Archive for the ‘Drive-In’ Category

“Paramount Pictures has made a few changes in their release plans for two upcoming horror films starting with the Renee Zellweger starrer Case 39, which is now hitting theaters February 22, two weeks later than originally planned.” – July 31, 2007

“Paramount Pictures has once again shifted the Renee Zellweger horror film Case 39. Originally slated for release on February 22, the film will now open in theaters August 22, 2008.” – Sept. 28, 2007

“Paramount has recently reshuffled their 2008 and 2009 releases, and has pushed back the release date of Case 39 from August 22, 2008, to April 10, 2009.” – Feb. 14, 2008

“Paramount has apparantly taken the flick (Case 39) off of their ’09 schedule (we were hoping to see it in April ’09) thus indefinitely delaying a theatrical release.” – Jan. 2, 2009

“Paramount Vantage will be putting out CASE 39 this October 1 (most likely in limited release).” – Aug. 19, 2010

Case 39 claimed a scant $5.4 million at 2,211 locations, which was near the bottom of the supernatural horror subgenre.” – Oct 4, 2010

from today’s latimes.com, Hollywood’s little secret: movie purgatory by Steven Zeitchik. 


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Jonathan: When an audience pays to see a picture like this, what are they paying for?

Fred: To get the pants scared off of ’em.

– Kirk Douglas & Barry Sullivan in The Bad and the Beautiful

” Now and then someone would accuse me of being evil – of letting people destroy themselves while I watched, just so I could film or tape record them.  But I don’t think about myself as evil – just realistic.” – Andy Warhol

This post will be dealing with both Paranormal Activity films.  You can assume I am talking about the original except when I refer to “the sequel” or directly to Paranormal Activity 2.

I missed the phenomena that was Paranormal Activity when it was released last year.  I was aware of it from a film-marketing point of view but did not “Demand It” and did not see it in the theater.  The film, which famously was shot for $15,000 dollars, ended up grossing over $100 million.  Paramount Pictures is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again this week in its release of Paranormal Activity 2.

Paramount initially released the first film in a dozen college markets with special midnight screenings.  The idea was to get college kids to be part of the event (check out the trailer – it’s as much about the audience watching the film than the film itself).  Then, hopefully, they’d tell their friends and those friends would then demand that the film play in their town next and so on.  Forget The Social Network, Paranormal Activity is the Facebook movie.  This is exactly how Facebook spread from college to college and then to the world at large.  Much of the buzz generated around the film came through Facebook and Twitter.

Released without opening or closing credits, the film purports to be found footage from the home of a San Diego, CA couple.  Shot entirely with the characters’ camcorder, as an audience, we only see what the characters point the camera at.  That does not mean that the entire film is shot from POV.  Much of the film is set in the bedroom, with the camera on a tripod, so we also experience events while our couple sleeps.  These videos confirm that there is something behind those bumps in the night.

The film requires the art of waiting.  Watching and waiting.  We are only going to see enough to keep us anxious.  What we do get is lots of time-lapse and watching the time-code at the bottom of the screen.  Koyaanisqatsi it is not, but it does take us quickly through the evenings to get to the juicier parts.  Even then, we wait.  Long, static shots of the couple in bed.  When you are looking as opposed to waiting for the next thing to happen, your senses heighten and it takes less to give you a jolt.  After the film opens, we never leave the house and for 9/10ths of the film we only see the couple.  The outside world disappears.

So what happens when a Hollywood studio makes a sequel to a film that partially succeeded because of the fact that it was not Hollywood film?  Well, in the case of Paranormal Activity 2, we get more AND less of the same.  We get bigger this time.  Bigger budget, more cameras (the whole house is set up for video), bigger cast.  There are actual credits at the end of the film.  There are postmodern quips from the characters (when the mom asks her husband to join her in the tub he responds “Release the Kraken”.)  But some of the logic from the first film was lost along the way. Why were they filming themselves so much?  What was the reason the footage was labeled “Night # X” except that it was a convention in the first film?  In the end, part of what was endearing about the first film was its LACK of polish.  This one is just a little too polished.  The actions are more graphic and we see a lot more of them since the entire house is rigged for video.  Thus we are left with a more conventional and less effective film.

I do imagine that something was lost by my not seeing these films as part of a crowd.  I watched the first movie on my television in the middle of the day.  I think I even stopped it once to answer a phone call.  For the sequel, I was in my car at a drive-in.  Although surrounded by other people, the drive-in was also a solitary film experience (nobody flashed their headlights or honked their horns at the scary bits).

My own personal taste tends towards a more literary brand of horror.  Give me Claire Bloom in The Haunting or anything from the Val Lewton’s RKO horror unit of the 40’s.  The quote at the top of this post is taken from a great scene in the insider-Hollywood film The Bad and the Beautiful.  Lets go back to this scene.  The two characters (a Producer and a Director) are deciding how to approach the horror film the studio boss has just assigned to them (the scene was based on Val Lewton’s experience producing the film Cat People).

Jonathan: Look. Put five men dressed like cats on the screen, what do they look like?

Fred: Like five men dressed like cats…

Jonathan: And what scares the human race more than any other single thing?
[crosses to wall switch and turns out the light]

Fred: The dark!

Jonathan: Of course. And why? Because the dark has a life of its own. In the dark, all sorts of things come alive.

Fred: Suppose… suppose we never do show the cat men. Is that what you’re thinking.

Jonathan: Exactly.

Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 have no cat men.  But it does have “night vision” and therefore no “dark”.  One out of two ain’t bad.

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Click Posters to view the trailers

Or to see the Upright Citizens Brigade sketch group The Midnight Show version of the trailer – click HERE

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“In a sense, the audience has become old friends.  A lot of them have been with me for a very long time, so sometimes there is that kind of cross-referencing of, ‘I know you know what this is, because we’re film friends.'” – Wes Craven (Writer/Director of My Soul to Take)



“Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from ‘Sixteen Candles’ waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason.” – From Easy A

“The modern world seems fascinated by the ability of our human systems to refer to themselves in an unending mirroring process.” – Linda Hutcheon (author of A Theory of Parody)

We, as the collective film audience, share a language.  This language is both our relationship with and memory of the images we consume on a daily basis.  

We live in a postmodern age – and by postmodern I am only talking about the part of the definition dealing with “self-reference” (I think postmodern is one of the most overused and misused words this side of “surreal”).  Humor in our postmodern world operates on multiple levels – one can still find something humorous even if one is not familiar with all of the references – it is just a different kind of funny.  For example:

Bert V Royal (author of the screenplay for Easy A) also wrote a play called Dog Sees God.  In the play, he takes the characters from the iconic newspaper comic strip The Peanuts and sets them ten years into the future.  If you are at all familiar with the comic strip, you are going to experience the humor in a certain way.  Someone who has never seen The Peanuts strip, however, can still find humor in the situations that the characters find themselves in.  Nevertheless, so much of modern comedy is about finding a clever take or making a riff on things we already know.  Humor today is often more about our shared knowledge.

Craven has always used humor as a way to give a little relief in his horror films.  We have such lines in My Soul to Take like “Wake up and smell the Starbucks.” and “If it gets too hot, turn up the prayer conditioner.”  Making no judgements about the wit of these laugh lines, these humorous moments serve as  markers for us to find our way – as much in Craven’s horror movies as in a teen-comedy like Easy A.

Enough for now, more to come on Postmodernism, Pastiche, Pop Culture, Humor Theory in future posts.

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So this past Saturday I went to my first drive-in in years – at the Cascade Outdoor Theatre in the western suburbs of Chicago.  I am not going to write about the double feature I saw right now – let’s talk drive-ins. 

When I was growing up, my Mom used to take me to the drive-in theatre.  This was the 1970’s so the glory days of these theatres were long gone.  Many drive-ins had closed and the ones that were still open ran a wide assortment of movie types (i.e. they had gone to seed).  We saw all sorts of films; Harryhausen movies, Bruce Lee films, ones by Roger Corman, Jack Hill, and Larry Cohen… it would not surprise me if we saw a double feature of Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop & Cockfighter (given how familiar both films felt when I watched them as an adult – almost like coming home).

Later in the 80’s I watched Joe Bob Briggs, who hosted a show on the Movie Channel where he would rate films based on the 3 B’s of B movies (Blood, Breasts & Beasts).  It was Joe Bob who rekindled my love and appreciation of the drive-in (even if it was only the spirit of the drive-in as I was watching him late on Saturday nights on a 13inch television in a basement).

Like all-night diners, there is a certain nostalgia associated with the drive-in.  I was so excited when I was finally old enough to watch the movies while sitting on the roof of the car (I had seen older kids doing it for years).  The concession stands were an oasis sitting in the middle of these huge parking lots.  Dancing hotdogs and soft drinks beckoned me to make a visit to get myself a treat before and between shows.

I’m looking forward to returning for the shows this weekend – whatever films they may be.

And remember, the drive-in will never die.” – Joe Bob Briggs

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