Thursday, April 14, 2016

The More You Think About It, The Worse It Gets

Growing up, once I went beyond just enjoying movies to becoming more interested in understanding how other people saw movies, I'd still only read about ten reviews of any new film. I'd check out what my local paper had to say, then The Village Voice, The Boston Globe, and the big magazines like Newsweek and TIME. A few solid opinions, that's all I needed. It's all anyone should need, right?

Due to their publishing schedule, genre mags like Cinefantastique were never timely in their reviews but I actually liked that better in a way because by the time they ran their take on a film, it seemed as though it was coming from a more contemplative place, rather than just representing the knee jerk opinion of opening weekend.

Now, thanks to the internet, everything is just knee jerk opening weekend opinion. When a new movie comes out, especially if it's a movie that's perceived to be bad, everyone pig piles on it.

That's mainly what keeps me from writing about new movies now, especially if my opinion is more or less in line with the common consensus. How many times does anyone need to read the same thing, just phrased slightly differently? As a reader, I don't care and as a writer, is there any point in being the 8,986,420th person to tell the world that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a piece of shit?

Not a whole lot of value in that, right?

But listen...sometimes you just can't stop thinking about a movie. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. And, for me, Batman v Superman falls heavily into the latter camp. And while it doesn't say much about my overall quality as a person, I know I'm just not going to be happy until I rip it a new asshole (SPOILERS ahead).

First off, it's a terrible movie. Yes, we can say that everybody has their own take on the film, that everybody has a right to their own valid, individual opinions but, for fuck's sake, this movie is garbage.


We all know that some movies are misunderstood upon their initial release and they become more appreciated in time but I just can't see that ever being the case here. I don't think the consensus is ever going to swing in BvS's favor where, like, a lot of people come around to thinking that this was not the dumpster fire that it appeared to be.

From what I've seen on message boards, the common knock that BvS fans make towards its detractors is that "oh, well, you're just a Marvel fan!" but I don't know how anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of DC would not be put off by the treatment these icons have received at Zack Snyder's hands.

What Snyder has done is like if Rob Zombie made an adaptation of the General Mills monster cereal mascots. If you can imagine what Zombie's take on Frankenberry and Count Chocula would be like, that's kind of what Snyder's Batman and Superman feels like to me. It's a movie no one in their right mind would ever ask for is what I'm saying.

Wonder Woman comes off the best simply because she's in it the least (and Ben Affleck manages a decent performance as Bruce/Batman, even as he's called upon to do some dumb, very un-Batman like things) but this movie does not do any of these characters any favors.

After watching Man of Steel, I felt that Snyder was someone who just fundamentally did not understand Superman, that he just couldn't wrap his head around either the hope the character embodies or the selfless heroism he practices, and that's proven ten fold by BvS. It's like watching Jack the Ripper try to direct a movie about Gandhi.

Now, some would say "But Superman sacrifices himself at the end! That's heroic! Come on, it's right there in the movie! Pay attention!" Yes, that is right. Superman does sacrifice himself in the fight against Doomsday. But here's the thing: it's not dramatically earned.

On just an internal logic level, the events of the climax don't hold together. We know Superman can't get near Kryptonite without losing his powers. Not only do we know this from decades' worth of stories but it's been demonstrated in the very film we're watching not more than ten minutes earlier. We see that Superman is completely useless near Kryptonite, to the point where he's just a sack of wet laundry.

But yet at the climax he picks up a spear with a big Kryptonite tip and not only flies at full speed across the length of two football fields to take on Doomsday but also still has the strength to ram the spear through Doomsday in a prolonged struggle. This is absolutely idiotic.

Especially as Wonder Woman, someone of near-equal strength to Superman, is RIGHT THERE. Literally, she's just an arm's length next to Superman. There's no reason why Superman couldn't have handed the spear to her so she could take on Doomsday. There's no reason that Superman has to do it himself other than for the filmmakers to take the easiest, most unearned route to staging his "heroic" death.

