Lon Chaney. His Dedication Should Inspire Modern Horror
Let’s face it: Many of us watch horror films and instantly know when someone’s just “phoning in” their performance much unlike Lon Chaney.
Let’s face it: Many of us watch horror films and instantly know when someone’s just “phoning in” their performance, much unlike Lon Chaney. We can tell when there’s a lackluster, cookie-cutter script and that a story is full of devices and plot holes. While some flawed movies can still be watchable, they are so much easier to yawn at than productions and performances obviously brimming with dedicated talent. This is why Joker is more acclaimed than Cats, but also why Erik, the “phantom” of the Paris Opera House, has stood the test of time. How could he inspire better movies today?
Why Lon Chaney’s Great
It’s not just that The Phantom of the Opera is old and therefore a classic. It’s also the undeniable scale of his performance, the dedication to his craft and how he made a relatively simple story become layered with hidden complexity. We don’t know Erik, yet we somehow know him. It’s impossible to pin down exactly what animates him, yet he retains that timeless emotional quality, that wounded sincerity.
Joan Crawford noted this sort of thing in her autobiography. After starring with him, she had this to say: “Lon Chaney’s concentration, the complete absorption he gave to his character, filled all of us with such awe we never even considered addressing him with the usual pleasantries until he became aware of and addressed us. He was armless in this picture—his arms strapped to his sides—and he learned to eat, even to hold a cigarette using his feet and toes.” Even more broadly, Ray Bradbury said that “The history of Lon Chaney is the history of unrequited loves.” Before elaborating on how this scale of talent could potentially inspire better films, let’s first assess some bumps in the road to current films.
A Little Problem with (Some) Modern Movies & Shows
An article like this will always look like pandering, or like the author’s just “fanboying” (or “fangirling”). However, there’s something to the difference between wanting to make art and merely wanting to make money. On that note, iconic director Martin Scorsese came under minor criticism for comparing Marvel’s superhero movies to a theme park (rather than cinema).
He went on to elaborate on his views, even saying he might enjoy Marvel if he were growing up today. However, he notes that modern movies are simply different: “[They are] market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.”
While movies have always had a business angle, it’s safe to say it was never quite as corporate as it is today. In fact, the same’s true about music. Someone who grew up before the year 2000 can more easily recognize this, just as they can remember life before cellphone and social media addiction. While there is still raw talent out there today, it seems far more important for it to be salable talent. Plenty of unconventional storylines and dedicated performances are likely to be ignored, simply because they lack blockbuster earnings.
What Modern Horror Can Learn From Lon Chaney
In some ways, people should take a step back, cut down on the corporate profit angle a bit. Going back to Cats, that movie isn’t mocked simply because it wasn’t the biggest moneymaker. First and foremost, people notice the cheesy CGI. While that might even have its charm, it stands in stark contrast to the makeup work of Lon Chaney, who famously worked on his own look for Erik, The Phantom.
Not only was there no CGI back then, but there wouldn’t have been a need for it. Lon Chaney had a commanding presence, and so did the story he was ultimately wrapped up in. Quite simply, this level of dedication is what we could use a lot more of. Similarly, at least to my eye, old production stills of the old Cats musical look better than the computer stuff.
If people are dedicated to their craft, it’s almost guaranteed to create better results. There’s also more need for a stronger aesthetic sense or visual style aside from Hollywood explosions and stunts. On top of that, people should perhaps try writing characters with more heart, at least a little more often. There could be more feeling to more movies — including even horror ones. This isn’t to say “Cheesy horror movies aren’t any good.” In fact, some of my favorite horror films are giant slabs of cheese. Similarly, I can appreciate a cheesy action flick. However, sometimes I want to watch something with far more emotional depth which actually says something, does something, apart from action sequences, or even chills.
Such movies do exist and will continue to exist, but I hate to think of talent being wasted or ignored by studios unwilling to take the necessary risks to make good movies. Maybe Joker is overhyped, but it will likely stand the test of time precisely because it’s not just about a Batman villain. Similarly, Phantom of the Opera isn’t just about some crazed opera-goer.
