Film Thought: I Think We’re Alone Now

A few times recently I’ve been very close to being the only person, or party, in a theater for a particular showing of a film. In fact, a film I mentioned last week, Creature, may have been the last time that happened as it got a much wider release than should’ve been possible, and thus, shattered a record for box-office futility.

I recall the first time it happened was when I finally got around to seeing the extended/altered cut of E.T. many weeks after it was out. It sure is a fun and surreal experience for being alone and not having to worry about social graces and movie-watching etiquette; it’s one of the few times if ever I slack on that kind of thing.

Being in the sole party is the sort of thing I should contrive to do more often so maybe I’ll wait about a month to see Fast and Furious 6 because it is fun.

The two questions I have regarding this experience are: Have you ever been a part of the only party at a screening? And for people who have worked at theater, if no one is there does the movie even start up?

Review- Creature

Serinda Swan and Mehcad Brooks in Creature (The Bubble Factory)

Creature. What does Creature do right? What is Creature? Why does Creature exist and why was it released to 1,507 screens? Why did I watch Creature? These are all questions I asked myself while watching this film.

To answer the first question there’s not much this film does right at all. It’s the kind of film that thinks character development is giving someone a piece of dialogue in which they say something weird and it never gets explained or an inside joke is shared and we never get let in. A film can overcome the shortcomings of its cast with its narrative, technical proficiency and artistry. There is very little of that so I’m left watching a cast that might have been rejected for Final Destination 5.

So it ends up being the worst permutation of all horror films: one wherein you actually want all the characters dead but know they likely will survive. The characters are for the most part as annoying as the actors. To be fair there are but two positive developments: one is a twist and the other is that Niles played by Mehcad Brooks emerges as someone watchable and that you can almost pull for. In the end he’s like a poor-man’s Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) but this movie is nowhere near a classic.

The edit of this film is painful. At a climactic moment there are so many cutaways that it goes beyond foreshadowing to bludgeoning you with obviousness. The film is also riddled with nonsensical dissolves and cuts and worse yet cutaways were you know they’re not showing an entry wound to save money.

Despite the fact that I did manage to find some good things to say about it about I was tempted to walk out of this film due to its sheer crappiness. This was right before the aforementioned twist. A twist which does not absolve most of the characters of their stupidity and is therefore wasted.

Stupidity rears its ugly head in a big way at least twice in this film and it’s truly insufferable. In Fright Night I discuss one of the paradigms of modern horror being about disbelief, well stupidity is another. Any horror fan cut their teeth on films where screaming girls run upstairs and trap themselves when a killer is chasing them. It was fine for a time but we’ve grown tired of it. These kids willingly seek out the local lore to mock it and become endangered. It doesn’t engender sympathy.

Then there’s the Phantom Menace, I mean, The Creature. It may be the best thing going for it but it’s consistently, purposefully under-exposed like they’re giving it the Jaws treatment sans theme song through most of it. It doesn’t make it scarier, when it’s revealed it’s laughable.

As if the creature’s lack of ferocity isn’t bad enough the film is like softcore porn at times.

To address one of my initial questions about how wide the release was my only guess is that it’s a kind of reverse psychology. Now it’s the biggest bomb of all-time and everyone with a morbid streak will want to see it on video.

1/10

61 Days of Halloween- The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (Warner Bros.)

The Beast from 20,0000 Fathoms has many things going for it: First, it’s adapted from a short story by Ray Bradbury. Second, it’s very much a classic ’50s Sci-Fi film replete with a title that doesn’t necessarily make sense. Third, the creature is created by Ray Harryhausen, a cinematic legend. Fourth, rarely if ever will you see rear projection work as well in this era. Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for a young Lee Van Cleef, who would go on to parttake in the Man Without a Name Trilogy and other western classics.

However, there’s more to it than that. This film impressively builds the scale of events up. it begins with a seemingly isolated incident near the arctic circle and then our lead played by Paul Haubschmid (credited as Christian) seeks the paleontological community’s support and doesn’t initially find it. However, sightings are on the rise but still isolated and he is believed by the Doctor’s assistant and eventually others.

The climax explodes in scale as pretty much all of New York City is under siege when the dinosaur comes ashore. What makes it even more impressive is not only is there a drastic increase in the scale of sighting and destruction but it also slowly but surely ratchets up the sense of impending doom.

This film also like It! The Terror from Beyond Space does not overstay its welcome and this film clocks in at a brisk 80 minutes.

You also factor in two other aspects that sets this film apart just a little bit. First, near the end the danger of the beast is increased by the fact that it is now a plague-bearer so its destruction is two-fold. Secondly, while it’s never confirmed one of the theories about how it may have been jolted back to life is being frozen and then atomic radiation revived it, which brings in radioactivity to this tale as well. It was such an omnipresent factor in 50s cinema it was essentially a character and to add that to the rest just makes this a truly special film.

8/10

61 Days of Halloween- It! The Terror from Beyond Space

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if the film Alien was made in the 1950s well then It! The Terror from Beyond Space is for you. When you boil it down the premise is the same: an alien being is on a spacecraft and is attacking the crew. The treatment is different, however, but no less compelling.

Firstly, it bears mentioning that being made in the 1950s all the sci-fi trappings of the age are there to an extent but it is all very well done. Most of the would-be effects are shot practically and look pretty darn impressive from the planet to the launch to the spacewalk. The creature is also another great example of filmmaking at the time and is a really effective suit.

The claustrophobic environment of the tale is really what makes it excel. What kicks it off though is that this is a rescue mission and one man is being transported back to Washington to a face a court martial as he is suspected of murder and the stories of a monster are dismissed. This is a great dramatic device to kickstart the tale.

It also introduces a frame to the tale as the film starts and ends with a press conference first stating the mission of the newly launched ship and then announcing the findings the crew reported and placing an appropriate coda on the film.

Another interesting technique is that like in Jaws there are sparing glimpses of the creature at first. Only seeing its feet or the damage it left behind or hearing it down below the main level. It allows for the imagination to actively engage in the tale.

Once all the crew members believe there is a creature you almost always hear it or know where it is giving this creature near omnipresence in the tale which is rare.

The conclusion of this tale is also very satisfying not only in the clever manner in which the creature is defeated but also with the news conference coda which allows for one last scare in the film as only could be done in the 1950s. It is definitely worth viewing.

8/10