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May 2, 2013

Today's Things: The "Manborgs, Vampires, and Twins" Edition

You guys, I'm tired of being boring. I feel like 2013 has been one big long boring year here at FMWL. And that sucks. I could make a bunch of excuses - work sucks, writing about horror movies four days a week exhausts a lot of topics, I'm just lazy - but none of them would actually matter. It's not why I don't do things that's important, it's that I do something about it.
Totally unrelated, yet important, checklist.
When thinking about my own writing and what the heck I'm doing, I came to a realization. I love writing reviews and being as serious as I can be (which isn't that serious, but that's beside the point), but the most fun I've ever had writing about movies - save a few of my favorite posts here at FMWL - was more than ten years ago when a friend asked me to write a DVD column on his site and I turned it into a random series of thoughts that I slapped together off the top of my head while doing what I call "winging it." It wasn't high art and it wasn't always important, but it was carefree and fun and it always put a smile on my face. And, as you might have guessed, that's what I'm doing right now.

That's not to say I plan on getting rid of reviews or the Midnight Movie of the Week or any of the other stuff I do when I'm feeling inspired. But there are so many times when I just want to put some thoughts out there and I get caught up in the how and the what and then I'm like HEY THE MIKE JUST FREAKING TYPE IT. So that will be what I do every once in a while in posts like this one, which will carry the simple title "Today's Things."

(Yes, I thought of that name all by myself. I'm a gosh darn Einstein.)

(Oh, and I might ramble on a bit here. Just roll with it. Or go read something else. Your move, creep.)

Thing I'm Loving on Blu-Ray
I'm not sure if I've said it enough over the last year, but Shout Factory's horror centric new wing, Scream Factory, is one of the best things to happen to horror fans in ages.  Case in point: This week's release of the R-rated Hammer Films offering The Vampire Lovers. Released in 1970, this Dracula-less film is a showcase for the voluptuous and talented Ingrid Pitt, a horror star who must be seen by all fans of romantic vampire tales.
While the film itself is not one of Hammer's best offerings, it stands up as a nice adaptation of the classic tale of Carmilla, which predated Bram Stoker's Dracula and pretty much invented the lesbian vampire stereotype that became a staple of European horror in this era. Pitt is the primary reason to check the film out, and its use of nudity and sexuality - while mild by modern standards - is out of character and risque for hammer. Advertising for the film that has been reproduced (twice on the blu-ray packaging and once as an on-disc disclaimer) boldly states "Not for the mentally immature!", which to me seems like a reminder that there's artful desires behind this surprising film.

(By the way, I always give a movie extra kudos if a villain uses a fake name that is an acronym of their infamous name. Here we get Carmilla pretending to be someone named Mircalla, and me smiling a lot due to this fact.)

As has been the case for most of their releases, Scream Factory put a lot of effort into this release.  The blu-ray package (unlike many of their releases, this is NOT a blu/DVD combo pack) offers plenty of extras - I'm stoked to see the commentary by director Roy Ward Baker, even though I'm pretty sure it's carried over from the old DVD release - and the price is even a bit lower than most of the other Scream Factory titles. Fans of Hammer or European vampire flicks of the '70s should definitely find this one.

Thing That's Not Horror That I'm Watching While Writing
Broken Arrow. Look, I know there's a good John Woo and a bad John Woo, and I know that this is bad John Woo. But I still find a lot of enjoyment in just how ridiculously macho this showdown between John Travolta and Christian Slater - neither of whom are often charged with being ridiculously macho - is. There was a place and a time in the '90s when this was comfort cinema to me, and it's still welcome now - it's just not welcome as often
Bonus points for Samantha Mathis. Redheads, man.
 (By the way, I dog on the '90s all the time - but I gotta admit they've grown on me. I even like a lot of '90s music now! And I even hated '90s music then. Today a teenager I know called Pearl Jam classic rock and it took every ounce of my being to stop me from shouting "WHOA YOU JUST BACK THE FRAK UP!" and going on a rant. Restraint - Thy name is Mike.)

So yeah, Bad John Woo still has its moments. Unless it's Mission Impossible II. Then it just makes me sad.