What are your thoughts on Lon Chaney, Joker and modern cinema? Let us know in the comments!
Crashin’ in Roswell NM: Road Trippin’ with Jennifer Weigel
So on my recent road trip to Miami AZ USA for my menstruation art installation, we decided to detour to Roswell NM en route home. To be honest, this was one of the best decisions of my life, up there with road trippin’ from Arizona to San Francisco along CA-Highway 1, and I will go into the details of why here soon.
Roswell NM USA has totally embraced its alien history of the UFO crash in the late 1940s and subsequent government cover up. The whole town is alien-happy with beautiful hand carved wood totems, murals and statues everywhere celebrating otherworldly denizens of all types, though predominantly the gray aliens of the crash (and their green counterparts). Even the city logo features a flying saucer as the center of the letter “R”. It really is kind of incredible.
One of the biggest draws is the International UFO Museum and Research Center, housed in the wonderful old theater building. This museum details the crash history as well as celebrating aliens in movies and media and examining newer alien sightings and abductions. It is very thorough and includes maquettes, statues, written accounts and an extensive research library, as well as an interesting art collection of various items.
And there are TONS of fun alien themed curiosity shops. I will give a shout out to the newer Invasion Station north on Main Street where there had once been an old car dealership. I love the quirky nature of this particular store as well as their strong desire to promote local artists. Most of their wares are hand-painted in NM and feature designs by prominent local artists including one of the lead muralists in town (I bought a magnet of his). They also feature really alternative kitsch like KISS and Ace Frehley alien bobbleheads, marijuana and anal references, and such. All in all, our own Haunted MTL’s kinda folks…
And the city is a huge tourist draw internationally, so you can meet some amazing and interesting folks from all walks of life who have caught the alien bug or at least want to check out all the hype. As a result of the tourism, the residents seem really laid back and accommodating (kind of like Hawaii but not quite as much) and there is a thriving art scene. And it’s totally my kind of art – weird and a little creepy. Anyway, I feel like I’ve finally found my peeps and am eager to return someday.
American Horror Story Season 12, Delicate
Killer Queens, I wasn’t expecting to be back so soon with American Horror Story info. But yesterday we were blessed with a teaser for the intro of Season 12, which we believe will be titled Delicate.
We are looking at a Summer release for season twelve, but won’t know for sure until June, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s what we know right now.
First, yes Kim Kardashian is starring alongside Emma Roberts in a role that was written specifically for her.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that AHS favorites will also be involved. According to IMBD, Charlie Carver, Rebecca Dayan, Cody Fern, Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd, and Denis O’Hare will be included this season.
AHS Delicate is different from other seasons in many other ways. It’s the first season to ever be written by just one writer, Halley Feiffer. This isn’t a writer most of us as horror fans will be familiar with. She’s written episodes of shows like Kidding, SMILF, and American Crime Story. The last one can at least be seen as a sister show to AHS.
As far as I have found, Feiffer has never written horror content. She is now the sole writer for an entire season of the most popular horror show in America. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It’s just not what I would have expected. Most AHS writers are staff writers, actors from the show, or at least people I’ve heard of. So as we don’t have any former work to look at, we can only wait to see how she does.
We also know what the source material is for this season. It’s a book called Delicate Condition, by Danielle Valentine. This book will be released in August of this year. Which also seemed strange to me. Normally a book would be, you know, published before it inspires additional work.
Even so, Delicate Condition seems like a fascinating story. According to Goodreads, it’s the story of a woman named Anna. Anna is trying to get pregnant but starts to believe that something dark is working against her. Her doctors don’t believe her. Her husband doesn’t believe her. Is she losing her mind?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply interested in this book. And I have to assume that Feiffer and Murphy already have hands on it, to jump to this sort of decision.
By the way, Valentine at least is not an untested writer. Her first novel, How To Survive Your Murder, also made it right on my TBR pile. With a rating of 3.7 out of 4 on Goodreads, I think we can assume Valentine knows what she’s doing with the written word.
This is all that we know about American Horror Story Delicate so far. What follows are my thoughts and opinions only.
My first thought is that this season is going to be dealing heavily with women’s reproductive rights. This is a topic a lot of us are concerned about right now, as it feels like every day women lose more and more rights to our bodies.
(By the way, if you want to help fight the good fight for body autonomy and get some spooky stories, we have an anthology for that. I have a story in it, as does the horrifyingly talented Jennifer Weigel. All proceeds go to support organizations that help women make their own health decisions.)
American Horror Story has handled important political issues before. Last season, AHS NYC discussed the AIDs epidemic that went largely ignored in the 80s and killed hundreds of young gay men. They did this in the best way possible, in what this critic believes to be the only way fiction should handle heavy topics. They rooted the issue in a good story. A story that was pure fiction, but also true.
However, this season has a lot of red flags. Never before have I seen the guest star be the main focus so early. Never have I seen any franchise bank so much faith in an all but untested writer, basing work on a book that isn’t even published. And frankly, I’ve never been much of a fan of Kim K, or anyone else who’s famous seemingly just for being famous.
I’m not rooting for this season to fail just because I don’t like the guest star. If Kardashian is good at this, I’ll be thrilled. I’ll be the first one singing her praises. But when everything we know so far is added up, I’m a lot more concerned about AHS Delicate than I am excited.
The Last Drive-In Season 5 Premiering April 21st Exclusively on Shudder!
They say good things come to those who wait, and boy have we been patient. It has been close to a year since our eyes have indulged a full season of ‘The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs’, in fact, the season 4 finale premiered on Shudder July 1st, 2022. Since then, we have been able to satisfy our appetites with festive holiday specials sprinkled throughout the past year. Specials such as ‘Joe Bob’s Halloween Hangout’ guest starring horror’s favorite Mistress of the Dark, Elvira (played by the legendary Cassandra Peterson) and ‘Joe Bob’s Ghoultide Get-Together’. Last month was a treat in itself, as we were able to witness Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) marry one lucky couple for the first time on the show with ‘Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine‘ special.
While the current changes in staff at Shudder have left fans questioning whether we will receive a new season of the popular series, I can happily say mutant family, we need not worry. In fact, to our wonderous surprise, Joe Bob Briggs has officially announced via Twitter, season 5 of ‘The Last Drive-In‘ will be premiering April 21st, exclusively on Shudder! One thing that is noteworthy, is unlike previous seasons, it has been reported by 1428Elm that season 5 will be broken up into two parts of five double-feature blood-curdling episodes. Though we have not been provided the official release schedule for the second block of season 5, here is a sneak peek of what we can expect for the first half of the season:
April 21: Season 5 Launch Party!
April 28: Walpurgisnacht Part 2!
May 5: Cinco de Fucking Mayo!
May 12: Mama’s Day!
May 19: Dysfunctional Family Jubilee!
Unfortunately, we do not have an official list of the brand-new double feature films for the first half of season 5 but, with amusing episode titles such as these, one can only imagine what grindhouse-classics will be joining ‘The Last Drive-In’s’ already eclectic list of sloshy goodness. For those impatient mutants eagerly waiting for more hilarious Joe Bob rant-filled commentaries, or those newcomers who’ve yet to experience the magic that is ‘The Last Drive-In‘, all previous four seasons, including past holiday specials are currently available to stream now on Shudder.
If you are just as big of fans of ‘The Last Drive-In‘ as we here at HauntedMTL are, please be sure to follow us on Twitter @HauntedMTL and join us April 21st as we tweet along with Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl for the season premier. As is tradition, we will be hosting live watch parties every Friday with each new episode, including fresh holiday specials. The road to season 5 is upon us…let the countdown begin!
April 21: Season 5 Launch Party!
April 28: Walpurgisnacht Part 2!
May 5: Cinco de Fucking Mayo!
May 12: Mama's Day!
May 19: Dysfunctional Family Jubilee!
. . . and that's only the beginning.#TheLastDriveIn pic.twitter.com/WfeTx0shNa— Joe Bob Briggs (@therealjoebob) March 16, 2023