The (Un)Necessary Remake Dept: ‘The Stuff’

Let’s be clear:  Larry Cohen‘s The Stuff isn’t anyone would call a good movie, but it is a damn interesting one.  What it has going for it is a timely premise (the idea of consumerism run rampant combined with corporate and government malfeasance) and some very interesting special effects.

The movie plays like a twisted version of Dan Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (speaking of which, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is one of the few films that has benefitted from multiple remakes; The Invasion, notwithstanding) but with a more culinary bent in that a white substance is found bubbling from the earth, that happens to be edible.  This mysterious foodstuff, marketed as The Stuff, takes the country by storm, making some people very rich.

But there’s a problem.  The company selling it has co-opted the some scientists in the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), so that no one quite knows what’s in The Stuff, which is a very bad thing because The Stuff is alive.  It’s similar to yogurt, except with a will, and a drive all its own.

In other words, when you eat it, it eats you.

The Stuff Pic

Are you eating The Stuff, or is it eating you?

A possible angle for a reboot could take would make the stuff called ‘The Stuff’ a genetically modified organism (GMO), as opposed to a naturally-occuring one, giving new meaning to the phrase “smart food.”

What needs to remain is the practical nature of the special effects.  There’s something significantly creepy about the mouth of a animatronic head opening wider than humanly possible, as opposed the way such things are typically done with CGI, which more often than not look like a video game (See: I Am Legend).

Since the movie falls apart somewhere around the midway point,  when Paul Sorvino turns up as a disgraced military commander–curiously similar to quite a few Right wing radio hosts–I would chuck that entire subplot and instead concentrate on how futile it it would first seem for people who haven’t been co-opted.

That way, the entire film would focus on the efforts of a disgraced FBI agent working against the odds to unmask the horror of The Stuff.

‘The Purgation’ Trailer

I like introducing artists to people who may not be aware that they’re out there, so here’s the trailer for The Purgation, a movie by Elaine Chu that revolves around a woman named Iris, who attempts the exorcise some figurative ghosts and, if the trailer is any indicator, ends up encountering some very literal ones.

Then again, when Iris visited an asylum from her past I could have told her that there would be problems.  That being said, what kind of horror movie would you have if someone didn’t go into the darkened basement or if the call you received on a late and stormy night didn’t come from in the house?

Elaine is joining some pretty august company.  Off the top of my head, I can recall relatively few Asian or Asian-American horror directors, like Ronny Yu, Takashi Miike, Su-chang Kong, James Wan and Justin Lin.

Elaine is funding her film via Indiegogo, which ended earlier this year.  She also appears to be also accepting funds on her web site, so if you’re able to lend a hand, she’d appreciate it.

‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ Trailer

I saw Charles B. Pierce‘s original The Town That Dreaded Sundown a long time ago, and I recall it being particularly scary.

What made it so was the fact–did I mention that it’s based on a true story?–that there wasn’t a rhyme or reason for the actions of the killer that anyone could see.

Five or six people were killed in Texarkana, TX and the murderer seemed to vanish as quickly as he appeared.

As a young person nothing was scarier than the fact that a psychopath–admittedly an old one by then–was just walking about, looking just like anyone else, hiding a terrible secret.

Having seen the original, and comparing it to the trailer for the continuing adventures (technically appear to be a reboot, since it takes place after the original murders), I am not optimistic that it’s going to remain true to what happened prior.

And what makes it worse is all the supernatural mumbo-jumbo the trailer more than once hints at.

‘Ouija’ Trailer

Originally the movie Ouija was going to be huge, in terms of budget, before Universal (the studio releasing the horror feature) balked and almost abandoned the project.  The story was tweaked, and it was brought in significantly cheaper, and the rest is history.

It always mystified me why it was originally planned as a big-budget feature (other than the property being owned by Hasbro, the people behind–or should I say culpable–for the Transformers).  The movie revolves around a ouija board, a Hasbro product by the way, which are creepy just sitting on a table, never mind interacting with the damned (pardon the pun) thing.

And while I think that Universal not producing Ouija as an expensive feature was a great idea (which should pay dividends at the box office) abandoning Guillermo del Toro’s version of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness wasn’t.

