Podcast with Mama’s composer Fernando Velazquez, and Nostalgic Shockers

February 8, 2013 | By

Nostalgia comes in many forms, especially when directors are influenced by a whole slew of specific, regional, and voluntary impressions of what constitutes good, or neat, or that which is sublime.

Take Joe Dante, for example: a filmmaker clearly influenced by fifties B movies (mostly bug-eyed monster films) yet whose sense of humour is rooted in classic Warner Bros. cartoons, and black humour comes from all those sleazy sexploitation films for which he cut trailers at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.

Corman is responsible for giving many important American filmmakers their first or major breaks – Francis Ford Coppola directed Dementia 13 (1963) prior to The Godfather (1972), and Martin Scorsese made Boxcar Bertha (1972) before Mean Streets (1973) – and Dante eventually made his own significant, personal films under Corman’s penny pinching guidance. Not small character studies of small town America, but piranhas eating stupid people (Piranhas), or a sexually repressed woman discovering her self-help group – many of whom are named after B-movie directors – is really just a mass of werewolves (aka The Howling).

Dante’s real entry into mainstream filmmaking came with Gremlins (1984), but as too often happens when the director of a big hit is given carte blanche to make a more personal project, you get a misfire, a dud, or an outright disaster.  Joe Dante’s been revisiting specific themes, characters, and odd plot hooks in many of his films, and after an extended time directing TV he managed to make a 3D thriller filled with almost the same vintage humour, horror, and quirks as his eighties and nineties work, and yet when the film was completed… no one cared.

It’s a phenomena that’s all too familiar when a veteran director spends maybe too much time in TV purgatory and can no longer convince the studio snots now in charge of greenlighting a film to give him a modest budget for what’s a familiar concept film. The Hole was shot in 3D and should’ve been given even a limited release, but apparently there were no indigenous takers in North America, and its sudden debut on home video in late 2012 – 3 years after it was completed – is a classic sign of what happens when a window of opportunity passes, and whomever owns the rights to the film has no idea how to handle it. Even the indie label who released The Hole [M] as a Blu-ray / DVD combo is apparently no longer making that release, leaving fans stuck with either  digital downloads from online merchants, or a poorly downconverted PAL-NTSC DVD released in Canada.

The irony, as stated quite windily in the DVD review, is that while original creators of a now classic style – the eighties kid shocker – can’t get money to make a film in North America, their grown-up fans who are now filmmakers themselves, can. With The Hole, the film represents a silly situation specific to a strange distrust by studios towards the progenitors of the films that influenced the humour of new filmmaker-fans.

A variation of nostalgia lies in Devil [M] (2010), the film that was supposed to launch M. Night Shyamalan’s Night Chronicles franchise…. but didn’t.

Like a Twilight Zone episode or any twisty-bendy-foldy mystery, if you think too much about the story’s logic, things get silly – there’s no reason why Satan would waste time on a batch of losers in an elevator when there’s far easier ways to claim souls. The filmmakers’ presumption is the reason a handful of characters are trapped and being driven insane (and possibly to kill) in an elevator is that Satan is just having some fun. Messing around with choreographed rolling balls of doom until everyone’s dead.

Devil is simple, lean, and surprisingly well written; the story comes from Shyamalan’s head, but the script and dialogue is credited to Brian Nelson – a better writer who doesn’t drag stories into preposterous, emotionally pretentious fantasy dramas – like Shyamalan’s idiotic The Happening (2008).

Devil, which was shot across the lot where I used to park my car for Tuesday lunches with a batch of friends, was scored by Fernando Velazquez, a really skilled composer who’s currently enjoying the success of Mama – good reviews, good audience attendance, and a box office hit.

The latter factor is flattering to both composer and director Andres Muschietti because it validates their nostalgia for an elegantly constructed, slowly paced shocker that doesn’t fixate on murder montages and sound design – a cheap style typical of most studio or studio distributed shockers which are too often remakes of or loosely tied to better, older B-films or exploitation nasties.

I’ve uploaded a recent podcast interview with Velazquez, and thanks to Quartet Records, there’s a few music samples woven into the discussion about scoring horror, the beauty of an orchestra, the uniqueness of the cello, and Mama’s executive producer Guillermo del Toro.

Coming next: a blog / review of the latest edition of Packaged Goods, Artful Animation, which screens Wednesday February 20th at 7pm.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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