Bitten

On Friday I sat beside my seven year-old daughter and watched a movie some ten years older than she is. Maybe you’d seen it flop on its way to the cheap DVD bin in Walmart – it was called Bad Moon and starred Michael Pare and Mariel Hemingway. Remember them? Yeah, almost nobody does.

So, I perused the likes of Netflix and Vudu for movies to watch. I’ve been hankering for a good movie of the horror variety and decided I was willing to pay for it. So I went through and spent a lot of hours on both services to come out with a handful of movies. I chose this one because, well…I really like werewolves, and I really don’t like zombies or vampires anymore. That’s a post for a different day, but for now, zombies and vampires are tired and hackneyed.

So I popped in a werewolf movie and watched my daughter’s face to make sure she wasn’t too frightened by it.

I find it intriguing that I reach for werewolf movies first. They’re my favorite horror/monster movies. And there’s no logical explanation for that on Earth. I shouldn’t like them at all.

As a boy, and I mean a small child now, I used to watch monster movies with my father. I spent countless Saturday afternoons with him watching corny Creature Feature movies on some independent or UHF-band TV station. (If you’re too young to know what those things mean, sorry; I’m not going into those explanations right now). He usually nodded off while I watched. But as a very small boy, I couldn’t get through one type of horror movie.

Werewolf movies.

Somehow, seeing Lon Chaney tiptoe around on canine feet with fur all over his face and those wiry-haired hands sent me into weeping terror. I cried, I cowered, I sought the solace of my parents to tuck myself beneath them. For some reason, the music seemed to trigger it for me. I could watch a movie if my mother held her hand over my ear while I laid in her lap. Maybe it was just laying in my mother’s lap with her hand over me that made me feel safe, I don’t know.

Once, I came home from school in horror and frightened, depressed. When my mom queried about it, I pulled up my sleeve to show her the newly-discovered arm hairs which surely meant I was bound to turn when the moon rose. She of course dispelled my fears with reminders of the length, weight and amount of hair on my father’s arms, and he wasn’t a wolfman, so I had nothing to fear. It worked. I was greatly relieved, and my mother still fondly tries to embarrass me with this story (even though I was only five or so at the time, and it’s really not embarrassing).

I had an aunt who’s only about 6 years older than me. She, of course, got me to sit in the dark and watch Rod Serling’s Night Gallery at my grandmother’s house. And then she’d sneak away while I was held in thrall by the show and would startle me or leave me calling into the long, terrible, dark hallway of my grandmother’s narrow, long house. Hiding behind either my grandmother’s recliner or behind one of the separating walls was a favorite tactic of hers. I remember shaking with butterflies flopping in my stomach, heart palpitating rabbit-quick in my chest, anticipating the start, but couldn’t stop from jumping and crying out when she did. Then the choruses of “Sissy!” and “Oh, don’t be such a baby!” would follow and I had to fight for a scrap of dignity.

But for werewolf movies, I couldn’t hold up. I just… couldn’t. I buckled under the weight of the adrenaline and horror, unable to rip my eyes away and yet covering my face with my hands to prevent myself from having to watch. Or I’d cover my ears to shut out the horrible sound effects and blood-chilling music. And then my aunt, seeing me that way, would slip away to startle me. Again.

I don’t know when that changed, but somewhere along the way, I began to have a real love affair with werewolves. By the time I saw classics (for my generation) like The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, and the misleading Wolfen, which I hated, I loved werewolves. Couldn’t get enough of ‘em. Still can’t. I sit in anticipation and tingle and get a giddy excitement when I think I’ve found a winner.

There were lots of them through the 90s, too, not the least of which is big-ticket Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. And, among those peeking through in the 90s, came Bad Moon. And of course, I saw it. Not in theaters, naturally – I’ve not been a fan of that experience because of the a$$holitude of people for many years – but when they rolled around on cable and On Demand services. Or I’d rent them at places like Blockbuster and those Mom-‘n’-Pop video rental shops. Remember those?

One of my favorite movies of the genre stars Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenburg as siblings who turn. It’s called Cursed, from back in 2005. It started me on the road of respect for Christina Ricci as an actress, who showed me she’s much more than Wednesday Addams. And later, I saw Ginger Snaps 2 and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (though I still haven’t seen the original, which I’d not heard of even though it’s a cult favorite from 2000). I sat through jokes like Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman during his brief stint as an action hero, and of course beautiful Kate Beckinsdale’s Underworld. I waited with glee for Benicio del Toro’s The Wolfman, with Anthony Hopkins, which stank by the way, and have seen a few others as well. But nothing set my heart hammering and my adrenaline racing, which always puts a smile on my face.

