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February 06, 2010

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Chuck Stephens

Jaime, I guess reading the question would be a good place to start. It's in English.

bill, why are you?

I, peas in a pod; my gripes stand.

bill

You're awfully defensive, Chuck. For Christ sake, Jaime even agrees with you! Why are you being so rude?

Jaime

Aware it's in English. It didn't take. Mind elaborating? Just pretend you're talking to someone not as smart as you.

Chuck Stephens

Exactly how am I being defensive? I asked a very simple question. Jamie said he didn't understand it, which I find hard to believe. I suggested he reread it.

Asking questions without responding to those you've been asked is considered in some circles...rude.

bill

Chuck, I suggest you reread pretty much every comment you've left so far. You came in here spoiling for a fight. Nobody's giving it to you, so you're trying to start one. Endearing.

G'night, folks.

Chuck Stephens

crushed tho i am not to have endeared myself to wee bill...

jamie, the question was, again, quite simple: you seemed to think it somehow novel (and perhaps connected to your notion (if not SE's) of "vertical" montage) that RZ might shoot with two cameras. i asked why that might seem so, since it has been an industry-wide, nay, global commonplace for decades.

is it coming through at all?

Jaime

Nope, still not getting it. Can you dumb it down a little?

Glenn Kenny

Not to go off topic but...hey, how about those Saints?

Also (and I know Chuck will appreciate this), that ghastly Who medley's the closest that Terry Riley music is ever gonna get to a Super Bowl. I was tickled, at least a bit.

Play nice!

Chuck Stephens

As low as I go (and sorry, Jamie, I'm just not at your level), Glenn always manages to brighten the mood.

Nite-nite, lovers...

Jaime

Chuck Stephens, I love you and accept you.

Chuck Stephens

And a big gooble-gobble to you too.

Dan

Here's the problem with Zombie: whenever he puts in an effort, you can see him being a talented filmmaker. The problem is, he works on about half the movie. "The Devil's Rejects" should move like you're being chased, and instead it slows to a crawl right when it shouldn't. That plus the use of Southern-fried rock is just laughable. That "Freebird" ending just doesn't work, and the problem is, that should have been obvious from the first freakin' draft.

"Halloween" and "Halloween 2" are OK, but they're god-awful next to their source material and highlight Zombie's...unnecessary contributions to the story. My problem with them as horror movies is they're neither scary nor interesting. Zombie's eye has improved, but quite frankly, his interview in the movie "Heckler" is instructive: anybody who doesn't like Rob Zombie movies just has to be a jealous fanboy or a snob because he's a B-movie genius.

A.V.

"the way "Alexander Vladimirovich" drones on here for paragraph after paragraph without having a SINGLE specific thing to say about any of RZ's films, though he does makes it quite clear that he regards the director as stupid. Don't take my word for it: go back and read what Ignatiy, er, Alexander wrote: not a SINGLE specific thing. You know, examples -- those things people with something to say deploy to dissipate their own hot air."

" totally gives your ignorance away: there are no other films like SPIDER BABY! Hill's masterpiece is so ahead of its time, and still so little understood that most folks might let you get away with this bullshit. I certainly won't."

"I put HOUSE OF 1000 and SUPERBEASTO on my lists out of admiration for Zombie's (contemporarily) peerless filmmaking"

"The films -- HTC, TDR and EL SUPERBEASTO especially -- reward genre aficionados on so many levels that those pleasures tend to mostly compensate for the moments when you can all but hear Robin Wood shrieking in horror at what those "revolutionary" 70s American horror films he so admired and brilliantly explicated have lately wrought"

-Chuck Stephens

"Some think they are crafty as a fox but leave their artists pockets inanimate
But i dont hang with hypocrites so I just split on some man shit" ---Company Flow


"If everyone who grew up in "the suburbs" (as if the suburbs in Idaho bore some identicality with the suburbs in Maine) was a blonde babysitter with perfect grades whose entire existence consisted of coming home from school, smoking a little pot and being terrorized by an unkillable entity, that might be true."

Yes, because one can get nothing out of reading Proust unless they are an upper-class Frenchman in the teens and 20's, and Frederick Exley offers nothing to us unless we are situated exactly in New York in the 60's and JR is always foreign unless we also were on Long Island in the early 70's. Art has no means of encompassing experience beyond the specificity of time and place.

A.V.

But Glen, a who set with not anything the Who did pre-Tommy? Enstwhile is dead, and they played a show, what, two days after he died?, so I wasn't expecting Boris the Spider but still...the continual neglect of their finest work. My pipe-dream was, given the medley format of the Super Bowl half-time show, a full performance of A Quick One (While He's Away) to rival their showing up of The Rolling Stones in Rock and Roll Circus and leave it at that. Oh well.

And the masterful Terry Riley, well, I think Prince may be closer. I've heard they're tapping Henry Flynt for next years half-time show.

Sean

Glenn, where did that quote about Godard harping New York, New York, come from?

James Keepnews

Hmmm...quite a busy no-snow weekend you've had, y'all!

Not to tempt The Wrath of Chuck, but as to Alexander's assertion:

"Much of the original Haloween, despite being shot in California and it showing at times, is about the rhythms and realities of growing up in the suburbs."

Can't say I agree with "much", and it's been a number of years since I saw the original, but insofar as it is an evocation of California teenagers in suburbia, I agree with the essential thrust of the assertion. High school and those desultory walks home in the afternoon, Laurie's smart-girl social disconect(s), the sense of every separate house on the block being its own ecosystem if not universe, no matter how much Kitty Genovese-esque screaming may be issuing down that block, &c., &c. -- the suburb-specificity does seem to directly inform the horror in H1. It's true, I don't believe Donald Pleaence practiced any medicine in the States (beyond self-medication on shoots), and yet...

I haven't gotten around to RobZom's Hollow-homages, but confess to finding The Devil's Rejects to be unusually compelling, however derivative and sadistic certain of its particulars may be. Zombie is undeniably a director of actors, if admitedly one not giving Ulu Grosbard insomnia. He's quite capable in building ensemble dynamics where even known showboaters like Steve Railsback and William Forsythe (who I LOVE in this, bill, and in pretty much everything else he's done) aren't allowed to dominate the narrative. I also get the sense of white trash being understood at the cellular level by Mr. Rob. Lastly, and surprisinigly for me as a musician who has precisely zero interest in his music, Zombie really knows how to use music, and rock music specifically, cinematically to create a certain lived-in depth-of-field to his films. Glenn mentions the "Knights in White Satin" usage in Halloween which sounds like Zombie assured ear at work, where the bickering of the Rejects to the car-radio accompanient of "Reelin' in the Years" is one my favorite uses of a rock song in the history of cinema. Honest. As is the title sequence loping/freezing along to "Midnight Rambler".

(This is, incidentally, precisely the group I will want to engage in a discourse around The Crazies remake when the time comes, as it will, for us all.)

Fuzzy Bastard

@ James: Absolutely right about the closed-off quality of Carpenter's suburban homes. The original HALLOWEEN is a movie whose every shot has been so endlessly ripped-off that it's hard to even watch now, much less be scared by. But the one moment that every slasher movie in the world didn't steal is, coincidentally, the most surreal, trenchant, and terrifying moment in the film---when Curtis is running from house to house shrieking, and each house turns off their lights. Genuinely nightmarish, and somehow beyond the grasp of the imitators.

P.S.: Oh, how I fear the CRAZIES remake! All the careful Army procedural stuff will be replaced by striding&shouting, and will we even have to suffer a happy ending?

Chuck Stephens

For some reason I just can't get KING SHIT AND THE GOLDEN BOYS out of my head.

I'm thrilled to have upset so many people here, and to think, pretty much all it took was using the word "retarded"!

A.V.'s extensive inventory of things I've already written here -- just in case people can't, you know, read for themselves -- is so...valuable. Certainly saves him once again from saying anything himself.

Mr. Keepnews, I don't need any more enemies on this thread (and I agree with mostly everything else you've said, except that strangely inapt mention of Steve Railsback, who would have had a hard time "showboating" in the uncredited 30 seconds he spends onscreen in TDR), but this is such an excellent example of the complete disregard for any kind of specificity I have been talking about that I have include it:

"...insofar as it is an evocation of California teenagers in suburbia..."

Exactly how do you think that is so? HALLOWEEN is set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, IL -- a strange setting if one really wanted to "evoke" those Cali teens and their burbs, no?

But nevermind, I'm sure A.V. can thumb through his card catalog in an effort to back you up.

Surprise, young people, on a couple of counts:

1] just because you have your own blog (and I'm not referring to GK in any way) doesn't mean you actually know anything or have anything to say (neither does getting published in high profile magazines),

and 2] so-called real film critics can get emotionally worked-up and colossally irritating too!

James Keepnews

Down, Chuck -- yes, as opposed to "up". I should have been more explicit in referencing this earlier reference of AV's:

"...despite being shot in California and it showing at times..."

I may have been lax in my specifying my reference, but that doesn't make that or any of my other comments unspecific. I guess you'll have to trawl your own emotionally worked-up, colossally irritating card catalog to find a so-called real film-critical insult that will stick. Meantime, I won't take up alot of time giving a shit.

Chuck Stephens

I was well aware of the connection between yr comment and AV's earlier one: I've actually been reading this thread.

Here's my point, and for the last time: Carpenter (born in New York, raised in Kentucky) wrote Halloween. If he'd wanted to evoke California teens, suburbs, or anything else Californian, why set the film in Illinois? Why not set it in Pismo?

What is it that a film about teens set in a fictional town in Illinois seems to evoking about teens and towns half a continent away? Next you'll be confessing that you learned everything you always wanted to know about teens in Tampa by watching THE DEVIL, PROBABLY.

And in what exact way are the suburbs and teenage inhabitants of Barstow equivalent to the suburbs of Santa Clara? or Pomona? or Daly City? Answer: in no particular or specific way, other than that they are stocked with young people and located in America.

Next time you want to take a jab at insulting me, try coming up with some vocabulary of your own.

Zach

I imagine myself, Seinfeld-like, wandering into a particularly unreceptive room, starting off with "what's the deeeal with Rob Zombie?" All I've seen of his, erm, work, is House of 1K Corpses, and I don't think I've ever had quite as unpleasant a viewing experience. I must be missing something, since the number and size of the posts here attest to some kind of deep engagement, but I can't for the life of me imagine what. I mean...the movie is trash. Bad, post-Sontag trash. Content-wise, it's puerile, sadistic, and stupid. Is there an element of formal mastery? Sure, if mimicry amounts to mastery, but to what end?

I've never been much of Camp connoisseur, but I do get that some people really like sifting through the trashiness of Camp (exploitation, 70s horror, etc.) to find interesting nuggets of subversiveness, self-awareness, humor. But Zombie's movie (again, not discussing the H remakes) isn't that. It's painfully self-aware, with a script that is depressingly unfunny, and the film seems to have been created to delight in simulated suffering. It's like quirky torture porn.

I should add I'm not saying that Zombie=camp is the prevailing argument here, just that it's the only position I can conceive of, and I don't think its tenable. Maybe I've got a weak stomach - I don't do well with medical shows - which prevents me from seeing the wacky fun and inventiveness of Zombie's film. But that would let him slide for all of the crude white-trash stuff - before I lift off completely here, let me just point out the genre-typical American demonization of poverty, a familiar ideological strain (take your pick of American horror films, Deliverance, the list goes on and on) that if Zombie is aware of (unlikely), he displays no interest in subverting or examining.

So yeah, I don't get it. I would say that maybe I need to see more, but...life is short, and I haven't even begun to catch up on Rhomer. Enough snootiness for one morning, yes?

James Keepnews

Sorry, Chuck -- I thought rubbing your face in your own overwrought terminology was insult enough.

I was being flippant when referencing AV's Cali reference, but since you've gone so far down a rabbit hole with your agonized, well-overstated point at this point, I'll simply inquire: ANY discussion and/or reference to suburbia in art needs to be longitude/latitude-specific? Boy, shame you didn't get to Eric Bogosian in time. Or Jonathan Kaplan. Or Tim Hunter. Or Robert Bresson -- ah, but, of course, The Devil, Probably took place in Paris, not in a suburb. Or Tampa. Maybe you were simply being flippant, in lieu of humor, much less in lieu of specific criticism of anything I said specifically wrote.

How about giving your comically inordinate hostility here the rest on this thread we and your hogoblin-ed little mind so richly deserve? Hope that's original enough for you -- failing that, see above in re: not giving a shit.

Chuck Stephens

"... ah, but, of course, The Devil, Probably took place in Paris, not in a suburb."

Do tell.

Next time I'm having difficulty telling Steve Lacy from Steve Potts, I'll be sure to give you a call.

Dan Coyle

The trouble with Zombie is this- he's talented, and he gets some amazing work out of his actors (seriously, can you look at Scout Taylor Compton the same way after Halloween?) but he has no interest in actually writing a coherent screenplay. He doesn't make films so much as he makes objects of study.

Tom Russell

I probably shouldn't jump in the fray here, but I did want to say a few words about the specific vs. the universal in slasher horror films.

I do think Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, and the better parts of the franchise as a whole, do get a lot of mileage from the suburban mileau. Sure, it takes place in one specific Midwestern suburb, but that doesn't make it any less identifiable to suburbans on either coast, nor does it make the moment that Mr. Bastard cited any less frightening.

Beyond that, the whole idea of the everyday/ordinary being encroached upon by violence (certainly not new; see: SHADOW OF A DOUBT) is essential I think to the terror that Carpenter provokes. The first film is terrifying because of the ordinariness, the non-specificity, of this small town.

"But," someone might say, "if that's true, if it's effective at least in part because it's a suburb, then why would big city-types still be frightened?" And I think the answer to that is two-fold: partially, because decades of cinema, television, radio, and theater have romanticized small-towns as The Base Standard populated by Ordinary Decent Folk that the big cities deviate from (cf. countless "Now-I'm-Not-A-Fancy-Big-City-Lawyer" monologues). And partially it's because the film grounds us in the ordinary in other ways: for example, the rituals of Halloween, which are the same for much of the country, or the fact that the inciting act of violence comes from the home, from the family. That bravura opening scene is in many ways more disturbing than anything in the film that follows.

If Carpenter's second HALLOWEEN is still pretty damn scary, it's because it takes place in an already scary but still commonplace locale, a hospital. Everyone's been to a hospital, and everyone's been frightened there. Oh, shit, I made a sweeping statement that might not reflect everyone's experience. My apologies to the Amish and Christian Scientists.

Coming back to my point, look at one of the worst films in the franchise, HALLOWEEN: WATER. Er, H20. It takes place at an elite boarding school. It's not really scary, at least in my opinion, and a big part of that is because the locale is too alien from my experience. Now, if the film was _about_ creating a sort of alien or otherworldly atmosphere, like Argento's SUSPIRIA, I could buy into it. But because I believe, again, that the Meyers character works best when he intrudes upon the vulnerable and the ordinary, some closed-off school is trying to hard. It might as well be set on a space station. (Cf. JASON X, which *is* set on a space station and is terrible because Jason becomes the least frightening/interesting/awe-inspiring aspect within the setting; ALIEN works because, like SUSPIRIA, it's about immersing us in another world and its atmosphere rather than making us feel unsafe in ordinary and thus putatively safe places [suburbia, family, summer camp].)

Nothing makes my eyes glaze over more than the idea that lead characters can't be specific lest the audience can't "identify" with them, because the last thing I want to do 90% of the time is identify with somebody. I want to be interested in them instead. But I do think the identification/audience surrogate effect is viable in certain types of horror films, because anything that removes us from the immediate and visceral experience often deadens its impact.

Look at HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, which pits Michael Meyers against reality show contestants: I, for one, don't care about these people and in fact at certain points in the film was cheering Mr. Meyers on. More than that, though, I wasn't frightened, because at no time did I say, "This could happen to me". No scenario you concoct could result in me being a contestant on a reality show, especially a reality show that asks you to spend the night in a house where dozens of people have been murdered over the years. It's just like the boarding school in H20, like Jason in outer space.

Yes, HALLOWEEN takes place in a specific suburb, with a specific babysitter being hounded by a specific bogeyman for, as we learn in the sequel, a specific reason. But if the film works it's not because of how specific it is. Haddonfield isn't Haddonfield so much as it is Anytown and Everytown, and that's why it works.

