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Red Eye
Review written by: Alex Sandell

As a horror film fan, I've had a love/hate relationship with Wes Craven since I can remember.  Despite its rabid cult following, I couldn't stand The Last House on the LeftThe Hills Have Eyes had its moments and was definitely worth watching, but I considered it overrated.  Deadly Blessing was an embarrassment that I'd just soon forget.  As a fan of the Swamp Thing comic, watching Wes's campy film version made me feel like I was being ass-raped by a chainsaw, but somehow I enjoyed the cheese factor of the whole thing (could it be the masochist in me?).  

And then came A Nightmare on Elm Street

Even though I couldn't help but notice the startling similarities between it and the underrated Dreamscape (both were released the same year), I was enamored with this tale of a former child murderer haunting teenagers in their dreams.  This was terror.  This was nearly as good as it gets.  I was no longer a Wes Craven observer, but a fan.  And then Wes goes and follows Elm Street up with The Hills Have Eyes Part II -- one of the worst horror movies ever made.  But I was a fan now, and I was going to stick around to see what the bearded one came up with next.

Next up was Deadly Friend.  A comedy, drama, romance, horror hybrid that, when combined, turned into a stinky piece of shit.  It was becoming harder and harder to remain a fan of Wes Craven.  Maybe the guy was simply a hack who got lucky, like Harry Knowles.  I officially decided that I would no longer be a fan of Craven's, if his next movie was as bad as his last.  It wasn't, but it wasn't very good, either. 

It was The Serpent and the Rainbow.  It looked promising.  The ads were terrifying.  The movie was sort of just "meh."  It was supposed to be the origin of zombies, but it played more like the Movie of the Week on the non-existent Hellmark channel.  Things weren't looking good.  Wes had made one great movie and followed it up with three stinkers.  Surely, his next film would be a classic.  Right?

Wrong.  It was the flaccid flick Shocker, and it was Craven's attempt at starting another franchise similar to the A Nightmare on Elm Street series he began 5 years earlier.  Some guy gets sent to the electric chair and somehow uses the electricity to come back from the dead.  The movie blows, it tanks at the box-office and there is never a sequel.  Next!

Wes went back to his roots with The People Under the Stairs.  While not as gritty and gruesome as The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, the film was just twisted enough to get the job done.  Craven fans rate this one anywhere between "classic" and "crap."  I liked it and thought of it as a minor comeback, after 7 years of trash.  It was good enough to call myself a Wes Craven fan again, without hanging my head in shame.   

But Wes had done this before.  He got my hopes up with a quality movie only to create the cinematic equivalent of a tampon bag with his next film.  I wasn't going to go easy on the guy.  His next film had to be something special, or I was going to have to find another horror writer and director to be a fan of.  Trust me, in the mid-nineties, there wasn't much of a choice.  Fortunately, Wes delivered. 

Wes Craven's New Nightmare came out in 1994.  Technically, this was the 7th A Nightmare on Elm Street film, but Craven filmed it like chapters 2-6 never existed.  Even the first one, which he directed, was only a movie.  In A New Nightmare it turned out that Freddy was some evil entity that was content until they stopped making sequels.  Wes got most of the cast back from the first film to play themselves, rather than their characters, and created something self-referential and special.  The film doesn't live up to the original, but it's better than any of the sequels.  It's an excellent movie and I was proud to be a Wes Craven fan.  Sadly, the concept was above the heads of the general public and the film fizzled at the box-office, leading Wes to make his worst movie of all time ... Vampire in Brooklyn.

Vampire in Brooklyn was the first Wes Craven film I walked out of, at the theater.  I did watch the entire thing on video (there's that masochistic side of me, again), but it was almost as painful as the doctor ripping the catheter from my penis when I had a bladder infection.  Eddie Murphy played a vampire from the Caribbean Islands and the audience avoided the film like the plague.  That was it.  With 2 great movies and one good film, out of the 7 he had made since A Nightmare on Elm Street, I was through with this guy.  and had stopped being a fan.  Then he goes and directs Scream

While no classic, Scream revived the slasher genre.  For that alone, I owe it more praise than I do my mother for giving me birth, or my dog for learning how to sit in less than 15 minutes.  This was Wes Craven's official comeback.  Just when I stopped being a fan, everyone else started worshipping the man.  I thought Wes did a better job with similar "wink-wink" material in A New Nightmare, but Scream was enough to make me a "sort of" fan, again.  I was sure he'd follow it up with a disaster like Vampire in Brooklyn 2: The Adventures of Pluto Nash.  Instead he went with Scream 2

Scream 2 was an overlong sequel too full of itself to be considered anything more than mediocre, but it didn't tarnish Craven's name in the way films such as Shocker and Deadly Friend did.  It had its scary moments, and frightened the kids to the tune of 100+ million dollars.  If anything, it was Kevin Williamson's wanna-be epic screenplay that got in the way of creating a sequel worthy of the first.  At this point, I started hoping Craven would distance himself from the Scream series and do something entirely different.  Unskillfully, he did 

Craven made Music of the Heart.  While not bad, as far as formulaic "school teacher saves inner-city kids from themselves" stories go, the movie itself wasn't that interesting.  For his big departure from the horror genre, Wes should have done something a bit more original.  Something as thought-provoking and previously unseen as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  The "paint-by-numbers" story didn't help at the box-office and Craven's long-stated dream of escaping the horror genre didn't come to fruition.  In an attempt to gain back his reputation as the master of horror, he went with the most predictable of all movies and directed Scream 3

People familiar with my reviews know that I'm not a blunt individual (any more than I'm sarcastic), but I have to say Scream 3 sucked.  The stop-motion Abominable Snowman featured in that Rudolph Christmas Special that airs every year was more terrifying than anything in Scream 3. My ex-postman's overbite was more chilling. Repeats of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood contained more surprises. There was not a single scene in the movie that made me jump, and never once did one-time horror maestro, Wes Craven, take the time to build up adequate suspense.  "Fuck Wes," I thought, "I'm a fan no more." 

Five years went by without a Wes Craven movie.  I'm guilty to admit that I was slightly grateful.  The guy had more misses than he had hits and Scream 3 really destroyed any leftover sympathy I had for him as a filmmaker.  Then he releases Cursed.  This did not do the guy any favors.  A schlocky low-budget film with the production values of Swamp Thing, and none of the campy fun.  This one was even worse than the dreaded Scream 3.  You saw the ending coming from a mile away.  And no horror movie, none, should have had an ending as deliriously happy as Cursed.  I felt like I accidentally walked into Pooh's Heffalump Movie.  This movie left me convinced that Wes Craven had finally and totally lost it, and would never make a good movie again.  Then he proves me wrong with Red Eye.  I really hate when he does that. 

Red Eye isn't the perfect thriller, but during the first hour on the plane, you will be on the edge of your seat.  Before boarding, the wait in the terminal becomes tense.  Clues are dropped throughout, in a way that reminded me of Wes Craven's New Nightmare.  When asked if she can handle flying alone, a young girl responds, "I'm 11, not 9."  There you have your 9/11.  An elderly lady says she wears combat boots, because flying is war. 

At the heart of the film is Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams), returning to Florida from her grandmother's funeral and Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), there to hold her hostage and demand that Lisa, as a top manager of an elite motel (don't these people realize folks are starving in other countries?) change the room of Homeland Security Dude, Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia) from the one he's set to stay in -- with his family -- to one that is easily bombed from a fishing boat in the ocean just outside the motel.  If she doesn't, her father will be killed. 

The security crew around Keefe is told that the plumbing is messed up in the room they were going to stay in (and the shit would literally hit the fan) and they must be transferred.  Suspension of disbelief is heavily needed, being that there is no way security would let Keefe and his family change rooms and, at the very least, there is no way they wouldn't check out the plumbing to make sure it really isn't working.

The movie feels like an average episode of the superb show, 24.  While it's nerve-wracking, it constantly has you scratching your head and asking, "Why?"  Why are they giving pillows and why is everyone asleep on a 3 hour flight?  Why didn't security move Keefe and family to the backup motel?  Why is the 11-year-old girl the only one who suspects anything?  If you can suspend disbelief, the movie works on many levels.

Cillian Murphy is perfect as Jackson Rippner.  The guy is as creepy as the USA Patriot Act.  Rachel McAdams shows incredible range playing "people-pleaser," Lisa Reisert.  A year or two ago she was unbearably nasty in Mean Girls.  Now she comes off as the nicest person in existence.  Lindsay Lohan is going to have to get a third pair of breast implants and dump the Love Bug, if she wants to compete with her talented former co-star.

Despite Jackson Rippner's silly Freddy Krueger voice toward the end of the film and the lame action finale, this is a nail-biting, suspenseful 90 minutes at the movies.  Wes Craven, spotty director as he is, got it right this time.  Hop aboard for the thrill-ride of the summer!  As for me, I'd consider myself a fan of Craven's, again.  But just wait until next year, when he directs something like The Hills Have Eyes III:  Mission to Moscow.

Agree, disagree, do you wish you had a better education?  Email Alex!

RECENT REVIEWS (click here to see ALL films reviewed in the last six months):

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The Brothers Grimm
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The Great Raid
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The Devil's Rejects
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Fantastic 4
War of the Worlds
Land of the Dead
Batman Begins
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

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