Tuesday, April 27, 2010

3-D Ring Circus

This is not a happy time for movie fans who regard 3-D as an obnoxious gimmick. What began as a trickle last year with the remake of My Bloody Valentine and the sequel The Final Destination has become a deluge of three-dimensional terror. Coming this year is Piranha 3-D, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and Saw 3-D. And going into production soon will be Ridley Scott's Alien prequel, the next Final Destination sequel, Shark Night 3-D (!), Spring Break Zombie Cruise 3-D (!!), the monster movie Burst, and the just-announced third installment of the Ring saga. Like it or not, 3-D is quickly becoming the new standard. It's just a shame that the new movie The Human Centipede couldn't have put 3-D to its advantage as well, don't you think?

Having been a kid during the short-lived 3-D revival of the early '80s, and as someone who still thinks Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) embodies the 3-D experience, to see the format come back with this kind of popularity feels a little surreal. 3-D used to be a punchline and now almost any movie that has made serious money lately has done so by virtue of 3-D. Anyone who believes the trend will pass and that this technology is going to fade back into obscurity is dead wrong. The interest may naturally level off over the next few years but the demand for 3-D is not going to disappear. There's a whole generation of kids growing up now for whom 3-D is what they expect to see when they go to the theater. My five year old son doesn't look at 3-D as a gimmick, it's simply how he's always known movies to be.

As someone who felt like their dreams died a little when 3-D's comeback proved to be a flop in 1983, my inner twelve-year-old can't help but welcome the prospect of many more 3-D horror movies to come. At the same time, I do worry about the format completely overtaking the genre. 3-D horror is geared towards providing pure popcorn entertainment and while I'm all for enjoying movies on that level, it'd be a crime if that started to become the only kind of horror movie that studios were willing to release in theaters. There's a type of mood and atmosphere and a type of suspense that 3-D just doesn't lend itself to (at least not yet - maybe future filmmakers will change that) and I'd hate to see the 2-D releases of the future have to settle for direct-to-DVD distribution (or else be converted to 3-D, as with next year's The Cabin In The Woods and Priest).

Of course, very few 2-D horror films of late have really distinquished themselves so going for the full-on 3-D circus isn't necessarily such a loss. But yet much of what makes horror great is that it allows the audience to project itself into the film. To have 3-D doing that work for us is bound to lead to an audience too lazy to be scared.


Dr. Charles Forbin said...

I did not know how bad a movie could be until I saw Jaws 3D.

Village Voice had the same thought I had at the time, commenting on a shot of a hypodermic being ejected into the camera.

The future of 3-D is in porn.

Jeff Allard said...

It's the one thing that's going to sell 3-D TVs, that's for sure!

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand all the poo which is being flung in the direction of 3-D films as a whole lately. The technology is so much more advanced now and has made for a really fun movie watching experience. I'm excited to see how this translates into a home experience with the latest introduction of 3-D TV's. At the end of the day, its still about the story, right? Avatar was an amazing achievement in 3D. But ultimately, for me, it fell flat because of its lackluster story.

I do agree on your point about only 3D horror films being undertaken by Hollywood. I really hope it doesn't come to that. As mentioned, there is a much more atmospheric aspect to a 2D film that 3D just hasn't captured yet and is key to a sucessful horror film.

Jeff Allard said...

Yeah, I really enjoy 3-D horror myself. It still feels like a novelty to me so I'm eagerly anticipating plenty more to come. In another year or two I might feel differently but for now, I'm good. Like I say, I just don't want it to become the only way that a horror movie can get on the big screen. I doubt if that would happen but it is a minor cause for concern.

Timmy Crabcakes said...

The whole 3D thing kind of bugs me... because it's another element to sell a movie that will probably move concerns about writing/acting/direction even further onto the back burner of the folks holding the money bags.
I'm trying to think of the guy who wants to make the next great horror movie ala 'The Haunting' being told that he needs to add more stuff flying out of the screen.
A friend of mine can't process the images and he's distraught because he's thinking that ALL movies are going to end up being 3D in a few years.
I kinda doubt that but... we'll see.
3D certainly can be fun... for a certain kind of movie, but I REALLY don't want it to become the norm.

Unknown said...

Two girls, two cameras, filming two girls, one cup (hyuck hyuck). But seriously, with a decent committed director, "The Ring 3-D" would be a creepfest. Or better yet, someone needs to talk Cronenberg into returning to his old stomping grounds. Or maybe he could remake "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" as it was written. Now that would be a mindbender in 3-D.

Jeff Allard said...

The idea of Cronenberg working in 3-D is a great one! That's when you'll know that 3-D has officially passed the gimmick stage - when filmmakers with reputations of high integrity and artistry start to adopt it. Not that the filmmakers who have worked in 3-D so far aren't artists in their own right but if directors of the caliber of Cronenberg, Scorsese or Lynch decide to get in on 3-D, then that'll be all the credibility the format needs.