From a comic universe ice-packed with cold foes, and a franchise often shovelling snow and ice, Batman Returns sits at the top of the tree as the most festive of the Batman films. One of Tim Burton’s finest hours, and the one that pissed off McDonalds.
BATMAN RETURNS PUTS ANOTHER TYPE OF BIRD INTO THE CHRISTMAS STUFFING MIX. THE “YULETIDE CONTEXT” AS CHRISTOPHER WALKEN’S MAX SHRECK CALLS IT, IS UNAVOIDABLE IN A FILM WITH MANY A CHRISTMAS TREE POPPING UP, BUT IT’S HARDLY AN OVERRIDING MESSAGE. The Penguin may have been born on Christmas Day (unconfirmed, but he’s certainly a Capricorn), he may be ascending at the meaningful age of 33, but most of the Biblical strands woven through Returns are stridently Old Testament. The Book of Exodus is the most prominent. The Penguins origin echoes Moses’ – exchanging cyperaceae for sphenisciformes – And it’s the feathery fiend who later enacts his own variation of the Plague of the Firstborn in vengeance.
Packed alongside are more Christmas elements than you could shake a cute umbrella at. There are the pantomime villains, Dickensian grotesques (much to Alfred’s constant disdain) and even a morally flawed business man with the shock of white hair who obviously has little time for festivities beyond his annual Maxquerade ball. “Hard and sharp as flint” especially when protesting that he’s no monster. There’s also time for the type of remote controlled car that the Penguin might place under your tree (“I don’t like surprises”) and the anthropomorphic animals that still grace many a Disney film. And then there’s the omnipresent snow. Amid a high murder rate and constant explosions, there’s perpetual snow.
Last Halloween I achieved a minor life aim, watching the complete Nightmare on Elm Street series in a row. Even Freddy Vs Jason? Yes. So, what was the result? Well, the third and final part of this blog for the 30th anniversary year to begin with…
TO RECAP FROM THE FIRST TWO PARTS: IT WAS A FORTUITOUS DELIVERY THAT FOUND ITS WAY OVER THE ATLANTIC TO MY YOUNGER SELF THAT KICK-STARTED THE NIGHTMARATHON OF EVERY ORIGINAL RUN FREDDY FILM AT HALLOWEEN 2013. A stash of bubble-gum cards, comedy taglines and horrifically compelling images. In a long-awaited retrospective I re-discovered the first film, Wes Craven’s master class in bringing real fear and real supernatural to the slasher genre… then a franchise that went through peaks and troughs of an increasingly convoluted mythology. Once the ‘son of a hundred maniacs escaped his family, even signing on to a film titled ‘Freddy’s Dead’ in 3d couldn’t do him in. In this final part of the retrospective, there are three distinct films across three decades. These could well be the franchise’s pledge, turn and prestige…
“Seven…” Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
A shadow would soon fall over New Nightmare of course. The shadow of Ghostface, bulked up by the Scream franchise. Now, Wes Craven’s other saga is bloated with a belated fourth entry, but it had already become synonymous with post-modern horror. Scream may have been the shot in the arm that slasher films needed in the 1990s, but it also inexorably created the recent wave of horror remakes, including 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.