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Frank Darabont (#110 of 9)

Summer of ‘88: The Blob

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Summer of ‘88: <em>The Blob</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>The Blob</em>

“Don’t worry. There’s no sex or anything bad,” a kid tells his mother in the 1988 remake of The Blob before heading out to a midnight showing of the horror film-within-a-horror film Garden Tool Massacre. Mom settles down and the kid and his friend go happily on their way. Eat your heart out, Kirby Dick. Just don’t let the MPAA catch you dry humping it.

The sex-death gag is meta only on a very general level, but it bears mentioning that people sure were afraid of the color pink in the late 1980s. Whether or not you think the lion’s share of credit for that deserves to go to ACT-UP, it’s seems unlikely that it’s coincidence that both Chuck Russell’s tongue-in-cheek remake of the classic 1958 monster movie (and, in this case, “classic” clearly meant “not scary anymore”) as well as the calculated but occasionally charming Ghostbusters II prominently feature giant, spoogy masses of hot-pink goo as their primary sources of menace. In the for-the-masses kiddie sequel, the slime represents the collective negative energy of an entire city’s worth of malcontents, but the good news is that it can be rehabilitated through positive reinforcement and used as a force for good. In The Blob, it’s fast, it’s angry, and it will not negotiate with traditional family values. This is one of the few horror movies that dares to kill a young child. And not just kill the kid, but show him grasping for help as his tiny body dissolves in a morass of pink.

15 Famous Movie Blackbirds

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15 Famous Movie Blackbirds
15 Famous Movie Blackbirds

In what’s unfortunately one of the lesser films about a literary great, John Cusack wields a quill and a gun as The Raven’s Edgar Allen Poe, a legend who would’ve skewered this thriller in one of his sharp-tongued newsprint critiques. What’s perhaps best about the movie is the eerie mood that’s established, a mood symbolized by the titular winged creature. Blackbirds have been harbingers of doom in many a dark tale, and otherwise added spooky style to countless filmic palettes. Even in lighter fare, they point to something sinister, be it imminent attack, loneliness, or even racism.

Deadpan Despair: The Mist

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Deadpan Despair: <em>The Mist</em>
Deadpan Despair: <em>The Mist</em>

Were The Mist about mist and not monsters, human or otherwise, it might have remained nervy and unsettling, instead of simply icky and unpleasant, for the bulk of its running time. Frank Darabont’s elephantine adaptation of a rather slim Stephen King novella, while well-acted and intriguingly shot, loses its footing, like a lot of films that should be fun, when it starts preaching. Not content (or strong enough?) to be a film about cloudy (foggy?) judgments, The Mist carves up the world into discrete factions meant to signify varying moral registers, or approaches to human life. Darabont’s film continues his almost-hapless devotion to humanism despite all the supernatural phenomena and religious fervor in the film: the cast’s beat-your-brow-with-a-Bible zealots are far scarier than the demonic, slimy, tentacled insect-creatures crawling around them, out in the mist. And in the end, the bad CGI gives way, fully, in a gut-punch reveal to rival 28 Weeks Later as the biggest “Fuck you, stupid world” of the year.

5 for the Day: Parting Shots

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5 for the Day: Parting Shots
5 for the Day: Parting Shots

Today’s 5 for the day pays tribute to that which comes just before the closing credits, the parting shot. Parting shots can be images that remain onscreen as the closing credits roll. Or they can be images that appear just before the screen goes black (or flashes the words “The End” or “Fin” or “Get the Hell Out”). They can also be a visual accompaniment or response to dialogue. But you won’t find “Nobody’s perfect” or “Shut up and deal” or “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of” on this list, because I’m focusing on cappers that are mainly visual.

Here’s a brief example: suppose you’re watching a movie about Oscar Wilde. Wilde says on his deathbed, “Either the wallpaper goes, or I go.” The next shot fades in, and it’s of an empty bed in the room. The wallpaper is still there; Wilde is not. Fade out, movie ends, critics boo, and the screen gets bombarded with Sno-Caps. This list would probably focus on the wallpaper shot, and would mention Wilde’s last line in passing, if at all.

The first item on my list is my favorite parting shot, and my favorite New York City movie from its era. The others are presented in no particular order. Spoiler alerts are in effect.