Film Nerd 2.0: Universal monsters, Bud and Lou, and something really scary
If you know the movie, then you probably know how this ends. I tried to talk him out of it, but by this point, he had already worn my wife down, and she said we should let him try. I made him a deal, telling him that if he could make it through the first ten minutes of the film, then he could watch the whole thing. He agreed, and he ended up in my office with me, his mother sitting in another chair with Allen in her lap. I should have known things would go badly, but then again, they loved the Large Marge moment in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," and I always think of the jump scare at the start of "TZ" as being pretty much the exact same beat. Context matters, though, and I have to give it up to John Landis for the exceptional skill he showed in orchestrating that opening moment. Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd are great in the casual banter, the game of TV show theme song trivia pretty much baffling both of my kids. They've never even heard of most of those shows, much less seen them so that they would recognize the themes.
Then we got to part of the sequence where Brooks asks the innocuous question, "So, you wanna see something really scary?" And I could feel Toshi tense up. Allen leaned in towards the screen, though, and I realized this is pretty much a perfect summary of the way they both react to things. Albert Brooks shut off the lights and drove in darkness for a moment, and as Aykroyd started to freak out, both of the boys seemed uncomfortable. Aykroyd then tells Brooks that he'd like to show him something "really scary" in return, and he tells him to pull over to the side of the road. What I found interesting is that when it started to freak them out, the boys moved so that Toshi was with his mom, and Allen came over to join me. It didn't even seem like something calculated. They just went to where they felt most safe, and when Dan finally spun around --
-- Allen stood up in front of my chair and loudly declared, "THAT! WAS! AWESOME!"
I looked over at Toshi, though, and he had gone rigid. His face was completely white, and one tear ran down his cheek. I immediately turned the movie off, and then had about a half-hour of fallout to deal with as my wife read me the riot act. While I definitely think the beat is like the Large Marge in the way it's staged and the way it works, the build-up is totally different. Burton and Paul Reuben sell that story in the cab of that truck, but they also exaggerate it so much that you know it's a joke. And the animation on Large Marge's transformation is great, but silly --
-- while the make-up on Aykroyd when he turns around is fairly simple, but definitely meant as a horror design, not a joke.