October 31, 2006


This is a cobweb-strewn piece that originally appeared in a 2002 instalment of the long-defunct FILM FREAK CENTRAL NEWSLETTER. (I've certainly done my share of catching up with Euro horror since its publication; and the complete and total omission of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre seems positively inexplicable.) Nevertheless, in the spirit of All Hallow's Eve and in lieu of the Vampire Blogathon, enjoy "Walter & Bill's 'Five' Fave Horror Films".


The Halloween of my childhood's delighted memory is an autumnal 1985 when I, then twelve, cowered my way through a VHS screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street with pals before hitting the cool Colorado evening for the last trick-or-treating uncoloured by neighbourhood razored-apple/poisoned-cookie paranoia. Too old to be afraid of scary movies yet too young not to be terrified of a certain burned, sweater-clad bogey crouching behind the next hedge, I was fresh into junior high school and feeling exactly centred in a way that I had seldom felt before--and have seldom felt again since. In the spirit of the season, I'm going to do this list as a trick--batches of flicks that share a theme or a thought and evoke that most infernal of pagan holidays (Christmas a close second, of course). Happy Halloween!

5. Deathdream (1972), Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972), Black Christmas (1974)
The three Bob Clark horror films from the 1970s occupy the fifth slot of my five; together they form a trilogy of unease seldom equalled in the annals of genre filmmaking. Deathdream updates the "Monkey's Paw" into a melancholy, terrifying Vietnam allegory as a boy murdered on distant battlefields comes home, while Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things offers a generational horror slant touched upon in the child-betrayal of Night of the Living Dead. The most important film of the three, however, may be Black Christmas, which not only identifies the source of Scream's telephone paranoia, but also locates itself at the start of the slasher film sub-genre, complete with the child killer and the killer P.O.V. shot.

4. Night of the Living Dead (1968), Repulsion (1965)
George Romero's still-gruelling, zero-budget zombie opera remains among the best and most-imitated horror films ever made. Politically-minded and possessed of a relentless, visceral energy, it opens with an inexplicable bang and never relents until its conclusion, one of the most ironic and heartbreaking in all of filmdom. Married to it temporally and by its catatonic villain/protagonists, Roman Polanski's English-language debut Repulsion makes Grand Guignol use of a dead rabbit and a straight-razor in its telling of a woman so terrified of sex that she becomes predatory.

3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)
Two remakes of 1950s Red-Scare classics, both Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers--with its '70s paranoia--and Carpenter's The Thing--with its Reagan-era Red-Baiting--have been refashioned as creatures of their time. Serving as political allegory and platforms for character actors at the tops of their games (Sutherland in the former, Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley in the latter), these two films boast of the best special effects of their time (and they hold up remarkably well) and an undeniable creepiness that gets under the skin and festers there.

2. The Exorcist (1973), Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Even better in its original form, William Friedkin's mad look at one Georgetown family's dance with the devil is a revolution in aural trickery and subliminal crosscut. It pulls no stops in offending the senses--from a possessed child mutilating herself with a crucifix to Ellen Burstyn in bell-bottoms, The Exorcist, along with Polanski's classic of spousal betrayal Rosemary's Baby, are the ultimate examples of the mistrust that erupts between every generation but particularly the one post-JFK and intra-Vietnam. Both demonstrate a remarkable technical proficiency, and both, like the others on this list, hold up under the ravages of time and repeated viewing.

1. Don't Look Now (1973), Suspiria (1977)
Nicholas Roeg's dark Venice squats in the middle of this tale of generational mistrust. A brilliant character study starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie at their respective peaks, Don't Look Now is home to one of the most realistic love scenes in all of cinema and one of the most shocking endings as well. Beautifully balanced between the minutia of the mundane and the incomprehensibility of the supernatural, the picture is among the most horrific in history, joining Dario Argento's mad homage to insanity and Hitchcock, 1977's Suspiria, as my favourite horror films for rental this 2002 season. Both lurid and colour-saturated, both possessed of a kind of dream logic and displacement, watch each of them at your own risk...and preferably while sober.


In compiling this list of my five (technically six) favourite horror movies, I took two factors into account. The first is whether it scared me, but that criterion is too broad; Mariah Carey movies leave scars, yet I felt that my selections should also be steeped in more genre traditions than just the screaming banshee. (This also led to omitting Seconds, which is indeed frightening but mostly for its honest treatment of the human condition.) Note that I feel somewhat disadvantaged by my ignorance of the giallo and Euro-horror, for which I blame poor video transfers that made these correlated sub-genres unappetizing t o me as a youth. (Just missed my list, in no specific order: Rosemary's Baby, The Blair Witch Project, Don't Look Now, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Psycho.)

5. Scream 2 (1997)
Yes, Scream 2. This sequel to the po-mo slasher pic pretended to deconstruct the inevitable second instalment in any horror franchise when really it just wants to sever any attachment we have to its predecessor. Scream 2, in fact, is so misanthropic as to become vital--it's got a big, black chasm where its heart should be, and that's a massively welcome reprieve from the majority of modern fright flicks.

4. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)
What Jaws and Psycho did for H20, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer does for mankind. It's not a safe movie even with the lights on, yet in many ways, the violence comes second in memory to the miraculous melancholy achieved by director John McNaughton and actor Michael Rooker, playing real-life homicidal maniac Henry Lee Lucas. The movie's horrific because you start to feel comfortable around the title creature.

3. Night of the Living Dead (1968)/Dawn of the Dead (1978)
I'm cheating here because the first two official Dead movies are inseparable companion pieces in my mind. A pair of radically different siege pictures from the same director, George Romero, the former is without question scarier, but the latter encourages a more active viewership--we've all, in essence, been trapped in a mall with zombies.

2. The Exorcist (1973)
Ironically the most optimistic movie on my list, the visceral and cerebral levels of The Exorcist pack the same intense wallop. Aside: avoid "The Version You've Never Seen" and stick with the classic 1973 incarnation, or be subjected to some cheeseball CGI and an atonal denouement.

1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Conscience does make insomniacs of us all. Philip Kaufman's remake of the 1956 original is filled with unrelenting dread; to wit: a character discovers the path to freedom, a joyous moment underscored by the bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace." But in no time flat, his hopes are cruelly dashed, and "Amazing Grace" gives way to the fuzz of a radio tuning into another station. It's not just everything you want in a horror movie (i.e., it reflects a certain nihilism), but also a great piece of cinema, one of the greatest.

What would go on your lists?


The Captain said...

Nice lists, fellas - I'll post one later, but first I wanted to bring this to your attention - I think it's the first DVD to have a Walter quote on the back. On an unrelated note, it's also one of my favourite horror movies, definately manning a spot in my Top 5 for Halloween.

Alex Jackson said...

Alls the old standards, but what about Eraserhead and Plan 9 From Outer Space?

Bill C said...

Captain: Very cool, thanks for that. Given the '04 release date, it looks like it would indeed pre-date the Rhinoceros Eyes DVD.

Chad Evan said...

5. Halloween/The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
3.Whale's Frankenstein
2.Night of the Living Dead
1.Psycho/The Birds

Alex Jackson said...

My Halloween rentals this year, btw:

Shock Waves
The Undertaker and His Pals
Dolly Dearest

Anonymous said...

5. Carnival of Souls
4. Freaks
3. Suspiria/Deep Red
2. Halloween
1. Night of the Living Dead

Also a big champion of "Let's Scare Jessica To Death" and "Session 9"

Anonymous said...

My list proper would boil down to a lot of the usual suspects. For the record: (5) Nightmare on Elm Street, (4) Invasion of the Body Snatchers '78, (3) Psycho, (2) Dawn of the Dead, and all-time #1 being Halloween; has there been a more deconstructed and analyzed film in the last thirty years? Maybe Eraserhead, come to think of it. A few more favorites that I couldn't possibly neglect:

My first experience with Argento still stands as my personal choice -- Tenebre. Few films have criticized horror as a genre of entertainment (not to mention film criticism itself) so incisively while embodying all of its traits.

