The Hunger

Last week I revisited that 2004-2005 period of Tony Scott’s career, when MAN ON FIRE and then DOMINO went crazy with the hand-cranked visual chaos, and I talked about my impression at the time of Scott as a lifelong mainstream director suddenly showing up to work with a blue mohawk, cinematically speaking. You know what? That seems pretty off base now that I’ve seen where he started, his one movie before TOP GUN, the aggressively mood-and-style-over-narrative vampire tale THE HUNGER (1983).

It opens with a long sequence that’s almost experimental in its editing, the kind of thing people compare to MTV, but it’s much more underground, really. Bauhaus are performing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” at some goth club, though the series of shots never show us the geography, or even the stage, just Peter Murphy behind a fence, bathed in smoke, mouthing the words, no microphone. Meanwhile, the most unapproachable goths you’ve ever seen are eyeing the dance floor from above, looking like Nagel prints who escaped into the real world and became European fashion models. They are the Blaylocks, Miriam (Catherine Deneuve, THE MUSKETEER) and John (David Bowie, LABYRINTH), dressed like they’re from different eras, stone faced and hiding behind sunglasses. On the floor below, people vaguely twitch to the music, and it doesn’t look like any of them are having any fun, but I get the sense that this is everything they wanted out of their evening, if they survive it.

By the time the sequence ends, or soon after, we understand that it was about two vampires selecting their prey (Ann Magnuson [SMALL SOLDIERS] and John Stephen Hill [DEADLY EYES]), bringing them home, beginning foreplay, then rather than biting them on the necks, just making little slits with the tiny knives hidden in their ankh pendants. Before that it seems like nothing is happening in the movie at all. Just posturing and minimalistic gyrating. Even so, the scene strikes me as hugely influential – a look and attitude echoed in BLADE and THE MATRIX, especially. Did it have an influence on Neil Gaiman making his embodiment of Death in The Sandman a goth with an ankh necklace? Possibly.

For a while there are fewer words spoken than there are beautiful shots of hazy sunbeams shining into dark rooms. Nobody believes in bright lights in the movie, even in hospitals. Most indoor scenes are lit only by sunlight, usually through curtains.

While the vamps are getting it on with their victims it keeps cutting to a screaming monkey, then, as they’re killed, we see one monkey bite another monkey’s throat out. Nasty shit. That’s at the research lab where Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon, SPEED RACER) works, trying to learn how to slow down the process of progeria and/or aging. It would obviously be cool if there was some sort of vampire/monkey partnership where each vampire has a pet monkey they bring with them during murders, hanging out at the club, etc., but unfortunately the monkeys aren’t seen much after this point. But can I interest you in a cool stop motion shot of a monkey aging and rotting on fast speed? That does happen and the clever thing is that it’s animation through degraded black and white video, because it’s seen on a security video.

My wife is always big on wanting to know what the rules are when we watch vampire movies. This one has such an emphasis on sunsets and dark rooms that I assumed they were vulnerable to sunlight, but that never seems to pan out. There’s none of the traditional cross, holy water, garlic or wooden stake business, and John definitely has a reflection. The only rule we really need to know is that Miriam never ages but the people she turns eventually do. John’s looked 30 since the 18th century and doesn’t know there’s an expiration date on that until his hair starts falling out and he gets liver spots on his hands. He learns of Sarah when she promotes her book Sleep and Longevity on TV, so he goes to the research center to see her, but she leaves him in the waiting room long enough that by the time he gives up and storms out he’s literally turned into an old man. On the way out a cabbie calls him “You stupid old fuck!”

The old man makeup is really good – Dick Smith (THE EXORCIST) and Carl Fullerton (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2) are credited with “makeup illusions.”

The Blaylocks’ only friend is a neighbor kid, Alice (Beth Ehlers, Guiding Light), who comes over to play music with them three days a week. So when she shows up and John looks like he’s in his eighties he has to pretend to be somebody else. She keeps asking if he’s John’s father, but he says he’s just a friend. They play music and then he kills her, but even that young person blood doesn’t help, and Miriam can barely bring herself to kiss him, or kill him. He looks like Grandpa from THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE now, and he falls down the stairs and breaks his legs. So what does she do? She puts him in a coffin in the attic, which seems to have also been the fate of around half a dozen of her other exes, all still alive! That’s real fucked up, Miriam.

Sarah actually saw John leaving the research center, and noticed how much he’d aged, so she takes his case seriously now and comes to their building looking for him. Miriam claims he’s in Switzerland. Then I think she puts some mojo on Sarah because she seems to hear her voice calling to her, and she can’t resist coming back. Miriam gives her a glass of sherry, plays piano for her and takes her to bed – a scene that has reportedly caused certain realizations for many a young lesbian, despite the blood drinking parts, or the depiction of this character as literally predatory. It’s a well done scene.

That night Sarah seems unfazed by what happened and goes to dinner with her co-worker/boyfriend, Tom Haver (Cliff De Young, DR. GIGGLES), who questions why she spent 3 1/2 hours at some lady’s house. Also he notices her new ankh necklace. “You just met her and she gives you a present?”

“Well, she’s that kind of a woman. She’s… European.”

Sarah wants her meat rare and even in the middle of an argument she keeps looking out a window to two naked women in a swimming pool. Seeing the world with new eyes, I think.

Tom thinks she’s acting weird and makes her get a blood test at work – okay, now you’re the one who’s acting weird, Tom – which is how she learns that “some alien strain” is consuming her blood. I don’t think she remembered the blood exchange part of the Miriam experience. When Sarah confronts her about it, Miriam correctly predicts “You’ll be back. When the hunger hurts so much you’ve lost all reason then you’ll have to feed, and then you’ll need me to show you how.”

The guy Miriam brings home to become Sarah’s first victim (James Aubrey – Ralph from the 1963 LORD OF THE FLIES) is comically douchey. He comes in wearing sunglasses and chewing gum, and does an Elvis pelvic thrust pose when he sees the place. It reminds me of the section of HELLRAISER where Julia’s luring in guys to kill and you know she’s the bad guy but you also think well, if it has to be somebody…

When Sarah doesn’t come home one night, Tom gets desperate, knocks on Miriam’s door asking if she’s heard from her, is shocked to hear, “Yes, she’s upstairs.” He finds her seeming out of it, like she’s dope sick, then she hungrily kisses him, then pushes him and screams for him to leave. It’s possible he was supposed to play like the hero who’s trying to rescue his girlfriend from being corrupted by evil, but it’s hard to see it that way. Instead it’s darkly humorous because he’s so out of his league. Once you go vamp you’re off the ramp. How ya gonna keep her down on the farm after she’s seen Catherine Deneuve?

