Archive for November, 2011

Pickin’ the Carcass: THE AWAKENING (2010)

Posted in 2011, Demons, Just Plain Bad, Michael Arruda Reviews, Pickin' the Carcass, Possessed By Demons, Supernatural with tags , , , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  THE AWAKENING (2010)
By Michael Arruda

 

THE AWAKENING (2010) was excruciatingly painful to review.

It was so bad I feel guilty giving it press within the pages of this site, but since I decided to watch it, and since it is available on streaming video for others to see, I’d best get the word out that this one’s not worth one second of your time.

A guy named Roy (Kevin Lowe) gets invited to a rave by a beautiful hot blonde.  Roy invites a group of his friends to tag along, and they agree.  Trouble is, the rave is held way, way out in the middle of nowhere.  But, heck, it’s a rave, and there’s a beautiful blonde, so these guys don’t care that it’s happening in the middle of the woods.

Roy and his buddies end up getting lost—of course— and they find themselves in a small town where the locals warn them about “strange goings on” in the area and advise them to stay away.  I think I saw this in DRACULA (1931).  Like all good horror movie travelers, they ignore this advice.  They do meet up with a young graduate student, Katie (Nancy McCrumb), who’s researching an Aztec god, and she’s in the area looking for relics pertaining to this god.  She joins the group on their way to the rave.  Why the hell, not?

It turns out that this Aztec god is some sort of a demon, which wakes up—hence the title—just in time to crash the rave and ruin everyone’s good time.  Obviously, Roy and friends are the last survivors, and the second half of the movie is all about their attempts to escape from the murderous demon.  So, if you’re still awake for the second half, it does get a tad better, but a tad better than horrid isn’t saying much.  Trust me, you don’t need to watch any of this.

There is so much wrong with THE AWAKENING, I don’t know where to begin.  I guess I’ll start at the beginning.  The tone of the beginning is all wrong.  It’s supposed to be light and funny, and Roy and his friends are supposed to be fun and goofy, but the humor just doesn’t cut it.  There’s also a very upbeat soundtrack with plenty of songs—more songs than dialogue, frankly—that seems out of place in a horror movie.

The writing isn’t sharp.  Brian Schaefer wrote the screenplay, and I can’t say that I was impressed.  I didn’t like the characters, mostly because they weren’t memorable and I didn’t care for them, and I didn’t like the story.  This movie should have been titled WHERE’S THE RAVE?  because the characters spend the first half of the movie trying to get to the rave, and in the second half they’re fleeing a demon who’s an Aztec god, which I found less than compelling.

We don’t even get to see the demon because he hides inside the bodies of his victims a la THE THING, but unlike THE THING or even INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS there’s no paranoia over who’s the monster because as soon as the demon enters his victim’s body he turns into a murderous machine, so you pretty much know which buddy of yours is the monster. He’s the one with the shotgun shooting everybody.

One thing I did like was when the demon switched from one host body to another, (and he did this simply by touching the person he wanted to enter) the person he exited didn’t automatically die.  That person would regain consciousness just long enough to become the first victim of the demon’s new host.  These were the only moments of the movie that resonated on an emotional level.

The rest of the movie was horrible.  The acting was bad, although to be honest I’ve certainly seen worse acting, but the folks in this movie didn’t do anything to distinguish themselves.  There wasn’t one single character in this movie I cared for.

The special effects were the worst I’ve seen in a movie all year.  There’s one shot where a guy gets shot in the face, and the split-second sequence is so god-awful fake looking I thought I was watching a Claymation scene.  This is the level we’re talking about here.

Director Vince Rotonda also had a very strange directing style, filling the movie with lots of quick cuts and brief scenes.  It just didn’t work.  It certainly had the look and feel of a comedy, especially something you’d see on television.  Trouble is, it wasn’t funny, and the horror aspects of this movie were so lame they were almost amateurish.  The folks who made this movie need to practice a bit more before releasing something else.

And the fact that we never see the demon doesn’t help.  It continually switches from one human body to another, so the menace in this one is just people possessed by the demon.  Not that exciting.

THE AWAKENING couldn’t keep an insomniac awake.  You know, there’s a dreadful mummy movie called THE AWAKENING (1980), starring Charlton Heston.  That one, a complete dud, is a masterpiece compared to this mess.  I’ve seen scarier TV commercials.

