Archives For March 2010

RIP Hollywood

Ashley Walton —  March 29, 2010 — 8 Comments

Hollywood Video is slowly dropping off the face of the earth. When I stepped in to rent my weekly dose of TV shows and movies, I was shocked to see that their entire inventory was for sale. Of course, this elicited mixed emotions—I bought some awesome DVDs at killer prices (The Hangover, Away We Go, The Invention of Lying, Zombieland, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Roger & Me*), but my beloved video rental store was going out of business (and some of the movies I bought, though cheap, were the crappy rental versions that never include supplementary material).

Not only is my neighborhood branch closing, but also the branch a couple towns over and several other branches all over the state and the rest of the country. This leaves me with only one other local video rental store: Blockbuster. When I was younger, I had fuzzy feelings toward Blockbuster for their cutesy sing-songy liners like, “Blockbuster Video! Wow, what a difference!” and “Please be kind, rewind.” But with age and wisdom, I’ve come to abhor it. The dreaded place doesn’t even carry Tales from the Darkside or Let the Right One In. Not to mention, they only recently added Dollhouse Season 1 to their repertoire (their selection is abysmal). What’s more, Blockbuster also censors some of their DVDs without any sort of warning that they’ve been edited for content.

But enough of the Blockbuster bashing. One of the movies I had wanted to pick up from Hollywood Video was Up in the Air, but I was told they weren’t getting it in, as they stopped bringing in new inventory. Dazed and confused, I wandered to a tawdry Red Box down the street, and using it made me feel cheap and dirty. When Up in the Air popped out of the cold machine, it didn’t even have a proper case. I couldn’t look at the cover design or critique the summary on the back or make fun of the quotes from critics. The naked DVD just stared out from a sad, sterile clear case. That’s when I started to panic. I’d been so concerned with bookstores dying out that I’d neglected to worry about video stores dying out, and I like both these stores for the same reason: tangibility.

I’m going to miss my regular chums at Hollywood. I’ll miss the geek shop talk with one clerk, who stares out behind his black horn-rimmed glasses that match mine. And I’ll miss bashing chick flicks with that other clerk, who was surprisingly cool, despite her Bridget Jones t-shirt. I’ll even miss the sociopathic blonde kid who consistently ruined various plot points for countless movies that I rented. More than anything, I’ll miss walking down the black-tiled rows past the unbeatable horror collection, a really respectable TV collection, and a great documentary section. I’ll miss meandering around the store several times and getting lost in the details and memories before making my final selection. I’ll miss the feeling of being in a place and knowing that I’m surrounded by people who love movies as much as I do.

*Note: I also bought 500 Days of Summer, but I’m still coming to terms with my embarrassment and whether I should openly admit this.

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Before you see this film, the less you know about the plot, the better. I sat down in the theater armed only with the expectation that I would see crazy people, and I walked away from the experience pleased with the structure, pacing, and style in which the film unveiled the plot. So I’m trying to refrain from spoiling anything, in hopes that you’ll see this better-than-expected refreshment.

The Crazies is a remake of George A. Romero’s forgotten 1973 film by the same name. (I’ve never seen the original. In fact, I’d never heard of the original until recently, but George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is one of my most cherished DVDs.) I sensed some of George A. Romero’s playfulness shining through in The Crazies, but for the most part, the film took itself pretty seriously. Sure, this film fulfills a lot of stereotypes (the far-fetched scenarios, some predictable deaths, the hopeless romantics), but it is also much more sophisticated than most films in its genre.

From the very first scene, I was hooked by the storytelling. Not only did the film waste no time establishing tension, but from the beginning the characters were fleshed out and more multi-dimensional than most horror representations. As the plot progressed, the storytelling only became more refined—clean, intelligent, satisfying. When I wished for a character to do something smart, it was like they heard my thoughts and took heed.

Aside from the writing, this film was shot as a masterpiece in tension-building. My favorite scene starts with people talking in a dark room where they have no escape. Pretty typical horror stuff, right? But the scene sets itself apart as something special when the characters start to hear a peculiar noise—an unsettling scratching of metal. Instead of jumping to the action, the scene allowed just the right amount of time for the audience to sit in the dark and hear the metallic noise come closer and closer, finally culminating in something much more disturbing and awesome than I could have imagined while waiting in the dark. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire movie.

With most true-blue horror movies, I don’t recommend them to people unless they’re actually into horror for its own sake. But this film pushes the plot and writing into the realm of “good,” where most horror films fear to tread. So, fear not.