Since the club, the lab and the house are pretty much the only locations, the cast is small. Willem Dafoe shows up in one scene as “2nd Phone Booth Youth.” His only line is “Hey lady, how bout it?” It was his second movie, but the first one was Kathryn Bigelow’s THE LOVELESS, where he was the lead. Dan Hedaya (DOWN) is also in a couple scenes, lookin kinda like Elliot Gould, as a detective looking for Alice.

The finale is really cool – John and her other aged former companions mob her. They look like zombies and they’re coming out of coffins, so it’s like some Edgar Allan Poe shit where a killer’s former victims come back to life. Also for extra style points there are doves flapping around like it’s a John Woo movie.

When it was released, reviews of THE HUNGER varied, but all seemed to mention that it looks nice, and even more than that, they made a big deal about the lesbian sex scene. TV Guide called the movie a “largely empty visual exercise,” adding “The Deneuve/Sarandon sex scene, however, is not to be missed by fans of either actress.” Beloved horndog Roger Ebert opened his review by calling it “an agonizingly bad vampire movie, circling around an exquisitely effective sex scene,” and apologized before spending most of the review explaining what was so great about the scene.

As good as Deneuve, Sarandon and Bowie are in the movie, I think it’s fair to say that cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt edges them out for MVP. He’d made his name as a photographer shooting publicity shots of The Beatles for The White Album, and graduated to movies with 1980’s BREAKING GLASS. He’d later be known for LETHAL WEAPON 1 and 2 and Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies.

There are others deserving of recognition. This is the second movie for editor Pamela Power, who started with Scott’s brothers’ THE DUELLISTS, and followed this with the famous Apple Mac: 1984 commercial. According to Wikipedia but not IMDb, Peter Honess (IT’S ALIVE, HIGHLANDER, RICOCHET, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS) was also editor. Production designer Brian Morris had done PINK FLOYD: THE WALL and later reunited with Scott for THE LAST BOYSCOUT. He’s the guy who did JACOB’S LADDER, EVITA and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL.

Howard Blake (THE DUELLISTS) was the music supervisor, arranging all the classical music, which nicely blends with the modern score by Michel Rubini (BAND OF THE HAND, MANHUNTER, NEMESIS) and Denny Jaeger (The Powers of Matthew Star) with additional electronic music and effects by David Lawson (THE DARK CRYSTAL). It would set a good tone for the movie even if it didn’t match the theme of people who live long enough to span many different eras.

The script is by James Costigan (MR. NORTH) and Michael Thomas (LADYHAWKE, THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE), adapted from a 1981 book by pre-alien-abduction Whitley Strieber. In the original ending Sarah killed herself to avoid the curse of living a long life as a vampire, but the studio made them change it so she sort of takes the place of Miriam, to leave it open for a sequel. It lost money in theaters, so that wasn’t gonna happen. In 1997, Scott did direct the pilot for the TV series The Hunger, which aired on Showtime in the U.S., and he returned for episode 1 of season 2. The aforementioned Mulcahy directed five episodes. It wasn’t a continuation or retelling, it was a sexy horror anthology. Season 2 was hosted by Bowie, though.

The Scott brothers were part of a wave of British ad directors moving into feature films, along with Alan Parker (FAME) and Adrian Lyne (FOXES). Similar to music video director turned feature director Russell Mulcahy, they made movies with stunningly gorgeous cinematography, unorthodox editing and heavy use of music. Their backgrounds helped them sell an idea with imagery but not necessarily tell a story or create a character. I think many of these films were knocked by critics at the time as style over substance, and I think just like me with my belligerent first review of Scott’s DOMINO, they were just not open to a different approach to cinematic storytelling where the look and mood do the heavy lifting. If not always a good one, it’s at least a valid one, and I think it works well here.

I think THE HUNGER is a good movie – the story is a little simpler, and yet less clear, than is my preference, but Scott makes up for it with the meticulous atmosphere and strong performances by the leads. Let me give you an example of one kind of puzzling, random scene. It’s just shots of a silhouetted rollerskater (Richard Robles) that could be cut right into Lyne’s FLASHDANCE if you left out the part where David Bowie in old age makeup murders the skater.

Do I know who that skater is or what this place is, where he’s all alone except for one bird and a boombox? No. Do I understand why John doesn’t seem to drink his blood after he kills him? No. Is it powerful to be thrown into this bizarre and vividly shot situation without any context? Yes. In horror movies especially it can be good to feel unequipped and off balance like this. It can be better to wonder about a scene, or a whole movie, than to completely understand it. THE HUNGER is never gonna be my favorite vampire movie, but I enjoy wondering about it.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 2nd, 2023 at 6:59 am and is filed under Reviews, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

52 Responses to “The Hunger”

  1. God Ebert sucked. I simply cannot get behind his beatification as some kind of saint of film criticism. You read nine out of ten of his reviews of a movie you loved, he utterly missed the point, focused on some random bullshit, and was almost certainly gratuitously mean about it, if not outright smug and moralistic. I feel like he’s at least half of the reason why, to this day, so many audience members are dismissive if not hostile to the entire art of film criticism. I mean, THE HUNGER ain’t my favorite movie in the world but there’s obviously something going on there. It’s got a vibe, a wholeness of tone and mood, that was unique at the time and proved incredibly influential in the future. But Ebert completely missed it, dismissing its artistry with a pithy line about curtains so he could focus on the part that gave him a boner.

    The man could put sentences together. He was a good writer, and that’s why he fooled people into thinking he was right. But you read enough of him and you learn that his opinion means jack shit. I read his reviews and all it does is remind me of how to talk about movies if you want to sound like an asshole.

  2. focused on some random bullshit

    Nothing to do with the Hunger, but this is actual probably my favorite thing about Roger Ebert. He’ll write something like “and the scene where whatever character eats a slice of watermelon, the way he eats this watermelon, you will never forget this man eating watermelon”. Then you see the movie, and it’s just a shot of a fucking guy eating a slice of watermelon…

    I often think he was prone to half-dozing off and half-dreaming some crazy shit that isn’t actually in the film. Like if he saw the movie again, he’d be like “whoa, I thought that played out much differently than it really does”

  3. Cool that you’re giving Tony Scott another chance, I really enjoy these pieces. Curious if you’ll also review “Loving Memory”, that’s a rather obscure one!

  4. Doesn’t his review of HALLOWEEN III say it “picks up right where HALLOWEEN II left off” or something? (This is another thing I think I’ve posted before actually)

    Anyways, I’ve seen THE HUNGER once. It was fine, I think.

  5. Turns out you can look stuff up on the internet. What he said was

    “It begins at the end of “Halloween II,” when the monster was burned up in the hospital parking lot, but it’s not still another retread of the invincible monster. In fact, the monster is forgotten, except for a lab technician who spends the whole movie sifting through his ashes.”