The really galling thing is that Superman still could've been killed during the course of the final battle by means of any number of plausible scenarios but to make that moment work, Snyder, screenwriter David Goyer, and co. would've have to have gone the extra mile creatively (and not even a mile, for God's sake - they just would've had to think about it for more than five freaking minutes).

Of course, that would've taken a little thought, a little extra work, and some respect for the audience. Much easier to just put that spear in Superman's hands, no matter how little sense it makes, and just have him get killed that way. So what we end up with is a "big" death that rings hollow because it comes across as exactly what it is - a pre-determined plot point that had to be met, come hell or highwater, with as little thought possible given as to how to get us there.

Superman's death isn't akin to Spock's final sacrifice in Wrath of Khan (as much as Snyder wants us to feel that it is, to the point of having 'Amazing Grace' played on bagpipes at Clark's funeral - are the Kents Scottish? - as a blatant shout out to Khan). No, Superman's death (like everything else in BvS), isn't nearly so (pardon the phrase) logical. It's just crap that has to happen to set up other crap they have planned.

Speaking of logic, while logic and the messy reality of emotions don't always have to perfectly synch up, the abrupt, nonsensical transition of Batman and Superman from enemies to friends is jaw-dropping any way you look at it. I'm not even going to get into the whole goofy "Martha" thing at this point because it's been covered in a thousand snarky memes but I had to audibly groan in the theater when Batman rescues Martha Kent and he growls to her "I'm a friend of your son's!"

That line is supposed to be a big laugh getter (I assume) but, Jesus, are you kidding me?? I could see him saying "Your son sent me." Sure, I'd be ok with that. But "I'm a friend of your son's?" Really? After he's spent months plotting to kill Superman (not just to fight him or contain him or develop a sound strategy against him but to kill him) and after we've just watched him take sick, sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain on Superman? Now they're not just allies but "friends"?

Let's be clear: the fight between Batman and Superman in BvS isn't depicted as just some brawl. Batman wasn't just trying to put a little hurt on Superman. No, Batman was actively trying to take Superman's life (even in Dark Knight Returns, Batman didn't have anything fatal in mind when he went into battle against Superman, by the way).

We're not talking about a mind-controlled Batman here. We're not talking about a possessed Batman. No, this was just plain old Batman (a Batman who's dumb enough to be manipulated into attempted murder by newspaper clippings with scrawled messages on them but still a Batman who, all anger issues aside, is supposedly in his 'right' mind). When he slowly slices Superman's flesh with the tip of the Kryptonite spear, the sick fuck seems to really be relishing the moment. If he could've carved out Superman's heart right then and there and bit into it, letting the blood of his hated enemy run thick and red down his chest, he would've. But after all that we see go down between these two, just moments later they're "friends"!

Look, being the 8,986,420th or so person to dump on Batman v Superman isn't a proud moment for me but I just had to do it. And, shit, I could go on. For hours, really - I've barely even scratched the surface of how awful BvS is. Hell, I haven't even said a word about Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor (a performance that would've been embarrassing even in a Schumacher Batman movie) but I've got to force myself to stop. I can't talk about the jar of piss. I can't talk about how somehow anyone can walk into a Kryptonian ship and be recognized as supreme leader just because they answered "yes" when the ship asked them a question. No, I can't talk about any of that.

You know, it's just a movie. Whether any movie is good or bad, life goes on either way. But, weeks later, I just can't believe how terrible this one particular movie was - this movie that had so much time and talent devoted to it. I think that's what annoys me the most - that with all the resources this production had, all the extra time they had to finesse things (remember, this was originally supposed to be out in 2015) and this is what they ended up with. How does that happen?

Is it carelessness? Indifference? Personally, I believe it's all about contempt. Like Man of Steel, this is a movie made by people who perceive these characters to be 'corny' and think they won't appeal to jaded modern viewers unless someone makes them 'cool'. That's a terrible angle to approach from. There's no way you're going to get these characters right if you believe they're broken to begin with. Add in the lack of attention to story, logic, human emotions, and so on, and, well, you've got Batman v Superman. It's probably a mistake to go too dark with these characters in the first place but you could still pull it off if you tried. The real problem here is going dark and dumb.

