Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching a bunch of horror movies that fit into what I call the Ghostbusters paradigm, where a team of specialists equipped with all the latest toys investigate weird goings-on. I believe the genre started with the BBC film The Stone Tape, and it’s had a long and varied history. Of course, this being the movie business science is always shown to be inadequate when it comes to combating the forces of evil. Just as religion also usually fails. Anyway, here’s the line-up of movies I looked at.
Over at Alex on Film I just finished re-watching Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. I was curious to see how well these movies held up thirty years later. Answer: pretty well, but they were never great movies in the first place. It’s interesting they haven’t been remade given how well-known the gremlin mythology still is (don’t get them wet, don’t feed them after midnight) and seeing as they came out just before CGI changed everything.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some horror movies dealing with families who have locked themselves away from mortal threats in a post-catastrophe future America. Horror reflects broader cultural anxieties, so I guess there’s something in these tales of families in a bunker — It Comes by Night and A Quiet Place — that people relate to. (I’d also include 10 Cloverfield Lane in the discussion, but there the “family” is a demonic parody construct.) Basically these films take cocooning (a word invented by Faith Popcorn in 1981, I was surprised to find out) to its furthest extreme. The bunker-cocoon insulates the family from threats real or imagined, which have come to define the entire external world.
Of course bunkers are nothing new, as fallout shelters became popular in America as early as the 1950s. What’s going on now feels different though, less afraid of things to come than what’s outside our doors right now. I wonder if there’s any connection to our use of the Internet and the way we consume media generally, where we increasingly inhabit silos of news that we feel comfortable with while being distrustful of everything else (that is, the reality beating on the door). Whatever else is going on, it seems paranoid to me.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some early film adaptations of the plays of Harold Pinter: The Caretaker (1963), The Birthday Party (1968), and The Homecoming (1973). They’re all pretty stagey, but each is interesting in its own way. I think The Caretaker was my first experience with Pinter and I was relieved to find that it’s held up pretty well.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching movies based on (semi-)popular television shows. In most cases the idea was to cash in by hitching a ride on an established brand. What surprised me, given that these were all projects with some money behind them, was the awfulness of the writing. I’m not sure any of these movies has a coherent plot, and despite being action-comedies they don’t even have any good jokes. Try to avoid: