What ‘The Hole’ went wrong?


Despite his moderate successes (“Gremlins,” “The Howling,”) prolific director Joe Dante remains relatively unknown outside sci-fi and horror circles.

So perhaps it should come as little surpass that his latest, “The Hole,” is struggling to find a U.S. distributor. It’s quite a shame, for it is not only the most polished, accomplished work the director has released in years, but it is also one of the few films that can adequately be called a “family horror” film, a genre which he may not have created, but has certainly perfected.

The film was screened at a special Saturday evening screening during the closing days of the New York Film Festival, held October 5 through 10. The screening was not only attended by the director himself, but his frequent collaborator, the equally talented John Sayles. The film was presented in 3-D, but unlike many other “retrofitted” films (which are filmed in 2-D and get the 3-D treatment in post production), the film was shot using cameras made for the format. Continue reading

‘The ‘Burbs’ with fx artist Peter Kuran

poster

Film: The ‘Burbs (1989)
Rated: PG
Written by: Larry Brezner and Michael Finnell
Directed by: Joe Dante
Starring: Tom Hanks as Ray Peterson
                   Bruce Dern as Mark Rumsfield
                   Carrie Fisher as Carol Peterson
                   Corey Feldman as Ricky Butler

By E Dagger from CruJonesSociety

hanksPre-screening memories: When I was a kid, I think I felt obligated to like The ‘Burbs. One of my favorite movies as a young lad was definitely Big, although that was mostly for the sweet apartment he had in Manhattan with the basketball hoop, soda machine, and huge trampoline. But Tom Hanks still served as that movie’s icon and got to live out every young boy’s fantasy by trying out toys for a living, getting to have a Pepsi whenever he wanted, and feeling a boob with the lights on.
 
I remember hoping he’d do more awesome stuff like that in The ‘Burbs, but what I got instead was one creepy, weird-ass, maddeningly uneven jaunt through the anarchic imagination of Joe Dante.
 
Parts of it were still childishly funny to 9 year old me, like when Tom Hanks runs face first into the screen door and angrily crushes the beer cans or Rick Ducommon getting hit by a pickax flying over the fence, but I vividly remember being more than mildly freaked out by the unshaven Hans, the ghoulish-looking Reuben, and bizarre scene of Tom Hanks looking out his bedroom window to see the three shadowy Klopeks next door digging what appears to be graves in the pouring rain.
 
coreyThis was a dark movie. And having grown up in the suburbs, I had a decidedly rosier perception of life in a seemingly idyllic hamlet on the outskirts of town, but here was Rick Ducommon talking about the local ice cream man losing his mind due to suburban monotony-turned-madness and butchering his entire family. As a third grader, what the hell am I supposed to do with that? This was supposed to be a Tom Hanks movie, dammit!
 
bruceNew memories: This movie is still dark, but compared to some of the really dark comedies I’ve seen and enjoyed since (the borderline-evil Death to Smoochy comes to mind), The ‘Burbs comes off as mostly tame. It strikes me more as a live action satirical comic book than anything else. The plot moves along briskly, macabre situations contrast against the bright, picturesque background and perfect weather of suburban tranquility, and we’re treated to some genuine laugh out loud moments along the way.
 
Special mention must go to Bruce Dern and Corey Feldman who give my favorite performances here. Bruce Dern has the funniest lines delivered with a brusque, confrontational assertiveness all ex-military guys have. He doesn’t have time for your crap and let’s you know as much. When nosy neighbor Ricky (Feldman) asks him what he’s doing on the roof, Dern responds gruffly, “Shut up and paint your goddamn house.”
 
Feldman as Ricky almost serves as Dern’s counterpoint. He’s the surrogate for the audience to experience the action. At one point, he narrates the story of his street and all its players to a date, and at another invites friends over to watch the proceedings. He and his friends applaud, cheer, and “call the pizza dude” as Ricky’s neighbors go completely insane acting. Ricky and his friends serve as a Greek chorus to the action, or perhaps more appropriately, as a less sardonic Crow, Servo, and Mike.
 