As a fan of DC, it's a heartbreaker to see these characters and the universe they inhabit brought to the screen with so little love, care, or understanding. As a fan, I would have loved to celebrate the sight of DC's Trinity on screen but unfortunately Batman v Superman didn't give me anything to cheer for. And if you think I'm going to bother devoting my time to watching the three hour cut of this, you're nuts.

I'm just curious to see whether Warners/DC will take any steps to course correct or if they just let Snyder continue to vandalize their properties. Either way, it's their money. It just seems like, at some point, you'd want to start getting this shit right. But what do I know?

I'm just a fan.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

When Jason Stalked The Movie Loft

Now here's something you never see around here anymore - a new post! I know, I know - believe me, I'm as surprised as anyone! It's totally the last thing I expected. But look, here's the thing: the big question I always have to ask myself before posting anything is - "Is this worth the time I'm putting into it?" And also: "does anyone - and I mean anyone - even care about this shit?"

The answer to both of those questions is usually "no" but in this case I'm just gonna go ahead and waste my time and post about something very few people give a rat's ass about. You see, while poking around YouTube, I came across a few clips that combine two of my favorite things: legendary Boston area TV host Dana Hersey and Friday the 13th and I felt the immediate need to document that discovery here.

Unless you lived in Massachusetts during the '80s and '90s, the name Dana Hersey will mean nothing to you. But if you were a movie buff living in Mass during that time and you had access to Channel 38 out of Boston, chances are you were a fan of the Hersey-hosted program The Movie Loft.

While most of my movie host idols as a kid were all in the cult/horror/B-movie arena - like Elvira, Commander USA, etc. - Hersey was not a genre guy. He didn't have a character or a shtick, he didn't show up in a billowing fog of dry ice, or play to the kiddie crowd with goofy puns, comedic props, or puppets. He didn't do skits.

He was just a classy middle aged guy hosting a wide variety of films five nights a week (I recall it as being a Mon-Fri show but my memory on that could be off) from within a cozy loft set outfitted with a steel spiral staircase, a wall of lopsided book shelves, a cluttered desk, and classic movie posters.

Hersey himself was always dressed like a college professor with sweaters and jackets being his go-to look and his warm voice was indelible as he dispensed trivia and insight on each Loft film.

In an age in which the fan - and even the critical - community only seems to grow more coarse and hostile all the time, I miss the days when my image of an adult movie fan was the avuncular, educated Hersey. Hersey made being a movie buff seem like a smart person's past time - even when the Loft would air a low brow pick like Friday the 13th Part II.

In our digital age, the idea of a locally hosted movie program (or, really, the idea of watching movies on commercial TV at all) seems laughably outdated - just a relic of a time when viewers were hard up for options. But yet I can't help but feel that a program like The Movie Loft nurtured a love for movies in a way that no streaming service ever could. Yes, we have countless films at our fingertips now but watching a movie in the company of a skilled host made the solitary experience of movie-watching seem like a less lonely hobby.

If you were a Movie Loft viewer, enjoy the following clips. If you never watched The Movie Loft, you still might appreciate these clips, not as personal nostalgia, but simply as a glimpse of the kind of class act that used to be the standard in broadcasting but is all too hard to find these days.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Things Happen In The Night

These days, Marvel has the golden touch. Everyone with rights to a fictional franchise wants to emulate their successful model of a shared universe in film and on TV but no one else quite has the knack to achieve it. It was a much different story in 1989, though, when the TV movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk debuted to tepid response.

Back then, even the goal of using the established character of The Hulk to spin another Marvel character into their own live action series was a bar set too high. The second of three Hulk TV movies made after the cancellation of the show in 1982, Trial continued the trend started in The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988) of pairing ol' Jade Jaws with another Marvel hero in the hopes of launching them into a show of their own. Both movies failed in that regard but while Returns badly botched the introduction of Marvel's God of Thunder with its poor depiction of Thor, the street level Daredevil fared far better.

