Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All horror, all the time

So it's been a while, but I'm back. Ballad has now officially closed up shop after a very successful run. Part of me feels neglectful for not having stopped back to check in here during the run, but alas and alack. The show was very well received, playing to sold out houses almost nightly. It also provided me with my first opportunity to be called out negatively in a review. On the one hand, I'm baffled, because Catey's description of my character and how I see my character don't match in the slightest. What she read in my performance is miles from what I felt I was portraying. Receiving criticism for something you are trying to do is one thing, but receiving criticism for something you aren't is an even harder beast to figure out. Of course, on the other hand, I'd be going back on everything I ever said about interpretation if I didn't take this in good spirits. Whether it was intended or not, what Catey came away with was a direct result of what I put on stage. There will always be miscommunication when you're talking to more than a handful of people at once; there's no reason to adjust your message to fix this -- you'll only create new miscommunication elsewhere -- but it's good to be aware.

The review's become a fun point of self-deprecation among friends, but it was a great little spontaneous study in the 'thin-skinned artist' idea; a number of friends and acquaintances seemed seemed instantly offended for me, even if they hadn't seen the show to be able to know just how much I did or did not suck it up. It was a little bit of a disappointing confirmation that negative criticism for many is simply not acceptable unless it's about someone we don't know personally. I'm not much of a keepsake guy, I have a few reviews packed away in a box somewhere, but I don't snatch up everything I can get. But you better believe Catey's review was tacked to my closet door within 48 hours of publication. I don't agree with it (hell, I don't even understand how she came to it), but I'm certain people have read far worse about themselves on this very blog. I ain't gonna stop, so I may as well take a little myself.


You know what really brought me back after my absence, though? The old standby: horror movies.

I saw Rob Zombie's Halloween II tonight, and, while not as satisfying as his first Halloween (which I'm not sure is entirely unintentional), it strikes me as a further step down the road we are starting to see in some of the cash-crop of horror remakes: the 2nd-gen horror film. Sitting amidst the 'anything for a buck' likes of The Last House On The Left, there are insertions like the ones Zombie has provided. These are films that reward familiarity. The tendency is to dote on them the ability to stand alone, but to gain a new depth with a knowledge of the original. But the more I watch, the less I even buy into that. I really don't know that Halloween II would be at all effective for anyone who is not at least familiar with the foundation of the Michael Myers mythos. (If anyone out there has not seen Carpenter's original film and has seen Zombie's second, please check in in the comments, I'd love to hear your thoughts.) It's a horror movie made by a horror fan -- Zombie is as steeped in the mythology as any of us, and as any successful remake/reimagining/retread is aware, the mythology of the slasher film is what really draws us in. People place themselves in a bipolar relationship with the slasher stars of these films until it reaches the point where you have to accept Jason taking Manhattan because after a certain point, you're simply passing down the next chapter as if you were an ancient storyteller gathered around the fire. Once you've spent 8+ films with a character, you get to know him pretty well. This is both a big reason the Scream series took such a quick nosedive after the genre-reviving first installment -- you can't actually kill your killer (and if you do, you better fix it Part VI: Jason Lives...) -- and a big reason why the Saw series is riding so high in defiance of that rule -- the Jigsaw killer isn't so much of a character as a means to a series of setpieces (although the Final Destination series is a good counterpoint, almost a meta-slasher in which the stalker is death itself, relying on far more considered setpieces).

But now we have a new strain -- the old is new again; sequels have become remakes and remakes have quickly shifted to 'reimaginings'. Michael Bay has proven to have quite a hand at putting his name to these bad boys (heh, movie pun), and he seems to be realizing that his brand better fits the teen slasher front; Marcus Nispel revived the slick, self-entertaining badassery in Jason Voorhees that he never should have tried to instill in Leatherface, and I have to blasphemously say that Jackie Earle Haley has me more excited about Freddy Krueger than Robert Englund ever did. But all the same, these are horror revivals. What makes Zombie's Halloween reimaginings different is that they truly are just so. Both films play off of a prerequisite audience knowledge of the characters, places, and events on the screen. Any horror fan worth his or her mettle is going to come into this with his or her own notions of who these people are and how this is going to go down. Zombie isn't out to reinforce that, but neither is he out to twist its neck. At times playing into and strengthening these notions, at times undermining them, and at times outright turning them aside, it feels as if he is making a new monster, a new franchise, out of pieces of the old stitched together with bits he dug up himself, a la Frankenstein (a film which Zombie also calls to mind in very ironic fashion at one point in H2).

The film would lend itself to another sequel, but at the same time, it feels like a finale, a two film full circle to exorcise Michael and the entire Myers clan once and for all. (Beside, Zombie's apparently already signed on to remake The Blob. Wrap your minds around that.) And while there's a second Friday the 13th remake in the works that I'm sure I'll attend, I much prefer the idea of these remakes providing return to original form closure for those of us who stuck around to suffer through The Dream Child, et al. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that we have six Saws and four Final Destinations; every generation needs a couple of horror franchises to call their own. But 'their own' is the key phrasing -- what Zombie's doing is paying the lifelong members their due.


Now that the show's closed I'm back to being crazy swamped with everyone else's shows. Over the next month I'm spending one weekend bachelor partying (the details of which will not be disclosed here, Ronan, so forget about it) and one weekend celebrating the loss of bachelorhood, all for this fella here, so congratulate him. In between, I'm squeezing every last second out of my schedule that I can. This weekend is Halcyon's Lorca In A Green Dress on Thursday, Bruised Orange's Village Of K___ on Friday, and Chicago dell'Arte's A Hampstead Hooligan In King Arthur's Court on Saturday, plus a viewing of Goodman's Animal Crackers next Wednesday.

And speaking of things to see, if there are any New Yorkers out there looking for something to do the following weekend, head on down to P.S. 122 to check out Cupola Bobber's one weekend stint performing their latest work, Way Out West, The Sea Whispered Me. There's been a lot of brou-ha-ha lately about all the Chicago shows taking over New York, but if you want to witness real, street level Chicago performance, this is the show to see. These are the guys that everyone hoisting Chicago's east coast takeover haven't even heard of -- reclaim those bragging rights and go see the Chicagoans that even Chicagoans haven't gotten hip to yet.


I'm also shifting focus back to see some great live music again -- Monday night I'm heading to the Empty Bottle to check out The Smith Westerns. They were the latest edition of a weekly e-mail blast I've started called 'in volume'. It goes out every Sunday with one mp3 of my choosing and one very short piece of prose that I written in relation to it. It's sort of an mp3blog without the blog. If you'd be interested in receiving it, just let me know in the comments or via e-mail, and I'll put you on the list.


And finally, the biggest news of the week -- The Nine, Part One: SubUrbia is officially legit. Website, auditions, etc. to follow very shortly, but I am pleased to announce that SubUrbia will run from February 19th - March 6th, 2010 at Red Tape Theatre. Mark your calendars now, son; you're only gonna have nine chances to see this bad boy!



Dennis Frymire said...

Perhaps I need to see Halloween II again to give it another chance. Even going in with low expectations, I thought it was the biggest piece of crap I'd seen in a good long while.

Paul Rekk said...

Oh don't get me wrong, this thing per 'normal' moviegoer standards is most likely a huge turd. I don't know your moviegoing tendencies, Dennis, but unless you're the type of person so entrenched in the horror genre to, say, unabashedly write epic blog posts on it on a semi-regular basis, I don't know that I'd recommend a second chance.