Horror 365 Movie(s) 207: 7 Movies That Technology Wouldn’t Wreck

Since I posted my list of 7 Movies That Technology Would Wreck, I couldn’t wait to get the flip side, which is 7 Movies That Technology Wouldn’t Wreck. I thought maybe I could hold out just at least a small while before getting to this, but it just seemed like too much fun, so let’s dive right in.

#7 Shakma

We’ll start with a kind of obscure one. A bunch of RPGers get together for a game situated in a university building. The dungeon master is one of their professors (Roddy McDowall). All of them communicate with walkie talkies. Make those  phones, and it completely changes…not a damn thing.

#6 The Birds

Eine minuten bitte! What devilish chicanery is being perpetrated here? How can this be on both lists? Well, with submission m’luvs, I did say that only the phone booth scene in The Birds gets ruined. As for the rest of the movie, the possession of a phone would have done fuck all for those people.

#5 Black Christmas (1974)

Or, for that matter, When A Stranger Calls. In either case, the big reveal is that the calls are coming from inside the house which is pretty freaky with a landline. Not so freaky with a smartphone, but still kinda creepy that the person everyone is looking for is in fact right there in the house. It’s a little less of a shock, but whatever. And I guess technically they might be able to find the killer a little faster based on phone towers or some shit. Works on Law & Order all the damn time.

#4 The Shining

This was suggested by Madame Verdurin who writes the ever entertaining Cinemuffin. She pointed out the following:

Some movies though wouldn’t be ruined by technology. An example? The Shining with mobile phones.
“911, how can I help you?”
“I’m Wendy from Overlook Hotel, I need help, my husband the writer is trying to kill me and my son! The old lady ghost in room 237 is trying to kill my son too! And I just saw a man with a dog mask giving sexual pleasure to… hello? Hello??”

And she’s absolutely correct. Plus, Kubrick makes it very clear that The Overlook is, except for a Sno-Cat, inaccessible, so phones or not, cut off is cut off.

#3 The Thing (1982)

For those of you already packing for that Antarctic dream getaway, Intrepid Travel points out that your phone will not work. There are satellite phones, but your iPhone/Galaxy/other infernal device will be less than useless. Well…made quick work of that one.

#2 Sleepaway Camp

This was originally on the other list. The kids and counselors would all have phones, yes? Well, depends. The Banana Splits Movie handled this nicely. No phones allowed in the studio, so they all get collected and put in an office where they are later found destroyed. Could do the same thing when the kiddies arrive at camp. As for the counselors, the cops and ambulances and crap still show up with them or a landline, so having phones wouldn’t change much. We could even throw in a scene where some kids try to get the phones to call home and find they’re all smashed.

#1 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Another move that very nearly made the previous list. At first I kind of assumed that once good Kirk gets that big ol’ mallet whack to the melon, the girl woulda called 911, as would everyone else who was left. But then I remembered she didn’t see that happen, and Leatherface put the grab on her right quick when she came a-lookin’ for him. So neither of those two woulda called or texted anyone, and nobody else woulda gotten a chance. The only time a phone would have saved them woulda been if they called the cops on the hitchhiker, but even today, there’d be a discussion, and they could very believably decide not to bother cuz he’s just some weirdo. A similar case could be made for Two Thousand Maniacs. as none of the kids really know the others are being deep-sixed.

And that’s the other side of the coin…or Bitcoin if you will. And there’s still plenty more to talk about on both sides. Either way, technology, it seems, is not always as helpful as we might think.

Horror 365 Movie 206: Cutting Class

What do Donovan Leitch and Brad Pitt have in common? Well, almost nothing really, and definitely not Ione Skye. But there is one thing, and that’s Cutting Class, one of the cinematic highlights of 1989. As it so often does, Wikipedia tries to cover a whole buncha bases by describing it as a “black comedy slasher.” I mean, they’re not wrong, but they might not be right for the reasons they think.

Sure, some of it is funny in the over-the-top nature of some of the kills (although a couple of them manage to remain pretty gruesome). This shouldn’t be surprising given that this is 1989. The subgenre was well on its way to being played out, so what’s funny stems in part from some not entirely self-aware parody. In addition, a fair amount of the humor in a good number of the “gags,” such as they are, is mainly to be found in the fact that the jokes are so bad.

One such example involves a running joke that centers on Paula’s father (Martin Mull, so there’s a yuk tsnunami). Early in the movie he’s shot with an arrow by an unseen assailant. We cut back to him throughout the flick as he wanders around wounded trying to get help. At one point he even beseeches a dog–some kind of Timmy’s-in-trouble Lassie reference.

Speaking of Paula, she’s of course the love interest caught between her boyfriend, Dwight (Brad Pitt’s first, uh, “major” role) and the interests of the troubled yute Brian. Brian was recently released from an institution and may or may not have been involved in his own father’s death.

Jill Schoelen plays Paula as a more or less standard scream queen but also rises to triumphant final girl status, so there’s that. Donovan Leitch (yep, son of) goes pretty well overboard, possibly for laughs which in fact makes him creepier. It’s almost like a forerunner to how Christian Bale played Patrick Bateman. And finally, Brad Pitt, the unlikable, testosterone-addled, stereotypically stupid bad boy jock, Dwight. Or maybe Duh-wight.

In truth, Dwight is somewhat complex as a character, raising some conflicting emotions for me. Oh no, not because of any kind of depth or development. I was torn between really wanting him to die and really wanting a plot twist that made him the killer. Spoilers, he ain’t. I have to believe that somewhere else in the multiverse, that version of Cutting Class exists.

To be fair, there is a jumble of choices for the killer. It’s easy to dismiss Brian as too obvious. It’s easy to suspect Dwight, especially when his ring is found on one of the victims. That doesn’t make me suspect him, but it does make me overthink the plot more than it deserves–one of those “let’s obviously suggest it’s him, making it therefore so obvious that it’s not him that maybe it really is him.” You can imagine what a joy it is to be in my head.

Speaking of which, lemme give a wee tip o’ the hat to the cute wordplay of the title Cutting Class.  It’s adorable. Anyway, by the final setpiece, poor Paula is so mixed up that she runs away from dear misunderstood Dwight who’s only trying to protect her. The final cut, as it were, involves a claw hammer…and a circular saw.

Ultimately the problem with Cutting Class is that it ain’t quite bad enough to be bad enough, y’know? This could have been gloriously terrible on purpose, or gloriously terrible for taking itself way too seriously. Instead, it flounders around in the middle without managing to do either.

Regardless, we finally come full circular (heh) with Paula and Dwight nearly running down Paula’s dad who has somehow lived and struggled just about all the way home and says, “You’re not cutting class I hope.” Yeah. Told ya. Tsunami. Wah-waaaah.

BODIES- 6 onscreen 1 off
Stream- Fubo, Hulu, Prime, Showtime, Sling, YouTube
Rent- Alamo On Demand

Horror 365 Movie(s) 205: 7 Movies That Technology Would Wreck

The contribution of current technology to deteriorating human interaction and behavior is bleak enough, but it’s also created some awkward, klunky moments in horror cinema.

A group of young folks at some cabin in the woods, out on a day hike, driving some rural back road–there’s always that moment where someone says “Ugh there’s no service” to establish that their phones are useless. It has all the slick smoothness of “Your legs must be tired cuz you’ve been runnin’ through my dreams all night.”

Even worse is that inexplicable and completely unnecessary scene in nearly Every. Single. Found footage movie. You know the one–someone looks directly into the lens and cleans it. What the hell is that for? Are we so stupid that we need to be reminded that the characters are recording this?

But that’s not the problem we’re addressing today. I’m talking about the other side of this coin, the fact that many movies from the past just couldn’t work anymore given some of our available gadgets and tech, specifically our phones. Let’s jump in to some examples.

#7 The Birds

Okay, mainly it’s one scene rather than the entire plot, so let’s put this one at #7. Largely phones wouldn’t change this movie much which is interesting. However, when Tippi Hedron shuts herself in the phone booth…well, when’s the last time you saw that kind of phone booth? The only place I can recall seeing one is at a bar I go to that has a bunch of pinball machines, and even that one is only there as part of the retro decor.

#6 Chopping Mall

First of all, the mall is largely dead these days, but that’s another issue entirely. Second, these kids would all have phones. They could probably pull off some kind of at least marginally reasonable plan of attack fairly easily from pretty safe vantage points while keeping in constant communication.

#5 What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?

Why doesn’t Joan Crawford have a phone? Or a chairlift? Or a smart TV for that matter? The serious verbal gymnastics you’d needed to explain all this would have a high degree of difficulty. To be fair, if you really brought it into the present, it could certainly be done. I Care A Lot handled the problem masterfully.

#4 Dead Ringer

I count this as horror, but it could just as easily be noir (which in fact it probably is). Anyway, Bette Davis offs her twin and assumes her life. The only problem is she isn’t very familiar with the details of her sister’s life or behavior and doesn’t even know her way around her sister’s grand estate. Now imagine having to deal with two phones on top of all that and not making a single mistake. Maybe it doesn’t destroy the movie, but the plot is already complicated enough.

#3 Homicidal

Again, there’d be the complications of A) why Helga has no access to a phone and B) Warren/Emily having to maintain two separate lines for his/her dual identities. There likely would have been a 911 call from the justice of the peace’s wife, and quite possibly a picture of Emily/Warren to go along with it.

#2 Night Of The Living Dead

Yet again, cellphones. Everyone would have ’em. Everyone would call 911 (I’ll concede that might overload the system). The only way around that would be to make it clear that the space probe radiation that may have reanimated the dead might also disrupt cellphone signals. Good luck fitting that in seamlessly. Also, Ben would have been able to call the cops and say, “Hey! Not a zombie! Tell these dumb fuckers to not shoot the black man!” Either that, or it would have to be explained that he lost his phone, it went dead, it had no signal, or it got busted, all of which require additional exposition.

#1 Psycho

Wow could this never work today. Let’s start with her getting pulled over by the cop. Phones plus in-car computers? No chance in hell Janet Leigh would just drive away from that. Martin Balsam, John Gavin, and Vera Miles would be calling and texting the whole time they were looking for Janet Leigh. John Gavin could warn Vera Miles about Norman coming back to the house. Martin Balsam would go suddenly incommunicado which would raise suspicion. There’d probably be a shit-ton of stuff to find online about Norman’s history. Nor is it unreasonable to assume Norman mighta stashed some cameras around the joint instead of using a peephole to spy on the nekkid womens, cameras that may have in turn caught some other interesting footage.

Obviously it’s kinda silly to remove these films from the context of the times during which they were made. That don’t mean it ain’t fun. And there’s a flip side: movies from the past that would stand up just fine to the ubiquity of the phone and other devices. Don’t worry. That list is comin’ soon.