Shortly after David Banner (Bill Bixby) leaves his latest job as a farm hand for fear of Hulking out against a bullying co-worker and arrives in the big city (which we assume to be The Big Apple but it's not specified whether the movie actually takes place in New York), he becomes involved in an incident on a subway car in which two thugs in the employ of Wilson Fisk (John Rhys-Davies) harass a female passenger (Marta DuBois) and incur the wrath of Banner's gamma-powered alter-ego in the process. Post-transformation, Banner is picked up by the cops and finds himself in jail, facing charges of attacking the woman on the subway. Banner's plight brings him legal counseling in the form of Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil (Rex Smith).

Thanks to his heightened senses, the blind lawyer senses David's innocence (as a bonus, he also knows the real criminals are in the employ of Fisk, who Murdock is gunning for) and is determined to help clear his client while David can only worry about what the stress of a possible trial would do to his raging alter-ego (which leads to the only time in Trial that the Hulk actually appears in court - during a nightmare suffered by the anxious Banner, a cheat that led many fans to cry foul).

After Banner has Hulked his way out of jail, post-nightmare, Matt tracks him as Daredevil and reveals his true identity to David as a gesture to gain his trust. Eventually Matt also learns the truth about David's cursed nature and while the Hulk's unpredictable nature makes a true team-up impossible, Banner and the sightless superhero do join forces in order to rescue DuBois' damsel in distress (who finds herself as a prisoner in Fisk Tower) and to take down Fisk as well.

Meant to serve as a pilot to a Daredevil series, Trial was no more successful on that count than Returns had been in spinning off Thor. But in terms of being a respectable adaptation of the character, Trial is no embarrassment to DD. No, it's not nearly in the league of the best of what the comics had accomplished, but it treats the character with respect and the warm bond that develops between Bixby's Banner and Smith's Murdock is a highlight of the Hulk's TV legacy.

Written by Gerald Di Pego and directed by Bixby himself, Trial is strictly a meat and potatoes affair. There's nothing fancy about it and it isn't out to service fans with shouts out and Easter Eggs referencing the wider Marvel U. But like the best episodes of the Hulk series, it has an adult tone and doesn't condescend to the audience. Comic book adaptations are more ambitious now and take much more care to hew to the comic's mythology but, as much as I appreciate that, I like the simple attention to telling a good story that Trial represents.

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk made its debut on May 7th, 1989 to high ratings but also to fan grumblings due to a lack of screen time for the Hulk, rightly regarding it as more of a Daredevil movie than a Hulk one. Adding insult to injury, Tim Burton's Batman arrived in US theaters on June 23rd and seized the pop culture zeitgeist that summer, leaving Marvel's chintzy TV movie to be regarded as a joke.

On the upside, Marvel's done a good job of catching up since. And, you know, that chintzy TV movie isn't so bad. Or actually bad at all, in my opinion. Marvel's live action adaptations have become far more sophisticated since but there's a charm to how rudimentary Trial is.

It's a nice reminder of a time when this kind of stuff was not at the forefront of popular culture and when fans were grateful for any live action appearance of their favorite characters. True, Trial bears evidence of all the weaknesses of superhero adaptations of the time but yet it has a number of strengths to recommend it and while nostalgia surely plays a part in my own feeling towards Trial, I don't think you necessarily need rose-colored glasses to appreciate it.

After Fisk has been momentarily vanquished (if not brought to bear for his crimes) and David and Matt have said their goodbyes (with Banner finding himself a little less alone, telling Matt "I have a brother in the world now."), Trial ends with Matt Murdock's office mates at the window of their legal firm, observing that the skyline of the nearby Fisk Tower seems to have been altered (we the viewers know that it's because a structure fell away to allow Fisk's flying car to take off, leaving an enraged Daredevil stymied yet again). Not being able to "see" the topic of discussion himself, Matt nonetheless joins his friends at the window and wryly observes, as they stand in the warm glow of a new day, that "...things happen in the night."

