Saturday, November 01, 2008

CULT TV FLASHBACK #61: Space Rangers (1993)

In the early 1990s, Star Trek's syndicated child, The Next Generation (1987-1994), spurred a new renaissance in science fiction television of the "outer space" variety.

Spin-off Deep Space Nine was on the way (1993-1999), Babylon 5 (1994-1998) was rising, and all of the sudden, the big networks were willing -- for the first time in over a decade (and the demise of NBC's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century [1979-1981] -- to take a chance on expensive, otherworldly space adventures again.

This boomlet would eventually bring such memorable (but short-lived...) ventures as Earth II (1994), Space: Above and Beyond (1995), another Trek called Voyager (1995 - 2001]) and, finally, this relatively obscure curiosity, Space Rangers (1993).

Created by Pen Densham, Space Rangers was broadcast from January 6 to January 26, 1993 on CBS. Only six hour-long episodes were produced, and only a handful of those actually aired.

For some reason, I was one of the few people who actually watched the show in its original run. I remember having high hopes for it, in part because of my growing ennui and dissatisfaction with 1990s-style Star Trek.

I felt at the time (and still do...even more strongly) that The Next Generation squandered the original Star Trek's sense of fun and adventure for too many dull "love boat in space" stories (Troi's Mom is visiting again! Or, this week, Worf's brother beams up!) It was either that, or the series featured irrelevant holodeck stories (look, Picard plays a 1940s detective...again; Riker goes to a jazz bar and plays the trombone! Alexander has a mud-bath! Ad infinitum, ad nauseum).

The upshot was that it seemed that only about half of TNG's stories concerned actual space exploration (you know, boldly going anywhere...) or the hazards of space travel.

Why had this happened? Well, it seemed that the series writers had badly misunderstood the concept of "character development"...replacing genuine growth with hackneyed old soap opera-type stories (in which Riker makes peace with his visiting, estranged Dad ["The Icarus Factor"], or Troi has to choose between an arranged marriage or a Starfleet career ["Haven"]).

Yep, Star Trek: The Next Generation committed the unpardonable sin of space adventures: it was often boring.

As hell.

In concept, if not execution, Space Rangers certainly promised to be an antidote to the increasingly safe, stale, predictable and dull universe of 1990s era Star Trek progeny.

Set in the year 2104, Space Rangers was set on "the frontier," on a distant world called Avalon, where an outpost named "Fort Hope" had been established.

The series' central characters were law enforcement officials dedicated to "upholding the law." They were "space rangers" -- "part peacekeepers, part marines."

And they were all essentially blue collar in nature. Which means that the rangers complained about over-time, about risking their lifes on "straight-time" and they often lobbied for "hazard pay." Off-duty, the rangers caroused in Fort Hope's "Geno's Bar;" gambling their currency (called "solars"), drinking zulus and occasionally wasting their hard-earned dough on prostitutes.

One episode of the series, "The Replacements," concerned Headquarters' secret plan to "outsource" the human (and alien...) rangers with pliable androids called "Ringers," and the dramatis personae all feared they would lose their jobs not to foreigners, but to A.I.

Job loss was an especially pertinent issue at the time, because America was undergoing an economic recession at the end of the first Bush era, and there was an epidemic of "downsizing" and "outsourcing" throughout the U.S. in 1993-1994. Or as one character on Space Rangers noted, "budget cuts are affecting everyone."

They were affecting technology and infrastructure too. The Ranger space vessel of choice -- a "sling ship" [#377] called "Lizzie"-- was an old rust-bucket with an interior like a revamped World War II submarine. It had no holodeck, no replicators, no warp speed and no transporters.

Instead, Lizzie was a no-frills, low-tech affair, held together by spit-and-polish...and the Rangers often talked about how -- even though they requisitioned HQ for new parts -- they never got them.

The only way for Lizzie to achieve light speed was to travel through an orbital "light speed donut," which would "slingshot" it to incredible velocities.
If the Rangers wanted to get down to a planet surface, Lizzie would actually have to land the ship, or the rangers could hop into confining "para-jets," one-person pods designed for trips below. When approaching quarry, whether smugglers or drug-runners, Lizzie could also hide by using a "radar shrouder." The only problem was, it rarely (if ever...) worked.

Captain Boon (Jeff Kaake) was the hero of the series, the principled leader of one "misfit" squad of Space Rangers. In the first episode, "Fort Hope," we learned that Boon was in a difficult marriage (to Friday the 13th Part II's Amy Steel...) and had a young daughter named Roxie. In ensuing installments, Boon's wife and child returned to Earth, and the couple was officially separated....a fact which made Boon angry and short-tempered.

Captain Boon was an old-fashioned, meat-and-potatoes, blue-collar kind-of-guy, and a distinct switch from the more high-minded, highbrow, intellectual captains of 1990s science fiction tv. Boon was a simple man who believed in the rules, but who also knew when the rules ("the Territorial Code") should be bent, stretched or broken.

Many episodes of Space Rangers featured Boon's voice-over narration, as he explained the universe, the alien races he encountered, the rangers' rule-book, and his own personal perspective to viewers. Often, he talked about matters of loyalty -- either his wife's lack of loyalty; or his crew's loyalty. "Everybody else would call us misfits" he notes at one point, "but I call us family."

Boon's right-hand man was Doc Kreuger (Jack McGee), a hardened old engineer who had seen more than his fair share of action. Scruffy and sarcastic, he had a heart of gold...or, er...metal.

Tasked with keeping Lizzie running under the most unenviable of positions, "Doc" had unwittingly become more machine than man during his stint in the rangers. He had a mechanical arm, a synthetic liver, a mechanical heart, and even one artificial ear. Doc kept all this information hidden from Headquarters, an organization that would shit-can him in a heart-beat (and foul his retirement plans...) if they knew Doc was in such poor physical condition.

A nadir on the series was a faux-heartwarming moment in "Banshees" in which Doc ripped off his mechanical ear and gifted it to a deaf adolescent. This moment was, in a word...ridiculous. But in general, Doc was interesting because -- despite his expertise as a mechanic (notice I didn't say engineer...) -- he was also kind of willfully ignorant and fearful of bureaucracy and progress. You know, like the people who were convinced that Bill Clinton was going to personally take their guns away or something. Again, think blue collar. Doc was so afraid of HQ that he gave up the chance to have a prosthetic arm; he just wanted to stay off the radar.

Lizzie's gunner and pilot was statuesque Jo-Jo Thorson (Marjorie Monaghan), a futuristic Amazon. Jo-Jo was from the planet New Venus and held a "personal grudge" against the alien Banshees (the space frontier equivalent of savage red-skins...). It turns out that all of New Venus's cowardly men had evacuated their planet when Banshees encroached on the world's "space lanes," leaving the Amazonian women behind to "re-shape" their culture alone. According to Jo-Jo, "no woman from New Venus" ever ran "from a Banshee" and she certainly wasn't going to be "the first."

Another resident alien in the space rangers was the noble savage Zylyn (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a fierce "Graaka" warrior who lived by an alien code of honor. Citizens of Zylyn's race were such fierce fighters (and, apparently, cannibals...) that to work successfully alongside human beings in the Ranger corps, all Graaka had to wear "pacifier" collars (also known as "repressor yokes") around their necks.

The Graaka were also known to wear "power rings" (just like the Green Lantern!) and could sense sense "life, movement," even "violence" and "tension" by feel, if in close proximity. (Though apparently these senses didn't work on the Banshee...).

In the episode entitled "Fort Hope," Boon awoke Zylyn from hibernation to join him on a mission to recover a Graaka crystal that had been hidden one thousand years ago, and could destroy the whole world (and perhaps the galaxy itself...) with a single thought. In that episode, Zylyn revealed how the Crystal had created a schism amongst his people, and how -- after defeating the crystal the first time -- the historical Graaka had devoted themselves to becoming "warriors of peace."

Other characters populating the series included Commander Chennault (Linda Hunt), the likable, charismatic leader of New Hope, and Boon's immediate superior. I have to say, I thought Hunt was terrific in this series: offering a human and powerful "anchor" amidst all the craziness. Unfortunately, the sympathetic but diminutive Chennault was often overruled in important matters by a cliched character: the wrong-headed Colonel Weiss (Gottfried John). A consummate chess player, Weiss had it in for Boon and his misfit crew and sought -- like Dr. Smith on Lost in Space -- to make mischief at every turn. [And a side note: Space Rangers might be described as the unofficial bridge between Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan eras of James Bond films, because it features both Licence to Kill's [1989] Tagawa and Goldeneye's [1995] John.)

The last two members of the Space Rangers team included a kooky (!) scientist/physician named Mimmer (played by an over-the-top, apparently-deranged Clint Howard), and Danny Kincaid (Daniel Quinn), a wet-behind-the-ears marine rookie whose dad was a higher-up at Central Command.

The villains on Space Rangers included the aforementioned Banshees: mysterious, Giger-esque alien beasts who would often launch "kamikaze" raids on ranger vessels in flight, and who could move effortlessly through time and space. In "Banshees," the aliens overtook a ship carrying illicit smugglers and attempted to take the ship back into a Banshee dimension, where a giant, alien hive awaited.

Back on Fort Hope, another villain was Isogul, a bald, long-finge-rnailed Roddy-McDowall sound-alike who was basically a Jabba-the-Hutt-style gangster, one who was responsible for importing the illicit narcotic "XJ" to Avalon. Boon soon dedicated himself to bringing down the "untouchable" Isogul, but the series ended before we could see this happen. Isogul came from a race called the "Hoboma" who were known for manipulating the emotions of others.

A different Space Rangers episode (guest starring Babylon 5's Claudia Christian) was entitled "Death Before Dishonour" and it dealt with another space-faring villain, the Vilons (who looked like humanoid snakes). The Vilons were quick to take offense at perceived insults, and Prince Gordo (the leader of the Vilons...) challenged Boon to a duel to the death during trade agreement negotiations. Guess who won?

So, what was good about Space Rangers? Not a whole lot, frankly. However, it's certainly fair to state that the series served as a valiant (if failed...) attempt to create a universe and mood notably unique for an era in which space programs such as Star Trek and Babylon 5 had become, essentially, "politics in space" obsessed with inter-Empire conflicts and micro-strategies for brinkmanship and one-upsmanship.

Also, Space Rangers is a futuristic series in which the characters don't dwell in paradise. They boast oil smudges on their faces and show stains on their uniforms; they even listen to rock-and-roll music as they launch their about-to-fly-apart spaceships. I dig this deliberate veneer of "blue collar cops in space" and appreciate how that overriding leitmotif is apportioned throughout the series. The villains are often either "stupid hoods" working for gangsters or villainous assassins who can re-arrange their molecules so as to more easily kill their prey. In other words, the nemeses are "far future" and "alien" extensions of the cops and robbers conventions of contemporary crime series [see also Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct, for more of this...]

Although the special effects have aged rather dramatically in fifteen years, Space Rangers nonetheless offers some stunning and ambitious otherworldly vistas. In "Fort Hope," there's a planet of jungles in which a second sun rises every day and basically scorches the surface (forecasting Chronicles of Riddick). Another episode reveals a Graaka temple (which looks like the planet Vulcan from "Amok Time" crossed with The Guardian of Forever.)

But what works best about Space Rangers is undeniably the utter lack of pretension. The series remembers that action-adventure should be...well, exciting. There's a jaunty sense of fun about this series; and it doesn't get bogged down in long, self-important Picardian platitudes or lectures.

On the downside, a jaunty sense of fun is extremely difficult to support and maintain. While I appreciate that Space Rangers sought to distance itself from the lugubrious TNG in tone, "jaunty" all-too-often translates here to "campy." Space Rangers frequently lapses into embarrassing silliness, to its own detriment. Furthermore, the performances are pretty darn variable. The way to play "jaunty" is straight and serious; and performers like Hunt, Tagawa and Kaake seem to understand that.

By contrast, Clint Howard -- a cult fave of mine -- just doesn't get it. His crazy-haired, crazy-eyed Mimmer is horrid and ludicrous; a cartoon, one-note joke. Every time Mimmer is on screen, you just cringe, and feel bad about yourself for watching this tripe.

Also, it's virtually impossible for Space Rangers to effectively distinguish itself from The Next Generation when thematically it focuses so heavily on alien warrior races. In the six episodes produced, we meet the Graaka, the New Amazons and the Vilons....all warrior races, all with their individual "codes." Arguably, Next Gen's greatest achievement was the layers and depths it added to the Klingon people (and the Klingon psyche) in episodes such as "The Bonding," "Sins of the Father," "The Emissary" and so forth. It seems foolish and counterproductive for Space Rangers to so recklessly tread into the "warrior race" ethos when that terrain was clearly the bailiwick of the more expensive, more serious TNG.

Space Rangers dramatized some seriously derivative stories too: "Banshees" was pretty clearly an Aliens rip-off, down to the left-behind kid hiding under vent grates (like Newt) and the design of the villainous xenomorphs. Again, that's kind of insulting. In 1993, anyone interested in a show called Space Rangers had certainly watched Aliens. Probably many times.

Another pet peeve: every noun on Space Rangers seemed as though it was preceded by the descriptor "New." Jo-Jo was from New Venus. The spaceship in "Banshees" was The New Mayflower. Boon attended school at New Annapolis. The city New Rio was mentioned in passing during one episode. This uncreative naming system became so laughable that by the third episode, my wife Kathryn was calling everything "new" (the New Banshees, The New Gangstas, etc.). Again, someone on the writing staff should have been paying attention to this; to keep it from being so damn pervasive, and therefore so silly.

Overall, the harder-eged, less utopian settings and concepts for Space Rangers, as I wrote above, certainly held tremendous potential. The idea of soldiers/policemen toughing it out on a space frontier -- fighting budget cuts as well as alien criminals -- was a concept potent enough to inform a longer, more accomplished series. As opposed to the new Star Trek, in which human beings were so evolved that they no longer had conflicts with each other, Space Rangers was set in a universe of fallibility wherein "human beings are human beings...wherever they are."

Again, in theory, I really like that.

It's just that Space Rangers during its short life so often tread on woeful cliches (whether imititating Klingons, Giger's aliens or falling back on the old chestnut of "ritual combat" between opponents) that it never distinguished itself in terms of narrative or storytelling. When you throw in the wince-inducing campy quality of some moments (like the time that Doc pulls out his mechanical heart to see if it's still beating; or blithely hands off his mechanical ear to a deaf boy...) the damage to Space Rangers was terminal.

So this was a missed opportunity; another series that had much more promise than it delivered. Space Rangers differentiated itself from The Next Generation, all right, but likely not in the ways that serious fans of exciting space adventure could ultimately embrace.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Muir Goes Beyond The Grassy Knoll... Tonight

Tonight at 10:00 pm, EST, I'll be going back for my third visit to "The Untamed Grassy Knoll," a live radio program, to discuss some of the scariest TV shows and films ever made.

It's a Halloween special that's guaranteed to be a lot of spooky fun. I hope you'll join me for the hour. I'm hoping we get to talk Night Gallery, Millennium, X-Files and other Halloween treats.


Happy October 31st, everybody!

First off, I want to wish all the readers here a safe and happy holiday. Have fun with the spooks and ghouls this evening! After all, everyone deserves one good scare...

And secondly, I want to thank my friend and war-time (meaning production...) consigliari, Joseph Maddrey, for contributing all those great horror movie location photographs to the blog this week. Joe is not only an excellent writer and producer, but his photographs are fantastic, as you've seen amply demonstrated here. Thanks Joe, for sharing your gorgeous work with us.

Special gratitude also to everyone who wrote to the blog with great guesses about the horror movie locations. All the photos have been "found" at this point, which is absolutely incredible; especially since I didn't provide much by way of clues. Great job, everyone!

Now, just try to stay out of trouble tonight, all right? (And watch The Strangers, if you can; review below). I'll be taking 2-year old Joel out trick-or-treating, and -- if Kathryn lets me -- I'll try to post pictures...

CULT MOVIE REVIEW: The Strangers (2008)

If you watch only one contemporary horror film this Halloween season, do yourself a favor and make it The Strangers (2008).

Lean and (very...) mean at eighty-six minutes, this recent film of the “savage cinema” variety (think Last House on the Left, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes) literally takes no prisoners. It's a horror show without frills, without b.s., and without extraneous nonsense of any sort. The entire movie is devoted to one simple thing: scaring you silly.

Accordingly, The Strangers begins with a funereal mood of gloom and inter-personal alienation and then escalates to pure, heart-pounding terror – a mode the movie relentlessly sustains until the final jolt preceding the end credits.

Among other fine technical qualities, the sound-editing in this film is superb, and many of the scares depend not on what the audience sees, but what the audience doesn't see...and what it hears. This is a low budget effort, to be certain (again, think Chainsaw or Last House...) but it appears that all of the movie's considerable energy has gone towards making a horror film of eerie precision; one of finely crafted "jolt" moments that work exactly as a longtime genre fan would hope.

Perhaps it’s necessary to state a little bit about my bias or slant here, as I continue to discuss the film. Of course, I deeply appreciate all modes of the horror film (from every decade in cinema history), but the ones that really get to me on a personal level – the ones that truly scare me – are those, like The Strangers, of the savage cinema mode.

Films of this sub-genre don’t ask me to believe in ancient Egyptian curses, mad scientists, shape-shifting aliens or creatures that mysteriously thrive on the cycle of the moon. No, instead they urge me only to believe in a human heart of darkness...which I do, readily. Furthermore, these movies ask me to believe that one wrong turn, one twist of fate, can lead to a dark destiny.

Again…I’m there.

A good movie of this variety needs no stars, no expensive locations, no elaborate special effects: everything comes down to the realistic, savage central scenario and the likability of the characters countenancing it.
In other words, the idea of running out of gas in rural, out-of-the-way Texas at nightfall is pretty damn frightening to me. But encountering Dracula or The Wolf Man? Not so much… I just don't expect that to happen.
The Strangers commences ominously, with a baritone-voiced off-screen narrator informing us that the events of the film are inspired by "a true story." The opening card then reveals further specifics of the crime we are about to witness (including the time frame of the events: the night of February 4, 2005).

If you are a student of horror, you’ll instantly recognize this opening gambit as one familiar from Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s a simple technique that works on your subconscious like a bad itch; one that keeps gnawing at you because it connects the on-screen horror explicitly (and uncomfortably...) to our "safe" reality. (Even if the actual claim of truth is likely hooey…).

From there, The Strangers transitions to a brief series of slow-motion, fade-in/fade-out views of American houses of all shapes and sizes, ostensibly photographed from the interior of a passing car. We move slowly in these lingering “flashes” from lower-middle class suburbia to upper-class suburbia, to remote, rural territory. Finally, we arrive at our location: a secluded vacation house. Only much later in the film do we realize whose perspective these views actually represent; that we (and the camera with us) are hunting with a family of masked predators. We are sizing up the houses...seeking victims.

Before long, The Strangers introduces us to our two doomed protagonists, twenty-somethings James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler), as they arrive late one night at James’ family vacation home in the woods. Having just attended a wedding, you might think the couple would be happy, buoyant or even drunk. But no – an air of somber anticipation and lugubrious gloom hangs over them. And this is before the horror starts.

It turns out that Kristen has rejected James’ romantic marriage proposal that very night because she “needs time.” James is understandably dejected over this; Kristen feels conflicted, perhaps even guilty and ashamed at her choice. They feel estranged and separated from one another (despite the fact that James has decorated the master bedroom and even bath tub with scattered rose petals for the would-be momentous occasion).

Impressively, the cinematography and set design reflect this personal estrangement with various autumnal hues that signal the coming winter of the relationship.

This is a movie universe where even the bath water runs brown.

The house itself - richly visualized in amber, chestnut and terra-cotta - seems almost like something of a time-capsule tomb: oddly-out-of-step with the new 21st century; a testament to a happier, more prosperous past...replete with decorations like an old record player, a heavy piano, and the sort of elaborate woodwork rarely seen in new construction. James and Kristen may be staying there for the night, but this is a home they will never share. The characters seem not to belong there; like their days (or hours) are numbered. The scattered rose petals portend not a happy honeymoon, but rather a future in which blood spatter on the walls serves as complementary decoration.

As James and Kristen -- barely speaking to one another -- mechanically initiate sex in this environment, there is a loud and sudden knocking at the house’s heavy front doors. Not only is this intrusion the most grievous scene of coitus interruptus possible, it is the vanguard of a horrific home invasion, one that pits Kristen and James against three masked murderers.

Throughout the remainder of the film, these killers mercilessly lay siege to the isolated vacation house with hatchets, butcher knives, and with their Ford pick-up truck (Buy American!). Kristen and James struggle to survive the onslaught, but the killers gain entrance to the house regularly, seem to control the house’s power and phone lines, and have even made off with the couple’s cell phones. Every attempt at escape is foiled; every attempt at defense proves futile, or worse, counterproductive.

It's tempting to read all terror this as some sort of post-911 comment on the fact that neither oceans, law enforcement nor locked front doors can save us from an implacable enemy, but in truth The Strangers resurrects a sturdy horror trope that long pre-dates the September 11th terror attacks: the household siege (think Night of the Living Dead, or another classic savage cinema offering, Straw Dogs).

The motive for the terrible attack in The Strangers?You were home,” one of the killers enigmatically informs Kristen, as if that declaration explains anything.

And that’s about as much information as the movie provides the audience about motivations.

Frankly, I appreciate the restraint, especially given the all-too-common cinematic alternative of facile psychology (Rob Zombie's Halloween...j'accuse). Never once in The Strangers are we spoon fed some pat reason behind this inexplicable madness; for this bloody horror. I believe -- again -- that this is approach is highly realistic (and believable) because people in James and Kristen’s situation are in a life-and-death struggle, and rarely have the time to discuss rational things like motivation with their would-be-murderers. That’s’ the press’s job…in the attempt to place some cultural and historical context on a crime. The Strangers, in fact, remains so cryptic that it never even reveals the faces of the killers under those creepy masks.

The only (small) insight we get into this killing trio comes near the conclusion of the film, post-killing spree, when the Ford pick-up carrying the murderers stops two pre-adolescent boys on bicycles; boys who are handing out Christian literature.

One of the boys asks the older female killer (back to us; to the camera) if she is a “sinner.” Her answer is as inscrutable as her identity. And so the movie provides us almost nothing comfortable or easy to hold onto.

I suggest this is exactly the right strategy for a naturalistic, scary movie of the savage cinema variety. Who cares why Michael Myers (or The Strangers for that matter…) kill? What matters to James and Kristen (and to us in the audience), is that they are at the door. Knocking. What are you going to do about it? Ask them for a personal history? Ask if they were abused as children? I think not. That's bullshit.

The director and screenwriter of the film, Bryan Bertino, seems to have learned a crucial lesson or two from John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). One: less is us less and tell us less; and our imaginations will fill in (the horrific) gaps.

And two: don't spend the whole damn movie rattling our frayed senses with savage, fierce attacks. If a movie is entirely pitched at a hyper-kinetic pace, then there's no "rest" time for the horror to settle down in our psyches; for our imaginations to go to work.

In terms of The Strangers, this means that Bertino spends a considerable portion of the film with the attackers looming in the background of frames...just watching and waiting (in long shot). Suspense is generated because we don't know when they will attack; when they are present (and hiding...) or what, on Earth, they want. I remember being terribly disappointed with Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers (1996) for a lot of reasons, but primarily because Michael Myers just popped up and immediately stabbed and killed people. There was no suspense; there was no watching and waiting; no stalking. It was all slam-bam, thank you ma'am...and that approach is simply ineffective for creating real terror. The Strangers avoids that pitfall and the result is an exercise in suspense.

There's a portion of this film that involves Liv Tyler alone in the house, listening to old music on the record player, smoking a cigarette...just waiting for James to return from an errand. Not much happens, but this segment of the film is riveting, as we begin to process the fact that a killer is inside the house with her. Watching. This is an old aesthetic for those with real attention spans; but it still works. These scenes also set up the geography of the terror to come; the terrain or battlefield.

A close examination of The Strangers reveals that it's primary concern is indeed building suspense, and in some manner approximating for the audience how it would feel to be trapped in a situation like this; with precious few alternatives and precious few escape routes.

Many movie critics suggested that The Strangers is a “vile” film. That it boasts no socially redeeming qualities. They must think this is so because the movie offers up no pat resolution, no happy ending and not the slightest whiff of explanation. But critics should ask themselves this question: did Marion Crane have a happy ending, or understand what was happening to her in that shower at the Bates Motel in Psycho? I would argue that she didn’t; and I would furthermore argue that The Strangers similarly concerns just one piece in what is obviously a much larger killing spree, and that our unlucky protagonists – Kristen and James – are victims in that spree. As such, they are not afforded the decorum of "understanding," of a perspective of the larger historical view. There's no time for that with Mansonite crazoids at the door, at the window, and in the house...

In some clever sense, The Strangers treats us (the audience) like victims too. Our hopes rise and fall with each gambit. We seek answers, beg for mercy, and ultimately, find no solace. We try to deny what is to come, even as all hope is lost. But in the end, there is no denying the inevitability of death.

If you like the savage cinema, if you appreciate dark turns of fate and obsess on the random nature of human life, The Strangers is scary stuff. Watch it tonight, and then -- when the doorbell rings (hopefully just trick-or-treaters, right?) -- consider that maybe the Strangers have singled out your house.
Just because you're home...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One More Day Till Halloween

Well, this is the final batch of Joseph Maddrey's gorgeous horror movie location photographs. Tomorrow -- on Halloween -- I'll post the correct answers to any photographs that haven't been correctly guessed yet. Although, frankly, there aren't many remaining that haven't been guessed. You have all been totally amazing. Especially since I've been stingy with the clues.

Amongst today's bunch: at least one of these locations was used in a movie in the 1930s.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Two More Days Till Halloween

All right, we're gettin' down to the nitty-gritty here as Oct. 31st approaches. Once more, Joseph Maddrey has provided some fantastic photos of famous horror movie locations. So -- if you can -- NAME. THE. MOVIE.Add Image

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Three More Days Till Halloween...

Joe Maddrey provides more horror movie location photographs today. So far, your guesses have all been outstanding! So, once more, let's play (as Pinhead might say):... name the horror movie!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Four More Days Till Halloween...

Today's photos from Joseph Maddrey. Name the horror movie! Name the location! (All answers not guessed will be revealed on Halloween!). Stumped?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Five More Days Till Halloween...

More of Joseph Maddrey's exquisite horror movie photography today. Can you name the movie for each photo? And the location? (And no written clues today, either...).