Sunday, August 28, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark 2011

I have waited a long time for the release of the remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Like with most re-imaginings I wondered if there was a point, and then I tried to keep tabs on how it was progressing, while checking out teaser trailers and whatever else I could find. I finally decided the remake had fallen into the right hands and I pulled back, trying not to get too much more information. I know I go from hot to cold, but the cold is still kind of hot. What a complicated creature I’ve become.

Anyway, I was finally able to see what I had hoped for and confront what I was afraid of this Friday when I went to catch the remake. Was it worth the wait? Kinda.

Dark is never a bad film, but it’s by no means great either. It has a lot of wonderful stuff, including an incredible house and some really suspenseful set-pieces. It also holds onto many of the things from the original that I love so much, including the ending. It’s different, but also very much the same, and that pleased me. However, the build-up doesn’t amount to the great sucker-punch of the 1973 version. Considering how quickly and cheaply the original was put together, it’s a true testament to how a potentially good film can reach a sort of greatness when placed in the right hands.

That said, I think young people who have no connection to the original will enjoy this reboot. I’m not sure why it’s rated R, but I do think if there are non-jaded tweens in the world (that’s doubtful, I know) they will get a kick out of the modern shenanigans.

I’ve seen fans of the original divided between enjoyment and complete disdain, so I find it a hard film to recommend. But I can say I had a lot of fun and got a thrill out of seeing “Teleplay by Nigel McKeand” in the opening credits! Bravo Nigel! If anything else, the classic version got some respect and for our troubles, we got a new film made by people who loved the original. And it shows.

By the way, it’s worth catching in the theater just to see the lush new trailer for The Woman in Black. Goosebumps, guys. Goose-bumps!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Week... Smoking Allowed!

Even tiny terrors need a ciggy break...

Or at least that was case with Felix Silla who played one of the little demons in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. According to an interview he did with the Associated Press, Felix had a tough time getting in a good smoke with the mouthless mask. Felix refused to be defeated though and he found a way to get a straw (with the cigarette on one end) through the nose opening and down to his mouth!

And I won't even get into how much he itched.

You can read an interview with him here where he discusses dealing with all things monstrous!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TV-Movie-Remakes-a-Go-Go: A Wish List!

Bleargh, aargh and ugh.

Those are the lovely sounds I make when I think of most remakes. I have never been shy about my disdain for our re-boot culture and I tend to dislike all the horror re-imagining that is so popular these days. Of course, a few come down the pike that make you think maybe someone was actually thinking about the film (Dawn of the Dead, I’m looking at you), so I know it’s not impossible for a remake to be good… it’s only unlikely.

Yet, despite all that negative energy (which is so un-70s of me), I find that I enjoy the world of TV movie remakes. OK, so it’s a much smaller planet, with very few features inhabiting its orbit, but I have thus far enjoyed the bulk of the films which have found new life through their re-imagining. Like, I know Satan’s School for Girls 2000 is in no way better than the original, but it’s a pretty fun little flick, as was the Initiation of Sarah reboot from 2006. What I like best about these films is that they come from truly legitimate obscurities and shine a light on originals that might otherwise only be a part of the ultra-cool lexicon of the ultra-cool TV movie fan. So maybe 1973’s Satan’s School for Girls won’t touch a nerve with young girls of today, but the Charmed friendly updo (complete with casting Shannen Doherty in the lead) certainly strokes our inner wiccan.

Now TVMs are getting remade in a big way. Two films are due out, The Woman in Black will (hopefully) get a release date soon and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is gearing up for a major theatrical run starting August 26th. Despite my apprehensions about Katie Holmes (and really, that’s only elicits the slightest of hesitations… Go rocked!), I have high hopes that Dark will be a great piece of horror filmmaking, and inevitably some eyes will turn to the original. The thing about the first film is that it stands in a certain place and time. It’s still a classic and it's sure to garner new fans, but how could it be as popular as, say, oh, Ladykillers which is replete with nubile male strippers and the blonde Tina Turner wig?

What? You say male strippers aren’t that popular anymore?!? Where have I been? Oh, I know... 1986. It's good here.

When Lance from Kindertrauma suggested we compose a list of potentially great TVM remakes I instantly pulled some titles off the table. The big classics such as Duel, Dark Night of the Scarecrow and Bad Ronald seem untouchable to me. Is Bad Ronald perfect? No. But I can’t imagine any one other than Scott Jacoby filling those creepy shoes. While it’s not always the case, I believe most remakes should come from a mostly unseen source. The films should have good bones but lack a certain oomph that takes it to classic status. I know not everyone feels that way, but it’s how I roll. Lance offers some strong arguments though, and everyone should check out his fantastic list.