    FYI I’m not as anti-Ebert as Mr. Majestyk by any means, indeed generally pretty pro, but he did have his foibles (“foibles” being a convenient word covering everything from “funny he liked SPAWN so much, huh” to “had some odd little quirks” to “wrote some genuinely repellent shit”).

  6. I always liked Ebert, but then I never really judged him about whether he agreed with me or put him on the pedestal (though I can understand why it would be tempting to put him on a pedestal). I always thought the conceit of him arguing with Siskel was that even “professional critics” can disagree, so, the whole conceit of them arguing sort of takes the piss out of them both and underscores that the fun is in arguing about movies and are varying interpretations of them vs. searching for the true platonically valid opinion to have.

    Having said that, I always found it amusing how they were full Tipper Gore when it came to the Jason movies, buth then Ebert and Roeper gave DEVIL’S REJECTS two thumbs up. It’s like coming home from college and finding out your sunday school-teaching parents have been experimenting with an open marriage.

    RE: THE HUNGER Have not seen this but been intrigued by it.

  7. My HUNGER story:

    When I was a student in Melbourne, I walked into one of those small, niche video stores (carbon dating myself here), wanting to rent THE HUNGER, having read about it somewhere because at that point, KayKay was mad about vampires, werewolves and other creature features. Plus, he had also become a big T.Scott fan and was interested to check out one of his earliest movies.

    Not finding any success in locating it, I approached this haughty looking girl at the counter and asked if they had THE HUNGER as I couldn’t find it in the Horror section. She replied, in a haughty tone perfectly in sync with her looks, “You won’t find it there. It’s NOT just a Horror Film. It’s far more interesting than JUST a Horror Movie”. She proceeds to walk to the Arthouse Section and get me the tape.

    Now, at that point in his life, Arthouse was Movie Kryptonite to ole KayKay. It generally conjured images of some French flick shot in Black and White where 2 people stare wordlessly at each other for 20 minutes across a table in some cobblestoned cafe, cloaked in the swirling smoke of their cigarettes and you’re supposed to deduce some deep existential subtext from all of that. Ah shit, I thought, is THE HUNGER gonna be about vampires pondering the eternal malaise of their cursed lives when all I wanted was some Suckheads Throat-Puncturing sexy, nubile women?

    Well, all this happened more than 20 years ago, but I do remember THE HUNGER did ponder on the eternal malaise of cursed lives, but also gave me throat puncturing and sexy, nubile women.

    In that sense, THE HUNGER satisfied both Horndog Me and Haughty Video Store Lady.

  8. Vern, I’m pretty sure that last shot is in Central Park, at the Bethesda Terrace. As to your other questions about it, you got me?

  9. Just a question, because I am genuinely curious, was Ebert ever canonized as some Saint of Movie Criticism? I know he was enormously popular, but I always put him in the same category as someone like Leonard Maltin, whose surface level reviews could be perfectly packaged in bite-sized chunks to pad over those flash and trash shows like ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT. He didn’t read like heavyweights Pauline Kael and Vincent Canby.

  10. As a non-American I don’t know if he was while he was alive, but since his death, Ebert IS film criticism!

  11. I mean, he’s no Michael Medved, but Ebert does have his boosters.

  12. On the opposite end of the spectrum, he’s no Maltin, either. I don’t agree with Ebert most of the time but at least I kind of respect him on a certain level. I want to hear what he has to say even if I think he’s full of shit. With Maltin,my only goal is to rubberneck at how lame his opinion is gonna be.

  13. Majestyk, I gotta disagree with you on Ebert. Yes, he made some strange calls like hating Fight Club and loving Benji the Hunted. Was he horny? Definitely, I believe he wrote or co-wrote one of the Russ Meyer films. However, it wasn’t just his writing that I loved. When watching Siskel & Ebert, I saw someone who truly loved movies. I liked them both and thought they were the perfect match for reviewing a movie. Anyone who can heap so much praise onto a great comedy like Kingpin has to be doing something right. The year Goodfellas came out they did a special retrospective on it during that same year. They knew it was a classic and not just some movie where someone flippantly throws out the term “instant classic”. I know that there are lots of other great movie critics out there but to me he seemed to be one of the most relatable and down to earth. I guess when you are passionate about something, there are times when people will call you an asshole.

  14. This is gonna be like covid all over again, familes dividing, jobs requring proof of your support for Ebert, people losing their shit in Trader Joe’s when they refuse to stock copies of “Your Movie Sucks!” Cut to me slugging it out w/ some dude at the gas station, like “You fuckin tellin me SOAPDISH is a three-and-a-half-star film!?!”

  15. Nah. I’m gonna display the humility Ebert never did and say that just because his work isn’t for me doesn’t mean it is inherently worthless. He believed in what he did and many people find value in it. I’m not gonna start a letter-writing campaign to shame him for the crime of making art I don’t care for like his cohort did to Betsy Palmer.

  16. I’m surprised that all this (love and) hate for Roger Ebert is being unleashed by this of all movies. I believe his disapproving reviews of BLUE VELVET, RAISING ARIZONA and BRAZIL have been far more controversial.

    And I think it’s important to keep in mind the context of the times. People did not have access to a zillion personal opinions about movies back then. Also, Ebert – and Siskel – were among the few serious film critics to have a wide reach through television – any others I think just spoke in smartass soundbites as contributors to general morning programs, whereas Siskel and Ebert took movies seriously and got to discuss them for a full half-hour (minus commercials).

    Today the idea of one or two people setting the tone for the entire film culture would not be so accepted, not least for reasons of diversity and representation. But back then there weren’t really alternative channels to strongly challenge them. And whether you agreed with either of their opinions or not, Siskel and Ebert helped popularize the idea of wanting movies to be sophisticated and thoughtful and something more than “mindless” entertainment. They introduced film discussion and analysis to the masses and tried to cultivate a love of movies other than just the obvious popcorn movies. There are movies I love that I first discovered because of their coverage.

    Maybe the thing that’s dated Ebery the most is the way that he seemed to treat the merits and flaws of a movie as objective fact even when he was clearly projecting his own preferences and prejudices (such as opposition to graphically violent horror movies, which have become a more culturally accepted genre since his time). But those prejudices were not necessarily rare for the era and generation that he and Siskel spoke to.

    Again, today we have much more access – both to the movies themselves, and to different forms of appreciation and analysis. But back then we were more dependent on a small number of paternalistic authority figures to guide us to this stuff, and Siskel and Ebert were the most prominent ones. And I think that that era’s context is what made it feel like he was laying down the law for the whole culture rather than just giving a personal opinion.

    (I always liked Ebert more than Siskel, whose opinions I found weird and stuffy. Now I wish there was more access to Siskel’s reviews, since it now seems more interesting to see how certain movies were received based on contemporary expectations and preconceptions of the time, than to expect those reviews to only agree with what the future consensus turned out to be anyway. But then maybe Ebert was more of a writer than Siskel, from whom I only remember seeing short capsule reviews in print.)

    In short, Ebert wasn’t perfect by Gen-X-and-later standards, but he was arguably the best we had at the time. I think that’s reflected by the fact that some people saw him as a popularist consumerist sell-out while others saw him as an insufferable snob. Before the Internet and social media you kind of had to be middle-brow like that in order to have a wide reach within the mainstream media. Which meant that most people liked and respected him at least a little, and people who disliked his viewpoint did so for widely varying reasons.

  17. Ebert’s reviews led me to some of my favorite movies in the world, like REPO MAN and STOP MAKING SENSE. His obvious biases mostly slipped past me, because I have huge biases and blind spots, too, so whatever.

    Re: THE HUNGER… man, this movie rules, and I’m glad to see this review. I re-watched it pretty recently (like, less than a year ago, probably) and was just blown away by the ’80sness of it, but in a really good way, on a par with TO LIVE & DIE IN L.A. or MANHUNTER or FLASHDANCE, movies that are unashamedly of their era and wind up defining that era because of it. It just looks incredible, and it might be Bowie’s best acting job (and one of Deneuve’s best — she never seems to feel like the material is beneath her, which could have been a risk at that time).

  18. I remember hearing way back when that Bowie was so impressed with the Bauhaus cover that he specifically recommended they be the band in the opening sequence. I heard this in the pre-internet days and have not been able to find any actual proof of this, plus “Bela…” really is the perfect song to open this very post-punk vampire movie, so I have my doubts about its validity. But, from what I know about Bowie, this does track with his enthusiasm for supporting other musicians so who knows.

  19. Sorry. Meant to say he was so impressed with the Bauhaus cover of Ziggy Stardust. Accidentally left that last bit out.

  20. Maybe it kind of says something about THE HUNGER that we’re turning this into The Great Ebert Debate from a fairly mild prompt? It’s a film where talking about the chief merits can be like dancing about architecture, or whatever the saying is.

    It’s interesting his downward thumb on FIGHT CLUB always seems to come up. My own unenthusiastic thoughts about the film aside, and even I can see he was pretty wide of the mark, it’s like the Gen X-iest film ever (even though Palahniuk and Fincher are technically late Boomers), is it really a surprise a guy born in 1942 (pre Boom!) wasn’t into it? About as surprising as his disinterest in video games.

    I wouldn’t personally dismiss a critic because they get films “wrong” sometimes. I mean was or is there a single person on the planet who can honestly say they shared Pauline Kael’s taste? Even agreeing with her 50% of the time might be a tough ask. And let’s be honest, it can be pretty satisfying when you and a noted or favourite critic both find the hype on a film to mostly be hot air (USUAL SUSPECTS would be a time when I pretty much agree with Ebert’s “bad take”).

    As a filthy redcoat I became familiar with Ebert (along with Maltin and Kael) through the 1995 edition of the CINEMANIA CD-Rom, a godsend to a film obsessed pup in the pre-broadband era. I learned of Siskel and Ebert through general cultural osmosis, at least if you count ANIMANIACS and THE CRITIC as culture. I think I only saw one or two of their reviews on the early days of YouTube before they launched the site that archived all of their reviews up to the late 80s. I enjoy their reviews, search them out and watch them online fairly regularly, and understand where the nostalgic affection comes from. In some ways I think we are missing something without them or something similar today. In other ways I do think they are often over-romanticised. I mean it *is* pretty crazy that Siskel proto-doxed Betsy Palmer right?

    I’m not sure Ebert has a black eye on his professional record as big as that, or even the merely cringey likes of listing the SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT producers to shame them or blurting out THE CRYING GAME’s plot twist. He was pretty right on when it came to race issues, at least for a man of his age and background, honestly more so than I would be in some areas even now. Gender? Not so much, and I’m not talking about his horn dog tendencies. His review of MY LIFE IN RUINS going off on Nia Vardalos for losing weight, dying her hair and appearing on too many magazine covers sticks in my mind as particularly petty, cruel and needlessly personal. That was in 2009, not *that* different a time. Well, it kind of was, but you know what I mean. And I’m sure I’ve got comments on this very website a lot more recent than that which would make me cringe, but I’m not held up as the all-time gold standard for film criticism. Yet.

    Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, in conclusion, Ebert did not like the SAW films so his haters should bump those threads as revenge.

  21. Curt: That’s a fair and thorough summation of the good and the bad of the Ebert phenomenon.

    On a positive note, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” has got to be one of the coolest songs ever recorded. It’s so cool that the movie never really recovers. That opening sequence is a hard act to follow.

  22. RE: Ebert

    I’ll say this much, the film review biz isn’t an easy one (as I’m sure the owner of this site can attest). Not only from the front facing aspect (I had a boilerplate for ‘you actually liked/disliked that movie????’ correspondence, “I work as a film reviewer not a baptist minister. Meaning, I’m in the discourse business, not the conversion business”. Still one review someone doesn’t agree with = ‘I don’t know about this guy…’ Two reviews? ‘This guy’s a complete idiot’)

    Still, the tougher part of the job is back-facing. Frankly, it is a SLOG in a manner even the most prolific imdb user reviewers cannot imagine. Absolutely no interest in seeing, let alone writing about a film? Tough. Not in the mood to watch four films in one sitting? Tough. Can’t come up with 20, let alone 500 words about a picture? Tough. Yet Ebert went forward, waist-deep, through this slog for an absolutely admirable amount of time. With no deferring to the ‘junior’ critics for the obvious schlock, moronic comedies, kid pictures, and dead teenager movies once he got his Pulitzer, either. If it played, he saw it, he at least attempted to think about it, and he wrote it up. TILL THE END

    It always seemed like he thought of himself as a beat writer on a tabloid who just happened to cover movies–some say to his detriment–but I think there’s something noble about that. Don’t agree with him all the time? Not his job. Makes you crazy? Try Armond White on for size…

  23. Yeah, “The Hunger” is great. So anyway.

    I have to join the Ebert praise. This guy became a much better writer as the years went on and even went back to critique himself and grow. If you read his reviews, though, you’ll notice this was a guy who loves movies, but also had other things going on, he had a life. I disagreed with him plenty, but he was both articulate and human about movies. Pauline Kael rarely seemed human, whereas someone like Leonard Maltin seemed like he might actually be a virgin. Some critics study film, and some have it in their blood. Ebert was the latter.

    Really, would any of us be here discussing movies ifit wasn’t for Ebert?

  24. I might not be. I grew up watching the show every week. I loved him even when he was an idiot. I’m glad so many of you have extended me the same courtesy.

  25. I was going to post a couple of things but decided they would be more trouble than they likely would have been worth, but you have my permission to guess what they would have been and get mad with me anyway.

  26. The Hunger is a cool flick! I’ve been digging these Tony Scott reviews. I only just saw Domino recently and you’ve got me wanting to revisit Man On Fire (which I didn’t dig at the time).

    I’m a big Ebert fan, despite his foibles, and I’ll take the moment to recommend Steve James’ wonderful documentary about him, Life Itself. I think it is a film that earns its title. Ebert is the focus, but I find that through his experience/story it examines the value of a life, any life (or every life). It’s really beautiful.

  27. I came on real strong but I don’t hate Ebert. But I gotta be honest and say he had no effect on my career as a movie viewer or talker-abouter. I only saw his show a few times, but I did read his reviews in the paper. It became clear to me very young that critics are simply not useful to me, especially the kind we had back then, who treated getting paid to see a movie they didn’t enjoy like it was a war crime. The smug, dismissive tone these fuckers put on was infuriating.

    And maybe that’s not their fault. Maybe they’re human, and humans aren’t meant to be forced to sit through movie after movie they’re not interested in and then have to come up with something insightful to say about them. I can see how you’d get real resentful. Spiteful even. You’d want to get even. Maybe that’s just the nature of the beast. To me, though, that just damns the whole profession. If a restaurant critic gave a Mexican place a bad review because he was forced to eat six meals that day and by the time he got there he felt like he was gonna puke if he ate one more bite, and to be honest he never liked Mexican anyway, I’m not really gonna take his criticism seriously. I’m gonna listen to the guy who went there hungry for enchiladas.

    That’s the vibe I got from film critics growing up, and it has colored my view of them ever since. Nowadays, we got writers like Vern doing it for the love. He reviews a movie because he wants to, not because he has to. That makes all the difference in the world. Movie viewers see the movies they’re interested in, so why should we trust the opinion of reviewers who see them at gunpoint? It’s just not natural.

    But I guess if Ebert in any way gave us Vern, then I suppose that’s a net positive. He was the master Vern grew beyond.

  28. Majestyk, Ebert actually agreed with your viewpoint to some degree. His Wikipedia page includes a good quote from his SHAOLIN SOCCER review about the relative merits of movies within the same genre, and that review is worth reading in full:

    From that review it sounds like Ebert was used to getting far more criticism for liking mainstream genre movies than for criticizing them. He was more of a sucker for monster movies (his review of INFRA-MAN is worth looking up) and visionary world-building sci-fi/fantasy films.

    Whereas he rarely liked violent horror movies, and so course if that’s your jam then that’s going to limit his relevance or usefulness to you. But that was a widely agreed-upon prejudice back then, not just among movie reviewers. And the instinct to say “I think this media is harmful, therefore we should be rid of it, regardless if other people agree” is persistent and changes shape from era to era depending on what are felt to be that era’s biggest social problems (e.g. violent crime).

    But again, back then there was a one-size-fits-all approach to film reviewing, and to the mainstream media in general. I guess there were some alternatives – genre publications like Starlog and Cinefantastique, or second-string newspaper critics reviewing the films the paper’s main critic had no time for – but not as many as are online today.

    In any case, Generation X rebelled against that uniformity in the 1990s (I think Vern touched on this when reviewing one of the X-FILES movies) both culturally and politically, and everything good and bad about today’s online culture is probably a consequence of that shift.

    Also, Ebert had a mildly folksy and pleasant demeanor on television, and I at least would hear that conversational voice when reading his reviews. I guess I can imagine his reviews coming across differently if you have less experience with that persona. On TV he seemed less like an aloof professor and more like an opinionated friend inviting you into his home to watch laserdiscs with him.

  29. I really like this clip of Ebert showing off his home-video setup, hard for me to hate the guy after watching this – twitter.com/DDayFilms/status/1388199136588144650

  30. Maybe it was a generational thing. Not only did I not view Ebert as a snob (he could be very funny in his writing) but I also prefer the snobs to the guys and seemed to like everything without question, or the dudes who seemed like they were reviewing a movie strictly for all mass audiences, which was pandering and also impossible.

    And consider how many movie lovers you know who got old but insisted movies from another era were the best and/or their favorites. In the end, Ebert counted Synecdoche NY and Tree of Life amongst his ten favorites. If I can change, and he can change, anybody could change!

  31. Growing up as a budding movie nerd in the 90s, not in a major city, with no internet, I was always super excited when I caught Siskel & Ebert on TV. The only other reviews I had access to were tiny ones for the biggest movies in the local paper. S & E helped point me towards movies like Fargo, Sling Blade, The Ice Storm, that might not usually be on a 12 year old’s radar. When I read his old reviews, we often disagree but I am always interested to see his take. I love horror movies and I know a lot of them did not agree with him, but Evil Dead 2’s VHS box cover proudly displayed Ebert’s 2.5 star rating. And while he could be weirdly particular about certain things like violence or treatment of women (his revulsion at Blue Velvet because of what was asked of Isabella Rossellini comes to mind), I understand HOW those things could completely skew his view on a movie. I have my particular triggers that take me out of a movie or upset me also. But he was not a monolith, the man gave The Descent 4 stars fer crissakes! His predisposiition against violent horror flicks meant that when I saw him praise one I knew it was probably something worth seeing. Back then, seeing him tear apart a movie he hated was an amusing novelty. Now we have went through an era where snark was the main form of online film criticism, and moved on to people are wanting to write/read stuff that highlights the positive aspects of a movie, which is good, but there is a balance to be had and I think Ebert’s reviews overall showed a love for movies that allowed me to enjoy his occasional vicious takedown (as opposed to the hyper-snark folks who seem to start every movie looking for stuff they can shit on, or the fanboys who will praise a genre/series/creator no matter the quality of the particular movie in question). And he co-wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which is one of my favorite comedies of all time!

  32. Some people, of all people, should not have a complaint about a reviewer who is very opinionated and comes on strong as if Ebert needs to couch his writing with a bunch of caveats.

    I didn’t agree with Ebert on everything but he was a great, punchy, witty writer. And loved enough schlock to satisfy me. He didn’t seem to love shocking stuff he thought was misogynist like Blue Velvet or I Spit on Your Grave. Oh well. One is great and one ain’t so much.

    And actually he gave Evil Dead 2 THREE stars, not only two and a half!

  33. What I’m getting from this is that Ebert was to late Gen X/early Millennials as Blockbuster was to later Millennials and early Zoomers; objectively not that great, but the first place you found out about some films, so you get all gooey and sentimental about them.

    I’m kidding, I’m kidding, put down your pitchforks and rants about monopolistic business practices, cultural conservatism, and refusal to stock NC-17 films, I’m well aware.

    I do find it interesting that people are so defensive of the people who introduced them to art, but often when the artists themselves go on to make a few disappointing ventures they start getting a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude towards them. I don’t know if it’s perhaps the more parasocial kind of relationship that develops with a writer when they’re writing as themselves rather than communicated through fictional characters. Or the “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead” syndrome. Or maybe a bit of both. Or maybe neither.

    I do agree with Mr. Majestyk that the idea that sitting through a bad film is akin to, oh, just off the top of my head, say, going through a SAW trap is a bad addition to our culture, and I’m also a bit queasy about the idea of “loving film” being touted as some great personal virtue. Source of personal fulfilment, sure, wonderful quality that also enriches others, ehh… I think much of varying degrees of bad has come from over romanticising that. If “loving film” were that compelling a characteristic, READY PLAYER ONE would be one of the great stories of our times. Yeah, I get it, it’s what you do with what you got, Ebert didn’t write nasty tweets or do angry YouTube rants or beg for endless series of reboots and remakes, he wrote high quality reviews that were witty or insightful and often touched on wider societal matters, and I’m sure did some great stuff for Film Preservation too, and he didn’t just love THE WRATH OF KHAN and GOONIES like those Oaxis dorks, he loved TOKYO STORY and BOOTY CALL and A TALE OF TWO KITTIES and all kind of shit, and no doubt if he were here today he’d be tackling and calling out a lot about both modern film production and ffilm discussion, although he’d likely be called “out of touch” a few times for his troubles in doing so.

    Look, I don’t quite know why this has set me off. I generally consider myself a Ebertian. I bought SHILO on DVD the other day partly because I saw it had an introduction from Ebert. Mostly because I needed a third DVD to make up a 3 for £1 offer. Also, I like dogs. And kids’ films. But Ebert was a factor! But I think even the sacred cows you like are worth a little dissection.

    I wonder what Tony Scott would think of all the discussion of his opening salvo mostly being dedicated to a bloody critic? I suspect he would care deeply in-between jet setting from country to country to make blockbuster films.

  34. grimgrinningchris

    October 4th, 2023 at 4:55 pm

    I think most everyone’s opinions on Ebert here, positive and negative have merit.

    I did love how loudly he sang the praises of Dark City and The Phantom.

    Also, ironically that he’d become such a topic in this talkback right now, since I’ve spent most of my free time the past few days binging on all of Years Best and Years Worst episodes through the 80s and 90s.

  35. grimgrinningchris

    October 4th, 2023 at 5:01 pm

    Also my girl’s screename is named after one of Miriam’s attic exes.

  36. Not sure if loving film is in general a personal virtue, but can certainly be held up as a positive when one is a film critic. There are tons of people who write or talk about film who seem to hate them, too many of those guys on Youtube or the internet…remember “bad movie sites,” where losers would write 52 pages about why a movie sucked?

  37. This reminds me there is a podcast which apparently reviews THE WEST WING episodes, and it exists apparently to ridicule that show for being naive. Even if yeah that show is liberal wonk STAR TREK, I just struggle to imagine the passion it takes to dwell on such negativity if you really hate something that much. It’s like jerking off with sandpaper. Is it really that pleasurable?

    I think some of the negative-oriented gimmicks started out of nostalgia for a cultural touchstone. Michael Medved wrote that book proclaiming PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE* the worst movie ever because hey, many Baby Boomers remember maybe seeing that loser among the many cheaply impotently made creature features of its era that played on the late show. Or early Angry Video Game Nerd, yeah I remember playing those same bad impossibly hard cash-grab NES games! Crap perhaps, but we remember those days.

    Now its a clickbait hustle. I mean whether one likes Marvel stuff or not, there is a generation of cinephiles defined by that stuff. Whether as fans (like say STAR WARS did for Gen X kids) or flipside budding cinephile contrarians who see Satan in the flesh (like say many “hip” ones did in 1980s with Spielberg and his kind.) I get fanswho would do a podcast following that stuff, same way Star Wars fans can enjoy talking about even bad SW stuff like the Holiday Special. But say focusing on videos made by snobs to re-enforce the negative feedback loop with its audience? No thanks. Do I really need a video to tell me Zack Snyder isn’t my cup of tea?

    OT I’ve found Dark Corners on YouTube recently, goddamn what a delight. It’s UK-based and covers old horror/sci-fi stuff, *but* it’s actually informative and thoughtful video essays. They’ve done videos on Hammer films, the Universal Monster films, etc. They did a great Lon Chaney bio. Yes they cover bad Z-level films too in brief reviews, but with a tongue n cheek nature. It’s having fun with turkeys that almost make you want to see them yourself like is that fever dream really a thing? Worth a watch.

    It’s also why I’ve enjoyed Bad Movie Bible. Their videos covering the DIE HARD and ALIEN clones are comprehensive hoots. Vern would appreciate the DIE HARD one especially, since they do cover (and compliment) SECURITY and COMMAND PERFORMANCE.

    Now contrast with Red Letter Media, which many young movie fans I know would take a bullet for and I just don’t get the appeal. I tried recently to give them another shot, ranking John Carpenter films. And when they dismiss DARK STAR as just a dumb glorified student film** and looking it, I thought oh…these are THOSE sort of guys, huh? No thanks.

    *=I could argue seeing bad films and celebrating (or trashing?) them can be part of positive cinema. You learn from bad films, sometimes such trash is more amusing than competently made bores.

    **=I mean superfically they’re not wrong, DS started out as a student film that got expanded to a feature and got released in theaters. But why not be impressed with two guys in their early days (Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon) getting to express their ingenuity and imagination without much money? I mean I find O’Bannon’s FX still impressive all things considered, its why he was hired for that DUNE adaptation which didn’t end up happening. Or you can be like RLM and go “LOL its bearded dudes in outer space!” Fuck them.

  38. Pacman2.0 – Ebert is an influence for me growing up, I still enjoy watching old Siskel/Ebert clips. But its like any movie fan who is inspired by a critic or whoever, you eventually learn to develop your own identity. I respect and enjoy Ebert, even if he and Gene could be puritanical whiny when it came to horror movies back in the 1980s. Even something with MANIAC, centered around an awesome awards-worthy performance, no it was trash to them. Or I read his THE BROOD review where somehow he either was unable or unwilling to see the subtext about projected rage aimed at relatives, society, whoever. It’s not like Ebert was a moron, but he couldn’t get beyond the violence or that glorious climax when the mother reveals her egg sac she’s used to give birth to her army of Albino midgets. BROOD really is one of Cronenberg’s best movies. Oh well.

    In fact I can tell you a defining early moment for me. I saw Carpenter’s THE THING. I was profoundly affected by it. Then I look it up in Leonard Maltin’s movie guide, and he wiped his ass with it. Similar thing happened with Chuck Russell’s THE BLOB remake*. I’m like “wha?!?!” I thought maybe I was wrong for enjoying them? But I saw merit in them, clearly I did. Thus I had to learn how to express what subjectively worked about those monster movies for me.

    *=Having rewatched that and the original 1958 BLOB, yeah I still like both films. The remake is better, in fact a more-clever-than-given-credit-for reimagining that kept what worked about the original film but added a cynical look back at the small town Americana that older film represented.

  39. “I could argue seeing bad films and celebrating (or trashing?) them can be part of positive cinema.”

    Don’t know if you saw BEST WORST MOVIE, the documentary about the actors from TROLL 2. There is this one part where they focus on fan screenings of it and at one hand I loved how all those strangers came together, quoting lines from the movie, showed off their cosplay and all in all had a good time.

    But I also felt it really cringy, as the kids say, when the actors were on stage, being ridiculed, even if it was at least partly in good humor. One guy asked them with a big, shit eating grin about their acting abilities and I can understand why the protagonist of the documentary, who was generally a really cool guy, got at times really passive aggressive at times. I even felt a bit for the director, who was under the delusion that he made a profound arthouse picture, and then freaked out at screening and started yelling at everybody.

  40. Another critic authority figure who greatly influenced me is another that 80s/90s kids remember: Joe Bob Briggs. It’s awesome that he came back a few years back and still doing his gimmick now on Shudder. I think in some ways he’s better than in his Movie Channel/Monstervision days: he adjusted his persona. Alot of that stuff back then is cringe now with the constant Lesbo jokes and edgelord stuff, which he’s not done (or much to my memory) on his current show. I know it was a joke when he would leer on his mail lady, who would always turn him down. His relationship with Darcy is more of generational/personality clashes which can be funny, a 90s kids perspective that’s more fond of stuff from that era that maybe JBB isn’t. A running joke is her love for HALLOWEEN 3. I know at a relatively screening they showed HALLOWEEN 3 with Tommy Lee Wallace and Tom Atkins, and JBB had to “defend” his negative review.*

    He’s done recent interviews where he expresses some of his frustrations. He got to show his favorite movie ever TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE for the first time ever, but Shudder refuses to let him show I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. A movie I’m not a fan of, but if he could show CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST then why not? He also wants to show the old Universal horror films plus the Val Lewton stuff, which those copyright owners won’t license to shudder. But more than anything else, he wants to show different stuff that maybe horror fans haven’t seen. He brilliantly did a double feature of NOSFERATU, showing the silent Murnau original with Herzog’s equally brilliant remake. *But* his fans just want to watch 80s stuff, the “golden age” they tell him which he clearly doesn’t necessarily agree with.

    On bright side, he showed WITCHBOARD which I hadn’t seen before and one of the better “Sam Raimi movies not actually made by Sam Raimi” I’ve seen.

    *=Isn’t it fascinating how HALLOWEEN 3 has gone from hated even by horror fans because no Michael Myers to now yeah it’s generally considered good, at worst a cult favorite now? Having rewatched it recently, I liked it even if I felt I straddled the fence between the fans and detractors. It’s good.

  41. CJ Holden – I have and you’re right. I think of Tommy Wiseau who made THE ROOM and yeah it became a cult film for being THE ROOM and he rode that wave became hey I’m fringe famous now and people like me even if its done out of irony because its so bad. Obviously he didn’t make that movie intentionally awful, nobody can. That’s the appeal of many quote “great” bad films, made by people who didn’t know what they were doing or perhaps were aliens from another planet.

    I know the story of Ed Wood in his sad last days cranking out porn novels at night to pay his rent (and liquor store bills), being giddy when a friend would call him up to say PLAN 9 was on tv. If he had lived to see his cult fandom explode as it did in the 1980s and beyond, would he happy or annoyed that he’s deemed the hackiest of hacks? We all want validation, but how much do we want fame? Dude was a raging alcoholic by his death, he probably would’ve rode that fringe fame hard but would he have been happier? We’ll never know.

    Reminds me that JBB showed Fulci’s ZOMBIE and interviewed the lead actor from it, and clearly (in diplomatic terms) he’s not a fan of the movie. In fact it was a paycheck gig he allegedly accepted without knowing it was a zombie film (and a gory AF one at that.) But he’s respectful that this film help give him a long lifespan beyond his heyday as a TV actor, fans who love that cult classic show up at conventions and pay him to autograph crap or do meet & greets.

  42. Muh- That’s a good point of comparison, I did used to hate those websites, especially The Agony Booth. Oh people used to go on about that. And obviously Vern’s more positive outlook is a large part of why I’m here. But does anyone care about those kind of sites any more?

  43. Also this is a complete tangent and will be of interest to almost no one, but fuck it; I went to a localish Library recently (I did work experience there when I was 15 for any Pacman2.0 biographers out there), and as you can imagine the DVD selection there these days is pretty paltry, but one thing they did have was Season 7 of THE WEST WING. Not Season 1. Not Season 6. None of the Seasons in-between. Just Season 7. I just loved the idea of some DVD faithful turning up at the library having exhausted most of their selection, and going “yeah, alright, I’ll rent THE WEST WING and watch all episodes of Season 7 in a week. This used to be a big deal like 15-20 years ago, right? I’m sure not having seen the previous 6 Seasons won’t be a problem”

  44. “In fact I can tell you a defining early moment for me. I saw Carpenter’s THE THING. I was profoundly affected by it. Then I look it up in Leonard Maltin’s movie guide, and he wiped his ass with it”

    Well RRA, you made me do something I haven’t done in years: Reach to the back of my creaking book shelf and yank out a dusty copy of Leonard Maltin’s 2001 Movie and Video Guide.

    And yeah, here is his review of THE THING: “More faithful to the original story, but non stop parade of slimy, repulsive special effects turns this into a freak show and drowns most of the suspense”

    That’s on page 1414, which I am now strongly tempted to rip out and wipe my own ass with.

  45. The Maltin guide is full of pearl-clutching shit like that. Any time a movie is even a smidge tougher than old school PG he’s gotta let you know that he doesn’t approve of this sort of thing. The book is full of qualifiers like “well made but violent,” as if somehow the latter will always somewhat nullify the former. Whenever a movie really made Maltin faint dead away like a Victorian dowager, I moved that movie to the top of the must-see list. Found some solid movies that way. I remember going on a decade-long quest to see SONNY BOY because Maltin was so offended by it. And it didn’t disappoint. A BOMB rating from Maltin’s better than four stars from anybody else.

    There are plenty of movies he wouldn’t even lower himself to review. You won’t find any John Waters in there pre-POLYESTER. Now, do I think Maltin’s gonna get a fuckin’ thing out of PINK FLAMINGOS? Hell no. But Waters is an important filmmaker and FLAMINGOS is a significant film. A real critic would hold his nose and offer his two cents. Not Maltin. He’s too precious to get his dainty little hands dirty.

