The Ghosts of Bad Arena Rock
I know, it may seem strange that I gave a fairly negative review of Lords of Dogtown, and then two days later I watch the documentary upon which it was based, sort of like when Seth Putnam gathers ammunition for hating Chris Barnes by going to every single Six Feet Under show he can reach via public transportation. But the sad fact of the matter is, I don’t live alone. Well, that’s not sad per se. It’s actually quite beneficial, at it keeps the fridge stocked with food not manufactured by Hostess-Frito Lay, and it keeps me from deliberately driving myself into a sort of racial Tourette’s frenzy by watching BET 24 hours a day. On the minus side, it means that every once in a while I have to endure a Sex and the City marathon while I’m trying to memorize recipes from the Anarchist Cookbook, and I’m never, never, ever allowed to touch the CD player. Also, I’m sometimes subject to the occasional film tangent based upon a previous shared viewing experience, a path which invariably ends with Almost Famous being played for the umpteenth time. It’s funny how these tangents tend to involve 70s rock and pre-teen boys without shirts and never, say, go from the masterful WWF documentary Beyond the Mat to an examination of the wrestling-star turned porn actor sub-genre. Chyna, I’m looking at you. Anyway, I did sit through Dogtown and Z-Boys again, awful cheese-rock soundtrack and all, and remained interested but unimpressed, as with my first two viewings of the film. Some of the players in the film are interesting and all, but the skateboarding itself is fairly boring, and of interest probably only to the fourteen people in North America over the age of 18 who still skateboard. It must be a treat for them, as they can sit on their asses and watch someone else do tricks, which as I understand it is pretty much how modern skateboarding works. Snide comments aside, there are some interesting aspects to the film, namely its very deliberately amateur look, obviously a throwback to skate-videos of yore, where the video is treated to look like grainy 16mm film, but rewound and fast-forwarded like analogue tape. There are also a few strange moments in the film that add to this rough-hewn look, like the part when narrator Sean Penn flubs a line, clears his throat, then continues. It seems like the kind of thing that will be endlessly analyzed in a film class 20 years in the future, when Dogtown and Z-Boys is credited with kicking off a movement of poorly put-together sports films for people too stoned to play sports, instead of just being a screw up in the sound-editing booth. The mere fact that Penn is narrating is surreal enough in itself. Apparently, it’s because Penn spent much of his youth in Southern California skateboarding, but this seems unlikely, as he appears to be so utterly devoid of humour that he would find any form of fun an affront to his dignity and perpetually stern moustache. Nevertheless, the documentary is more entertaining than the fictional film, I found, probably because its flow and story are more organic and less rigidly structured than the Hollywood version. Plus, there’s more Black Sabbath, which almost balances out the T-Rex and Hendrix.
2003, New Zealand
Ah, the world of direct-to-video horror films. A world that at first threatened to overwhelm me with late-period Rod Steiger roles and Angie Everhart performances, but soon won me over with its cheap, poorly lit and badly dubbed charm. Every rental is like an adventure. What washed up 80s television star will rub shoulders with the guy that played the killer in I Know What You Did Last Summer? How long will Casper Van Dien live before he is gutted by a bad special effects technician? Why did they spell “horrifying” wrong on the video box blurb? All these questions and more can be answered by your standard direct-to-video horror film, but, sadly, not by marginally creepy ghost story The Locals. This is mainly because the film is decidedly not local, owing its direct-to-video nature more to its status as a New Zealand import rather than its poor quality. This is not to say that the film is good. No, not by a long shot. It rips off The Sixth Sense to a great extent, a fact quite readily acknowledged on the cover of the DVD. But, since The Sixth Sense takes its twist from Carnival Of Souls, I suppose that’s OK. No, the real problem lies with the Kiwis themselves, as it’s really hard to take dialogue seriously when it’s coming from someone who sounds like a less nasal version of Crocodile Dundee. This might be overcome by a strong performance, but sadly, these are as lacking here as they were in Revenge of the Rats, a particular gem from the DTV crop this year. The Locals is better than I expected, however, with a few nice twists and a tendency not to over-explain things, a trend that has existed in horror since time immemorial, probably due to the fact that most die hard horror fans are either just entering high school or just leaving it about fourteen classes shy of a diploma. I may not be the brightest of the bunch, but I can generally put things together in my everyday life without the benefits of flashbacks or voice-overs, so I don’t see why I’d need them in my films. The Locals nicely avoids those standard pitfalls, though it can’t quite overcome the even more standard obstacles of visible lack of money or experience. But on the whole, it remains a fairly entertaining picture, if you’ve already seen all the Angie Everhart you can take for one evening.