March 18, 2004

Viewer Discretion Advised

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You know what? While the rest of you losers spend your spring break getting stupid tans and meeting lame, scantily-clad members of the opposite sex, I’ll be eating stale Tostitos and watching re-runs of The Price is Right with my parents. To celebrate the truly awesome break I’ll be having in the suburbs of southern New Jersey, here are a few films about vacations gone horribly, horribly wrong. This one’s for you, Bob Barker.


As camp as this movie may be, it still managed to single-handedly keep me out of the ocean for a good five years. The action takes place on Amity Island, a small summer resort town whose hopes for a good tourist turnout are dampened by the sudden appearance of a man-eating great white shark. Yes, there is a plot involving Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss setting out in a boat to kill the animal, but what really makes this movie worth watching is (a) the special effects, (b) the gore, and (c) Steven Spielberg’s patented “shark-cam,” in which we get to swim up to the flailing legs of the shark’s next victim. Cue music.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Let’s face it: even though ace-journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo (Benecio Del Toro) set out for Las Vegas to cover a sporting event, they certainly didn’t need two convertibles and a shitload of drugs to do it. Featuring some of the best and, frankly, most frightening drug sequences in cinema, Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece follows these two men on their journey to find the American Dream during the late ’60s. Tobey Maguire makes an appearance as a terrifying, balding hippie-child, and if that isn’t enticing enough, there’s always Johnny Depp in short-shorts and Acapulco shirts.

Weekend at Bernie’s

Only a film from the ’80s could make a comedy out of such a disturbing plot. Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman play two employees who discover evidence of fraud at their company; their boss, Bernie Lomax, rewards their discovery with a weekend at his beach house. They arrive at Bernie’s ready to party, only to discover their boss murdered. To avoid becoming suspects in his death, the two use all kinds of puppetry to pretend he is still alive. Putting all logic aside (wouldn’t Bernie start to decompose after a few days?), this movie has some extremely funny visual gags. I’m still not sure how they made a sequel, though.

Cape Fear

Robert De Niro plays the shaggy, tattooed Max Cady, a man recently released from prison for rape. Having learned that Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), his defense attorney, had possibly withheld a document which could have gotten him off-the-hook, Cady begins to stalk both him and his family as they retreat to their houseboat in Cape Fear. This gritty remake of a 1961 classic proves not only that Martin Scorsese is an extremely underrated director, but that, even as a 48-year-old madman, De Niro still manages to be sexy.

Archived article by Laura Mergenthal