Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wheely Scary

While browsing through my Netflix queue and suggested flicks, I decided to watch an old American International B classic, Die, Monster, Die! starring Boris Karloff, whom I've always admired, and Nick Adams, who, believe it or not, my mother went out with on a date! Fortunately, there wasn't a second date, and she met my dad only a few months later. Anyway, that's another story altogether.

What I noticed about Die, Monster, Die! is of course how Dr. Scott in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (and the musical play original) was probably inspired by Karloff's wheelchair-using character. The plaid blanket is a giveaway, although the ornate chair with gryphon ornature is not appropriated.

I wondered about the varied depictions of characters who use wheelchairs in films.

Bypassing the classics (Coming Home, Born on the Fourth of July, Murderball and the Hitchcock classic Rear Window), and acknowledging the top three (according to Alan Troop on Disaboom), I'll skip to one of my favorites, Monkey Shines, whose image search online led to this page, a whimsical round-up of the Top Ten Wheelchair characters in Horror Films. It's getting near Halloween, so it's worth a gander.

What's clear are the two Vs: Victim or Villain. That's pretty much the binary code, for the most part. Some die violent deaths, others commit heinous monstrous crimes. A few others are -shocker!- not actually disabled! Horror movies usually reduce people to archetypes anyway, so why should disabled people be treated any differently?

I've pretty much watched every single Scott Speedman movie I could get my hands on. Even the worst are sweet, and there are a few clunkers, because Speedman is so durn sexy and cute. He's also a good actor, I think.

Good Neighbors is no exception. An interesting premise, Speedman plays a wheelchair-using neighbor to two other stranger characters who may or may not be a suspect in this darkly comic serial killer thriller. It's definitely one of my least favorite genres, but Scott's in it, so there. Here's a New York Times review. Here's a Fangoria write-up.

I guess the point is proving that characters can be sexy even in wheelchairs, particularly when they're played by Speedman.

Yet there are some stranger scenes in other films, particularly Nightmare on Elm Street 3, in which a wheelchair becomes an instrument of torture, and The Changeling, in which a chair becomes a possessed attacker.

Others depict a perceived horror of becoming disabled, the fear of vulnerability by the disabled, or a fear of the disabled. In many films, it's a myopic depiction.

While Karloff's evil in Die is blended into lots of other creepy stuff, and his handicap is incidental, Monkey Shines remains a favorite for several reasons.

- Jason Beghe is gorgeous, and frequently naked.
- Despite some melodrama, and a hokey ending, it's a good story.
- The difficulties of disability, including romantic expectations and betrayal, are shown thoroughly and believably.
- Monkeys are creepy.
- Have I mentioned how gorgeous Jason Beghe is?

But probably the biggest horror that Beghe overcame is that he recently told how he finally escaped the cult, excuse me, "religion" of Scientology.

See more features about disability in films at Disaboom.

No comments:

Post a Comment