Saturday, December 31, 2011

Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

Peter, the brother of antiques dealer Robert Manning (Mark Eden), disappears while trawling the British countryside for merchandise. The last note and package Robert receives of him point to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Because Robert's a go-getter, he doesn't do boring stuff like going to the police with his problem but follows his best clue - the letter head of a J.D. Morley (Christopher Lee) Peter's last missive was written on. When confronted, Morley insists he hasn't ever heard or seen anything of Peter, but because the letter truly was written on his paper, he takes Robert on as a sort of house guest, giving the man ample time to romance his niece Eve (Virginia Wetherell), make the acquaintance of an eminent expert on witchcraft (Boris Karloff) and take in the local colour in form of a festival celebrating the death of the witch Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele) in the 17th century.

The longer Robert stays at the house, the more peculiar things get. Soon, the antiques dealer has dreams of Lavinia in blue body paint wearing a fetching Bollywood Satanist costume and being served by the members of what must be the most peculiar gay S&M club. Lavinia's trying to convince our hero to sign his name in a big, black book. One can't help but assume that a) it wouldn't be a very good idea to sign and that b) these dreams have a base in a very real witch cult in town.

Will Robert discover the truth before he chokes on his own smugness? Who is better, Karloff or Lee? Karloff, obviously.

Curse of the Crimson Altar has something of a bad reputation as a film doing a special sort of violence to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, but since it doesn't even mention the author's name in the titles and sure as hell doesn't have more to do with his work than borrowing a few names and a very vague plot thread that has been changed so much as to become generic, I can't get all that riled up about it. I prefer to see the movie as yet another attempt of an old British geezer (in this case nearly seventy years old director Vernon Sewell working for Trigon) to get at some of that sweet psychedelic zeitgeist money by updating 30s horror movie ideas and concepts with pretty colours, a hilarious party scene and some of the more ridiculous Satanist rituals imaginable.

Needless to say, as a horror movie - old-style or not - Curse is an utter failure, and there's really no need for me to actually get into what's wrong with it in this regard at all; let's just say "everything" and leave it at that.

However, as it is often the case with movies as full of failure as this one, Curse possesses quite a few charms which make it impossible (well, for me at least) not to keep a small place in one's heart reserved for it. This is, after all, a movie that features Barbara Steele (alas, never interacting with Karloff or Lee) keeping her dignity and even some sort of allure in a get-up so silly it could star in its own comedy show; a movie that shows an elderly, ill, wheelchair-bound Boris Karloff stealing every scene he's in with charisma and style, relegating Christopher Lee to a mere stooge whenever they are on screen together; a movie that might have no clue how to be a modern (for 1969) or an old-fashioned horror film, but really tries hard to put all the most cheesy aspects of both on screen. In short, this is a movie you can only hate if you have no heart and no appreciation for the beauty of utter failure.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It is the season

for my usual holiday break. Time to grow new tentacles and eat my favourite cultists. Normal service will resume January 31st.

If you (yes YOU) want to talk to me in the meantime, I'll still be on Twitter as @houseinrlyeh and reachable under the usual email.

Happy Holidays to everyone who wants them, and don't forget:

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In short: Halloween Night (1988)

aka Hack-O-Lantern

A Halloween pumpkin delivering Satanist barn sect high priest only known as Grandpa (Hy Pyke) - well, the members of his cult may call him by a different name, but the film ain't tellin' - decides that the time has finally come to fully induct his grandson and son (Gramps did some Satanist hypnosis to his daughter on her wedding day, you see; also, yuck) Tommy (Gregory Scott Cummins) into the fold of EVIL. Tommy is already most of the way there, seeing as he's already of age but still seems to live in a garage with a floor full of unwashed clothing, listens to hair metal, dreams hair metal music videos (no, really), and is a bit violent.

Clearly, either Tommy or Gramps or some random Satanist or Tommy's understandably neurotic mother is the perfect suspect when October 31st and especially the Halloween party of Tommy's sister are disrupted by a handful of murders committed by someone wearing the barn Satanists' favourite garb and a devil mask. Not that anyone notices or cares for much of the film's running time.

If you know Halloween Night's director Jag Mundhra at all, then it's probably as a drab director of drab softcore movies. Looking at his filmography, though, it becomes clear that Mundhra was perfectly willing to direct whatever kind of exploitation people were willing to pay him for (full disclosure: I don't know about the quality or nature of his Bollywood films).

