Saturday, July 26, 2008

X'd Out

Realizing that I don't want to see the new X-Files movie has really taken the wind out of my sails. Seriously, it literally makes me feel physically deflated. As an avid X-phile, the fact that I feel completely indifferent to seeing an X-Files movie just isn't right. This should've been one of the must-see movies of the year for me, bar none. I'm one of the few fans who found a lot to like about the troubled last couple of seasons of the show (a lot to be frustrated by, too, but it was far from all bad) but here we are, with Mulder and Scully on their first case in six years and I just can't be bothered. The almost universally bad reviews have had a lot to do with my attitude, of course, but whereas usually I'd just ignore all that and go ahead and make up my own mind, I feel like taking the advance word on this to heart is the smarter move. I don't think this one is going to surprise me at all - not enough so that I can't wait a few more months to see it.

Like I said, I won't trash a film I haven't seen yet but it does leave me at a loss me that Chris Carter couldn't even come up with a movie that a fan as diehard as myself would even want to see. How is that even possible? To me, that rates as an X-File in and of itself.

Maybe 20th Century Fox just didn't come up with the proper campaign to sell this with but I have a feeling that their hands were tied by a lackluster product. After seeing the first underwhelming trailer for I Want To Believe, I figured that more promising footage must be on the way soon but it never materialized. I'd go to the wall to defend the show - and I wish that this movie would've shown the crop of cult TV upstarts like Heroes and Lost who their daddy is - but I'm feeling nothing but doubt.

If only Carter would've taken whatever steps were needed to bring back some of the talented writers who helped make the show so stellar in the first place - writers like Darin Morgan, Glen Morgan, James Wong, John Shiban and Vince Gilligan. To have some of these people involved in the new movie could've resulted in a satisfying relaunch of the franchise. I think that, unlike Carter, these writers would've been far more attuned to what the fan's expectations were.

But in collaborating with frequent X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz (apparently the last Yes-man standing), it looks like the screenplay they authored missed the 'X' they were supposed to be aiming for.

Now, it may turn out that I'll see this movie down the line and love it. I might kick myself for not rushing out to see it on the big screen. It may restore my faith in the franchise. Will that happen? Let's just say that I want to believe - but I'm just too afraid to find out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

It's been a few days now since I saw The Dark Knight and I still haven't been able to shake it. It's not that I'm haunted by the film's despairing events, though. No, it's just that even days later when I think of Christian Bale delivering his lines in his 'Batman Voice' I have to laugh. I had the same issue with Batman Begins but it's only been amplified in Bale's second turn as the character. With all the attention that was given in Batman Begins to showing every step that Bruce Wayne took to refine his Batman persona, I felt the one element that was shortchanged was showing how he developed that Voice. I seriously would've loved at least ten minutes on that alone. Or to have it be a thread running throughout the film. You know, his first few nights out as a crimefighter Bruce just speaks in his normal voice and he doesn't know why he isn't having an impact on the thugs he runs into - he just knows there's some piece of the puzzle missing. He isn't quite "The Batman" yet. Then it hits him - it's the voice. He's got the scary costume with the cape, the cowl, the whole nine yards, but it's the sound of his voice that's got to sell all that crap.

So for the sake of telling the whole story, Batman Begins should've included a montage of Bale's Batman recording his voice, trying to figure out just the right tone of guttural rasp. Show him trying it out on Alfred, maybe crank calling random people, then finally locking it in. Yeah, I would've been all for seeing that because leaving the theater last Friday, all I could think of (besides Heath Ledger's go-for-broke performance) were the scenes where Bale's Batman had to actually say whole sentences in that voice and it gave me the instant giggles. I'd love to know how many takes it took to successfully film some of these scenes because I can't believe the actors opposite him weren't constantly breaking up. I kept hoping for at least one character to say to Batman "Look man, I know you're dressed like a bat but if you don't talk like a normal human being I'm going to pass out laughing!"

Yes, I know that Bruce Wayne has to alter his voice so no one can associate his voice with that of The Batman. But I suspect that when Bale came up with that voice he didn't think he'd have to use it as much as he does (I think other Batmans like Michael Keaton thought ahead more on this count) - that he'd deliver the occasional threat to some low-life, not be responsible for whole dramatic passages. Now that it's established, of course, it's got to stay the same no matter how many movies they do - they can't change voices in mid-stream!

That's fine by me - there's no way I'd want that voice to be toned down. In its own demented way, I think it works because I totally believe that no one would ever think that Bruce Wayne was Batman if only for the fact that most people would assume that anyone who talked like that must get locked away in a vault until they let him out to do his thing.

As for the movie as a whole, I liked it a lot with some minor reservations. The weakest section is the last stretch of the film (I'll assume that if you're reading this you've already seen it too so there'll be major spoilers ahead). The most nagging issue is that Harvey Dent's turn into Two-Face is a hard sell, even with Aaron Eckhart giving his performance all the conviction he can. Dent's overnight switch from crusading D.A. to Gotham's latest candidate for Arkham Asylum feels rigged by the demands of the story - Harvey has to go into super-villain mode right on schedule or else there isn't a climax. The best thing you can say about this movie's Two-Face is that it makes hay of the atrocious Tommy Lee Jones Two-Face in Batman Forever (1995) but yet the '90s animated series from Bruce Timm and Paul Dini was able to pull off a much more nuanced and believable Two-Face origin where they established that Dent was afflicted with a dual personality ("Big Bad Harv") long before the scarring. In The Dark Knight, Dent is too much of a straight-arrow and a stand-up guy (although we do see that he's willing to rough up someone to gain information) to regard his change to Two-Face as anything more than a hollow vendetta rather than the emergence of a split personality.

Also in regards to Dent, too much importance is placed on his fall from grace as being the potential last straw for the people of Gotham. To worry about Dent's courtroom victories being undermined is one thing - that's something pragmatic that needs to be addressed. I wouldn't even mind some concern shown to letting Dent's reputation remain untarnished just because it's what the man deserved. But the catastrophic emotional and spiritual toll that Batman, Gordon and The Joker believe Gotham's citizens will sustain if Dent is revealed to have turned into a violent criminal ("People will lose hope!")? I don't know - on a scale of 1 to 10, I'm going to go over Batman and Gordon's heads and guess it would rate a 3, at best.

If the truth ever came out about Dent, there'd be a collective shoulder shrug and that's that. And I also wonder exactly how the alternative truth that Gordon and Batman are choosing to sell Gotham is any more comforting than what really happened (to think that a good man died senselessly and a murdering vigilante is on the loose, eluding law enforcement, seems like just as much of a spirit killer as anything else). If Batman really is willing to be whatever Gotham needs him to be, as he says, then he ought to just bite the bullet and kill The Joker. Get your hands dirty. Finish the job, man.

But overall, I give high marks to The Dark Knight. It reminds me a little too much of the sort of heavy-handed, 'grim n' gritty' comics that were in vogue twenty years ago in the wake of such industry-altering works like, well, The Dark Knight Returns and I still think that a middle ground between the real-world approach of Nolan and the stylization of the comics could result in the best Batman of them all one day. But until then, The Dark Knight will have to do. To paraphrase the movie, it's not the Batman film we need, but the one that we deserve.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Madcap Laughs

Up until I read a reprint of Batman #1 (1940) when I was probably about seven, I had never seen a truly sociopathic act in fiction - nothing that had stuck with me, at least. I know I had already seen plenty of death dealt in various films, TV shows and comic books but I had never seen anyone kill for the sheer glee of it. Marking the first appearance of Batman's clown-faced arch enemy, this story contained a scene in which The Joker used black paint to remove the yellow center line on a patch of road that traveled around a treacherous mountain. The Joker then painted a new yellow line (likely laughing as he did) so it went directly off the side of the mountain and when a bus full of passengers traveled this road late at night, the driver followed the yellow line straight off the road and sent every life aboard that bus careening to their deaths.