Mr. Zombie's redux makes Meyers extremely specific, and in that first hour, yes, he's very interesting. It's a compelling case study. But it's not really scary, for me, because in making Meyers so specific, by giving him a voice, Zombie removes the vague Otherness that allowed us to project our Bogeymen on Carpenter's Shape. I think that's why the second hour doesn't work for me, doesn't get me invested: there's no mystery. (I will say again though that I did find that first hour interesting and a bold choice, even if I don't think it ended up working for the film as a whole.)

At least, that's my opinion. It could certainly be possible that I don't know anything or that I have nothing of interest to say.

UWC

Chuck -- you are a brilliant critic, very thoughtful and inspired. I especially enjoy your writing on Japanese cinema. That said, speaking as someone who has never seen a Rob Zombie film and has no truck in this debate whatsoever, you are unquestionably behaving like a troll here. It's been a bit shocking, given how much I've admired your criticism over the years. I really hope you can dial down the insults, perhaps by simply ignoring the baser of the criticisms leveled at you--or even by ignoring the more obviously barren posts--and spend that energy forging more interesting observations about films.

The Siren

@Glenn - Dude, I told you that you'd be better off with Betty Grable. But noooooo...

Chuck Stephens

UWC, thank you very much, that was very thoughtful and kind. Your criticism of me and my behavior here is the best criticism of any kind I've read in some time, entirely on point, and I am being in no wise facetious. I got worked up, what can I say? I've given it a lot of thought, and have pondered at length the glee I sometimes take in these fracases. Had someone as insightful and well-spoken as you stepped in long ago (try though Glenn did), I would have shut my trollish trap sooner. Thank you, UWC, whoever you may be, very much appreciated.

Anthony Thorne

'He does have this to say about the Carpenter version though: "Much of the original Haloween, despite being shot in California and it showing at times, is about the rhythms and realities of growing up in the suburbs."'

I agree with Zombie, actually - the Jamie Lee Curtis character doesn't smoke pot in the first Halloween film (if she ever does, it must be very fleeting) but there's a lot of attention paid to her walking leisurely down the street, meandering, overseeing the kids watching TV, chatting on the phone, looking out the school window, hanging out with the girls, chatting in the car etc, all frequently shot with Carpenter and Cundey's long takes and slow, drifting camera. Zombie's description of the film pertaining in that way to the 'rhythms and realities' of teens growing up in the suburbs is clever and apt, not 'far from the point' at all. Carpenter's "Halloween" differs from the countless other slasher clones it inspired precisely because of those tangential evocations of teen living (reminding me of Danny Peary's comparison of 'Halloween' to 'Carrie', noting that he felt Carpenter viewed the behaviour of teenage girls with affection and bemusement, while De Palma held a grudge). I haven't seen '1000 Corpses' but like 'Devil's Rejects' a lot, the latter playing as an energised amalgam of Hooper/Craven backwoods redneck horror and Peckinpah's 70's work like 'Alfredo Garcia'. I'm yet to see both of the 'Halloween' remakes discussed here but I'll probably spring for the director's cuts at some point.

Anthony Thorne

'He does have this to say about the Carpenter version though: "Much of the original Haloween, despite being shot in California and it showing at times, is about the rhythms and realities of growing up in the suburbs."'

I agree with Zombie, actually - the Jamie Lee Curtis character doesn't smoke pot in the first Halloween film (if she ever does, it must be very fleeting) but there's a lot of attention paid to her walking leisurely down the street, meandering, overseeing the kids watching TV, chatting on the phone, looking out the school window, hanging out with the girls, chatting in the car etc, all frequently shot with Carpenter and Cundey's long takes and slow, drifting camera. Zombie's description of the film pertaining in that way to the 'rhythms and realities' of teens growing up in the suburbs is clever and apt, not 'far from the point' at all. Carpenter's "Halloween" differs from the countless other slasher clones it inspired precisely because of those tangential evocations of teen living (reminding me of Danny Peary's comparison of 'Halloween' to 'Carrie', noting that he felt Carpenter viewed the behaviour of teenage girls with affection and bemusement, while De Palma held a grudge). I haven't seen '1000 Corpses' but like 'Devil's Rejects' a lot, the latter playing as an energised amalgam of Hooper/Craven backwoods redneck horror and Peckinpah's 70's work like 'Alfredo Garcia'. I'm yet to see both of the 'Halloween' remakes discussed here but I'll probably spring for the director's cuts at some point.

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