Kool Kat of the Week: Daniel Griffith, Local Filmmaker and Purveyor of All Things Cinematic and Obscure, Ballyhoos it up at Monsterama 2014

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/Contributing Writer

Daniel Griffith, local award-winning filmmaker and founder of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, will be joining a sinister line-up of horrorific guests at the inaugural Monsterama Convention, founded by our classic monster-lovin’ fiend, friend and ATLRetro contributing writer, AnthonyTaylor, which will be creeping into the Holiday Inn Perimeter in Dunwoody this weekend, August 1-3! So, prepare for a ghastly weekend of ghoulish proportions!  Griffith will be joined by a guest list filled to the bloodcurdling brim with chillers like Victoria Price, daughter of Vincent; Hammer scream queen Veronica Carlson, director Jeff Burr, filmmaker Larry Blamire (LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA), Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Brian Keene, ATLRetro’s very own “Chiller-ess in Charge”, Anya Martin, Kool Kat Shane Morton, a.k.a. Professor Morte [see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Shane here], Kool Kat Madeline Brumby [see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Madeline, here] and so many more!  So, haunt on down to Monsterama this weekend and get your bones a’rattlin and your classic monster fix!

Griffith, purveyor of all things cinematic and obscure, and no rookie to the B-movie and classic horror genre, has produced and directed over 45 documentaries, with his company, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, spanning a wide-range of film history, genres and subjects.  His documentary library is far too prolific to list them all, but in a nutshell he has directed and produced: THE BLOODIEST SHOW ON EARTH: MAKING VAMPIRE CIRCUS (2010), THIS ISLAND EARTH: 2 ½ YEARS IN THE MAKING (2013), [both will be screened at Monsterama this weekend], RETURN TO EDEN PRAIRIE: 25 YEARS OF MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000 (2013) and THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL (2012).  Griffith is currently in production on CELLULOID WIZARDS IN THE VIDEO WASTELAND: THE SAGA OF EMPIRE PICTURES, the official feature-length documentary delving into the rise and fall of Charles Band’s legendary Empire Pictures studio, known for cult films such as RE-ANIMATOR (1985), ZONE TROOPERS (1985) and GHOULIES (1985). His documentaries have gained him not only notoriety in the cult film arena, but also the 2012 Rondo Award for “Best DVD Bonus Feature” for his documentary biopic on Universal B-movie actor, RondoHatton, TRAIL OF THE CREEPER: MAKING THE BRUTE MAN (2011) and the 2013 Forrest J. Ackerman Lifetime Achievement Award.  Griffith is also the official documentarian for the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” DVD releases.

ATLRetro caught up with Daniel Griffith for a quick interview about his devotion to film history, from the greats to the barely-knowns, his desire to set a story to film and his trek into the deep dark cavernous minds of long ago filmmakers, plotting the map of film history.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Griffith, take a sneak peek at an excerpt from his documentary, PSYCHO’S SISTER: MAKING THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL! (2013), delving into the history of the 1968 drive-in thriller!

ATLRetro: As a documentary filmmaker, you are foremost a film historian and avid preservationist, which is clearly evidenced in the wide variety of documentaries you’ve produced with your company, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. In the grand scheme of things, why do you feel it is important to not only preserve, but also to share these stories?

Daniel Griffith: The media of the past serves as a type of looking glass or time capsule. It is the definitive visual representation of artistic achievement and human frailty. Therefore, it is important to have a documented record of how those works were created, if only to build awareness and preserve its shelf life. Selfishly, I became a documentary filmmaker to further understand the medium of cinema and television. To me, the film artisans of the past are the direct link to the motion pictures of the future. Studying and understanding their contributions was the BEST film school. But, as I moved from project to project, I began to recognize how many films and television series have drifted into obscurity. I guess I made it my responsibility to tell the story behind those works.

You seem to give a lot of love and respect to the underdogs, to the films and projects of yesteryear that never quite reached the level of success in the industry that the majority set out to achieve. What is it about these films, these filmmakers that magnetize you? That compels you to tell their story?

I never compartmentalize the films I document. To me, the least successful motion picture can have just as much value to an individual as the most revered or noteworthy. It is my duty as a film and television documentarian to change the way we look at the works of the past; to give each production an equal opportunity to share the spotlight. Who knows? A viewer may discover that the best stories of human triumph and creativity come in the cheapest, most misunderstood packages.

You’ve produced many bonus features and documentaries for Shout! Factory, Synapse Films and VCI Entertainment, etc. over the years, which has included a comprehensive peek into your fans’ favorite sci-fi, horror and ‘80s B-movies, westerns and a variety of retro filmmakers and film companies. Can you tell our readers how you became a documentary filmmaker?

It began with a simple challenge; to singlehandedly create a narrative and follow through with its execution. About eight years ago, I was developing one motion picture script after another. Slowly, a case of cabin fever set in. I was restless. I wanted to get out into the field and visualize a story on film. While discouraged, I revisited a wacky holiday episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000, entitled “SANTA CLAUS.” During the opening credits, a title card reading “K. Gordon Murray Presents” appeared on the screen. I thought to myself, “Who is this K. Gordon Murray guy, and why did he choose to distribute this surreal, Mexican children’s film?” In that moment, a documentary concept was born, and simultaneously the seed that would eventually become Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.

The name “Ballyhoo” draws to mind a long list of whimsical, colorful and raucous shenanigans of the circus variety. What’s the story behind the name?

My company name and logo are comprised of several unique personal events. The logo itself dates back to my first exposure to the works of the cinematic showman, William Castle, and his film, HOUSE ON HAUNTEDHILL. The scream that accompanies the logo is the first scream you hear prior to the opening credits of that film. It was the scream that woke me up as a child when the film played on television. Utilizing it in the context is my way of saying to the viewer, “WAKE UP! The show is about to begin and you don’t want to miss it!” And the name Ballyhoo represents two of my passions; the energy found on the midway of any traveling carnival and the promotional tactics used on the motion pictures of the past.

As a guest on several panels at the first ever Monsterama Convention, including a Q&A session with Victoria Price, Vincent Price’s daughter, and a panel discussing documentary filmmaking, what do you hope to pass on to the eager ears of the convention-goers?

Well, for one, this is a great opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest actors of our time. Vincent Price was not only a celebrated actor in film and television, but he was also an accomplished cook, author, painter and art critic. While he is remembered for his chilling performances in the DR. PHIBES films, as well as William Castle’s, THE TINGLER and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, there was much more to him than the horror genre that sustained him.

Additionally, two of your documentaries [“The Bloodiest Show on Earth: Making Vampire Circus” (2010) and “This Island Earth: 2-½ Years in the Making” (2013)] will be screened throughout the weekend; two very different documentaries, but both created with the same amount of respect and enthusiasm for the subject matter. Can you tell our readers what your favorite experience was while making each and what you would do different, if you could go back and change anything?

Well, one of the greatest experiences I had working on all the Hammer documentaries, including VAMPIRE CIRCUS, was visiting the renowned Pinewood Studios in England. Filmmaker John Hough, who previously directed Hammer’s TWINS OF EVIL, gave me a private tour of the entire back-lot. This is the studio where most of the James Bond films where shot, the 1978 version of SUPERMAN, the first ALIEN film and Stanley Kubrick’s, FULL METAL JACKET, just to name a few. It was astonishing!

As a filmmaker, you are getting the chance to live out your dream every time you create and release your work into the world, a dream you’ve had since your early childhood. Any advice for the next generation of Kool Kids who long to dive head first into the land of imagination and cinematic storytelling?

Watch as many films as you can! Don’t be afraid to take chances on viewing films that are outside your comfort zone. Just because it’s black and white, or subtitled, doesn’t mean you will not enjoy it. Like an author with a library card, watching films is your first, best education.

Who would you say are the filmmakers that inspired you most?

There are simply too many to count. I continue to be amazed by filmmakers, past and present. I have always admired the way Orson Welles demands more out of everyone, including himself. I deeply admire the poetry found in every frame of a Sergio Leone film. Being a child of the ‘80s, I have always responded to the childlike sentiments found in almost every Spielberg film. On a more obscure note, I find the offerings of director Joseph H. Lewis strangely addictive. This list could go on and on and on…

In such a short amount of time, you’ve got 45-plus credits under your belt, releasing shorts to full-length documentaries, and have gained a following in the MST3K, B-horror and sci-fi circles, with a promise of more to come! Can you give our readers a hint of what’s next for Daniel Griffith and Ballyhoo Motion Pictures?

In a perversion of Al Jolson’s famous line, I’ll have to say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” More Mystery Science Theater 3000 productions, for sure. I am currently in post-production on an epic documentary about the history of television’s most iconic series! However, unfortunately, I cannot divulge the title at this time. But, if you find me at Monsterama, I just may be persuaded to tell you.

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

While attending the Monsterama Convention, you’ll have the opportunity to stop by the Ballyhoo Motion Pictures table to view original props from various B-movies of the past, as well as purchase EXCLUSIVE retro movie items!

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

From the offices of Warren Beatty: “Will you produce a documentary on the history of Dick Tracy?” The answer is, “I’m on my way!”

 

All photographs are courtesy of Daniel Griffith and used with permission.

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: VJ Anthony Spins Us Right ‘Round Baby, Right ‘Round with His ICON: 80s Music Video Dance Nights Every Friday at the Famous Pub

Posted on: Apr 8th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Contributing Writer

VJ Anthony, purveyor of all things ’80s and Retro and one of Atlanta’s only Video DJs, will be throwing a righteous party of ’80s proportions, ICON: 80s Music Video Dance Night, the Guilty Pleasures: Dance Songs You Hate to Love Edition at ‘Club Famous’, the back room of Famous Pub, this Friday, April 11 and every Friday in the foreseeable future! He will spin you right ‘round with all the MTV videos you’ve been missing! So, ditch whatever lame thing you were doing and rock on down to Famous Pub for a taste of nostalgia doused in new wave, a little dark underground as well as videos from Madonna to The Cure, with a little Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode and Siouxe thrown into the mix!

VJ Anthony hails from Florida and has been jockeying those discs for over 25 years. After settling in Atlanta, he slinked right into the Atlanta underground Goth and Industrial scene, helping launch Heels & Whips, an underground fetish club and was also the resident DJ at the Masquerade’s Club Fetish, which eventually led to the opening of Atlanta’s den of dirty deeds, The Chamber, which closed its doors in 2005.  In 2007, VJ Anthony added video projectors to his set-up and has been digging deep into the huge collection of videos he’s accumulated since the “dawn of MTV’,” delivering the perfect combination of visual and audio experiences at his dance party events. He was resident DJ at 688 Club; Future, which was located at Underground Atlanta and has since closed; the Mark Ultra Lounge (now the Sidebar); and The Shelter, where he hosted regular ’80s/’90s music video nights.  He could also be found dishing out danceable visual experiences at the Bootie ATL dance parties, which were held monthly at The Shelter.

If you have a craving for the ’80s and are feeling a little nostalgic for the good ole days when MTV actually played music videos, rock on down to the Famous Pub every Friday from 10 pm to 3 am and let VJ Anthony do a number on your senses!

ATLRetro caught up with VJ Anthony for a quick interview about the life of a DJ/VJ, his exciting venture into the land of ICON: 80s, his HUGE music video collection and his absolute devotion to clean bathrooms!

Since ICON: 80s Music Video Dance night is one of your new ventures, following your stint as resident VJ for The Shelter’s 80s/90s Music Video Dance Nights, can you let our readers know what sort of exciting things to expect when they come out to the Famous Pub (Club Famous) for your event?

First off, the space is incredible—a best-kept-secret kind of thing.  They can expect to hear old favorites they might not have heard in years and some they might have missed back in the day.  The best part, to me, is the video aspect.   Ninety-nine percent of the time, I have the video for the song, so you quite literally see what you’re hearing.  This is a dance night, but people who prefer to sit at the bar won’t feel uncomfortable.  There are a number of flat screens, as well as a couple of projector screens around the club.

How do you choose what you will play/show at your music video nights? Is it random picks? Audience requests? Or do you plan each night specifically?

I can feel out the crowd pretty well after 25-plus years, but I do play requests!  They have to be a good fit, but requests are welcome.  I want people to have fun—and come back!

You’ve done special nights recently, with the “John Hughes” and “The Lost Boys” editions. What other special editions would you like to see come to fruition and why?

I think the plan is this:  The first and third Fridays will be Icon: 80s, strictly 80s, with loose themes. I always loved the fantasy movies from the 80s – think DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH – so I think that one will be heading to Icon: 80s very soon. There will also be tribute nights to individual bands such as Duran Duran, The Cure or Depeche Mode, that will showcase their prolific video catalogs throughout the night.  The second and fourth Fridays will be “Guilty Pleasures”—mostly 80s, with some 70s and 90s thrown in. Songs you love to hate, or songs you hate to love.  It will be kind of like a test to see if people are brave enough to dance to some embarrassing but fun songs.

What is your favorite 80s genre or performer and why? What or who can’t you get enough of?

I can narrow the genre part a bit by saying I really love new wave, Goth, ethereal and industrial. Electronic bands with synths, like Blancmange, Depeche Mode and Yello; Goth and industrial bands with a dance element, like Sisters of Mercy, Xymox, Front 242 and Skinny Puppy; ethereal bands that are calming and beautiful, like Cocteau Twins, Raison d’Etre and Dead Can Dance. The record labels 4AD and Wax Trax! are to blame.

So, you’ve “collected music videos since the dawn of MTV.”  When did you begin your collection and why did you collect them?

My grandmother bought me a Betamax in the early 80s and I was fortunate enough to have MTV from the very first airing on August 1, 1981.  I quickly discovered many new bands and was really attracted to the new wave sound coming from the UK. In 1986, MTV‘s 120 Minutes program gave alternative bands a huge push and exposed many to the Goth and industrial world.

How many 80’s music videos would you say you have? Which are your favorites?

Currently, I have around 10,000 videos.  For many of these, I have transferred the video from Betamax, Laserdisc or VHS.  Often, I’ve had to replace the audio track with a clean CD source for the best club sound.  My favorites are concept videos; they have a story to tell, like a mini movie.  They usually have bad acting from band members who are suddenly forced to make a music video.  This sort of campy video can never be reproduced in today’s music video world.

You also hold a “BLACK OUT” version of your 80s Music Video Dance Night. Can you tell our readers a little about how it differs from the regular event and about what to expect?

Black Out is the fourth Saturday each month, also held in the back of Famous Pub.  It’s actually not a version of my 80s dance night, though I can see why it might seem to be.  It’s still a music video night held at the same venue, but it’s specifically Goth and industrial.  To be fair, though, there is some crossover.  At Black Out, you’ll hear things like Bauhaus and Peter Murphy, Joy Division, Wolfsheim, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie, Wumpscut, Cocteau Twins, Nitzer Ebb, VNV Nation and Covenant.

You’ve been a part of Atlanta’s underground Goth and Industrial scene for quite some time, with your involvement with the underground fetish club Heels & Whips, Club Fetish held at the Masquerade, and the Chamber.  What drew you to the dark side?

Although I love “up” music too – Oingo Boingo, Erasure, Howard Jones – I just like the feel of some of the darker music more.  Maybe it’s in the sad chord changes or keys they’re played in… not sure.  It definitely wasn’t the stilettos. Ouch.

Did you have a particular calling to become a DJ and then a VJ? What does the road to a DJ/VJ look like?

I never heard enough of the music I really loved when I went out to clubs, so I started learning how to DJ for myself, then parties, then clubs. I was always in love with the video aspect, so it just felt like a natural progression to me.

Just as I went from tapes to vinyl to CDs to digital, I went from Beta and VHS to DVDs to digital. I don’t play MP3s, though, unless it’s absolutely the only way to get the song. The road has been long, but lots of fun. It’s definitely a lot lighter now than it was back then!

Who are some of your favorite DJs/music purveyors and influences?

DJ OMAC [Roy Miller] in New York and DJ Rob in Tampa.  I’ve heard a few sets I’ve really liked from various “famous” DJs, but I can’t remember any off-hand.  I don’t think I was influenced by any DJ in particular, but even DJs run up to the booth to ask what that last song was!

Having worked at many clubs in many different cities, which gig would you say was your favorite?

I don’t really have a favorite club or city.  It’s about the energy of the crowd.  I love it when the music itself is what brings them [the audience] out and moves them, figuratively or literally.  The most important tangible things I want to see in a club are a really good sound system and clean bathrooms – which Famous Pub has!  Everything else—like crazy lights and cool art—is really incidental.

If you could have a dream gig, where would it be and how would it run?

I would love a weekly dark eighties night in a club not unlike some of the seedy ones in 80s movies. But I want clean bathrooms!

How does it feel to be established as one of Atlanta’s only video DJs?

I haven’t really ever thought about it. I don’t know of any other VJ in Atlanta who works in the same genres I do, but I have to give a shout-out to Bill Berdeaux, resident VJ at Blake’s. I learned a lot from him (and he’s a super nice guy!).

Do you think the nostalgia of the 80s will keep people coming back for more?

You know, I think it will.  People already had that nostalgia in the early 90s, when the 80s were barely over.  It was huge in the mid- and late-90s. It’s big again today. Hell, I hear people who are currently in high school and college going on about some obscure 80s band.  It’s weird, but it makes me happy. There was just that *something* about it…

Any special plans for your upcoming April 11th ICON 80s: Music Video Dance Night event?

There’s an Absolut Vodka promotion that night, so the name was easy: Absolut Guilt!  (That’s the second Friday, so it’s a Guilty Pleasures edition.)

What’s next for VJ Anthony?

A 70s disco and funk night and few other surprises while I get my own business “on the road,” but that’s another story!

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

How do I feel before, during and after a gig after 25+ years of DJ/VJing?  I am still nervous as hell, every time!

Can you tell us something you’d like folks to know about you that they don’t know already?

