All posts by David DeMoss

Godzilla (1954)

He's his own reading light.On March 1, 1954, fallout from the United States’ Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll rained down on the 140-ton tuna boat  Daigo Fukury Maru contaminating its twenty-three man crew. All suffered from acute radiation sickness and one eventually succumbed. According to the Japan Times, his last words were, “I pray that I am the last victim of an atomic or hydrogen bomb.”

Movie producer Tomoyuki Tanaka considered all this on a plane ride home from Indonesia. His latest picture having fallen through, he flew home facing a hole in Toho Studio’s winter release schedule (which used to be what the summer schedule is today for American studios). In all likelihood, a clutch of manic bosses looking for a hit, fast, waited for him at home. The American monster picture King Kong had just enjoyed a international re-release the previous year, mulching a bumper crop of American giant monster films with all that lovely money it brought in. Including The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, a film about a giant dinosaur awakened by fictional nuclear testing in the Arctic Circle, which eventually attacks New York City. What if, Tanaka wondered, a giant monster, awakened by the actual American nuclear tests going on in the Pacific Rim, attacked Tokyo? {More}

Halloween (1978)

"Raise your hand if you're Pure Evil!"It’s easy enough to review Halloween. Just prattle on about how scary and haunting adjectival it all is given that twenty years of increasingly-mechanical slasher films have done absolutely nothing to diminish Halloween‘s overall effectiveness. Nothing at all. Do you hear? Rather like I attempted to do in my original review of the film, which appeared somewhere very much like this space way back in the dark, dial-up days of 1999. Don’t look for it: I’ve not touched the thing since I originally put it up, and I’d just as soon it ceased to exist. Bloody Wayback Machine.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to review Halloween given its lofty position at the event horizon of the American Slasher Film, a cinematic object so dense its sucked down the entire horror genre into an ever-redshifted morass of misogyny, masochism, and mordant self-referencing. Halloween is the film most directly responsible for this ongoing Judgment Day, making it the cinematic equivalent of a supernova. Unknown, it flashed onto the American scene at the decrepit end of the 70s only to collapse in on itself, creating an omnivorous black void from which nothing good can escape. Continue reading Halloween (1978)

Friday the 13th (1980)

They're so cute when they're all tucked in, safe.
They’re so cute when they’re all tucked in, safe.

In the beginning, there was Alfred Hitchcock. And Alfred said, “Let there be Psycho.” And there was Psycho, coupled with widespread rejoicing.

Among those who rejoiced one young man stood among them somewhere in the vicinity of the Getty Museum. He alone in all the world possessed the strength and skill to answer Hitchcock’s Psycho and move its story forward, almost exactly twenty years later, into an age where Norman Bateses seemed to suddenly fill the land (or, at the very least, the land’s primary news outlets). His name was John Carpenter. He said, “Let there be Halloween.” And there was Halloween, coupled with widespread rejoicing.

It’s strange to come back to Crystal Lake now that I have some reason to be there. For better or worse (mostly worse, as we’ll see) Friday the 13th remains one of the most influential films of the twentieth century. As a reformed fan of the films that are ostensibly Friday’s children as much (if not more so) than they are Halloween’s, my fingers rebel at typing this phrase…but all those Christian moralizers who spent the 1980s bitching about Slasher movies were right in so far as they likened these films to more…traditional…pornography. Continue reading Friday the 13th (1980)

Batman and Robin (1997)

Joel Schumacher shows what he really thinks of us.So here it is: the final nail in the coffin, the death knell of the Golden Age of superhero movies. As with any artistic Age, it’s boundaries are plastic and open for debate, should any nerd care to distract him- (or her-) self. But you’d be hard pressed to find a nerd who doesn’t view this movie for exactly what it is: the lowest of the low, the scum of the fucking earth, the most useless, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat out of Hollywood, a town ruled by effete assholes who see not at all wrong with dumping toxic, imaginative waste straight into their target audience’s eyes, so long as there are as many eyes as possible.

Sorry. Channeled Trainspotting there for a moment. Where were we? Ah, yes…we were marveling at Joel Schumacher’s continued slide into camp and self-parodying idiocy. All in the name of keeping this franchise “family friendly.” In practice, you and I both know this means, “so dumb your trailer-trash, hick cousins from Possumscrotum, Texas, will beg, cry, scream and, eventually, drag their parents into theaters. We’ve spent the last six months stoking their little, ADD-addled minds with trailers and toy commercials. If we don’t get their butts in those seats, our Japanese masters stand to lose hundreds of billions of yen! We can’t allow that!” {More}

Independence Day (1996)

"Maybe we shouldn't've crossed Newt that last time..."Roger Ebert called this “an inheritor of the 1950s flying saucer genre”…though, for the life of me, I can only think of two films that match Independence Day‘s sheer destructive gluttony. The mid-90s will go down in history as a period shamefully infested with big-budget disaster orgies, horror pornography for middle Americans too chicken at watch real horror films.

And if ID4 has a more proximate progenitor, it is the disaster movies of the 70s, which carved this genre niche after the collapse of the studio system led to a collapse of the Epic. All-star casts stopped playing mythological heroes from various Western holy texts and began acting out multiple plot-threads as…normal people. One (or two, or three, or a whole bunch) of us. We began to appear in epic tales of survival against long odds and various plot contrivances…for, like any genre, the disaster flick soon found itself hedged in by its own, flawed, internal logic. {More}