Monday, December 10, 2012

Diminishing Returns.

The economy is a harsh mistress. Just the other day, I read an article ranking the most overpaid actors in Hollywood. If anyone ever needed a measure to gauge how far we've come from the salad days of $20 million-dollar paychecks, it's an article in which the takeaway isn't what we're reading on the page; it's what we aren't reading between the lines—that Hollywood is counting what's left in the swear jar and finding that it's empty due to years of no one giving a shit.

Who has money for the cinema anymore? I yabba-dabba don't.
So good for you, Suits—we're all skint, except I'm guessing that for you, it means you'll have to move your mistresses into apartment homes and buy your wives' jewelry from Jared. For the rest of us—and I'm talking about horror fans specifically—this means we can't just ease on down the road to the local cineplex and splash out on a small, watered-down $5 Coke and an equally sized and priced bag of burnt popcorn just to sit through 20 minutes of mediocre trailers and a 90-minute stinker that was previously a mediocre trailer.

Subsequently, I haven't been to the cinema in ages. There really hasn't been any reason to do so when I can just wait a few months more to watch the same mediocre film on my own big screen, with better food and no obnoxious children kicking my couch. I can also do things on my couch during a mediocre film that I can't do at the cinema without getting arrested. Or uploaded on YouTube.

And so it was with a bit more excitement than usual that my husband and I settled in last night for Ti West's 2011 outing, The Innkeepers. Now, while I don't actively set out to slate a film (I subscribe to the "those who can't do" philosophy and leave the filmmaking to my husband and others), I have to be honest. I didn't like it. I really, really wanted to, because I loved its predecessor, The House of the Devil (2009). I think Ti West is the best of the new horror guard, because his output reflects a purity of purpose, a true love for the genre that is homegrown and authentic, and not ever poseurish and packaged for social media and hipster pandering.

Having said that, we've got two hipster poseurs in a homegrown haunted house tale that is authentic, yet has no purpose. I won't say more because this isn't a review of the film so much as it's an example that underscores (for me, at least) how economy transcends actors' paychecks and infiltrates right down to the film itself. Everything in a film must have intrinsic value. You cannot have red herrings and jump starts and this and that without any of it meaning something. Even the dumbest tittyfest can be economical if its purpose is: a) to be dumb, and b) to be a fest of titties. You have those things, and you've fulfilled the film's obligations wholly. Good intentions are the IOU of film; ultimately, some kind of currency must be offered up to complete the transaction.

I'll use another film as an example: Cabin Fever (2002). Just about everyone thinks that film is genius. I think about 75 percent of it is a good departure from the last vestiges of the Scream-esque ensemble bullshit that had been passing for horror since the mid-1990s. But the end completely kills any goodwill I have for that 75 percent, because it simply has no point to it. Okay, so the seemingly-racist convenience store owner is really a wanksta? Whaa? The faa? Dude, what does this have to do with anything? It's just so stupid. Either that, or I'm just not with it, and in that case, I'm happy to stay here on the fringe and listen to Bread.

Alrighty then, so will I see V/H/S (2012)? I'm sure I'll get around to it. I still really like Ti West, I'm a fan of anthologies, and a few of my friends on Twitter have given the film good notices. We're not bound to ever see another Cronenberg again in this lifetime, so I might as well scooch down and get comfortable.

David Cronenberg is my favorite director of all time. He is the master of economy in film. George Romero (director of my favorite film, Dawn of the Dead) is a master of interpreting the times (and with zombies!), but Cronenberg is second to none in creating films in which everything—right down to the Howard Shore collabo—is deliberate. Just watch any of his films, and you can see that nothing is wasted. You probably already know this.

In time, I think the cream will rise to the top, and to the occasion, and we'll see films that are not just vanity projects, but thoughtful messengers that carry the agenda through to the final scare. I just can't quite put my money on it yet.