The Cultural Gutter

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"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Riffing Zombies and Incredible Time Travellers

James Schellenberg
Posted November 1, 2012

I’ve missed the spooky month of October by one day, and probably rotted my brain on too much Rifftrax. In lieu of coherent thoughts, here is a compilation of recent observations.

A Sick Sense of Dread in the Pit of the Chest

Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is one of only a few movies that will keep me up late at night, if I happen to see it come on TV. I’m not sure why. It’s not exactly a cinematic masterpiece, but it does have Sarah Polley (yay!) and Ving Rhames (yay!), and does anyone else remember Kim Poirier from the old interstitials that Space used to run at the end of the hour?

In any case, when I watch the movie, I get a really physical sense of dread that accumulates in my chest. It’s almost immediate, considering how quickly the nightmarish events begin in the movie, and it doesn’t let up, really, even after the credits have started rolling. I’m generally not a fan of horror, or at least, I very rarely get that same sense of physical fear from other horror stories. I wonder if this is something I’ve just not heard talked about much – maybe horror fans feel that way about most horror stories or movies? For me, it’s definitely a zombies-scare-me thing, since 28 Weeks Later, another relative non-masterpiece, is one of the other flicks that always grabs me.

I’m a bit iffy on Snyder’s movies. His 300 always struck me as so insubstantial as to float away like a wisp, but the full cut of Watchmen (the version including “The Black Freighter”) was curiously and stubbornly non-movie-ish, like a giant block of granite that has just landed on your toe. I dunno, I find that to be kind of an interesting proposition for summer-time entertainment. And his latest, Sucker Punch, was like the worst excesses of those two movies thrown into a blender and set to disguise-paucity-of-ideas-via-eye-candy-and-asylum-misery.

Taking Direct Aim at a Target Long Past

Anyone else watching/listening to Rifftrax? I was out with a cold last week, so I took a little brain vacation and watched the Riffed versions of The Fifth Element, Independence Day, and, of all things, Red Dawn. For those who haven’t given it a try, or who never encountered Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in the old days, Rifftrax takes a movie and adds sarcastic and biting and nerdy commentary in the audio track. Unfortunately, some of it doesn’t rise above the level of Youtube comments or XBox Live insults. Other times, it’s quite witty and on-target.

I had never seen the famous 80s piece of military derring-do before, and I probably never could have summoned up the willpower to do so, without the aid of constant snarkiness. I will also add that the Red Dawn riff is definitely one of the funnier ones I’ve had a chance to listen to.

For the other two movies, I had seen them long ago, probably on opening weekend, and then once or twice since then. And wow, did it ever feel like another era. The Fifth Element was probably a more difficult movie to write jokes for, since it was already such a carefree and ludicrous flick to begin with.

Soundtracky Goodness

Continuing on the movie theme: recently I’ve been looking around for good soundtracks, and was reminded of the jazzy/Bondian goodness of The Incredibles soundtrack. It had been a while since I had seen the movie, so I gave it a spin, and was quite impressed with those Pixar folks. And also: whatever happened to them? They used to make perfect movies.

Now I wouldn’t say that The Incredibles is actually perfect. It’s a little slow, even though that’s the main mechanism that the movie uses to lift itself head-and-shoulders above its competition. Maybe 5 minutes shorter? That said, I still think that the concluding fight, where the dysfunctional set of family and friends learn to work together as a team, is probably one of the best ways of demonstrating a simple fact: one film-maker’s cliche is a more careful film-maker’s perfect conclusion.

The Most Obscure Movie I’ve Seen

Now, I’ll close with a very obscure movie called Summer Time Machine Blues. Maybe everyone else has heard of it and watched it tons of times, but one of the most comprehensive genre movie reviewers, Richard Scheib over at Moria, only reviewed it recently, and it came out in 2005. I had certainly never heard of it until reading Scheib’s piece.

The movie is about a group of university students who are on-campus over summer, and their air conditioner breaks down. Or more precisely, their air conditioner remote breaks down, and there are no external buttons on the unit. Add a time machine, and what do the kids think of? Going back in time one day to get the still-functioning remote of course.

I loved this movie, mostly because the stakes are so hilariously low, but the movie piles on all the same time travel coincidences and loops and contrivances and paradoxes, probably as the whole Back to the Future trilogy in one movie instead of three. It’s really a sight to behold, and it’s quite a treat for genre fans. If you can find it, watch it!

Comments

One Response to “Riffing Zombies and Incredible Time Travellers”

  1. Chris Szego
    November 6th, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

    One of the other delights of THE INCREDIBLES is the short they made about Jack-Jack for the DVD release. Hilarious and spot on, and beautifully fills in some gaps.

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