Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kiss Your Nerves Goodbye

With Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II quickly approaching its 25th (!) anniversary, I wonder how it's perceived by young horror fans just coming to it for the first time. Is it still cool or is it passé? I do think it's very hard for any movie to still be considered hip after twenty five years. To be considered classic, ok. Hip is a little harder to manage. But for fans my age and the generation just below me, Evil Dead II is essential. It's a movie that's intractably ingrained in those who encountered it either first-run in theaters or on its earliest VCR releases or cable showings. But now it's closing in on the quarter century mark and I just don't know if it carries the same cachet with the under 20-crowd. But hell, it's got to. If it doesn't, that's just plain wrong.

I will say one thing: there's no way that younger fans can appreciate just how different Evil Dead II was when it came out. My first viewing of it was at a midnight showing the weekend that it opened in my area. Going in, I assumed I was in for more of the sort of straight-up horror of the original. But when it turned out to be riotously funny, I was completely taken by surprise. None of the trailers or even any of the articles in the genre press had hinted at the shift in tone from the first film to the sequel. For some, the move toward comedy might've been cause to be pissed but the movie was so good, it would be churlish to fault it for not trying to duplicate the scares of the original. I've rarely laughed quite so hard at a film - and I'm someone who's predisposed to laughing their ass off.

From a movie buff's perspective, one of the biggest downfalls of our internet age is that it's almost impossible to be surprised by a film anymore. If Evil Dead II came out for the first time today, it'd be common knowledge many months in advance that it was a horror-comedy. Hell, you'd hear all about it from a mainstream source like Entertainment Weekly. But in '87, even coverage in the pages of genre bible Fangoria didn't tip anyone off to the fact that Raimi had gone for laughs this time around. But being wholly surprised by Evil Dead II was one of the things that I liked best about it.

Thinking back to Evil Dead II makes me miss the days when cult films were discovered by fans a little at a time, gathering pockets of support here and there and building their following over the course of not just weeks but over months and even years instead of how films are now branded out of the gate as cult items on the basis of just a festival screening or two (and sometimes before they're even into production!). You know, Knights of Badassdom might end up being a great film, I don't know, but I feel like there's no excitement in discovering it for myself because it's pre-sold as a ready-made cult movie. Too many films aimed at the geek crowd today feel so safe in their sensibilities, like they're playing to audiences who are already in on the joke. It's like an easy layup and in contrast, Raimi made a full-court press, taking a real gamble by screwing with fan's expectations (most filmmakers doing a sequel to a balls-to-the-wall horror film would not risk ridicule by featuring a zombie doing a full-on stop-motion ballet).

In the years since Evil Dead II, Raimi's hyperkinetic style has been adopted - if rarely equalled - by many other filmmakers, making it seem less unique than it once did, but yet the endless inventiveness of Evil Dead II still jumps off the screen. And the key to why Raimi's style works so well is that it only has the appearance of being unhinged. While Raimi sends his camera prowling, ricocheting, and slingshotting in every direction, underneath that gonzo style there's a serious attention to craft. Every angle, every edit is meticulously thought-out. Low budget genre filmmaking is famous for being done on the fly and under the gun but Evil Dead II is about getting it right and raising the bar.

The original Evil Dead was the work of a talented amateur but by Evil Dead II, Raimi had become a master filmmaker, using every tool at his disposal. Evil Dead II was still a micro-budgeted film compared to anything out of Hollywood but it looks far more lavish than it does crude. Sure, it might be easy to spot a giant tear in the crotch of the Henrietta suit and other gaffes here and there but Evil Dead II is still an accomplished piece of work. And the evolution of Bruce Campbell as an actor can't be underestimated either. His performance in the original was just shy of being outright embarrassing but in Evil Dead II he suddenly possessed a comic flair along with leading man chops.

Raimi has stated many times over the years that horror was never his thing, that he didn't grow up as a fan, but ironically his films show much more affection and respect for the genre than those of many horror filmmakers today who constantly claim what hardcore fans they are. I mean, you look at the films of Rob Zombie and I don't care how many movies and directors he namechecks in interviews, this is a guy who misunderstands the genre so deeply that when he talks about being a fan, it should be regarded as a tongue-in-cheek assertion at best; at worst, a private joke.

