Saturday, April 11, 2009

particularly angry rant

I reviewed horror movies online for nearly a decade, and I gotta admit, it had two effects on me: first is that it made me look at horror films in a totally different way than I did before then. I'd often take into account the budget, the intended audience, the strength of the script rather than the actors or the direction, and what the filmmakers set out to do, rather than just "Was it good?" and "Was it scary?" and "Was it good?" again.

The other big change the HFC had on me was making me more confident in my tastes, and, frankly, way more arrogant. I've always been someone with esteem issues, and for the most part, I believe I totally suck, but after nearly a thousand horror flicks in nine years, I know what I like, and I don't give a damn what the other guy says.

Of course, it's possible that these two effects are not wholly positive, because there are plenty of people who can go to a movie and just put their brain on Sleep mode, and enjoy really bad films. There are also a lot of people who love movies I hate, and the world would be better off if I could just say, "Well, we must just see it differently," rather than, "Well, you're a moron, and you must have passed it on to your kids."

Case in point: this week, tyranist rented a horror flick for us to watch that a coworker recommended. And dudes and dudettes, it was a total trainwreck of a movie. I mean, it didn't work on any level. If I hadn't been reviewing it for the sit--er, if I hadn't been watching it with a friend (who paid for it) instead of seeing it alone, I would have turned it off in disgust.

And probably kicked the set in.

And the thing is--just as the HFC taught me--I could see a couple of moments that almost worked, where I could sort of feel where the director was going, or the script wasn't a huge misfire, and moments like that just make me wonder how movies get made. Not just movies like this one, but any movie.

I used to be an artist, or tried to be, so I was always sensitive about judging others too harshly (lest I be judged, right?), but lately, I've just stopped caring. A spade, my slightly-taller friend, is a spade, whether you call it a shovel or a trowel. And this was a terrible movie, so I proclaimed afterward, "No sir, these people should never be allowed to make a film again."

There's a filmmaking technique that's new to the '00s, that couldn't hate more if it strangled my mother to death in the Mills Creek Woods. And people around me think it's okay, or that it works in some cases, or the people who don't get it are too old-fashioned or plain too old. But go anally copulate with yourself, shit is shit, whether you have a fancy German word for it or not.

I just finished reading a book today, one that won awards when it was released, including Book of the Year, and is going to be made into a film now. And dude (-ette), it was simply torture to finish this damn book. "What's that smell?" Hulk Hogan asked. The book was written in a style that made me grit my teeth and scream profanities out my eyes, with a meandering narrative and a purposely vague, secretive prose, and I truly hated it. Hated it more than I've hated a book in a while.

If I were a studio exec, one charged with making this film, I'd make anything else, or demand the screenwriter change every detail so that nothing remained of the book (including the title). Or better yet, I'd just skip town, consuming as many drugs as I could possibly find, 'cause a film adaptation of that book won't make a dime.

It reminded me of a test screening I once went to for a horror flick called LOST SOULS. I sat through this thing, simply flabbergasted--when I wasn't valiantly struggling to keep my head up and aimed at the screen--that a movie with a pretty darn good premise (a guy is told, when he comes of age, that he is the Antichrist, and as a being of pure evil, he has no choice but to usher in the end of the world) could be turned into such a bland, pointless, boring, and unscary movie. I don't know how they did it.

Well, with this gorram book, I feel the same way. Apparently, this author is a good one, with more awards under his belt than I have character defects, and the premise--at least the one buried beneath all the misdirection and lollygagging--is pretty interesting. HOW does one choose to write a Science Fiction book and ignore the Science Fiction? It would be like J.K. Rowling writing a Harry Potter book where he goes to Hogwarts, then takes classes like Chemistry and French and Algebra, and we read about him studying and practicing conjugation by himself in his room all the time. Or better yet, like George Lucas making a STAR WARS movie that's two hours of Luke Skywalker fixing mechanisms to collect moisture out of the desert.

A book like this doesn't get made by accident (though I have no clue how a devil/apocalypse/horror movie with no scares, tension, or drama gets made): the author had to have decided that he would focus on mundane things about life, skipping around the day-to-day existence of these characters without anything out of the ordinary happening (or if it did, mention it in the past tense or just write "but more on that later" again and again), and only commenting "Hey, this was an alternate reality of some sort" at the end of the novel, "Not that we bothered to fill you in." That was a conscious choice.*

As an exercise, I could write a zombie holocaust story about a guy who rents both the LETHAL WEAPON and DIE HARD series and sits in his basement and watches them all while eating pretzels, ignoring the ringing phone and the screams of pain and terror outside, while Hell literally overflows like a backed-up toilet just beyond his basement door. But no, that would have to be more entertaining than the book I just finished, since there are cool moments in all those Joel Silver movies.

Hey, I know that everybody has their taste. There are folks out there who line up to eat those little cold grey octopuses at that Chinese Buffet we used to go to in Culver City. There are people who use "octopi" instead of "octopuses," and I should learn to let them feel what they feel. After all, I write stories all the time, or recommend movies, and people don't like them. I started reading "The Time Traveler's Wife" last week, and though I'm really digging it, there have to be people out there who proclaim it poop.

But there have to be things that simply are. If a six year old draws a rectangle with crayon on a page, and proclaims it a circle, I can't get why a parent would think that was fine (though my uncle would probably do just that). And let's say the same six year old draws a rectangle with crayon on a page a decade later, and announces that it's a sphere . . . well, he's just wrong, regardless of how you look at the page. Right?

I guess I wasted a few minutes typing this when I could've been working on my next story that no one will ever publish. Read, I meant no one will ever read. But I felt strongly about this awful book and awful movie, and what is a blog but an online journal--a chance to share your thoughts and feelings and experiences and get fired by a Sony lawyer for writing up?

I suppose I should be happy I can still feel strongly about things. That I can find that recurring "bitch please" character on SNL as unfunny as an old woman with testicular cancer. One would think, leading as empty a life as mine, that all the feeling would have dried up years ago.

So, there's a bright side, isn't there?

Rish "Miss Congeniality" Outfield

*And somebody somewhere bought it. And sold it. And people embraced it. And gave it awards. And optioned it for a movie.

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