10.27.2021

Slashers Are Back! (and I'm scared)


That's right, scared. Scared that this burnt toast subgenre is making a comeback yet again. It may surprise you (or maybe not, I can't keep track) that I don't particularly like slasher flicks, or slashers period. I mean there're some fine ones (usually the ones that tried to break the mold) but creating tension is apparently as elusive as the formula for Coca-Cola; it's a tedious corridor of Cinema full of exposition and badly-lit hide & seek sessions put in place to inflate running times. Serial killers, Giallo - they all perform under the same tent, and it might definitely surprise you that I'm not into those either. Not solely by label at least; if someone says "Watch this, it's about a deranged mass murderer," I'm not like "Cancel all plans! I'm going to the picture show!" What it comes down to is that the genre doesn't dictate the quality - by that measure, you could say "I love Comedies." Well of course you do, lunkhead, but are you more of a Paul Blart or a Being There? Or both? Or neither?? But what post-Hitchcock "Slasher" has become was never my thing, thats all I'm tryna say.


That's why the 1990s were exciting for a while - never mind the revival of not one but four Universal Monsters (five if you count Branagh's sorta inclusion of a Bride for his Creature, and six if you count Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame), but as I've mentioned over and over again, there was an endless stream of colorful, crazy, creative content spilling out into theaters, TV, books, and even music. It was a macabre Mad Libs: modern-day vampires, Lovecraftian creatures, subversive aliens, virtual reality groundskeepers, guilt-induced hallucinations, haunted spacecrafts, cheerleading slayers, spiders, ticks, mosquitos, bees, reincarnated slaves, resurrected cult leaders, reanimated Jason, real life Freddy, goth girls, demonic toys, a Tom Savini-sized rat, a leprechaun, and a T-Rex; no common theme, no cause to get bored, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, we never really knew what to expect. Until we did.


What if Chucky made a comeback? Wouldn't it be a trip to see Michael Myers stalking Laurie again? Or how about if a new Ghostface started shooting phone calls to Sidney? Well look no further than 1998, when we couldn't leave well enough alone, and what felt like a varietal renaissance took a knife to the head. But what's done is done... But it isn't done, is it. And that's what tears my burrito: the 2010s had a few common themes ("Elevated" Horror, old-timey ghosts, increasingly pissed off zombies, a few giant creature features) but it all felt like it was being funneled into something - because it always does. And so it was. And so nostalgia and familiarity wins again as we continue to revisit eras in which we were already nostalgic for all that came before. Add the 1990s to your catalogue of "yesteryear" and you get GoosebumpsAre You Afraid of the Dark? and Fear Street.


It took 20 years for our collective reboot fatigue to telegraph its way into the system, so now we get official-sorta-sequels -- devoid of any numerative modifiers because that would be "confusing": Candyman, Halloween, Scream. Wasn't part of the fun of these stodgy stab fests pontificating with whole numbers? "Well Part 3 was the scariest but my favorite kill is in Part 6. And Part 2 has the most boobs but Part 5 has the best boobs." Now everything's stamped with a year of release to keep the convo straight. Luckily The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has so many words in the title that they could drop some or add some or flip it around to indicate a new direction - so be careful what you say when you say it. But, in the words of Abe Lincoln, "Leatherface isn't a slasher, he's a Sawyer." He might've not said that, but he would've. 


Also luckily, as they sequelize these leftovers they can hang some poetry off the tip, like Kills or Ends - which sidesteps the horrible question, "Is this the third Halloween II or the second Halloween III?" Speaking of - I liked Halloween Kills. I mean, for a Halloween movie I liked it - which is not to say I'm raising or lowering the bar in terms of expectations. It's more of a lateral move; I don't expect buns of steel when I eat ice cream, I just want the goddamn ice cream. But still, we're smarter than that - we know the mood of the room, we know the series, we know the director and how he handles the subject matter -- which, incidentally, did lower my bar with a movie that should've potentially reinvented the franchise and the genre but didn't, nor did it carry on the somber, sparse tone of the original. Kills abandoned a lotta the paint-by-numbers poppycock put in place by the previous one and rose to a level of parody not seen since Jason Lives. (I don't site Freddy's Dead because the afterlife Springwood Slasher was never a "slasher" to me - he was part Captain Howdy, part Joker, and all supernatural and that's why he's my guy.) 


I'll say what pretty much everyone is saying: I liked the gore, kinda slept on the other bits. I can't give that kinda praise to most slasher movies - I can't even say that about most Halloween movies. I'm not gonna "review" the sonofabitch, but I've done the math: out of the twelve films thus far, I rank it sixth. So there it is, right in the middle, which puts me on neither side of the fence.

And that's a concept that confounds me: the integrity of the "fence." Short of reading a full-length review, all I've heard is "it's awesome" or "it fuckin' sucked worse than anything." Per usual, I'm caught in a rundown between bases as moviegoers squabble over the nuances of this third generation Happy Meal toy. Like STAR WARS, this enterprise has blossomed from Cult to Religion as blind faith and dogma are the roadmap to guide us through these convoluted timelines and allow us to apply substance where there is none - all rooted in very basic, almost stupid origins. Who'd have thought this ultra low-budget drive-in sketch with no foundation or motivation could still inspire true conviction after eleven movies of the same friggin' thing, over and over?  But I suppose that's the gag: Halloween '78 was so skimpy that folks conjure up their own beliefs and impart them on others with persuasion. You know, like anytime something becomes a "community."


I'm no stranger to nailing myself to the crosses of the movies I like that no one else does. This is certainly not an occasion for martyrdom for several reasons: 1.) my airtight defense of Rob's 2009 H2 didn't exactly illuminate the truly dim, 2.) I'm not spilling any blood over this B-/C+ afternoon waster, and 3.) if there's enough of a backlash to create a noticeable dip after its strong opening weekend, maybe we can scare the money people into their offices to place some calls re. "how do we move away from slashers?" People don't know how the hell to articulate what they want, but as I get older it's becoming apparent that it differs from I want. Once this trilogy ends, they can still "reenvision" it, prequelize it, fart out a "limited series event"-- if not, I heard Jason's back on the market so I'm sure they'll try n' make that oatmeal interesting yet again.


So what else? Slumber Party Massacre? Check. Black Christmas? Double check. While Scream (1996) springboarded I Know What You Did..., Urban Legend, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Valentine, Cherry Falls, and other "original" material, it also opened the window to Prom Night, When a Stranger Calls, My Bloody Valentine, a couple Halloweens, several Chainsaw Massacres, and a Friday the 13th. Dozens of various other genre remakes aside, once a groove is approved, they're gonna keep spending money to make money. Our money. Blumhouse's milquetoast Michael continuation was just safe enough to have critics and fans alike exclaiming "Meh, why not." If that's enough for us, that's enough for them. Evil, predictably, does not die tonight.

- Paul

10.23.2021

Soolaimon


What do you think happens when we die? Speaking for myself? I used to think I knew. And knowing was power. I believed for a long time that inside of our bodies was a tiny glow. This spark absorbed all of your energy, which is mostly what you are made of, and then when your meat suit dies, that essence just drifted away. Invisible to the naked eye, but plainly seen to second sighters, and the highly gifted, this little speck of light contained all of your emotion, which is what you are constantly imprinting. Why else would we be sentient and be made to feel? Weirdos emit more DMT than other ordinary people from their pineal glands. At least this is an idea that is being examined and hypothesized... Either way, those people saw things. They sensed them. Perhaps it was an aura, or they could see your dreams while you were having them. Perhaps they could read into your whole future. People throughout history have claimed it all. There must be a very large scale of which to measure peoples rare X-Men gene, because my ability was very small. I would get a picture inside of my head and it would be completely out of context. Sometimes it would line right up with something going on at that very moment, but I wasn't sure why. I called it "getting one of my feelings." You could say that this is happenstance, serendipity, or even lunacy. But after so many times of it happening, and in the presence of others to witness it, something weird was definitely going on. I would use this ability, when the opportunity presented itself, to help myself along the way. A guide so to speak. It was much stronger when I was little. It showed me the path of my life on several occasions, and I still have snippets of that remaining. It lead to me to Paul, a figure that haunted my sleeping life since toddlerhood, and that is the greatest Happy Ending ever. 

But my mysterious talent has left me. I don't feel that inner warmth. I don't know if I'm being punished by an unknown force or if something inside of me just died. I feel like I lost an appendage. It's something I've become so comfortable with even though it's so bizarre. Maybe it was never real in the first place and I really am just a fucking nut. And that means that I have no fucking clue what happens when I stop forever. No more power. That's frightening. I'm tortured by it. So much so that I can hardly think of anything else. And that shit is fucking depressing. But I've been saying it all along: Art is therapy. It's there for the psychoanalysis impervious. To those of us that need something a little different to fix things. And we all need that. Not one of you can pretend that you don't. And then, if you're lucky, the universe throws you a crazy curveball, and turns out to be exactly what you needed. 

It's really kind of funny because I really used to hate Mike Flanagan. I watched his series, The Haunting of Hill House, at high praise and recommendation from my only other in-person friend. I love her dearly, but her taste is not something I tend to agree with. And this extends beyond cinema. And it was shit, just as I was expecting it to be. I tend to always notice editing first, which really makes sense if you think about it. And it was cut so amateurishly that I felt like I was watching a student film. I get it. Having your film/show/limited series or whatever the fuck it is you're creating, go straight to Netflix, immediately puts a cap on your budget. And if you're not making a talkie, like Noah Baumbach, then you're gonna have to spread that money around pretty thin, to get the creepy feel that you want. But I promise you, only leaving 8 bucks for your editor, is not the way to save cash, and make a great movie. And again with the blue filter. Just ew. No one good likes it. I mean what I say. Unless you're appealing only to SAHMs, and Karens, that have zero taste in art, and don't understand the film process, then don't go for the straight-to-Walmart horror DVD.

He's also a total hack. Zero talent for writing, and as I've stated previously, a one-trick pony with direction. Take a look at Doctor Sleep. Aside from the erotic Rebecca Ferguson, there is nothing worth remembering here. Pales in comparison against its predecessor, and left me confused, annoyed at my lost time, and bored as fuck. Doctor Sleep should have penetrated your soul, and I was not gonna settle for anything less. He fucked up, delivering a D-, when the material called for an A+++. And who cares if Stephen King gave it a pass. We all know that the most important things to him, when his books are optioned, are loyalty to the story. Art and craft are always 99th on his list. 


I know I've seen his Ouija movie, and I caught most of Gerald's Game. They were alright. I wouldn't acquire the physical media, and rewatch them around Halloween, but they were fine. In any case, Mike Flanagan was on my radar. Working film, and making shlock in a genre that I hold near and dear, and manipulating it in a way that is ugly and unfortunate. And people were starting to look up to him. Idolize him even. Even starting to steal his moves. The same ones that made me want to throw up, and not because they were awesome and gory. Fuck this asshole.

Wednesday nights are rough. Paul works late, and Elvis goes to bed pretty early, so I'm left with my thoughts or to put something on. Around now my wandering mind is pretty cringe worthy, and 95% of what we own are things we've seen. And while it's all stuff I love, my mind will still start to drift. So I tend to use these nights to watch something new. It forces me to immerse myself and stop from worrying. It works. And freshly coming off a rewatch of Marianne, one of the greatest horror series of all time, I looked for another scary show to binge until Halloween. 

This is tricky because I don't want to watch anything that Paul would be bummed that I started without him, but it also has to be unwatched. My choices were pretty limited under this criteria. Netflix's flavor of the minute was Midnight Mass, which had shitty art, and was directed by my less-than-favorite man. I had been wanting to do a write up for Bennett Media for the holiday, and encapsulating my angry feelings about this filmmaker would be a great opportunity to do that. So I voted for "project." 


Well, like I said, it's funny. I'm three minutes in, and it looks good, sounds amazing, and it's not blue. I don't know this character yet, but really want to. I binged. I watched as much of it as I possibly can at any given time, even if that meant it was only for 5 minutes in the morning before work. I told everyone I knew to seek it out. I knew how that sounded to the respected, yet sometimes arrogant, film community to which I belonged. It became an obsession.

Each tale within the story is intricately played out. It has excellent flow with teleplay, and the actors portray the dialogue with prestige. I do not say this hastily. It cuts pretty deeply. Maybe I'm just a big open wound, but I was very emotional during the entire viewing experience. It touched a nerve. Played right into my fears, and drove them right out of their quiet hiding place, and right into the forefront of my mind. I didn't strongly believe in everything Flanagan was saying with his script, but his characters passion, that drive to become better, and seek a higher knowledge? I felt that. Interestingly enough, Mr. Flanagan is recently 3 years sober. And the best art tends to come out of your biggest life changes. I feel that too. 


I still don't have that little fire inside of me, but I'm ok. I'm making choices and changing my life without a psychic ability. It's a brave new world. An ordinary one where I just have to follow my heart and hold the hands of the ones I love. Making mistakes is ok, and if I screw up, well, they'll forgive me. Because I tried. And as for when I die? I'm just gonna try not to think about that so much and watch more good shit, like Midnight Mass. End session.

- Babes

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