As I looked through horror movies to watch this week, I came across Fingerprints, a low-budget horror movie based on a Texas urban legend regarding a train crash. The legend goes that a school bus stalled on a set of train tracks as a train was about to pass. A few kids managed to escape, but most died when the bus was hit by the train. Now, if a car stops near the tracks, the legend says the car will move, on its own, past the tracks. If you put talcum powder or something similar on your car, you’re supposed to be able to see the fingerprints of the ghost children who push you to get you to safety.
This being a state legend, and since I’m still buzzing from Charcoal Streets and those stories, I decided to see what this little film did with the legend, so I pulled it up on Netflix.
And the first thing I see?
…Comic sans? Really? Okay, so it’s not EXACTLY comic sans, but it’s pretty close. Maybe it’s just the first card.
Nope. They just keep going.
So, what about the title card itself? Surely they were smart enough to at least put in some weird effects. Or maybe they wanted the titles to look like a little kid drew them, just to hammer the point home that there are going to be creepy ghost children in this film?
…Wow. They just didn’t care.
First impressions are very powerful, and if my first impression of this movie is that the designers didn’t even bother to find a creepy or even serious font, I’m not even going to bother with the rest. Sorry, Fingerprints, but you actually lost me in three title cards. Bravo.
Strange noises and disappeared teens… Let’s explore!
February 22, 2013
Do we really need to change the horror movie?
I just spent the last two articles talking about all the things that need to happen in order for horror movies to be fun and scary again, but do we really need all this?
The point of going to any movie is to be entertained. Do bad, cliché-ridden horror movies still provide that? Yes, in a way. Riffing and watching with a large group can still be highly enjoyable experiences. In fact, riffing the film is the best part of a bad movie. There’s certainly appeal to laughing at the misfortune of dumb kids getting hacked like Thanksgiving dinner or the general mistakes of someone who just didn’t care to make a movie the right way…
I guess this is where we start to veer into the difference between “great film” and “good movie.”
Wit was a great film. Trick ‘r Treat was a great film. The Dark Knight was a great film.
Feast, The Last Lovecraft, and Dredd were good movies.
What’s the difference? A great film stands the test of time. It can reach a wide audience and has layers upon layers of meaning that only get better with each successive viewing.
A good movie is fun. You may not necessarily watch it again, but it did its job.
I want great horror films again. I want the kinds of movies that get the crowd so quiet that you can hear your own heartbeat. I want real terror, not the endless gore of a slow death with no sympathy for the victim. I want to actually care about the victims so that I can feel something. I want horror with layers of meaning.
…But I also love movies that are good just on their own. For example, one of my favorite horror films, Feast, is a straight-up closed circle monster movie where the characters don’t even have names. It’s gory and so over the top it loops around and comes back to “plausible.”
Maybe I’ve been going about this all wrong. Not every movie can be The Shining, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Some of my favorite memories watching movies involved movies that weren’t all that great but were obviously having a good laugh at themselves while we, the audience, laughed too.
Bad movies serve a purpose much like bad writing. They serve as examples. Eventually, the market gets so saturated with the bad that the good comes out. It’s strange. That’s not to say every movie on Netflix Instant should be a must-see, but it does mean that we get more examples of what doesn’t work. It’s like I said regarding drawing with charcoal. When you make enough mistakes and wipe the slate clean, eventually, you get something much better than the original work.
You know what? I changed my mind.
Bad movies can keep coming. They have a purpose. Good movies? Take note and learn from their mistakes.
And now, in celebration of this revelation, let’s bask in the glory of cheese that will be Spiders 3D.
Just your average screw-ball romantic comedy featuring genocidal madmen and Nazi superweapons…
November 26, 2011
How long is long enough for “too soon” to be long ago enough?
More specifically, when can we start using real-world events for fiction? I recently managed to catch a piece of the film Iron Sky, a dark satire of modern world events, American attitudes, and racism that tells the story of Nazis on the moon who have decided to finally invade Earth after hiding for 60 years.
Yes, Nazis. On the moon. With spaceships. Just try to not make too much sense of it.
The movie has its moments, such as the gorgeous space battle between weaponized space satellites and the Nazi fleet, the Sarah Palinesque American president and her shallow bid for reelection, and one moon Nazis conflict with her own morality after learning the true history of Nazism. Overall, not perfect, but it did get to me wonder.
When did Nazis become acceptable as comedic villains? As dark as the movie could get, the villains were over-the-top and as comical as villains on any old movie serial. Nazis have been fodder for pulp action for decades now, and Mel Brooks led the charge, I believe. He once stated that his goal was to make Hitler so ridiculous that no one would take him seriously as a leader. Maybe it’s worked. Brooks, though, is also a World War 2 veteran and was at the Battle of the Bulge, so as far as rights to mock Hitler, Brooks is covered.
But when can we start making fun of modern-day despots and terrorists? The Film Four Lions tried to do this and was met with positive acclaim. The sting of terrorism, though, it very much fresh for many people. Nazism pretty much died with Hitler, and although modern-day Nazis still exist, they are labeled as nuts and whackos, radicals without a home who have been fought and defeated, yet they still cling to an ideology that sent the world into war.
Terrorism, though, is much more complex. It still exists today, and between drone strikes and invasions, there are many who view it as a legitimate tool to fight oppression and bring vengeance upon the enemy. American imperialism is also very much tangled with exceptionalism and other extreme patriot movements.
The key is that comedy is aimed at the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, not the victims or the crimes themselves. For example, I’m not sure anyone would seriously think a comedy about the holocaust would be either appropriate or funny. Comedy based around terrorists, then, must be about the perpetrators, not their crimes.
Unless you’re racist.
Likewise, it seems we’re not too preoccupied about making movies based on recent events. How long did it take for 9/11 movies to come out? A few years? Television shows set in the modern world obviously had to address these concerns, but how soon is too soon to make a drama about terrorism? 24 was well into production when 9/11 occurred. Now, we have Homeland.
It’ll be interesting to look back on this time from twenty, maybe thirty years from now and see just how our entertainment dealt with a dark period in our history. Will we groan at our dash to capitalize on tragedy or see terrorists reduced to inept, albeit scary, movie monsters?
Just something to think about.
In any case, here’s a group of people who really wish they’d stayed in bed. See you later, and keep sharing posts!
Shown here? The WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO VIDEO GAMES! At least, according to players.
March 16, 2012
I don’t really play video games. The last video game console I owned was a Super Nintendo. That doesn’t mean I don’t play Wii or Xbox games when possible, and don’t think I won’t snipe you from across the map if I get the chance. It’s just not something I invest a lot of time on these days.
Others, however, do, and that’s fine. I have my entertainment, they have theirs. Nothing wrong with that. I do, however, have a few questions for people who are furiously up in arms about the Mass Effect 3 ending.
I haven’t played Mass Effect. In any way shape or form. The last modern game I played was Arkham Asylum almost a year and a half ago. I’m asking this as a storyteller and a writer.
I’m no stranger to franchises that have spiraled into the crapper. Star Trek Nemesis and the Star Wars prequels left me feeling hollow, like their writers had abandoned me for a round of masturbatory filmmaking that left me feeling sticky and alone. Sliders left such a foul taste in my mouth that I almost gave up on science fiction television. I almost wanted to pretend the first season and a half contained the only episodes. I know what its’ like to have something you’ve cared for turned into crap.
I understand all that, but is there really any point to having the designers and writer change the ending?
Think about it. What would that accomplish? They made an ending you didn’t like and you’ve made your anger known. To keep going, just stop buying games from the company. They’ll be forced to listen. That’s the standard procedure whenever someone makes a bad product, right? Of course, I understand games have changed. It’s not a matter of looking for your princess in this castle or just getting to the end. Today’s games have a story. They are immersive in a way my generation couldn’t have seen twenty years ago. That changes things. You’re part of the story now. You have a personal interest in things.
