Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"First, there was..." 8 Movies that gave birth to sub-genres and imitators

First thing's first: Yes, this is inspired by a recent list put up on the AV Club. Anyways, here's a look at genre movies that helped create sub-genres and unintentionally spawned many pale imitations. *Note, I'm leaving out "Blair Witch", "Jaws" and "Jurassic Park" because they are mentioned in the article.

Friday the 13th helps spur the 80's slasher

Though one could argue that "Friday the 13th" was essentially an imitation of "Halloween" with added gore, it's success led to the flourish of slasher movies throughout the 80's. At first, there were some duds, but there were also plenty of classics ("Happy Birthday to Me", "The Burning" and "Silent Scream" for example.) However, as the decade wore on, less classics came out, and the more noticeable it was that many of these movies couldn't compete with the greats. The genre essentially died by the end of the 80's, though one still had unintended side effects...

A Nightmare on Elm Street gives us supernatural slashers

Looking back, it's easy to see why the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is so beloved-it has great performances, a great villain, wonderful direction, and best of all, it's scary as hell. Well, the movies it spawned rarely lived up to that. Sure, something like "Brainscan" is a cult favorite, and everyone should see the Bollywood answer "Mahakaal: The Monster" at least once, but we didn't need the likes of "Asylum." The worst of them though, is "Ghost in the Machine", which took the idea of a supernatural killer (here he possesses technology) and diminishes all of the goodwill brought forth by Craven's film. Even the director is to fault, as "Shocker" was just a mediocre attempt at trying to reuse an old formula.

Scream gives us a new wave of teen centric horror

Granted, the term "teen centric horror" seems like a bit of an oxymoron, as many horror films tend to gear themselves more towards the youth market. However, after "Scream" became a surprise hit, Hollywood was quick to capitalize. Granted, this was a blessing and a curse. On one hand, horror was finally marketable again, and we got some good stuff ("Ginger Snaps" and "The Faculty", as well as the underrated "Cherry Falls.") On the downside, we got a lot of horror movies that tried to capitalize on the success of said movie ("Urban Legend" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer"), yet most of them lacked what made "Scream" the classic that it is. It pretty much went kaput in 2002, and few are hoping for a sequel to "The Forsaken." Granted, we got a new generation of teen centric horror movies soon after, but most of them weren't interested in capitalizing on the success of "Scream" as much as they were trying to get a buck from remaking classics or catering to the newer generation, the latter in which has always existed and will never die.

Zombie gives us a wave of Italian zombie films

Let it be known that there were Italian zombie movies before this movie-they just didn't have the same impact. Anyways, Lucio Fulci's "Zombie" was released as an unofficial sequel to "Dawn of the Dead" (titled "Zombi 2") in Italy-and proved to be an even bigger hit than Romero's classic in it's home country. There's a funny thing about Italian exploitation-if something was a hit, then there will be imitators. And while the likes of "Burial Ground", "Zombie Apocalypse" and "Hell of the Living Dead" are fun in their own right, they pale in comparison to Fulci's zombie movies. As the 80's continued, the sub-genre began to take it's toll. The first blow was the sequel "Zombi 3", which was at first directed by Fulci, but then done by Bruno Mattei, and was mostly met with confusion and frustration. Films like "Killing Birds"(also released as "Zombi 5"), "Evil Clutch" and "After Death" (also released as "Zombi 4") didn't help matters, and while "Cemetery Man" came out in the 90's, it proved to be the best of the Italian zombie films. However, the Italian horror market was nearly D.O.A. at that point, and while we still got (and still get) Italian zombie movies, most of the public has ceased to care.

That being said, "Zombie" is now more popular than it was about a decade or two ago. Today, it's often mentioned in the discussion of great zombie movies (and great horror movies in general), has gotten serious critical examinations and was even featured on a Windows commercial. It's interesting to see a movie lambasted by critics and was known mostly by the hardest of horror fans has now become a pulp culture institution.

Resident Evil and 28 Days Later give us a zombie resurgence

Like it or not, "Resident Evil" was the first movie to help re-spark the public's interest in the walking dead, and "28 Days Later" helped. Since then, you can't seem to turn on your TV or go to your Netflix account/Redbox/Local Video rental without seeing something zombie related. This has been both good and bad. On one hand, it's great to have the TV series "The Walking Dead", and people still make good zombie movies, but for the large part, it mostly feels like overkill to me. There's too much of a good thing, and at this point, I'd like something besides zombies for the most part. However, the U.S. and Italy aren't the only countries who have the zombie market tapped...

Versus births a wave of Japanese zombie movies

In 2000, Ryuhei Kitamura unleashed "Versus" on the world, mixing hyper-kinetic action, portals, gun fights, demigods and zombies in a mix that was more style than substance, but God damn what style! In the wake of this, Japan found a new interest in zombies. Granted, there were zombie movies before ("Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay") and the success of the "Resident Evil" games probably helped, but after "Versus" we got the likes of "Junk" (which played out like a Tarantino imitator melded with an homage to Italian zombie movies), "Stacy" (which-well, good luck explaining that) and the Nihombie Trilogy (which played out like the Japanese answer to Troma movies.) To this day, the wave of Japanese zombie movies hasn't died, as it's latest entry comes from "Machine Girl" and "Robo-Geisha" director Noboru Iguchi. Also, it's called "Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead." Why? Because if there's anything that's universal, it's bad taste.

Alien gives us a bunch of movies that want to be Alien

To say Ridley Scott's "Alien" had an impact on pop culture would be an understatement. Like "Jaws", "Night of the Living Dead", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Friday the 13th" and "The Exorcist", it's ripples can still be felt today. That's because ever since it's release, there were films that tried to capitalize on it's release. While a few are worth watching ("Galaxy of Terror" and "Forbidden World") or serve as guilty pleasures ("Contamination"), most are pretty awful. Yet, like "Jaws", these imitations never took a break. While poor man's versions of "Chainsaw" and "The Exorcist" mostly stopped for a while, there hasn't been a decade or a year without someone trying to get that "Alien" or "Aliens" buck. It and "Jaws" are the movies whose legacy will never die, for better and sadly for worse.

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