Calm Down

I work with this guy that has a cousin that makes movies. He recently loaned me a copy of his cousin’s most recent epic. It is about vampire and a gang of high school kids killing the vampires. No matter what prism you look through, it just isn’t very good. I have in turn loaned out the movie to a few people here and there with the caveat that if they watch this movie they can then read this thing I wrote about the movie. The thing that I wrote about this movie is a list of my 10 favorite things about this movie. I didn’t go into much depth and I wrote the thing in about 45 minutes. It definitely isn’t a masterpiece, but it is certainly mean spirited.

The guy I work with was asking me today what I thought about the movie. I told him that I find that the movie was an allegory. It wasn’t really about vampires, but about how people choose to percieve the world and how if you see things from somebody’s perspective you may start to have empathy for them, even if they are evil. I wrote this theory up.

He insisted that I e-mail my poorly written theory over to him so he could e-mail it to his cousin. I thought that this was a poor idea because even though his cousin hadn’t succeeded at any level in making a coherent film, he was trying and didn’t really deserve to have somebody he didn’t know just bash on him. I sent it over to him any way. When the filmmaker read my piece he thought it was awesome. He considered it to be a great compliment. He was particularly thrilled about being compared to Uwe Boll. Being compared to Uwe Boll is not a compliment. However, I’ll leave it for you to decide if my piece was compimentary or mean spirited.

Also if by reading this it somehow piques your interest, I’ll loan you a copy of this bad boy.

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad”

My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music

I just feel that it is necessary to reference a decent movie before delving into Calm Down.However, I should throw out one disclaimer.I am not going to touch story structure in my list of my favorite things from this movie.I am a firm believer that the most important thing in a movie is story. You can get away with bad acting, poor production quality and the occasional poor line of dialogue if you have a great story.

A friend who knows that there are times when I fancy myself a writer once asked me the following question: Do I consider prewriting an important part of the writing process?

This was a loaded question. The person really wanted me to backup their supposition that real “artists” just did. They just sat down to their parchment or canvas or word processor or block of marble and created.

I told her, “There is an old adage that rewriting is writing. It is my belief that prewriting is writing. When I am done writing something I usually hate it so much that it takes me a little while before I can even go back and begin the process of rewriting. Therefore if I relied heavily on rewriting I would never accomplish anything. I need the prewriting process. Otherwise I have no clue where I’m going.”

She didn’t like this answer, but it is the honest truth. Without a basic structure to tell you where you are going, you aren’t going to get anywhere.Therefore I can’t in good conscience spend much time railing on the story structure of Calm Down when it is painfully evident that they didn’t do any prewriting. They didn’t do any rewriting. It is a debatable point to claim that they did any writing at all.

So rather than going down the paths of completely unnecessary scenes (almost all of them, but in particular the “car borrowing scene” and the “lost my pants” scene), completely unexplained motivations (such as are the cops working for the vampires?), or what the point of any of this was supposed to be; I’ll limit myself to my ten favorite aspects of this movie that aren’t related to story structure. I will include my favorite moments of dialogue.

1.The “sexy” blonde vampire that shows up in the background of two scenes with the leader of the vampires. I don’t know if she was in reality good looking, but it seemed important to them to include her with her funbags hanging out in the background of the first two scenes with the vampire leader. It makes me wonder if they hired a stripper for the night.

2. The vampire leader was wearing light colored shoes. I don’t know why that cracks me up, other than the entire vampire wardrobe consisted of wearing black. Maybe when you are the leader you get a pair of white Keds. It might even be the symbol of the transfer of power.

3. The scene where the main character gives his speech about “walking away”. He calls the vampires “jerks”. Whoa tiger, just because they killed your brother doesn’t mean you have to start name calling. That whole speech is priceless. Including the fact that the “track girl” (that they don’t use for bait even though one character points out that she is the fastest in the group during the scene where they discuss who should be bait) points out that they have gotten this far with him. Is he the leader of the group? He wasn’t even in it at the beginning of the movie and now he is the leader. I also think they missed a golden marketing opportunity by not giving this group a name.
4. There is vignetting in almost every single wide angle shot. This is caused by putting the wrong filter or hood on a camera lens and is something that easily could have been edited out or fixed after they watched the dailies after the first day of shooting.

5. They used that hatchback car to shoot the scenes of people walking down the street. The scene with the brothers at night and later with the main character’s emotional breakdown sequence. I know they did this because the shadow of the hatchback is clearly visible during these sequences.

6. How the hell did they get so many people to make this movie? There are at least 15 vampires in one scene. I like to consider myself a good organizer of people, but I could never get 15 people to do something like that. In fact I would be too embarrassed to ask. “I’m making this vampire movie, but it isn’t really a horror movie, it is more of an action movie with lots of gore. Kind of a tribute to Uwe Boll if you will. Would you be interested in being an extra? The vampire costume consists of any black clothing that you have. No don’t worry about teeth. They aren’t part of the new vampire mythology I’m inventing.”

