Sunday 23 October 2022

just think of me as a man who went berserk one summer day and was never right again


OCTOBER 17th - THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES is another Youtube find, a low-budget sci-fi horror born of the prodigious career of Roger Corman and infamous for various reasons such as its non-union status that led to Corman directing most of it across several days on a single sound stage before anyone could stop him, and its being sold on the back of a lurid and hastily-assembled lobby poster that had little to do with the finished film, a sticking point for the distributors to the extent they went back to the edit to bring it more in line with the poster and ended up building and shooting a monster for less than 200 dollars which only appeared in several seconds in the final reel, and which still bore no resemblance to the monster on the poster.
All of which is probably more entertaining than the film itself, which is a bog-standard b-feature about a psychic alien who tries to conquer the Earth by controlling the mind of one good dog, and one very horny mute. I did like the abstract nature of the menace the protagonist family faced, its agency doesn't really manifest in any real way until about halfway through the film when the family dog, Duke, goes bonkers under psychic duress, but he's just so dang lovable and clearly the best thing in this turkey that when he's dispatched offscreen with an axe, the film lost me. How dare you give us this beautiful boy and then just take him away, The Movie? 

OCTOBER 18th - ALIEN, because it's quite a while since I saw this and I thought it would make a nice companion piece with...

OCTOBER 19th - (Halloween events paused for mum's year's mind)

OCTOBER 20th - ALIEN: RIVER OF PAIN, an audio play featuring the likes of Anna Friel, Colin Salmon and Alexander Siddig doing voice duties in a story that runs concurrent to the events depicted in...

OCTOBER 21st - ALIENS, and to complete the multimedia event I also played the unofficial Aliens sequel...

OCTOBER 22nd - ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES (PS3), the much-hated videogame that got a barrage of abuse upon release for its infamous array of technical issues and underpowered game engine, but I'm only here for that sweet, sweet Aliens sequel action in the cut scenes and linear/scripted voice-acted segments of the game and so planned to just sleepwalk through the shooty-shooty bits except NO FLIPPING KIDDING THIS THING IS JANKY so it was a bit of a slog. So yeah, I am all Aliens-ed out this Halloween.
There is little I can say about ALIEN and ALIENS that has not already been said, but here is my hot take, nonetheless: all this time, writers and directors have been trying to make a sequel to the wrong movie, and instead of making a new Alien, they should be making Aliens 2. Going backwards was a mistake for the franchise, as evidenced by every new Alien sequel searching desperately for some hook that "adds" something to the central premise of a monster terrifying the residents of a confined location but ultimately just ends up changing what that location is and calling it a day, and "It's Alien, but in (x)" has now been the setup for Alien 3 ("Alien, but in prison"), Alien 4 ("Alien, but in a space station"), Alien 5 ("Alien, but in a prequel") and Alien 6 ("Alien, but Alien"), and now I'm just over it already and just want them to do another Starship Troopers knock-off.