Ironically, I am not comfortable in a large crowd of people. The DJ booth helps keep me in a small personal zone, which makes it easier to interact with just a few people at a time. I guess I have social anxiety, but only when the number of people creeps above eight or so.

All photographs are courtesy of VJ Anthony and used with permission.

 

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Who You Gonna Call? GHOSTBUSTERS! Landmark Midtown Art Cinema Gets Some Frightfully Funny Midnight Madness Fri. Aug 2 and Sat. Aug 3

Posted on: Jul 31st, 2013 By:

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984); Dir. Ivan Reitman; Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis and Annie Potts; August 2 & 3 @ Midnight; Landmark Midtown Art Cinema; Tickets here; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Midnight Madness has descended upon the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema! This time, they’re bringing you one of the greatest comedies of the 1980s, the spook-stravaganza, GHOSTBUSTERS!

Sometimes you need a film that challenges your belief system. Sometimes you need a film that will rouse you to action. Sometimes you need a film that makes you ask tough questions about the world we live in.

And sometimes you just need a film that’s only out to entertain you in the biggest possible way. Few films accomplish this like GHOSTBUSTERS.

Three New York City parapsychologists—Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis)—after being kicked out of their tony Columbia University gigs, decide to monetize their research by setting up a “ghost extermination” service out of an old firehouse. Business is slow, but a successful capture at the Sedgewick Hotel leads to huge demand for their services and rock-star status in the city. Meanwhile, they are hired by Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), whose apartment is being haunted by a entity known as Zuul. Her neighbor, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), becomes possessed by Zuul’s companion demigod, Vinz Clortho. That would be bad enough, but the arrival of these two beings on this plane, along with the rise in supernatural phenomena, signals the coming destruction of this planet at the hands of Sumerian deity Gozer the Gozerian. Assisted by new hire Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), the team must try to find a way to stop the apocalyptic plans of Gozer and round up the hordes of suddenly-freed spirits plaguing NYC.

Yeah, I know. It reads as incredibly complicated and far-fetched, and peppered with names that sound ripped from some late-night Dungeons & Dragons campaign. But frankly, none of this matters because all this mythological-sounding hoosafudge is just there to be in service to the kind of inspired, wacky comedy that was the stock-in-trade of Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray at the time. Sure, it’s a movie about ghosts, but there’s no sentimentality in their treatment of them (unlike, say, Peter Jackson’s similarly-themed THE FRIGHTENERS) and not even any real fright involved in their treatment. The ghosts on parade are rarely even remotely spooky: they’re just neon-green-colored pranksters for the most part. And even the agent of the ultimate destruction of humankind gets played for laughs at the very end. It’s the direct spawn of Bob Hope’s 1942 comedy THE GHOST BREAKERS and the Bowery Boys’ 1946 farce SPOOK BUSTERS.

GHOSTBUSTERS sports one of the great comic screenplays. Tightly constructed, it never spins wildly out of control the way that Aykroyd’s THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) does, but his flights of fancy elevate the reality-based comedy that his co-writer Harold Ramis frequently deals in. Ramis grounds Aykroyd, while Aykroyd provides Ramis with an excuse to play in a more fantastic milieu. And the entire process is aided by Murray’s keen sense of improvisational skills in performance. Tonally speaking, the movie is probably closest to director Ivan Reitman’s previous collaboration with Bill Murray and Harold Ramis, STRIPES (1981). Like that film, GHOSTBUSTERS is primarily centered on the semi-improvised performance of Murray and the comic chemistry of the team around him.

Bill Murray examines a possessed Sigourney Weaver in GHOSTBUSTERS (Columbia Pictures, 1984).

The downside to this approach is that brilliant comic actors like Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd get overshadowed by Murray’s dominating presence (Ramis, as the deadpan Egon, makes a more lasting impression than Aykroyd), but they work solidly as a team in support of—and providing the necessary “straight man” grounding for—Murray’s performance. And without their sense of camaraderie, the whole film would likely fall apart. Standing out and holding their own against Murray, though, are Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver. Moranis deftly works his nebbish character (honed in his days at SCTV and given a more sympathetic treatment in 1986’s LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) against type as Louis becomes possessed by Vinz Clortho, and makes it seem just through the physicality of his acting as if his tiny frame is an ill-fitting suit for some huge and monstrous beast. Sigourney Weaver likewise plays dual roles strongly—both as the independent musician who is simultaneously repelled and attracted by Peter Venkman’s overtures, and as possessed by the…erm…extremely sexually agressive Zuul.

Visually, the movie is BIG. There are great practical, animation and optical effects on display throughout. The sets are amazing, ranging from the humble firehouse location to the climactic skyscraper rooftop extravaganza designed for Gozer’s arrival. Miniature work and puppetry are handled expertly. The cinematography by László Kovács (veteran of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND [1977] and THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES [1964]) is gorgeous.

A haunted supersized Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man terrorizes Manhattan in GHOSTBUSTERS (Columbia Pictures, 1984).

And then, we have to mention the soundtrack. Not only is the score by Elmer Bernstein (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN [1960], TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD [1962]) among his best, Ray Parker, Jr.’s title song has proven to be as endlessly quotable as the movie itself. Even if you’ve never seen the movie (and I’m speaking to all 12 of you who haven’t), you likely recognize “Who you gonna call?” and “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!” instantly.

What I’m trying to say, people, is that this is one of those nearly perfect comedies. The whole thing works like, well, gangbusters. It’s constantly fun, consistently hilarious and incredibly engaging. There’s not a down moment in the movie, not a minute where it lags. If it’s not a Grand Statement by one of cinema’s great auteurs, it’s a masterfully-crafted piece of pop entertainment.

