Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Last night I sold a bunch of used CDs at Kim's on St. Marks Place. For every 20 CDs you sell, they give you (in addition to the cash) a coupon for a free DVD. I had two such coupons left over from my previous visit, so upstairs I went, and after much searching, I wound up with two of my favorite horror movies, Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark and John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. I almost grabbed Larry Clark's Bully, but didn't, so I've got one coupon left for future use.

I saw Near Dark in its theatrical run, when I was 14. My dad took my brother and me to a theater in Paterson, NJ where it and PoD were both playing, but we weren't there for either of those. I was much too stupid for that. No, I wanted to see Surf Nazis Must Die!, and this rat-trap in Paterson was the only place in NJ showing it. So we went. The theater was a complete dump, but it had one thing going for it. It was showing five movies, all in the same theater; you could walk in for the movie you wanted to see, and hang out for as many of the others as you felt like, as they rolled by in sequence. So we watched Surf Nazis Must Die!, and Near Dark, but left just before Prince of Darkness started.

I probably don't need to explain the godlike awesomeness of Near Dark to anybody reading this. By now, the movie's rep is thoroughly secure; it's the vampire movie for those who wish vampires were a little less romantic and a lot more badass. Well, in its initial theatrical run, there was just nothing like it on earth, especially for a 14-year-old nerd kid with punk rock and metal already coursing through his veins. Shit, when the Cramps' version of "Fever" starts on the jukebox near the end of the infamous barroom-slaughter scene, I about had a heart attack - this was the coolest movie ever. I've loved it since, possibly all the more since I stumbled across it with no anticipation or preconceptions. It was like finding a diamond in the sewer. The DVD is an Anchor Bay edition, so it's a double with a documentary featuring cast interviews (what ever happened to Name Here, the kid who played Homer?), a (mercifully) deleted scene, etc., etc. Well worth owning.

Earlier this year, I was in a mood for John Carpenter but didn't feel like revisiting any of the ones I'd already seen multiple times, like The Thing or Vampires. So I got PoD from Netflix. I say in all seriousness, this is the one John Carpenter movie I found genuinely frightening. It's not one of his best-regarded movies, so I'll run it down: a weird glowing canister/vault thing is found in the basement of an abandoned church. A group of grad students and some religious types come in to investigate it. It starts to leak, and all of a sudden the local homeless types begin forming some kind of bonus army of the damned outside the place. The people inside the church, meanwhile, start turning on each other and zombifying. Things go real bad, real fast. I think Carpenter's at his best working with enclosed storylines: you're here in this place, bad shit is happening, you've got to either preserve your sanctuary or escape. This is the plot of Assault On Precinct 13 and The Thing and PoD (and, of course, Halloween), and I think they're his best movies. It's hard to say what, exactly, creeps my flesh about PoD - the violence is mostly average-intensity, by 80s standards, and the special effects (the canister itself aside) are about as good as could be expected, but no more. Plus, it's about Satan, and I'm not exactly the most religious guy in the world. Somehow, though, Carpenter manages to make the subject matter and the events really, no-foolin' frightening. This one's a keeper. Check it out if you never have, revisit it if it's lost its grip on you over time. (Trivia: the "Transmission" tracks from DJ Shadow's Endtroducing..... are sampled sections from PoD.)

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