Some of my earliest memories of being a kid are of going to the local Blockbuster Video with my mother every Thursday. My father worked during the week and my mother didn’t drive so we usually walked there and back. The route there, the streets and the one bike track through the woods that came out between a used car lot and a bowling alley, are still vivid in my mind. So is the seedy strip mall the Blockbuster was located on the outer edge of, the one with the Supersaver Megastore that was full of mutants and the parking lot that housed Batshit Pete, the possibly extraterrestrial meth addict slash salesmen who gave me weekly recommendations of movies that didn’t exist.
When I was about four or five I was absolutely obsessed with the original Toho Studios Godzilla films. I first saw the 1956 American re-edit of the original 1954 Japanese film where they spliced a few scenes of Raymond Burr in to make it more palatable to Western audiences, then I saw the original (and far superior) version. Every week after that I took home another one of the vs movies: King Kong, Mothra, Ghidorah, Astro-Monster, Hedorah, Son of Godzilla, Gigan, Megalon, Mechagodzilla; I loved them all, even if today I couldn’t tell you one from the other. One weekend around this time I went to a computer fair with my father and came out with just one purchase: a Godzilla Movie Studio Tour CD-Rom which is probably still buried somewhere in my parents’ house. The CD had a virtual movie studio where you could find all the old Godzilla movie posters, clips from some of the movies, and an interactive encyclopaedia of all the different monsters. But best of all were the Film Studio, Sound Studio, and Publicity Department sections, where you could edit together your own Frankenstein bastard film using clips from different Godzilla movies, layer it with your own soundtrack and sound effects, and then photoshop your own movie poster to go with it. All up there was probably less than half an hour’s worth of footage on there but I spent a thousand times that obsessing over that CD.
When I heard there was a new Godzilla movie coming out, a big budget American one, that would actually play in theatres, it was about the most excited I could be until I hit sexual maturity. The hype machine was in overload. Godzilla marketing was everywhere, on TV, on the radio, on billboards, in food packaging. I ate more two minute noodles than at any other time in my life in order to collect all the limited edition Godzilla trading cards that came with them. I watched the behind the scenes specials that aired on TV in the lead up to the film’s premiere, and I devoured the novelisation that came out a few weeks before.
Finally Godzilla came out, and I was first in line right beside my ever-suffering mother. You all know how that movie turned out. Ferris Bueller, the Professional, a couple of Simpsons voice actors, that chick that looked like a cross between Anne Heche and Leslie Mann but wasn’t either and was never seen in another movie again, and a fuckload of fish, all in a kaiju-sized turd directed by the guys that would later go on to produce such illustrious fare as 2012, 10 000 BC and Eight Legged Freaks. Was I crushed that America had once again shit all over this movie series I cherished so much? Hell no. I was six. I loved Godzilla.
Ease definitely rubs a bit of the shine off everything. It used to be you’d have to scour band “thank you”s and liner notes to find the next thing to listen to, and once you’d found it it could literally be months before you even heard it. Ordering in albums at the record store and waiting weeks for a phone call or harassing the clerk every far-too-frequent visit to see if it had come in yet. Some albums could just never be found, and were thus mentally immortalised as Ones That Got Away. Others inevitably failed to live up to the wait, and the disappointment was magnified exponentially by the investment that went into them. It was more than just fifteen or twenty bucks. Sometimes up to two months accumulated anticipation could go into that first spin of the disc. It was a painful process, but it definitely had something to it that’s been lost somewhere “online”. Regardless of how good it is, it’s hard for something that’s gone from discovered to downloaded and listened to in just over an album’s run time to connect as deep as something that occupied months of headspace less than a decade ago.
Nothing could beat the excitement of finding a record previously consigned to The Ones That Got Away while on an otherwise mind-numbing family vacation to another state, or the anticipation of an excursion to the city or a different shopping mall from your regular, when every shopping mall and record store was different and you didn’t know what you might find at each one. Sometimes all you could find was The Process Of Weeding Out, Wig Out At Denko’s, Soundtrack to ‘More’, El Gran Orgo, Furniture, Gems Of Masochism, or any number of records that are now forever burned into your self, that would have otherwise been ignored or forgotten if the internet was around to steer you to the proper “classics”. It doesn’t matter if they really are underrated or if they deserve to be forgotten, they were the ones you heard first so now they’re with you forever, another thing that’s been lost in this internet age when everyone (perhaps rightly) prefers Damaged, Can I Say and Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s so hard to go back once you’ve already digitised your soul.