The ‘Burbs is still an unusual movie, but expecting anything less from certified weird dude Joe Dante would be foolish. As an adult, I think that’s what I like about it best. Sure it’s uneven and the “suburbanites are repressed lunatics” theme is hideously tired in 2009, but it’s got a vivacity and anarchic spirit missing from a lot of today’s offerings. It’s weird. It’s fun. It knows it’s a movie. It’s not Shakespeare. But it is a great freaking time.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘The ‘Burbs” with Peter Kuran podcast right here

Or, you can hop the fence and merely listen to it online below:

Our Featured Guest: Peter Kuran

kuranAt the tender age of 17, while most kids are contemplating colleges, struggling to find out just what the hell they want to do with the rest of their lives, Peter (pictured far left, next to that robot guy) decided he would kick it with some new friends on a little movie “made from the guy who made American Graffiti. ”

Yes, before he was old enough to vote, Peter was hustling around the set of Star Wars as part of the Industrial Light and Magic crew. That endeavor obviously left an impression on his young mind, and kick-started a career in film that reads like a fantasy film geek’s fever dream: The Thing, Conan the Barbarian, RoboCop, BeetleJuice, Critters 2, Gremlins 2, Ghostbusters 2,Edward Scissorhands are but a few of his more than 250 films.

In 1982, he founded VCE Entertainment, which went on to provide effects work for numerous mainstream features, ranging from X-Men 2 and Men in Black to Thirteen Days and The Last Samurai, ultimately earning an Academy Award.

Kuran has also produced and directed five award-winning documentaries on Atomic testing, history and weaponry.

Episode XXXV: House (with its writer Ethan Wiley!)

house

Hear House writer Ethan Wiley on the podcast to this episode

By: Bo from Last Blog on the Left

Film: House (1986)
Rated: R
Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Fred Dekker and Ethan Wiley
Starring: William Katt as Roger Cobb
                   George Wendt as
                   Richard Moll as Big Ben
                   Kay Lenz as Sandy Sinclair
Tagline: Horror has found a new home.

Pre-Screening Memories: To be fair, I loved the movie House as a kid.  Really loved it.  Despite the R rating it carried, it was a movie that was harmless enough to keep the parents from fretting, and it contained enough gore and strangeness to keep a newly crowned teenager coming back for more.  My memories of the film were faint, but not too obscured by time to feel as distant as, say, Explorers.  I still think trauma may have had something to do with that one.

 So, House is the story of Roger Cobb, a horror novelist who moves into his aunt’s home after her death.  The house is filed with memories, both of Roger’s youth with his aunt and the disappearance of Roger’s son.  Roger recalls seeing the young tyke in the pool, but, after jumping in after the kid, finds himself alone in the pool.  Much like a werewolf bar mitzvah, that is both spooky and scary.

 

Roger finds himself alone in the house, separated from soap opera actress/wife Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz), devoted to the idea that he is finally going to write his Vietnam memoirs.  Unfortunately, Roger is beset by odd neighbors, including Harold (George Wendt from Cheers), and some poltergeists, one of which is quite scratchy and lives in the closet.  Metaphor, anyone?  Seriously, though, the house comes at Roger from some odd angles.  The missing kid showing up in the window’s reflection, a troll-like version of his wife, and the phantom of his dead aunt, warning him about the house’s attempts to trick Roger.

 

Ultimately, the movie marries the threads of Roger’s Vietnam memories and his missing son, culminating in a showdown between a zombified war buddy and Roger.  I remember reading a review of this movie in a rag called The Horror Show from my youth which ended with the line (and I’m certainly paraphrasing from memory), “The film ends, perhaps not in as satisfying a manner as one would like, but, like all nightmares, it does end.”  I think that’s about right.  The problem I’ve found with almost all ‘haunted house’ movies is that, once you establish the creepiness of the haunting, how do you end it?  Do you personify the house in a single entity like in House or do you go all psychological like The Haunting?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s an appropriate question.

 

New Memories: Upon viewing this movie as an adult, I couldn’t bring myself to dislike it.  There are some goofy effects, some jokes that fall flat, some moments when the tone doesn’t quite jive, but I couldn’t hate it.  House is the cinematic equivalent of a puppy for a horror fan.  It just wants to please you soooo much, and it often succeeds, but it’s the effort that counts.  The story, by and large, makes sense, and I really like television’s The Greatest American Hero, William Katt, in this one.  I think he gives a pretty fun performance, if not always a consistent one.  It was an important film for me as a burgeoning horror fan, understanding the delicate balance between horror and comedy.  I have now seen House twice since my reintroduction to the movie, and it has been a wholly satisfying experience.   It does my heart good to hear that a new generation has discovered this movie, this strange movie.  Much like Big Ben, it won’t lay down and die, and I, for one, am happy to hear it.

 

wiseacrefilmsEthan Wiley makes a return to the House with Bo and Rob and recalls some fascinating tales from his years in the business, from sweeping floors at Industrial Light and Magic, to his puppeteering prowess in Gremlins and the mad skills of John Ratzenberger. Check out Ethan’s site as well, Wiseacre Films, for news on his current projects.

 

A big ‘thanks’ to Ethan for his contribution to this episode! You can hear it all here, or scroll down just a little bit:

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