Horror Out of Context: Modern Problems
In 1981 Chevy Chase starred in quite a strange film called Modern Problems. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re probably not the only one; before I saw it on Netflix I never knew it existed, and sitting at a modest 4.1 on IMDb, it’s probably not a movie that people are interested in tracking down.
Part of its anonymity is because it’s a significantly odd movie, somewhat out of the ordinary for a Chase comedy. Its plot is scattered between supernatural fiction, romanticism, a whole lot of twists and turns that are zany in comparison to the relatively thin plotting.
Chase plays Max Fielder, an air traffic controller who’s currently going through a break-up with his girlfriend Darcy (Patti D’Arbanville), who can’t take his fits of jealous rage anymore. One day when Max is driving home from a bar he gets behind a nuclear waste truck that begins to spew green goo all over him; by the time he makes it to his apartment, he’s got an eerie glow about him and finds he can move objects with his mind.
From here, Max uses his powers to win back Darcy, then takes a trip to a beach house to spend some vacation time with Bill Murray’s brother Brian Doyle-Murray. Antics ensue, although not quite hilarious, and the finale of the film finds Chase crawling up the walls like Linda Blair in The Exorcist and imitating poltergeist phenomena. At one point, he even sucks up supposedly demon-destroying powder like a huge line of coke.
Modern Problems isn’t the best Chevy Chase film out there, and it’s consistently only mildly humorous. But one thing that can’t be denied is that it’s just plain wacky, and its subject matter caters to horror more than one might expect. There are many problems in Modern Problems, but a lack of horror subject matter isn’t one of them.