    I had a few editions of the guide (this was pre-internet so there weren’t any other options at the time) and I noticed that he must have hired some younger staffers because some reviews changed. EVIL DEAD 2, for instance, went up half a star. He must have been trying to keep up with the times now that his priggish views were going out of style. But of course it was too late. The guide folded a few years later. He blamed the internet, of course. And he’s not wrong. Being able to look up a dozen long-form reviews of any movie ever made sure did beat the pants off dismissive 25-word capsule reviews that wasted half their word count on a bad joke.

    Remember, this is the guy who thinks LASERBLAST is every bit as good a movie as TAXI DRIVER. That’s how valuable his opinion is. But I guess we’ll always have GREMLINS 2.

  46. Thankfully us Germany never had any superstar film critics. I mean, for books we had a TV show named DAS LITERARISCHE QUARTETT, where four intellectual critics talked about new books. Marcel Reich-Ranicki was the breakout-star of the show. A man who really never held back with his opinions, but if they were justified? I don’t know. I’m a man, so I don’t read books. (Kidding! But I am really more of a movie person. Sorry Vern, for still not having read WORM ON A HOOK.) I did like when he won a lifetime achievement award and trashed the show during his acceptance speech, because right before him, because some low brow stand up comedian was hosting.

    The only German movie critic who kiiiiiinda came close was Hans-Ulrich Pönack, but nobody really took him seriously and honestly, I think neither did his employers. Once a week during the late 90s and early 00s he appeared on a breakfast show to talk about new releases and you can imagine him as if Louis DeFunes played Armond White. Legendary is his trashing of the first LOTR movie, which was basically just him saying that it was trash because he found it “too violent”. He really hyped the violence in the film up like Roger Ebert did with THE FRIGHTENERS. In all fairness, he did love SHOOT ‘EM UP and said “The only problem is that when it’s over you will scream for more”, so I don’t think he was anti-violence per se. Maybe just sword violence.

  47. (Obvious comment about me never learning to read what I wrote before I hit the submit button.)

  48. I love Redlettermedia…I mena they’re not wrong about Dark Star. Is it impressive that it got made, yeah…but “just getting made” also counts for Bigfoot vs DB Cooper. I don’t remember them entirely dismissing it, but not acting like it’s all that either, which t isn’t. I think generally they are NOT those guys who just shot on stuff…even their reviews where they specifically pick terrible movies, they sometmes really like them and at least have an interesting banter about them. And they review stuff no one else would do, like The Assistant.

    Halloween 3…man I do not get that movie. It’s just so goofy. It’s like when everything had to be a spy movie or something…like, robots, for realz? And the scary usual 80s supercomputers? I think nostalgia is driving the love for this one, like people who saw Pet Sematary 2 when they were 10 and think it’s good. And the generation before that had He-Man cartoons and that kind of crap.

  49. Muh – I suppose DARK STAR I find charming as the sort of film that only could’ve come at a certain time and place. I like the humor, the ending, the musical milieu, etc. Maybe Vern has rubbed off on me in trying to appreciate shit for what they are and not punish them for what they’re not?

    Anyway I’m not the biggest H3 fan so keep this in mind what I found when revisiting it with zero nostalgia for it growing up.

    (1) solid central performance by Atkins, I love how his character is clearly a raging full-blown alcoholic but the movie doesn’t beat you over the head with it. (2) I like Carpenter tapping onto the idea of a corporation being all-powerful not just literally but culturally that reminds today of an Apple or Disney, you can’t escape it. (3) A mix of celtic folklore and sci-fi, its bonkers like if Hammer kept going into the 80s this is something they might’ve made which is how I felt about LIFEFORCE (4) killing a kid gets my respect (5) memorable ending, which I remember being impressed by even if rest of the film didn’t as a kid (6) killing a kid, but snakes and shit pop out of his head that’s awesome! (7) OCP’s CEO going Lucky Charms leprechaun cartoony villain (8) Silver Shamrock make catchy AF jingles (9) good underrated Carpenter soundtrack that didn’t bother to echo his previous HALLOWEEN music (10) why did I insist on a 10 reasons list?

    I agree the robots feel random, I figure Carpenter decided this needed a superhuman threat like Myers and just decided “hey robots!”

  50. Mr. Majestyk – HAHA I agree 100% with your Maltin smackdown. But I’ll admit I still hold a certain fondness for him. Maybe its because I had a copy of that, or that Cinerama CD from the 90s, his GREMLINS 2 cameo where he gets killed for not liking the original, or appearing on MST3K and suggest a turkey. I don’t intellectually found him influential like Ebert, Kael, Briggs, whatever.

    Speaking of MST3K, reminds me when they ridiculed him for the LASERBLAST business. At least Maltin was enough of a good sport to not hold that against them.

  51. RRA: Yeah, I know what you mean. The way I feel about Maltin now is sorta like we were bitter enemies a long time ago, but now our battles are done and forgotten so I feel some fondness for him. I pick up the ol’ guide now and it’s like meeting up with my former archnemesis over a beer and reminiscing about the old days. “We had some times me and you, didn’t we? Remember SONNY BOY? LASERBLAST? Those were the days…”

  52. RRA, they didn’t entirely dismuss it as a student film. The one guy says after watching some of it, without knowing the background, that he guessed it WAS a student film that was then padded out to make it feature length. And he is entirely correct, so that was just figuring out a fact which to him was obvious. They don’t really crap on it, just not much to say about it. The beards was more about the fact they looked like a bunch of film students. Carpenter himself dismisses it as an amateur movie.

    As for liking a movie for what it is and not what we want it to be…if we did that in theory you could never dislike anything. Skinamarkink? Perfect length of wall shots because that is what it is. But no, I can talk about how some of it is effective and what I’d do to make it work…for me. But I can’t love it for what it is because what it is is pretty dull. I felt the same way about El Mariachi. The story is more interesting than the movie. Nice that it got done! I never feel a need to watch it again. As opposed to something that hits me right like Basket Case where you can see the flaws but they work for the movie.

    You might be giving John Carpenter more credit for Halloween 3 than he deserves, I don’t think he wrote on that at all. He might have thrown in ideas but seems like he was relatively hands off and cashed the checks. The storyline actually makes sense when you realize the first versions were written by Nigel Kneale who always liked mixing science and folk magic in stuff like his Quartermass movies or The Stone Tapes which was a tv movie about scientists trying to do experiments in a haunted house. I bet what he had was more interesting but then the visionary Tommy Lee Wallace rewrote it and I assume it got cheesier from there, probably with Carpenter’s blessing.

    I do think Joe Bob Briggs is better than ever though, he’s really reinvented his personna while not losing his charm. I like that he goes more deep-dive into movies instead of the Monstervision days, where he just threw out a few things and moved on. I like how he fought to debut new episodes like on tv, with a scheduled time to make it feel more like an event. I’m sure he’s less sexist, I never saw a ton of Monsterverse back in the day but he could go there…he evolved but didn’t lose his spice.

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