And sometimes, that’s all that’s called for.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Retro Review: RAGING BULL, the Best Film of the 80s, Hits the Big Screen at the Plaza

Posted on: May 25th, 2013 By:

RAGING BULL (1980); Dir. Martin Scorsese; Starring Robert DeNiro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci; Starts Friday, May 24 @Plaza Theatre (visit website for ticket prices and showtimes); Trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

When surveying the scope of American cinema history, some film lovers find it easy to overlook the 1980s. Sandwiched between the artistic heights of the New Hollywood 70s and the indie revolution of the 90s, the “decade of greed” suffers from a film reputation as a cocaine-crusted tangent into corporate excess, amounting to little more than a pile of moribund slashers, musclebound war films, and cringe-worthy sex comedies that schemed to push art aside to make way for unchecked corporate commerce. The notion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny—not least because so many of the so-called corporate blockbusters managed to find artistic merit of their own—and film lovers hoping to find the one, definitive killer app of the decade need look no further than its very first year, when Martin Scorsese delivered not only the best film of the 80s, but one of the best American films ever made, the 1980 boxing drama RAGING BULL, which starts a full revival run tonight at the Plaza Theatre.

Don’t care for sports movies? That’s fine, because neither does Martin Scorsese, which is why RAGING BULL is a boxing movie like JAWS is a story about a fish. Based on middleweight Jake LaMotta’s memoirs, the film stars Robert DeNiro as the troubled boxer whose brutal, battering ring style was just an extension of his destructive personality. Even as his career rises in the ring, LaMotta’s terrifying temper and insecurity chip away at his sanity and create rifts between the boxer and the people he cares about, including his wife, Vicky (Cathy Moriarty), and his devoted brother Joey (Joe Pesci, in the role that made him famous). Beautifully shot in black and white, RAGING BULL is as much about madness as it is fighting, and Scorsese’s virtuoso direction finds poetry in the violence and makes a tragic hero out of a man who in a lesser film would be a monster, just another paranoid palooka.

Scorsese wasn’t the obvious choice to guide RAGING BULL to the screen, having suffered two major strikes against his career in the wake of his 1976 success, TAXI DRIVER. The first strike was a near-fatal overdose of cocaine, but the bigger issue (at least as far as the Hollywood suits were concerned) was the devastating box office failure of NEW YORK NEW YORK (1977), Scorsese’s ode to movie musicals. By most accounts, when DeNiro approached Scorsese with LaMotta’s book, the director initially refused the project, but soon went all-in, convinced it would be the last film he’d ever get to make. He and DeNiro brought in TAXI DRIVER collaborator Paul Schrader to breathe life into the script, and Schrader helped transform LaMotta’s bruised prose into a focused, thoughtful, and even elegant exploration of the inner darkness that can destroy a person or sometimes drive them into greatness. Jake LaMotta was a tortured, violent man, but his demons drove him in the ring just as surely as they ground him to a pulp in his personal life. RAGING BULL is not about a man trying to find a balance between his personal and professional life, but rather a man who can’t distinguish the difference. Jake always sees an opponent, whether there is one or not.

(The film’s most famous image is DeNiro as LaMotta in the ring, warming up. The image says it all—LaMotta is always alone, always preparing to fight.)

That same passion drives Scorsese, who once seriously considered a life as a priest before committing full time to his love of cinema, a love so consuming that it drove him into the extreme lifestyle that nearly killed him. Of course, RAGING BULL would not be the final film of Scorsese’s career, but he couldn’t have known that, and the film plays as if guided by a man who is using every ounce of his considerable talent and every trick in his head, learned from a lifetime of cinematic obsession, to bring the story home. As the film chronicles LaMotta’s struggles with his demons, we feel Scorsese wrestling with his, and the final product is as much a work of redemption for the director as it is the film’s protagonist. The boxing scenes are poetry in motion, all harsh lights and dark blood against light ropes and canvas. Ever the film proselytizer, Scorsese shot RAGING BULL in black and white partly to protest the loss of older color films to shoddy, degrading film stock, but it also lends the boxing scenes a dreamy horror that’s lost in a color film with its red, visceral, and more-immediate gore. Scorsese also plays with time in the ring, taking turns speeding up and slowing down the violence to put the audience in the mindset of the boxers, dismissing the strategy of the athlete and emphasizing the struggles of the man. In one of the film’s most famous sequences, Jake staggers against the ropes taking punches from Sugar Ray Robinson that begin slowly before demolishing Jake at high speed, splattering blood and sweat across his body and shattering his bones, but when the moment is over, all Jake can mumble through the ruins of his face is the line “You never got me down.”

The same phrase applies to the courtship scene between LaMotta and his wife, Vicky, in which Jake treats the interplay and flirtations of young romance like jabs and punches that must be endured to “win.” Jake sets out with a purpose to make Vicky his girl, and no matter what she says, Jake moves the conversation to his apartment, to his bedroom, and beyond, until Vicky is with him and nobody else. Is she unwilling? The scene is ambiguous, but succeeds in establishing Jake’s charm as well as his calm menace. This also applies to the iconic scene with his brother, where DeNiro communicates pure murder and paranoia without any of the usual clichés. It’s a misunderstanding that spirals out of control, a rhyme of Joe Pesci’s similar famous scene from GOODFELLAS (1990) a decade later.

Just look at him!

There are adults alive today who have no idea of the powerhouse Robert DeNiro was at his peak, who may only know him as the grumpy dad in MEET THE PARENTS (2000), or other such dread material. His role in the recent SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012) was overpraised precisely because it contained just enough of the spark he once brought to his characters to remind reviewers of the actor he once was during this, his artistic peak. DeNiro established his talent in MEAN STREETS (1973) and TAXI DRIVER, but RAGING BULL is a culmination of the actor’s method approach and sees DeNiro gaining a massive, unhealthy amount of weight just to play LaMotta in a few bookending scenes in his older age. There’s shocking, and then there’s transformative, and then there’s this holy shit change. Just look at him.

If I haven’t made it clear yet, RAGING BULL is worth your time. Simply put, it’s one of cinema’s great miracles, a movie that redeemed its director, cemented the legend of its star, and made a marginal book into one of the greatest cinematic spectacles of all time. Scorsese shot the film with a big screen in mind, and no television can properly communicate the stark black and white photography and the pure power of Scorsese’s beautiful compositions. Jake LaMotta may have been a brutal man, but the story of his life is a powerful work of beauty.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

 

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30 Days of The Plaza, Day 19: Childhood Memories, or Why STAND BY ME Stands the Test of Time

Posted on: Jul 5th, 2012 By:

By Thomas Drake
Contributing Writer

STAND BY ME (1986); Brand New 35mm Print; Dir: Rob Reiner; Starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix and Corey Feldan; Plaza Theatre, Fri. July 6 and Sat. July 7, 7:30 p.m.; and Sun. July 8, 3 p.m.; trailer here.

Short: Vern: Do you think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?
Teddy: Boy, you don’t know nothing! Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman’s a real guy. There’s no way a cartoon could beat up a real guy.

Medium: A coming of age story about four young men who decide to go find the body of a lost boy and become heroes. Along the way, they learn about themselves and are confronted by external hazards from nature and generic thugs.

Maximum Verbosity: For a long time, there were rumors that this was actually based on something that actually happened to Stephen King. The movie itself was based on “The Body,” a novella he wrote in 1982. It wasn’t actually true. There was actually an accusation labeled against him of plagiarism by a manuscript submitted by a fan. King denied the accusation and hasn’t read manuscripts for others since then. Now, it is possible that Stephen King stole the idea, but, quite frankly, given that he’s written 49 novels, many of which are best sellers, and most of which have sold significantly better than “The Body,” we can establish that King is not some one hit wonder that needs to steal ideas.

A lot of King’s movies have been made into movies. So what makes this one stand out? What makes STAND BY ME so exceptional that you’ll want to see a 25-year-old movie with all that’s coming out this Friday? Well, that’s an interesting question…perhaps I should say Magic? I speak not of the Magic of thunder, lightning or fireballs (or Magic Missiles into the darkness) but the Magic of Childhood. I put it on par with THE GOONIES in terms of what it means to be a kid, the wonder thereof, etc. But here’s the difference: Do you remember that ubiquitous Facebook meme where people put “What I think of” “What My Mom Thinks of” that ended with “What it Really Is”? THE GOONIES is “What I thought of my Childhood” whereas STAND BY ME is what it actually is.

Sure, there are dramatic moments, but there are also anticlimactic ones. The great quest to become heroes doesn’t go anywhere. But every single one of them comes out of the experience with something greater, something that helps them move on. It is also a parable told by the storyteller character, Young Gordie (Wil Weaton), who also learns the value of establishing a good relationship with his sons.

So there you have it. There is a magic in the theater, and if you’re looking to recapture something about what it was like to be a kid; not the romanticized world that never was, but the gritty adventure that you and maybe some of your friends had that you remember that you had to be there to understand. On top of everything else, it also helps that the acting is fantastic and the story is really good. It captures the visceral reality merged with cinematic fantasticness.

Go and see this movie.

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Going Totally ’80s to Save the Plaza: VALLEY GIRL Like Embodies Classic Romantic and Cinematic Themes, Fer Sure!

Posted on: Apr 26th, 2012 By:

Plaza Theatre Benefit Presents VALLEY GIRL (1983); Dir: Martha Coolidge; Starring Nicholas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Elizabeth Daily; Fri. April 27 at 8:30 PM; Special guests, including Blast-Off Burlesque,VALLEY GIRL costume contest, contest for the best VALLEY GIRL impression; silent auction from local Atlanta businesses, including Libertine, Adult Swim, The Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, Slopes BBQ and more; tickets $16 with a $1 discount per ticket for cash payments; All proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction go directly to keeping The Plaza Theatre alive. Trailer here.

By Emily Jane McFarland
Contributing Writer

When I first learned that The Plaza Theatre had plans to screen the 1983 classic teen romantic comedy, VALLEY GIRL, on Friday, April 27 at 8:30 pm, I could not stop talking about how hot Nicholas Cage is as a young ’80s Hollywood punk rocker. The Plaza is not just Atlanta’s only independent, nonprofit cinema, it is also a historical landmark and an important part of our community.   Owners Jonny and Gayle Rej have always had to fight to keep the Plaza’s doors open, a difficult one that many would probably have given up long ago. But the Rejs are two very special people. Unfortunately, as of late, The Plaza’s situation has turned more dire than usual and the decision to host a fundraiser centered around a screening of VALLEY GIRL was made in an effort to raise both money and awareness that The Plaza needs help.  If it does not receive that help, this art deco gem will sadly become another ghost of Atlanta’s past.

In 1983, I was busy being born, so I never had a chance to see VALLEY GIRL in the theater when it first opened. Once in middle school, I was finally able to watch it, forming a slew of girlhood memories that made VALLEY GIRL very special to me. I sadly came to the realization that the likelihood of seeing VALLEY GIRL on the big screen, let alone on a 35 mm print, was slim to none, even when I lived in New York for seven years. My dreams of staring into the dopey eyes of a 30-foot Randy as he falls in love with Julie were crushed.

Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman in VALLEY GIRL (1983). MGM Home Entertainment.

When I was in the seventh grade, I had not yet seen VALLEY GIRL and those young memories were just starting to develop. Every Saturday, while my best friend’s parents would stay out all night for their weekly “date night,” we would walk to the now defunct Movies Worth Seeing video store off Highland Avenue, before ordering a pizza, to rent a movie.  Often we would ask the guys at Movies to recommend films, which would almost always turn out to be not age-appropriate for us – titles such as A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, MEET THE FEEBLES, BLUE VELVET and SHIVERS. We never hesitated to rent their picks because, like most young girls who frequented Movies at that time, we were madly in love with staff-member John Robinson.

This particular Saturday evening, however, John was off somewhere with his long-term relationship girlfriend, so instead of making an effort to impress him, we picked VALLEY GIRL, a movie neither of us knew very much about. All I knew was that I had just seen CAN’T BUY ME LOVE for the first time and I was ready to watch anything in that genre.  Although VALLEY GIRL is nothing like SHIVERS or A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, it is rated R, so that meant it had to be at least a little inappropriate or us, making it all the more fun to watch.

That night, as we popped the tape into the VCR, I was almost relieved to watch a romantic comedy instead films with bizarre rape scenes set to the tune of “Singing in the Rain.” Little did I know that VALLEY GIRL (and its intelligent and honest depiction of teens in love with an ending that as I grew up I would come to see as melancholy and thought-provoking) would affect me more deeply than the films mentioned earlier, albeit for entirely different reasons and in different ways.

As we watched, it was obvious to us that the story of VALLEY GIRL was timeless, utilizing universal literary themes, most notably ROMEO AND JULIET, which VALLEY GIRL has been cited as being very loosely based upon. It doesn’t stop there, however; lyrics from numerous Motown girl group songs floated in and out of my head as I watched, such as “He’s a Rebel” by The Crystals and The Shangri-La’s “Leader of the Pack.” We also see these themes in a number of films that were made prior to 1983, such as GREASE, MY FAIR LADY, THE PALM BEACH STORY and, my personal favorite, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.

When all is said and done in VALLEY GIRL, the punks stay punk and the girls stay valley. Many characters become much more self-aware and some even change. These transformations, however, are all on the inside. One of the central messages of the film is very much the opposite of both GREASE and MY FAIR LADY, in which the female protagonists must change the way they dress, speak and their mannerisms and, in GREASE, her morals. This outward alteration is not only in order for their respective men to realize that they are deeply in love, but necessary for these relationships to succeed, or even happen at all. In VALLEY GIRL, as well as THE PALM BEACH STORY and IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, the lesson to be learned is not that you must change who you are and how you dress in order to be with the one you love, no matter how different the two may be from one another.  Sometimes we simply cannot help who we love, even when it makes no sense.

The closing limousine scene in VALLEY GIRL (1983). MGM Home Entertainment.

Another central message of VALLEY GIRL that goes hand in hand with the one above is that love has absolutely nothing to do with how we dress or which side of the tracks we come from. Instead, it is much more about a connection inexplicably felt between two people. In fact, during their first night together, Julie blushingly tells Randy that she is experiencing this exact feeling. By the look in his eyes at that moment, it is obvious that he feels it as well. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT uses a similar concept – these two people, one rich and stuck-up and the other a drunk out-of-work newspaperman, should in no way be in love. In fact, throughout the entire movie, they fight it all the way. But in the end, they give in and the Walls of Jericho come tumbling down, because this lesson is the same as that of VALLEY GIRL – you cannot help who you love.

At the close of the film, Randy and Julie ride off in a limousine, slipping out of Julie’s prom as a food fight ensues. The last image of VALLEY GIRL is Julie in her prom dress and Randy in his nice-for-a-punk-rocker suit, seated side by side in a limo, looking straightforward. One is left to wonder if the film’s ending is a happy one, full of promise, or if it is meant to be reminiscent of THE GRADUATE (1967). In that film, Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) interrupts the wedding of Elaine (Katharine Ross) and Carl (Brian Avery), causing a physical altercation. Elaine and Benjamin are able to break away from the chapel and proceed to board a bus. They sit in the very back seats, with Elaine in her wedding gown and Benjamin in his tattered clothing. For a moment, there is a feeling of triumphant possibility and an infinite future, where nothing is too late, as spoken by Elaine to Benjamin upon his arrival at the chapel.  This moment, however, is a fleeting one, quickly overshadowed by reality and the uncertainty of the future that at one time felt magical. When the director of VALLEY GIRL, Martha Coolidge, mimics this ending, she subtly brings up similar reality-based questions involving what is next for our couple.  By doing so, she is able to set VALLEY GIRL apart from many other films of its genre.

Katharine Ross and Dustin Hoffman in the closing scene of THE GRADUATE (1967). MGM Home Entertainment.

Interestingly, when I was younger I could only see that in the end the boy got the girl, despite all of the obstacles placed in front of him. Years later, when I was no longer a teenager, I still could see VALLEY GIRL as I did in the seventh grade, but also began noticing the melancholy nature of the end as well as the director’s ability to turn ridiculous ’80s teen stereotypes into characters that feel as though they are actual human beings. I cannot wait to find out what I am able to learn about VALLEY GIRL this time around.

Video Links:

VALLEY GIRL well known loooooove montage: “I Melt With You”

Break Up Scene from VALLEY GIRL: Nicolas Cage does a great impression of a Valley girl (lots of F-bombs).

Club Scene from VALLEY GIRLwhen Julie and Randy fall in love and she mentions that connection she feels for him and so on “it’s like we’re linked or something.”

THE GRADUATE End Sequence.

THE PLAZA (2010): Documentary by Matt Rasnick about The Plaza Theatre’s struggle to survive in a world of multiplexes.

If you have any additional questions or to make a donation to Save The Plaza Theatre via Pay Pal, please visit www.PlazaAtlanta.com.

Emily Jane McFarland is an Atlanta-based photographer and the Manager of The Plaza Theatre. This is her first article for ATLRetro.com. 

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Retro Review: Love It or Hate It, THE SHINING Still Delivers Redrum After All These Years at the Plaza Theatre

Posted on: Dec 11th, 2011 By:

By Tiffany Jewell
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema Presents THE SHINING (1980); Dir: Stanley Kubrick; Based on the novel by Stephen King; Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd; Tues. Dec. 13 9:30 PM and encore Sat. Dec. 17, 9:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

THE SHINING (1980) may be one of the most loved, hated, debated, torn-to-pieces-and-built-right-back-up-again movies around. Love it or not, everyone seems to have something to say about it. Love Stephen King but think Stanley Kubrick murdered the novel? Do you think that King did a mediocre job and Kubrick brought it to life? Or are you one of those who thinks they’re both revolutionaries and are together responsible for making a true classic? No matter your position, everyone has one. That’s what makes this film so bloody brilliant.