7. This movie really makes me think about other movies in a strange way. The first 15 minutes of the movie really made me think of Brokeback Mountain. Only there is lots of foreplay. I’m not quite so certain that there wouldn’t have been a little man on man action if the vampires wouldn’t have broken it up. Perhaps that is in the subtext of the movie, perhaps the vampires are homophobic. Not that being homophobic makes you a good person by any stretch of the imagination, but it might explain why they attacked and killed the “cool” brother. It might also be because of his horrible impersonations. I know what you are thinking. They are brothers, not lovers. To that I say there is a kind of incest subtext to another scene in the movie. Although I am not a user of pornography, I know that a movie exists called Taboo. The scene where the mom sits on the edge of the main character’s bed reminds me of this movie. I get the sense that while she is playing with the drawstring on her pants she is trying to work up the courage to ask him if he wants to have a “go” at her. In the end she decides to return to her husband’s bed and see if he can finally quench the burning sexual desire that he hasn’t been able to extinguish since he only began caring about “getting his”. I’m telling you it is all in the way that she is playing with those drawstrings.

8. The scene where the characters get their weapons. The fact that they don’t use guns could have easily been covered with a line like “Guns only piss them off.” or “Guns only slow them down.” or “Guns don’t kill them.” Instead of a line about having used guns in the past, but two of the characters aren’t responsible enough to be trusted with guns. My real favorite part of this scene is that the characters have never tried holy water, garlic, or crucifixes. They haven’t tried anything that would be consistent with vampire mythology. This is covered up (by the guy with the grappling hook I believe) with the line that when you are in battle with a vampire, you want something that will do some damage, “not a glass of water”. Yeah, you wouldn’t want something that would actually be able to terminate the existence of the undead. At least two of these characters have ridiculous weapons. A grappling hook? A tent pole (I think) with a knife pushed through a hole? Then one guy goes off and gets two camp axes. Wouldn’t want to use an ax as long as you have that grappling hook. Although I will give credit to the filmmakers. This is undoubtedly a clever tip of their hat to the scene in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan where they pile a bunch of weapons onto the deck of the ship and the guy that picks last gets the shotgun. Kudos!

9.The entire last battle scene is in slow motion. Good to know that there are still fans of Richard Donner out there.

10. I claimed that I wasn’t going to tackle story structure. However, I think I do have to tackle one aspect of the story. Is it possible that this whole movie is really a clever way to get you to root for the bad guys? There is not one scrap of evidence to suggest that the people the CD5 are killing are vampires. This whole premise is held together with one line of dialogue. “There were bite marks found on my brother’s neck.” Other than that one death, the vampires aren’t responsible for the deaths of anybody else. When the vampire leader has his chance to kill the CD5 he doesn’t. He kicks their ass then walks away. In the final battle sequence he doesn’t kill anybody. He puts one guy in a sleeper hold. Another guy he might be trying a figure 4 leglock on. When he takes out the girl he must have made the effort to miss every single vital organ and then he throws down the sword. It is as if he is saying, “Hey guys, why are you killing all my buddies? I don’t want to kill you, so I’m just going to incapacitate you so you can’t hurt anybody else and when you wake up, we can discuss this like rational adults. Have you seen my girlfriend? She was wandering around out here with her funbags hanging out.”

Even when he gives his speech he never really mentions murder. Only that they need to feed and that could mean that every time these guys are trying to go down to Dairy Queen, the stupid CD5 keeps attacking them. He also mentions the CD5 trying to hold onto their pathetic lives. I don’t think that means literally. Since it is my belief that he is a Youth Pastor, he could be referencing the fact that these guys probably do have pathetic lives. Do you doubt these guys play Magic on weekends? He could also be referring to the belief of some Christian sects that you have to be “reborn” as a Christian.

To me this movie plays more like a gang movie. The CD5 are just a bunch of Star Wars nerds that claim that the rival gang consists of “vampires” because this whole thing probably came about when they starting taking their Friday night D&D game a little too serious. At least a couple of them already had weapons from their Saturday trips to the renaissance fair. That is why the cop is always chasing them. They are murderers.

What is the rival gang? They aren’t vampires. My best guess is that they are members of a radical church group. The type you might have seen in the movie Jesus Camp. Since a few of the characters in the CD5 are homosexual, they probably initially tried to capture a few of them and tried to educate them about the “evils” of homosexuality. I believe that the label “vampires” was attached to the rival gang as a reference to the Christian sacrament of Communion: drinking the “Blood of Christ”. Clearly this is what happened the night that they attacked the brothers. They were trying to capture them and then reprogram them. They must have gotten a little too rough with the one brother and accidentally killed him. The mark on his neck wasn’t a bite. It was just a little love mark from his brother, but his brother couldn’t let the general public know about his incestuous relationship, so he went along with the cover story that it was a vampire’s mark.

Need more proof that the main character is gay. He never once makes a move on the track star girl when he is in her bedroom. I don’t believe that she was gay though. She was a track star. They never mention playing softball or volleyball.

At least 2 other characters of the CD5 are lovers as well. Are you telling me that you believe the cover story of my pants came off because they got stuck on a motorcycle? They were clearly about to get intimate (they had their weapons because I’m sure they were engaged in some kind of role playing where one was Batman and the other was a dwarf) when the Jesus Camp church group busted in on them and tried to capture them and take them in for reprogramming.

This is the only interpretation of this movie that makes sense to me.