Although sending a bus off the road might seem like small potatoes these days, the amorality of The Joker's actions chilled me. Even as a kid, I knew it would take a lot for someone in the real world to emulate The Batman - they'd need an endless supply of money, technology ahead of what even the highest levels of law enforcement employed, the kind of physical training that only a handful of people in the world could provide, and a indefatigable spirit. And even with all that, anyone who really tried to be Batman would get their ass handed to them. But on the other hand, it would take very little to be The Joker and make it work - just a willingness to cross lines that others wouldn't and, as a child, that thought alarmed me. As I said, it had never occurred to me prior to this that anyone could kill randomly, without purpose (apparently I lacked imagination!). It introduced an anxiety that was new to me - that is, how can you defend yourself against someone who would kill you just as easily as they would the person next to you? How can you anticipate the sort of plans that a lunatic would put into play to murder people that he's never met?

So as a character, The Joker really unsettled me - but his incarnations in TV shows and movies have always been another story. I gave Caesar Romero a pass on his Joker from the '60s TV show but Jack Nicholson's wasted opportunity was almost enough to make me angry. Before The Dark Knight, I thought the closest to the "real" Joker that fans would experience outside of the comics was Mark Hamill's expert vocal performance in the Batman cartoon series of the '90s. But thanks to director Christopher Nolan and actor Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, for the first time on film, The Joker has earned his high-ranking place as Batman's arch-nemesis.

Rather than take the character's historic popularity for granted, Nolan's ambitious screenplay (co-written with his brother Jonathan) has put The Dark Knight in the front-running to be considered the definitve Batman/Joker tale. As an equal to comic tales such as The Long Halloween or Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight makes us understand how The Joker can get under Batman's skin in a way that villains like Killer Croc, Mad Hatter, or even A-listers like The Penguin and The Riddler can't. He isn't just a slippery character, he calls Batman's whole crusade into question.

Ledger's performance not only leaps past the hammy quality that deliberately snuck into even Hamill's Joker at times but he burns through the cliche of the 'scary clown', which always was the hook to previous portrayals of The Joker. In the history of the comics, Ledger's Joker reminds me most of the Joker as depicted by artist Neal Adams and writer Denny O'Neil as seen in 1973's "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" (Batman #251) in that as drawn by Adams, The Joker was no longer a costumed super-criminal, instead he just dressed in a distinctive, but contemporary, fashion (after Adams' run, The Joker was returned to his familiar pinstripes). And as written by O'Neil, The Joker was returned to being the murderous psychopath that he was in his original '40s incarnation and the gimmicks, pranks, and props that had become so outrageous during the '50s and '60s were done away with (no more giant jack-in-the-boxes or rocket launching Pogo sticks) and his methods were brought back to street level (like Ledger's Joker, the things he likes - such as exploding cigars laced with nitroglycerin - are cheap). "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" was a model for how to make The Joker 'real' and The Dark Knight is the first depiction of The Joker outside of comics to accomplish that with the same success.

I hope that Ledger's death won't shut the door permanently on The Joker in live-action. Although it's impossible right now to imagine anyone matching his approach to the character, his performance does prove that in the right hands, The Joker is far more than just a giggling buffoon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday's Curse

When I read that that Paramount would finally be releasing Friday the 13th: The Series on DVD, it was a celebratory occasion for me. The series (which ran from 1987-1990) about the hunt to retrieve scores of cursed antiques had its short-comings, sure, but it was a late-night favorite for me during my college years and all-told it was a pretty neat show - a reliable fix of small screen terror at a time when big screen genre fare was on the wane.

So what if the DVD release was likely to be a bare bones affair (and, as just reported at Shock Till You Drop, it will be) - at least I'd finally own a legitimate release of the show after years of upgrading from one incrementally less shoddy bootleg set to another. To my mind, there was really nothing about this release that could disappoint me.

However, when I clicked on yesterday's Shock Till You Drop headline: "Friday the 13th: The Series DVD Art" and excitedly scrolled down the page to see what I'd be picking up on September 23rd, it took me a beat or two to wrap my head around the image (seen above) that I was looking at. What was this? What the Hell was I looking at? Oh,'s a skull design...made out of antiques! That's so fucking...dumb. The best thing I can say about this hideous artwork is that there's an undeniable irony to the fact that Paramount has made a show that revolved around antiques into something like looks like junk. Way to go!