OK, so here’s where we are… By and large I normally detest remakes unless they are made from TV movies (preferably obscure). There are certainly plenty of films to choose from, and the list I compiled came from metaphorically pulling names from a hat (i.e. I made a random list and chose whatever titles made me say, “Oh, OK!”). Here is the unsystematic list I put together of ten films I think are worthy of throwing a few of the big Hollywood bucks at:

Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate (1971): I teetered on adding this one to the list because the original is so wonderful as it is. The four leads: Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Mildred Natwick and Sylvia Sydney are perfect in their parts as elderly women who jokingly create the perfect woman for a computer dating service. The idea is that the correspondence from potential male suitors might liven things up for these fiery old ladies, but instead they lure a psycho (Vince Edwards) into their lives. He is determined to meet his dream girl any way possible. The story is fun and original, but what really makes Mutilate such a great film are the pre-Golden Girls ladies who refuse to kowtow to stereotyping. They drink, have a wicked sense of humor, and enjoy living their lives to the fullest. In today’s society we see too many women fighting the age clock with every superficial weapon possible, instead of embracing their lives as fulfilled, experienced (sometimes wrinkled), and most importantly, vital people in the world. I think if someone could manage to hire actresses more interested in accepting their age rather than hiding from it, we could have a friggin’ revolution on our hands! OK, maybe not a revolution, but would someone please call Judi Dench, please… I have a movie idea for her! (Click on title for review)

Crawlspace (1972): I’ve been thinking a lot about this film which stars Arthur Kennedy and Theresa Wright as a retired and childless couple who allow the bug-eyed Richard (Tom Happer) into their house. At first Richard just wants to hang out in the crawlspace in their basement, and while no one is quite sure why he’s so off his rocker, the sweet couple believes they can bring him back to society with a little parental love. Of course the whole thing backfires and we come to learn that inherent distrust isn’t always a bad thing. Directed by the John Newland who also helmed the original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Crawlspace (both the film and novel) focuses on how some disconnect with civilization, and why some people will never stop reaching out those self imposed loners. While we like to think of ourselves as an iPhone culture, knee deep in social networking, some of us find that we are farther from society than ever before. There’s something here in Crawlspace that could easy transcend to contemporary culture, and it could be as equally moving if done correctly. (Click on title for review)

Madame Sin (1972): Madame Sin should be a well known film. Let’s look at the cast; we’ve got Robert Wagner as a James Bond type and Bette Davis as an Asian (!) evil super force! She kidnaps Wagner and holds him hostage in her Scottish (!!) castle in the hopes she can use him to steal a Polaris submarine…!!! Holy cow!!! What is this? This lush and engaging spy thriller was directed and co-written by David Greene with such a sure hand you start to buy the crazy plot. The main reason I’d like to see this remade is because then we might get a DVD of this sadly overlooked and charming oddity.

Where Have all the People Gone? (1974): Hey baby, it’s the year of the rapture and the apocalypse is coming! Why not celebrate with a film featuring the disappearance of 90% of the people in earth? Peter Graves starred in this excellent slow burn of a film that relied more on mood than overt terror. While I appreciated the (mostly) off screen dog attacks, imagine what could be done now? Also, it’s a timely issue, since we are in a non-stop argument over the environment and our place in it. Watch nature take its course in what could be an absolutely brutal retelling. (Click on title for review)

She’s Dressed to Kill (1979): Want to remake a slasher? Try this rarity featuring beautiful models stranded in a large mansion on top of a secluded mountain. The setting and atmosphere of Dressed is full of creepy ambiance. It’s also a relatively unknown slasher that screams glamour and begs for an update. In modern horror, films tend to want to encourage antagonistic female relationships, so why not put them in a situation where being hostile is part of its charm? And the clothes, oh the clothes... Where's Travilla when you need him?

This House Possessed (1981): Whoa, wha-? I don’t want certain films like Duel or The Night Stalker touched, but I’m OK with my all time favorite made for TV movie hitting the re-chopping block? Yes, sir. As much as I love Possessed (and trust me, I love it), I wouldn’t mind seeing it redone on an epic scale. The house hauntings are orchestrated through modern equipment and I love the idea of the vast gadgetry that could wreak vengeance on the protagonists. All I ask is that someone give Parker Stevenson the role of the music manager (originally played by Slim Pickens). Throw a cowboy hat on my main crush and give him a slightly earthy southern accent and I’ll be at every screening of the film! (Click on title for review and read another review here)

Desperate Lives (1982): OK, so I see this movie as the Reefer Madness of the 80s, and remember how that one got a re-do as a musical? Picture it - a little dance number while a girl has a giant drug freak out before she jumps through a window. That’s good stuff! What makes Desperate Lives work (and yes, it does work in an overwrought fashion) is that it’s so earnest in its message, but so overt in its direction. It is completely misguided and ridiculously fun - all it's missing is a good beat I can dance to!

