Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The New Lord Of Awesome Disappoints

A few months ago, when the first stills of 'Chrome Skull', the metal-masked slasher of Laid To Rest were released, I instantly dubbed him 'The New Lord of Awesome' because with a look like that, what else was there to call him? Unfortunately, having now seen Laid To Rest, I wish my experience with the film had stopped at those early stills. I consider myself to be a real slasher aficionado but while Laid To Rest has gotten effusive praise from most quarters of the horror press, unfortunately I think the only thing it laid was a goose egg.

My full review is up now at Shock Till You Drop.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Possibilities Of Nano-Technology

News of remakes doesn't usually ruffle me anymore. They're so commonplace and so many previously-thought untouchable classics (Psycho, King Kong, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween) have already been retooled for modern audiences that another remake in the pipeline is hardly worth noticing. By now, it's something we might as well be jaded about. But yet hearing (via Variety) that David Cronenberg's 1983 classic Videodrome is due to be remade earns a sad shake of the head from me. I can see remaking Cronenberg's Scanners (1981) - but Videodrome? It's so purely Cronenbergian, what good could come of someone else interpreting it?

With most remakes, even if I think they're doomed to be also-rans, at least I can see the impetus to make them. In most cases, there's either the name recognition factor or a concept that lends itself to new FX (like Scanners), or both. But Videodrome? While we may be living in a world irrevocably altered by media and technology as Cronenberg described, Videodrome is still a cult item. And as far as FX goes, the old-school make-up work and prosthetics of Rick Baker remain a large part of Videodrome's charm. To see Max Renn put a gun into a slit in his stomach and pull it out as a flesh/gun amalgam fused with his own hand just wouldn't have the same visceral impact if done with CG technology. The same with the iconic image of Max pushing his face into the bulging, ballooning TV screen with Nikki Brand's lips on it. These sights have to have a tactile quality to work.

What's really troubling, though, is the angle that the remake will reportedly be pursuing. From Variety's article: "The new picture will modernize the concept, infuse it with the possibilities of nano-technology and blow it up into a large-scale sci-fi action thriller." While the phrase "large-scale action thriller" and Videodrome should never go together, what's more worrisome is the move to "modernize the concept" and "infuse it with the possibilities of nano-technology." This is suggesting that Videodrome was all about the technology and it wasn't. The format wasn't what was important about Videodrome. It wasn't about the perils of Betamax or cable TV. It wasn't primarily about how things were watched, but instead why they were watched. It's a movie about morality, it's about a cultural war. As duplicitous video pirate and Spectacular Optical stooge Harlan says to Max: "We're entering savage new times, and we're going to have to be pure and direct and strong if we're going to survive them. Now, you and this cesspool you call a television station and your people who wallow around in it, your viewers who watch you do it, they're rotting us away from the inside. We intend to stop that rot." That's the aspect of Videodrome that's still relevant, not pulsating videocassettes. Max always has a glib answer to give about why he watches "rough stuff" like Videodrome - that it's cathartic, or that it's part of his job - but more honestly, as Barry Convex prods him to admit ("Why would anyone watch a scum show like Videodrome?"), he simply likes it. And that alone, in the eyes of moral watchdogs concerned about society transgressing too freely into taboo territory, makes Max and the audience he seeks to cater to worthy of annhilation.

Of the remake, I suspect that Lynne Gorman's words as Masha will prove to be prophetic. While the remake will surely be a much more lucrative enterprise for Universal, the original "has a philosophy. And that is what makes it dangerous."

Possibilities of nano-technology, my ass.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Come Back, Rick Rosenthal!

After checking out the teaser trailer for H2, Rob Zombie's latest attempt to force his self-consciously 'edgy' aesthetic onto the world of Michael Myers, I could only wish that this was coming to theaters this August instead:

Sure, Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal was no John Carpenter but I'd take him any day over a bogus 'visionary' like Rob Zombie. Even Rosenthal's much-derided return to Haddonfield with 2002's Halloween: Resurrection is starting to look a lot better now next to Zombie's efforts. Zombie is apparently impervious to the suggestion that perhaps he, well, sucks and H2 looks to reflect that.

When Carpenter wrote the famous line, "You can't kill the boogeyman", he clearly never imagined the kind of damage a blockhead like Rob Zombie could do. I know the idea of the 'boogeyman' must seem hopelessly corny to someone striving for 'reality' like Zombie, but if your embodiment of evil is nothing more than a hulking street person, it means you can't have bad-ass moments like this:

And if you can't have a Michael Myers invincible enough to reenact the full-body burn from The Thing from Another World (1951), then what good he is to anyone?

When Predators Go Plural

The news is out coutresy of Variety that Robert Rodriguez is involved as a producer with a reboot of the Predator franchise called Predators. I'm not always jazzed about Rodriguez's films but I can't imagine he doesn't have some good ideas on how to bring the Predators back in style - especially as he penned his own Predator screenplay back in the '90s (how much, if any, of that screenplay will make it into the new film is unknown). I think the Predator itself is hands-down the best monster that Stan Winston ever designed (sorry, Pumpkinhead!) and seeing it in action is always welcome. Plenty of fans hated on the two AvP movies but while I'm not a big fan of either I still thought the Predator material in both showed that even in a weak movie, the Predators come off looking good. If anything, both AvP's made me want to see the Predators go solo again. The first Predator is one of the few films I would call perfect and while the sequel was far from that mark, it definitely had its merits. While no plot information has come out on Predators yet, I don't think it's too early to put in an early casting suggestion to please, please, please get Jason Statham as the lead. I would really love to see Jason Statham kicking Predator ass. If we live in a world where that's the least bit possible, then by God it needs to happen.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Crank 2: High Voltage

You probably weren't expecting Crank 2 to be the greatest movie of all time. I know I wasn't. But that's kind of what it is. Now, don't fault me if I backtrack on that statement when reminded that, well, there's actually a lot of movies greater than Crank 2 (like 1991's The Last Boy Scout, for example). If I'm erring on the side of hyperbole, it's for a good cause. For film fans of a certain stripe, Crank 2: High Voltage is a movie worth celebrating - one of the most gonzo action movies to ever reach a theater screen.

Judging by what Crank 2 is able to present with a mere R-rating slapped onto it, I guess the attitude of the MPAA to filmmakers these days is "hey, the country's in the shitter - show whatever the fuck you want." At the very least, Crank 2 - on the heels of films like last year's gore-soaked Rambo and Punisher: War Zone - proves that if anyone is thinking about making an action movie that doesn't pull any punches, they should feel free to do so. I have a feeling that even Cannibal Holocaust (1980) would be skirting an R-rating these days.

Picking up at the exact moment that 2006's Crank left off, Crank 2 begins as professional assassin Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is seen plummeting to Earth from a helicopter only to land on a city street (after bouncing off a car). Soon after hitting the ground, his impossibly resilient body is scooped up by the minions of a Chinese mobster and taken away for purposes of organ harvesting. One of the most appealing qualities of Crank was that its ending was so decisive in annihilating its main character that it all but forbade a sequel. And yet, returning writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor begin Crank 2: High Voltage with no apologies, no sheepishness that this follow-up is a cash-in. Instead, you'd swear that this is the exact sequel they had in mind before the first film even opened.

While the first film bent the laws of reality, this burns them from existence. Chev Chelios is now officially some kind of indestructible superhero or video game character. Early on, he forcibly gets off the operating table on which an artificial heart with a dying battery has been placed into his chest and he sets out on a mission to have his own heart returned to its rightful place. In pursuit of that goal, Chev must keep his flagging artificial heart juiced up. Every time Chev gets a new dose of electricity, it's like seeing Popeye eat a can of spinach.

Like Crank, this is another race against time, with Chev having to deal with multiple - and usually heavily-armed - impediments along the way. But while the first film was extreme in its own right, this sequel makes Crank look as serene as an episode of Bob Ross' Joy of Painting, delving even deeper than the original did into a visual language suggesting the result of treating severe epilepsy with a raging coke habit. Along with its warped, agitated visuals, violence is perpetrated either by - or on - nearly every person in this film. Whereas in most action movies, violence is an intrusion on the character's lives - like a storm that has to be endured - in the Crank universe, these characters exist solely to do harm both to each other and themselves.

I remember watching Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers in 1994 and seeing even young audience members walking out on it, unable to handle Stone's blitzkrieg editing style. But what was once a shock to the system has been accepted as the language of action cinema. In step with the spirit of escalation, Crank 2 sees Neveldine and Taylor daring even hardened action junkies to keep up with Chev Chelios's exploits. The late film critic Pauline Kael famously panned 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark by saying its non-stop action was "like being put through a Cuisinart" but that reaction now seems laughable. After all, who knew then that commercial television series, such as 24, would one day move at a far more breakneck pace than Raiders? It's scary to consider the possibility that Crank 2 could come to look lethargic in years to come but for now, at least, it's like nothing less than stepping on a live wire.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Meme: Top 10 Favorite Film Characters

A meme concerning favorite film characters is circulating and I've received an invitation from Film Father to join in. Participants are asked to name their top ten favorite movie characters and with such a small number to go with, rather than risk over thinking my picks, I tried as much as possible to make my choices off-the-cuff. My only selection process was to avoid loading my list too heavily with misanthropic men.

So, in no particular order - ten favorite characters:

1. Father Karras, The Exorcist (1973)

While The Exorcist garnered a reputation in its day as being a profane piece of work, with the character of Father Karras, William Friedkin's film presented one of the most humane, decent, and sympathetically flawed characters in film. As played by Jason Miller, Father Karras visibly carries the weight of the world on his shoulders but is devoid of self-pity. His no nonsense demeanor is a great part of what sells us on the reality of the extraordinary events of The Exorcist. And his personal pain - dealing with the inability to provide for decent care for his elderly mother or be with her at the time of her death - makes him a compelling character study in his own right.

2. Rynn Jacobs, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

An independent young girl with a dark secret, the precocious character of Rynn Jacobs (played by Jodie Foster), was the first real crush of my childhood. Promoted as a horror movie (which is why I was motivated to watch it as a kid), The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is much more of a drama and a coming of age romance. Foster's sensitive portrayal of this preternaturally intelligent thirteen-year-old who zealously guards the secret of her father's demise - even to the point of killing to protect her ability to live alone - made Rynn into a character who was beguiling and attractive rather than ghoulish. And appealingly, as smart as she is, Rynn is able to come off as being vulnerable and not quite infallible in her ability to outcon the adult world. Today I suspect the same character would likely lose that dimensionality and be written and played as a smug Ellen Page-type wiseass with a sardonic quip for every encounter.

3. Snake Plissken, Escape from New York (1981)/Escape from L.A. (1996)

Yes, this character is just a riff on Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name but my inner twelve-year-old will always be in thrall of Kurt Russell and John Carpenter's surly pulp hero. What I like most about Snake is that, by design, he's the embodiment of adolescent, anti-social, anti-authoritarian impulses. He's the guy who's so self-reliant that he doesn't care if society completely implodes. In fact, it'd be better for him if it did because he sees organized society as just an impediment to his survival and independence.

4. Taylor, Planet of the Apes (1968)/Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

A lot of people revere Charlton Heston's Omega Man character of Robert Neville but I'm with his turn as Taylor all the way. I love that even though everything is stacked against him - he's jarred out of his own time, he's on (what he believes to be) another planet, his crewmates are all dead or trashed, and monkeys are running the show - Taylor is still berating and belligerent to all around him, never questioning his own superiority. I also love that even though he hates the human race to the point where he had to leave the Earth just to escape his antipathy for his fellow man, he still proudly carries the torch for humanity's accomplishments in an "upside down world". And at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes he gets to destroy the whole planet just to stick it to the (ape) Man. How cool is that?

5. Jack Terry, Blow Out (1981)

It's not surprising that Brian De Palma's political thriller didn't take off with audiences at the time of its release. Even though it was made in the early '80s, it's sensibilities are much more aligned with those of '70s cinema. Not just in De Palma's visual style but in the bitter failings of his protagonist, movie sound effects technician Jack Terry. As played by John Travolta, Jack Terry is a burned-out case to begin with, toiling in the trenches of B-movie filmmaking, haunted by a tragic event years earlier in which his work assisting the police with an undercover wiretap led to the grisly death of a policeman. When he gets wrapped up in a possible political assassination and cover-up, his life goes even more wrong. What I like about Jack is that his obsession with his work, his preoccupation with film and sound, is something that not only fails to give him any solace but, in the end, truly damns him.

6. Phil Connors, Groundhog Day (1993)

The tale of Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) inexplicably consigned by the universe to live the same day over and over (and over) until he ditches his smugness and self-centeredness is an illustration of something I like to hope is true - that one can be a total shit but be redeemed, if given enough time. The amount of time that Phil has is more than any of us will ever have to work with but the fact that he ultimately gets life right - even just for one day - is still encouraging.

7. Marnie, Marnie (1964)

What a wonderful mess Marnie is. A woman who tries to commit suicide while on her honeymoon rather than endure another forced sexual encounter with her new husband is certainly a gal worth chasing. Hostile, man-hating, sexually frigid, and a compulsive thief to boot - Marnie is my favorite Hitchcock heroine and Tippi Hendren's portrayal of this complex woman is sorely underrated. I especially appreciate how Marnie's neuroses aren't tempered to make the character more accessible or endearing. Even though she comes to an understanding of herself by the end, I don't believe that she will be able to change - for Sean Connery's character of Mark Rutland to continue to love her is to accept her on her own terms or not at all.

8. Tommy Basilio, Trees Lounge (1996)

In his writing and directing debut, Steve Buscemi penned himself a great part to play (reportedly semi-autobiographical) in the form of a thirty one-year-old neighborhood drunk who's life is in a perpetual spiral. Tommy is such a note-perfect creation - an all-too-true to life portrait of a loser - that the movie is often hard to watch. But I find it to be one of the best portrayals of an alcoholic ever.

9. Uncle Charlie, Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

As the so-called Merry Widow Murderer, I think the classic Hitchcock villain Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) is arguably the best of the many 'likable' serial killers that have populated the movies over the years. He's reprehensibly evil but yet his deep-rooted nihilism ("The world's a hell. What does it matter what happens in it?") is hard to refute. When I first saw Shadow of a Doubt on TV as a kid, I remember being taken back by the scene where Uncle Charlie takes his young and adoring niece (Teresa Wright) to a smokey bar and lays out his bilious take on life. The doubt of the title may be about his niece's growing suspicions about her Uncle but for me, I think it's about the doubt that life may really be as awful as Uncle Charlie sees it. And once you have that kind of doubt, it never quite goes away.

10. Chucky, Child's Play (1988)/Child's Play 2 (1990)/Child's Play 3 (1991)/Bride of Chucky (1998)/Seed of Chucky (2004)

Yes, I know there's plenty of characters in movie history that ought to out rank Chucky on this list, or out rank him on a list of top hundred movie characters but damn it, I love that bastard hunk of plastic. In tandem with the expert FX used to bring Chucky to life, Brad Dourif's voice work over the five Chucky films to date has been a rainbow of rage.

That's my list. Had it gone to eleven, maybe Capt. Rhodes from Day of the Dead might've made it ("...Choke on 'em!"), or Rocky Balboa, or Jeffrey Franken from Frankenhooker. Or this guy:

...David Patrick Kelly as Luther in The Warriors (1979).

One character that would've, but didn't, make the cut because I thought it was a cheat to include a real person is Harvey Pekar of American Splendor (2003).

Having posted my picks, in turn I'm supposed to request five other bloggers to add to the meme themselves but I'm gonna respectfully break rank and put it out there like this - if anyone decides they want to compile their own list, give me a heads-up when you post your picks and I'll link back to you.

I had a great time putting this together so thanks again to Film Father for thinking of me.

What's In The Basket?

...Easter Eggs?

Easter Greetings from the Hotel Broslin!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Dance That Shines Through Darkness

I won't be seeing C Me Dance, the latest entry in the Christian horror sub-genre, but I felt like this trailer was worth sharing because, well, it's about a ballerina vs. the forces of hell and it's pretty hilarious.

I'm not a Christian so I guess I'm not supposed to be the target audience for this and if I find it looks ridiculous, perhaps I'm just showing my disdain for the beliefs its propagandizing. But the folks behind C Me Dance (and those behind such other recent Christian-catering horror efforts like House and Thr3e) should consider that the heathens in Hollywood proved decades ago with movies like The Exorcist and The Omen that you can make horror movies for a mass audience of religious skeptics that make converting to Christianity seem like an imperative. Those movies were persuasive in making it look like getting with God could no longer wait. It may have been all ballyhoo but it was really good ballyhoo. If you're going to convince people to come around to your cause, you've got to deliver a rousing sermon.

If you don't, you're just preaching to the choir.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Every Movie Should End With A Telepathic Duel

Rewatching the final fiery throwdown between Michael Ironside and Stephen Lack as brothers representing opposite sides of the psychic war in Scanners (1981) makes me think that, for the good of cinema, this the way that all movies should end.

Watch the above scene and tell me that the problems of every movie wouldn't be solved if the characters would use mental powers to rip each other to shit in the last five minutes. I know I definitely would've liked, say, Juno a lot more if that had been the case. I don't care what kind of movie it is or what the story had been prior to its mind-melting climax. It isn't even necessary for psychic powers to have been established as part of the plot because that's the thing about psychic powers - you never know when they're going to manifest themselves. Scanners didn't even have to be about scanners - Ironside and Lack could've been playing professional chefs or stay-at-home dads and its ending could still be the same.