I mean, come on - would it have been so hard to have simply utilized some promotional material from the original run of the show or even do something like a lenticular cover that re-created the moment from the show's opening where the title Friday the 13th: The Series materialized in a shattered glass? I don't know - almost anything else would've been an improvement over what they're actually going with.

Maybe I'm just over reacting, maybe this looks fine to everyone but me. But while I'm still excited to own the show on disc, my first thought upon looking at that piss-poor cover was that Friday the 13th: The Series had left Curious Goods only to go straight to the flea market. I just hope that Paramount will put more care into the packaging for Seasons Two and Three. If not, maybe the show itself was cursed all along.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gotham's Mean Streets

In the November 1982 issue of Twilight Zone magazine, famed cartoonist Gahan Wilson reviewed John Carpenter’s The Thing and in comparing it to the original Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby The Thing From Another World, he pointed out that the world of 1982 offered a much harsher environment for its alien invader to contend with than the one that James Arness’ interstellar vegetable had encountered in 1951. The heroes of the 1982 film were a much rougher breed (as Wilson wrote: "I think if Jim Arness had shown up in front of this lot with his super-carrot makeup, they'd have spat at him."), as was the indomitable alien they had to thwart - a being capable of so many more tricks than its '50s counterpart. As Wilson noted: “It’s a good thing Carpenter's provided them with something really diverting.”

Wilson's review sprang to my mind the first time I saw a clip revealing Heath Ledger's unprecedented take on The Joker in The Dark Knight. The inclusion of The Joker this time around immediately invites a more direct comparison with Tim Burton’s original Batman (1989) than 2005’s Batman Begins did. But without having seen The Dark Knight yet, I can already tell you exactly how they compare: if Michael Keaton's Batman had to square off against Ledger's Joker, he'd likely crawl to a corner of the Bat-Cave and put both barrels of a Bat-Shotgun in his mouth. The End. And if Jack Nicholson’s Joker were to try any shit with Christian Bale's Batman, the Harlequin of Hate would find himself curb stomped before he uttered a single "Ha". Because that's just how this Batman rolls.

I only wish that Daniel Craig's James Bond could spend a rough weekend in Bale's Gotham City. Now that's a Brave and the Bold team-up I'd like to see (the Brave and the Bond?) - two sociopathic animals laying down all the hurt the city can stand. It's just too bad that Ledger's Joker couldn't be there to challenge them - but maybe Javier Bardem could pinch hit as The Riddler.

In Under Siege 2 (1995), Steven Seagal's Navy SEAL-turned-cook Casey Ryback said "No one beats me in the kitchen." Well, Gotham City is Batman's kitchen. And he likes to cook. So it’s a good thing that Nolan and company have provided the Cowled Crimefighter with something really diverting. And then some.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ordinary People

Outsiders, monsters and freaks have regularly been cast as heroes or anti-heroes in everything from comic books such as The X-Men and The Doom Patrol to Clive Barker's Nightbreed. But Guillermo del Toro's sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army marks the first time that I thought a film's monsters were put on too high a pedestal. It might be crazy to say so, but the fact that no humans are allowed to measure up to del Toro's magnificent monsters in Hellboy II just rubbed me the wrong way.

For starters, when some unlucky human members of B.P.R.D. get devoured by calcium-eating 'tooth fairies' while on a hazardous mission, their grisly demises are barely given a glance. At least the Red Shirts on Star Trek were granted the final dignity of a "He's dead, Jim!" but when these expendables in Hellboy II meet their nasty end while fighting to their last breath against enemies they're not equipped to handle, it doesn't even merit a mention. I wouldn't expect the movie to stop for a funeral but when the climax of this scene - which involves the selfless sacrifice of at least two people - depicts Hellboy seizing the opportunity to reveal himself to the world and turn himself into an instant celebrity, his actions come across as obnoxious and self-serving.