Early on in his career, Peter Jackson was considered the heir apparent to Raimi, making his name with splatstick efforts that were clearly indebted to Raimi's example. But while I love Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles (not so much Dead-Alive - for some reason that film just never did it for me), I don't think they've held up quite as well as Evil Dead II has with its high style, rampant silliness, and sense of cinematic precision. It's more than timeless - it's groovy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Greatest American Hero

Captain America has always been something of an anomaly in the Marvel Comics universe. Created in the '40s by Jack Kirby and Jack Simon while at Marvel's predecessor, Timely Comics, Cap was not an obvious fit with the heroes that Marvel made its name on in the '60s - the troubled, flawed, angst-ridden super-beings created by writer Stan Lee along with artists such as Kirby and Steve Ditko.

When Lee brought Cap into the Marvel fold, he had Cap enter the '60s as a character who had been literally frozen since the days of WWII. Cap came into the turbulent '60s as a man out of time, a Living Legend. This was not a counter-culture icon, this was an embodiment of the self-sacrificing ethics of the so-called Greatest Generation, the generation that stopped the spread of fascism.

Lee wisely perceived that Cap must remain a man of his era. Simiarly, director Joe Johnston and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely succeed with Captain America: The First Avenger by staying true to Cap's roots and by not putting his character in any ironic context. Save for its bookending segments in the modern day, the entirety of Captain America is set during WWII, charting the journey of sickly Steve Rogers as he desperately looks for a way to serve his country and finally finds it as a guinea pig for a newly developed Super Soldier serum. Intended to be the first of an army of super soldiers, Steve instead ends up being the last person to undergo the miraculous transformation as an act of enemy sabotage kills inventor Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and sees the final batch of serum spilled on the grounds of a Brooklyn shipyard.

At first, it looks like Steve might be consigned to a lab to be studied but the intervention of a PR-savvy senator puts Steve in his first Captain America garb as the star of travelling USO show to sell bonds. Here we see Steve's confidence develop as he becomes accustomed to being a public figure but yet he yearns to be in battle. When his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Shaw) is taken prisoner by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) along with the rest of his platoon, Steve, while overseas on behalf of the USO tour, takes it upon himself to launch a solo rescue mission. After his first real success as "Captain America," his future as a fighting member of the U.S. forces is guaranteed. Whereas the storyline of Marvel Studio's recent Thor took place over the span of a few days, Captain America tells the tale of Steve Roger's entire WWII career (with the opportunity left for any period-set sequels to fill in some blanks, if desired).

Director Joe Johnston has been a valued player in geek cinema for many decades since his days as a designer and art director on the original Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark but as a filmmaker he's never quite had that one movie where it all came together for him...until now. This is where a lifetime of experience combines with the right material and the right resources and the result is escapism of the highest order. Captain America is not a cinematic game-changer; it's not a reinvention of the action or superhero genres. What it is is a lovingly crafted call-back to an earlier brand of pop cinema. This is an old-fashioned film in all the right ways. It embraces not only Steve Rogers' old-fashioned morality but also old-fashioned ideas about moviemaking.

Johnston doesn't eschew CGI but this is the rare modern blockbuster to be largely rooted in the physical. CG has its place and it has afforded filmmakers incredible opportunities but sometimes the eye craves reality - even amidst fantasy scenarios - and that's what Captain America delivers. From Cap's shield with its battle-scuffed paint job to the silver Hyrda hood ornament on the Red Skull's ride, Captain America shows an exhaustive attention to making every detail matter - a testament to Johnson's background in design.

Johnston also shows his allegiance to older values when it comes to his action scenes. Johnston will never be considered a visionary but he knows how to get scenes on screen the right way and the action here stands out in the way that it's filmed and edited with clarity, sans any shaky camera moves or incoherent editing. When Cap faces off with the Red Skull, or with the Skull's numerous Hydra henchmen, it's not just a meaningless blur of movement. We actually see Cap's fighting skills and just how handy his iconic shield can be. Too often in modern movies, the work of stuntmen is not properly showcased - but not here.

The casting of Chris Evans met with some initial flak from fans due to his previous turn as cocky Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies and the belief that his often wise-cracking screen persona wouldn't be the right fit for Steve Rogers. But Evans clearly understood how to play this role. He's decent to his core without being smug or self-righteous. He's a man of innate goodness but rather than preach, he simply leads by example. Humor comes into the film through other characters, like Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Phillips, but there's not a trace of smart ass in Steve.

Steve's love interest here is played by Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter and for the first time in a Marvel Studios movie, there's a romantic subplot that carries some weight. Steve's relationship with his sidekick Bucky Barnes is somewhat altered from comic lore but the changes work for the better. Instead of meeting during the war, the two are now boyhood friends from Brooklyn. It's a more efficient way of getting them together and giving them the shared history that they need to have. It also presents an effective irony when the once-weak Steve, who had always been pulled out of back alley scrapes by Bucky, becomes the man leading Bucky into battle. It would've been nice to see more of Bucky and Steve together but, in the end, we get enough (including just a hint of Bucky's dark future as The Winter Soldier). That the pair's eventual separation comes in a different way than in the comics might rankle some fans but it's a variation that preserves what's important and smartly leaves the emotional climax of the movie to be between Steve and Peggy.

As the last Marvel Studios movie prior to next summer's The Avengers, a lot is riding on the shoulders of Captain America but unlike, say, Iron Man 2 it doesn't feel like its running time is overly devoted to setting up future plot points. I expect that some unfamiliar with the comics will assume that the consequences of Cap's final face-off with the Red Skull just represents a means of getting everything in place for The Avengers but it's just following the trajectory of the comics.

This summer has produced something of a glut of comic book adaptations but on the Marvel end of things, quality was high across the board. While some argue that comic book adaptations have to go dark or ironic or to deconstruct the genre in order to continue their appeal to audiences, Captain America: The First Avenger proves that old-school heroism done right never goes out of style.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Moron Movie

Things started out so well when it came to adapting Stephen King's work from page to film. When your writing is brought to both the big and small screens by the likes of Brian DePalma, Tobe Hooper, Stanley Kubrick, George Romero, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, and the underrated Lewis Teague, you're talking about some high caliber cinema! But as those early King films came out, save for DePalma's Carrie, they all met with gripes from fans and critics.

Time has been very kind to The Shining, Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone, Creepshow, Cujo and Christine but reactions were initially mixed. And those were the prestige King films - as the '80s wore on, the floodgates were open and many lesser adaptations hit the screen, junk like Children of the Corn and Silver Bullet. The general consensus was that no one was able to do King justice.

Looking back, that doesn't seem to have truly been the case - it was more a case of people being way too hard on mostly solid movies - but in 1986 it didn't seem so outrageous that King himself should be allowed to take a crack at directing his own material. Producer Dino De Laurentiis, who scored a big King win by ushering The Dead Zone to the screen and suffered a couple of misses with Cat's Eye and Silver Bullet offered King the opportunity to get behind the camera and adapt "Trucks," a short story that had appeared in King's 1978 collection Night Shift.

A brief, oddball tale about machinery inexplicably coming to life and subjugating humanity, "Trucks" didn't seem like such a great choice to expand to a full-length film. Unlike, say, "The Body," there wasn't a lot of meat on its bones. More than that, the amount of mayhem required by the story didn't seem like something a first-time director should be taking on. Even an experienced director would've surely run into problems with Maximum Overdrive (by the way, De Laurentiis teamed King with a camera crew that only spoke Italian) - and that's not even taking into account how dirt stupid the material was. Had Maximum Overdrive been the best movie it could've possibly been, it still would've been terrible. To use an apt vehicular analogy, from the start Maximum Overdrive was a car crash waiting to happen. I haven't read much about King's addiction issues, which were reportedly raging in the '80s, but I have to assume that King was at his most coked-out when he willingly signed on to this.

In an interview with Fangoria, King claimed he set out to make a "moron movie." As he went on to say "...they're the best kind of movies as far as I'm concerned. Back to the Future is a moron movie. Rambo is a moron movie. I loved them both." From this quote, it's clear that King was not the right person to direct any movie - whether it be based on his own writing or whether it be the latest installment of the Police Academy saga. The best bad movies are always made by people who tried (and spectacularly failed) to make good ones. Movies that are deliberately dumbed down from the start never work - and the less said about the fact that King considered Back to the Future (a film that boasts a damn sharp screenplay) a "moron movie," the better (even Rambo, with its sleek action and pacing, doesn't deserve that designation).

Watching Maximum Overdrive, it's hard to figure out what King's mindset was, outside of just ascribing it to mountains of blow. He may have claimed he wanted to make a moron movie but even given that, it's hard to understand why he decided to stock his film with so many crude, slobbish, screeching caricatures. His fiction is filled with such types but, if anything, King portrayed these characters in even broader terms on film than on the page. His Creepshow character of luckless hayseed Jordy Verill looks like David McCallum's super-evolved Welsh miner from The Outer Limits episode "The Sixth Finger" next to Maximum Overdrive's cast of rednecks.

