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Filmwhys #66 Cloverfield and Superman and the Mole Men

Episode 66 of the Why Haven’t You Seen This Film Podcast where my guest is James Thompson from the Meanwhile… podcast who asks me why I hadn’t seen Cloverfield, one of the first twists on the found footage style of filmmaking and an attempt to give the US a giant monster worthy of Godzilla from producer JJ Abrams. And in return, I ask him why he hadn’t seen Superman and the Mole Men, the first feature length superhero film ever made and the precursor to the long running Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves.
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Graphic Horror: Afflicted

Graphic Horror: Afflicted 2014

Even though my blogathon is over, I like the tag “Graphic Horror” enough that I’ll be keeping it and using it right alongside “Almost Super” for horror movies that aren’t quite superhero movies, even if they are based on graphic novels and therefore included in my big list of superhero and comic book movies. When I saw the trailer and early promotional tweets about this movie I was very interested. It was a found footage movie very similar in style to Chronicle only with a horror twist to it, where these two friends go on a world trip and one of them catches something that starts to make him sick, but then gives him superpowers before taking a much darker turn. There was another element to the story that the PR wanted to keep a secret, but I didn’t go digging into what it was until they decided it wasn’t that big of a secret to keep once it hit its wide release and I found out that the superpowers were brought on because he is becoming a vampire. This actually made me a little bit more interested in the movie because I’m always a fan of vampire movies and I thought this would do for vampire movies that Chronicle did for superhero movies and I think I was right.
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Chronicle 2012

It’s the first new superhero movie of the year to be released in theaters and I was able to watch it… kinda. I’ll just leave it at that. I’ve actually done something I almost never do before watching a movie, I read a bunch of reviews for it. Which is kind of funny coming from someone who is now spending their free time writing reviews for movies. Not any real critics, mostly just other blogs, and Roger Ebert. The one person that really seems to come out on top the most out of all those reviews is Max Landis who turns out to be John Landis’s son, and creator/narrator of this funny and weird recreation of the Death and Return of Superman comic series. He’s the writer of this movie and is credited with making the dialog of the teenagers fresh, natural, and overall believable.

Anyway as you probably know, this is another in the realm of the “found footage” movement that is being loved and hated across America right now. It’s getting pretty tired on the horror side so it’s being expanded into other genres of movies, and this movie uses it to create a superhero movie. Kinda. In a way it reminds me of Unbreakable as it feels like the first act of a typical origin story of a superhero. It goes from the discovery of their superpowers, or in this case the creation of their superpowers, to the testing of those powers, to their first heroic act taking out their villain. And in both movies the villain is closer than you think. Just from the trailer, it’s pretty obvious that Andrew becomes the villain of the piece, but it’s not quite as clear who becomes the hero of the piece so I won’t spoil that bit of information for you if you haven’t seen it yet.

As far as the actual style of the handheld cameras throughout the movie, it’s occasionally distracting but they use enough explained cheats and other excuses for different video sources that it comes off pretty well overall. I found that the movie was a little slow to get moving along but once it got going it flowed through to the ending very enjoyably. I found that with this specific movie, it’s a great excuse to get the teenagers talking to the camera and there’s thankfully little to no overly shaky, motion sickness inducing camerawork that literally made me sick the first time I watched Blair Witch in theaters.

The other thing that’s talked about almost universally when I was reading about this movie is the flying. Yes the teens soon learn how to fly and they do it with a believable amount of trial, error, and lack of finesse. It’s not like the first time Neo figures out he can fly and suddenly becomes a Superman bullet rocketing through the sky. It’s a lot more like a baby bird first learning to fly without the advantage of instincts to help them out. They’re clumsy at first, yet completely ecstatic, and the method used to pull this off on camera is excellent. We’ve come a long way from Catwoman’s shiny videogamesque CGI actor replacement. The flying scenes are very realistic and believable.

I think my biggest problem with the movie is that while it seems like it’s the first act of a superhero movie, it’s much more focused on the villain of the piece. Yes, it is Andrew’s camera that’s filming most of the movie, and yes he’s the one that takes the dark path as foreshadowed by his shaky home life. And then at the end the hero becomes a hero by doing what has to be done and goes away. It would have been great to see more of his journey and what happened to make him choose the right path and make the right decisions. But at the same time it’s a morbid fascination that makes it almost more interesting to see how Andrew makes the decisions that take him further and further down the path of destruction, and most of them almost seem like they’re the right decisions, or at least the only decisions he has based on what he’s been through. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think somewhere it strays a little too far or too quickly for the audience to root for him throughout the last half of the movie even though he’s a very sympathetic character.

I’m glad I caught wind of this movie, it really came out of the blue for me and I enjoyed watching it pretty well. If I wasn’t doing this movie blog I might have let it fall by the wayside and I would have missed it altogether. It’s not a perfect movie by any means, but it’s still a pretty great movie. I definitely recommend checking this out if you have the chance. Thursday I’m back to my regularly scheduled theme for the month with Hancock. Until next time this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.