And Jeffrey Tambor's beleaguered B.P.R.D. bureaucrat Tom Manning returns only to be made out to be an even less sympathetic character this time around! I haven't seen the original Hellboy since I watched it in the theaters but I seem to recall that this character was allowed a moment of redemption towards the climax where he was shown to have some heroic or redeeming qualities. That's not the case here. Now he's a complete ass who hides behind regulations and resents his responsibility to the defiant, unmanageable Hellboy. Usually with a character like this - the officious, book-keeping, rule-observing suck-up - there's a point where we're given a glimpse of their better qualities. But in Hellboy II, Manning remains a jerk right to the end. We also learn that the only other prominent human character from the first Hellboy (2004) - the plain but decent Agent Myers (Rupert Evans) - has been shipped off to the white wastelands of Antarctica courtesy of Hellboy himself.

All of Hellboy and co.'s brushes with the world at large in Hellboy II are sour. And while del Toro makes this out to be humanity's fault, I don't quite buy it. When there's a sprawling battle in the middle of a city street with Hellboy against an Earth elemental, Hellboy rescues an infant but instead of taking the nearest opportunity to leave the baby in safer arms, Hellboy carries the baby with him throughout a battle that sees him scaling a building and dodging enormous tentacles that threaten to turn the building he's on into rubble. And while the baby stays unharmed, it's hard not to sympathize with the frantic mother and angry crowd that greets Hellboy after he's won the battle and returns the child.

I mean, when a mother sees her weeks-old child hauled up the side of a building by a demon, I can definitely understand gratitude not being the first response - especially when that baby didn't have to be taken along for the ride. I can't fault that character's reaction at all but I think that del Toro really wants the audience to be stung - or even outraged - by the hostility that Hellboy and co. have to endure.

Yes, what gall this woman has to be so uncool! Maybe the next time this mother sees a demon wrap her baby in its tail and climb five stories up a building, she'll keep the demon's feelings in mind before making a scene.

In Hellboy II, del Toro's monsters have very human traits - their actions are often selfish, boorish, immature and self-destructive - but yet their needs, desires and the mistakes they make in pursuit of them are continually excused as justified passions while ordinary people are small-minded, fearful and bitter.

It's true that humankind isn't always pretty but you shouldn't need gills, a second head or a set of satanic horns to rate some sympathy or respect.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cast A Deadly Spell

I haven't seen Hellboy 2 yet but Guillermo del Toro's reportedly outstanding realization of all manner of magic, monsters, and myths with its gruff-natured, blue collar hero has put me in mind of the seldom-mentioned made-for-HBO movie Cast a Deadly Spell (1991). A Raymond Chandler-esque film noir boasting state-of-the-art special effects, set in a lushly depicted 1940's Los Angeles, with H. P. Lovecraft as a hardboiled private detective (!), would seem to be an automatic shoo-in for cult status but Cast A Deadly Spell seems to be all but forgotten today.

Perhaps if Cast A Deadly Spell were more brooding, along the lines of such effective meldings of noir, horror and sci-fi as Blade Runner (1982) and Angel Heart (1987), it would have scored more with fans. But this is a light, whimsical affair and for many, that doesn't mesh with the kind of shadow-shrouded existentialism that noir is known for - not to mention the cosmic horror of Lovecraft's works. Many of Lovecraft's protagonists found themselves driven mad by the eldritch horrors they were forced to witness but here a wisecrack is a more ready response.

Based on a script originally titled Lovecraft by Joseph Dougherty, Cast A Deadly Spell takes place in an alternate Earth of monsters and mythical creatures (one character hunts unicorns for sport) where magic facilitates even the easiest of tasks. The sole hold out to this casual acceptance of magic is private detective (and former policeman) H. P. Lovecraft, played by Fred Ward ("You're the only guy who isn't walking around with a magic wand up his ass" as one character puts it).

Early in the film, Harry is summoned to the wealthy home of millionaire Amos Hacksaw (David Warner), who wants to hire Harry to find the forbidden text known as The Necronomicon. Two copies exist - one real and one fake. Both, however, have been stolen from Hacksaw and he needs to have them returned.

We learn that both books have been stolen by a mob figure named Harry Borden (Clancy Brown) who just happens to be a former cop, and Lovecraft's old partner on the force as well. Borden is no criminal mastermind but magic has helped him parlay his greed into a thriving underworld career. He doesn't have the ability to use the Necronomicon for himself but he intends to keep it in his possession until he gets the price he wants for it.