I fell in love with this film because of how dynamic it is. It is one of the few films that has thorough character development; you are able to see them grow, shift, change and become devoured by something dark and over powering. The visual imagery is absolutely stunning. Every time I sit down to re-watch it and see them taking their first tour of the hotel, I think, “Oh, that’s the staircase Jack goes ballistic on, that’s the hallway where Danny finds room 237, those elevators are going to flood that room with blood, that freezer is good for a whole lot more than 36 chickens, those hedges aren’t as cute as they look…” and THAT is what qualifies a film to be iconic. That alone is what makes a memorable, note-worthy, beautifully filmed piece. THE SHINING also brings something to the table that everyone can fear. Whether it’s the supernatural, creepy children, people losing their minds and wanting to destroy those they once held dear, being severely afraid of isolation, claustrophobia, or your classic go-to slasher chase, it’s got it all, in one little two-and-half-hour long package.

Lisa and Louise Burns play enigmatic ghost twins in THE SHINING (1980). Photo credit; Warner Bros Pictures.

The reason I hold this film to be a classic is because of how absolutely timeless it is. It’s still frightening. It is still able to get people to buy into the psychological terror both King & Kubrick were trying to achieve. As a writer, director, producer, actor or otherwise, your job is to create something your audience is able to find themselves lost in. If you succeed, that’s outstanding and you have a whole lot to be proud of. If you succeed, and people are able to feel the same way 21 years later, you’re a genius and you deserve your work to be forever considered a classic.

If you really want the end-all argument for why I cannot understand anyone disliking this film, it is what Jack Nicholson did for his character. From the second I see him on screen, my spine crawls. He is immensely creepy. No one could have done what Nicholson did for Jack Torrance. I personally believe that his was the performance of a lifetime—that he made this movie what it is, and that without his sarcastic remarks, shoddy glances, teeth-gritting grins, the constant tension he holds in his jaw, that brink of insanity look he holds ever constantly in his eyes—without his casting, this film would not be what it is.

Blood floods the Stanley Hotel in THE SHINING (1980). Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

THE SHINING is, without question, one of the most memorable films to grace the horror genre. This film is saturated with scenes that most people are able to describe in detail, as well as quotes that are used in novels, poetry, television, apparel slogans and advertisements. Even those who don’t particularly care for the film will tell you that you have to see it at least once. If you agree, I hope to see you Tues., Dec. 13 or Sat. Dec. 17 at The Plaza Theatre for Splatter Cinema presents THE SHINING, and if you disagree, I hope to see you there anyway. Perhaps we can have a lively debate. For the Tuesday screening, arrive at around 9 p.m. for a live reenactment and grab a seat early to indulge in a few retro trailers before the 9:30 showing of the rare 35 mm reel of THE SHINING. That’s amazing.

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Retro Review: Vengeance is PUMPKINHEAD’s or Be Careful What You Wish For

Posted on: Nov 6th, 2011 By:

By Tom Drake
Contributing Blogger

Splatter Cinema Presents PUMPKINHEAD (1988); Dir: Stan Winston; Screenplay by Ed Justin, Mark Patrick Carducci et al; Starring: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D’Aquino, Kimberly Ross; Tues. Nov. 8; 9:30 PM; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Short: “There is a Heavy Price.”

Medium: PUMPKINHEAD is about a father (Lance Henriksen) wronged, and the price paid by everyone around him for his vengeance. A dirt biking crew of college kids goes up into the mountains for some good publicity shots and in the process kills an innocent child accidentally. The grieving father (Ed) goes to an old woman who summons a powerful vengeance demon to kill them all. As the demon begins to kill those involved, Ed can feel it and tries to change his mind. The old woman laughs and tells him that once the process has begun, it can’t be stopped. Pumpkinhead begins to slaughter the folks one by one, and none of the locals will help them because they’re “marked.” That is until a teenager takes pity on them and tries to hide the last ones alive in a church. This doesn’t work out too well, but it does buy them some time until Ed finds them and tries to help them kill the demon. They finally find a link between Ed and Pumpkinhead, so one manages to live. Barely.

Maximum Verbosity: I think fictional universes are dreary places…primarily because a lot of the fiction that we enjoy as fairly common place doesn’t seem to exist in them. The laws of sympathetic magic are fairly clear, and the link between Ed and the demon is rather fascinatingly well done. But it takes several fairly obvious instances for anyone involved to figure out the link. Though to be fair, in the horror genre, figuring anything out at all when faced with blindingly terrifying otherworldly horror is an amazing feat. Being quick about your wits like Ash (EVIL DEAD) or Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a feat unto itself. And usually that level of moxie cannot happen until it has been earned by several harrowing experiences.

Lance Henriksen plays a grieving father who conjures a vengeance demon in PUMPKINHEAD (1988) Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

For a low budget horror movie of the late ‘80s, PUMPKINHEAD has very good production values. It also has a very complicated script. No one (well, almost no one, except Joel [John D’Aquino] who is just generically a dick) is really black or white. I personally found Ed’s axis to be the most fascinating. The movie could have worked JUST fine without Ed changing at all or having him die at the resurrection of Pumpkinhead. But it didn’t work like that. Ed felt and saw the pain that he had caused and, as a result, began to try to save those whose doom he had sealed. In the end, only this choice allows the innocents in the group, most of whom were actually trying to help his son, live.

PUMPKINHEAD is an excellent metaphor for the futility of vengeance and the axiom that no good deed goes unpunished. Aside from Joel (who is just generally a dick), no one wishes ill will or malice. And the rough hill justice is far from perfect. After all, what is done to the locals who all sit quietly by and ignore the demon hunting the innocent victims around it? And yet, it is a fascinating reflection of their locality. Without the presence of the local law, Pumpkinhead is a fiercely independent figure of vengeance which no one, knowing the price, would invoke lightly. Interfering with his administration of hellish vengeance carried an even heavier price, and Bunt (Brian Bremer), the teenage local, knew the laws of his land and chose to disobey them anyway. His mercy was not rewarded.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the use of a flamethrower. Also of particular note is Pumpkinhead himself, who has no lines, but obviously has quite a personality. I’d say he steals the show, but since the name of the movie is PUMPKINHEAD, he really just sort of keeps it. He not only kills, but he kills with skilled taunting cruelty that very few other horror villains really match. It is irony with cruel casual gore but it doesn’t drown us in it and doesn’t celebrate it. It just is, which is what Pumpkinhead should be. A force of nature.

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