In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Passion Over Logic.

Last Thursday, The Black Museum lecture series hosted its first debate entitled King of the Ring where four teams argued which of their chosen Stephen King film adaptations was the superior endeavour. 

Each team consisted of two speakers and they were;

Team Pet Sematary; Ghoulish Gary Pullin (Renowned Horror Artist) and Monica S. Kuebler (Managing Editor, Rue Morgue Magazine)
Team Carrie; Alexandra West (Writer, Famous Monsters of Filmland) and J.M. McNab (Rewatchability podcast)
Team The Mist; Less Lee Moore (Writer, and Shaun Hatton (TV's The Electric Playground)
Team Maximum Overdrive; Tal Zimerman (Writer, Rue Morgue Magazine) and Steve Kostanski (Director, Manborg)

The debate was broken down into six rounds, after each of which acting judge Stuart “Feedback” Andrews awarded points based on their performance. The first two rounds consisted of opening statements followed by a prepared six-to-eight minute video supporting their case. Here were some choice cuts;

Monica Kuebler: “It boasts incredible atmosphere and art direction as well as that awesome double horror threat of creepy kids and creepy pets. This rural setting would be nearly impossible to replicate on a studio lot, so one of the films great strength is that they actually shot it in Maine, which gave you a real feel for where Stephen King set the story. Doing that infused the movie with a sense that this is a dark place that has been evil for a long time.”
Gary Pullin: “The movie utilizes practical effects very well. The gore gags are outstanding and still shocking to this day. Gage's murder of Judd, using a scalpel and the whole body makeup on Zelda, Rachel Creed's sister, in the film is really disturbing. The film ends on a ghastly high note with a macabre ending. It's got a gore effect that would make Lucio Fulci proud. The soundtrack to the film by Elliot Goldenthal is excellent, as well. It is reminiscent of The Amityville theme song, which uses a lot of children's choir, playing of the sense of youth that is prevalent in the film. The movie also has a theme song by The Ramones, and if your movie has a song by The Ramones – instant cult classic!”

Alexandra West: “The most important thing about Carrie is its universality. It was released in 1976 and ever since it has been taken on and appropriated by a lot of other cultures. It is a testament to the film that it is so well acted, directed and written that we can identify with a character that is living in a specific time and place. The films deals with a lot themes including violence, sexuality, bullying, feminism, and these things are all really accessible. De Palma created a full world here, where there is humour and light, but also a dark bleakness. I think that's a huge accomplishment for any film, let alone a Stephen King film.”
J.M. McNab: “Carrie is of unique cinematic ambition, almost experimental at times. De Palma seems to not only want to translate the novel, but also elevate it with his use of cinematic style. We get unconventional filmic elements, like strange compositions, variable film speeds and split screen technique which gets used really effectively in the end scene. Carrie has some of the purest distillations of King's tropes and formed the template for which all the other films were derived.”

Less Lee Moore: “The Mist not only translates the feeling of dread from Stephen King's original work, but actually enhances it. People and relationships drive the story, and not the monsters. Director Frank Darabont understood this. He stayed faithful to the book, but he also upped the ante by adding a shocking ending that was suggested briefly in King's own prose.
Shaun Hatton: The Mist uses deft characterization, compelling, urgent dialogue and outstanding, yet restrained acting to create a sense of genuine terror, not only from the horror outside, but also those within the store. With The Mist, we become so emotionally invested in the movie, that we might question who the real monsters are, but we don't question the hard decisions made in the film.”

Tal Zimerman: “Maximum Overdrive is easily, inarguably the most entertaining of the selections tonight. It's a non-stop orgy of mayhem, never relenting in pace with each of the gags consistently besting the one that came before it. Sure, it's absurd and irreverent, but more than any other film bearing King's name, it reminds us that the author has always lived in the world of pure entertainment. And how 'bout the amazing AC/DC soundtrack? The music is apocalyptic, but you know, the kind of apocalypse that lets you have a few beers while it plays out. It makes you want to kick some truck ass!”
Steve Kostanski: “When we picked it, we were scoffed at from the get go. It was so panned upon release and has continued to have a reputation and as such, no one has bothered to revisit it. It was a critical and financial failure, but this is the case with a lot of works of art that are ahead of their time. Many of its themes are stronger now than when it was released, as our reliance on technology has only increased and the environmental havoc caused by transport trucks and other facets of big industry has only gotten worse. Maximum Overdrive has always been an underdog, but they have always been at the heart of the best Stephen King stories.”

After the video segments and a short intermission, came the rebuttals. Though there was a lot of mug slinging this round, the atmosphere was extremely light and there were tons of laugh out loud moments throughout. Here were some of the best cut-ups;

Team Pet Sematary on Carrie;
MK: “You put forth the argument that Carrie encompasses all of his tropes therefore it is the best adaptation. I'm going to say King has written dozens of books and not all of them involve bullying, religious zealots and high school experiences, so those aren't his core tropes. Also, as an author, I'd hate to be judged on my first work because you grow by leaps and bounds with each successive work. Authors develop their themes and tropes and style over the course of their entire career, hence Carrie is not the end-all, be-all adaptation because King has evolved since then.”

Team Pet Sematary, Ghoulish Gary Pullin & Monica Kuebler.

On The Mist;
GP: “I really felt the ending worked better in the short story. Darabont did a huge disservice to the source material by changing it.”

On Maximum Overdrive;
GP: “There's so many plot holes in this movie. Why does that car work for that couple that's driving into the diner. It's the only unaffected machine and they're pivotal to the story. There's the movie trailer as well. I saw it when I was a kid, and it's amazing because Stephen King comes on and says, I'm going to scare the hell out of you! And the movie is so not scary. It's funny and campy, but it's not scary. It did not live up to that trailer one iota.”

Team Carrie on Pet Sematary;
JM: “You guys pointed to atmosphere as one of your main points, which surprised me because to me it seemed like the art director was fired the first day, so they just went to the Halloween superstore and bought a fog machine and some bits of wood. It looked like an episode of Are You Afraid Of The Dark?”

Team Carrie, J.M. McNab & Alexandra West.

On The Mist;
JM: “You talked about everyman characters? Thomas Jane? Handsome McHandsome? And you mentioned was the dialogue being realistic and natural. In that clip you showed, everyone spoke like a grad student's blog just espousing the socio-political meanings of being trapped in this grocery store. That ending was like the screenwriter had just gone to Disneyland that day and was like, I'm gonna show that kid, I'm gonna shoot him in the fucking head!
AW: “Another thing you said was that the people drove the story and not the monsters, but maybe the monsters should have. Because that was the most depressing grocery store I've ever spent two hours in.”

On Maximum Overdrive;
AW: “You mentioned the manic mayhem pace of the whole thing and I have to say, for a movie directed by a guy who was admittedly doing bags of cocaine every day on set, it is the most boring movie I have ever seen. You showed a video of kind of okay effects and cool clips, there's a whole other ninety minutes of just talking.”
JM: “There's a romantic subplot in this movie that slows the pace waaaay down. You can have pace as one of your arguments and show an eight minute clip, but all that proves to me is that Maximum Overdrive makes a great YouTube video. I also think it's worth noting that not one single shot in Carrie features Emilio Estevez.”

Team The Mist on Maximum Overdrive;
SH: “The soundtrack is far from the best of all time, because that's The Transformers: The Movie from 1986! Stephen King felt that he had to direct this movie, no one else could do it. I agree that no one else could have done it the way he pulled it off, but it's also true that King never directed anything after that.”

Team The Mist, Less Lee Moore & Shaun Hatton.

On Pet Sematary;
“Mary Lambert? What happened to her? Perhaps her most notable directing credit outside of Pet Semetary is Megapython vs. Gatoroid.”

On Carrie;
“De Palma is very hit or miss, I think a lot of people here can attest to that. He's done many films since Carrie. It was King's first novel, and the first one adapted into a film. When you're new to something, you're not really that great at it. Even if it's really good, you learn a lot and that's part of being an artist. The more you do, the better you get.”

“Plus, all these other movies are kind of racist. Pet Sematary, the key plot point is that there's an Indian burial ground that brings things back to life and they're all fucked up. An Indian burial ground? Really? That's a thing? Sorry, that's a weak stereotypical thing to go to. In Maximum Overdrive, we've got vending machines at the truck stop that are dispensing change, and there's a black dude, of course, stealing all the change. And then there's Carrie, which is just, aka White People Problems.”

Team Maximum Overdrive on The Mist;
SK: “I just got to point out that re-watching The Mist, it really felt like the worst episode of season two of The Walking Dead.
TZ: The Mist is a bunch of TV actors, and it feels really cheap. And I'm not buying Thomas Jane as the aw shucks everyman.”

Team Maximum Overdrive, Steve Kostanski (left) & Tal Zimerman.

On Pet Sematary;
“Great effects, great atmosphere, but that Ramones song really sucks. I like the Ramones too, but 'I don't want to be buried in a Pet Sematary?' You're not going to, you're not a pet! It's not for you, don't worry about it!”

On Carrie;
“It's a fine film. Brian split-screen De Palma is a decent director and I happen to be a fan of two-hour tampon commercials. It's an exceptional journey to go on. I really enjoyed the high octane rock n' roll you used in your video. We didn't have to, cuz that's our movie!”

Team Carrie kind of slayed that round, which, as a result, knotted all teams at six points a piece. It was then onto the trivia round which consisted of ten questions. It was fairly educational, as I was not aware that Jack Nicholson was the first choice to play Paul Sheldon in Misery and that there are currently nine Children of the Corn movies. After this round, teams The Mist and Maximum Overdrive were tied for the lead with eleven points.

After their closing statements, it was time for the audience vote, which Team Carrie won decidedly followed by Team Maximum Overdrive.

In the end, it was a very close race, but MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE came out victorious and my boys Tal and Steve took home the final prize, the Golden Tentacle! The final scores were Team Maximum Overdrive 15 points, Team Carrie 14 points, and teams The Mist & Pet Sematary with 12 a piece.

The big winners, Team Maximum Overdrive!

This was an extremely fun time and I'd love to see another debate happen in the next semester. It would be interesting to see whether passion will win out over logic once more.

*All photos courtesy of The Black Museum.

No comments: