Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, Jeffery Wright
Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts
Directed by Wes Craven
Critic Man was jolted awake by a loud rushing sound. He was startled and disoriented. He could not remember where he was just moments ago and now he found himself in a darkened room with a bright light coming from the wall in front of him. He frantically looked around to get his bearings.
He saw that he was sitting on a plush seat in the middle of a row of similar seats, with rows in front and behind him. There was a woman sitting next to him who he did not recognize and whose eyes were fixated on the lighted wall in front of them. There were other people around them, but he could not make them out due to the darkness.
The woman next to him could sense that Critic Man was agitated, so, as his head was darting around looking at his surroundings, she turned to him and asked if there was anything wrong. He turned to look at her and even seeing her full face still did not recognize her. It was even more unnerving as everything seemed perfectly normal to her.
As he looked at her with anxious, strained confusion, he did not answer her, and instead turned to look forward at the lighted wall. He could see that it was a movie screen and that he was in a movie theater. As the movie had been unspooling for some time, he could not immediately tell what it was. As he continued to watch (the woman next to him also turned back to the screen as he would not engage her), it appeared to be a horror film. It seemed vaguely familiar, yet he was still too anxious and disoriented to discern what it was. So, he asked the woman, and, looking confused, she told him it was Scream 4. This being odd, she asked him again if he was ok, and he just nodded.
It was then that it started to come back to him. Scream 4 was simply a retread of all of the previous films in the Scream franchise — young people getting slashed even though there are knowing comments and winking realizations by the actors of the machinations of horror movie plots. But in a theater next door was a much better — and much more unique — film called Source Code about a man who is transported into the mind of another man who is on a train about to be blown up by a terrorist bomb.
As Critic Man frantically struggled to recall more details, he remembered that he was on a mission to warn these moviegoers to stop watching Scream 4 and exit in time to make their way to the much better Source Code. So, he turned to the woman and told her with some urgency that they had to get out of there. She turned to him and, being absorbed in the film, asked him what he was talking about. He repeated that they had to get out of there and to try and save all of the other movie patrons as well. She was befuddled and looked at him and again asked what was wrong.
But he did not answer her and instead stood up and loudly urged everyone to head to the exits. The woman pulled on his arm to get him to sit and calm down. But he resisted. Others in the theater yelled at him to shut up. He again yelled out that they had precious little time to get out and make the start of Source Code. There were murmurs throughout the theater just as a female character on the screen was slashed by a character in a ghost mask. The timing of this caused additional shrieks and jolts in the audience. Meanwhile, ushers started making their way to Critic Man to calm or remove him.
As the clock was ticking, Critic Man left his row of seats and rushed down to the front of the theater all the while entreating everyone to join him to see Source Code. He loudly cajoled everyone by observing that they had all seen this slasher film many times and that instead they should see a unique and involving science fiction story about a man who is used in an experiment to go back in time to inhabit the mind of a man on a train to try and learn the identity of a bomber who has previously blown up that very train. As the man on the train has only eight minutes to perform this task, his first attempt fails, and so he has to be sent back again and again to inhabit the mind of the same man to try and learn more about the situation and the identity of the bomber. Critic Man acknowledged that such an explanation may seem confusing, but he told the people in the theater that it’s worth the fun of trying to figure it all out.
Just as he got to the front of the theater, he was grabbed by ushers who wrestled him out of the theater. As he and the ushers got to the door, Critic Man experienced a bright light and a rushing sensation and he awakened to find himself strapped to a chair alone in a darkened room with computer monitors and scientific equipment. Breathing heavily and nauseous, he heard a voice asking if he was successful in getting the patrons to leave Scream 4 and get to Source Code. Critic Man, still disorientated and confused, recalled his previous experience in the theater and admits that he failed. The voice tells him that he must go back and try again.
Again there was a rushing sound and Critic Man again found himself back in the theater next to the woman watching Scream 4. He watched again as the female character got slashed and the audience reacted as if they had never seen this before. It was déjà vu all over again.
He tried again to entreat the people to leave and see the more original, creative and thought-provoking Source Code, but his eight minutes ran out before he could accomplish the task and he failed again. After the fifth try, he succeeded, and people were spared having to sit through another cookie-cutter slasher film.
Critic Man was relived. He thought his strange assignment was over and that he wouldn’t have to endure seeing the same movie and scene over and over again when there was a rushing sound and he found himself next to a different woman in a different theater showing what appeared to be a remake of movie called Arthur.
He sunk dejectedly in his seat as knew there was no end of sequels and remakes and therefore his mission would never be complete.
Doug Young is the award-winning film reviewer for The Colorado Statesman. Last year he received first place for his columns in the Colorado Press Association’s Better Newspaper contest, the second time he has won the top award. Doug currently works in the Hickenlooper administration as an environmental advisor.