Monday Morning Critic – The Collection and The Difficult Of Sequels in General – Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Casual Sex and Friends With Benefits

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

You know what film interests me this weekend? The Collection. Why? Because it’s a horror movie sequel and making a sequel to a horror film might be one of the most difficult things to do when it comes to film-making in the modern cinematic era.

I will admit that horror as a genre isn’t something I tend to enjoy all that much; I see a lot of films per year so I like some variety in what I see. I think you can’t call yourself a fan of cinema to any degree if you specifically avoid any one thing in cinema; I try to have a nice cornucopia of films on my viewing list for any year. I think if you avoid genres you avoid some powerful cinema as well as you don’t fully develop your cinematic palette. I may detest horror as a genre because I consider it lazy film-making targeting the lowest common denominator but it has its place in the cinematic buffet.

It just doesn’t have a very high one in my mind. But crafting a good horror film is like any other genre; difficult. Bad films, of which the horror film has more than any other genre, are easy and cheap to make. It’s why plenty of hack directors start out in horror; you can make one much cheaper than an action film and if you stick to the tropes of the genre then it’s hard to make it noxiously bad. And its why many stay in them as well; finding someone to back a $50 million action film with a hard R is tough but $10 million for a horror film is easy money.

Look at how Paranormal Activity has become the latest with sequels that start production as soon as the first weekend’s box office receipts are counted; it may not be a massive profit every time around but studio fare in the horror variety is hard to lose money on when all is said and done. Commercially it’s hard to go bankrupt making horror films; creatively, though, trying to do anything beyond one film and one story is exceptionally tough in the genre.

The one thing every film franchise has a problem with is the art of the second film. It’s why there are only a rare handful of sequels that have met or exceeded the original in terms of quality. That’s not just for horror films; sequels are a tough go to do well because it’s more of a story-telling problem than anything else. It comes down to one question: How do you make something interesting again after telling a completed story the first time around?

It’s why horror sequels tend to fall hard in terms of quality for a second outing. You can’t open that same door twice; it’s why horror film sequels are more cash grabs than story-telling mechanisms. It’s why horror film sequels interest me on a pure story-telling level: is there something new to add to a first film that was successful becomes the problem.

The unique thing with horror films is that trying to craft an ongoing saga makes you have to do something radically different, or turn up the volume, to outdo a respectable first effort. You’ve already done things like the big reveal, et al, and the bad guy in a slasher film isn’t new or unique. You have to do something new with the killer, in this example, or else you just up repeating the first film but with new victims. And that’s the inherent problem with the slasher genre; most times a slasher sequel is just a slightly different version of the first film.

The only difference in Friday the 13th sequels usually is the setting; all you need is Jason Vorhees stabbing teenagers and you’re 99% of the way there story wise. Even the remake didn’t do anything new with the story, it just rebooted it. It’s why the sequel to The Collector becomes all that more interesting. This isn’t a sequel about a hooded bad guy collecting another victim, or so the trailer has us believe, and instead it’s about a victim leading a group of men into Hell to pull out someone trapped in it.

Will it be good? I don’t know. But it has sparked my curiosity.

Is changing the tone from the first, which is a torture porn film with a bad guy pulling the strings, into one with an action film premise behind it going to work? I don’t know. But it’s intriguing and intrigue does a lot for me as a fan of cinema. We’re given the tropes of the franchise, with some story-telling advancement, but now it has an action vibe in a way. Its part rescue film as well as part torture porn/slasher film from a trailer vibe so far.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Friends with Benefits

One of the great things about growing up in the era of female empowerment is that casual sex isn’t a taboo anymore; it’s almost encouraged in a lot of ways. Sometimes sex can be like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in modern dating; sometimes it’s serious and sometimes it’s sport. And leave it to Hollywood to make a film about having a sex buddy and then turn it into a traditional rom-com … twice in the same year, even. I believe they even shared the same title for a while.

The idea of exploring the emotional aspects of casual sex was the premise behind two films from 2011, Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached. The latter was a craptacular film with Ashton Kutcher douching his way through another film with Natalie Portman post-Oscar win. Friends with Benefits was quite good with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as the wacky couple who find out that sex complicates things.

Dylan (Timberlake) works for a Gawker type website in Los Angeles who’s brought to New York to interview for GQ by a recruiter (Kunis) who’s quite good at her job. When he accepts, and she quickly becomes a good friend, both decide to start having sex for fun instead of in pursuit of a long term romantic relationship. As they get closer the problem becomes that those pesky emotions come into play.

I reviewed it and my thoughts are pretty much the same on DVD. If anything the film works a bit more effectively on DVD than it does as a theatrical film. I enjoyed it immensely on DVD without the benefit of a theatrical audience because there’s a number of lines you miss because there are moments where this film is insanely brilliant on a comedic level.

Recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Collection – It’s time for Arkin (Josh Stewart) to lead a SWAT team or something to find the Collector.

See It – The first one wasn’t brilliant … but it had promise. The sequel could be the same.

Killing Them Softly – Brad Pitt’s a mob enforcer type trying to track down a bunch of crooks that ripped off a high stakes mob poker game.

See It – One of my favorite casts of the year so far, on paper, as you have Pitt sliming it up alongside Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini in a crime film.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (Limited Release) – JCVD and Dolph Lundgren are back as the Uni-Sols go all religious or something.

See It – The sequels to a fairly passable film have varied in quality but the latest DTV ones have actually been pretty good, at least that’s what I’ve read so far.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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