April 2, 2012

THE CARRIER (1988/DVD/Code Red) Review

Jake's a teenager. He's about seventeen or eighteen, I guess, and is, like a lot of people that age, pretty conflicted. He's the kind of guy who'll stare through the window at a church social, yearning for inclusion, only to sulk around the refreshments table for a while and then get thrown out onto his face for starting a fight. He walks around looking tortured with half a liter of Jack Daniels in his shirt pocket and is prone to melodramatic outbursts like, "I can't get near anyone without ruining everything!" Adolescent whining aside, this statement couldn't be more true -- any human or animal tissue he touches dissolves upon immediate contact, and he's carelessly infecting inanimate objects with the same disease. As his hometown of Sleepy Rock suddenly becomes overrun by killer mirrors and bloodthirsty Dr. Seuss books, the population lathers themselves into a paranoid frenzy, wearing plastic tarps, hoarding cats (for object testing) and violently feuding with their neighbors. Jake didn't have many friends before this whole mess started and he sure doesn't have any now. Even if you wanted to be his friend, you'd have quite a set of baggage to unpack to get there.

Lotsa luck, lady
For better or worse, Jake's our main character. It's not necessarily a rule that a main character be likeable, but it helps if they're relatable. I was never quite "a prisoner of my own skin," as he's heard to snivel, but like Jake, I was also a brooding, damp-shirted, greasy teenager for a short time. My hormonal acne may have been a less tragic affliction than causing people's flesh to melt, but both are fairly unsavory. So, I can relate to Jake, but that doesn't mean I would ever wanna hang out with the guy, or, for that matter, myself when I was his age. But my eight-year-old self? I'd babysit that kid. Every Friday night. Overtime. And I wouldn't even charge my parents for it.

Sleepy Rock Humane Society
When I was eight, the existential woes of pubescence were an absolutely unfathomable concept, and even if I could've wrapped my mind around the forthcoming complications of teen romance and skin conditions, I wouldn't have had the time to worry. My free days were a stringent schedule of getting cranked up on Cocoa Puffs in the morning, whipping around town on my cheap Huffy wearing a Batman cape during the afternoon and capping it all off with a sleepover at my friend Marshall's house, where we'd stay up until 4:00am eating pizza and watching "USA Up All Night" (the Caroline Schlitt years). In short -- I ruled. It's hard not to rule when you're eight. Exhibit B: The Carrier's Seth.

A last name would just slow him down
While every other citizen of Sleepy Rock is going bananas in fear of the Jake plague, young Seth keeps his head firmly screwed on; the very definition of bravery in the face of adversity, sanity in the face of madness. When his three-kid team of cat-wranglers runs afoul of an equally-numbered but physically superior group of proto-punks with a feline hijacking in mind, one of his compatriots is killed and he fearlessly serves his duty as their leader by helping the survivor to safety. In doing so, however, he's caught, and confronts certain death at knifepoint by staring into the eyes of his would-be killer and warning him not to miss. For the too-few scenes he occupies in this film, Seth rules. And he's eight. And I would offer to babysit him as well, but I think he could probably manage by himself.

Tougher than leather
I'm not one to condone remakes, and to remake The Carrier would be a slap in the face of its scrappy regional magic (filmed on location in Manchester, Michigan). But if, for some godforsaken reason, someone decides to take on the task, I hope that they do me a personal favor by taking the only acceptable route -- the True Grit route -- by re-telling the story from the point of view of Seth. In return, I'll personally mail them a Davy Crockett cap (one size fits all) and two tickets to the annual Manchester Chicken Broil.

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