I guess you really can’t go back.

In the end, I guess it might have been werewolf movies which made it possible for me to do away with the ability to suspend disbelief and sit captured by the imaginative world of a movie. I have people like my aunt to thank, who taught me how unwise it is to trust myself to a movie’s world and story too far. After all, it’s hard to slip fully back into reality and not jump when someone pounces from around a corner with a shout and hooked-claw fingers.

But I’ll always love werewolves, I think.

Maybe I’ll write a story of my own.

-jdt-

My movie buddy

I finally found my Saturday night (or maybe afternoon) monster movie buddy, maybe.

I used to be my dad’s. He’d turn on those cornball Saturday afternoon movies with cheap monsters and aliens and bad dialog and we’d watch ‘em until he fell asleep on the couch. I got hooked on those movies doing that. Now werewolves, aliens, creatures from the depths of alternative dimensions and other such nonsense are a part of my chemistry. Every chance I get I look for those movies which will reach into my giblets and thrill me the way those oldies used to, to spark that imaginative little fire burning deep within. Of course they don’t anymore – I’m all grown up now and movies have lost their magic – but it’s still fun to try.

More than once my wife has asked me why. Why do I continue trying to find a monster movie to thrill and enthrall? All I do is sigh when it’s over and say “Well, that’s [insert number of hours spent watching the movie here] I’ll never get back. What a waste.” Every time. But I found when I had someone I could watch it with, when there was someone beside me to help it be more entertaining, things were more fun. A lot more fun.

So, Friday night we sit down to watch a movie. We only have so many in our repertoire and because of our situation, it’s those or nothing right now, so we went through the list. One of my all-time favorite movies (of any genre, by the bye), is Alien. I opt for that, and I was shocked when my wife seconded the notion.

We put it in. In a couple of minutes my eight year-old son is … facing away from the TV with his eyes closed, getting on my nerves as he determines not to watch the movie (but won’t leave the room for some reason). But right beside me is my four year-old daughter. The alien jumps out of an egg and hugs the face of its first victim. What does she do?

She asks me to rewind it so she can see it again.

You read that right. She asked to see it again. So I obliged.

She sat beside me for the entire movie. She and I chatted. I warned her about the starts and jumpy parts (she is only four) but needn’t have worried. She took them in stride and asked questions and made statements. She watched the whole thing with me, right next to me, and when it was over, she went about her business as if nothing happened. She didn’t have nightmares, she didn’t give static about bedtime and the dark … nothing. She went to sleep and awoke next day refreshed and ready to do it again.

Next up is An American Werewolf in London, another classic and all-time favorite. I think she’ll miss a lot of the grown-up humor but she might appreciate the (then) cutting-edge werewolf puppets and robots. We’ll see.

But I think I have my monster movie buddy.

How was your weekend? Did you have a happy Easter? I hope so.

-JDT-

All original content copyright 2010 DarcKnyt
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Movie Trailers

I need a little break from the SSRLP I mentioned to you yesterday, so here I am, getting in a second blog post this week.

317ASP897-44137913If you like horror movies, you need to subscribe to Al Bruno III’s blog. He’s a creative writer, for one. For another, the guy finds some very cool trailers and I can’t wait to see some of the movies. Good horror movies, as you know if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, are hard to come by. They’re few and far between. While the job of a trailer is to make the movie look good no matter how bad it is, some of these trailers I’ve been seeing on Al’s site are absolutely amazing. If the movie can deliver on what the trailer promises, they’re going to be a lot of fun to see.

Problem is, I don’t go to theaters. Even if I did, I don’t know if these sorts of movies play at just any theater. They seem sort of counter-culture in genre and tone. While I’m sure some of them will make popular rounds, not finding them at the local multiplex sometimes means it’s going to be a bear to find them on cable, too.

That’s a shame. With some of the tripe I’ve seen on cable passing as “horror” movies, complete with Muppet monsters and high school theater actors, getting good movies into the cable array of garbage would be a boon. And hanging onto them around Halloween makes sense to me from a marketing perspective, but then, I never studied marketing.

movie_theater So I’m interested to find out whether I’ll see any of the cool movies Al’s posting about. There are sites dedicated to finding these apparent gems, and Al’s a guru at finding those sites and sharing the goods. But actually getting the goods once the road map is open is another matter altogether.

