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Ian Watson is the author of the #1 bestseller Midnight Movie Madness, a 400+ page guide to such bizarre, campy and endearing classics as Reefer Madness, Attack of the 50ft Woman and Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.
on July 23, 2014 :
The title of Ian Watson's latest collection of movie reviews is appropriate. Crack is a drug which gives an instant but short lived high, and its addictiveness stops users from caring about much else. The motivating force of life is the pleasure principle. We decide what to do in our lives on the basis of what is likely to give us short-term or long-term pleasure and allow us to avoid suffering. Often this produces healthy results. We strive to do something well in order to enjoy the fruits of our labour. But what happens if we are rewarded for doing the wrong thing instead of the right thing? This is the problem with crack. Crack rewards anything you do that gets you more crack.
So what does this have to do with movies? The way the movie industry is supposed to work is that the filmmakers try to make movies which will please their audiences, and if they do, the audiences reward them with money. In theory, as with natural selection in the animal kingdom, the health of the system is fostered by the fact that those able to function well survive and those who can't don't. All of this depends on the selectivity of movie patrons. If we pay to see bad movies, we'll get more bad movies. Many of the movies reviewed in this book are sequels or remakes or based on video games. Title recognition has become a major factor in what movies get made and, often, which ones are a success. A new Godzilla or Robocop or Nightmare on Elm Street may be good or bad, but many of us will feel we better check it out anyway. We wouldn't want to miss it if it's good, and we wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to bitch about it with fellow fans if it isn't. Which means we all go and its a success whether its good or bad.
And some of the movies reviewed are themselves like crack. There is no rich fabric of life experience for a crackhead. There is only the momentary explosions of excitement. Just like the explosions that dominate a Michael Bay movie. Blockbuster movies are often compared to amusement park rides. Some have even been based on amusement park rides. But if we went on the roller coaster every day we would quickly get bored with roller coasters. We never get sick of stories, but we are going to get progressively more desensitised to, and thus bored with, sensory overload entertainment.
These themes run through the reviews here, but Watson's aim is not to undertake a deep and meaningful examination of this phenomenon. His aim is to make us laugh with his acid sarcasm and bitchy digs at those responsible for some of the most shameless excuses for cinema of recent years.
On Paris Hilton :
"...Hilton, who's spent all that time and money keeping herself in the public eye, should consider investing in a second facial expression."
On Halloween : The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) :
"One shouldn't mock the afflicted, but Halloween 6 is kinda like watching a Nazi biker attempt to explain Mein Kampf to a masturbating chimpanzee - indefensible, but also weirdly compelling in its own twisted way."
Along with the shoddy horror remakes, crass would-be comedies and relentlessly unthrilling action films, Watson also levels his scorn at one film which was a critic's darling at the time of its release. You'll have to read the book to find out which, but I agree with his take on it.
While Watson doesn't recommend us to see most of the films he reviews here, there are some he offers up as unintentionally hilarious gems of ineptitude. I think there are a few which I enjoyed more than he did. It may be a shameful confession but I love The Color of Night (1994) and Sorority Row (2009). And I remember thinking that the Michael Bay produced Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) was a pretty intense thrill-ride. Hell, I even had fun with Armageddon (1998), though not enough to have ever revisited it. Mostly, though, I found myself in agreement with Watson's assessments of those movies I'd seen.
Why read a book which only reviews bad movies, most of which are bad in unenjoyable ways? Because, in the fire of Watson's flamboyantly articulate scorn you may find catharsis and thus healing for all of the pain inflicted by having so often shelled out your hard earned money to see "a limp wet fart of a movie".*
*The Hitcher (2007)
(reviewed 10 days after purchase)