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It’s been a long time since my last entry; a long time. In
some ways I feel like Ash at the end of ARMY OF DARKNESS (the Boomstick original
ending, that is): awakened in a strange and distant world that is unfamiliar to
my withered and weathered face. But in more realistic ways, I feel as though my
life has simply changed: a transition, if you will. No, the Deadites have not
been summoned from an eternal slumber. No, I was not transported back to
medieval times. And most regrettably, I do not have a chainsaw for an arm. Life
simply has a way of getting the best of you and you either succumb or live to
tell the tale. With any luck you come out the other end a stronger individual
and like Ash, you grab life in a fit of passion, gaze into its eyes and say
“gimme some sugar, baby!”
FACE RIFF has always abided by a basic philosophy: I’m a
musician and I love horror movies. Few things in life are certain, but I’m
convinced those qualities have been permanently spliced into my DNA. However,
time is bound to change the proportion in which they complement each other.
Change is good. Change can be a natural part of human life and personal growth (Try
telling that to poor Linda after her beheading in the work shed and you may get
a differing opinion, but that is neither here nor there).
For me, change amounts to my recent departure from The
Dillinger Escape Plan and my enrollment at The Motion Picture Institute of
Michigan. The decision was difficult, but somewhat inevitable. My film
obsession has been simmering for many years and was bound to boil over
eventually. Well, the pot has been shaken straight off the stove and my brain
feels like the elevator at the Overlook Hotel; slowly opening to release an
anxious tide, stagnant for far too long.
That’s my story. Enough with the memories; let’s get down to
bloody business, shall we?
My school year has started and no film program would be
complete without paying homage to Robert Enrico’s 1962 AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL
CREEK BRIDGE. This award-winning short film is the story of a Southern man
during the Civil War who is sentenced to hang for the crime of sabotage. The
hanging goes awry, the rope breaks and he is sent splashing into the water
below. He escapes and begins his journey toward home. It’s a simple premise and
the story is told with little to no dialogue. This movie represents filmmaking
stripped to its barest essentials and remains one of the greatest examples of
visual storytelling ever shot. If you can spare 27 minutes of life, you can
watch it on Youtube… what an age we live in.
While not horror in the strictest sense, AN OCCURRENCE AT
OWL CREEK BRIDGE does touch on many subjects familiar to the genre. It explores
life and death from a stark perspective that is skewed through the allure of hope.
And, of course, it aired as season 5, episode 22 of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
Furthermore, upon the release on THE SIXTH SENSE, M. Night Shymalan was
lambasted by many for possibly borrowing a bit too much from its story arc and
Whether or not this was intentional may remain a mystery,
but the question is somewhat moot. Art has a tendency to build on itself. If
you think the Beatles invented rock ‘n’ roll, you might want to check out Chuck
Berry. And if you think Chuck Berry invented it you should look into T-Bone
Walker, and so on and so forth. A piece of art exists as a culmination of
infinite regression. Its lineage can be traced back as many years as you are
willing to seek. This same piece of art also joins its lineage and begins an
infinite progression of its own. Like the body of the condemned prisoner
hitting the water, art creates a ripple effect that reaches back in time to pay
its respects and moves forward to inspire future artists. The similarities between
THE SIXTH SENSE and AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE may be striking, but such
is the nature. Highest form of flattery, indeed.
For Shymalan, these ripples continued and created one of his
defining characteristics: the feeling that “things may not be what they seem”
becoming a staple of his style. From there, the ripples stretched even further and
Shymalan unwittingly paved the way for a host of “twist ending” thrillers and
horror films. The entire SAW franchise was built on this very foundation and created
some very significant ripples as well, ultimately sparking “torture porn” in
its wake. Rippling back, much of what gives SAW its weight is a reflection of
David Fincher’s work on SE7EN and FIGHT CLUB. On and on we could go. You get
Sure, there are many ways this ripple effect can go horribly
wrong. Some may argue that this very principle is behind the dreaded remake engine
that just won’t run out of steam. The ripples seemingly power some malevolent
water turbine, possibly the bastard kin of Skynet and THE MANGLER. This turbine
is self-aware and has no regard for the classics it may destroy. Conversely,
when this principle is treated with respect, it has the ability to create art
that is truly magnificent: both forward thinking and a window into the past. Sorry
FRIDAY THE 13TH remake, you do not fall into this category.
So here I am, poised at the start of my cinematic journey
and ready to create ripples of my own. It’s an exciting time and will amount to
what I make of it. Like the southern prisoner, my noose has snapped and I’m off
toward freedom. But again, I’m also like Ash. I’m scared and I’m looking back
at the bridge I crossed that is no longer there. I’m staring at an army of
Deadites: the manifestation of my unforeseen future. I search for a way to
describe my simultaneous anxiety and excitement. One thing comes to mind… "Groovy"
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