Not that Halloween Night is lacking in softcore parts. In fact, the film does statistically feature one boob ever 6.7 minutes, ending up with a breast count near infinity. On the down side, this amount of gratuitous nudity is so gratuitous that it does at times seem to leave little room for other things one might look for in a horror film, like tension, horror, or (dare I even suggest this?) suspense.

This problem is further heightened by all the other weird crap Mundhra fills the time between breasts and sometimes kills: there's the already mentioned music video Tommy dreams up, an appearance by another, even worse band, (alas the least explicit) sex scene on a grave, an appearance by the worst comedian imaginable doing some shtick about nudie magazines (if Mundhra can't show breasts for a second, he can at least let somebody talk about them), etc. and so on. It's like in one of these late career Santo movies just that there are no nightclubs (those cost too much, I assume) and much more nudity.

Obviously, giving these problems, Halloween Night fails as a narrative just about as hard as it could. On the other hand, if you have your mind set on watching an often random assortment of very 80s slasher movie clichés spiced up with a bit of cardboard Satanism, you've come to the right place. From Hy Pyke's hysterically histrionic performance as Grandpa Satanist to the painful dialogue, the film features everything you could wish for when in search for a bit of 80s cheese. Not to reiterate the point too often, but this is a film where a guy dreams a music video, Satanists meet in a barn to not have sex, and the killer prepares one of his murders by first making his victim's corset a bit tighter than she probably wanted - it's barely even a film, but by Satan, it's stupid enough for half a dozen others. And I mean that as a compliment.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Corpse Eaters (1974)

"How did this nice dead young man supposedly mauled by a bear really die?" asks a cynical mortician.

Well, that nice young man was one member of a quartet of thirty-something teenagers looking for a wild time by breaking into a crypt and playfully invoking Satan. Clearly, that's not the thing to do in a horror movie, and so our heroes are attacked by a bunch of zombies. Three make it out, but the so-called bear victim does not survive his following visit to the hospital.

You think he might become a zombie himself and eat a mortician or two?

Canada in the 70s is not quite as famous for its idiosyncratic independent horror movies produced for a regional market as its southern neighbour, but Corpse Eaters (as well as some other films I've seen) proves that the same spirit of individual (and glorious) weirdness could strike the more polite country too.

If you're familiar with this style of filmmaking, you'll not be surprised to hear that the film at hand is far from anything which could be called a "good" movie; in fact, I wouldn't blame anyone for calling it a horrible one. This is, after all, a film barely an hour long that wastes the first twenty-five minutes of its running time on scenes of a mortician driving and driving through a cemetery while he's holding a cynical and completely irrelevant monologue, our quartet of non-teenagers having painful fun to equally painful rock music, and a sex scene, before anything that could be called a plot begins.

For the initiated, that first half hour is already full of wonders - scenes that are staged in the least effective manner (personal favourite: a short dialogue between the back of someone's head and a face invisible thanks to the shadow thrown by a door - it's like instant and completely unconscious art cinema), intercutting of scenes never ever meant to be intercut until things just dissolve into a mess of unconnected pictures, a plot that neither starts nor moves but just is - or rather isn't. It's all beautiful, and, before and after the acid rock starts, accompanied by pretty insane synth warbling.

And that's before the - surprisingly creepy looking - pale dusty zombies appear and start a disconnected feeling, and oh-so-weirdly edited, slow-motion attack which culminates in what might be the longest gut munching scene I've ever seen in a zombie movie, though its length is made problematic to measure by its being intercut with the survivors' car driving away, and driving away, and driving away.

This phase of the movie seems to be the product of a mind who has seen all of zombie cinema 1974 had to offer, wants badly to imitate its greatest moments (therefore the epic gut-munching), but hasn't the faintest idea how to realize this ambition on a technical level. As is sometimes the case, this total cluelessness in regards to how horror is properly done leads the film on the road to actual effectiveness as a horror movie by the sheer power of weirdness, at least for ten minutes or so. It is as if the execution of the zombie attack scenes (and a dream sequence) were so peculiar and strange that these scenes can't help but become disquieting like the long lingering look of a possibly psychotic stranger. It's truly beautiful stuff, at least if you're willing and able to see beauty in films like Tony Malanowski's Night of Horror, or in Manos - The Hands of Fate.

Corpse Eaters is a bit more professionally made than these anti-classics, but it has the same air of being a window into either somebody else's quietly skewed mind or into a dimension populated by people for whom it makes sense to produce a film that just ignores large parts of the common language of film and puts wobbling cameras and loving close-ups of weird looking people in its place.

