You realize, Nolan, that it's my horrorly duty to comment on Ashley's column...
Ashley Lauren's Column (PCR #173)
Ashley, I think your dad needs to straighten you out on a few things relating to horror films! We should gather 'round a campfire at midnight to listen as The Creature spins yarns about that night in '72 when he saw Bob Clark's "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" at the Gulf-to-Bay drive-in..."'80s Horror Films are Overrated" - get down and give me 20, young lady!
I first have to point out that when I was Ashley's age, I was very much into art & exploitation films (they're blood brothers), and New Wave/Punk music. We were (are) a proud breed that delighted in 'effing' the mainstream. Sure, we enjoyed some big-budget extravaganzas ("Poltergeist", "Blade Runner", "Jaws"), but back then they were charmed films that managed to appeal to the Crazed Fanboy while still being mainstream (a lot of films/TV shows from 1987-now can't claim that). In addition to the big-budget extravaganzas, most of us Crazed Fanboys could be found in our local video rental shops (remember those?) renting opuses like Jess Franco's "Demoniacs", "Invaders of the Lost Gold", and Don Dohler's "Fiend" (all of which have been released on DVD, by the way; never thought I'd see the day!). We supported the independent horror filmmaker (Fulci, Lamberto Bava, Romero) as much as we did the mainstreamers (I'm on record as seeing films such as "7 Doors of Death", "Pieces", "Witchfire", "Curtains" in theaters...).
What I'm saying is I'm appalled at this generation's attitude toward the mainstream - they seem to embrace it. That's truly scary. Things are certainly a lot different now than in the '80s - kids today aren't given much of a choice; the big studios have pretty much secured control over the movie theater chains, ensuring that studio films get the wide release platforms, while smaller art and indie horror films struggle to get their films out there. Some break through, such as "28 Days Later" and "The Blair Witch Project", which is encouraging. Back in the day there was no "Top 10 Movie Moneymakers of the Week" list, where everyone is clamoring to see who's at number one (that's one thing we should do away with immediately). In the '80s, the viewer had the CHOICE to see "Revenge of the Dead" over a film such as "Purple Rain" (both released in '84), because back then they actually released low-budget horror films in to the local movie house. Nowadays, it's "Too Fast, Too Furious" or nothing. You're spoon-fed, and you accept it. Big mistake! Remember, deciding what not to see is just as important as deciding what to see. Every stinking dollar that goes toward "Maid in Manhattan" means that these scum bums are going to make more of those types of films, so for Christ's sake don't see them!!!
You called those of us who think that films today, as compared to films of the '80s, are "ignorant". I don't think that's what you really meant, Ashley, but if it was, I assure you it's not a matter of ignorance, it's a matter of the life experience some of us had growing up in previous decades. Life was not so structured back then. There were less rules and more choice. In the '70s, for example, you could make films about devil worship (complete with nude female sacrifices, blood drinking, and gore) and have them released. Now, you'll notice those types of films are rare indeed, because we have become a more sterile, "civilized" society, less tolerant of "taboo" subjects such as Satanism, sex, nudity, and gore, thanks to the unwelcome efforts of organizations like the "Christian Coalition" and the liberal PC crowd. I always liken the '70s (and some of the '80s) to the wild west; back then anything went; just look at what they got away with in films such as "I Spit On Your Grave", "Last House on the Left", "Faces of Death", and "Emmanuelle in America". Plus they had advantages like luscious film grain (which Danny Boyle lovingly mimicked in "28 Days Later") and those incredible '70s mod haircuts & fashions.
I halfway disagree with your statement concerning: "Films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead trilogy are fun, no doubt, but are not masterpieces". Have you ever seen 'Saw? It's one of the best horror films ever made and a true masterpiece; realistic, gritty, grainy, imaginative, scary; it was even based on a true story (and BTW, it was released in 1974, not the '80s). Just because they didn't make it with a modern, fine-grain camera and CGI effects doesn't make it bad, which is what you're implying. "The Evil Dead", on the other hand, is more of a success due to it's gore effects and technical achievements, which were remarkable for the time (1982); plus, it was scary as hell! In terms of story and characters, however, I agree that ED didn't really cut it, borrowing heavily from an imaginative little horror film called "Equinox" (which starred Frank "Herb Tarlick" Bonner and had special effects by Dennis Muren from ILM). Personally, I don't consider ED the masterpiece that 'Saw is.
I don't think it serves your argument comparing "Citizen Kane" to "The Nail Gun Massacre" (which I own on VHS). Personally, I can watch and enjoy "The Nail Gun Massacre" a lot more than "Citizen Kane" (as I duck tomatoes thrown by Terence...), however I appreciate Kane as a classic piece of filmmaking. Most people do know the difference between a heralded masterpiece like Kane and a sleazy exploitation film like "Nail Gun". My gauge for movies is as follows: what would you really want to watch on a stormy Saturday night at midnight "Cleopatra" or "Carnival of Souls"?. The choice is obvious. To me (most of the time) movies are all about what you can't see on TV (sex, violence, sleaze, style, and art). I don't necessarily want a heaven-bending artistic experience (which usually means boredom) every time I go to the cinema; I more so am looking for a cheap thrill, which is where exploitation films come in - one of my favorite forms of cinema.
You frequently use the term "cheesy". Got news for you, Ashley, 15 years from now a future generation will be watching "Finding Cap'n Nemo", pointing at the screen, and calling that movie "cheesy". A lot of the CGI you support your arguments with are going to be laughed off the screen some day as SPFX become more advanced. Personally, I hate the term "cheesy". In most cases, the filmmakers and special effects artists back then were oblivious to the fact that they were creating effects that would be considered sub-standard in the future; most were sincerely trying to do their best with the money and imagination they had. How can you say something looks "cheesy" or unreal because it's not CGI'd when CGI did not exist back then?
In fact I'm shocked at statements I've been hearing lately (some from mainstream newspaper critics) about cell animation being a "dinosaur" in favor of CGI. How insulting that they make the assumption that just because "Treasure Island' and "Sinbad" flopped (deservedly so) that traditional cell animation is doomed. Blame Disney and DreamWorks for not conjuring good stories and characters. Personally, I don't know how these animators deal with the subject matter they're given - talking donkeys, singing hermit crabs, etc. Were I a cell animator, I'd be chomping at the bits to do an adult animation project, such as a new (but good) Heavy Metal movie chock full of bloody violence, cartoon nudity, and gritty story lines. Thank God for Ralph Bakshi.
You also claim that current movies are "better". Well, that depends on an individual's definition of "better" Sure, technically films of today are superior (kind of); movie cameras have been improved, film processing has advanced, as has editing and sound gear, film grain is finer (Boooo!). If you watch classic films currently available on DVD, however, I think you'll be surprised at the quality of them (after the prints/negatives have been restored) in terms of cinematography, composition, sound and lighting. "Escape from New York" is a good example. I recently saw a cleaned-up version, and I couldn't believe the new things that I noticed as compared to my old VHS copy; in terms of how well it was shot and lit. I was amazed. Image's cleaned-up version of "Night of the Living Dead" is another.
Was "Reign of Fire" a better film than "Dragonslayer"? "Pitch Black" better than "Alien"? "Wrong Turn" better than "The Burning"? The '98 "Godzilla" better than the '56 "Godzilla"? No way, Jose. I can go on and on...
I'd like to point out too that unlike yourself, many young people that I've encountered (like Terence and the guys at Creature Corner) have a healthy respect for "cheesy", as you call them, horror films. They fully realize they're living in a plastiscene environment and are fascinated at the innate charm and ambience of '70s/'80s horror, as they should be. In the horror circles, there is a great reverence for these films, and rightfully so. I take comfort in the fact that the '70s and '80s were such a prolific era for the horror film, leaving countless numbers of films for us to enjoy.
