Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Distracted by poor pizza protocol

You know how when you're watching a horror movie, especially one involving a haunted house, you want to shout out a bunch of things that the character shouldn't do?

"Don't open that door!"

"Don't climb up those stairs!"

"For God's sake, don't go see what that creepy noise was!"

I wanted to shout things at The House of the Devil, but it was entirely about a pizza delivery.

On Saturday night I got to show my wife Ti West's excellently slow-burning and creepy 2009 debut, which I just saw myself for the first time in February. If you haven't seen the movie, West does an immaculate recreation of an early 1980s horror movie. Rarely have I seen a film made in the style of another era that does so as effectively as this film. And even though the main character listens to The Fixx's "One Thing Leads to Another" on her walkman, meaning the story takes place around 1983 (that's when the song was released), the movie itself reminds me most of a late 1970s movie like John Carpenter's Halloween. Yep, that's high praise.

But I was really distracted this time through by something I didn't notice the first time. The following contains minor plot details, but no real spoilers.

The main character, Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), is hired for a mysterious babysitting assignment in a creepy old mansion in the woods. The couple who hires her leaves her an extra $20 to order pizza from a number on the fridge. She does so.

Now, when you order a pizza, there are certain rules of behavior -- either logical or practical -- that immediately kick in. Samantha goes about breaking almost all those rules.

So instead of yelling at her not to open a door or not to investigate a noise, in my head I was yelling:

"Don't eat that candy bar, you just ordered a pizza and you'll spoil your appetite! Plus, sweet before salty is a no-no!"

"Don't put on your walkman, play a game of pool and dance around the house, you won't hear the doorbell ring!"

"Don't go to the bathroom, that's right when the delivery guy will show up!"

Granted, the pizza takes much longer than the advertised 30-minute timeframe to arrive. But since we never see her call them back to get an ETA, it's as though she's forgotten about her dinner entirely. Which means that it could easily arrive while she's eating a chocolate bar, dancing to "One Thing Leads to Another" or sitting on the toilet.

I write this post not to take away at all from the movie -- it's an outstanding movie, and I think everyone should see it.

It's just an illustration of how certain "unrealistic" things -- like poor pizza protocol -- can truly distract you if you let them.

Who knows, maybe Samantha is just the type of person who doesn't care if she makes the pizza guy wait while she flushes and washes her hands.


Travis McClain said...

I haven't seen this so I can't comment about the film at hand, but the larger issue you address is one that harangues me often. I often find myself docking a film for taking me out of the story with such egregiousness. I give a certain grace period in case it turns out that the character not paying attention is part of the story. But if it plays out that we're just meant to not think about such details, then I become irked.

Vancetastic said...

Yeah, I hear you. It may be a little sloppy in this case, but the fact that I didn't notice it the first time is a truer indication of how this movie takes you in its grip. I also think there's a small part of it that's intended to undermine the character, and therefore possibly intentional.

Don Handsome said...

Why is sweet before salty a no no again?

Vancetastic said...

Ah, good question. It's a subtle distinction. Sweet and salty TOGETHER is very good, as long as they are the right kind of things. You know, like chocolate and pretzels. But if they DON'T go together -- like chocolate and pizza -- then you MUST observe the traditional "first dinner then dessert" order. You can't eat a pizza when your mouth is all candied up with chocolate. Maybe what I should have said is not that you can't have sweet before salty, but that you can't have dessert before dinner.