Milk was a good movie, for instance, but I would've liked it a lot more and even added it to my home library if Josh Brolin and Sean Penn had unleashed on each other scanner style. It's not entirely true to history, maybe, to have Brolin as Dan White announce to Penn's crusading politican Harvey Milk "...We're gonna do it the Scanner way - I'm gonna suck your brain dry!" But from a movie standpoint, much more satisfying.

That's the great thing about psychic face-offs - no matter who loses, everyone wins.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Cynics often claim that people can be sold on anything but the truth is, you can't force a trend on the American public - not even when it's for their own damn good. In 1989, despite the best efforts of directors Sean Cunningham (Deep Star Six), James Cameron (The Abyss), and George Cosmatos (Leviathan), the much-ballyhooed age of the underwater alien film never quite came to pass, causing many dreams to die with it. Even Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) tried his luck on this front years later in 1998 with Deep Rising but he fared no better. American movie-goers have collectively decided that, except for the original Cocoon (1985), aliens and water don't mix. And as with most stubbornly-held positions, logic doesn't seem to apply. Of all the things to reject, why this, after saying yes to so much else?

This is a question that may never be answered to anyone's satisfaction. Of course, some might suggest that the movies in question just weren't that good. Admittedly, there's some truth to that but honestly, was there any movies that were so much better to see in 1989 than Leviathan? Not so much, no. And keep in mind that Leviathan was out months before Tim Burton's Batman so there was plenty of space between these two potential blockbusters. And yet Leviathan's opening weekend competition was Fletch Lives and it still came in second - what the hell is wrong with people?

Sure, Leviathan may just be Alien set under the ocean rather than in space but as Alien was just a big budget gloss on 1958's It! The Terror From Beyond Space, let's not be too hard on Leviathan. What's really worthwhile about Leviathan isn't its storyline but its cast. It's not everyday that you get to see an ensemble like this save themselves from a mutant fish. You've got Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, Daniel Stern, Hector Elizondo, Amanda Pays, and Richard Crenna as the crew of the underwater mining operation - plus there's Meg Foster as an ice-cold corporate bitch comfortably ensconced out of harm's way above the surface of the ocean. In the annals of aquatic agony, that's a rocking cast. Hard to believe audiences turned their noses up at a line-up like that, but then again it's hard to figure out what people want sometimes.

Telling the tale of a mining crew stationed on the ocean floor who encounter more than they bargained for when they recover items from a wrecked Russian ship named Leviathan, this is standard monster movie boilerplate. One of the items found on the sunken ship is a innocuous-seeming flask of Vodka that is later discovered to have been spiked with metagens used by the Russian government to experiment on the Leviathan's crew. When Daniel Stern's slovenly character of Six Pack carelessly ingests the Vodka and shares it with another crew member (Lisa Eilbacher, as 'Bowman'), they invite the same catastrophe that doomed the Leviathan as both are genetically altered and mutually absorbed into the shared body of a giant fish creature. Worse yet is the fact that this creature possesses all the memories and intelligence of the people it assimilates. Once this monstrosity is up and running and everyone knows what kind of shit they're in, it then falls on Weller as Beck - the reluctant head of operations, derisively called "Becky" by Six Pack - to get his remaining crew back to the surface.

Director George Cosmatos - responsible for the '80s favorites Of Unknown Origin, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and Cobra - doesn't quite do a stellar job here but he keeps it together. Contributions from other quarters of the productions, in fact, are a little less than what you'd expect from the people involved. Screenwriters David Peoples (Blade Runner, Unforgiven) and Jeb Stuart (Die Hard, The Fugitive) were capable of better and Stan Winston's effects are atypically unimpressive here with the film's creature lacking the kind of visual impact that Winston brought to his work on The Terminator, Aliens, and Predator. But production designer Ron Cobb (Conan The Barbarian) and composer Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, Poltergeist), along with the film's cast, are much more on their game.

Even though it occasionally flounders, Leviathan remains my underwater alien film of choice. I watched it twice on the big screen in 1989 from high in the balcony of the Mohawk Theater, a local landmark of my college town of North Adams, MA - a single-screen movie house with art deco design that originally opened in 1938 and closed in 1991 with a planned restoration still pending. Due to money issues, the Mohawk only operated sporadically and Leviathan was one of the few movies I was able to see there during my time in North Adams. In its run-down condition, the Mohawk was a sunken ship of its own, a ruined relic in need of salvaging. Whenever I watch Leviathan today, memories of seeing it unfold on that giant screen wash over me and I can't help but think of all the water that's passed too quickly under the bridge since then.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Consider Me Thrilled!

