Roller coasters have long been part of movie history with their appearance in all kinds of genres. Their unique setting provides great story telling opportunities from comedies like National Lampoon’s Vacation to horror films like Final Destination 3 to thrillers like Fear to odd cameos like in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Here are two roller coaster moments he want to take you for a ride on.
Melissa’s Pick: Zombieland (2009)
The Summary: Our timid hero, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and his new companion Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who is in the “ass-kicking business,” have recently joined forces with sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) to survive Zombieland, the post-apocalyptic future in which the dead rise and the living try not to be eaten by them… and to get Twinkies.
The Moment: After accidentally killing Bill Murray, our band of heroes is torn on what to do next. Wichita and Columbus share an undeniable chemistry which scares Wichita because she has a problem with intimacy, especially considering that the death rate is exponentially higher in Zombieland. As such, she decides to leave with her sister, Little Rock and head for Pacific Playland, an amusement park that they had heard was still zombie free. When Tallahassee and Columbus wake up and discover the two missing, Columbus convinces Tallahassee to go after them. As they pull into the park, it’s clear that Wichita and Little Rock are in serious trouble; there’s a swarm of zombies at the base of the ride they are on and no hope for escape. Tallahassee confidently declares, “Time to nut up or shut up!” and lures the zombies to him so Columbus can save the girls. Tallahassee instantly starts killing zombies left, right and center. After all, he is in the “ass-kicking business” and business is good. He triumphantly yells, “Bingo!” while shooting a zombie with his shotgun and then jumps onto a roller coaster and laughs and laughs while he shoots zombie after zombie.
Why it Matters: This is an epic moment for Tallahassee. He’s introduced as being in the ass kicking business and this scene just cements that for him. We discover earlier in the film that Tallahassee had a son who was killed during the early days of the zombie apocalypse. To shut out the pain of that loss, he put all of his energy into killing zombies and he became the best damn zombie killer there is. He truly takes so much pleasure from mowing the undead down and it’s really his only source of release as he knows that he’s good at it and it gives him a sense of vindication. This moment is so much fun for us, as the viewer because it’s so much fun for Tallahassee as the participant. We love watching him do what he does best and we love watching him have fun, mainly because we know that he has had such a rough go of it. This is also a great moment for Columbus, even though he’s not directly involved in the roller coaster portion. Because Tallahassee distracts the zombies and draws them all to him, Columbus is able to save Wichita and Little Rock and change one of his fundamental rules for surviving Zombieland. His rule was Don’t be a Hero and it changes to Be a Hero. Also, it’s just plain awesome to watch a bunch of zombies get shot in the face.
David’s Take: Zombieland! So much fun and a great story that brings something fresh to the nearly worn out genre. The amusement park finale is a great example how well the film tackles both comedy and horror. What’s great about the roller coaster moment is how, as any gamer will attest, it looks and feels like an on-rails shooter with zombies popping up and Tallahassee shooting them down. Mel is right about the hero element as well, with Tallahassee putting himself in harm’s way to save others. The juxtaposition of a fun, children’s amusement ride with attacking zombies is terrific and is emblematic of the film’s overall theme. A great moment.
David’s Pick: Fatal Attraction (1987)
The Summary: When happily married Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) has a spur of the moment affair with a woman he meets while his wife and daughter are out of town, he thinks it’s just a one-time thing, but she, Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) decides she wants more. A lot more.
The Moment: Dan realizes he’s made a mistake when, on a second unplanned night together, she slits her wrists when he tries to leave. This is just the beginning, and as Alex continues to encroach on Dan’s life, causing him further stress, she reveals her true madness. At one point, after Dan refuses to reciprocate, Alex breaks into Dan’s home and kills the daughter’s pet rabbit, cooking it alive on the stove. From here, Dan confesses to his wife Beth (Anne Archer) and she tells him to leave and then phones Beth and warns her that if she comes near the house again, she will kill her. This prompts Alex to secretly pick up Dan and Beth’s young daughter Ellen (Ellen Hamilton Latzen) from school and take her to the amusement park, buying her ice cream and taking her on the roller coaster, all the while dead eyed and sotic.
Why it Matters: This is about power. Alex continually is without it, trying to force Dan to love her. Each step of the way, she raises the stakes, thinking in her delusional mind that Dan will come back to her. When these acts become about revenge, it gets dangerous. With Beth now part of the game, and her threats to kill her, Alex makes a bold move that is not inherently violent but fiercely cruel. Never harming the child, the ploy is about establishing control, by action, showing Beth that no, she has now power in this relationship and it is Ellen who will ultimately become the next rabbit in the pot. What’s great about this moment is the cinematography and sound engineering. As Alex and Ellen go up and down and around the bends on the ride, we cut back and forth to a frantic Beth driving madly through the streets, her eyes darting about searching for her daughter. The audio for both are intercut as if both are a ride, with screams and screeches echoing throughout. It’s a chilling roller coaster moment.
Melissa’s Take: David is completely right about this situation, it is about power. Alex is willing to do whatever it takes to make Dan notice her and doesn’t see using Ellen as anything other than a means to an end. This moment clearly shows how desperate and delusional Alex is and it’s truly terrifying. We know that she’s just trying to scare Dan but we don’t know exactly how far she will go. Watching this scene for the first time is so incredibly tense because we have a good idea that she’s just taking her to the amusement park but we don’t know for sure. Our feelings watching mirror the feeling of fear and the rush of adrenaline that you get on a roller coaster, you know that you’re safe, but there’s that inkling of doubt in your mind that something terrible could happen, and that is scarier than anything.
James Dearden (screenplay)
Melissa is a contributing writer to TMI. Visit her Homepage for Movie Reviews and More.