I was lucky enough to see Robin Hardy's classic of slow-burn terror The Wicker Man again this past week on the big screen, and I don't think I'll ever be able to get Edward Woodward's "recitation" of Psalm 23 out of my head.

They were favorites of my formative VHS years, but now that I've got the Book of the Dead LEs of the first two films, I can now safely say that Sam Raimi's original The Evil Dead scared the hell out of me. It's difficult for me to contemplate the frightening level of manipulation and control that the demons possess (har har). The best moments in the film are located in the playing card sequence; the dopey protagonists find infinite fascination (and eventual fright) in the asinine ability to guess "Queen of Spades" correctly. Baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet. And has anyone ever noticed that for all of the fanfare, the Necronomicon is essentially a non-factor?

And, because no one talks about Claude Rains anymore, you can't forget Whale's The Invisible Man -- has the power of one man's mere voice held so much sway over a moviegoing audience?

Anonymous said...

"Henry" was a profoundly disturbing and effective film which I have absolutely no interest in ever seeing again--so, I couldn't honestly put it on a "Top 5" or recommend it as a good "Halloween Chiller" type of flick--but, it's still a great film. I believe that horror and humour wallop us in very subjective, primitive parts of our subconscious, making it difficult to deconstruct these films (for me anyways) "The Exorcist" for instance, has always bored me--even though I can appreciate it's style and solid performances. Nonetheless, here is a film that regularly appears on "Scariest Films of All Time Lists". Not growing up with religion could have something to do with it--but, I found "Exorcist III" very scary, so--go figure.

Alex Jackson said...

There was a lot that I liked about Henry: Portrait of the Serial Killer and its reputation as classic is completely warranted, but all the same I think that it's a little marred by the cheapsoid special effects. I especially thought the TV killing was a little on the lame side. Michael Rooker is brilliant though and the ending is among the finest of all film history. One of my favorite theatrical posters to boot.

But if you're in the market for proving your manhood I still maintain that Cannibal Holocaust is one of the few video nasties that is really as nasty as its rep suggests. It's also actually a fairly sophisticated critique of the chasm between the "primitives" and the "civilized". I actually find myself talking about it a lot whenever I talk about horror films.

The Captain said...

Top 5 (In no particular order)
- Evil Dead 2
- Dark Water
- Ringu
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
- Eraserhead

All very different styles (exception being the Japanese duo), and then runners up being Scream, A Tale of Two Sisters, Child's Play, Bride of Chucky, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm St, A Nightmare on Elm Street III - The Dream Warriors, Suspiria, The Fly, Dawn of the Dead and TCM Remakes, and finally Wrong Turn, which I feel is highly underrated. I'd also throw The Devil's Rejects on the list, though I'm not sure how well it really fits into the horror genre.

If anyone mentions Saw on a list, can we strap their head into a reverse beartrap?

Andrew Tracy said...

"Manhood" aside, AJ, my condolences on your rental of Shock Waves. The idea of aquatic Nazi zombies is so much more fun than the execution...

Anonymous said...

You know, Captain, Saw IV just got greenlighted. I wonder what body parts will form the Roman numerals on the poster this time?

And Andrew, I'll submit to you that every low-budget direct-to-video grindhouse horror film of the last twenty years involves the words "aquatic," "Nazi," "zombie" or some combination thereof.

Alex Jackson said...

"Manhood" aside, AJ, my condolences on your rental of Shock Waves. The idea of aquatic Nazi zombies is so much more fun than the execution...

Can't be worse than Undertaker and His Pals. Really, a major disappointment.

Bill C said...

I dunno, Dave, I was fortunate enough to grow up in an atheistic household, but The Exorcist still does it for me. I think what got to me was the fear of metamorphosis--not to mention I find it much easier to suspend my disbelief of the Devil than of God, since there's something profoundly human about Old Scratch.

Exorcist III, though, is an underrated pleasure. Something devastating about the "It's a Wonderfull [sic] Life" scrawled in blood above the corpse, and George C. Scott--Golden Raspberry or no--is tremendous in it. Ditto Brad Dourif. ("Do you know that you are in the presence of an artist?") I have a friend who still has scars from the wide shot where the nurse gets killed with the shears. I dare say it would supplant the original Exorcist on a revised list of mine.

The Captain said...

Saw IV had to happen - I theorise that based on the current Hollywood model of profit over artistry, most of the current popular franchises - Spider-Man, X-Men, Saw - will end up with sequels with double digits, just because they've got guarenteed audiences (look at X-3, cinematic diarrhea that morons flocked to in droves) and are guarenteed money makers compared to funding the next Lodge Kerrigan flick.

Has anyone seen Children of Men yet, btw?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I had the distinct pleasure of watching the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre yesterday on Scream for the first time and it went straight to top of my favorite horror films of all time. I FUCKIN' LOVED IT! Anyone who says the remake is better than the original is an alien to me. I don't think this one's coming down soon either because Ir eally don't find horror films usually this interesting.

I saw the film as "Franklin's Nightmare/Fantasy". Was it the same guy who played Franklin and Leatherface? Really indicative is Franklin's freakout when they get to the house, when he mockingly laughs. Also see how Franklin and Leatherface leave their respective abodes/cages at the same time and meet in the middle. The film employs the ol' Psycho two-house technique representing the split in the personality (a water-body in the middle of the two for the Jungians,but maybe it was just one of those Ford-ian "accidents"). When they do meet in the middle surrounded by the primal Jungle, Sally who helped Franklin get there, she becomes the target of the "evil twin" thus displaying Franklin's poisoned sexuality. It was because she hated the fact that Fraklin came with them on the trip that she gets to escape at the end, while everyone else dies because it is Franklin's fantasy/nightmare and so all of them are really... himself.

James Allen said...

In no order:

Halloween, Evil Dead 2, Dawn of the Dead (I also liked the recent remake), Jaws, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (the Spencer Tracy version.)

On the lighter side we have: Shaun of the Dead, The Frighteners, Ghostbusters, Night of the Creeps, Young Frankenstein, Re-Animator

So much to choose from, eh?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Forgot to mention Sally's fascination for zebra wallpaper. If my deconstruction is correct, then Franklin's "sister" Sally, i.e. a representation of his feminine less-chainsawy self can not be heard from the ground-level of the house (she is on the floor above, Jungians again) while she tells her boyfriend about her childhood fascination for zebras, an early indication of his dual personality.

The casting of Franklin is brilliant to me, he is this fat, wheelchair-bound and timid man with a feminine voice. The woman inside him is beautiful, free and courageous while the man inside him is so ugly he veils it with a leather-mask (damn, Jungians again) and is caged in an ugly decaying room of death. The chainsaw itself is fascinating to me, no longer just a dagger looking to penetrate, this thing wants to pulverise you and rip your entrails out, piping Norman Bates for a sweet little fag psycho that he was. While Norman's parent figure was his mother, Leatherface doesn't have a woman in his family.

I can't wait to see it again.

Seattle Jeff said...

Heard today on NPR that France has all but killed Halloween. They've only celebrated it for a decade and have done away with it now because they view it as an orgy of American-style consumption.

I'd want to move there is only they weren't so rude and I wasn't so American.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

But mostly I love this film because, to me, it represents the 70s in all its glory. This film is Psycho's soiled underpants. I hate Psycho. I hate Carrie. I hate Shining. This film takes a giant dump on the usual Hitchcock-ian artifice of most horror films, including the remake, and so I love it.

mimo70 said...

I'm a big fan of your site and have had little reason to complain, but "It's A Wonderful Life" gets 3 stars while you gave 3 and a 1/2 to "Talladega Nights"?!?

I realize that they were reviewed by two different people, but as a site, to suggest that TN is anything but a goofy, feather weight comedy with not a single dramatically credible scene in it is ridiculous.

On the other hand, IAWL is the closest early sound Hollywood ever came to making a perfect picture. It's funny, dark and ultimately incredibly moving. It's perfectly cast, paced, and has a story that speaks dramatically and cleverly to the two faces of American Capitalism.

Best regards.

Chad Evan said...