For my tastes, finding a film like this (or more precisely learning of its existence by reading an awesome sounding and true write-up on the venerable Bleeding Skull, as was the case here) that turns moments of boredom and incompetence into beauty and awe (I'm not kidding, if you need to ask) beats watching most canonical classics - even those I like - by miles. Not to sound even more pretentious than I usually do when I talk about films like Corpse Eaters (that's a sentence I love to have written), but it, and its brethren in spirit, are expressions of some of the best humanity has to offer. Let's call it "soul" (without "a").

And I didn't even mention Corpse Eater's own version of the good old Horror Horn - it's a buzzing noise accompanied by a shot of a nearly bald guy just about to vomit. The best thing about it? It's clearly not meant as a joke.


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Sunday, December 11, 2011

In short: Der Hexer (1964)

aka The Mysterious Magician

aka The Wizard

aka The Ringer

A group of human traffickers of the usual societal make-up in an Edgar Wallace adaptation - a lawyer, a fake priest, etc. - using a very Edgar Wallace human trafficking plan with the usual home for criminal young women and a home-made submarine make a capital mistake when they kill the sister of Arthur Milton, the vigilante known as "Der Hexer" (I'd translate that as "The Warlock", clearly not "The Wizard"). Once Milton hears of his sister's death, he and his wife (Margot Trooger) fly in from their exile in Australia, and they're not just coming for the burial.

Inspector Higgins (Joachim Fuchsberger) does his damndest to catch the traffickers and the vigilante, but even with the help of retired Inspector Warren (Siegfried Lowitz, unconvincingly aged by dying his hair white), Higgins is always one step behind the gangsters and two steps behind Milton who goes about avenging his sister with some enthusiasm. Things would be easier for the two Inspectors if they at least knew how Milton looked, but as it stands, he could be anyone, like, for example, the kleptomaniac comic relief butler (Eddi Arent) or the Australian writer James Wesby (Heinz Drache) with his tendency for always being exactly where Higgins or The Warlock are.

Alfred Vohrer's Der Hexer has always been a favourite among German fans of the Rialto Wallace cycle, yet I can't help but disagree with them emphatically. Sure, the film is decently made on a technical level (though it is not difficult for a movie to look better than your average German movie of this era), and concerns itself with some of the plot elements many of the Wallace films obsess about - the home for difficult young women lead by a shady or fake priest, a genius vigilante, mysterious people from equally mysterious Australia. However, the film is also inordinately in love with particularly unfunny comedy that is disrupting the film as soon as some of its pulp action threatens to become actually fun. Apart from the usual antics by Schürenberg and Arent (that are actually funny in some of the other films, but not here), there's also a lot of humour of the unpleasant "aren't women dumb? - but look at their legs!" type. The film wastes way too much time on jokes about Higgins's brain-dead girlfriend stereotype that haven't been funny when they were invented back in the stone age, and sure weren't funny anymore in 1964.

As I already mentioned, Der Hexer isn't too bad visually, but Vohrer never achieves the creative mix of the stiff German melodrama, weird pop stylings, noir influence and home-made Gothic he does best. There are a few scenes of good, dynamically edited pulp action, and the camera sure isn't nailed down, yet that's as far as Der Hexer ever comes. This aspect of the movie is just too routine to make it worth wading through the "humour" for.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

On WTF: Magic of the Universe (1986)

If your days are darkened by movies that just make too much sense, if most films' love of reason depresses you, then it's time to read my words about Magic of the Universe, a movie about an evil witch with a pulsating head and an enormous posse of freaks (including a monster band and a thing with a magic TV as its belly). You can thank me later.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

In short: Rage of the Yeti (2011)

Billionaire Mills (actor turned director of this thing David Hewlett in a series of smug cameos) hires a bunch of idiots (actor names redacted to protect the guilty) to rescue another bunch of idiots (names also redacted) who got into trouble trying to steal an old Chinese codex from a Canadian Arctic island.

The book came to the island via the wreck of British ship carrying crap the Chinese emperor didn't care for and so loaded off onto the British (no, really, that's the backstory). Alas, besides the book, there was also a group of Yeti on the ship (yup, they were other crap the Emperor didn't care for). The creatures survived the wreck and have somehow managed to eke out a living from the barren wasteland they were stranded on, so that their descendants can now threaten - and hopefully eat - both bunches of idiots.

As if being dumb and having Yeti trouble weren't enough, our heroes also have to cope with traitors working for another billionaire in dire need of a codex among them, as well as the fact that their own billionaire wants his own life yeti once he realizes those are available.

