Monday, June 27, 2022

Where the Scary Things Are, Of Monsters and Children

The most wonderful monster movies that have touched us have always used the monsters as mirrors in which we see our own reflection. Frankenstein's creature wasn't the evil one, it was the wannabe God scientist and an antagonistic citizenry that proved the real monsters. The creature from "Creature from the Black Lagoon" wasn't the real monster, rather the real fiend was an invading and exploitative advanced civilization that caused the havoc. In 2020's "Where the Scary Things Are," B. Harrison Smith gives us a monster movie that may not only convict today's youth, but the society that has reared them. So get ready for a ride that may remind you more of "River's Edge" than "Stand by Me," only with a slimy, toothy monster as guide.
They're worse than Stephen King's children of the corn...modern day "Dockers." Technologically savvy high school kids who blackmail their way through life filming people doing sordid acts. This group of high school kids are their own worst enemies. Well meaning teachers, in this case Mr. Lewis (Paul Cottman) are neutered by an establishment who seems bent on society's ruination. The Dockers hang out (trespass) at a scare-amusement park which is closed for the season, "Field of Screams." The smart-phone kids are bent on filming the shocking and completing Mr. Lewis' assignment...document an urban legend of their own creation. What happens when figurative monsters look for real monsters? You'll see. Ayla (Selina Flanscha) has allure beyond her years and plays her fellow Dockers with guile and their own hormones.
The evilness of the kids is heartbreaking, especially the youngest one, Bran (Quinn Andrew Fickes). We initially see an Opie from The Andy Griffith Show, until he quickly assumes the demure of Malachi from the King story. Then the magic happens...the urban legend, "Lock Jaw" appears. Fear, shock, and pissing in pants gives way to opportunity (how many YouTube views is it worth?) for our Dockers. Our little monsters don't run from the real monster...nope...the little P.T. Barnums capture it, torture it, and exploit it. Uh oh...blackmail and embarrassment aren't the only weapons for our they have a monster. Sure, not all of our group is evil, and Ayla's sexiness (think Salma Hayak in "From Dusk to Dawn") wanes to certain members...but is it too late? The project gets out of hand and the nature of the evil and gore increase until a bloody 'point of no return' is neared.
Conviction and sober reflection don't combine to give us the feel good film of the decade...but perhaps "Where the Scary Things Are" can serve as a warning of where we have come...what we have created...and a plea to quickly change course. The "kids" who star in this film are brilliant and talented beyond their years and Mr. Smith's direction (and some genius cinematography by Matt Nease) enhance the performances and scares. This is a top-notch monster film which lacks sugar coating. Forget about DARE videos, or Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" PSAs... you this film with your teenagers and dive into some frank discussion. "Where the Scary Things Are," it'll scare you and just may edify your resolve to do better.

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