I, Desire (1982): While we’re living in a modern world replete with emo-vampires, I think it’s about time to resurrect this sexy little thriller and put the campy back in vampy! The anti-Twilight crowd says they want something edgy, and this might make a good compromise. Desire isn’t the deepest film ever made, but it does have feature a vampire doubling as a prostitute, so there’s your edge. It would be really fun to get knee deep in a little vampire sleaze and take away that clean cut image they have been getting. (Click on title for review)

Deadly Lessons (1983): Although I didn’t get a chance to see it until much later, I remember when Deadly Lessons first aired. I was desperate for a slasher film that might be less gruesome than the more popular output (by the way, I was a chicken shit when I was a kid). This film looked destined to be the chance I had to experience some fun stalk and hopefully a little toned down slash, but for whatever reason, the film escaped me until I was an adult. Unfortunately, by then I could handle a lot more gore and looked to Lessons as more of a kitschy addition to the gene. It is also unfortunate that Lessons isn’t either scary or cheesy. It’s not horrible, but it’s not great either. I love the setting and I even enjoyed the killer’s reveal, so there’s much here to work with and I’d like to see this get the royal slasher redux treatment.

Velvet (1984): Seriously, this pilot movie about a band of female agents who work undercover as aerobics instructors is just gold waiting for pick up! It’s sort of like an unabashed Charlie’s Angels rip with more leotards. One agent even has a lipstick tube which doubles as a bomb detonator. Sorry, this pilot movie needs to be remade, perhaps is should still take place in the 80s, embracing every neon-tipped stereotype it can handle. And don't touch that awesome theme song... OK, it's awesomely bad, but still...

I whittled down this list from a couple of dozen titles. Far be it from me to say this is the end all, be all... Do you think there is a title that should be on this list?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Week: A Look into the Dark (I’m not Afraid, I Swear!)

When I first started this blog (almost 400 posts ago!), I had intended to cover mostly made for TV horror. Very early on I threw out that idea when I knew I wanted to write about Sooner or Later, and that was, like, four posts in! Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was one of those movies I thought I’d be writing about over and over again. Turns out I have only mentioned it more or less in passing or in relation to the upcoming remake. When I tried to think long and hard about why, I got a bad headache (cuz thinking like that is hard), but I also realized that classics like Dark get written about a lot. I think I was just unsure if I could add anything new to the pot.

All I should have said was I remember watching Dark when I was still living in California, I must have been six years old or younger. I recall being so terrified by the opening credits I changed the channel the first time I tried to watch it. The second time, I think I purposely stepped in closer to the end, and that scared the bejeezus out of me too, and I remember watching The Monkees directly afterwards in an attempt to cleanse the palette (I think it worked). Finally, I caught the whole film, but it was after we had moved to Vegas and I was a little older, but still quite shy of ten. I was pretty enchanted by those little demons that wanted to drag Sally (Kim Darby) to the depths of hell. Their malicious whispers and diminutive and creepy presence was the stuff horror legends are made of and I have wanted to brick over every fireplace since.

Dark was a movie, like Gargoyles and Trilogy of Terror, that became a mainstay on our local channel. It’s where I saw most of the small screen stuff, I guess because I was either unable to read a TV Guide or I preferred watching my scary flicks in the comfort of a sunlit room. Either way, Dark followed me throughout my life… at first on television, then as a legend that I was craving to view again, then as a bootleg I picked up at Kim’s Video in NYC and finally as a legitimate DVD through Warner Archives (check out the new special edition DVD due tomorrow). As my life changed and I grew older, and perhaps more weary, my views on Dark changed as well. At one sorry point in my life, I think I thought the film was one of those good bad movies which were becoming so popular in hipster culture. That was a short stint though because once I decided to dedicate more time to discovering and rediscovering TV movies, I had garnered a deep respect for what the filmmakers were able to do in a 74 minute time span. A little later I got more metaphorical with Dark, and I’ve even briefly said here I thought the film might make a decent comment on the women’s movement of the 70s, when being a simple housewife was leaving something to be desired. But I’m not so sure I want to get metaphorical with Dark... And here I go changing again… I think this is a film that works best as primal viewing. According to the legend, Dark was written by Nigel McKeand in two weeks to avoid the upcoming Writers Strike of 1973. Director John Newland took that script and simply sets up some magnificent scares as he extends a true sense of dread through the film. That’s probably why I carried it so deeply inside of me. As a kid, I had no idea what context or symbolism was, but I sure had that fear instinct working overtime during certain films (Friday the 13th Part 2 damn near drove me to therapy!), and this film filled all of those dark uncertainties about what might be lurking in the shadows.