I don't know that I'd classify It's a Wonderful Life as an early sound picture. I'm pretty sure that term is used to refer to movies from the early '30s, usually visually static and without musical scores.

The Captain said...

I realize that they were reviewed by two different people, but as a site, to suggest that TN is anything but a goofy, feather weight comedy with not a single dramatically credible scene in it is ridiculous.

I don't think so, man - I think you're misreading TN through and through. It's a pretty smart picture, breaking down that apathetic meathead-ism that roars for its masculine power but flails when it's beaten down - it's that same apathetic meathead-ism that's given us Dubya for a second term, that's lost thousands of lives in a war for oil, and that keeps phallus-comparison-epics like NASCAR thriving. Consider that the title characters in both TN and It's a Wonderful Life are saved by similar things: family and togetherness and actual meaning - also observe that TN has smart satire on NASCAR, American views of frenchies/gays/women/men, the American dream, so on so on.

Also, it has Will Ferrel getting attacked by a cougar. That alone warrants 3 1/2 stars.

Alex Jackson said...

Yeah, I like It's a Wonderful Life much more than Talladega Nights also, but I agree that the latter has merit as satire, if possibly an easy one.

Travis is pretty damn tough anywho, I have only seen him give four star ratings to two films to date: Russian Ark and The Tales of Hoffman. He called Alan Clarke the greatest British director since Hitchcock or Powell and Pressburger and yet none of the films in the Alan Clark Collection merit more than three and a half stars. That the dude who coined the phrase "emotional pornography" sees it fit to throw Capra any props at all speaks highly to me of the ultimate worthiness of It's a Wonderful Life.

Jared said...

YES! Scream 2 owns! I watched all 3 back to back seeing them for the first time and was blown away by that one in particular, I thought it was a slicker and less smug execution of a similar concept to the first film, and the violence is better. It's just a more professional film.

What's the point in making lists? With horror films I enjoy them good or bad largely on their own merits. Some of my personal favorites

-The Exorcist
-Halloween (these are my duh ones)
-Candyman (EXCELLENT MOVIE! I bought it for five bucks this week and don't think I've ever spent money better)
-Dead Alive/Braindead (Peter Jackson was so great at making his rude scatological little horror flicks, I almost wish he'd go back and do one again)
-Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn; once again a "sequel better than the original" case

Props to the first Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street 1 + New Nightmare, Hellraiser and especially Hellraiser 2, Night of the Living Dead, Body Snatchers: The Invasion Continues (R Lee Ermey and Forest Whitaker own this movie), Re-Animator, and Dagon. I'm sure I'm leaving a ton of stuff out.

I almost kind of hate Suspiria, I think it's pretty and empty; and the sucky dubbing makes it hard to watch (might have something to do with why I have a hard time getting into Fellini too). Is there something wrong with me?

Andrew Tracy said...

Keep up the good fight against the emoporn, Travis! And for the record, I start tearing up about ten minutes into Wonderful Life when Mr. Gower realizes that George stopped him from poisoning a kid, and by the time of "I want to live again" I'm a bawling wreck (the spiked egg nog helps, but still).

tmhoover said...

For the record: I also give Claire Denis' The Intruder four stars in the latest annual. I may be hard, but some people just got it, and Claire's one of them.

Alex Jackson said...

I almost kind of hate Suspiria, I think it's pretty and empty; and the sucky dubbing makes it hard to watch (might have something to do with why I have a hard time getting into Fellini too). Is there something wrong with me?

Don't agree with the Fellini assessment, but I'm not much a fan of Suspiria either. Like Opera a lot more, I think I appreciate the little bit of structure imposed by the slasher format.

I haven't really met anybody who firmly states a preference between Jackson's gross out pics and Raimis Evil Dead trilogy, but I like Jackson better any day of the week. Jackson makes sweet scatological comedies while Raimi makes callous movie-hating satires.

Anybody agree, dislike Jackosn, or simply think Raimi better?

tmhoover said...