There are a few noble souls trapped in the besieged Dixie Boy diner, like Emilo Estevez's ex-con turned short order cook and Laura Harrington as a no nonsense, tomboy-ish hitchhiker, but most of the folks that populate the movie are not so endearing - such as Pat Hingle as the oafish owner of the Dixie Boy, Bubba Hendershot. Hingle's character is of a type that reoccurs often in King's fiction - the small time tyrant who gleefully abuses the tiny bit of power they possess - but King lays it on so thick and he seems to have encouraged his cast to play their roles as grotesquely as possible. Yeardley Smith (who would go on to voice Lisa on The Simpsons), whose character of a newly wed bride ought to be sympathetic, spends most of her screentime shrieking like a cat with its tail caught in a garbage disposal and its whiskers in flames.

On top of its mostly unpleasant characters, Maximum Overdrive also has no scares to offer. I suspect that a more experienced director could've done a better job of goosing the audience with jump scares, for whatever that's worth, but I doubt that any director could've made such a silly concept unsettling. Watching Dennis Weaver pursued by the unseen driver of a tanker truck in Steven Spielberg's gripping Duel is scary. Watching a group of characters forced to pump gas for a miles-long line of sentient trucks, not so much. And King oddly lets far too many members of his large cast make it to the film's conclusion. For a movie that practically begs to have a double digit body count, nearly the entire group that started off being trapped in the Dixie Boy ultimately make their way to freedom.

King joked upon Maximum Overdrive's release that he made have made the modern equivalent of Plan 9 from Outer Space but unfortunately Maximum Overdrive is too plodding to share that film's entertainment value. King did one thing right with his one and only feature film (well, maybe two if you'd like to say that the Green Goblin truck is kind of cool) and that's having rock gods AC/DC supply the score. It isn't the greatest score, no, but at least hearing the occasional thunderous AC/DC riff helps to fight off the powerful urge to sleep.

In the film's hyperbolic trailer, King spoke directly to the audience, saying that "if you want something done right, you ought to do it yourself" and promising "I'm gonna scare the Hell out of you!" When the final product hit screens in July of '86, it was clear that of all the directors who had attempted to bring King to the screen so far, King himself was arguably the worst - sparing Children of the Corn's inept Fritz Kiersch any further shame. As readers of Fangoria knew, the dreaded MPAA had forced King to excise much of Maximum Overdrive's splatter FX to save it from an 'X' rating - something that diluted his film's impact, King argued - but the truth is no amount of gore would've turned Maximum Overdrive into a good movie.

Every once in awhile I'll forget just how shitty this movie is and want to give it another chance. I always sucker myself in with the thought that this must be a fun, trashy movie - an '80s relic that surely plays better today - but it's so not that. I have such fond memories of looking forward to Maximum Overdrive's release back in the summer of '86 that I keep hoping I'll discover that it's become a true guilty pleasure. Instead, it's about as fun as sucking on exhaust fumes.

I will say this, though - if they ever put out a Maximum Overdrive DVD with King paired with Joe Bob Briggs on a commentary track, I couldn't say no to that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Evil Thoughts

After many, many years of keeping their rabid fan base guessing about whether an Evil Dead 4 or an Evil Dead remake (or both, or neither) would ever arrive, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell announced this week that a remake is in production. This isn't good news for those who had their hearts set on seeing Raimi inflict some punishment on Campbell once again but I, for one, feel relieved.

The idea of Campbell reprising his signature role in another Evil Dead film strikes me as a depressing prospect, one best avoided. Career-wise, Campbell doesn't need to play Ash again - he's part of a successful show as a cast member of USA's Burn Notice in addition to doing voice work for animated films like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Cars 2. At this point it'd be a mistake for him to strap on the chainsaw again. I'm sure that some fans will keep clamoring for a sequel for as long as horror conventions are held but I'm hoping that ship has permanently sailed.

As for the remake, this is definitely a case where age, experience, and added resources could lead to an improved film. As a shining example of DIY resourcefulness, the original remains admirable but as a movie it isn't so thrilling anymore. Raimi already left it in the dust with Evil Dead 2 but that was, by design, a jollier, jokier take on the material. A new Evil Dead that's hellbent on scaring audiences rather than mixing gore and guffaws is something I want to see.