In a few days the remake of Dark, which producer/co-writer Guillermo Del Toro refers to as the scariest TV movie he has ever seen, gets a new life. It’s pretty amazing to watch the genesis of this little TVM that could, it was first considered a throwaway horror film, only to become a cult hit and then a classic of the genre worthy of a mega budget redux. I get a little tear in my eye whenever I think about it. Or maybe I just bit my tongue. Either way, I’m over the moon about this new version and as I travel the interwebs looking at various articles about the film, I am thrilled to see all the comments from people who have intense memories of Dark from their childhood. This is it, guys. Those of us who love TV movies can say “We’ve arrived!” It’s pretty exciting, so I thought I’d dedicate the next week to Dark. It won’t be a daily thing, but please check back as Made for TV Mayhem takes a look back at one of the biggest influences on the blog.

And if you really do want to get a little metaphorical with Dark, please read the following articles:

This Island Rod

My Stuff...

And I don't just have stuff to read, I have a little to listen to as well!

Check out my newest review at Retro Slashers for a film called Paganini Horror, which I should be embarrassed to admit I liked, but there you go!

Also check out my Made for TV Minute podcast segment, which is on This House Possessed, because everything should be about This House Possessed! I show up around the one and half hour point and the main movie discussed is the awesome Big Bad Mama, so check it out (you can also download the show on iTunes).

I'll be hanging out with the Movies About Girls gang this Saturday, the 27th when we will talk about Sleepaway Camp! It's a fave, so I'm excited! I usually show up around 8 pm EST and you can catch the show on Loudcaster.

I'll be doing another theme week, starting today (I hope). I'm counting down to the Don't Be Afraid of the Dark remake. I'm so excited (and I just can't hide it)! I thought it would be nice to take a look back at where it all started.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

1986: Machismo on a Stick

The Year was 1986 and beautiful men were entering our living rooms every night… Now that’s what I call a good year! TV Guide compiled a list of The 10 Most Attractive Men on TV, which was put together by the ladies who were voted The 10 Most Attractive Women on TV in 1984. Some of the lovely ladies polled were:

Joan Collins
Linda Evans
Diann Carroll
(Go Dynasty!!!)
Stefanie Powers
Jane Seymour
Connie Selleca
Shari Belafonte-Harper

I have to tell you that I adore this list of women, and wish I knew who the other three rounding out the list were. Of the names I have, the youngest was 31 (Selleca) and as you can see, most of these women were not just beautiful but seasoned as well. Represent!

The ladies gladly pulled out their white hot meters and came up with a pretty great list (One of the rules was that they were not allowed to vote on men appearing on their own shows). The Top 10, in order were:

10. William Devane
10. (tie) Jack Scalia
8. Robert Urich
7. Bill Cosby
6. Pierce Brosnan
5. Bruce Willis
4. John Forsythe
3. Robert Wagner
2. Tom Selleck
1. Don Johnson

Don't worry Tom, you'll always be #1 on my list

The famous actresses drooled over their choices. Stefanie Powers loved that John Forsythe was “a solid, real human being.” And Linda Evans said Tom Selleck was “amazing looking. He’s tall, he’s beautiful and he takes your breath away.” Although I would gladly put Mr. Selleck at the top of any list I had, Don Johnson is just sooooo 80s, and oozed sex out of every pore. I know that sounds gross, but it's really not...

The runners up were pretty varied as well. TV Guide said that votes also went to Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Gross, Parker Stevenson and Robert Guillaume, among others. What’s interesting is that I didn’t see James Brolin on the list at all. Not one vote for the most gorgeous man who ever ran a multi-million dollar hotel? Wow. Also, I’m just gonna put it out there – I’d like to see Peter Scolari on this list. Honestly, I’d like to see him anywhere. Rawr! Ah, glad to get that off my chest!

And where are my Riptide guys? All three of them, please!


Even Charles Bronson had turned to the small screen in 1986 to make a film that allowed him to show that he had just as much power as an actor as he did in his fists. Bronson starred in a made for HBO movie titled Act of Vengeance and he told TV Guide, “I have often thought how lovely it would be to lean on a mantelpiece with a cocktail in my hand and let the dialogue do the acting.” Bronson was one sexy cat, that's for sure.

Oh, yeah.

This poll was also conducted just months before LA Law hit our sets. Talk about some hot guys, Harry Hamlin and Corbin Bernsen gave a new, sexy life to the three piece suit.

Was 1986 the pinnacle of TV machismo? I’m starting to think so…

And check out this CBS TV Spot for the 1986 lineup. Hunkadelic!

Lest we forget the hottest game show host of 1986: