Retro Reviews: Where the Wild Things Are, The Incredible Hulk and A New Nightmare


A brief look at some of the random movies that hit my radar this week.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Where the Wild Things Are (based on the popular children’s book of the same name) tells that tale of Max, a troubled and lonely single child who escapes into his own personal fantasy world when real life because a little too much for him.

While absolutely gorgeous to look at, I personally found this movie a real chore to get through.

This is a movie about being a  child, and is told entirely from our young leads point of view. The movie abandons conventional storytelling to concentrate on visualizing the random and scatter-brain thoughts and ideas of a child at play in his own mind. Unfortunately, this intriguing concept is actually my biggest problem with the movie. With a child’s mind being the instigator of the events of the movie, things like logic and narrative simply do not have a place here. Events just happen because our protagonist wills them too. There is no actual story arch to follow – just one random moment after the other.

One minute Max and his furry friends (who each symbolize a different aspect of his character, which sounds cleverer than it actually is) decide to build a giant fort – just for the hell of it! Then they decide to run around the forest for a bit, then they stop to talk non-sense for a few scenes then some more running around the forest! In fact, there is so much running through the woods in this movie that it gives The Blair Witch Project a run for its money.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Max makes some new friends, does stuff then decides he wants to go home – and so does. End of movie. We have not been taken on an imaginative and mystical journey, the character hasnt learnt anything about himself and the entire middle act of the movie has no pay-off. To make matters worse, the fact that this is all taking place in Max`s mind means that there is never truly any sense of danger or concern for the characters because it is literally impossible for anything bad to really happen to them. This fact alone makes it difficult to really invest in what is going on because the reality of what we are seeing is of no consequence.

On top of that, the movies lead (played by the incredibly named Max Records) is impressive from an acting perspective but also horribly unlikable. This bratty boys life is a hell of a lot better than some poor kids upbringing and so his anger and poor me mentality gets very annoying, very quickly – leaving me with the overwhelming desire to ship him off to Gary Glitters house for a reality check. 

Dont get me wrong, the creature effects and the cinematography are a real joy to behold and the almost experimental approach to its storytelling is nobel. It just didn’t really work for me.

To summarize, I was sadly completely un-engaged by anything that happened in this movie. I didn’t connect with it emotionally and found it be about as coherent and entertaining as the sugar-fueled ramblings of a toddler. Oh, and the less said about its mildly pleasant, yet massively pretentious indie pop soundtrack the better.


The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The 2008 sequel\reboot to Ang Lee`s overly long, overly cerebral take on the Hulk character improves on its predecessor in almost every way. Although the action in this movie never quite reaches the all-out badassery of the desert sequence of the first, the action here is impressive and the character development of its lead Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is thorough and well handled without ever bogging the movie down.

The movie looks fantastic. Director Louis Leterrier has a great eye for colour and composition, making this a very attractive super hero movie. Almost every choice Louis made works – from the darker, scarier look of the Hulk himself, to his casting choices. I still can’t believe Edward Norton of American History X fame agreed to be in this, but I am glad he is because Banners character is well-rounded and multi layered thanks to Norton’s portrayal. William Hurt and Liv Tyler also do a great job with the material and Edward and Liv have a lot of chemistry together.

Tim Roth lets the team down a little by never truly committing to his role. Roth seems a little embarrassed to be there and appears to be phoning his part in throughout most of its run time. These big budget super hero movies don’t appear to be quite his cup of tea. It’s just a shame he appears to have had this epiphany during the shooting of the actual movie. 

All-in-all, the movie has a good script, moves at a comfortable pace and managers to be a mature take on the material without ever being pretentious or dull. A little more action wouldn’t have hurt but as it stand this is certainly a better than average entry into Marvel`s movie universe.

Best of all, this Hulk movie ends with its hero battling an actual monster, instead of the poorly rendered CGI cloud he had to face in the first.


Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

The seventh(!) sequel in the increasingly poor Nightmare on Elm Street series is easily the best of a bad bunch and a return to form for director Wes Craven. 

The movie is almost a test run for Craven’s popular Scream series by being both self-referential and by playing on the clichés of the horror movie genre.

The movie takes place in the “real world” where Freddy Kruger is played by actor Robert Englund and is nothing more than the forgotten icon of the aging horror series. The film follows Heather Langenkamp (star of the first Nightmare) playing herself.  Heather is both bored and a little embarrassed of her horror legacy and is keen to forget the Nightmare series entirely. Unfortunately, news of a new movie being in the works sparks a series of threatening phone calls, disturbing nightmares and mysterious deaths in Heathers life, leading her to fear that Freddy Kruger has somehow managed to escaped the confines of the silver screen.

Director Wes Craven clearly knew that his baby (Freddy Kruger) had lost his mojo and so goes all-out to make his character frightening again – which he does very successfully. The silly sounding premise works surprisingly well and is an extremely clever way of both acknowledging the diminishing quality of the series, while at the same time being solid and original entry to it, in of itself.

The movie is a slow burner, taking its time setting up the slightly confusing premise it is based around. The movie effectively sets up the real world it takes place in by including most of the original cast and crew from the original playing themselves. Everyone from producer Bob Shaye, to Robert Englund to Wes Craven are here and their reactions to the supernatural elements of the movie are both realistic and believable.  Heather Langenkamp is especially convincing as the movies main protagonist and her mental and physical change through the movie is impressive.

This movie is similar to the original in terms of its serious tone and approach to tension building. The scares are also realised in a similar fashion the first. There is no OTT CGI assisted nightmares sequences on show here, just practical and subtile moments of horror that remind you of just how frightening the concept of Freddy Kruger can be when done properly.

In retrospect, the movie could be viewed as an indulgent and masturbatory love letter to Craven himself. The original nightmare is extremely highly revered by the cast in the movie and the Freddy character appears to be considered the scariest thing ever created since Michael Jackson’s face. There is even a scene where Heather meets Wes at his apartment, where he delivers a long prose about how his creation was so scary that it actually managed to cross over into “our” reality. His dialogue spoken with the stern intensity of a money-drenched sorcerer. Admittedly a little much – but believe it or not – the idea does actually work!

A very original and clever entry into the Nightmare series and one that never quite received the praise and respect it deserved.



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