A yawn fest from start to finish, THE AWAKENING is easily one of the worst movies I’ve seen all year.  Calling it THE SLEEPING would have been more apt.

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda

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Me and Lil’ Stevie vs. THE CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2011, Evil Kids!, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Religious Cults, Stephen King Movies with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2011 by knifefighter

“ME AND LIL’ STEVIE”
VERSUS
THE CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)
By Peter N. Dudar

EXTERIOR/DAY:

(Camera pans along a long, desolate Nebraska road, lined with miles and miles of man-sized late summer corn stalks. Creepy soundtrack music rolls, as the camera zooms in on a strange happening within the rows of corn. The corn suddenly starts moving and bending, as if making a path for something big and terrible coming. The camera freezes and zooms in on a patch of corn just at the side of the road. The corn spreads apart and a figure steps through. It is a man carrying a ventriloquist dummy that resembles Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Peter: Phew, I thought we’d never get out of there!

Lil’ Stevie: I told you we should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque! Welcome, Constant Viewer, to another addition of “Me and Lil’ Stevie”

Peter: Hey, that’s MY line!

Lil’ Stevie: I’m your host, Stephen King, and I’ll be…

Peter: You are NOT Stephen King! You’re a puppet! And besides, I’M the host of this. You’re just my sidekick.

Lil’ Stevie: The REAL Stephen King wouldn’t like you. Not even a little bit!

Peter: Would you like to do this review by yourself?

Lil’ Stevie: (Bowing his head) No.

Peter: Then let’s get started. Today, we’ll be discussing Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 film, CHILDREN OF THE CORN.

Lil’ Stevie: That should read “Stephen King’s CHILDREN OF THE CORN”. It’s right there in the opening credits.

Peter: Fine. After all, it’s based on King’s 1977 short story of the same title, which appears in his first collection “Night Shift”.

Lil’ Stevie: An excellent read, by the way. And Christmas is coming, if you suddenly felt the urge to buy a copy for the horror-reading loved one in your life.

Peter: Quit pandering…we’re not making any money out of this. Now, this story is just one of the many King gems that doesn’t take place in his home state of Maine. This one takes place in Gatlin, Nebraska…and for all you King geeks like me, there’s even mention of close-by Hemingford in the movie, which is where Mother Abigail is waiting for all her children in THE STAND.

Lil’ Stevie: “I’m a hundred and four years old, and I still make my own bread!”

Peter: You’re a dummy, and you have my hand up your kiester!

Lil’ Stevie: I really hate you sometimes!

Peter: The plot centers around Burt (Peter Horton: television actor, writer, and director, who has appeared on such shows as THE SHIELD, GREY’S ANATOMY and 30-SOMETHING) and Vicki (Linda Hamilton: Sara Conners from THE TERMINATOR films); a doctor and his girlfriend (who wants to be his wife, although he seems to has a phobia about commitment). The two are traveling cross-country for a job that he’s about to begin. They get lost in Nebraska and, on the verge of an argument, manage to run over a little boy who runs out of the cornfield.

Lil’ Stevie: In my story, the two are already married and on the verge of a divorce. They are on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage when they get hopelessly lost in Nebraska, and Burt accidentally runs the little boy over. Of course, the little boy has already had his throat cut and was a goner anyway…

Peter: At the beginning of the movie, we’re offered a voice-over narrative from Job (Robby Kiger of MONSTER SQUAD, 1987), a little boy who explains exactly what happened in Gatlin in an opening montage, and will subsequently serve as the lead source for exposition throughout the movie. Job and his sister, Sarah (Anne Marie McEvoy, INVITATION TO HELL, 1984), are the youngest of the kids in Gatlin to remember the massacre, when all the grown-ups of Gatlin were murdered in cold blood by the followers of Isaac and worshippers of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” As the movie progresses, we’ll discover that the town of Gatlin is inhabited solely by children, and that all of them are brainwashed by this mysterious Isaac (played by John Franklin, who played “Cousin Itt” in the ADDAMS FAMILY movies in ‘91 and ‘93), who wanders around in an Amish hat and preaches an Old Testament message of bloodshed and sacrifice.

Lil’ Stevie: It bears mentioning that, in my story, Isaac is only 11 years old, but is in fact played by a 24-year-old in the movie.

Peter: That happens a lot in movies and television. You just have to suspend disbelief. And that is really easy for this movie, because Franklin DOES look like a little kid. Even in the Amish hat and coat. It also bears mentioning that this fanatical religion culminates in each of the children sacrificing themselves to “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” on their 19th birthday. It’s important because the little boy that Burt and Vicki are about to run over is a kid that is running away to find help and bring a stop to Isaac and his heathen religion. Only, Isaac is forewarned of the traitorous child (Sarah has the gift of sight, demonstrated in her crayon drawings) and sends Malachi (Courtney Gains, who played Hans Klopeck in THE BURBS, 1989) out to stop him. Malachi slits the boy’s throat and sends him sprawling out into the road, and into the path of Burt’s moving car…

Lil’ Stevie: Squish!

Peter: Being a doctor, Burt realizes that the boy was already dead before his car ran him over, and becomes obsessed with getting the kid to the police as quickly as possible. Vicki, on the verge of hysterics, wants them to just get out of Nebraska as quickly as possible.

Lil’ Stevie: Another deviation from my original story. In my story, the two are at each other’s throats, and when Burt runs the child over, Vicki does nothing but punish and degrade him. She wanted to stay on the highway, and in his subsequent obsession with finding somebody, anybody, to report the accident to, she fights him at every possible opportunity. She’s terrified, distressed, and when he doesn’t cater to her every possible request, she acts like a total bitch.

Peter: Yeah. In the real King story, I actually wanted Burt to hand her over to the kids. But we’re reviewing the movie at the moment, so none of this really matters.

Lil’ Stevie: It matters to ME.

Peter: So the boy with the slit throat stumbles out in front of them, Burt runs him down, and then they spend the next ten minutes driving around Nebraska, confused by signs for Gatlin that are misdirecting them and sending them in circles. They finally manage to find a gas station, operated by veteran actor R.G. Armstrong (who has appeared in just about everything in the latter half of the 20th Century), who tells them that there is nothing in Gatlin, and that they should just press on for Hemingford……

Lil’ Stevie: Yay, Hemingford!

Peter: …because the children have an agreement with the old man at the gas station. They need his fuel, and in return they let him and his dog, Sarge, alone. Armstrong sends them on their way, but Malachi and his pals off the old man anyway (they even kill his dog), and will later get chastised by Isaac for it. The point of this whole series of events is to let the viewer know that there aren’t any grown-ups for miles and miles, and that Burt and Vicki aren’t just lost, but have been manipulated into a trap that has been laid out for them.

Lil’ Stevie: I just want to go on record here that I actually wrote the original screenplay for this movie, but my treatment was dismissed for the screenplay written by George Goldsmith. None of this is MY concept for what was supposed to happen in the movie.

Peter: Duly noted, Lil’ Stevie. In fact, I don’t recall there even being a mechanic in the original short story.

Lil’ Stevie: Thank you!

Peter: But it works here. And, as Isaac will later inform us, they needed the man to keep supplying gas for their generators, and that Malachi’s murdering him was sinful pride, and “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” is most displeased as a result. And here is the pinnacle plot source of this movie: There is an obvious power struggle going on between Isaac and Malachi. Isaac is all about pleasing “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” the fictitious version of God in the eyes of Isaac and his followers. This whole cult following came as a direct result of Isaac (according to Job’s narrative), but Malachi is the actual enforcer, so to speak. He, too, wants to please the god that keeps providing corn and life to the kids of Gatlin, but where Isaac’s lot is to preach, Malachi is the actual leader of the children.

Lil’ Stevie: And what of Burt and Vicki???

Peter: I’m glad you asked. After driving around in circles, Burt finally convinces Vicki that they should just go to Gatlin and find somebody to report the murder to. They roll into Gatlin and find it deserted. But there seem to be children here, so there must be grown-ups around to talk to…

Lil’ Stevie: Not necessarily!

Peter: We know that! Burt and Vicki are soon pursued by Malachi and his band of child-thugs. They kidnap Vicki and leave Burt to escape the murderous mob and figure out what the hell actually happened in Gatlin, so that he can try and rescue her. And possibly put an end to “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.”

Lil’ Stephen: And none of it actually happens in my story. In my story, they enter Gatlin, Burt finds the Grace Baptist Church, where he manages to uncover the history of the town, and by the time he solves the mystery Vicki has already been abducted and brought into the cornfield to serve as a sacrifice. In the movie, Burt and Vicki work together through most of it, and what information they are lacking is given through Job’s exposition.

Peter: True. But what makes this movie compelling is the fact that Burt and Vicki are likeable characters. As are Job and Sarah. We want them to survive, to thwart the terrible Isaac and the all-out frightening Malachi. In previous columns we’ve discussed the idea of “Good-enough” child actors. This movie offers some great child actors (even though Franklin is in his mid-twenties, he’s frightening and compelling to watch, as is Gains’s version of Malachi), and the whole premise of murderous children always makes for disturbing fiction. On a personal note, I tend to really dig on stories based on religious fanaticism, which makes this enjoyable fodder for me.

Lil’ Stevie: Yeah, but enough to spawn six sequels and an actual remake? Was my story THAT compelling?

Peter: You didn’t write it, Lil’ Stevie!

Lil’ Stevie: Of course, I didn’t. In my story, there was no struggle for power between Isaac and Malachi, there was no sibling bond between Job and Sarah, and there was no happy ending. In MY story, Burt enters the cornfield to find Vicki crucified, with her eyes plucked out and corn stalks buried in her empty sockets and shoved down her throat. And “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” comes out victorious when he claims Burt before it’s all over. In the movie, we’re offered another crappy happy ending, when Burt and Vicki basically adopt Job and Sarah after smiting the God of the Corn and seeing both Isaac and Malachi brought down.

Peter: Way to spoil it for everybody. Yeah, Burt saves Vicki and together they put an end to “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” but not before we see some really, really crappy animation at the movie’s climax. There’s a brief glimpse of “He Who Walks” in the form of an underground predator that, when in motion, pushes the earth up like some kind of monster gopher…and that is kind of creepy and disturbing to watch. But this gives way to a cartoon beast that detracts from the overall impact of the movie, and relegates the film to eternal 80’s schlock rather than being a timeless classic of horror fiction. And that’s too bad because I recall watching this movie as a kid and having the wits scared right out of me. But upon watching again as an adult, I’m sad to discover that this movie just didn’t hold up under the test of time.

Lil’ Stevie: It would have if they’d just followed MY screenplay!

Peter: I guess we’ll never know. Overall, this is still a fun movie to watch. There are some really good performances, at least by Franklin and Gains as the respective Isaac and Malachi, but in the movie, the fictitious happy ending and the cartoonish “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” detract from what this movie could have been. These factors alone whitewash the brutality of child violence and blasphemous devil-worship the short story actually succeeds in capturing. And again, I find myself stuck in the dilemma of having a fondness for the movie out of personal recollection, but am hard-pressed to give it my recommendation as a fan of horror. I guess the Stephen King geek in me tells me that I should give it a pass, if only as a means of regarding King’s history in the cinema (primarily towards the beginning of his career) and giving it some historical context.

Lil’ Stevie: Did you hear something?

Peter: Hear what?

Lil’ Stevie: Something’s coming. Look at the cornfield!

(The corn begins to part again, as if something monstrous is barreling down right at them. The corn suddenly parts and L.L. SOARES walks out, wearing a “Motorhead” shirt and drinking a beer).

L.L. Soares: Oops, wrong column. I guess I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque!

Peter: Holy Crap! It’s “He Who Walks Behind the Rows!” Let’s get out of here!!!

Lil’ Stevie: (With tears of absolute terror in his eyes) Goodbye, folks! See you next time!

The End

 

© Copyright 2011 by Peter N. Dudar

 

FAREWELL TO DIRECTOR KEN RUSSELL

Posted in 2011, Art Movies, Classic Films, Highly Stylized Films, LL Soares Reviews, Obituaries and Appreciations with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2011 by knifefighter

FAREWELL TO KEN RUSSELL
An Appreciation by L.L. Soares

British director Ken Russell died yesterday (Sunday, November 27, 2011) With a long and often controversial career, Russell was definitely a one-of-a-kind talent. He began making TV movies for the BBC and then moved to features. Just some of his great films include:

WOMEN IN LOVE (1969). His adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s novel got Glenda Jackson an Oscar and featured a controversial nude wrestling scene between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates!

THE DEVILS (1971). His most controversial film, involving a convent full of demon-possessed nuns (or is it a case of sexual hysteria?)

TOMMY (1975). Perhaps his best-known film, TOMMY is the film version of The Who’s rock opera, in all its over-the-top glory.

ALTERED STATES (1980). William Hurt locks himself away in a sensory-deprivation tank and gets in touch with his inner ape-man and his future energy monster in this cult classic, with a script by the great Paddy Chayefsky.

CRIMES OF PASSION (1984). Another underrated cult classic, this time with Kathleen Turner as a hooker and Anthony Perkins as the psychotic gentleman obsessed with her.

GOTHIC (1986). Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and friends sit around telling ghost stories (which will lead to Mary writing her novel, “Frankenstein”) in this stylized historical drama.

LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988). Amanda Donohoe as a vampire in this adaptation of the novel by Bram Stoker. With Hugh Grant. Look for the game of Snakes and Ladders!

THE RAINBOW (1989). Another D.H. Lawrence adaptation, this time with young schoolteacher Sammi Davis and her sexual awakening.

WHORE (1991). Russell’s answer to Gary Marshall’s hooker fantasy, PRETTY WOMAN (1990), stars Theresa Russell and aims to show us what being a prostitute is really like.

Russell also did tons of biopics about classical composers and artists including: THE MUSIC LOVERS (1970) with Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky; MAHLER (1970) with Robert Powell as Gustav Mahler, LISZTOMANIA (1975) with The Who’s Roger Daltrey as Franz Liszt; and SAVAGE MESSIAH (1972) with Scott Antony as French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

Ken Russell followed his own personal vision in everything he did, and he was definitely the kind of director you would either love or hate. Some of us here at Cinema Knife Fight thought he was pretty damn great.

He will be missed.

MELANCHOLIA (2011)

Posted in 2011, Art Movies, Foreign Films, LL Soares Reviews, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , , , on November 28, 2011 by knifefighter

MELANCHOLIA (2011)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

I have been a fan of Lars von Trier’s films since I first saw BREAKING THE WAVES in a movie theater back in 1996, and if I’ve learned anything since then, it’s that you can never anticipate what he’ll do next. This is the same guy who gave us the two Danish TV mini-series THE KINGDOM (released here as a feature film in 1994) and THE KINGDOM II (1997), which you might be more familiar with as the inspiration for Stephen King’s short-lived television series KINGDOM HOSPITAL (2004)—for the record, von Trier’s version was far superior; as well as DOGVILLE (2003), where Nicole Kidman played a gangster’s moll on the run in a town, that instead of sets, had chalk markings on a stage floor to signify the different buildings; to DANCER IN THE DARK (2000), with singer Bjork as a factory worker slowly going blind, who is trying to do everything she can to prevent her young son from suffering the same fate —with some big musical numbers tossed in, just for the hell of it; to 2009’s ANTICHRIST, which was the buzz of Cannes that year and very controversial for its tale of a couple’s journey through the grief over the death of their child—including a few scenes of genital mutilation—delivered with utter fearlessness by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe.

This year at Cannes, MELANCHOLIA proved just as controversial, but for completely different reasons. During a press conference, von Trier made some odd comments about Hitler that led to his being banned from the festival (he was trying to be funny, but let’s just say it was a complete misfire), while his film went on to win the Best Actress award for Kirsten Dunst in his absence. It’s too bad about von Treir’s banning, because he didn’t get to take part in and enjoy the overwhelmingly positive reaction to his film.

MELANCHOLIA is nothing like the horrific ANTICHRIST. It is painterly and rather beautiful, with great performances by Dunst (who played Claudia in the film version of INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, from 1994, and Mary Jane in Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN movies) as Justine, and Charlotte Gainsbourg as her sister, Claire.

The movie begins with scenes frozen in time, like paintings, as classical music plays over them. They’re kind of an introduction for what is to come, and they could have seemed pretentious in other hands, but in von Trier’s they work in a spooky kind of way.

The film is then broken into two parts, one is called “Justine” and is about that sister’s opulent wedding at the country club owned by her brother-in-law (and Claire’s husband), John (Kiefer Sutherland, of TV’s 24). Claire and her husband have pulled out all the stops to make Justine’s wedding a big success, but as the ceremony goes on, we realize more and more that something is wrong. That the joy Justine is showing may not be real, and that her new husband, Michael (Alexander Skarsgard, who plays Eric Northman on HBO’s TRUE BLOOD) comes to realize this as well, as the wedding reception slowly turns into an occasion for sadness.