I would also like to say that I support exploitation filmmaking 110%. As I mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons I personally watch movies (as opposed to TV) is the desire to see what I can't on the boob tube, such as intense violence, mondo, cussing, style, and other taboo-like elements. Even most of the great filmmakers, such as Scorsese, Waters, Craven, Carpenter, Kubrick, Coppola, DePalma, Romero, Argento, etc. understand the value and importance of including extreme elements (hard violence & sex/nudity) in their films. The exploitation filmmaker (Herschell Gordon Lewis, Corman, Adamson, Girdler, Mikels, Fulci) have always understood this, and have taken advantage of it. The reason you may be turned off by these types of movies is the fact you're not a young male, who are the ones who primarily enjoy exploitation filmmaking.
Oh, BTW, "American Pie" RRROOOOCCCKKKSSSS!
One of the biggest problems, if not the biggest, is that people grow up. My generation is guilty as O.J. Simpson on this one. I find a lot of people now in their '30s, who grew up in the late '70s/early '80s on primarily sci-fi and horror, have totally betrayed the genres in favor of more "adult" fare, like "Swingers", "Snatch", "Pulp Fiction", "Fight Club", et al. I'm not saying these films are bad, what I'm pointing out is that these people made a conscious decision to leave their teenage mentality behind in favor of a more adult taste, thus mentally shunning their want to see horror and sci-fi, which in general are genres that appeal to younger audiences. I personally made a pledge to myself never to abandon and remain loyal to the genres/music that shaped my life. Million of others in my generation did not, and I blame them totally for the state pop culture is in right now. They are the ultimate traitors.
Moving on to your observations on indie filmmakers...I want to say I don't have anything against Hollywood as a whole; for crying out loud Paramount released the "Friday the 13th" movies! Hollywood also supported and released some of the greatest films of all time: "Jaws", "Star Wars", CE3K, etc. What taints the indie filmmaker against Hollywood is the inane dramas and comedies ("Maid in Manhattan", "America's Sweethearts", "Legally Blonde 2", "Lizzy McGuire") which are so blatantly formulaic and so obviously are geared to mainstream audiences (mostly women; sorry gals) that it makes me vomitous. Guess that's why I rag on dramas and comedies so much; they are the two "genres" that are the most traitorous. There have been some great dramas/comedies of the past "Man on the Moon", "Kingpin" but most are so God-awful ("The Sweetest Thing", the new "Dr. Doolitle") as not-to-be-believed.
I think you're right about one thing - most filmmakers would jump at the chance of making it in Hollywood. Most would go with the honest intentions of wanting to change things, but some fall by the wayside, becoming directors-for-hire (Robert Rodriguez). For the most part, however, these filmmakers still remain true to the genre, but some have fallen off the map (Rodriguez with the "Spy Kids" stuff).
At least one local film is finished: "Filthy".
To Terence (from LetterCol PCR #173):
Ah, at last we have become allies against the mainstream...ha-ha-ha! You made excellent points about how the classic films of the '70s ('Saw, CSPWDT) are by-and-large superior to today's (great examples). For a while there I thought you had the same opinion of Ashley - that we were just some old school jokers who got off re-living our past. I'll have to admit I was a bit surprised at your support.
I think you're being a bit hard on CGI. Sorry, but it's here to stay (at least until something better comes along). Like any filmmaking tool, it can be used for good (which rarely it is). I don't ever see a day when, for example, you could make "The Hulk" using stop-motion. CGI is was a good tool for that particular project (I guess; I haven't seen it yet). The thing I don't like about it is that it's a "cold" effect with little charm. I mean, look at how utterly classic Harryhausen's work has become, as well as the classic animated holiday shows produced by Rankin-Bass. I couldn't name you one CGI artist; not that I could because it takes teams to do all that work. Back in the day we delighted in special effects work by actual personalities, like Rick Baker, Dave Allen, Mike Jittlov, John Dykstra, Dennis Muren, Ron Cobb, Brian Johnson, Doug Trumbull, Rob Bottin, the list goes on and on...
One point I will agree on is that using models as the primary special effect when doing a sci-fi movie is a good idea. All you have to do is compare the special effects in the first three Star Wars films to the bogus "new" SW movies to realize that modeling space ships using computers makes the effect cold, sterile, and non-memorable. No one remembers the poorly-designed new ships from Phantom Menace; they remember the cool ships from the original films. Animatronics are great, but for movies like "The Hulk" and "Jurassic Pork", they're better served in combination with CGI.