At this point in the property's life cycle, people are not interested in the subjective takes of an auteur like Ridley Scott or David Fincher or whatever the "original core vision" of what an Alien movie or franchise might actually be, they're just going to the cinema to keep current with what's going on with the established brands of the day - or at least, people who are actually going to the cinema who don't fear THE DEATH VIRUS THAT STALKS AMONG US are going to the cinema to keep current with established brands, and I don't just mean the endless Marvel movie parade, I mean the Fast And Furious-es and the Star Treks and the Whatever The Hell Jump Scare Piece Of Crap Horror Series Is In Vogue Right Nows-es, as cinema has been colonised by corporations for a while now because Oh God I'm ranting about capitalism again, does it ever end? Look, people know of the Alien brand and they will watch any old load of bollocks attached to it, which Ridley Scott proved beyond question with the abominable Prometheus, so I'm begging you here to just give me an Aliens sequel already.  Leave Ridley Scott to make his space gods prequel movies and hire himbo auteurs like Michael Bay or Zack Snyder to churn out muscular military science fiction in an alternate cinematic universe like the one the Aliens Versus Predator movies presumably exist within.
The original two movies are classics, so I can offer you little insight to those, but the audio play - RIVER OF PAIN, available on Youtube, should you wish to search for it - is quite amusing, even if it falls apart the closer it gets to events in the original movie canon, with some of the expository dialogue that "organically" fills you in on what's happening through audio cues being entertainingly blunt to the point it may bring you out of the fiction, but it's still more fun than almost all of the Aliens comics I've read. Technically, it's preceded by another audio play that tries a similar trick of weaving events in and around the space between two films, but life is short, daddio. You may as well expect me to play - or at least watch the cutscenes from - ALIEN: ISOLATION, which also does the whole "between movies" thing, but instead of an atmospheric haunted house in space stealth game with gorgeous retro-aesthetics channeling the sci-fi design sensibilities of the 1970s, I went with the far less impressive ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES, a stiff sci-fi shooter with gorgeous retro-aesthetics channeling the sci-fi design sensibilities of the 1980s.
A first person experience that borrows liberally from the Alien/Aliens canon to pad its linear and uninteresting narrative experience with lore, it just ain't great, despite some good environment models and atmospheric sound design. The sudden appearance of Michael Biehn's Hicks dangles the possibility of something interesting happening except he immediately dismisses that by responding to questions about his activities between the end of Aliens and his reappearance in this game with "but that's not important right now" because - of course - you have to buy seperate game content to get that story, because capitalism is inescapable and destroying everything it might once have claimed to have created and holy crap I'm doing it again. Anyway, I literally bought this game for four quid from the local CEX, so if you're curious, it'll cost you buttons to check it out, but as mentioned, it ain't great.
So I guess there wasn't a lot of insight or content to come from the whole Alien multimedia event bit of the horror marathon, huh? I thought it might be a good idea, too - diversify the subject matter away from just watching a movie a day. Ah well.

My one takeaway, I guess, is that the longer the Alien franchise goes on, the worse the plots and scripts got, until all you're left with is some background lore for the storefront to an online service, and this isn't even me slipping into the Capitalism Bad thing again, this is literally all that's left of Alien - or any other piece of art - after its dystopian capitalist hell crept up on us in the dark until we were consuming in a way that didn't even require we have something physical to show for it, like a copy of a film or game or book that we could put on a shelf, even when those things have become increasingly cheaper as people offload them to glorified pawn shops in favor of streaming services.  The last piece of Alien lore I saw was the Colonial Marines menu screen telling me to log onto their store to buy new levels now that I'd finished the rather short game campaign.

We don't "buy" anymore in the sense that we work towards owning something, instead it's become the norm to pay a tithe to a corporation for temporary access to media that we already paid for, to television, to movies, to games, to healthcare, to water, to shelter - to food, even.  Our corporate future has arrived and it has taken even the concept of aspiration from us and we embrace it and tell ourselves it's better than what we had, making peace with the concept of owning nothing much like the peasantry of the post-Enclosure era made peace with their new reality.  Why do I mention this?  Well, because the dystopian hell future of the Alien franchise never predicted this, so its capitalist version of the future, meant as cautionary and frightening, is actually optimistic, because within that fiction, characters at least had an end goal, even if it was only to own shares in the corporation that treated them as disposable.  In our world of 2022, we only really work to keep the lights on, and somehow we got convinced this is better.  That's probably something we should be scared about.

OCTOBER 23rd the Dun-Dun-DUNNNNWITCH HORROR, starring an oddly-flat Dean Stockwell, who I am more used to seeing in an animated state in his acting roles, though to be fair, his rolling eyes do a lot of the heavy lifting in this one. I kinda liked this slice of atmospheric 1970s eldritch cheese based on one of HP Lovecraft's less noticeably racist works, but the presence of a mustachioed Stockwell - welcome as it is in any and all circumstances - just made me think of fellow 1970s horror cheese offering "Whisper", one of the better episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, in which Stockwell delivered a similarly detached performance in a story not a million miles from HPL's cosmic horror ouvre. If these reviews seem scattershot and in desperate need of an editorial pass, it's because I write them while I'm drunk.  Being a high-functioning alcoholic with adult ADHD is what really scares me these days.

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