Kevin Smith, Red State and self-releasing

In 2002, Pip and I drove 26,000 miles around America. We didn’t have a grand plan and went pretty much wherever we felt like. I did insist, however, that we stop in a tiny town called Leonardo in New Jersey. I tracked down the Quick Stop convenience store where Kevin Smith shot the movie Clerks. I bought 2 decks of Marlboro Light and two bottles of Mountain Dew, and marvelled at just how goddamn tiny the place was. Amazing how the camera can make things look bigger and more important. The only indication that this was anything remarkable about this particular convenience store was one tiny press cutting about Clerks blu-tacked up behind the counter.

I love an awful lot of Kevin Smith’s work. Not all of it, but a lot of it. More than that, though, I love what Kevin Smith represents. Even more than Sam Raimi with his cabin, even more than Peter Jackson with his DIY gorefest, to me Smith represents the ‘fuck it, I’ll do it anyway’ spirit. The idea that a guy working in a shop could do a day’s work, then close the shutters and shoot a feature film that would go on to be distributed all over the world is an idea that I find vital and exciting. Hell, even if you can’t stand Smith’s work, if you don’t find something to applaud about the methods and determination by which he got that work to a global audience then something inside you just ain’t working right.

I’ve seen Kevin Smith doing live Q&As a couple of times.. The last time he came onstage at 7.30 and was still going strong well over 4 hours later with no interval. The guy can chat, endlessly. It’s kind of remarkable to watch.

As you’ve probably already heard, this week KS used the Sundance festival to launch his new flick Red State, and (after a fake auction) sold himself the distribution rights. He gave an impassioned 25 minute speech about what’s wrong with the Hollywood distribution model (specifically on how much is spent on marketing vs how much is spent on the movie) which you can check out over on YouTube, and explained how he’s going to tour Red State prior to conventional release and bypass regular marketing by using word-of-mouth, social networking, podcasts and so on. Funnily enough, the reaction to this has been strangely hostile in certain parts of the internet. Anti-Smith articles and message-board diatribes have been popping up, saying that Smith’s speech was spitting in the face the community he was purporting to be supporting.

Personally, I love seeing someone work outside their comfort zone and I love the fact that KS is trying to approach the distribution model in a different way. Yeah, of course his plan of four-walling works rather better when you’ve got a huge built-in audience like Smith has, but where did that audience come from in the first place? This was a guy who had no contacts, no industry experience, nothing but a shitty job in a convenience store and some black & white film stock. At this point, the man can do whatever the fuck he likes, and good luck to him.

I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the bored-looking dude slumped behind the counter at that Leonardo Quick-Stop when I bought the smokes and sodas. I wondered about him all day. A wannabe filmmaker? Someone who was an acquiantance of Smith’s crowd back when Clerks was shot? Or just a guy working in a shop for minimum wage, vaguely aware that someone once something there?

“Yeah, someone filmed something. Some movie with a load of dick jokes. I dunno. Listen, d’you wanna hear my band’s demo? We’re gonna be huge one day”

Stop! Hammer Time..

Actually took a moment to breathe over Christmas, and started making my way through a boxed set of Hammer films which I’d been given. Much as I’d like to think that my horror film knowledge is full, comprehensive and encyclopedic.. There are gaps. And one of those gaps, without doubt, has been Hammer shaped.

This fact has been even more evident to me during the last year or so, where the re-emergence of the long-dormant studio has made me ponder exactly what Hammer should mean in 2011 (and, by extension, what it meant last century too). The remake of The Woman In Black, in particular, has been pinging on my radar as an object of interest, and whatever mentality the studio shows when dealing with that property is likely to be an indication of the way they’re going in general.

But, what of the Hammer of old? Over Christmas, I checked out five films: The Devil Rides Out, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Quatermass & The Pit and The Nanny. Of these, my favourite by a considerable margin was The Devil Rides Out; a full-blooded black magic flick with some terrific set-pieces and an unusually ‘good guy’ turn from Christopher Lee. It summed up everything that I’d enjoyed about the handful of Hammer flicks I’d seen previously and would have easily gone down as the best horror movie I’d seen over the holiday period, had I not also checked out the sublime Night of the Demon.. (Not being a Hammer flick, I don’t want to digree too much and talk about NOTD here, but it was a real gem and made me feel incredibly remiss for not having watched it previously).

I spent a little while wondering whether the straight-faced approach of The Devil Rides Out would translate easily to the 21st century Hammer flicks and whether it would be wise to attempt to do so. Looking back to The Woman in Black in particular, both the stage play and the masterful 1989 TV movie rely on something that contemporary cinema seems positively allergic to; the slow burn. The devastating shocks in the original WIB depend entirely on the *lack* of scare tactics in the rest of the movie. Likewise, Quatermass & The Pit represented a slow ratcheting of tension building towards a single, large-scale set-piece. Is a 2011 audience prepared to accept that dynamic? Is Hammer going to be comfortable taking that approach? After all, their name may be synonymous with horror, but the word itself has very different connotations for a contemporary audience than it did in the company’s heyday. The average viewer of Saw 3D will have genre expectations which the majority of my shiny Hammer boxed set is unlikely to coincide with.

