In Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, a striving yuppie played by Griffin Dunne finds himself trapped without money in a Lower Manhattan of endless night and increasingly surreal peril. “No longer in need of a madman,” as the U.K. critic Kim Newman put it, Scorsese trades Travis Bickle for a much scarier thing: SoHo on the cusp of gentrification.
Opening Friday (August 21), Fort Tilden shares some of its DNA with the 1985 flick, sending two 20-something Williamsburg residents on a cruelly hilarious trip to the seaside hipster hot spot of the title, a cross-borough journey that’s notoriously challenging if your bank account’s on the light side (and whose isn’t?).
“Yeah, it’s really hard to get to,” confirms Bridey Elliott, whose flinty character, Harper, bickers for the entire trek with put-upon bestie Allie (Clare McNulty). “I’ll be honest and say we never actually went to the beach. We’ve been to the fort itself, obviously, but we didn’t go to the beach proper because it was closed when we were filming.” (The fort, she adds, “is very… dirty. There’s a lot of trash.”)
Real location or not, the two hapless friends eventually make it to some sort of beach, where things become even worse.
If After Hours appeared at the dawn of America’s rush to heartless wealth disparity, Fort Tilden is like a record of the dire endgame. Harper and Allie are college-educated, but they have no life skills and nothing to apply them to if they did. “Millennials are fucked!” screams one (middle-aged) character, when Allie clips a stroller with her bike and then bolts from the escalating incident. It’s a poignant line if you clock the double meaning. Funny as it is—and it’s consistently and painfully funny—Fort Tilden is really a horror film.
“I actually never thought about that line that way before, but now that you bring that up, it makes me really sad!” says McNulty, joining her costar on the phone from New York. “There is actually a line in the movie that was cut, where, on the beach, one of the girls is talking about how New York is going to be underwater in 80 years or something. And it’s this really horrible moment, actually, right before Allie sort of loses it. I remember after we were shooting it, it was like, ‘Oh, gawd… We’re all fucked.’ It’s not just like our generation is fucked, we’re all fucked!”
Pausing to chuckle, McNulty tells herself, “Now I’m just getting apocalyptic,” before going into full, anxiety-ridden Allie mode. “What are you doing to us right now?” she screeches. “We have a movie premiere tonight and we’re going to be like, ‘Oh my God, you guys, what does any of this mean?’ ”