||When asked why he robbed banks, a noted criminal's famous reply was "That's where the money is." If you regularly read M-O-M, you'll note my tendency to mine the fear flick genre--particularly the oldies--more often than any other. Why? Because that's where the true junk is.
Mind you, I'm not one of those elitists who insists only the antiquities are "worthy" of classic junkfilm status. In fact, I take extra delight in discovering recent releases (in any category) deserving a spot on the must-see-to-disbelieve list. The sad reality is, the overwhelming majority of newer items I eyeball are from the most dreaded region any entertainment vehicle can inhabit – Merely Mediocre Mountain.
Believe me, Manormaniacs, I am always on the prowl for the suckadelic, be it box office boffo or direct-to-cable. For instance, because it generated the most polarized opinion of any feature in recent memory, I immediately rushed right out and caught The Blair Witch Project the very first night it aired on Showtime.
Project in a paragraph: Although they did a tremendous job making the footage appear authentic, by the one-third mark, the lead trio had become so thoroughly obnoxious, I found myself chanting "Let's go, witch; let's go, witch." Travel without a weapon and spare smokes, you deserve to be murdered, is how Stately sees it!
Blair, overall, was acceptable, but it lacked the screamsicle quotient of The Evil Dead or the fun factor of Curse of the Swamp Creature. So where did they go wrong – besides the unpardonable offense of never creating a ridiculously transparent reason for a young big-butt babe to strip down to a thong? Well, because Variety recently nearly called this column "the single most influential running essay on the cinema today," I'm going to enlighten all you budding moviemakers with my Golden Rules Of Scarepix.
Forget UCLA film school. Screw NYU, too. Just get a full grasp of the following principles, incorporate one or more into your storyline, and you absolutely cannot go wrong.
- Inhabitants of other planets learn Earth language by monitoring broadcasts. Of all the options, they choose to learn English which, by sheer coincidence, just happens to be the native tongue of the humans they encounter.
- No matter how many have met horrid deaths at a particular site, carefree people will continue to go to that location while the killer is still at large.
- Attractive leads of opposite sexes are usually single and always straight. (Although one – most often the male – may be bitter or entirely immersed in his or her profession...at first.)
- Even though it never works, the "good guys" will continue to fire small arms at huge monsters, allowing said behemoth the opportunity to wipe out a few extras.
- Contrary to what we've been led to believe, a superior intellect is not a prerequisite for joining the space program. In fact, one in five astronauts is a nice-but-dopey lug who yearns to see them Dodgers in the Brooklyn pinstripes again.
- Wholesome thirtyish high school students know more than mean, old authority figures who eventually – and with sheepishness – admit "the kids" were right all along.
- Upon learning a loved one on the opposite side of town is in mortal danger, the hero(es) will make the time-consuming cross-town trip rather than alert police stationed in the vicinity of the destination. (Why not call the endangered party? That's easy: all stalkers know exactly how to find and disconnect the victims' exterior telephone lines.)
- Scientists may be nutty, buy they are never short on cash needed to acquire necessary equipment.
- For sheer belly-laughs, there are few gags funnier than the classic "Town Drunk Trashes Own Liquor Bottle After Seeing Leviathan" bit.
- It is customary for one person to trip and hurt a leg while running from a killer critter.
- Although they're from another world, aliens have an innate ability to operate all sorts of machinery they have never seen before (including autos with manual transmissions.) The ones who take over human bodies also know how to shave or apply makeup flawlessly, what to eat, and so forth.
- When all else fails in man vs. monster battles, salt, water or salt water does the trick.
- "Normal" people's initial reaction is to fire upon any being who looks "different – be it plant-like, otherworldly or a physically altered (scarred, overgrown, etc.) human – even if said being is unarmed. Despite the gross violation of civil rights, no one, save a lone scientist who gets ostracized for his viewpoint, questions the morality of such aggression.
- Time travelers have an uncanny knack for crossing paths with the most influential persons that ever lived.
- Moons and planets where the indigenous menfolk have been eradicated by some sort of calamity are peopled by remarkably beautiful, amorous women of approximately the same age, all of whom are v-e-r-y eager to – let's put it euphemistically – "receive a bit of special delivery 'male'" from lucky astronauts.
- Motor vehicles start immediately...unless the driver is being chased by a scary whatzit.
- In a grave situation where the character is in extreme physical discomfort, he thinks aloud in a monosyllabic, pause-laden style. "No.......time.......left.........Must......close.......door."
- Any creature captured then put on public exhibition will do a Houdini and terrorize the town.
- If the monster appears to be dead before the 60-minute mark, he ain't.
- Thinking about becoming a demented doctor but wondering about how to get a fiercely loyal assistant? Merely save the future flunky by performing an operation no other doc could do, preferably one that will leave him with a hideous deformity.
- Because "it's always been done that way," ray guns make noise even though they are emitting a light beam.
- Just when you most need it, that darn light switch does nothing.
- To heck with all those fancy-schmancy dials; the best way to really be sure the atmosphere on another planet is breathable is to remove your helmet and take a deep breath.
- When a scientist leaves a quantity of an experimental serum and warns "Never take more than the prescribed dose," what he's really saying is "Feel free to OD on this stuff and devolve into a homicidal savage."
- An in-command time traveler is obligated to stress "Non-interference in history is absolutely critical" before the crew begins helping long-suffering native peoples overcome horrid oppressors, grow crops, create weapons and cure diseases.