The second part, called “Claire,” introduces us to the central image of the movie, the planet Melancholia, which has appeared in the sky and may be on a collision course with Earth. Time has passed since the first part of the movie, and we’re led to believe that Justine has spent some time in a hospital. She comes to stay with Claire and her family on their huge estate, waiting to see if Melancholia will bring about the end of the world.

John assures Claire that the world’s scientists have predicted that Melancholia will pass by, leaving the Earth unscathed, but she is not so sure of this, and suddenly, in these circumstances, Justine’s bouts with depression don’t seem so unfathomable. As Melancholia approaches, Justine becomes the strong one, as Claire becomes increasingly  riddled with fear and self-doubt. Claire is particularly worried about what will become of her young son, Leo (Cameron Spurr).

The final scene is actually kind of haunting.

The name of this film is apt, as it is saturated with a great sadness throughout. The acting here is top-notch, especially from Dunst (who deserves her Best Actress award) and Gainsbourg (who is just as good), but also the supporting characters from Skarsgard and Sutherland to Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt as the sisters’ parents; to Stellan Skarsgard (Alexander’s father) as Justine’s boss who conducts business even at her wedding; to Udo Kier as a wedding planner who is miffed that Justine and Michael arrive late to the ceremony.

This is the work of a director at the top of his game. Von Trier continues to be a filmmaker to watch, and I’m sure he will continue to serve up surprises on a regular basis. And, no doubt, controversy. Hopefully next time, he can avoid telling bad jokes at press conferences.

I give MELANCHOLIA four out of five knives.

(MELANCHOLIA is in limited release and is also available on some cable systems’ “OnDemand” feature)

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives MELANCHOLIA ~ four out of five knives.

Coming This Week!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2011 by knifefighter

The big movie review this week was supposed to be PIRANHA 3DD, but it turns out its release date has been postponed to early next year. But we’ve still got plenty lined up for this week, including reviews of:

Lars von Trier’s new film, MELANCHOLIA.

ME AND LIL’ STEVIE go looking for THE CHILDREN OF THE CORN.

A “Pickin the Carcass” DVD review of the movie THE AWAKENING by Michael Arruda

A new SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES column by Nick Cato.

A new CKF COMING ATTRACTIONS column, giving you a preview of what we’ll be reviewing in December.

So stick around!

Friday Night Knife Fights: ALIEN (1979) vs. THE THING (1982) – PART 3

Posted in 2011, 80s Horror, Aliens, Classic Films, Friday Night Knife Fights, LL Soares Reviews, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Michael Arruda Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2011 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS: ALIEN VS. THE THING
PART 3
Featuring Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares and Mark Onspaugh

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome back everyone to FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS: ALIEN (1979) VS. THE THING (1982). Tonight’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the third and final installment of this epic bout, where our panel decides once and for all which one of these two horror/science fiction classics is the better movie.

L.L. is here, as is Mark Onspaugh. Okay, guys, let’s get to it. There’s been an interesting trend in Parts 1 and 2. Three of the first four rounds have gone to ALIEN, and I find this interesting because all three of us said at the outset that we loved both these films an awful lot and admitted that choosing one over the other would be incredibly difficult, but here we are with ALIEN leading THE THING three rounds to one. Maybe these films aren’t as close as we originally thought.

L.L. SOARES: It’s not over yet. Besides, regardless of what happens, it’s not going to change my opinion of these films. They both rock.

MARK ONSPAUGH: They’re two classics of the genre, and whichever one comes out on top is not going to diminish the status of the “loser.”

MA: Mark, I saw you busily scribbling notes before the cameras started to roll. You’re coming in ready to play hardball.

MO: Actually, I’ve been having so much fun that I decided to jot down some ideas for some future FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.

MA: Really? Like what?

MO: Well, how about AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) vs. THE HOWLING (1981)?

LS: Excellent.

MA: You heard it here first, folks, a preview for a future FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. We might just have to do that one next. However, we have to finish this one first, so here we go.

A "face hugger" from ALIEN

Which movie has the better screenplay, ALIEN or THE THING? Mark?

