Posts Tagged ‘horror movies’

In my recent post on the movie “Night of the Templar,” I mentioned Creature Double Feature on Channel 48 out of Philadelphia. I since found the original intro and outro from it on Youtube. This made my week. Took me back to those Saturday afternoons in the 1970s camped in front of the TV, watching the cavalcade of old black-and-white movies, or the more recent (and frequently more gory) drive-in and grindhouse fare. Sometimes they’d show one of the classic Universal monster movies. More often, they’d be grade-B films. And there was certainly nothing wrong with that. Although I still remember tuning into what I thought would be “Bride of Frankenstein,” and instead watching Ed Woods’ “Bride of the Monster.” I was a bit too young for irony, so I didn’t yet appreciate Ed Wood’s work on the level I would in later decades. That may have been the first time in my life I uttered the words: “What the FUCK?”

Anyway, check out the Youtube clip. It’s decidedly low-budget and campy, but eerily effective all the same. Much like most of the movies Creature Double Feature showcased.


Now here’s a Zen question, as profound in its own way as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Is it possible to intentionally make a grade B exploitation film?

I found myself asking this question after coming across a review on the blog “Stabs in the Dark” concerning a tribute to an ’80s-style slasher film, complete with an accompanying VHS issued for added “authenticity.”

Stabs in the Dark didn’t give the film a very high rating, which doesn’t surprise me. And the reason it doesn’t surprise me largely comes down to the quotation marks I felt obliged to put around the word “authenticity” in the preceding paragraph.

As I guess you’ve inferred from the mere fact that I’m writing an entry on the subject, I’m a fan of the old grade B exploitation films.

Yes, I enjoy laughing at the sheer incompetence of wretched movies such as “Manos: Hands of Fate,” which provided Mystery Science Theater 3000 with fodder all of those years.

But I’m not just talking about ironic goofing on bad movies. This isn’t exactly a strikingly original insight, but there’s plenty of great stuff to be found among the ranks of low-budget horror movies, exploitation flicks and martial arts films from decades past

In his piece “A Hard-On for Horror,” writer Joe R. Lansdale examines what makes for a truly good low-budget exploitationer, such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” In Lansdale’s assessment (and I hope to God I’m interpreting him right), it lies in the unpredictable juxtaposition of genuine artistry and low-budget schlockiness.

If slick Hollywood productions and straight-to-video craptaculars tend to share one trait, it’s their scarcity of surprises. But films that fall somewhere in-between – “Phantasm” and the original “Last House on the Left” come to mind – tend to keep you off-balance. They have an unpredictable, roller coaster quality that makes viewing them a legitimately exhilarating and scary experience.

The bitch is: that’s so hard to do intentionally.

A lot of filmmakers have tried it. It’s easy to find homages to exploitation cinema. The kind of fare made by film students with minuscule budgets and boundless belief in their own cleverness, bearing titles like “Vampire Biker Babes With Chainsaws!” I’ve seen a number of these that turned out to be yawners consisting of little more than a splashy title and lots of “ain’t this zany?” references to exploitation films from past eras.

A few filmmakers have even pulled it off, to some degree. For example, there’s the great “Grindhouse” and two equally great films that it inspired – “Machete” and “Hobo With a Shotgun.”

But much as I enjoyed all three of those movies, they still seemed a little hollow at their core compared to their source material. That’s because their rough-hewn qualities were calculated, rather than incidental. It’s the difference between torn jeans worn on a construction site, and jeans that already had the tear in them when they hung on a rack at a hipster boutique and bore a $200 price tag.

If I was to think of an analogy for the combination of incompetence and skill that comprised the best of genuine grindhouse cinema, I’d evoke a very different type of entertainment.

The early days of television consisted largely of live broadcasts. Occasionally, very talented performers would flub their lines. Sometimes, they’d come up with ingenious improvisations to cover for it. Even when they didn’t, those occasional flubs would give the broadcasts an exhilarating, performing-without-a-net quality that the slicker productions of today – for all they have to offer – simply can’t provide.

Happy Friday the 13th everyone! Ever wonder how Camp Crystal Lake kept getting an operating permit? “Well, we’ve implemented a new safety course for our counselors called ‘Machetes: Useful but Dangerous,’ and established a sign-out procedure for all chainsaws and other sharpened power tools. With these measures, we’re confident of attaining this year’s goal of a 65 percent counselor survival rate. Hey … did all of you board members get the fruit baskets I sent you for Christmas?”
I think the question is why the owners would WANT to reopen Camp Crystal Lake. Ethical considerations aside, the insurance rates on that place must have been through the roof.