Monday, August 21, 2023

Operators are Standing By

Film: 976-EVIL
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

As someone who came of age in the 80s, there are some elements of culture that don’t really translate to younger generations. Older Millennials will remember some of these specific sensory and cultural touchstones, but for anyone mid-30s and younger, experiences like the smell of purple mimeograph ink, pulling off the strips of tractor feed printer paper are not anything that can be specifically described or understood. They had to be experienced. Part of that was our relationship with phones. Calling collect was its own thing and 976 numbers were the scourge of late-night television. 976-EVIL is a film that is very reflective of that time and because of that, doesn’t really translate to a modern audience.

For those not old enough to remember, 976 numbers were reserved for pay services, most famously used by the Psychic Friends network shilled by Dionne Warwick. These numbers were used for novelty services like kids calling Santa Claus, but also stranger and more prurient services as well. That’s the conceit here—there’s a 976 line that is essentially being operated Satan himself to lure in lost souls. Essentially, people call the number (which is naturally 976-EVIL), get their “horrorscope,” and find that the predictions they get come true. Eventually, though, they have to pay for their sudden good fortune with their lives (insert ominous thundercrack).

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Coming to You Live

Film: Ghostwatch
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

The made-for-the-BBC film Ghostwatch puts me in mind of a number of things I have seen in the last couple of years. This film is from 1992, but it very much has a found footage feel to it; this feels in a way like a precursor to a film like The Blair Witch Project. It also has some things in common with a film like Deadstream or Host (which specifically cites this movie as an influence) from the last couple of years. There is a sense of what is happening going on live while a huge audience is watching. There are also shades of a series like Dead Set, again, with something happening life. It also has shades of The Stone Tape, another BBC production. The important thing to remember about Ghostwatch, though, is that it predates all of these except for The Stone Tape.

The conceit of the film is, more or less, akin to the Orson Welles broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Some folks at the BBC spin a tale about a house whose residents have had experiences with what they claim to be a poltergeist. The BBC has sent a crew to the house to investigate the phenomenon in a live broadcast, hosted back in the studio by long-time presenter Michael Parkinson as himself. In studio with him is Dr. Lin Pascoe (Gillian Bevan), who is put forth as an expert in the paranormal.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, July 2023

It's been a month. My father, who is 88, has been diagnosed with some cognitive impairment. It affects his short-term memory more than anything else, but it's also made him very aware of his mortality, and that's being expressed by him wanting all of his kids to come visit him...or him coming here. We're working out a plan, but it's exhausting. I also spent more than a week in St. Louis in July, which just threw me off my game. I don't know what it is--everyone I know seems to be "going through it" right now, and everyone I know needs about a week of sleep, a massage, and a bottle of booze. I hope August is better.