It's the last line of dialogue of Trial and the last time that anyone would see this live action incarnation of The Man Without Fear. It's a shame that this DD didn't get his own series as Trial shows that he had plenty of potential. As derided as the black ninja costume he sported was by some at the time, it was later adopted by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. when they did their Man Without Fear miniseries in 1993 and which in turn influenced the initial look of Daredevil in the new Netflix show. If nothing else, it would've been great to see what the title sequence for an early '90s DD show would've been like.

Back in the day, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk didn't do much to advance the cause of Marvel on film but I think time should render a kinder verdict to it. To that, I say "case closed" or rather, "Excelsior!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Worth Following

If David Lynch had directed Halloween, the result might look something like It Follows, the dreamy, unnerving sophomore feature from writer/director David Robert Mitchell (2010's The Myth of the American Sleepover). Set in a Detroit suburb, It Follows tracks the plight of Jay (Maika Monroe), a pretty teenage blonde whose new boyfriend (Jake Weary) has made her the target of a deadly, inexplicable specter of which little is known except follows.

Making explicit the cautionary themes of the '70s and '80s slasher boom wherein kids were advised of the perils of getting it on, the titular stalker of It Follows is put the the trail of new prey through sex (which marks this as a ghostly cousin to David Cronenberg's 1975 shocker, They Came From Within). Jay's new boyfriend is trying to shake "it" thanks to a previous sexual encounter and he sleeps with Jay in a deliberate bid to give the ghoul someone new to pursue.

What this ghoul is or what its weaknesses (if any) may be is knowledge that the kids in It Follows don't have access to. It's normally a given in horror films that whenever a monster or any supernatural force is introduced, an expert will eventually come along who knows what it is and all the rules that come with it. Or else there's at least someone around who's smart enough to put all the pieces together. But It Follows has none of that. There's no sage mystics, no experienced hunters, not even any helpful Google searches. There isn't even an attempt to bring in the cops or any parental figure. It's a refreshing break from convention and the fact that these kids don't always make the best decisions (including a climatic attempt to dispatch the ghoul that seems both logical and entirely daffy) can simply be attributed to the character's youth.

Some viewers will surely look at the actions of the kids in It Follows and believe they could do better if put in the same circumstances but I only judge the actions of characters in horror movies based on whether I think their actions are believable, not whether they're successful. And I found the kids in It Follows to be very believable.

I also found them to be likable, something I'm rarely able to say about modern horror films. But as with the young cast of last year's Ouija, the kids in It Follows show a genuine interest and concern for each other and I hope this'll prove to be the new norm in genre films.

For years, it's been a given that if there's a horror movie with a teen cast, there always has to be at least one major jerk among them (usually more) but that's not the case with It Follows. Some bad behavior does occur but no one's actions ever seems born out of everyday mean-spiritedness and, for me, that goes a long way.

While Mitchell works very well within the scope of his low budget (the film is wonderfully photographed by Mike Gioulakis), occasionally his ambitions exceeds his means - as with a lake side skirmish between the kids and the invisible entity that can't help but look ridiculous. But yet I found that the film's chintzy, low-tech moments only added to its charm. There's so much slickness in films today that it's endearing to me to see a movie that isn't afraid to wear its limited resources on its sleeve and go the extra mile at the same time. The Paranormal Activity films are also low-budget affairs, of course, but I think that they've always been a little cautious when it comes to doing more than their budget would allow.

Here, there are some attempts to extend past what the budget can convincingly deliver. That it doesn't always work seems forgivable in the spirit of showmanship.

I'm also willing to cut It Follows a pass for whatever faults it may possess simply out of gratitude for bringing a much-missed sense of melancholy back to horror. That's a quality that used to be common to the genre but which steadily evaporated once the '70s gave way to the good times of the '80s and a party atmosphere began to prevail.

In the manner of '70s horror, It Follows exudes a quiet sorrow, observing its teen protagonists as they drift aimlessly through their directionless lives (the only characters we see holding down jobs are stuck at a rinky-dink ice cream shop and there's never any talk of ambitions or plans for the future) all while they're trailed by a death-dealing entity that they can neither understand nor fully anticipate. They only know that it's out there and getting closer all the time.

While these kids may lack the vocabulary to be able to articulate or explicitly acknowledge their existential dread, the words of T.S. Eliot and Dostoyevsky are up to the challenge and are woven into the film in a way that feels organic (a portion of Eliot's "The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock" is heard in a classroom scene that purposely echoes a similar scene in Halloween) and never forced and pretentious.

With Mitchell showing an intuitive understanding of the genre that stretches well beyond just knowing the simple mechanics of springing a scare, his film not only honors the classics that came before it, it also sets a high standard of its own for other filmmakers to follow.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Back Pages

After watching the Blu-Ray of Doctor Mordrid (1992) the other day, feeling flush with nostalgia for the hey-day day (such as it was) of Full Moon, I pulled a copy of my long ago fanzine Gravedigger's Union off the shelf to re-visit my account of the Full Moon Roadshow I had attended in Boston back in June of 1993 with my pals Marty and Darren Langford and Marty's then-fiancee, Lori (Marty and I both worked at the same local video store chain, which is what gained us an invite to the FM road show as it was aimed at retailers). My write-up of the event wasn't a flattering one as I spent the majority of the two page article grousing about how disappointing most of Full Moon's output was and what a supreme huckster Charles Band was.

That said, re-reading it brought back fond memories of a fun night enjoyed by an impossibly younger version of myself and it also brought back an additional wave of nostalgia for my days as a fanzine publisher.

Looking back at the four issues of GU I put out in the '90s - a feat achieved only with the invaluable assist of ace designer Paul Bissex and with writing contributions from Marty, who penned a laserdisc (!) column - is a strange experience. Like the video store era that briefly brought Charles Band and my group of friends together on a June night in Boston, the era of the fanzine is a thing of the ancient past.

Flipping through the handful of issues I produced not only brings back memories of my own life as it was back then but makes me reflect on how much fandom has changed in the internet age - the faster ways in which we communicate and how differently information travels.

When a movie opens today you can tweet your opinion of it while you're still sitting in the theater and if you haven't given your two cents before the opening weekend's done, it's already old news. When I was publishing a 'zine, however, it didn't seem like a big deal that my review of, say, Warlock: The Armageddon wouldn't see print until many months after it had been in theaters. I was used to reading reviews of films in Cinefantastique long after the movies had come and gone so it didn't seem unusual to have a long delay but it seems incredible - almost incomprehensible - to me now that I would take, on average, an entire year to put together a single issue of a fanzine and that I wouldn't consider its content to be hopelessly outdated.

I used to think those simpler, pre-internet days (or at least back before everyone was online) represented better times but while they were good, I realize now that making them out to be that much better than the present is just - for the most part - nostalgia talking.

Yes, I do wistfully recall the days when news traveled more slowly, when thoughts had time to simmer, and when words were chosen more carefully - all of which the internet has abolished. But as much as I miss those days, the idea of going back to them after being spoiled by the immediacy of the digital age holds no special appeal.

And yes, while it was a labor of love to put together a fanzine, it's a fact that - internet or no - I would have eventually just stopped publishing. When I look at those old issues, I see something that only a young guy could've devoted so much time and money to. It's a safe bet that I wouldn't be in my forties and still be putting out a 'zine, that's for sure. I mean, anything's possible but I just can't envision it - not when even keeping up a steady pace on a blog feels impossible! I used to drive from Western Mass to Boston (about a 90 minute drive, on average) just to shop for stills to use in GU. Now, I have to feel really motivated to do frame grabs in the comfort of my home.

As much as I loved working on GU for the years that I did, and as much as the finished product was always something I was proud of, it never came close to broadening my world as much as being online has (then again, the fact that I only published GU once a year didn't help!). As opposed to the trickle of (much-appreciated) reader mail that GU would receive, the internet put me in the company of many great people who I likely wouldn't have otherwise never met - like my fellow Horror Dads, for example, or Shock Till You Drop's former head honcho Ryan Turek, or the bloggers that comprise the League of Tana Tea Drinkers. In general I'm not crazy about how the internet has transformed fan culture and I feel mostly disdain towards our age of tweets, selfies, and hashtags. I tend to pine for the way things used to be. But yet I can't deny that blogging did far more to introduce me to my fellow fans than being a 'zine publisher ever did.