And Ashley, if you want a clear-as-crystal example of the problems with today's movies, the best example is to compare the original "Star Wars" (1977) to "The Phantom Menace" (1999)! You tell me which one's better.
"As for local filmmakers in Tampa, all I have to say is that if they stick to silly horror camp and shoot-'em-up zombie pics they are doomed to the bone pile. I want to know why not one Tampa filmmaker has produced anything of worth, content-wise anyway?"
One more thing...I think it's great you make movies and are obviously an intelligent person in support of more artistic filmmaking - but there are some of us out here who love low-budget, mindless exploitation as much as the art film. I consider some types of filmmaking to be akin to a sideshow - an evening's worth of cheap thrills. There's no shame in that. Once again, I go back to: what do you want to see Saturday at midnight..."The Seventh Seal" or "Devil in the House of Exorcism"?
If you're looking for a substantial drama as opposed to "silly horror camp", there have been some good art films made by local filmmakers which fit the bill; you just have to watch for them.
Matt's Canadian Connection (in Lettercol #173):
My statements below are not necessarily directed toward Matt Drinnenberg, but to people in general who are critical of the War on Terror:
The more anti-Bush views that are inspired by the longing to strike back against the popularity of this president as opposed to dealing realistically to the terrorist situation the entire world is in is exactly why the Democratic party is poised to fail to the point of near-destruction next November. Mark my words: that will happen.
If the attack on major U.S. cities can't motivate Dems to think clearly and rationally, in the name of our survival and self-defense, they deserve to go down in flames at the ballot box (again).
This country would be better served if the peacenicking Dems would get real and back military action in not only the defense of this country, but the effort to 'terraform certain parts of the globe to prevent terrorism from taking root. As long as we're the lone superpower in this world, we will always have enemies, both near and far, powerful and clandestine - and we have to be able to deal with all scenarios. Hit 'em ten times as hard as they hit us. 9/11 proved we can be hit any time and any where by whatever enemy, yet there are those that dare criticize this admin for waging war on our foes because it makes him a more popular president. Yeah, thanks for thinking about our country's best interest over your party's. But, of course it's okay to send our boys into harm's way in the armpit that is Liberia. The prez can't benefit as much from that melee.
Don't know how many times it has to be repeated: WMD were found in Iraq; two trailer trucks that were mobile biological labs were discovered months ago, and chemical weapon ingredients were found in the Tigris River; that's only the tip of the iceberg. Do you really believe there are no WMD in that country? Do you want to believe that? Why are you motivated to believe that? Do you trust Saddam Hussein over George Bush, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Connie Rice? I sure don't. They know a lot more about this situation than you do. How do you know there are no WMD in Iraq? Are you 100% confident in that belief? Gee, you must really put a lot of trust in murderous, tyrannical dictators with hard-ons to destroy the U.S., Europe, Israel, and the West in general. I wish I could place that kind of trust in world despots - not.
Attack W on other issues...the jobless rate, the deficit, etc. - but not the War on Terrorism. We're in this together for the survival of this country and to protect the lifestyle we lead against a region of the world that is insane with the notion of wiping us out. W is a lot nicer than I'd be were I the leader of the free world: after 9/11 when dealing with the sickos that did that to our country, you'd be referring to me as President Lay Waste. Let the Bush team stay on these roads...they're bringing American influence to that oh-so-warped part of the world to keep those goons in line so future generations, your children, will remain safe and free from maniacs flying jets into skyscrapers. They know what they're doing. Your motivations stem from the desire to attack the president, and not the desire to see a world free of terror. Therefore you will fail. Miserably.
- Andy Lalino
Director / Producer / Screenwriter "Filthy"
President, Metropol Productions, Inc.
To send an email to Letters to the Editor write to: Crazedfanboy1@aol.com. Any emails sent to this address will be assumed intended for publication unless you specifically instruct me not to. I can and do respond privately, if that is your preference. Frequently, it's both ways.---Nolan