Creepy and disturbing black comedy–film at eleven

Last night, I flipped the channel to the weirdest “modern” (1996) movie I’ve seen since Terry Southern retired and paid the ferryman. It only got one star from the built-in TiVo and cable system blurb artists, but I think that’s because they didn’t “get” it or didn’t like the concept. It was actually a twisted retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood,” but only the beginning and ending were LRRH so much. I don’t know if I can even describe it, but any film in which Kiefer Sutherland begins to look and perform like his famous dad (and in which Reese Witherspoon gets to start out overacting, but then manages to make me believe about halfway through)–AND in which Brooke Shields protects her serial-killer hubby, then realizes he was a kiddie porn artist and kills herself–is unusual. It’s a black comedy like “Dr. Strangelove” in some sense.

_FREEWAY_ was actually made for theatrical release. It’s a dark, Tarantino-esque and scathing satire/parody on one hand, slamming the media culture we live in and making fun of society’s fascination with serial killers, out-of-control types, and outright psychopaths. But it also shows how an innocent can be caught up in a web that changes and shapes her. Reese’s character goes from a girl who defends herself from the serial killer to someone who attacks a guard and has no remorse. I couldn’t believe the scriptwriter got away with leaving in the most telling part of the scene in which she (spoiler alert) shoots the serial killer–before she pulls the trigger, she exacts the confession that he accepts Jesus as his lord and Savior (so he’ll be redeemed and can go to Heaven) and then she prays for forgiveness. Usually, movies don’t put in things like that, in my experience.

But this one lets you know up front that you’d better put on your suspenders of disbelief and expect them to be stretched to the breaking point, kind of the same way with Seven, Kalifornia, Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, and parts of Beetlejuice. (And it reminds me of Peckinpah in the degree of violence shown. Or Polanski in his “Macbeth” period.) It’s surreal while being hyper-real. It touches on trailer trash culture, the conflict between “white trash” and “Yuppies,” explores whether anyone would be that upset if a serial killer confined himself to hookers, and so forth. But then again, it doesn’t. I might be reading a lot into it, but it says something that my husband sat there and watched the whole thing with me, while goggling and staring slackly at the screen. He also “got” it. It really belongs at an indie film fest or something. It was artsy in that trashy way. Disturbing, gritty, macabre, and just plain freaky. But it really is a work of art, if you can see it in the right light.

If you think you can deal with the paradigm bending, watch it when it comes back on cable or pluck the DVD out of the bargain bin at WallyWorld. (But don’t let kids under eighteen watch; for one thing, the language and situations are aaack, but for another, the serial killer character survives all those shots [impossible and implausible and couldn’t really happen] but is hideously disabled and disfigured, and viewers have to cope with Kiefer Sutherland uglified–it’s like in that episode of Daria when the crazy angry teacher makes the football QB Kevin wear the fake wart and scars and such for a week to see how ugly people are treated differently, a little bit. But then they “rehab” him to the point that he can come after her, which is also implausible after a couple of point-blank shots to the head, et al. Some kids would get the idea you could survive that, and the truth is that lesser wounds leave people vegetables and dead, and they shouldn’t get any ideas. Really, it’s supposed to be a black comedy, and it *is*, so don’t let younger kids watch. It kind of kept me up for a few hours shaking off the effects, and I’m a tough ol’ cookie.)

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Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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