The One That (Thankfully) Got Away

By movie buff standards, my DVD collection is fairly modest. (No Blu-ray as of yet.) Still, shelf space in my humble lair is currently at a premium—at a premium because my lair is humble, you might say. Some recent reorganizing alleviated the situation, but I’m not about to stop buying movies, and space will be a problem soon enough. Still, at least the time of indiscriminate purchases, which resulted in my being the proud owner of turkeys like AVP 2: Requiem and Constantine, is over. Until I’m able to upgrade from crypt to castle, space considerations force me to evaluate more closely what I buy.

Regular readers (all three of you!) know that I like to rummage through DVD bargain bins. Since I’m a fan of almost every genre, I’m usually able to find a movie I like. Or six. (Recent non-horror additions include Serpico, The Elephant Man and Goodfellas.) In September, I came across Rats: Night of Terror, a slice of slightly tempting Italian cheapo horror from 1984. As is my habit when I only kind of want something, I dithered. Long story short, I didn’t buy Rats: Night of Terror. In fact, if memory serves, I left the store empty-handed. But soon after, in time-honored fashion, I began to regret my decision.

At least they had a nice one-sheet.

A few weeks later, I bought watchable Jaws rip-off The Last Shark, which happened to include the trailer for Rats: Night of Terror among the extras. Luckily, by a wide margin, it turned out to be the worst trailer I’ve ever seen! The horrendous costumes, wooden acting, and atrocious dubbing made me feel sorry for anyone involved with the movie. And the guinea pigs, which were used in lieu of actual rats(!), look to have been treated appallingly. The whole thing appears to be a sad, stupid and incompetent mess. And remember, these are supposed to be the good parts, the parts that make us want to see the movie! Only one shot, of city streets being fumigated by ominous government types, is noteworthy.

"Excuse me, why are we dressed like Adam & The Ants?"

Everything considered, I don’t particularly enjoy lousy movies. Oh, I have five Ed Wood, Jr. movies in my collection, and a few other duds like this one and the aforementioned pair, but I rarely seek out bad movies because they’re bad. (Wood’s oeuvre is an exception.) Competent storytelling, with a touch of invention or even artistic integrity, is perfectly doable on a small budget. Also, I suspect that connoisseurs of crap watch rotten movies because it makes them feel superior. That’s a pretty smug agenda, and not entirely compatible with being a true fan. So with the clear indication that Rats: Night of Terror would have been a real pain to sit through, I was relieved that I hadn’t bought it.

"Remember to eliminate every trace of this rotten movie, men!"

Reading about terrible movies can often be more fun than actually watching them. The IMDb bio of the late Bruno Mattei, who directed Rats: Night of Terror, claims that he “eventually had more pseudonyms than any working director in the world” and that he’s been called “The Italian Ed Wood.” Various sources also allege that the rodent epic was his personal favorite, and that’s is easy enough to believe. When your résumé sports titles like S.S. Extermination Love Camp and Women’s Prison Massacre, Rats: Night of Terror sounds like a Bergman-esque work of cinematic art by comparison. You know, now that I think about it, I seem to remember Rats: Night of Terror just barely losing out to Out of Africa at the 1985 Oscars …

Voiceover from the trailer:

“Rats! What do they want from us? Rats! Why are they man’s enemy? Rats! They’re watching! Waiting! Rats! Their time has come! Why do rats repel us? What is it about those little furry bodies that’s so frightening? Just think of them close to you in the night! Who can stop them? And how? Rats are here, under our feet, all around us!”

But not in my DVD collection. Phew!


“Would anyone like … a peanut?”

Right after I’d gotten off the subway today, I stopped by the newsstand to get my dirty little mitts on the December edition of Empire: “The Icons Issue”. (I’ve read Empire since 1993. I know that because the T-Rex from Jurassic Park was on the cover of the first issue I bought.) This month, there are ten different covers to choose from, and I saw six or seven of them on the shelf. Anyway, I wasn’t about to fork over my hard-earned cash for The Bride (from Kill Bill) or The Joker. Harry Potter? Puh-leeze! I had decided on either James Bond or Jason Bourne, when a welcome sight revealed itself at the very back: Shaun! You know, as in “of the Dead.” And with that, despite a tiny tear in the cover, the choice was obvious. Easy decisions are such a relief!