I was fourteen or fifteen in a hotel room in another state, alone. My family was there checking out colleges for my brother, which as you can guess was not the most exciting thing in the world for this horny loner. By the start of the first day I was done. My parents and brother had gone out to dinner but I’d managed to convince them I was sick and had lucked out of joining them. Naturally, being a mischief starved teen alone in another state for the first time, with a few hours of criminal nocturnal freedom ahead of me, I was lying in a hotel bed flicking through TV channels. The Devil’s Rejects was already maybe half an hour in; it was the scene where the Fireflies hold the country rock band hostage at the hotel. I’d missed the start and had no idea what I was watching. There was rape, murder, face peeling, face wearing, and human roadkill. It was easily the most intense thing I’d ever seen, and the similarities between the hotel where Banjo and Sullivan met their gruesome ends and the one I was currently residing in were in no way helped by the subsequent power outage that guaranteed I wouldn’t be leaving the room that night, nor would I be sleeping for the next week. It also meant I wouldn’t see the rest of the movie, or even find out what it was, until much later. For ages I just remembered it as the Hotel Movie. Eventually I found it at the video store and recognised Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie on the cover. Their visages were burned into my brain. Of course finally seeing the whole movie, as good as it is, could only diminish it. Now that it had a beginning and an end, a title, a box, and actors, it could never live up to that contextless stretch of violence accompanied by the most perfectly timed power outage in hotel history.
"Before driver’s licences and road worthless penis extensions drastically expanded the limits of our teenage terrordome, two wheels and a handlebar unlocked a whole new side of our town previously inaccessible via train or bus and broke up the monotony of public transport trips to smoke at the local shopping mall. We rode at night, and we rode with no destination in mind, intrepid explorers in the less lit parts of our town that our adolescent misadventures hadn’t yet taken us to, and probably shouldn’t have for at least several more years. Sailing down barren industrial streets where a streetlight on every corner was a foreign proposition. Those streets were probably better off ill-lit. We were so close to home and streets we’d haunted every day of our lives and it was a like a foreign world to us. Well, foreign apart from the fact that I recognized those streets from every B-grade Blockbuster rental I grew up on. If they hadn’t already, those streets would be the perfect place to film a post-apocalyptic horror movie in, mutant extras supplied free of charge…"
Eli Roth does Twilight for Netflix and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. Hemlock Grove is kind of really bad but I still watched the entire first season and that can’t entirely be just because I’m waiting for something good to happen. I’m an unapologetic Eli Roth admirer; I love Cabin Fever and both Hostels and can’t wait for The Green Inferno later this year. Apart from a fake Grindhouse trailer and a movie-within-a-movie in Inglourious Basterds Eli Roth hasn’t even directed anything since Hostel Part Two seven years ago. As well as producing and developing this series he also directed the pilot, although you can’t really tell.
Hemlock Grove revolves around the titular locale, a Pittsburgh ex-steel town where a high school girl is brutally murdered in the first episode. There’s gypsies, werewolves, vampires, a sinister scientific institute, an ancient werewolf-hunting Catholic sect, a giant mute glow-girl, and a pregnant virgin who believes she was knocked up by an angel. You can tell the creators were trying for the Twin Peaks aura but they’ve ended up hitting closer to Pretty Little Liars (I assume, I’ve of course never watched that show, cough). That being said, it’s still probably the closest thing to Twin Peaks on TV in years, which is no bad thing.
The werewolf transformation is definitely cool from a creative standpoint, even if it would be way cooler if it weren’t fucking CGI, and the dialogue, writing and overall style are easily several thousand leagues above every other modern teen vampire/werewolf story. Surprisingly the teen leads can actually mildly act and the most cringe-inducing performance actually comes from the usually alright Famke Janssen courtesy of a godawful attempt at a British accent, which, slight spoiler, is thankfully jettisoned via merciful plot contrivance at the start of the second season. Yes, I’ve made it to the second season. Whatever.
I grew up on the original Predator but none of the sequels and spin-offs ever managed to catch the same magic, ranging from the has-its-moments-but-still-missing-something Predator 2 to the absolutely abysmal Aliens vs Predator abortions. The Robert Rodriguez-written Predators definitely comes closest to recreating the original spark, even if that is because it virtually recreates the original movie beat for beat. There’s a fine line between homage and straight up rip-off, and almost everything from the 1987 classic is back in some form or other: the mini-gun, the log trap, the Latina girl with background knowledge of the Predator, the mud-and-fire heavy final battle, and the wise n’ silent ethnic stereotype (Billy the mystical Native American becomes Hanzo the Yakuza enforcer) who takes the Predator on mano-e-mano (the moonlit samurai battle is one of the coolest celluloid scenes ever though).
Predators even re-uses a load of the same musical cues and lines of dialogue, but it’s all handled with genuine R-rated style so it’s hard to get too worked up about the film’s lack of originality. Adrien Brody pulls a complete acting 180 in the beefed-up lead role as a Christian Bale-as-Batman channelling mercenary, along with Alice Braga, Danny Trejo and Walter Goggins from The Shield. Laurence Fishburne’s apparently badass survivor elicits more laughs than gasps though, and Topher Grace from That 70s Show is a major misstep in a role that’s the perfect combination of badly written and badly acted. Overall it’s the best thing that’s come from either the Predator or Alien camps in years, which is kinda sad. Director Nimrod Antal would go on to direct the awesome midnight movie/concert video acid trip Metallica Through The Never though.