FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 21, 2010

Pizza, Pipes, and Pandorum

FYI: The title of this post alludes to Pizza, Pipes, & Pandemonium, a sort of Chuck E. Cheese-type place that was local to my hometown when I was a youngling. Imagine, if you will: pizza, arcade games, and a PIPE ORGAN all under one roof! It was a child's dream come true- or mine, anyway. It lasted but a couple of years, then the building became a hardware store, then a gym, and finally, it was torn down and replaced with a shiny new CVS...but my memories of gulping down crappy pizza while listening to a pipe organ rendition of the Star Wars theme before running off to play some Galaga remain strong. For the other three people in the world who remember that bizarre place, this post title is for you.

In other FYI news, there have been rather torrential rains falling in southern California over the last week or so. Tornadoes were spotted! Mud is sliding! Burbank Blvd is closed west of the 405! It's...why, it's pandemonium, it is. These wet, grey days have left me feeling like a wet, grey lump, desiring little more than some quality couch-n-movies time. A few days ago, however, I did manage to leave my house- to partake in some quality couch-n-movies time at a friend's abode. I brought over some DVDs, while she went to the video store to see what was what. She came home with, amongst other titles, Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses. I frowned. She said the dude at the store recommended it to her because she said she loves The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I frowned some more. She asked what my problem was. I relayed that I'd gone to see House when it was playing in theaters, and I'd almost walked out because I hated it so much. My friend frowned. Then I asked if she'd seen The Devil's Rejects- while I didn't like that film either, I found it more tolerable than House. She said she fucking hated The Devil's Rejects and then she frowned a whole lot more.

No, we didn't watch Pandorum. We watched Michael Haneke's Cache, and in the end neither of us got what all the hype was around it. Oh, and the "e" in Cache totally needs an accent aigu, but I don't know how to make one.

I tell you all of this to make a point, and that point is...I do not like House of 1000 Corpses, but plenty of people do. This phenomenon (for which the Germans have a word: Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacherkleinfreude) (I made that up) (mostly) is called "varying opinions". Some people enjoy things that others do not! I know this is a hard concept for The Internet to grasp, but it's true. Sometimes it leaves one scratching one's head- "What kind of crack are these people smoking that they actually like that movie, and where can I get some?" At other times, one is left scratching one's head and pondering the inverse- "What kind of crack am I smoking that I actually like that movie, and where did I get it?" Such is the case with Pandorum.

When trailers for the film popped up, its seeming Event Horizon had a baby with The Descent premise intrigued me; in a not-at-all surprising twist, I never made it to the theater to check it out. Reports from those who did were unenthusiastic at best. Pandorum has recently been released on DVD, and once again, unenthusiasm abounds. Why, then, did I enjoy it, and why do I seem to be the only person who did? Again, what kind of crack am I smoking?

Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster) wake up on a space ship- in the middle of space, people- with no idea who they are, where they are, or how long they were in hypersleep (or know, one of those super-long space sleeps). They split up; Payton stays in the CIC while Bower heads off into the darkness to make repairs. Their memories slowly return, which is good; there are hundreds of bloodythirsty (and totally mean) mutant creatures on board with them which is bad. Scant few other survivors are encountered! Secrets are revealed! Pandorum (which is, like, space mania) sweeps through the remaining crew! Thank goodness the one chick who is left is a hot scienceologist!

The entire affair is just about as derivative as the trailers led everyone to believe it would be. It really is Event Horizon meets The Descent, with a little Alien thrown in for good measure- familiar, perhaps, to the point of staleness. The science (for lack of a better term) spouted is confusing at best, the script is fairly weak, the camerawork is at times too frenetic, and the middle of the film is bloated like A Certain Someone (okay, me) after too much Diet Coke and salsa con queso, but...dammit, I had a good time. I'm not denying that maybe I have a soft spot for "gritty" sci fi/horror- there's not much of it around and I've never met one of these films that I didn't like. Chances are, this is why I liked Pandorum while everyone else finds it...well, familiar to the point of staleness. Simply put, I get where the criticisms are coming from, and I don't really care. Gimme some dark metal hallways, some dirty crew members, some monsters and some blood and I'm happy. Yes, it's shocking but true: sometimes I have low standards...and that's okay. Everyone has his or her cinematic Achilles heel. Why, I've even heard that some people like Rob Zombie movies!

That said, your mileage regarding Pandorum will most likely vary. If you want a pretty, bloody picture that's all spacetastic, you may feel as I do about it. Or, you may be a jerk. Who am I to judge? After all, I know of Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacherkleinfreude.


Banned In Queensland said...

Michael Haneke kicks ass... in a very quiet, unassuming, Austrian kind of way.

Cache (aka Hidden) ain't his best, but Mr Haneke's minimum standard is still pretty damn fine, in my frequently ignored opinion.

Stacie Ponder said...

Caché (look! I learned how to make an accent aigu thanks to Bill!) was good, for sure- especially that scene, which blew me away. But when it was over, I felt let down. Maybe because I got the "point" early on, or I figured things out, or...I don't know. The unraveling didn't lead to anything Earth-shattering for me in the end. But it's Haneke, so who knows- maybe I'm wrong for expecting something like that! :D

Chris Otto said...

I hated "The Devil's Rejects" when I had to watch it (though part of the problem might have been that I was not in the mood for disgusting sadism at the time). Afterward, though, I had to admit that it was mildly entertaining and well made. The best thing about the movie: A hands-down Oscar-worthy performance by William Forsythe. He farking rocks in that movie like nothing else he's rocked in his career. Amazing performance. He's the only reason I would even consider seeing it again. And since he's not in "House of 1,000 Corpses," I have zero desire to see that.

spazmo said...

A couple of years ago, I had to return Cache to Blockbuster, as the stupid English subtitles weren't working. Now normally, that's not a problem. There was a bunch of Asian and Scandinavian horror flicks that I watched recently which were pretty self-explanatory. This one seemed to cry out for some 'splainin', though. Maybe I'll look it up and give it another try.

Stopped watching Pandorum for different reasons, but maybe it's worth a fresh look, too.

On an unrelated note - Stacie, have you seen any of the Stieg Larsson 'Millennium Trilogy' movies?

Anonymous said...

I didn't think Pandorum was a terrible film...I've even debated buying the Blu-Ray... I enjpyed it in spite of the overall predictability.

Craig Blamer said...

That final shot looks like it might've been from an updating of Bava's Planet of the Vampires. Not sure if that'd be a good or bad thing, but it makes a trip to Pandorum almost tempting...

danny segal said...

i think i nust be smoking the same brand of crack that you are smoking (does crack have brands?) couse my feeling for house and rejects are the same. hated the first one, loved the second. mostly becouse of the kool soundtrack.

David Robson, Proprietor, House of Sparrows said...

I too am hitting similar substances. To whit:

--I liked HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES, for its whole supposition of what would happen if the world of those late night horror hosts was the real world. I found it an interesting technical exercise, as well, and liked the way it took in video and different film stocks and gave a weirdly unified-looking film.

--I found much to admire about THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, but remain weirdly moralistic in my objections to it. The waste of some real talent on creating such an irredeemable, hateful picture.

--I have a feeling that Zombie will find a way to shoe-horn the sci-fi action of THE BLOB into the white trash milieu that is the only thing he can create.

--Simultaneously, I really wish he'd adapt one of Joe Lansdale's Hap and Leonard novels for the screen, 'cause I really think he's better qualified than anyone (save perhaps Carl Franklin) to knock those stories out of the park.

--Finally, I found PANDORUM a likable (if overly familiar) sci-fi horror exercise, and wept tears of joy during its final five minutes.

Timmy Crabcakes said...

I'm another who liked House of 1000 Corpses... maybe because it was such a jangled mess of... stuff... and seemed authentically 'mean' in places.
In fact, I've liked all of Zombie's movies so far (I haven't seen Halloween II).
I'd never make any attempt to justify liking them... it's just one of those odd 'varying opinions' things you mentioned.
Color me stupid, but I'm even looking forward to what he does with The Blob.

I'd rather smoke this kind of crack than the brand those folks who are loving Avatar are smoking.

Prospero said...

I, too, really had fun at "Pandorum," and can't understand all the negativity towards it. Was it the best Sci-Fi/Horror movie, ever? Certainly not. But it was plenty of fun.

Lee Russell said...

Pandorum wasn't bad. The colony ship looked like the results of an angler fish having sex with a scorpion, but whatever. It was fun. The monsters were like the ones from "Ghosts of Mars" except they could actually kick some ass.

Robb said...

My appraisal of this flick and subsequent self-questioning mirror yours completely. It wasn't "I loved it!" but more, "I loved it?" After two viewings I also have to concede the film has excellent sound design. It seriously seems to be where about half the budget went.
And yes, fuck House of ATC

I am The Son of Madblood said...

I saw Pando alone at a heavily unattended screening during its brief theatrical run. I liked it enough to want to drag some friends with me to see it a second time but, alas, it had already vanished. I was bummed that people weren't going to see it. I felt that, despite any derivative aspects, it still had ideas and scares in buckets over any mainstream horror or sci-fi that was coming out around then. And it worked as a mystery, as well - aside from the mutant killer horde chases - not knowing what had happened or where the story was really going heightened the tension through to the whole identity crisis meltdown.

And - scruffy, bearded Quaid = handsome Quaid! He's never looked better!

But - why do so many mutant, slithery, cannibalistic, space or otherworldly gutmunchers have to go all Mod-Prim these days?

And - I thought the happy ending was a let-down.