Sunday, December 9, 2018

Off Script: Maximum Overdrive

Film: Maximum Overdrive
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

There are some movies that have to be experienced to be believed. Maximum Overdrive is exactly that sort of movie. Starting from the decent but flatly weird Stephen King short story “Trucks,” Maximum Overdrive is what you get when, given a series of decisions and possible directions to go in, a group of people make the wrong choice every single time. Staggering in its dumbness, there is not a part of this movie that isn’t head-slapping in some way. Because of this, I almost love it despite it being so terrible. This is a movie that has the foresight and wisdom to set up a series of rules and then break them consistently when it’s convenient.

Here’s the basic premise: the Earth passes through the tail of a comet and suddenly mechanical devices come to life and try to kill everyone. That’s it. Seriously, that’s literally it. While our suddenly homicidal devices will include video game cabinets, soda machines, and electric knives, most of what comes to life is vehicles. Specifically trucks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday Horror: Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)

Film: Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)
Format: DVD from River Valley District Library through interlibrary loan on The New Portable.

Witchfinder General is one of those movies that comes with a great deal of additional baggage in the vast number of names it goes by. The copy I got was titled Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General, and I’ve seen it listed as Edgar Allen Poe’s Witchfinder General. It was also released in the States as The Conqueror Worm another weak attempt to connect this story to the canon of Poe despite it having no connection at all.

Sherman set the Way-Back Machine for the time of Oliver Cromwell and civil war raging across England. While Cromwell’s troops attempt to purge Catholicism from Great Britain, Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) moves from town to town conducting trials to find witches. This goes about how you would expect based on what history you know from these days. Someone accused of witchcraft is put on trial and endures a variety of torture, in this case at the hands of Hopkins’s assistant John Stearne (Robert Russell). Eventually, they are put to a final test which is either fatal, proving their innocence or valid confession, or not so fatal, which means a horrible death.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Off Script: Ghost Ship

Films: Ghost Ship
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on laptop.

There are certain expectations with a horror movie. I know that there are going to be characters who do exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time, and that this is going to get them killed. Sometimes, a good filmmaker or a very good script can make that work. Most of the time, though, we in the audience look at the characters acting like idiots and realize that they’re acting that way because the story needs them to, or because it’s going to allow for them to be killed in spectacular fashion. No movie exemplifies this better than 2002’s Ghost Ship.

We start in 1962 aboard the ocean liner Antonia Graza where a party is going on. While members of the crew and passengers dance, we see sinister actions as a cable snaps across the dance floor, bisecting everyone but a single young girl. Yes, this is shown in graphic detail as blood starts to drip and people fall down in pieces. It’s seriously one of the best openings of a horror movie I’ve seen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Off Script: The Crow

Film: The Crow
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

There are weird moments when art imitates life and other weird moments where there are simply strange parallels. The Crow is one of those. The thing that most people remember about this movie is that it was the movie that caused the death of Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee. The parallel is that the character Lee plays is a revenant, essentially a corporeal spirit that has returned from the dead to wreak vengeance on those who deserve it. It would have easily been a star-making vehicle for Lee. It was one of the first important comic book movies, and more or less the first non-Marvel/DC title based on a comic book that got any sort of critical acclaim (although The Rocketeer could be argued for that).

Our story is dead simple, which is part of the reason it works as well as it does. Rocker Eric Draven (Lee) and his fiancĂ©e Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) are attacked the night before their wedding, which also happens to be the night before Halloween. Shelly is an activist who has been organizing, and is targeted by a criminal gang. During the attack, Eric shows up and is both shot and pushed out a sixth floor window. According to legend, crows carry the souls of the departed to the land of the dead, but when a terrible wrong has happened, the crow can bring the soul back. So, guess what happens. A year to the day after his death, Eric Draven reanimates his body, which apparently hasn’t gone through any decomposition. And now that he’s back, he’s going to track down everyone who killed him and killed Shelly.