A Swampflix Court Dissenting Opinion: Prometheus (2012) & Alien: Covenant (2017)

This essay was originally posted on Swampflix.com on August 21, 2017, as a response to the positive reviews and responses to Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.  Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

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The unknown is terrifying, and Ridley Scott used to know this. As much as I love A Nightmare on Elm StreetThe VVitchGet OutRawRosemary’s BabyThe Omen, and the Argento canon, 1977’s Alien is actually my favorite horror movie of all time. It’s claustrophobic and atmospheric, and the terror of it works on multiple levels. Atypical heroine Ellen Ripley and her compatriots are forced to contend with two different faceless evils that press inward upon them from different directions: the known and the unknown, the “company” and the alien itself. Both of these entities pose a different kind of existential threat to the crew of the Nostromo, and that’s a huge part of why the film works.

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Movie of the Month Follow-Up: The Eyes of Virginia Ducci: The Psychic (1977) and Laura Mars (1978)

This was originally posted on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. This article was published as a follow-up to the discussion of MotM The Psychic on August 6, 2017

EPSON MFP imageWhen The Psychic was released in the U.S. in 1979, there were immediate accusations of plagiarism, citing elements that the film supposedly stole from 1978’s Eyes of Laura Mars, directed by Irvin Kershner and based on the first mainstream Hollywood screenplay by up-and-comer John Carpenter, whose Halloween debuted later that year. What most audiences didn’t realize was that The Psychic actually came first, having been released in Italy in 1977. One can hardly blame them for this mistake, however, given the notable plot points that both films share.

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Movie of the Month: Head Over Heels (2001)

This was originally posted on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. For April 2017, I made Alli, Britnee , and Brandon watch Head Over Heels (2001).

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Boomer: Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Head Over Heels is not a good movie. Objectively, it’s actually kind of awful. It’s a nineties holdover of a specific kind of romantic comedy that paid for Meg Ryan’s house and every meal she will eat for the rest of her life. There’s a silly voice-over at the beginning about growing up in [small Midwest location] but now the protagonist lives in [major metropolitan city] with [impossibly perfect job], but gosh darn it she’s just so unlucky in love! It’s so dumb, and I love it so, so much.

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Movie of the Month: Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968) as the Inverse of What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

This was originally posted on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. This article was published as a follow-up to the discussion of MotM What’s Up, Doc? on March 20, 2017. 

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There’s a fun section in Jason Zinoman’s narrative history of the creation of modern horror Shock Value that discusses the creation of Peter Bogdanovich’s first film, Targets. After working for years as the film programmer for MoMA and doing some AD/second unit work, Bogdanovich met notorious producer/director Roger Corman at a premiere, and Corman offered the younger man the opportunity to direct a movie, with a few caveats. First, the film had to star Boris Karloff. Second, Bogdanovich had to include a fair amount of footage from another film project, The Terror, which also starred Karloff; further, Bogdanovich would only have Karloff for two more days of shooting, which he owed Corman for contractual reasons. Finally, Bogdanovich would only have ten more days to film the rest of the movie. When he scoffed, Corman  supposedly said “I’ve shot whole pictures in two days!” If you’ve ever seen a Corman movie, you know that’s probably not hyperbole, and is in fact equal parts boast and threat.

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Movie of the Month: What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

The post from which this was excerpted was originally published on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. For March 2017, Britnee made me, Alli, and Brandon watch What’s Up, Doc? (1972).

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I didn’t realize that the audience was supposed to see Eunice as unattractive until the end, when the Judge responded to Eunice’s complaints that she had been inappropriately touched by the jewel fences with “That’s . . . unbelievable.” Because, I mean, come on, [Madeline] Khan’s a knock-out. That unusual perception is not unique to her character, however, as Ryan O’Neal is probably the most tan, studly, and barrel-chested hunk of man to ever play a milquetoast Iowan academic.

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Movie of the Month: Double Feature Disaster: Spontaneous Combustion (1990) & Society (1992)

This was originally posted on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. This article was published as a follow-up to the discussion of MotM Society on February 9, 2017. 

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When I first set out to track down a copy of Society, I turned to my old pal, the Vulcan Video catalog search, which showed that there was a copy at the location nearest me. When I went to locate it, however, it was nowhere to be found on the shelf, and the kind woman working the counter that day noted that their copy had actually been sold several years back and that the catalog listing was an oversight (an unusual lapse for the fine folk of Vulcan). We did eventually track down a copy of the film in their stacks, one of those early double-sided DVDs with Society on one side and Spontaneous Combustion on the reverse. I was pretty pleased by this, because a double feature usually means an easy instant follow up article (just add water).

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. There’s nothing easy about Spontaneous Combustion.

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Movie of the Month: Society (1992)

The post from which this was excerpted was originally published on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. For February 2017, Brandon made AlliBritnee, and I watch Society (1992).

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I am of two minds when it comes to film’s mixed relationship with subtlety. Though the plot becomes more traditionally horrific as it plays out, the outpouring of nauseating imagery and sound that constitutes the film’s finale is a huge tonal shift from the relatively grounded story that seems to be playing out in the first act. As much as I love grue, I also love the conceit of the unreliable narrator, especially one who doubts his own mind. Take, for instance, Bill’s first scene with his therapist, in which he takes a bite of an apple only to realize it’s full of worms; he looks away, then back, and the apple is totally normal. This is a fairly obvious metaphor for the way that the presumed normalcy of Bill’s world is merely a thin facade covering inconceivable monsters beneath the surface, but it also implies that Bill’s less-than-objective interpretation of events may be the result of a diseased mind. At least until the shunting begins, anyway.

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