Okay kids so I'm taking a time out for this holiday weekend, you dig? SHOCKtober will return Monday with all sorts of catching up and whatnot! Until then, enjoy yourselves. Or don't! Do whatever you want, it's your business!
Now that is a title screen: zombie front and center. Liberal amounts of grossness. Solid, weighty logo. All of it combining to let you know that George Romero ain't fucking around here. All of it as the climax of a fantastic opening sequence, one that well introduces some of our cast of caricatures (come on, you know they are) and shows just how screwed and desolate the world has become in the wake of the zombie apocalypse.
The font and the soundtrack cry zombie action movie and my heart cries yes!
"Like the last piece of cereal at the bottom of the bowl, soggy and pale and swollen with milk."
Last night I watched the Australian found footage film The Tunnel, and at some hour long after that I woke up from my sleep, found my notebook, and wrote that sentence. Somehow I thought it perfectly encapsulated...something about the movie and it would be a great opening for this review. At this point I'm hard-pressed to tell you what the hell it means, exactly, and to be honest there's a slightly pornographic quality to it that is making me uncomfortable. But hey, I have to open this review somehow and if it was a great idea last night then I'm just going to go with it.
To help solve a water shortage crisis, local government announces plans to build a water recycling system in disused tunnels below Sydney. Press conferences are held, promises are made...and then nothing. Without a word or a reason why, the project is dropped.
Investigative reporter Natasha Warner (Bel Deliá) finds this curious, but even curiouser when she comes across a YouTube video of some taggers running afoul of something in the darkness of those same tunnels. There have also been rumors of some of the underground homeless population going missing. Is the canceling of the recycling plant related? What's a-lurking in the damp down below the streets of the city? Warner attempts to get some answers, but government officials are mum. She assembles a crew of veteran news-types and decides to get to the bottom of things, so you know what that means: it's P.O.V. horrorin' time!
The crew sneaks into the tunnels and sure enough, they also run afoul of something in the darkness. The Tunnel presents itself as a documentary comprising footage before and during the events, but it's the talking heads reflecting on those same events that eliminate much of the tension of the proceedings as we know by and large who's going to live and who won't. Yes yes, the devil is in the details and the journey is the destination and all that, but ultimately I was just waiting to see how so-and-so died and I knew the other so-and-so was never in any mortal peril. Let's face it, most P.O.V./found footage horror follows a certain pattern; that is to say, there's a fuck ton of aimless-ish build-up and then in the last 15 minutes or so shit really happens ahhhh! The biggest problem in The Tunnel is that the format conceit eliminates the build-up. Sure, there's lots of talking and aimless-ish wandering, but for every moment of tension generated, someone then talks about it and the incline plateaus.
This is not to say that The Tunnel is wholly unsuccessful, because that would be a lie and I'm not a lie-teller. Overall it's a solid film and there are some moments of pull the blankets higher creepiness for sure. Ultimately, though, your enjoyment of it will likely hinge on your tolerance for and/or love of those P.O.V. tropes; you know, people running around panting and screaming in the green hues of a night vision lens.
I'm not going to begrudge anyone who enjoys a subgenre and thinks "Hey, I wanna make me some a that!" Ultimately, however, I feel like this kind of story and format have been tackled before and tackled better in movies like [REC] and Lake Mungo. Maybe I'm just a P.O.V. lover and apologist who needs to take a break and see some other subgenres.
The biggest bummer, though, is that The Tunnel rehashes the "ambitions of career-driven woman lead her to make foolish decisions and doom everyone" storyline of The Blair Witch Project, complete with her dressing-down by male crew members and subsequent teary-eyed confessional of contrition. I'm thankful that there's no dripping snot and ultimately no one kicks the map into the creek, but still. 15 years on and the head bitches in charge are still bitches? What a world, what a world. Totally like the last piece of cereal at the bottom of the bowl, soggy and pale and swollen with milk, amirite?
I bet it would take, like, more than seven hands for me to count how many times I've seen Creepshow and more than a baker's dozen's hearts to contain all the love I have for it. It's so perfect. It's so perfect! By turns gory, scary, and funny, it's an EC horror comic come amazingly to life. Secretly– okay, not so secretly– I think it's some of the best work that either director George Romero or writer Stephen King have done. Romero's visuals are an absolute treat. He plays with comic book framing conventions and the colors and monsters pop off the screen. King gives us five stories and a framing narrative full of frights, humor, and characters, dammit, who deliver dialogue that's got that signature vintage King folksy-realistic charm. Relatable and a bit theatrical, but not artificial and cloying. Everyone is eminently quotable and you love them, hate them, and love to hate them.
Just the little snippet of the title sequence in the GIF I've posted– even without the Bernie Wrightson-inspired illustrations and the thudding "dun DUN!" of the piano in the theme song– encapsulates the feel of the whole thing. It's a funhouse. It's going to scare you, but you'll have a smile on your face the entire time. It's so perfect you guys.
It's unusual (particularly for the time) that the names of the actors do not appear until the end credits of the film. Instead, it's "The Thing" itself that's the star here, hidden away in the darkness and emerging slowly until it's front and center. This theme is much better utilized in Carpenter's 1982 remake/adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.'s novella Who Goes There? In Carpenter's version, the alien entity is able to assimilate and imitate other life forms (man being the warmest place to hide, mind you) until the jig is up and it bursts forth in a big red mess of grue and grossness.
Also, Wilford Brimley. And MacReady's ludicrous oversized novelty sideways cowboy hat! Wait, here I am talking about The Thing instead of The Thing from Another World. Ehhhh SO SUE ME.
Fire up the snowcat and get out of the tub, today we're looking at...
The Shining (1980)
So beautiful, so ominous, right? Notes pinched from Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique crash as words scroll by quickly, almost as if they're a necessary nuisance. The camera zooms and winds through a relentless wilderness. The Torrance Family's VW Bug is as insignificant as its namesake out here, dwarfed by the endless Evergreens, the looming mountains, and even its final destination, The Overlook Hotel. It's as if the entirety of nature set out to swallow up this family long before the ghosts of the Overlook gave it a shot. Long before the credits finished rolling, even!
Okay, today's title sequence is one that was a talking point for quite a while after my friends and I saw the film.
The Ring (2002)
But whaaa? That is not a title sequence and does The Ring even have one? Ha ha ha psych oh DIP I got you! The Ring is, in fact, title sequence-free and I love it. Why mess around with names and animations and blah blah blah? Let's get right to business, the film seems to say, and get right to business it do.
I don't even know how I'd feel about The Ring if I were to watch it today. The bits of CGI are likely dodgy by today's standards, and there have been so many "long-haired ghost girl" flicks in the last decade that the trope has been just about stripped of all its power. It's probably best if I leave my feelings and memories of The Ring in my horror movie hope chest for a while longer, where they are protected from the detrimental effects of time and air, and they smell of cedar and "potpourri sachet."
What a breath of fresh air this movie was, unlike anything else happening in American horror at the time...and part of that was the brazen–brazen I say!– lack of a title sequence. Nothing to lull you into the action. Nothing to soothe you after, say, a shocking five-minute cold open. You just sit down and the movie starts and The Ring happens to you and you get no relief. I love that. We all have shit to do, right? There ain't no time for cinematic gewgaws, we only have seven days!