MO: I love both movies, and both are tight with satisfying endings…- THE THING is certainly like a wild ride and has more laughs, but ALIEN presented something really new and different – a creature that would be copied ad nauseum in bad “direct-to-video” creature features… So much is there, and yet not everything is revealed… I have to go with ALIEN.

MA: Another tough one. But I have to go with ALIEN too. Mark, while you credited both stories as being tight, I find ALIEN’s story tighter and grittier. Both have memorable characters, but ALIEN has a tighter story than THE THING, which leaves things unexplained and wide open.

There’s a lot more about the actual Thing monster left unsaid that I want to know about than there is left unsaid about Alien. Plus, I’ve never been a fan of the ending to THE THING. It’s way too wide open for my tastes. I enjoyed the conclusive ending to ALIEN much better.

LS: I almost want to say that the scripts are equally good. But if I have to choose one as having the better story, THE THING is a bit more complex, mainly due to the nature of the monster. The story of ALIEN is actually much simpler, although very effective. THE THING wins by a hair, here.

MA: Unfortunately, you’re in the minority, as Mark and I went with ALIEN.

LS: What do you guys know?

THE THING replicates a dog.

MA: And so after five rounds, ALIEN takes a commanding lead, 4-1.

Next question. Which film has a better cast of characters?

LS: Both movies have terrific ensemble casts. But I have to give my vote to the cast of ALIEN. It’s just a personal preference thing, but seriously, they’re pretty equal.

MA: Must be the strong women thing for you. Actually, there aren’t any women in THE THING.

For me this is yet another tough one. I love the characters in both movies. THE THING’s characters are definitely quirkier and perhaps more likeable, but if we’re talking cast, you can’t beat the ensemble of actors in ALIEN – Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartright, and of course John Hurt.

So, LL, I’m with you. Edge – ALIEN. Mark?

MO: Both movies have great, memorable characters, and they are easily distinguished… But ALIEN just has some amazing performers in Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Tom Skerritt and Veronica Cartwright… I know you just mentioned them, but they’re worth mentioning again. With sharp writing and actors like that, I have to go with ALIEN.

MA: So, we all agree that ALIEN has the better cast of characters. After six rounds, ALIEN is kicking some serious butt, leading THE THING, 5-1.

Now, let me explain here, that, as in boxing, a fighter leading the match by points can still lose the fight by being knocked out in the final round. So, even though THE THING is getting an alien beating tonight, it can still win.

The final question:Which one is the better movie, ALIEN or THE THING?

MO: Again, I love both, and even though my answers are weighted for ALIEN, I would have to put it in context… If I want to have fun and yell at the screen with my friends, it’s THE THING. If I want something scary and different, it’s ALIEN.

MA: So, you’re kinda saying it’s a draw?

MO: I’m saying in terms of the questions I answered tonight, I answered in favor of ALIEN, but putting it into context, they’re both excellent.

MA: Sounds like a draw. LL?

LS: I never really compared these two movies before, and it’s funny how much both of them are big favorites of mine. The two movies would make for a great double feature. I have a slight preference for ALIEN, only because I saw it at just the right time, as a kid, for it to leave a bigger impression on me. But THE THING is pretty much an equally strong film.

MA: You’re calling it a draw too? Jeesh!

Well, I won’t call it a draw. I’m going with ALIEN as the better movie. Again, like you guys, I love both these movies, but I’m going with ALIEN because it has the better monster, the better direction, the better screenplay, and the better cast.

So, it looks like there won’t be a dramatic knock-out for THE THING after all.

This has got to be one of the closest FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS we’ve done yet, but based upon the answers to our first six questions, ALIEN held the advantage, 5-1 over THE THING, and then based upon our final question, which one would we pick as the better movie, you guys called it a draw, and I went with ALIEN, and so, the results seem clear. By the ever slightest of margins, ALIEN wins out over THE THING in this hard-fought bout.

ALIEN wins by a nose.

LS: I still say they’re pretty even. None of these questions were particularly easy to answer.

MO: And, as I said, it depends on which frame of mind you’re in.

MA: But the numbers don’t lie, and tonight they’re in favor of ALIEN.

Well, folks, that’s all the time we have for tonight. I’m Michael Arruda, and on behalf of L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh, and myself, thanks for being with us, and we look forward to seeing you next time. This has been FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares and Mark Onspaugh

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Posted in 2011, HOLIDAY CHEER with tags on November 24, 2011 by knifefighter

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