Wednesday 8 December 2010

My most memorable movie viewing experiences #3...

Formative Years – Part One:

The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981):
When – 1998
Where – Home Video
Why – After school one day we stopped in at the local post office, and for the previous few weeks they had had a bargain bin for videos, £5 a pop. I’d already nabbed a number from there, but having just that week heard about Sam Raimi’s gruesome horror from friends (who summed it up somewhat dismissively as “pencil stabbing and oozing mashed potato”), I knew that it was in fact going to be something special.

Still decidedly too young to buy it for myself, my Mum and the shop girl joked about how neither of them would watch it in a million years as it was bought for me, and then away home. Initially it was a bit slow, but as soon as the gore starting flying my jaw hit the floor – so as you can imagine, the final act promptly inspired me to flip my lid. At the time it was the goriest film I’d ever seen, and at that point in time the BBFC hadn’t entered its post-Ferman age, so this copy was the rather butchered version borne out of the ‘Video Nasty’ era (this being named “the #1 nasty”) – but still, it became an all-time favourite, and an inspiration.

The George A. Romero Undead Saga (George A. Romero, 1968, 1978, 1985, 2005, 2007, 2009):
When – 1998, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010
Where – Home Video/Multiplex Cinema
Why – in May 1997 I bought a copy of SFX magazine during a school trip because in the corner of the front cover I saw the name “George A. Romero”, a name which I’d heard was synonymous with the zombie genre – a genre that had recently become of interest to me, despite having never really seen any zombie movies before. That article, in connection with the release of the Cannes Cut (distributed incorrectly as the “Director’s Cut”) on home video by BMG, made me ravenous about seeing Dawn of the Dead. Initially however, it eluded me, for what seemed like forever.

However, in a local Woolworths I came across a copy of Day of the Dead (a couple of fascinated images from which appeared in the aforementioned SFX article) for £5.99 – so I snatched it up (or rather, it was bought for me, as I was still an early teen at this point) and hurried home to check it out. Having only recently been awed by the gory delights of The Evil Dead, I was soon astounded by the Tom Savini’s make-up effects. It blew my mind.

Fast forward a bit and we have Night of the Living Dead, and Dawn of the Dead. The former was a good flick from the get-go (a friend and I even did a soft toy spoof version, a la The Adam & Joe Show), but it was the latter that stunned me silent. I remember putting the video on, sitting down, and then 2 hours and 20 minutes later I was left, still on the edge of my seat, jaw literally agape, as the sound of the clock bell echoed into nothingness. It became, and remains, my all-time number one favourite movie.

Fast forward again to the release of Land of the Dead – my first Romero flick in the cinema, and a zombie one to-boot. I watched it with a fellow Romero fan, and an audience who was likewise in-tune with what was happening on-screen … except for the trio who clearly couldn’t get in to see Guy Ritchie’s new film (Revolver), who promptly fled once the innards really started to fly.

A couple of years later and there I was, the only time I’ve been to the cinema alone, seeing Diary of the Dead. It was me, a couple, and one other guy who sodded off part-way in (maybe he worked there, I don’t know). The lens dipped whilst the projectionist was away, and while I said that I loved it, deep down I was disappointed by it. My relationship with Diary has been all over the place ever since.

Finally we come to Survival – not a memorable viewing, but I enjoyed finally getting to see it, even if it was direct-to-DVD here in the UK. It’s not perfect, but I dig it.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974):
When - 1999
Where – Home Video
Why – 1999 was a decisive time in my formative years, as the British Board of Film Classification entered a new era when James Ferman left, and a whole slew of previously banned films were finally released and went straight onto the home video market. In this instance a friend had rented it, dubbed it, and then I dubbed his dub – so I had this third generation copy (or you could argue fourth generation what with the original video having to be sourced en mass, however that’s done) and I remember eating dinner whilst watching the flick – the picture and audio were fudgy, being a dub-of-a-dub, but it only served to make the experience of first seeing this notorious video nasty all the more illicitly thrilling.

Friday the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980):

When - Late 1990s/Early 2000s
Where – Home Video/Television
Why – Similar to Chainsaw Massacre, my first copy of Friday 13th was a dub-of-a-dub, and so the fudgy visuals and audio again served the illicit thrill of watching this landmark slasher flick. Furthermore, a few years later, a group of us all sat down to watch it at a house party – and one of the girls was terrified of horror films – so on more than one occasion, including the famous final jump, the more devious-minded of us would sneak up behind her and scare the bejesus out of her.

The rest of the flicks I would see in a somewhat scattered pattern on home video and television, and as close as I can figure it the order went something like this – 1,2,3,4,8,9,6,7,10,5 … although I can’t remember exactly.

A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971):
When – 1999/2000
Where – Home Video
Why – Of all the films from my formative years, Kubrick’s balletic tale of ultra violence was one of the most influential – and it was certainly the most influential of my final year of High School. It was one of the most iconic of the video nasties era – and it hadn’t even been banned (it was removed in the UK by Kubrick himself after so-called copycat incidents occurred) – so with the combination of a change of leadership at the BBFC, and the death of Kubrick himself, his self-imposed ban was lifted.

I saw the movie, read the book and listened to the soundtrack repeatedly. It was so influential in fact that the exam project for my GCSE 2D Art was directly inspired by it utilising a mixture of adapted images from it, and images referencing it.

The Fly II (Chris Walas, 1989):
When – 1993/1994
Where – Television
Why – At age 9 I began to watch horror movies, albeit ones that were as much science fiction as they were horror, and the sequel to David Cronenberg’s ultimate body horror remake was one of those introductory movies. Certain scenes gave me a jump – such as the mangled, grotesque dog lunging out of the darkness – and certain scenes gave me reason to repeatedly rewind and review (frame by frame) to examine how the special effect worked – such as the guard who gets crushed by an elevator.

What was more memorable though was my Dad, quite rightly, making sure that the difference between reality and fiction was concrete – speaking of the guy crushed by an elevator, I remember him saying something along the lines of ‘if that character was real he’d have a wife and kids, and someone would have to tell them he was dead’ – I kind of chuckle about it now, but it was a subtle way to just re-affirm that a movie is just a movie, and horrific things happen in the real world that actually have to be dealt with.

Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979):
When – 1993/1994
Where – Television
Why – Along with The Fly 2, this was one of the first horror movies (also part sci-fi) that I ever watched, at the tender age of 9. At the time I found it a bit dull, I must confess, what with the long takes creeping around the Nostromo, and the subtle use of the titular xenomorph itself – however it implanted itself into my mind, and I now consider it a true classic.

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978):
When – Mid-to-Late 1990s
Where – Television
Why – While I’d already started to watch adult oriented movies like Alien, The Fly 2, and the Terminator movies, I hadn’t gotten into (or, really, been allowed to get into) proper horror movies – and in this case, Carpenter’s seminal slasher. I remember watching this one weekend morning with the door closed, the sound turned down really low and with my finger hovering nervously over the ‘STOP’ button.

Similar to Alien, at the time I considered it a bit dull and light on the violence, but also like Alien I quickly came to view it as a true classic. However, it was the illicit thrill of watching this taboo horror flick that really stuck in my mind.

No comments: