At some point an adult ceases going to horror movies to be scared and simply accepts the ride as a gesture of showmanship. Our hope for the elaborate psychological exercise is replaced by a voyeurism for technical skill, and what once caused an emotional recoil becomes a sensational exhibit kept at arm’s length, however unconsciously. Those are not necessarily pessimistic observations about films themselves, but more about the desensitized nature of an aged mind; the attitude reflects a hardening of the soul brought on by greater horrors in the real world, where they undermine the more elaborate gimmicks of filmmakers seeking to penetrate the core of individual resistance. Consider this insight thoroughly when it comes to “It,” the new film adaptation Stephen King’s famous novel, and you may be surprised to discover a contradiction to that sentiment. Certainly our attendance may be dictated more by the neurosis of current horror trends than by mere nostalgia, but what occurs here is in the milieu of a long-forgotten attitude – namely, the idea that a menacing force lurking plausibly in the shadows can cause great harm to those ill-equipped to confront it. This is a film in complete isolation of the modern standard, passing beyond the conventions of aesthetic and fashion to exploit what is left of our deepest nightmares.
In the murky fringes of old Hollywood glamour are the faint whispers of the forgotten and exploited, of ambitious young faces who came to find their calling amongst a generation of would-be entertainers and instead discovered a world designed to devour them. Though some lived to tell the sad tales of their experiences, others were less fortunate (although their names were usually buried in the annals of historical footnotes, a consequence of knowing more than they could keep to themselves). The hardest of pills to swallow was perhaps necessary to endure: the fact that heads of studios and their most prestigious stars rubbed elbows with dangerous mobsters, whose money influenced as many of the early industry trends as the expectations of eager moviegoers. And somewhere in the chasm created by the cognizant and the naïve is the mysterious legend of the Black Dahlia, a woman whose enigmatic presence looms like a painful reminder of the cruelty of the hills, where big dreams often suffered the irony of nightmarish deceit.
“Fifty Shades Darker” descends thoughtlessly into a web of intrigue spun with blender-like accuracy, primarily to move its characters, yet again, from one orgasm to the next with minimal interruption. More perceptive romances, even the more vulgar ones, might at least see this as a ploy to harness some level of plausible dramatic tension, however thin. But for the people behind the latest in a growing fad of seductive literary cheese aimed at the lower end of the payoff pool, it plays like a clothesline for the writers to hang their one-note fetishes on, concealing them from the greater realities of chemistry and foreplay. Is this what the concept of movie eroticism has come to? Have we finally abandoned the almost cheerful adolescence of human behavior and turned it into a cold scheme to reach climax? Centering on four primary catalysts to frame the impending affairs of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, the minds behind this highly-anticipated follow-up prove, if nothing else, that a lack of understanding in conflict resolution means squat when all one shows up for is the lust. After watching it I imagined Catherine Deneuve sobbing quietly in a dark room for the future of adult fantasy.