Unlike watching a show, you’re knee-deep in alien guts… but are there really that many different options available to you? How many possible endings can there be in a game? This is one reason I love tabletop games more than video games. Last night’s game, for instance, I could make things up on the fly to keep the story going and still keep my players happy. A game designer, whether in print or a video game, has to come up with as many combinations as possible to keep the players interested. There’s no improvisation.
Like I said, I haven’t played the game. Based on some of the reviews, I’m sure players feel cheated. It’s entirely possible. You should be angry. But a call to change the ending? That means you would have to return your games and wait for new ones and play the whole thing again and see the new ending. Or you would have to watch the new ending on YouTube or elsewhere anytime you finished the game and wanted the “better” ending. Maybe you could download it, but going from complaining to demanding a better ending from the designers seems like a waste of time.
If Super Mario Brothers had ended badly, I would have just not bought future games. But maybe that’s me. I wasn’t invested in the gripping story of a plumber and his lost love as much as gamers today are invested in stories of alien invasion.
And now, let’s cringe at another bad idea: Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.
Over the last month or so, I’ve pretty much dropped off the map… and managed to miss the BIGGEST clusterfrak in the history of the GOP. Ever. The whole debacle with Limbaugh and contraception and the hearings with nothing but men talking about ovaries when none of the have been near a vagina since birth…
It’s like when I missed meeting R. L. Stein because I had to work on Saturday. Only worse. And this involves vaginas.
Enough has been said on Current, The Young Turks, Maddow, and everywhere else. Let me just say this.
If you identify as a Republican, please consider that the man who called a woman a slut, a prostitute, a whore, is the de-facto leader of your party. Your political leaders are afraid of him. Even after he mischaracterized birth control and insulted a young woman for wanting nothing more than for her health insurance to cover a medicine that helps balance hormones, he stuck to his guns and insulted her character, insulted women, and made his case that femenists are nothing more than man-hating harpies. Insurance companies, after all, cover things like erectile dysfunction, so why not birth control pills?
An erection, after all, has no point other than to bone. Let us now use bone as a verb…
If a man is allowed to bone on insurance money, why can’t a woman receive a medicine that helps balance hormones and prevents a battalion’s worth of medical problems without being called a slut and a prostitute? GOP candidates were unsurprisingly soft on Limbaugh regarding his statements and subsequent non-apology.
Maybe they need erectile dysfunction medicine for the spine.
Ladies, you don’t deserve this. Limbaugh is not a man. He is a semblance of a person made of oxycotin and lard. He is a man-child who would not know how to treat a woman if you showed him a manual written by the combined forces of 3 billion women. He is everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. He is a misogynistic, racist piece of crap that deserves no pity. Once he is gone, conservative Americans might actually be able to move past this windbag’s rants and actually say something substantial.
As much as I rail against the GOP, it’s not that conservatism by itself is a bad thing. Holding on and remembering the past is a good thing. I think the past should be looked at fondly, but it should not be the only thing that matters. Conservatives of old might have had some points, but today’s GOP is run by Fox, Limbaugh, and the voices of unrelenting hatred.
Maybe this vitriol, as painful as it was, will serve to topple that trinity of evil conservatism.
With that in mind, here’s a video of our medicated puppy trying to get through the day.
Guess who has to drop several pounds gained over the last year? Yeah, it’s going to be a fun month cutting back on caffeine, sugar, pounds, AND getting ready for the holiday season. Woohoo?
With that in mind, let’s get some links out of the way.
Assassin’s Creed may be making its way tot he movies, but some insiders are shocked, SHOCKED I say, that Ubisoft has virtually total control over story, casting, everything. What does a video game company know about making movies, they ask? I’d ask instead what the hell Hollywood knows about adapting video games to movies. Bloodrayne, anyone? Prince of Persia? Doom? I could go on…
Speaking of which, the president of Universal admits his company makes “shitty” movies. His words, not mine.
Sort of. Check out the first test-run for the upcoming vlog and stay tuned after my ramblings to witness the terror that made me film about 30 minutes worth of footage just to make this short little video.
If you’re a kid, you get free candy and get to dress up and essentially play all day and night. You get to watch horror movies and act out in the darkest way possible without getting arrested (for the most part).