An item that's been a regular on the bootleg circuit for years is finally making its official DVD debut. Fred Dekker's much-loved 1986 film Night of the Creeps is getting its due on disc this October. Michael Feslher of Red Shirt Pictures revealed on the horror radio talk show Dead Pit that Sony will be releasing Night of the Creeps in a director's cut supervised by Dekker and Feslher says that his company is "going to go balls to the wall with the special features on it."

Sounds like good news all around. Many fans regard Monster Squad (1987) as Dekker's finest work but while Monster Squad is all kinds of kick-ass, I'm a big Creep all the way. Any movie that combines alien slugs, zombies, and Tom Atkins is just too damn hard to top.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Where Have All The Movies Gone?

DVD vending machines, like the one seen above, have become a familiar sight in shopping areas over the past few years. I still haven't used one myself but since one was installed at the entrance of my local Stop & Shop awhile back, I've noticed that it's done brisk business from the start, with customers lining up to get the newest releases. The other day, I saw that a second machine had been brought in to meet the growing demand and for the first time I realized with some sadness that these machines are all that most people need or want from a 'video store' now. They offer all the new blockbuster titles, some of the more high profile direct-to-DVD releases, and a few indie dramas and genre films. Not such a bad crop of movies to choose from but yet it made me think of how a love of film history is being curtailed by machines like this.

When video stores were enjoying their heyday, every film fan would have memberships to multiple rental shops. And that wasn't because of the new releases, which were the same everywhere, it was because every store had a different back catalog to offer. The excitement of going to different video stores was to check out what stock of older movies they had. Sometimes a store would just have one or two titles that no one else had but if you couldn't get, say, A Company of Wolves or The Last Wave or Make Them Die Slowly anyplace else, that would be reason enough to sign up for a membership. It was an adventure to discover new stores and see how deep their selection was. Now that's all vanished and it makes me think of how little exposure the next generation of movie fans will have to older movies. And by 'older', I don't just mean like pre-1960 cinema or whatever, but I mean like anything made more than six months ago. If it isn't current, it doesn't exist.

Even at the remaining actual video stores, there's almost no selection of older titles left. Blockbuster stopped carrying VHS tapes altogether, automatically leaving scores of titles unavailable. And what disc selection they do have is paltry at best. It used to be that a novice horror fan could go through the offerings of a video stores' horror section and be able to develop a pretty broad appreciation of the genre. Now, except for a few token classics, the horror section of most video stores is limited to releases of recent vintage. Of course, fans can obtain films through services like Netflix but ordering a film online isn't the same as walking into a store and seeing the lurid boxes for releases like Gates of Hell or Burial Ground for the first time.

It's as though cinema itself is being marginalized and genre cinema is just part of that trend but it's dispiriting all around. Even retail outlets like Best Buy are following suit. At one time, a store like Best Buy would have a sizable horror section - now, their horror and sci-fi sections seem to house maybe thirty different movies, at best. As with Blockbuster, there's just a handful of classics in stock - like The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street - surrounded by whatever's new. So it's easier to find the latest offerings from Ghost House Underground or the selections of the After Dark Horror Fest than it is to find the older films of Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, or Stuart Gordon. And quirkier, lesser-known older offerings? Forget about it. When companies like Blue Underground, Anchor Bay, and Synapse first started putting cult classics on disc, I could find almost everything in their catalogs at my local Media Play or Best Buy. Now there's maybe another special edition of Halloween or Evil Dead to be found.

I worked at video stores for years during the '90s and it seemed to me like these stores were a sign that movies mattered, that movies were worth having a passion for. Video stores were a place where film fanaticism was encouraged. At the very least, it was a place where movie fans could go to encounter like-minded folk. Now, I guess, there's the internet for that - but I maintain that it isn't the same as seeing local film geeks face to face (in fact, I met my wife, my cinematic sweetheart, ten years ago when she was a customer at the mom and pop video store I worked at - a store that soon after fell victim to the falling demand for home video). The loss of video stores is making film fandom a more hermetic passion than ever and that seems tragic to me.

When I look at how vending machines are steadily supplanting the need for video stores, I wonder where all the movies have gone. But I wonder if over the course of another generation the question might become "where have all the movie fans gone?"