Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Truest Test of Endurance

.Last week, I considered the lack of obesity in horror films. Despite their tendencies to consume heavy amounts of calorie laden beer and hungry inspiring drugs, most victims in standard releases still maintain a striking physical resemblance to catalog models. At the same time--and much more realistically--most lack the endurance to last long against giant madmen, black magic enhanced hunters, or highly infectious carnivores. 

Hence, this week I look at a few films that cleverly cast characters with the physical aptitude to fight off your typical horror villains. Not all survive and not all the films are any good, but each deserves a little credit for amassing some worthy warriors. 

Mulberry Street

This surprisingly good After Dark series entry brings the fast vampiric zombie sub-genre into the streets of Manhattan. Not the most revolutionary premise, but Mulberry Street does earn some innovative points for the diversity--both in age and ethnicity--of its featured cast. Middle aged immigrants, elderly hermits, and a few believable teens make a refreshingly real cast, but it’s the skillful integration of physical fitness into everyday New Yorkers that gives some impressive action. Credit goes to writers Nick Damici and Jim Mickle for finding creative ways to smoothly squeeze athletic characters into the story. A retired boxer, recent Iraq war veteran, and beefy bouncer can hold their own against rat-bitten barflies. And while it’s always fun to watch regular folks torn apart by infected cannibals, seeing the victims put up a kickass fight is far more rewarding.

Jeepers Creepers 2

Dead teenager films are more common than me getting angry at Emmy snubs, but rarely do the adolescent victim bodies prove to be worth more than their Gap provided wardrobe. Victor Salva’s followup to the surprisingly spry Jeepers Creepers strands a busload of high school basketball players and the least perky cheerleading squad in cinema history on a dusty mountain road, where a very hungry monster is busy cramming in his supper before a 23 year hibernation. While the premise sets up the possibility of teamwork and game plans, the endgame is far less interesting as the kids would rather squabble with thinly veiled racism than apply court lessons to a man-eating creature. 


Don’t let the fluffy haired era of Kevin Bacon’s early career fool you. Whether it’s a strict Baptist city council or the power of Meryl Streep, America’s most ubiquitous actor is a force to be reckoned with. When backed by NRA poster couple Michael Gross and Reba MacEntire, Alcatraz ex-con Fred Ward, and surprisingly adept practical pole vaulter Finn Carter, gigantic prehistoric earthworms don’t stand a chance. 

Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday

Does Neil Marshall get partial financing from Bally’s Total Fitness or that guy outside my subway that hands out postcards every morning for a three week bootcamp? From highly trained soldiers to fully ripped spelunkers to plague surviving action heroes, each of his genre films has featured a fully fit cast ready to fight back against any threat, whether it comes in the form of werewolves, cavemen, or cannibalistic punks. Sure, the body count is high in all three films, but nobody goes down without first inflicting serious damage. 

Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4

When it comes to teenagers, Freddy Krueger has predictable tastes. He likes ‘em young, pretty, and generally ectomorphic. Occasionally, he takes a break from Seventeencover girls and slim pretty boys to hunt tougher prey, such as the dive team champ of Part 5. In Renny Harlin’s fourth installment, Freddy hits the gym and zeros in on some of the fittest adolescents ever seen in 1990s cinema. There’s the muscleman Kincaid, whose clearly been bulking up after nearly losing his life in Part 3, and a karate kid wannabe with a sadly inadequate training regime, plus a Kafka-esque kill which I regularly use to justify my aversion to toning. Sure, Freddy also cheats his diet a bit to eat some pizza and a few weaker pickings (like the asthmatic science nerd and 90 pound weakling that can’t even beat up a water bed), but all that filler ultimately leads up to a showdown with a physically/mentally/spiritually empowered wallflower who finds her inner Karate Kid Part III. Hilary Swank salutes you.

Resident Evil

Some filmgoers can only watch so many decaying corpses feed on helpless living creatures before it just gets old. In this era of Z-Day Awareness, we horror fans want our living dead to be challenged and our survivors to be smart. Thankfully, Raccoon City is fully equipped with resourceful SWAT teams able to navigate (somewhat) Cube-esque slicing traps and hordes of hungry zombies. By the sequel, heroine Alice gets enough biogenetic enhancements to conquer a newly bred man-beast with power that would make Mark Maguire strike out with envy. The third film does one better by turning Alice into such a machine that no fast running flesh eater or post-apocalyptic hillbilly stands a chance. More importantly, Alice gets her own posse in the form of a battle scarred caravan. None are particularly badass (nor is the film particularly good), but at least they fight well enough to convince us why they’ve survived a few rounds of good old fashioned noshing.

So hit the gym, drink your protein shakes, and add a few of your own well-trained horror casts that make those bad guys work for their dinner. 

No comments:

Post a Comment