Mind you, I'm not willing to say that everything's great about our current age. But while I lament some the things we've lost along the way, I'm coming to realize that I may tend to give the past too much credit at times. Sentiments aside, maybe I shouldn't miss the old days all that much. Except for video stores. Those I'll never stop missing.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Phantom Of The Oscars

Somewhere along the way, the Oscars lost me. I'm not just talking about last night, I mean years ago. I don't know when it happened but while I used to look forward to the Academy Awards each year, now I can't be bothered with them and it's been that way for so long I can't even remember the last time I watched the Oscars out of any personal interest. This year, as with the last few years, my job at a TV station put me in front of the Oscars, rolling local commercial spots, but when my shift ended, my time with the Oscars was over and I didn't care to turn on the end of the broadcast once I got home.

Instead, I put on Scream Factory's new Blu-Ray Special Edition of 1989's Phantom of the Opera - because as far as I'm concerned, no Oscar winning film (well, no Oscar winner in 2015, at least) can hold a candle to a Robert Englund-starring Phantom. Sorry, Birdman!

With today's independent horror scene comprised largely of micro-budget found footage pics, it's almost a shock to be reminded of how lavish Phantom is, with its handsomely rendered period setting. Even great indie horror films today don't have the resources to look this rich anymore. If we ever see anything extravagant, it has to be a big budget enterprise, like Guillermo del Toro's upcoming Crimson Peak.

Watching Phantom also makes me miss the days when Robert Englund was a regular presence on the big screen. As much as I love him as Freddy, I love his turn as the Phantom even more. It's a shame this didn't become a new franchise for him as I believe the '90s would have been dramatically improved had Englund and director Dwight H. Little been able to re-team for even just one more Phantom film.

It's clear that Englund relished the role and the opportunity that it provided and I love how, in every scene, he tears into it. Rather than pulling out his tried and true Freddy mannerisms, with his role in Phantom he was able to indulge in grander melodramatics, play a more romantic side, and - for lack of a better word - be more operatic. He's hammy and over the top but in all the right ways.

Englund knows exactly what he's doing and everything about his performance is done with the knowledge that this character inhabits a heightened, unnatural world so whether he's simply entering a room or blowing out a candle, there's always an extra flourish to it.

While it's a safe bet to say that Robert Englund will never be called onto the Oscar stage and it's an unfortunate fact that a film like Little's Phantom will never garner any industry accolades, history shows us that even minor genre works tend to endure far past the point where films that were more celebrated and honored in their day have faded from popular memory. Awards are fine but on the grand scales of time, for a film to be remembered and appreciated many years after its release is something that out weighs Oscar gold.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Rip Van Jenke

I'm going to go ahead and take a few more steps out of the cave and emerge from my year-plus blogging slumber. No particular reason for it. Just time, I guess. With online communication being reduced more and more to tweets, gifs, selfies and emoticons, taking the time to string more than a few words together from time to time feels like more of a positive thing to me now than it did when I stepped away.

I should say straight off, though, that I feel more out of touch with the genre than ever. That's not a knock on the current state of horror, more of just a comment on how preoccupied I am with other things and how easy it is for me to just let stuff slip by. I still haven't caught up with The Babadook, for example. I don't even know if I spelled that right just now and I'm not even going to bother to double check it. For years, as a fan I felt I had to be on top of every new release. And now, I don't. I'm older, other matters take priority and I don't feel like I'm missing out if I don't see a movie right away.

That said, I still love movies - I just appreciate them on a more casual level now. And in step with that, I'll be blogging on a more casual level as well. With this post, though, my blogging output for 2015 has doubled that of 2014. That means even if I take the rest of the year off, I can still feel like I've been pretty productive! Woo-hoo!