established. "Surely there's some storytelling reason why we're spending so much screentime on this sequence," right? Nope... it's just a gratuitous bit of T&A.

The only explanation I can think of is that some studio executive took a look at the movie and decided they weren't paying Kate Beckinsale to spend two hours hiding underneath heavy sweaters and thick winter coats.

Mr Shrubber said...

I saw Sorority Row yesterday and I thought it stank, particularly when compared to the original (the director of which is credited as an executive producer here - I suppose that means that the remake has his blessing). Still, Carrie Fisher was fun. "Come to mama!"

(And yes, I did spot the nod to the original. Didn't improve the movie one bit.)

Stacie Ponder said...

The shower scene was so ridiculous that during the press conference the next day, a male journalist asked, essentially, WTF? before I could! Greg Rucka lamely tried to claim that it tied into the Miami flashbacks, which was just total and complete bullshit. Beckinsale's response to the question was simply "Sometimes, you just do what you're told". Would have been worth exploring that answer if it was a 1:1!

Sorry you didn't like Sorority Row! I wouldn't expect a simple nod to make a film any better- just noting it was there as a fun easter egg for fans of the original.

Anonymous said...

wait what's the nod the the original sorority row?!

Jeff McMahon said...

Hey Stacie, thanks for letting us all know to skip Whiteout. I have a thing for snowy horror movies but since this isn't actually one of them, I can save my time.

Mr Shrubber said...

@ Anonymous: Now that would be telling.

@ Stacie: I kinda had high expectations of SR, but it was all very tame (it is rated a 15 in the UK). Still, I enjoyed spotting the moments where the filmmakers lost the plot and thought they were actually remaking Black Christmas. Speaking of which, that remake also contained a not-so-very-subtle nod to the original, which increased my enjoyment of it immeasurably.

Stacie Ponder said...

No problem, Jeff! I really hate that they've made Whiteout seem like a horror film through the ads. It's going to suffer as Bug did, from not being what people expect. Bug, however, was a good movie regardless! :D

See, Mr. Shrubber, I had NO expectations of SR- or rather, I simply expected to be entertained. And I was...of course, my friends and I spent 20 minutes afterward essentially rewriting 1) the identity of the killer, and 2) rewriting the existing killer's motivations. It could have used some help, for sure, but as a popcorn-matinee-date movie, I thought it was pretty decent.

Theron said...

I just hate that they took a great comic and trashed it onscreen. I know it still exists separate from the film, but I fear the book will now carry the stench.