This Movie Is “Antisocial,” Though Don’t Watch It Alone

The Social Redroom is a fictitious social networking site that’s similar to others that you may already be familiar to, like Facebook.  And like Facebook, The Social Redroom (which coincidentally(?) reminds me of ‘redrum;’ ‘murder’ spelled backwards) also does experiments on its users without their knowledege, all in an effort to find what it is that makes users ‘tick.’

But what happens your their efforts go seriously awry (which if you’ve seen the movie is probably the understatement of the decade)?

That’s the idea at the heart of Antisocial–it’s probably not a coincidence that the title is similar to David Fincher’s movie, The Social Network, though what’s a bit odd is that it in a way covers similar subject matter (without the physical violence, though there was plenty of the psychic variety).

It’s a conceit that works remarkably well because the ideas that animate the movie are familiar to anyone with even a passing understanding of how human nature, capitalism and the Internet work.

It’s also not a gratuitously gory movie, though I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t body fluids of the red variety shed.  And speaking of gore, most of it is deliciously practical, which isn’t to say that there isn’t CGI, though it’s not gratuitous.

What’s also surprising is how well-acted this movie is.  There’s none of that wink, wink, nudge, nudge stuff at one end of the spectrum, or histrionics at the other.

Just people caught up in circumstances way, way, way beyond their control.  It’s a trip.  I haven’t felt this positive about a horror film since The Den.

It’s that awesome.

Kudos all around for director Cody Calahan, who also co-wrote the movie with Chad Archibald, though I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention that the exemplary lighting by Jeff Maher and the music by Steph Copeland.

And what every you do, get off the damn computer.  Go outside and perhaps spend a little time with someone you love because The Social Redroom is coming, and it’s a killer.

Antisocial is currently on Netflix.

 

‘The Remaining’ Trailer

Hollywood can be so fascinating.  It seems that lately there’s a trend revolving around religious-based movies, from Noah to Exodus: Gods and Kings, God is in.  This isn’t something that’s been ignored by either comedies, This Is The EndRapture-Palooza (a really funny movie.  Well worth checking out), dramas, and horror films.

The most recent example of the latter is The Remaining, which sounds like Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers, with the inclusion of more blatantly supernatural elements, such as angels and demons.

 

‘As Above, So Below’ Review

 

As Above, So Below movie poster

As Above, So Below, let’s be clear, isn’t a particularly good movie, but it is a damned entertaining one.

The story, such as it is, revolves around Scarlett (Perdida Weeks), who’s searching for the clues that would lead her to the Philosopher’s Stone, which I should mention that her father was also searching for, before he hung himself.

Bad omens aside,  Scarlett is accustomed to going where saner heads refuse to tread, so she charges on and eventually makes her way to Paris, where a vital clue to her quest awaits.

As Above, So Below is also a found footage movie, despite the film not being found by anyone (which is a little odd, when you think about it).

John Erick Dawdle also directed Devil and Quarantine, and while those are both better films, they’re not nearly as frenetic or fun.  Though what’s curious about the film is thatthere’s a campiness, a silliness to As Above, So Below that I am not sure is not was deliberate.

For instance, there’s a scene that I call the ‘creepy woman inside the club’ scene, that is so silly–and I mean laugh out loud silly–that I couldn’t imagine what was going through Dawdle’s mind when he filmed it.  There’s even a later scene–when Scarlett and her gang are exploring the Catacombs of Paris–that is almost as silly (you’ll know it when you see, or hear, it).

The first scene I can see as a mistake that just slipped by the director.  The second…I wasn’t sure what’s going on.  Maybe he’s channelling his inner Joel Schumacher or something (in the sense of camp because Schumacher never did anything so odd by accident).

So As Above, So Below when all is said and done, in terms of the total package, is a bit lacking.  That being said, it’s fun, and besides–you probably already seen Guardians of the Galaxy (twice)it’s worth checking out.

And if anyone could stomach the Transformers (Any of them.  Take your pick), this’ll be walk in the park.  Or maybe a climb in the cave.