Of course, because Hacksaw is played by David Warner and Bordon by Clancy Brown, we know that if the Necronomicon stays in either man's hands, it will only be a matter of time before its evil words are put to use. But the fun is in watching their plans reveal themselves and seeing how Lovecraft stays above the fray. Like many protagonists of noir tales, Lovecraft possesses an impeachable moral code in a compromised world.

Unlike Nicolas Meyer's endearing Time After Time (1979) which sent author H. G. Wells on a time-spanning adventure, this is not an imaginary backstory for Lovecraft's dark inspirations - even though the Necronomicon and The Old Ones figure heavily into the film's plot. Ward's Lovecraft is strictly a P.I. - not a burgeoning literary genius.

Cast A Deadly Spell was an early success for director Martin Campbell, who would go on to team up again with producer Gale Anne Hurd (Aliens) on the underrated sci-fi action film No Escape (1994) before successfully relaunching the James Bond franchise not once but twice (with 1995's Goldeneye and 2006's Casino Royale).

And Tony Gardner's Alterian Studios (best known for their work on Raimi's Darkman) provides a variety of well-rendered demons, gargoyles, and other netherworld beings in a film that has its feet more in the world of practical make-up than in the then-rising world of CGI. Ironic, in that the 'magic' of CGI technology would soon become the standard solution for filmmakers because, as the characters in Lovecraft's world would say, it "makes life easier."

Ward, as anyone would expect, is his usually charismatic self with the right cocksure demeanor and plenty of sardonic attitude. Some of Dougherty's lines are real gems, and are only made better by Ward's sharp delivery ("All that smoke and not a lick of flame to back it up!"). And he has impeccable back-up from the rest of the cast. Besides Warner and Brown, there's also the late character actor Charles Hallahan (The Thing) as Detective Bradbury (another shout-out to a literary master) and Julianne Moore in an early role as the obligatory Woman With A Past. And just to stay in step with the conventions of the genre, she also sings torch songs in a nightclub run by the mob.

Never released on DVD, Cast A Deadly Spell is a solid B-movie with a great cast, endearingly old-school effects, and an appealing sense of humor. It may not be considered canon as far as Lovecraft lore is concerned but neither should it be a lost example of the author's arcane influence.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summer X-travaganza

In the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (#1001), Stephen King spends his ‘Pop of King’ column musing on what constitutes a truly scary movie and whether the size of a film’s budget has anything to do with it. As an example of accomplishing major scares with minimal funds, he points to this summer’s sleeper hit The Strangers. Fair enough. But then he also goes on to doubt that the upcoming X-Files movie will be any good because it looks too much like a big budget Hollywood blockbuster (“the new X-Files movie, on the other hand, looks big…” he notes, going on to say “…but horror is not spectacle and never will be.”).

I dunno – to an extent I agree that down and dirty, low budget horror is scarier than slick studio productions (although I also think this commonly shared attitude too easily forgets the indelible impact of such studio-produced films as The Exorcist, Alien, and The Shining) but in this instance he’s using the wrong film to make his case. After all, don’t X-Files fans have the right to expect a certain level of excitement in keeping with the tone of the series? If anything, the new movie looks modest compared to some of the show’s bigger ‘mythology’ episodes (and the previous X-Files movie - Fight the Future - from 1998). The only "big" element I’ve seen featured in the X-Files trailers so far is, well, helicopters and that doesn't quite stamp it as a summer movie-league spectacle. If anything, for the sake of selling tickets to anyone outside of the show’s core audience I think that The X-Files: I Want To Believe could afford to look a little more spectacular.

King also disparagingly compares The X-Files movie with 20th Century Fox’s other current horror offering, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, even though he has yet to see The X-Files. Why does he give the premptive edge to The Happening? Because “M. Night Shyamalan really understands fear”. Well, does he understand it that much better than Chris Carter? To date, Shyamalan has made one great undisputed horror classic (The Sixth Sense), a couple of other movies (Unbreakable, Signs) whose merits continue to be debated, and a few that – for right or wrong – have far more detractors than supporters (The Village, The Lady in the Water, and The Happening). On the other hand, Chris Carter is responsible for nine seasons worth of arguably the scariest show ever to air on TV in addition to three intense seasons of a worthy companion show (Millennium). Did Carter pen all the best episodes of these shows? No – but Carter presided over both The X-Files and Millennium with a strong, overriding instinct as to what would make for the scariest television possible. Has Shyamalan ever offered anything quite as insinuatingly creepy as the second season, Carter-scripted X-Files tale of a death fetishist “Irresistible”? Not to my mind. So if we’re talking about who has the better résumé when it comes to scaring audiences, please give the edge to Carter.

And if we’re talking about someone with something to prove, as King says in regard to Shyamalan and The Happening, I think Carter has just as much to prove in showing that The X-Files is not just ‘90s nostalgia.

Will The X-Files: I Want To Believe deliver the same scares as the best episodes of the series? I’d love to think so. But whether it does or not, it appears to be staying true to what made the series a fan favorite in the first place. So why would King go out of his way to downgrade it based on such sketchy reasoning? Who can say? Maybe it’s just the X-Files fan in me that senses that a conspiracy must be afoot.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hollywood and Vine

When I read Scott Smith's novel The Ruins, I enjoyed it but doubted the likelihood of a film adaptation doing it justice. And while some might say the movie really didn't give the book its due, even with Smith himself handling the screenplay chores, I enjoyed it and I was surprised by just how graphic it was willing to be. But for whatever reason, very few people went to the theaters to see it when it was released this past April - even the horror crowd seemed unmotivated to check it out. So when this tale of man-eating plant life arrives on DVD tomorrow, many viewers coming to The Ruins for the first time might be surprised that such a grisly offering got ignored. Or, on the other hand, some might say "God, I'm so glad I didn't play to see this shit in the theater!"

Either way, the unrated disc arrives in stores tomorrow.

My DVD review is currently up over at Shock Till You Drop.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Horror Event of the Summer

I'm sure most people will look at the online ads for Alexandre Aja's Mirrors and roll their eyes at 20th Century Fox's move to call their film "The Horror Event of the Summer". But I think Fox deserves some applause for giving this a hyperbolic hard sell as a Horror Film. No matter how popular horror may be and no matter how much money these films make for their respective studios, there's still a lingering stigma to the genre that carries over onto the way these films are advertised. So to see any ad campaign for a horror film fly in the face of that makes me happy.

Years later, my nose is still out of joint at the way Arachnophobia (1990) was promoted as a 'thrill-o-medy' by Buena Vista (a division of Disney). Honestly, if a studio can't admit that their killer spider movie is a horror film, that's just obnoxious. Why make a movie that you don't believe there's an audience for? "Gee, too bad we made a horror movie - who the Hell are we going to sell this to?" What's worse is that a week or so after Arachnophobia came out, Buena Vista tried to adjust the ad campaign to reflect its scare factor by running new commercials with night vision views of audiences jumping and screaming at the film. I don't know...would it have been so hard to just live with the shame and sell it as a horror film in the first place? Sure, Arachnophobia isn't much of a horror film but its still a horror film.

Judging by the new red band trailer for Mirrors, Fox may have simply realized they had no wiggle room in selling this bloodbath as horror (KNB puts yet another feather in their cap with that jaw-ripping scene) but it's still gratifying to see Mirrors being sold as full-on, R-rated horror because the summer film I thought would be taking that slot, Midnight Meat Train, is being all but dumped by its distributor, Lionsgate. This is reportedly due to intercompany politics rather than any animosity towards the movie but it's still galling. After all, where would Lionsgate be without the Saw franchise? Horror put them on the map so for them to give such a shoddy treatment to a movie like Midnight Meat Train that's so anticipated by fans just points to the way studios still feel it's acceptable to brush off horror.

So whatever Mirrors' merits as an actual film might turn out to be, I'm just pleased at the way it's being promoted. It's not the 'Thriller Event of the Summer', or even the 'Suspense Event of the Summer', it's 'The Horror Event of the Summer'.

Here's hoping that Mirrors delivers and thanks to 20th Century Fox for knowing that Horror shouldn't be ashamed of its own reflection.