I think I may have made my general position about the SyFy [sic] Channel's movie productions already clear. I have probably used terms like "crap", "not fun", "not funny", "lazy writing", "certainly not as clever as it thinks it is" and "painfully bad CG effects" when I did, so colour me somewhat surprised when I realized that I was kinda-sorta okay with this one.

Sure, Rage of the Yeti's script has all the originality and depth of something put together during the course of thirty minutes (and probably put down on a paper napkin), but unlike a lot of other SyFy movies I've seen, it's decently paced - for once in one of these films, we actually start in medias res and don't really stop for long until it is over -, and shows a sense of fun. Sometimes, that sense of fun goes a bit too much in the direction of the loathsome "we know this is crap, but it's all, like, ironic, man" I still blame on Wes Craven's Scream movies, but more often than not, the film gives the impression of being written by people doing their best to throw cool shit on screen because they actually want to entertain their audience with a decent monster movie, instead of promising things they aren't then willing to deliver.

David Hewlett's direction is basically okay. He doesn't have much of a visual imagination, his action direction is pretty pedestrian, and he seems to have a thing for his own - and other people's - feet that reminds me disturbingly of Doris Wishman, but there's not much truly wrong with anything he does. Well, except for the foot thing. This puts Hewlett above most of the directors (except for Tibor Takacs) slaving away for SyFy, and about on par with your typical point-and-shooter, so I'm not going to complain.

Rage of the Yeti's major downside are clearly its special effects, with the expected boring and ugly monster design (what's with the teeth?), as well as the usual lack of physicality of everything on display. I am, however, willing to overlook crappy effects in a film like this that is working hard at wringing some excitement out of them, for that is all I ever ask of a low budget monster movie.


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In short: The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre - The Man Who Was Nobody (1960)

The German Rialto movies were of course not the only Edgar Wallace adaptations made during the 60s. In Wallace's home the UK, Merton Park Studios produced a ton of short b-movies (in the initial sense of the word) between 1960 and 1965, of which The Man Who Was Nobody is an early example.

I have to say, though, that this is hardly playing in the same league as the Rialto movies. Sure, the plot is Wallace-typically overcomplicated, but the British production side-lines the pulp elements and the plain, over-excited weirdness the German Wallace movies loved to play up as much as possible until The Man is only ever another mystery movie without much to excite one.

It sure doesn't help the movie much that its director Montgomery Tully - who always was good at making a perfectly entertaining set-up boring - does not seem to believe in doing even the slightest thing that may be of visual interest to anyone. Though the camera isn't nailed down, it might as well be for all the non-excitement Tully's going for.

The Man isn't a total loss, though, for it thankfully features a very surprising element for a Wallace adaptation - an early 60s hip female private detective as its main hero. Even better, said heroine Marjorie Stedman is played by Hazel Court. Court seems to have quite a bit of fun with her role; she's certainly doing her best making a lot of rather boring and trite scenes of not very exciting adventures in talking to less than exciting people at least look somewhat glamorous and exciting. It's probably not enough to save the film for anyone who doesn't know and admire the actress from Corman's Poe adaptations, but Court fans like me will certainly enjoy seeing her associate with beatniks and be the only actor in the film who actually seems to be alive.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The House (2007)

Original title: Baan phii sing

(Not to be confused with the army of other movies of the same title)

Warning: even though I'm not spelling out the film's main plot twist, I'll discuss is concretely enough to possibly spoil it for some; obviously, if you think the mere mention of plot twists is a spoiler, please don't read reviews of anything, ever.

Thai TV journalist Chalini (Intira Charoenpura) - usually called "Nee" - is investigating the story of young (but not very young looking) doctor Vasan's (Worapong Nimwijtr) murder of his girlfriend. Her enquiries eventually lead Nee to the house - part of a housing program of the hospital the doctor worked in - Vasan lived and killed in. Despite the dire, syrup-y blood rich, warnings of a female ghost to not enter it, and the less freaky warnings of the place's caretaker, Nee still does enter, only to meet with visions of more dread, doom and murder and a fainting spell there. What a stroke of luck that her boyfriend, the slightly sleazy lawyer Nuanchavee (Chutcha Rujinanon) - called "Nuan" - is in the area to distract the caretaker and so is able to rescue her from the house when she doesn't come back.

For a lot of people, Nee's experiences with the supernatural until now would be quite enough to keep them from poking their noses into the murder case any further, but our heroine is of a much more persistent type. That persistence pays off well when the journalist finds out that Vasan is not the first doctor living in the house who killed his spouse or girlfriend. It's as if something dwelling in the house is out to perpetuate its own pain by reliving it through others.

While Nee is researching, her relationship with Nuan becomes increasingly strained. The couple never seems to have completely talked through Nuan's problems with Nee having a job, her not wanting to become pregnant right now and her not being much of a housewife (don't you like her already?), but what once was a point of contention now angers Nuan to the point of violence. Add to that a bunch of burned ghosts angrily whispering in his ears, trying to convince the lawyer Nee is cheating on him and has to die for that, and you might assume history is bound to repeat itself again.

Monthon Arayangkoon's The House is a bit of a frustrating effort. It's not a bad movie by any definition of the word: too slickly and effectively does the director work around an obviously low budget - at least until an ill-advised CGI sequence in the movie's finale that I'll just let slide because I may not like its execution but do like its concept; too clear are the film's ambitions at consciously using the opportunities its kind of ghost story offers to talk about things like the divides and the distrust that can grow in a relationship which doesn't really face important differences in outlook between the partners (with a pinch of "beginnings of abusive relationships" thrown in); too knowingly - sometimes even elegantly - does Arayangkoon use the standard tropes and shocks of post-Ringu Asian horror cinema; too decent is the work of the actors.

All these elements should add up to a movie that is interesting and good, probably even one well on its way to excellence, but (isn't there always a "but" with me?) The House falters when it goes the well-trodden route of the "plot twist at the beginning of the final act". Conceptually, The House's plot twist is a rather good one, seeing as it is based on subverting gender expectations (though one could also interpret it as a rather nasty jab at the belief in the equality of men and women - I don't read it that way), and does make sense in the context of the movie's plot, which is more than I can say about a lot of final act plot twists in horror films. Alas, the twist's execution leaves something to be desired, because The House only begins to emphasize the subjectivity of what it shows us after the twist has already been played out, and shows a few things that only work as red herrings but not as an organic part of the movie once the audience knows what's really going on.

Instead of the feeling of shock and the satisfaction of a well-constructed lie it goes for (I do like playfulness of that sort in my writing, when it works), The House's twist produced mild annoyance that the film had been lying to me all this time - which is a sure-fire way to destroy immersion exactly at the point when a movie should want its audience as deeply immersed in its world as possible.

Once pulled out of the movie this way, I found myself too distanced from the finale to care as much about it as the film wanted me too, still seeing and appreciating parts of its emotional point, but not feeling these points as I was supposed to.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993)

Despite having been made five years later, The Unnamable II begins right where The Unnamable ended. The bodies of the Unnamable's victims are recovered by the police, and the female lead and Howard (Charles Klausmeyer) are hospitalized, the former never to be seen again (I blame non-Euclidean geometry). However, as the expository ghost of Winthrop - aka the guy responsible for the monster whom you might remember possessing a tree in part one - helpfully explains to Howard, the monster problem is not solved, for his roots might be able to hold the-monster-who-is-also-his-daughter, but they can't and won't kill her/it even though the Fate of the World™ is at stake.

Fortunately, Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson) still has the Necronomicon and is not afraid to use it. Together with Professor of Folklore (I think) Warren (John Rhys-Davies), Randolph mounts an expedition into the tunnels below the Winthrop house. There they do find a pretty sprightly yet still rooted monster. Because of some hand-waving QUANTUM SCIENCE(!), our heroes realize that the monster does actually consist of two separate halves existing in the same place in space and time. Or something. One of the halves is Winthrop's daughter Alyda, and the other a demon (shouldn't that be a creature from the Outer Dark?).

Clearly, the best thing to do with the couple is to inject Alyda with insulin so that the demon thinks she's dying, wait until the demon leaves, and then save Alyda's life with the magic of sugar cubes! Would you believe that Alyda turns out to be a very naked young woman (Maria Ford) of understandably dubious mental faculties who falls for Carter head over heels, and that the demon (a rubber-suited Julie Strain) does not return where it came for but kills a bunch of people to get her host back?

Only some random pages of the Necronomicon (that will turn out to be utterly useless) and a trusty chair can save our heroes.

I did not get along too well with Jean-Paul Ouellette's first Unnamable movie, which I thought was a rather boring, but at least not hopeless, example of the late 80s Young People Running Through A Dark House movie. I wouldn't exactly call its sequel a good movie, yet Unnamable II is at least a major improvement on the first film on all fronts in so far as it is still a silly monster movie with a lot of running around in dark buildings, but it's now a silly monster movie with a lot of running around in dark buildings that actually manages to be somewhat fun. Plus, the running takes place in more than one building - there's even running in a library! (Don't do that in real life, kids!)