Writer/director Fede Alvarez is an untested commodity but I have faith that Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell have entrusted their film to the right guy. And the idea of Diablo Cody contributing to the script sounds fine to me. If nothing else, it's funny to think of an Oscar winning screenwriter penning an Evil Dead movie. I actually liked Cody's uneven but interesting Jennifer's Body so I do believe she has some credentials as a horror buff.

Once the classic - and even not-so-classic - horror films of the '70s and '80s began to be remade, it wasn't a question of whether The Evil Dead would be remade but when. But unlike the botch jobs that films like Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street endured, I think that the new Evil Dead has a better-than-average chance of actually surpassing the original.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Thing Before The Thing

Months after the production had vanished off the radar to the point where I was beginning to wonder whether the movie would make its October release date, on the heels of the appearance of the teaser poster the first trailer for the prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing has made its way online and at first glance, I like what I see. At the very least, there's nothing in this trailer that sets off any red flags.

It's appropriately moody, the paranoia is in play, there's plenty of beards to go around, and it looks like attention is being paid to detail - just from this trailer it's clear that this is going to dovetail nicely with what we learned in Carpenter's film about the Norwegian camp.

In case you haven't already watched the trailer, take a look:

There's a glimpse of CG in this trailer but I also see some practical stuff so I hope that this movie will have a mix of both, but favoring practical as much as possible.

Having been too young to see Carpenter's Thing in theaters, I welcome the chance to see a respectful approximation of it on the big screen (especially if they slip in some of Ennio Morricone's soundtrack). And it's interesting that it's getting an October release rather than the summer one that doomed the original. In John Carpenter: The Prince of Darkness by Gilles Boulenger, Carpenter described how leery he was about The Thing's release date:

"What I could percieve before The Thing was released was that the audience was not interested. I was sitting in my office at Universal a few weeks before the movie came out, and I got to read a little study, a demographic study - it was the first time I ever saw one of these things - and they discovered that the market for horror movies had shrunk by 70% over like six months. Since we were making this movie for over a year, I really did not know what we were going to do. The people clearly did not want to see that type of movie anymore and I forgot why. So I went to Bob Rehme, head of marketing at Universal at the time, and I said to him, "Because of the way things are going, I think you should hold this movie back from the summertime, release it at Halloween, and retitle it Who Goes There? Don't put The Thing on it, I have a funny feeling."
Sadly, history proved Carpenter's "funny feeling" to be dead on. Only time will tell whether the prequel will fare any better. All I can say at this early point is that while this new Thing looks worth believing in, appearances can be decieving. Or, to borrow the watchful words found in a poster seen on the walls of the original's rec center, "They Aren't Labeled, Chum!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Death Has Never Been Closer

Call me a sentimentalist but my favorite horror franchises remain the ones that I followed as a teen in the '80s. The one modern day franchise that comes the closest to competing with Friday the 13th or Child's Play for my affection, however, is Final Destination.

Over ten years since the series made its debut with the sleeper success of the James Wong/Glen Morgan original, these films continue to get a lot of flack, not just from critics but also from plenty of horror fans who think the movies are too simple and formulaic. But that's exactly why I love them - they're disreputable, formulaic, junked-up horror movies that cater to their fanbase and to no one else. You could say Saw fits that description, too, but the Saw films are too self-serious (while being empty-headed) to be any fun and their convoluted plotting guarantees that there's no scares to be had.

Final Destination, on the other hand, isn't bogged down with any bullshit. Like the early Friday the 13th films, every subsequent FD is pretty much the same as all the ones before it. Some people label that as a flaw but not me, man. Some franchises can cut loose a little and sometimes it works but in general when it comes to horror sequels, the less each sequel deviates from its predecessors, the better. Friday the 13th was the greatest horror franchise of the '80s because it was the one that went the longest without getting in its own way. For years, they stayed on point. That series only ran into trouble when they stopped making every movie a carbon copy of the last one. There's a little tweaking of the formula in this latest FD - wherein we learn that if someone who was meant to die kills someone they themselves will be spared by Death - but it could be a promising twist to the series' mythology (anything that causes more mayhem is a good thing) and in all other respects it looks like everything fans have come to expect will be served up in spades.

