Written by: Daniel McDonald
Alright Horror fans, rotten puns in the title aside, unlike several recent TVRTTP columns, this discussion is going to get down to it. With a wonderful forerunner, Ryan Murphy’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY, genre fans are experiencing a vast wealth of small screen gems to satiate almost every… appetite. From the firmly established stalwarts such as THE WALKING DEAD, BATES MOTEL joining long running hits such as SUPERNATURAL and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, newer territory was explored with last year’s THE EXORCIST, SCREAM, LUCIFER, PREACHER and of course FEUD (sorry, another little attempt at humor – very little). Looking at the above roster alone, those of us old enough to remember feeling thrilled with THE TWIGHT ZONE and THE OUTER LIMITS, might feel giddy with excitement at the large number of horror options from which viewers may now choose.
As I write this, I first and foremost want to tip my Horror fan’s hat at the creative minds behind two shiny, slick, vastly different entries joining into the mix, who we’ll discuss a bit. When Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino joined forces to give us the (in my humble opinion) perhaps a bit over long, but ridiculously underrated and practically dismissed by critics, cinematic delight GRINDHOUSE…I was taken back to those edgy, campy, very poorly written, produced and created, ultraviolent, exploitatively bare breasted B and C drive-in or delapidated in house double features of the mid-‘60s to late ‘70s.
Those films existed due to a corps of people who knew little to nothing about filmmaking, but quite a bit about cheesy promotion, release tactics and most of all, how to make major bucks on minor investments. Scifi, with an all too knowing twinkle in its eye brings us a wonderfully evocative combination of homage/send up of those films with its wildly entertaining new series BLOOD DRIVE. An incredibly accurate futuristic road race camp/horror fest, set in a world where blood is the new form of fuel, so drivers feed victims to CARnivorous (sorry- had to) vehicles. Every “so cheesy it’s wonderful” trope is not just touched on, courtesy of creator James Roland and his creative team, it’s a pedal to the metal gory, sexy, FUNNY good time!
On the opposite edge of Horrorville, comes a new series on SPIKE TV that I had such “little to none” hope or expectation for, I honestly almost begged off of even giving it a chance (which is not my usual modus operandi). The theatrical version of Stephen King’s 1980 novella THE MIST was released by MGM/Dimension pictures on Thanksgiving weekend 2007.
Written and Directed by multiple Oscar nominee (THE GREEN MILE) Frank Darabont, the story of a small town besieged by an unknown mist containing various horrible man-eating creatures, focused on a group of various types of townspeople trapped in the town’s supermarket. The basically one-set story allowed for the development of man on man cruelty and isolation, as well as the beasts outside and contained a truly shocking, nihilistic finale that disturbed many filmgoers a great deal. Made for a (by today’s standards) relatively small $18 million dollar budget, the film’s taught direction, imaginative, atmospheric cinematography, spectacular practical and CGI effects and very strong performances (especially Thomas Jane and Marcia Gay Harden) received generally positive press and eventually turned a profit.
When I first began seeing Promotional pieces for the SPIKE project, while they were effective, I simply couldn’t see how the series creator Christian Torpe and his creative team could take the one location claustrophobic terror of the film and keep it fresh for 10 episodes. Well, the debut episode completely pushed those fears aside by opening up the town’s locations to include several more than the film. Luckily Bridgeville is populated by some very talented character actors bringing some depth and fullness to archetypes that, in lesser hands could be extremely dull). The actual envelopment by the mysterious mist (some truly eerie establishing shots, more Carpenter’s FOG than it’s disastrous remake). Healthy doses of gore should appease genre fans, and topics such as marital discourse, racism, bigotry, date rape and murder will hook those looking for more than that. I must say, I’m very glad to have given this, as well as BLOOD DRIVE, a chance, as they are solid additions to our ever-growing small screen collection