Thing I'm Not Sure About Yet, But Which Makes Me Chuckle
When a movie's called Manborg, I take notice. And production crew Astron-6 already had my attention thanks to Father's Day, one of the most obscene and ridiculous (and also fun) movies released in 2012.  But Father's Day was one of those movies that I never managed to write a review of, because it's just kind of difficult to piece together a legitimate commentary on such a random movie. You know how sometimes you see something bizarre and you're like "Well...that happened." and you know you had fun but all attempts to explain why you had fun don't make sense?  That's where I was at when I saw Father's Day.

That's kind of where I'm at after Manborg too, although it's a different kind of feeling this time. Manborg - the tale of a man who is reincarnated as a cyborg, naturally - is a more cartoonish and less vulgar animal than Astron-6's first film. It's still bloody and gory and inappropriate in its own ways, but it's more playful and maybe even more fun than Father's Day was. Maybe. I'm not really sure. Father's Day was more...ummmm....artistic? Maybe? Heck, I don't know. The point is that explanations of Astron-6 films are really pointless - if you like low-budget retro/grindhouse goofiness, these movies are for you. If you don't, you'll hate 'em. Regardless of your opinion, in ten years we'll be talking about Astron-6 the same way we talk about Troma films now.
Back to Manborg - I might review it soon, but I'm not sure that review will make much sense. I will say that Mina - the blue-haired anime-inspired heroine - and #1 Man - the poorly dubbed martial arts expert who's presumably from the far east - had me cackling all the time and made the 72 minute film worthwhile. That might be all I need to say for a review, actually. Let's move on...or you could watch the Manborg trailer and catch up with me in a minute.

Thing That's A Random Rant
Those of you who know me or follow me into the social media world probably know that I'm a pretty big sports fan at times. And I was randomly thinking about horror movies today and how lots of horror movies promote lots of stereotypes and I was surprised by how I never thought a lot about athletes in horror movies.

The catch, of course, is that horror movies don't often give us much to think about when a character is written as an athlete. For starters, "idiot male who womanizes often" is often synonymous with "football player" in horror scripts, a distinction that is occasionally deserved but a bit of an oversimplification. I mean, I was a teenage football player, but I still learned how to read and write and how to not treat women like objects and how to never have a girlfriend - all of which are completely the opposite of what we see from "athletes" in horror movies.  I am not the norm, and I'm proud of that, but I really don't think that the type of football guy shown in these movies is the norm either.
I always assumed this guy died because of his hairstyle.
But hey, let's leave football out of this right now. Why is that always the example? Where's the hockey players and the basketball players and the golfers? And where are all the female athletes? American schools have laws which require equal amounts of sports programs for males and females, but how often does a female character in a horror movie mention their sports experience? Now, there are naturally some outliers - would you believe that PIECES, which features a character who's a female tennis star, is one of the more progressive horror movies in this regard???? - but I'm struggling to pull them off the top of my head.  In fact, this topic might require more thought and its own post.

What say you, dear readers? Got any examples of athletes in horror that stick out to you? Have similar complaints about this stereotype or similar stereotypes in horror films? I know it's one of the least important ones out there - we should probably deal with how terrible women get treated in slasher films before we focus on football stars - but it's something that caught my attention and inspired me to ponder.  What do you think?

Thing That's A Random Shout Out
Belated happy birthday to Jen and Sylvia Soska, better known as the Twisted Twins, who celebrated a birthday on Monday. They were the team behind Dead Hooker in a Trunk, which was one of the first indie horror films I reviewed for this site and a goofy favorite that still makes me laugh.  Their follow-up, American Mary, will make its US debut on home video in June, and if you don't think I've got that pre-ordered than you don't think my name is The Mike. Can't wait to see what these talented ladies have up their sleeve next!
Thing At The End
Coming soon to FMWL - William Friedkin's new memoir, a yet-to-be-named Midnight Movie of the Week, and a review of the Guillermo Del Toro produced Mama on blu-ray. Plus I've got a stack of Pam Grier DVDs sitting next to me that are just begging for some one on one time.  So, until next time, here's a thing from YouTube. Be well, Midnight Warriors!

1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Athletes in Horror, aye? I'll need to think about that a little longer. Right now, the only one coming to mind is Tom Wilson's character in April Fool's Day . . . but if I recall correctly, that part of the story was cut out of the final edit, in which case it's only strongly implied.