After a long horror drought, there's a lot of genre fare opening next month, including the much-anticipated Guillermo del Toro-produced remake of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, but Final Destination 5 is my top pick.

Yes, it's going to have a lot of competition in theaters. But as the characters in each Final Destination discover, it's never wise to bet against Death.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Ghost In You

As I'm sure you're aware, John Carpenter has a new movie out now called The Ward. It's been on VOD for a while but it's hitting select theaters this weekend. Good sense dictates that you try and check it out anyway you can.

The script, by Shawn and Michael Rasmussen, is,'s not so good. The not so good part mostly centers on the flabbergasting twist at the end - which isn't flabbergasting at all, save for the fact that you can't believe anyone involved thought it was a good way to go.'s not a deal breaker for me. Carpenter handles the resolution of the film's mystery as well as anyone could without calling for a complete rewrite.

Shaky story aside, Carpenter delivers a handful of effective jump scares, gets a strong lead performance out of Amber Heard, and wisely doesn't try to overreach with this slim material. Carpenter's prowling camerawork is in full effect, gliding through the possibly haunted corridors of the North Bend psychiatric hospital.

The Ward might not seem like much, just another underwhelming latter-day entry from Carpenter - a movie that some might say was hardly worth Carpenter getting back in the director's chair for - but I guarantee that time will be kind to it. Not so kind that it'll ever be a classic but it strikes me as the kind of movie that would've once found its audience one viewer at a time in the twilight zone of late night TV - a place where modest but efficiently told B-movies could always get a fair shake, away from heavy expectations.

I do wish that Carpenter had found a meatier project for his comeback but looking at the straight-forward chills that The Ward serves up, it's reassuring to be reminded that Carpenter's far too pragmatic to ever go off his nut like Romero, Argento, or Craven have in recent years. The Ward may not set the world on fire but it's no embarrassment either. Here's hoping that Carpenter will not keep us waiting another ten years for his next movie.

To read my full review of The Ward, go to Shock Till You Drop.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

All The Best People

"There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss."

From "Haunted Houses" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1893)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer Shocks Revisited

Last summer I was newly unemployed - a situation that was accommodating to the notion of launching a summer-long series of essays. From May to August last year, Shock Till You Drop head honcho Ryan Turek and I co-penned Summer Shocks, a loving look back at some of our favorite hot weather horrors from 1979 to 1999.

I would have loved to have suggested a Son of Summer Shocks this year but my focus had become almost exclusively directed towards finding work rather than on writing and now that I finally have a job and some economic (and mental) stability is returning to my life, the summer is already at its halfway point.

Still, there's plenty of summer left and while it lasts, I plan to give some shout-outs to a few favorites that weren't gotten to last year. I can't guarantee that I'll post something every week but as much as I can before Labor Day I'll be jumping back in the pool of summer time classics.

In the meantime, here's last year's Summer Shocks:

Summer Shocks 1999: "The Blair Witch Project

Summer Shocks 1998: Blade

Summer Shocks 1997: Mimic

Summer Shocks 1996: The Craft

Summer Shocks 1995: Tales from the Hood

Summer Shocks 1994: The Crow

Summer Shocks 1993: Jason Goes To Hell

Summer Shocks 1992: Single White Female

Summer Shocks 1991: Body Parts

Summer Shocks 1990: Class of 1999

Summer Shocks 1989: Jason Takes Manhattan

Summer Shocks 1988: The Blob

Summer Shocks 1987: Predator

Summer Shocks 1986: The Fly

Summer Shocks 1985: Day of the Dead

Summer Shocks 1984: Dreamscape

Summer Shocks 1983: Psycho II

Summer Shocks 1982: Poltergeist/Friday the 13th Part 3 (Ryan)

Summer Shocks 1981: Deadly Blessing/Wolfen (Ryan)

Summer Shocks 1980: Friday the 13th

Summer Shocks 1979: The Amityville Horror/Phantasm (Ryan)

I just wish that this year was yielding a better crop of horror films.

The only two theatrical releases so far this summer - Priest and Super 8 - have not satisfied. For one, both are more correctly identified as being either action or sci-fi. For another, whatever category you want to put them in, I just didn't care for either film.

So now it's up to next month's releases of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Final Destination 5, Fright Night, Apollo 18, Attack the Block, and Shark Night 3-D (on September 2nd) to save the summer.

My money's on Final Destination 5. Seriously.