When I got home, I saw that there’s an additional, subscribers-only cover. It features Ron Burgundy, San Diego’s top anchorman, admiring his mustache in the mirror. That’s actually the cover I would have chosen, had it been available. (Am I committing genre sacrilege by admitting that on my horror blog?) But up against candy-asses like Jack Sparrow and Aragorn, Simon Pegg wielding a cricket bat will do just fine.

Town Hall of the Damned

The featurettes on the Outpost region 2 DVD are very good. They’re concise, informative, and populated by people who know their stuff. I especially liked “The Look of Outpost“, about the set design. You’d expect such a large locale to be constructed in something obvious, like an old warehouse, a film studio or, you know, an actual bunker. Or a run-down industrial estate, for that matter, where much of the set dressing would already be in place. But as it turns out, the bunker used in Outpost was constructed inside Old Govan Town Hall, near Glasgow; it’s pretty bizarre to see production designer Max Berman amid the balcony seats, overlooking the set below. I guess this was the cheapest option, and as always, necessity is the mother of invention.


How to put an old town hall to good use.

Note: Franz Ferdinand recorded their latest album in the same, cavernous space. Go here for an interesting article about their experiences, and a nice description of the building’s interiors. There’s a reference to The Shining and everything!

The Curse of the Completist


Purdy, purdy packaging.

Purdy, purdy packaging.

It’s dirt cheap, and it’s right there in front of me—Saw V on DVD in attractive, transparent packaging with a splash of red. I turn over the jewel case and check out the extras. Not bad, not bad. I hesitate. But after a few seconds of deliberation, I put back the DVD and move on. Flipping through the other titles on sale, I come across it again. What a relief. Now I know that there’s one more copy on the rack, in case someone grabs the first one I saw. Lo and behold, there’s even a third one. I couldn’t be safer. There’s plenty of time for me to mull over my options …

When Saw V was gearing up for its theatrical run last fall, I decided that I wanted to see it on the big screen. But I’d only seen the first two installments, which I already owned on shiny disc, so I ordered the “extreme editions” of parts three and four to get up to speed. Alas, the third installment wasn’t that good, and the fourth one just confused my poor zombie brain. So I nixed my original plan, and part five went unseen. And yet, now … it’s dirt cheap, and it’s right there in front of me.

Such is the curse of the completist. Even when a franchise has lost much of its appeal, you still feel a strong compulsion to own the movies. This explains why I have every installment of Friday the 13th—yes, even A New Beginning. If I didn’t have A New Beginning in my collection, there would be a fissure between parts four and six (the best ones!), and that just isn’t in the cards. And when I got Freddy vs. Jason, that left nothing less than a gaping pit of deficiency down to part seven. So I had to get Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell, and Jason X to shore things up again. Stands to reason, really. Completist reason. Don’t try to understand it.

But there was no hole in my Saw collection. It was just incomplete, and that’s another matter. The pull of retail gravity isn’t quite as strong in those cases. I was able, in fact, to resist temptation—a minor, but significant, victory for the weak-willed completist. (Is there any other kind?) Why subject myself to the continuing, maddeningly contrived exploits of Jigsaw, who died in part three anyway? I walked out of the store with the deluxe edition of Superman: The Movie instead. (Four DVDs for less than $10—yay!) But does this mean that the curse is actually broken?

It’s been about three weeks now, and I’m still thinking of going back. Maybe tomorrow. Just to, you know, check up on things. Saw V might not be so bad. It had a new director. And I really like the grimy, industrial set design of the series. Come to think of it, the opening scene of part four is a real franchise highpoint. And what with part six due to come down the pike in October, I’ll have to see the previous entry if I’m to make sense of it. But why would I want to see either of them, after the disappointment of part four? Why do I bug myself with these thoughts?

The curse of the completist is always needing to be sure.

Stop Making Sense

I really like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s a great piece of 70s exploitation cinema, no bones about it. But I do have a beef with this umpteenth rerelease (from 2008):

seriously_ultimateHow can something be “seriously ultimate”? Ultimate is, by definition, the ultimate. That’s what makes it the ultimate. I’m seriously confused, and I’m sticking to my special edition.

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