But as an adult?
I’m going to warn you right now. I’m about to get all philosophical up in this post.
At some point, we stopped enjoying life. We go to work, cash a paycheck, and go about our routine. We’ll watch a television show or learn a hobby to pass the time, but we seem to have lost the spark of being able to play and enjoy life. This has to do with work and time as much as anything, and it’s not like we couldn’t make an extra hour in the day if we really wanted it. It’s just inconvenient. We work and act professional, and for most people this “professionalism” bleeds over into everyday life.
We become the suit we wear. The formality becomes normal.
And then Halloween comes around and we can wear a mask or a costume that, ironically, usually tells us more about us than anything else. Mary wanted to dress up like a bloody clown because she likes to creep people out. I dressed up like a calaca because I enjoy the mythology and symbolism of Dia de los Muertos.
It’s odd, but a lot of people get to be themselves more on Halloween than any other day. They let loose. It’s like they’re drunk without the hassle of drinking. There’s a general feeling that you can do anything on Halloween and it doesn’t count, so you get to see who is reserved, who is really a freak, and who likes to show off.
Maybe I’m over-analyzing it, but I think more adults need to just loosen up and have fun. Do something childish. My dad is a consummate professional in everything he does, but get him to a car museum and he turns into a little boy in a candy shop. I’m almost thirty and I work as an educator and freelance writer, but yesterday, my fiancée and I watched Tom and Jerry yesterday for a good hour.
I loved watching the Treehouse of Horror specials, but they seem to have gotten kind of lame lately. When I read this ranking, I was glad I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
I said everyone needs to calm down and just have fun with Halloween. It seems even Planned Parenthood got in on it. They released a very important memo about the dangers of vampire sex. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
Even though the Weekly Muse kind of fell through (I plan on bringing it back, though), I used a similar exercise with my ESL students.
For example, after going over the week’s vocabulary and grammar lesson, I usually ask random students to use one of the new words in a sentence. For their test this week, though, I had them do something different. We practiced first, so don’t worry. They weren’t caught unprepared.
I gave them TWO vocabulary words and they had to use it, along with either an adjective, adverb, or preposition (my choice) in a SINGLE sentence. The words could be odd mixes like “bean” and “fur.” It was their job to make sense out of the ideas. Why would I do something so seemingly sadistic, you may add?
Ever seen Chopped? Chefs compete by making dishes with mystery ingredients. Usually, one of the ingredients is a bit… odd. They might be asked to make a desert with ingredients like corn flour, raspberries, and sardines, for example. Check out the following scene for a better idea of what they do.
In many ways, it’s harder than Iron Chef. In Iron Chef, yes, you have to come up with several dishes that feature one secret ingredient, but on Chopped, you have to combine multiple ingredients that oftentimes are not obviously connected. How the hell do you make a main dish when you’re given pork chops, bananas, cilantro, and a small puppy named Earl? A great chef, though, can find the commonality in the food and whip up something extraordinary.
Likewise, I want my students to stop thinking so mechanically. I want them to not only learn the words, but start using them in more than just simple sentences on one topic. Talking and using a language in casual speech is the best way to learn it. It’s the same reason I put such odd things like “Atlantis” and “Mexican restaurant” in the Weekly Muse polls: to encourage people to pick the strangest combinations they can think of. Finding connections between seemingly unrelated thoughts and ideas is what helps the brain think differently.
All the clues are there. All the parts to put together a sentence, or a story, are present in the world. It’s just a matter of training yourself to find the links and put together something that didn’t exist before. Sherlock doesn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, though having a background in science and anatomy helps. Likewise, finding links between apparently different words, finding a sentence to use them in, forces my students to find those connections so new words get easier to integrate. They just need the grammatical rules to put their work together.
In essence, using dissimilar topics forces their brain to adapt faster and faster. A time limit for tests also helps.
Now go out and build those neural biceps!
And now, let’s flex those muscles by combining INTENTIONAL comedy with George Lucas’ meddling into our childhood dreams.