I'll say this for the Raimi/Jackson debate: both of them were way more interesting before they sold out and started making pious epics. The whole point of Jackson and Raimi were that they delivered the seedy underbelly that mainstream blockbusters lived to deny- so for them to turn around and become part of the system they once mocked was for me, beyond betrayal. King Kong was nice, but give me the brio of DeadAlive any day.

Alex Jackson said...

Blah Hoover! I think this underground/overground business is nonsense, popularity with mainstream audiences or the lack thereof should never be a virtue in and onto itself. That is the path to madness.

One of the things I love about this year's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Jackass 2 is nobody knows what the fuck they are. In one a beautiful girl gets raped by R. Lee Ermey and later she gets her throat sliced open at the dinner table. And it's all for shits and giggles cause the bad guys are clearly the lovably post-modern antiheroes of the film. In the other a man defecates on a doll house while another man drinks horse semen. If this isn't the seedy underbelly of human civilization then I don't know what is. And yet these films played at your local mall and I believe both grabbed the number one spot in box office. So wouldn't you think it's safe to call them "mainstream blockbusters"?

Anywho, I like Dead Alive better than King Kong also, but all the same don't see it as that much of a compromise or sell-out. The violence still struck me as brutal even for a PG-13 film and the racism was still there in all its ickiness.

Raimi? Well, Evil Dead was so glib that it struck me as very much a calling card to greater and better things; meaning there were few values to sell out on. Greater gap between that and Spider Man than Dead Alive and King Kong though.

Andrew Tracy said...

Funny, I've often thought of this blog as a path to madness unto itself...

mimo70 said...

Yes, "Talladega Nights" is a satire of the dumb/sexist/gleefully ignorant Southern American male who enjoys NASCAR and the rah-rah music of Toby Keith. I get that, but its' attempts at drama, or anything remotely resembling it, aren't credible. Now, does a comedy need to have dramatically credible moments? No. But, if it makes an attempt at crafting one or more, then it better work to set that moment(s) up so it has resonance - so that it is illuminating, moving, powerful.

TN is a silly comedy - one that made me laugh a lot - but its' targets are easy and obvious and it's as shallow as a kiddie pool.

IAWL earns its' emotional moments honestly. Is it "emotional pornography?" I don't think so. It takes it's time laying out the story of a man who has lost his way, who has forgotten what matters most in life. I think the film asks and answers one simple question, "How do you measure a man's worth?" And it answers that question with great power and persuasion. And yes, it makes me cry rivers of tears everytime I watch it.

Yes, many a good old boy has voted for Dubya and that is unfortunate -to say the least.

PS - I think that I've unwittingly set-up a nonsensical comparison between two very different films and for that I apologize.


James Allen said...

Oh geeze, Talladega Nights; if this be pointed social satire I want out. Ferrell can be funny once and awhile, be he and Adam McKay don't have a clue about what satire is, let alone how to do it. Easy pokes at rednecks is not anything that hasn't been done a million times before, most recently by "rednecks" themselves (Blue Collar Comedy Tour), all that's being satirized anymore are caricatures of rednecks, a gambit of dimishing returns if ever there was one, and a damned smug one at that.

Ferrell and McKay hit upon NASCAR not because they had anything to really say about it, but just bacause it was there, seemed kinda trendy, and they could hang a few gags on it (much like they did with the 70's and Anchorman.)

The paucity of ideas is readily on display: a gag featuring Will Ferrell stripping down to his underwear done not once, but twice, the shocking idea that his main rival is not only gay but french (gasp!), and the showing of an actual commercial during the climactic race (you'd think they could've taken the time to make up a humorous commercial for a fake restaurant or something.)

But the bottom line for me was that I didn't laugh all that much. If anyone walked away with the film, it was Gary Cole, a man with more acting talent (and better comedic timing) than Ferrell has in his index finger (Office Space, Dodgeball.)

Bill C said...

If anyone's interested in owning a legit copy of Jack Arnold's The Incredible Shrinking Man on DVD, Universal has released it--for the first time in widescreen, which finally allows the hard-matted creature effects to be seen in full--as part of a box set ("The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection", which also includes Tarantula, Monster on the Campus, The Mole People, and The Monolith Monsters) being sold exclusively at Best Buy. I've tried in vain to procure a review copy, but, given how often Arnold's masterpiece comes up at this here blog, figured I should give you a heads-up.

tmhoover said...

I have nothing against mainstream blockbusters- after all, I was the guy who came out for The Chronicles of Riddick. But mainstream blockbusters are only good for certain things, and I felt Raimi and Jackson picked up the slack they left. Now that they've been tamed, I feel something has been lost. It's like Gus Van Sant doing Good Will Hunting- anybody could have made it, whereas My Own Private Idaho could only be the work of one madman.

So too with Evil Dead and Bad Taste- with their makers' passage from the fringe to the studio payroll, they've become like everyone else rather than more like themselves. And so their genuine sensiblities get ground out to make way for standard (if craftsmanlike) product. There's nothing wrong with that mainstream, as long as it doesn't stomp all over the eccentrics on the sidelines. But it does, and when people who've been doing nutty work become absorbed it kind of hurts.

tmhoover said...

And as for the issue of what is "mainstream": I believe that the operative word in my initial screed is "blockbuster", not "mainstream". And Jackass and TCM:Beginning don't qualify- they're not expensive enough, they go for a smaller cut of the audience (Jackass' gross notwithstanding), and are generally more corrosive than, say, LOTR or Spider-Man. These last movies are mythic extravaganzas with a certain amount of piety towards their subjects/properties- and piety is the last thing I want from Raimi or Jackson. That's really what I'm mourning: the move from scurrilous and slaphappy to safe and "archetypal".

Andrew Tracy said...

I'm glad to see somebody else is putting "archetypal" in quotation marks.

Alex Jackson said...

That's really what I'm mourning: the move from scurrilous and slaphappy to safe and "archetypal".

Ah, that I can understand what you're saying then.

I guess I like Lord of the Rings more than you, but yeah I've always kind of complained that it's too communal of an experience. I remember even the white supremacist organization Stormfront.org adopting it as an example of a "good white people" movie; the film is so universal that it can do nothing to defend against such appropriation.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I guess I like Lord of the Rings more than you, but yeah I've always kind of complained that it's too communal of an experience.

When did that become a bad thing? Some guy sees the "eastern" forces on elephants as racist, some other guy sees it as a commentary on racism. To each his own. Fuck, we need films like King Kong, the 200 mil. blockbusters done talented filmmakers. We need guys like Speilberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson etc. to keep masses interested in cinema. It is easy for people who see 300 films a year to say something like that, but most people around the globe see 3 films a year and they usually are the King Kongs and Jurassic Parks. They don't wanna watch a film with quiet contemplation on nature of man, they wanna see a giant fuckin' monkey ripping a T-Rex's jaw open. That's worth their money. Now that may hurt the alienated elitist in most critics, a trait necessary for the job I feel, but I also thing a little less ego-centric perspective is required here. Let's face it, it's not like Jacksons and Speilbergs of the world were really gonna give us something to think about (seen Schindler's List lately?) if they stuck with their lower budgets, they're no fuckin' Malicks, so why not have them as hospitality attendants for cinema. They never really were slaphappy, you see, that was just a way to get attentions of the big-dicks so that they could be one of them. The most honest and, I feel, introspective dialogue from King Kong was:

Jack Driscoll: That's the thing you come to learn about Carl, his undying ability to destroy the things he loves.

It truly defines the character of these filmmakers for me. But hey look at the flip-side, what would you rather have, a King Kong or a Troy.

p.s. WHy hasn't FFC done a DVD review on Manderlay? I just saw it last night it just blew me out of the water.

Jared said...

Would like to point out to Walter, who mentions Gunner Palace in his review of "This Film Is Not Yet Rated", that Gunner Palace received a PG-13 as its final rating for theatrical release.

Bill C said...

Thanks, Jared; that one was actually my fault, and it's fixed.

Jack_Sommersby said...

A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Evil (1978)
The Thing

Scott Weinberg said...

How awesome that you both have such love for Kaufman's Invasion. I also think it's freaking brilliant. :)

(But no ALIEN? Ouch!)