The two of us were at the Multiplex, seated in Theater 11, row G, halfway up the dark bank of padded chairs, swaddled by surround-sound, digging into our snuck-in Toffifay, and preparing to see a comedy about two studious nerds who, having declined on principle the debauchery of the American movie version of high school, finally notice that good behavior has gotten them exactly nothing, eg., Harvard or Yale, that the debauched high school kids around them didn’t also get. The studious nerds must try, therefore, in one final frantic evening, to taste the marrow, to suck the juice out of life, or at least to check off every dangerous high school stunt they’ve missed. That’s the dream my spouse and I paid that evening to dream.
I hadn’t heard much about the movie ahead of time, and my main expectation was that I would not hate the previews that preceded it. As you know, previewed films resemble the film you’ve come to see. In the previews before a superhero action movie, at least one major American city or world capital is reduced to rubble as good and evil grandly duke it out in, above, and under the cityscape. I wonder who will win? A society where movie-makers can’t be bothered to think of a fresh way to investigate good and evil is a society with a stunted imagination, no vision, little heart or hope, and I hate those previews. But that’s a subject for another day. At a movie about studious nerds, I felt safe knowing that no major cities would be translated into rubble in the previews. But art, like life, sometimes grabs you and pulls you back in, just when you thought you were free.
There’s a shortage of movies out now about studious nerds, and we breezed through those previews pretty quickly. Then came a fore-taste of two new horror films. In the first of the horror previews, something ominous has gotten into the dark house, no, don’t go down those stairs, the house is slowly rubbled around the two heroes, will they ever get out of this basement alive? In the second of the horror previews, something dangerous has gotten into the dark house, no, don’t go up those stairs, the house is slowly rubbled around them, will they ever get out of this kitchen alive?
Still grateful that no major city was rubblimated, just some spacious yet claustrophobic suburban houses, I sat in the dark, explosive multiplex observing the brutal action with as much clinical distance as I could muster. Finally, in each preview, one character was actually poised to escape. In the first preview, after long being hunted by some vague but malevolent creature, a young woman crawls pathetically out of a shadowy pile of furniture and studs and wallboard, suddenly to be grabbed by the ankles and dragged back into the darkness screaming and clawing the floor with her fingernails. In the second preview, after long being hunted by some vague but malevolent creature, a young man crawls pathetically out of a shadowy pile of cabinets and studs and wallboard, suddenly to be grabbed by the ankles and dragged back into the darkness screaming and clawing the floor with his fingernails.
At long last the cruel, yet stupid previews ended. We dutifully located the theater’s nearest exit and checked to see that our cell phones were turned off. The Toffifay was long gone, but the feature film, the dream the two of us paid good money to dream, was poised to begin. This was the story of two studious, nerdy Americans who try for one evening to leave behind their mundane lives and dream a different dream. Next thing I knew, my spouse and I were being dragged, not quite screaming, into its darkness.