As for me, I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the box has to offer. My last stop was cleavage-fest Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, a rip-roaring tale of a resurrected Egyptian Mummy with fantastic tits, which was probably closer structurally to a contemporary horror flick than any of the other examples I’ve mentioned thus far. So maybe the new Hammer doesn’t need to differ from the old so much after all; it just needs to cherry pick the elements that’ll work in this new century.

Speaking personally, I can’t wait to see the results.

2010 – The Year in Films I Watched

Well, that’s 2010 done.

2011 is going to bring a lot of interesting stuff (not least of which being the shoots for both Strippers vs Werewolves and House on the Witchpit) but before we dive headlong into all that, let’s take a quick look back at all the flicks that I watched in 2010. As usual, if I know someone involved with a shoot I’ll usually decline to give it a rating. Ratings are subjective. No refunds will be issued. Etc. Etc.

These are the flicks..

January 8th
Gremlins (with commentary #1, 80-something viewing) – *****/5

January 9th
Moon – ****/5

January 11th
Mirrors – **/5

January 12th
The Princess Bride (?th viewing) – *****/5

January 15th
Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist – ***/5
Sorority Row – **/5

January 16th
Terminator Salvation – ***/5
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – **/5

January 19th
Rear Window – (4th-ish viewing) *****/5

January 23rd
Joy Ride 2: Dead End – ***/5
Sunshine Cleaning – ***/5
Road Trip: Beer Pong – **/5
Tormented – ***/5
Bride Wars – */5

January 24th
Antichrist – ****/5
The Visitor – ***/5
wAz – **/5

February 2nd
Super Size Me (2nd viewing) – ***/5

February 4th
Lesbian Vampire Killers – (Not rated as I know people involved)

February 8th
Bowling for Columbine (2nd viewing) – ****/5

February 9th
Up In the Air – ****/5

February 11th
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2nd viewing) – ****/5

February 13th
Isolation – **/5

February 15th
Timecrimes – ****/5

February 18th
Precious – ***/5

February 20th
The Hurt Locker – ****/5

February 23rd
March of the Penguins – ***/5
A Serious Man – ****/5

March 1st
Crazy Heart – ***/5

March 2nd
Minority Report (2nd viewing) – ****/5
An Education – ****/5

March 6th
The Lovely Bones – ***/5

March 7th
Dragonslayer (?th viewing) – ****/5

March 16th
Stand by Me (?th viewing) – *****/5
Shutter Island – ***/5

March 19th
I Love You, Beth Cooper – **/5

March 20th
The Fourth Kind – **/5
Ghoulies IV – */5

March 21st
Triangle – ****/5

March 23rd
Pan’s Labyrinth (2nd viewing) – *****/5
I Love You Phillip Morris – ****/5
Infestation – ****/5

March 25th
Paranormal Activity (2nd viewing) – ****/5

March 28th
Eliminators – **/5 (***/5 for entertainment value)

April 2nd
Kick-Ass – *****/5

April 5th
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? – ****/5
Lips of Blood – ***/5

April 6th
Class of 1999 (4th-ish viewing) – ****/5
A Bucket of Blood – ****/5

April 7th
Starsuckers – ***/5
Nosferatu the Vampyre -***/5

April 8th
Fear(s) of the Dark – ***/5

April 9th
Clash of the Titans (2010) (3D screening) – **/5

April 11th
Phantoms (1990) (2nd viewing) – **/5
His Girl Friday – ****/5

April 13th
2012 – **/5

April 14th
The Men Who Stare at Goats – ***/5
The Box – **/5

April 15th
My Boyfriend’s Back (2nd viewing) – ****/5

April 20th
Blade Runner (Final Cut, ?th viewing) – *****/5

April 27th
12 Angry Men (2nd viewing) – *****/5

April 28th
Critters 3 (2nd viewing) – ***/5
Hot Tub Time Machine – ****/5

May 3rd
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnasuss – ***/5

May 6th
Night of the Comet (2nd viewing) – ***/5

May 8th
Erasing David – ***/5

May 9th
The Last House on the Left (2009) – **/5

May 10th
The Sixth Sense (2nd viewing) – ****/5

May 15th
Four Lions – ****/5

May 18th
The Truman Show (2nd viewing) – *****/5
Iron Man 2 – ***/5

May 20th
Dr No (2nd viewing) – ****/5

May 27th
Sherlock Holmes – ***/5

May 29th
Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (3rd viewing) – ****/5
Alice in Wonderland (2010) – ***/5

May 30th
Prince of Persia – ***/5

May 31st
Capitalism: A Love Story – ***/5

June 1st
Speed – ****/5

June 2nd
Waxwork (?th viewing) – ****/5

June 3rd
Botched – ****/5
The Woods – **/5

June 5th
The Babysitters – ***/5

June 6th
Boogeyman 2 – **/5

June 7th
Exam – (Not rated because I know people involved)

June 8th
Alien – (?th viewing, Director’s Cut) *****/5
RoboGeisha – ***/5 (**** for entertainment value)

June 14th (ish)
The Wolfman (2010) – ****/5

June 15th (ish)
April Fool’s Day (2008) – **/5

June 23rd
Shaun of the Dead (4th viewing) – *****/5

June 24th
The Room – */5 (*** for entertainment value!)

June 28th
Fired Up! – **/5

June 29th
Solomon Kane – **/5

July 6th
American: The Bill Hicks Story – ****/5

July 12th
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – **/5

July 17th
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (3rd viewing) ****/5

July 19th
Inception – *****/5

July 24th
Bruno – ***/5

July 28th
Predators – ***/5

July 29th
When Harry Met Sally (?th viewing) – *****/5

July 30th
The Boondock Saints – ***/5

August 4th
The Odd Couple – ***/5

August 7th(ish)
Go (2nd viewing) – ***/5

August 8th(ish)
Wall Street (2nd viewing) – ****/5

August 9th(ish)
Clerks 2 (4th viewing) – *****/5

August 15th
Botched (2nd viewing) – ****/5
Toy Story 3 (3D version) – *****/5

August 17th
Youth in Revolt – ***/5
Whip It – ***/5

August 18th
Away We Go – ***/5

August 20th
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – ****/5
Piranha (2010, 3D screening) – ****/5

August 21st
Orphan – **/5

August 22nd
Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream – ***/5

August 25th
Confessions of a Shopaholic – */5

August 27th
Scott Pilgrim vs The World – *****/5

August 29th
Dagon – ***/5

August 30th
The Last Exorcism – ****/5

August 31st
Snatch – ****/5

September 3rd
Heartless – ***/5

September 4th
The Trouble with Harry – ****/5

September 5th
Tamara Drewe – ****/5
Godzilla: Final Wars – ***/5
American Grindhouse – ****/5

September 6th
The Awful Dr Orlof – ***/5

September 13th
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans – ***/5

September 18th
Date Night – ***/5

September 20th
Citizen Kane (?th viewing) – *****/5
Cop Out – **/5

September 22nd (ish)
Just for the Record – (Not rated as I know people involved)

September 27th
Following – ***/5

October 2nd
Buried – ****/5

October 3rd
Dead Cert – (Not rated as I know people involved)

October 11th
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – ***/5

October 12th
Burning Bright – **/5

October 13th
Dance of the Dead – ***/5

October 15th
The Human Centipede – ****/5

October 16th
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – ****/5

October 17th
The Assassination of Richard Nixon – ***/5

October 18th
Get Him to the Greek – ****/5

October 20th
It’s A Wonderful Afterlife – ***/5
The Social Network – ****/5

October 23rd
The Abominable Dr Phibes – ***/5
Scream (4th-ish viewing) – *****/5

October 25th
Couples Retreat – **/5

October 26th-ish
O Brother Where Art Thou? (2nd viewing) – ****/5

October 31st
An American Werewolf In London (?th viewing) – *****/5

November 1st
Creepshow – ****/5
Black Death – ****/5

November 6th
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – **/5

November 7th
The Faculty (2nd viewing) – ***/5

November 15th
Forrest Gump – **/5

November 18th
The Woman in Black (1989) (2nd viewing) – ****/5

November 25th
Devil’s Playground – (Not rated as I know people involved)

November 29th
The Naked Gun (3rd-ish viewing) – ****/5

November 30th
Eat & Run – **/5

December 1st
The Muppet Christmas Carol – ****/5

December 3rd
The Lord of the Rings (1978) (?th viewing) – ***/5

December 4th
The A-Team – ***/5

December 6th
Four Christmases – **/5

December 11th
A Golden Christmas – */5

December 12th
Natural Born Killers (Director’s Cut) (?th viewing) – *****/5
The Rocker – ***/5

December 18th
Christmas with the Kranks – */5
If.. – ***/5
Trading Places (3rd viewing) – ****/5
Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story – ***/5

December 20th
The War You Don’t See – ***/5
Tron Legacy – ***/5

December 23rd
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (2nd viewing) – ***/5

December 26th
The Devil Rides Out – ****/5

December 27th
Catfish – ***/5

December 28th
Night of the Demon – *****/5

December 29th
Dracula: Prince of Darkness – ***/5
Quatermass and the Pit (1967) – ****/5

December 30th
Love and Other Drugs – ***/5

December 31st
The Nanny – ***/5
It Came from Beneath the Sea (4th-ish viewing) – ****/5