Unnamable II does even work a bit better as a Lovecraft adaptation. It's not that it's actually Lovecraftian, yet it does at least feature the right jargon for some of the time, drops the proper names and might even be onto something fitting into Lovecraft's cosmology with its quantum physics angle (if the script only knew what "quantum physics" actually are); that's surely not enough to make the old gent's more easily annoyed fans happy, but I'm quite pleased with Ouellette's efforts.

As you might imagine after reading the plot, the film's script is no great shakes. It suffers from a meandering structure and an unfortunate tendency to include quite a few scenes of particularly awkward humour, some of which is based on Alyda being played by softcore actress (whose bodily assets are - in a very puritanical and not very exploitation movie appropriate manner - hidden by a judiciously applied wig) Maria Ford but having the mental development of a child. It's the sort of thing that could make the more morally upright viewer a bit uncomfortable in her skin. As someone not quite as upright, I'm fortunately not able to take the film seriously enough to be scandalized by little things like that. This is, after all, a movie where the unnamable, bullet-resistant evil is conquered by the power of a very normal chair.

On the more positive side, I probably should mention a small cameo by David Warner and the somewhat longer appearance of John Rhys-Davies doing a pretty funny example of his special brand of avuncular scenery-chewing. Stephenson has improved quite a bit since the first movie, losing some of the stiffness of his performance and gaining not exactly believability, but the sort of artificiality that works well in this sort of thing.

It's easy to criticize The Unnamable II for its manifold flaws, but I found it just as easy to be rather charmed and entertained by them and it, as well as by the good-natured way it goes about being a monster movie about a girl in a monster suit doing what people in monster suits have done since time immemorial.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

On WTF: The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly (1957)

Original title: Tomei Ningen To Hae Otoko

WATCH astonishing DEEDS of super SCIENCE! Witness the DEATH REIGN of the HUMAN FLY! THRILL to the heroic adventures of THE INVISIBLE MAN!

Only in this week's column on WTF-Film!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In short: Alternative 3 (1977)

While making a reportage about the brain drain of scientific minds from Britain, the team of UK's Anglia TV's Science Report stumbles upon a series of suspicious disappearances of highly qualified people. The investigation leads the journalists onto the trail of a grand conspiracy among international governments that at once tries to hide the truth about climate change and the coming inhospitability of Earth for human life and their solution to the problem: cart off a few chosen ones to the moon and a terraformed Mars.

Obviously, the Apollo program was only devised to distract the populace from what's actually going on, and if that doesn't work, there are clearly other steps the conspiracy is willing to take to keep things on Earth calm.

Alternative 3 is a fine demonstration of the fact that the fake documentary is not a filmic form invented in this century. Initially meant to be an April Fool's joke but only broadcast in June 1977, this episode of the actual science show Science Report recommends itself to friends of conspiracy theories by virtue of a well-constructed conspiracy that is - as is only fair and proper for something in a science show - on the more sensible side of conspiracy theories and avoids all the alien abduction and grey reptiloids eating our fear business, instead opting for something´more based in actual scientific ideas going around at the time, like proper Science Fiction.

Apart from the quality of its construction and an air of objectiveness that fits the documentary format nicely, Alternative 3 also succeeds surprisingly well as a TV movie. I wouldn't have expected people with a background in journalism instead of fiction to be quite so adept at simple yet effective dramaturgical and directorial tricks as the makers of the movie are, but there's a nice sense of escalation throughout the script as well as some really clever uses of the documentary format. The film even uses different formats of footage to create verisimilitude as well as the proper mood. The latter is further enhanced with the help of a soundtrack by Brian Eno which sets a fitting ambience for the story the film presents. Eno's presence and the obvious care the film takes with little details demonstrate how much love has gone into it - there's nothing half-assed about what should be a throw-away episode; in fact, I'd be glad if more of the found footage movies booming right now would take an approach this careful and loving.

Having congratulated it on it's verisimilitude, I'm still a bit surprised that Alternative 3's conspiracy theory seems to have become the basis for some actual conspiracy theories. There are even some people who think the show is an actual documentary only pretending to be a fake, even though it should be pretty obvious to anyone who has ever seen a movie how much what happens on screen is carefully staged. And let's not even start on the actors clearly acting.

But that's crackpots for you.


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