Movies: October 2010 Archives

"Is this a romance we're having? Is that what it is?" - SETH BRUNDLE, a brilliant but socially awkward scientist who's working on something that will change the world and human life as we know it

Mainstream horror cinema was in a bad way in the mid-'80s. Following the boffo box office of Halloween in 1978 and especially Friday the 13th in 1980, theaters (and video store shelves) were soon glutted with imitation slasher flicks about masked maniacs stalking frequently unclothed young women and hacking them to pieces with assorted kitchen utensils and gardening tools. This is, of course, not to forget the innumerable sequels these films engendered, few of which existed for anything other than mercenary reasons. This trend was also occasioned by a veritable race to the bottom with makeup artists of all skill levels competing to see who could devise the most nauseating gore effects which, more often than not, had to get cut back significantly in order for the films in which they appeared to get the all-important "R" rating. (This was well before the vogue for "unrated" video releases, so if something didn't cut the muster with the MPAA it generally wouldn't get seen outside of the grindhouses and urban markets.)

This is, of course, not to suggest that all was doom and gloom. Discriminating horror fans who dug a little deeper were rewarded with the occasional gem, and there were certain directors who could be counted on to deliver the genre goods while still treating their subjects with a certain amount of intelligence. One such director was Canadian auteur David Cronenberg, who had started making a name for himself a decade earlier with a low-budget film called Shivers, which was renamed They Came from Within when it was released in the States and caused a stir among horror aficionados. Over the next few years he followed it with Rabid (the legitimate acting debut of Behind the Green Door star Marilyn Chambers), The Brood (which was identified as a cult movie by no less an authority than Danny Peary) and Scanners (which was his commercial breakthrough in the American market). Being number one at the box office for one weekend (as Scanners was) brought Cronenberg to the attention of Hollywood and thus began the process of introducing his work to a wider audience. Of course, a major part of that would involve downplaying the extreme imagery (like the phallic organ in Chambers's armpit in Rabid or the exploding head in Scanners) that punctuated Cronenberg's films. What appealed to the Fangoria crowd wouldn't necessarily fly with general audiences -- not without some help.

Vote 0 Votes

"Take a breath and look around. A lot of folks deserve to die." - AUDREY II, a carnivorous talking plant

Time for a moral self-inventory. What would you do for money? Fame? Love? All three at once? Think it over.

Let's say you lived in misery and poverty and were mocked and rejected on pretty much a daily basis. No one but no one respected you. Pity? Maybe. But respect? No. Let's also say that you were desperately in love with a co-worker who remained sadly out of your reach despite being just a few tantalizing feet away from you each day. Now let's further imagine that you stumbled across a miraculous solution to all your problems, a solution which unfortunately required you to kill a few people. Would you do it? Would you start murdering people? And would you commit further murders to cover up your earlier ones? After all, people are bound to start asking nosy questions...

Legendary B-movie screenwriter Charles B. Griffith seemed to think that, under those particular circumstances, a person of weak character might just become a killer, especially if the first few murders were more or less accidental and if the "victims" were largely unsympathetic. So in 1959, he wrote a cheap but effective little horror-comedy called A Bucket of Blood, in which a simpleminded schlemiel of a busboy (played by Dick Miller) stumbles first into killing and then into overnight success as a sculptor when he turns the corpses of his victims into "statues" by coating them with plaster and passing them off as works of art. The very next year, that film's director, Roger Corman, needed a script pronto in order to take advantage of some standing sets, so Griffith churned out a wackier variation on A Bucket of Blood, amping up the comedic and satiric elements, adding an absurd supernatural threat (a talking killer plant), and generally aiming for a freewheeling sketch-comedy/comic book feel, complete with silly names, throwaway gags, and wacky background signs. The resulting film, The Little Shop of Horrors, told the strange story of klutzy flower shop employee named Seymour (MST3K stalwart Jonathan Haze) whose apparent ticket out of Skid Row was a bloodthirsty talking plant, Audrey, Jr., who demanded human victims. In a way, the carnivorous plant of Little Shop was an even better metaphor for the vicissitudes of fame than the "statues" of Bucket of Blood. A plant, like fame, can either grow or wilt and must constantly be fed and tended to. In any event, Corman and Griffith's Little Shop had a shadowy half-life in the 1960s as the bottom half of a double bill with Mario Bava's Black Sunday but went on to be a perennial favorite at campuses and revival houses in the ensuing decades. Such was the film's enduring popularity that in 1982 -- twenty-two long years after its initial, ignoble release -- it became an off-Broadway musical by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman.

Vote 0 Votes

Category Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Movies category from October 2010.

Movies: September 2010 is the previous archive.

Movies: November 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.