Monday, December 24, 2012

Movies: Like a little lump of coal for your hoilday horror film stocking.


What actress reads a script that dispatches her by rape/murder-by-snowman's-nose-carrot and thinks, "All right! This is a film a have to be part of!"? That's not a rhetorical question. The answer is Shannon Elizabeth. 

This is the only question to which the answer is Shannon Elizabeth.

Jack Frost, the '97 straight-to-video flick starring a serial killer turned snowman, is one of those films that seems to believe that you can mitigate your suckiness by admitting to the audience that you're aware of your suckiness. It's called Carsoning. David Foster Wallace once wrote a 1,700 page essay on the phenomenon and in the footnote to the 3,245th endnote in the third appendix of the second volume of the CD supplement, he defined Carsoning as preempting criticism of a creative act by overtly taking a critical stance to it yourself within the creative act. Done well, you groan before you tell the joke, before the audience does, and you've shifted the emphasis of the humor to your empathic link with the audience and you're now banded together in mutual mockery of a crappy joke, even though you told the crappy joke.

Here's the problem, there needs to be some element of plausible denial for Carsoning to work. (This is why DFW was so baffled by the phenomenon and pondered why it was almost impossible for an artist to pull off.) Carson wasn't making fun of his own jokes: he was breaking the fourth wall, revealing explicitly the work of a writing staff, and acting as if he too was this staff's unwitting victim. 

To take an example closer to the world of horror flicks, think of MST3000. The concept worked for so long because they could act like they too were victims of the crappy flicks they shared with the audience. In fact, that was even part of the framing device of the show. Now imagine a show's whose premise is that the people making fun of the movies they showed you were also responsible for making the crappy movies. The result would be tedium.

Jack Frost is just that: a Möbius strip of mediocrity commenting on its own mediocrity. You haven't been that naughty this year. There's no reason to do this to yourself.