How about you? Do you find yourself unable to see movies you thought you’d enjoy for availability? I’m sure this is a non-issue for people who can spare the chump change for something like NetFlix or Blockbuster’s online service. But for po’ folks like me, the pickin’s get might slim.

Where do you go for your entertainment fixes? Do you have a secret storehouse you like? Or are you a traditionalist going through mainstream outlets?

Sound off, y’all. 🙂

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

Mirror, Mirror

mirrors_movie_poster This past weekend I watched a horror movie called Mirrors.

Mirrors is a supernatural thriller sort of movie starring Keifer Sutherland and some other people I can’t recall and don’t care about. (You might though. 😉 ) It’s a remake of an older movie I know nothing about. Now you know as much about the movie as I do. Aren’t you glad?

Anyway, the movie opens with a pretty nice hook. If you’re not into gore, it’s not a great scene, but it’s tense and leaves the viewer intrigued. Then Keifer comes on screen and we have a whole other set of things to remember and deal with. He’s a psychologically damaged cop on medication to help him overcome alcoholism. He and his wife are separated. There’s a lot of stuff going on there, but that’s all I want to say about the sub-text.

The plot is interesting. Things in the mirror are closer than they appear, and they’re not what they appear, either. Whatever is back there is in search of someone named Esseker, which at first glance looks like it might be a mirror-image of another word. It’s not. Turns out Esseker is a former victim of the mirror monsters. and it’s Keifer’s job to find Esseker and turn them over to the mirrors before they claim his family.

The dizzying, frustrating feeling Sutherland’s character portrays is done well. And the viewer could actually pull for him. This is a man willing to sacrifice another human being to save his family. The inner demons he must mirrors_1overcome to achieve his objective include his own psychosis, self-doubt, and the pills he’s taking. He also has to find this Esseker, convince someone – his wife, actually – to believe him, and figure out why a dead man would send him a FedEx package. He has to figure out what the mirrors want before they get his family, and he has to convince someone who escaped the mirrors to come with him and surrender themselves to him.

The ending was rushed, period. Those are a lot of things to overcome, after all, and the movie might’ve benefitted from more time to develop those things. The responses the characters give is realistic and I thought normal. The climax was … well, climactic. And the ending, in the spirit of good fiction, saw the resolution of the story lines.

Overall, I give this one a B+. Not great, but not bad. And considering the genre? Well, I’ll just say I was pleasantly surprised.

If you get a chance to see it, go ahead and do so. (Don’t pay for it, though.) And once again, there is a bit of a gore factor to be aware of.

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

On Shaky Ground

unearthed I watched a movie today on FearNET called Unearthed. It’s about a small Arizona town cut off from the rest of the world when a tanker carrying the fuel for the only gas station has an accident and all the gas is burned. The town sheriff begins to determine something strange is going on when animals and people begin being mutilated.

The basic set-up isn’t complicated. The plot isn’t tough to figure out either. If you’ve seen Alien, Jaws, or pretty much any horror movie you know the premise. A small band of survivors isolated with a monster of tremendous power and frightening as all get-out.

The movie was pretty bad. I don’t need to tell you the sheriff is a drunk because of an incident a year before involving a little girl who died. The sheriff blames herself and drinks to forget or calm or insert-your-own-excuse here. Of course the

incident is played back in a series of ill-devised flashbacks of a couple seconds each. (Of course it was an accident and the sheriff wasn’t to blame. We learn this right before the end of the movie.)

What I will tell you is, I’m sick to death of this cinematographic trick of shaking the hell out of the camera during filming. Holding it by hand, deliberately rattling it, whatever they’re doing. I think it’s supposed to emulate the realistic feeling of being in the scene the way it did when Steven Spielberg used the device during the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, but all it does in these cases is make a bad movie worse. TV shows use it too and

I’m tired of it. JUST SHOOT THE SCENE, dammit! If you don’t want the audience to be able to see what the hell’s going on why make a movie at all?!

A lot of the movie is filmed in dim lighting too. Not a good choice. And the CGI looked like a couple of students from a local community college’s computer animation program did the work. The lighting didn’t match the environment, the monster was not believable (not to mention being pretty much a modification of the creature from Ridley Scott’s classic, the aforementioned Alien), and the characters? Well, let’s just say it’s not a good idea to use stereotypes as characters in fiction, either written or visual.

So I wasted a good hour and a half of my life watching this dog and all its fleas. I don’t recommend you do the same. *Sigh*

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

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