Monday, 5 January 2015

HORRIBLE MONDAYS - The Blind Dead Series

[Image Source]

[Image source]
So, Zoltan's 'Tombs of the Blind Dead' EP got me thinking about the Spanish Blind Dead film series. I have all four of them on DVD and I've considered it one of my many 'guilty' pleasures. I think "guilty pleasures" is a good phrase, I know some people don't like it, but there's no better way to describe the cognitive dissonance of liking something that you know intellectually is genuinely bad. And I'm not going to sugarcoat it, the Blind Dead series, on the 'high art' wall chart, notches at about the ankle level. Some of the films are better than others. I like the first and third films in the series 'Tombs of the Blind Dead' (see video below) and 'The Ghost Galleon'. I'm sure if you asked any four Blind Dead fans what was their favorite and least favorite of the four, they'd each give you a different combo, but all would be equally enthusiastic about the underlying concept of the series: A cloaked legion of mummified zombies seeks revenge on the descendants of those who murdered them. Oh yeah, and the sadistic undead just happen to be Knights Templar.

As I said, I like the Blind Dead series, but they're the kind of movies I'll put on mute and watch as I listen to a band like Moss. It's not the kind of thing that warrants repeat viewings, not with the sound on anyway. The problems with the series are numerous but I'll try my best to narrow them down to the major few. 1). Poor Acting. I hate to point the finger here, but the reactions and line delivery leave a lot of to be desired and undermines the carefully built-up horrific atmosphere. 2). Limited Visual Vocabulary from the Director. This situation improved as the series went on, but those first two films (again see below) are all medium or full shots, no matter what the situation. It keeps the audience at a distance, reducing the viewer to spectator, rather than participant. 3). Sloppy and / or Awkward Editing. The series is plagued by sloppy editing. Once again, the first film is atrocious with this but there's an obvious jump cut in the middle of an early scene in Ghost Galleon that just feels amateurish and sets an awkward tone (but increases its 'guilt' appeal!) 4). Special Effects that Aren't So Special. Guns that don't actually fire. Miniatures that fail to capture the minutiae of their larger studies. Fog that just sits there. The list of examples is long and tedious. One of the things that makes the Blind Dead creatures so cool and creepy is their stiff, shambling gait. Watching them engage in sword fights is far less inspiring than having them gouge eyeballs with their bony fingers and tear limbs slowly asunder with unnatural strength.

This franchise is due for a re-make.

[Image source]
It's been to my infinite shame and gut-twisting regret to watch classic horror film after classic horror film be re-made, "updated ... for today's audience!" and done in piss poor fashion. I tend to fall on the hate side of the re-make fence more often than not, I think it just may be how I'm built. I remember in Grade 8 we had to do a "what's your dream vacation" project where you get to create a totally fictional vacation / travel agency and itinerary, etc. Me and my buddy Andy came up with "The Booze Cruise" and it was funny for its time, but one kid in that class, who didn't have any ideas of his own, saw what we were doing and decided he was going to do "The Alcohol Cruise". The Hollywood Horror re-makes remind me of this forehead-slapping moment. I fell for it with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-make and the shame was on them. Then I fell for it again with the Dawn of the Dead re-make and the shame was on me. The 21st century horror re-makes that I've seen invariably miss the point and are completely devoid of soul. To me, this policy of re-making established classics is socially retarded. The worst example isn't even from horror, but it illustrates the point and that is the American version of The Office. Forget the fact that NBC thinks so little of its home audience that they feel the need to re-make an English language comedy for an American audience, the British Office's greatest asset was understatement, something that is completely lacking from the American version, given Steve Carell's over-the-top performance. This is what I mean by missing the point and devoid of soul. Why is there an audience for this stuff? Why re-make a film that already works on so many levels levels? So the visuals can be corrupted with unconvincing CGI? Why not re-make a film with a strong concept and cool characters with visual appeal that just didn't work for technical reasons?

If you're going to re-make an existing property, why not re-make the Blind Dead series?

I got that same thrill when I was doing an image search for this post as when I first discovered the series. Seeing the Blind Dead in all their dusty, bony glory I'm reminded that the ENTIRE appeal for this series rests in their appearance (that and the boobs) and the atmosphere surrounding them. The way they move on screen and interact is sometimes lame, the staging and composition are disappointing at times, but the threat that, at any moment some real scares might break out looms over every frame of this series because the Templars are cheesy and unembellished enough to actually be creepy. Any producer / director / writer teams out there willing to take on this project would have a wide field to play in because the details of the stories are not sacrosanct. If nothing else, you've got a built in quadrilogy, and studios love endless sequels.

If put into the hands of the right creative team, who takes the good elements of the series (the emergence from the tombs; the thick layers of atmosphere; the unforgettable image of the corpses riding on horseback; the inhuman look and stiffness of the Templars), it could be a kind of redemption for Hollywood's re-make mania. But it almost certainly wouldn't fall into the right hands. The project would go to another TV commercial / huge budget music video director whose entire oeuvre involves flash and no substance. Still, it would be something many frustrated moviegoers have been clamoring for: something different. And anyway, screw Hollywood, let's put on our imagination hats for a minute and place Stuart Gordon in the director's chair, backed by the same Spanish producers who helped him to make Dagon. Who's with me?

"I am!"




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