Title Rotator

Sunday, September 07, 2008

"It was Billy... Billy Conner!"

Due to a missed train Saturday (thanks, LIRR) I missed the chance to see some Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling with my friend Jeff (who will undoubtedly swear brutal revenge on me tomorrow at work).

But as slim consolation I was reunited with one of my childhood terrors - The Beast Within (1982). It's a strange mix of hostile Southern yokels, murder mystery, and body morphism horror... Tobe Hooper by way of David Cronenberg.

The film is about a couple and their teenage son revisiting a small Mississippi town where something... traumatic... happened to the mom 17 years ago. The 17-year-old son (eh, you see what they did there?) is going through some kind of changes, and the return to this town is making him stranger... more decapitate-y.

If you were to do a keyword search for this movie, the words hillbillies, rape, decapitation, psychics, revenge, and mutant cicada rape, would pretty much dominate any description of the film. There's very little on that list doesn't sound like cinematic perfection to me*.

Of course, the movie comes from a style at the time where horror movies would share some of the pacing and tone of a TV movie and a cast comprised of TV regulars (seriously, check the IMDB page of the actor who plays Sheriff Pool).

It's a great snapshot at early 80's horror, sharing more in common with a drive-in film than anything else.

Where the The Beast Within is anxious about the stability of the biological form and our failed attempts at burying our genetic heritage, Earth X is downright obsessed with conjectural origins of the species and how ultimately, it all means something.

I finally got around to reading that this weekend (burdened as I was with free time) and I have to say I was... not bored? That's the best I can really say about it, as the miniseries really took about 10 of its 12 issues to actually get to the point. But when it finally did, it was an interesting attempt to create a unified cosmology for the Marvel Universe. Well, not THE Marvel Universe, but one of the other ones where Spider-man has gotten old and fat, Dr. Doom's bitten the dust, and just about everything is grim.

Earth X takes place 20 years in the future, where everyone is a mutant, seemingly the result of a failed experiment on the part of Mr. Fantastic, and something ominous is about to happen. I would complain that the book relies on its readers previous familiarity with the characters and history with the Marvel U, but the series exhaustively, exhaustingly details the histories of every little character, both in-story and with little prose pieces following each chapter, filling in the details of the 20 year gap.

It's essentially alternate universe continuity porn that has a hard time telling a story in its present tense. It's lots of, "Look at Tony Stark - shut-in, and the tentacle rape of New York by Hydra." I'm not 100% sure who the target audience was for the project at the time, but I could see people dropping it during the original run. It's the kind of thing DC would publish periodically to explain away a Supergirl's many costume changes or something along those lines, but it serves less of a function for Marvel which has always been the company whose stories take place in the world right outside your door (their words, not mine).

Like The Beast Within it has everyone freaking the fuck out when their bodies start going through funny changes, with hair growing in funny places, and each person just wanting someone to love them for being special and different.

Don't rush out to read it (unless you want to see some truly gorgeous art by Jim Krueger based on Alex Ross's character designs). But do see The Beast Within. Because, you know, mutant cicadas, and all.

* Wait, let's not all go crazy here - it's not the RAPE part that makes the movie cool; it's the MUTANT CICADA RAPE part that makes it a must-watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment