Sunday, August 14, 2005

Speaking of DISC/ontent

Went through my rapidly growing collection of DVD's many of which I would never buy in a million years, and decided to thin them out a bit. It pays to be discriminating in your habits every now and then. I've separated my discs into must-haves, get rid-of's and Hanging on for a reason (studying the movie, cool technique or commentary, etc...)

For those movies where I received a screener and knew absolutely nothing about the movie, I would pop them in, put it on fast-forward scan and see if it was something that I should consider keeping and watching. Several times I would hit upon a scene that simply said, "Amateur" or "You just lost me", and then I wondered...

What kind of scene - editing, special effect, stunt, acting technique, dialogue, plot, lighting whatever - always takes you out of the movie when you see or hear it? What type of scene in a movie gets you grinding your molars because it's so bad (yet you see it on all these D2DVD movies) ? What sort of filmmaking is sooo five minutes ago?

Example: Nothing gets on my nerves more when I see a movie shot on video and it looks bad. No thought to making it look good either. Crappy lighting, out of focus shots, zooms, handheld shots, etc... piled on top of one another in an independent production. No thought toward storytelling with the shot either. [ example: ZOMBIEZ]

There's a purpose to this question Pulperverse, so please reply with some specific examples...

I look forward to fanning your flames of DISC/ontent!


Violet Strange said...

Don't know if this is just a low budget thing, but my worst crime against viewing is the scene with two people talking, one in the foreground, the other in the background. The camera then zooms so that the person speaking is in sharp focus, while the rest of the shot is out of focus. The focus then bounces back and forth between front and back. Induces seasickness in the viewer.

Now, one of my favorite films, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, uses this technique, and it's obnoxious even there. And Soderburg in his remake of CRISS CROSS. Low budget dudes (and dudettes) - if these guys can't pull it off - you definately cannot! Note this can work only if it is a one time switch from a person in closeup giving a long monologue to the person who has been listening in the background.

Sorry I don't have a lower budget example, but I did see it done in a film that never even made it to video at the Boston Film Festival a few years back.

Steve Peterson said...

OK, a couple of these are high budget things but I'll go ahead anyway:

The striking inability to... hold...the... camera... still... in a lot of modern films. I figure the invention of smaller, more mobile cameras and the fact that so many directors come out of music videos contributes to this, but, really, if the scene is so boring that you feel the need to have the camera swoop and spin around, maybe change the scene.

The desire by some film-makers to increase the realism and immersion of fight scenes by editing them to look the way they'd look if the audience member was watching the film while being beat with sticks by a gang of neo-nazis. Just tell the damn story.

The mistaken notion that bloody tits still sell scary movies, even though over half the horror audience is female. This one is more common in D2V or D2DVD and often shows up as continuity breaking scenes included primarily for the purpose of showing breasts. My personal example: Voodoo Tailz,

some girls go to New Orleans and get kidnapped by voodoo cultists. Before this, though, there's a nice scene of the two supporting actresses flashing their breasts during Mardis Gras, perhaps they planned to re-cut it and sell it as Voodoo Girls Gone Wild. This also had the imfamous, "supporting actresses have to get naked but lead actress can retain her dignity" scene at the end, where lead actress wears ragged clothes that happen to fall just right to cover the naughty bits and the lesser-name girls get stripped all the way down.

and, finally:

The Awful Writer said...

I hate watching fight scenes that are shot so close in or so chopped up that you can't see the fight choreography. I assume they do this to cover the fact that the actors sucked at executing the fight choreography. Batman Begins suffered from some of this.

Aric Blue said...

The mistaken notion that bloody tits still sell scary movies, even though over half the horror audience is female. This one is more common in D2V or D2DVD and often shows up as continuity breaking scenes included primarily for the purpose of showing breasts. >>

In our defense(being a D2DVD maker of horror flicks with nudity) the distributors WANT this in their horror flicks.

I was told that they want the rating to read R for Violence and Nudity, and Sexual Situations isn't too bad either.

And I don't know where you got your numbers, but I don't think you're correct(that over half the d2dvd horror audience is female).

John Donald Carlucci said...

I hate the fake scare before the real scare in most films. I hate when a cat we have never seen before jumps out and surprises the character as they walk through the ship/building/house/graveyard/snowbank, only to leave our character open to attack when the monster jumps out next.


Steve Peterson said...

Hola Aric,

There was a Calendar-live article back on January 30, 2005 called “Horror Returns to Make a Killing” (unfortunately, gone from the web now) that posted the following quote:

A demographic shift may also be responsible for the genre's resurgent popularity. "What has changed since the late '70s, early '80s is, it's not just guys," Hegeman said. "Fifty percent of the horror audience is now female. That's why you see so many movies that have a female protagonist: 'Resident Evil,' 'Underworld,' 'Texas Chainsaw [Massacre].' Horror has gotten a bit younger and more female."

So I guess not over 50%, and perhaps it doesn't apply to D2DVD. But I think the article actually underestimates (and my evidence here is unfortunately anecdotal). It's not that more women now like horror films -- it's that we're finally seeing some horror films that don't actively drive women away from the theater.

In my family my step-mother, sister, and I are the horror fans. They watch "Charmed" and the new "Dead Zone" series. I think my stepmother is personally responsible for buying enough tickets so there would be three films in the Omen series and one of her favorite films is “The Car” (

Also, back in the early 90's when I did some horror short story and novel writing it was almost always women instead of men who read my rough drafts -- and I know I'm not that charming.

If a film spends much of its time showing you pictures of naked women being hacked up, you're just telling women "don't watch me". That kind of mixture of violence and softcore porn treads in areas an American audience finds uncomfortable.

Moreover, I argue that you get just as many young men buying tickets by showing Eliza Dushku or Jessica Biel in a middriff-baring blouse as you do by showing some unknown model's boobs -- and you don’t drive away your female audience. I figure you can also frequently score somewhat more marketable actresses in a D2DVD feature if you don’t ask them to run around naked with blood on their bodies.

Now, it’s possible that D2DVD is a different animal – but given that the theatrical and TV markets seem to be doing gangbusters with female friendly horror and supernatural thriller, I suspect that the distributors are working less off good data, and more off outdated, and perhaps never correct, conventional wisdom.

Note also that a secret advantage of female friendly horror is that it doesn’t get perceived as a chick-flick (er, ‘cept for Charmed…) so that films like “Darkness Falls” and “They” can capture both male and female demographics and do well on DVD after perhaps a limited or disappointing theatrical release.

Secondly, even if one needs to include nudity for whatever reason, the film should slip it into the story better than the example I gave. “Legion of the Dead” by Asylum actually does a decent job of this, by having the female mummy initially awake as naked, then put on some clothes later – it didn’t feel too obviously like pandering. Sandstorm’s “The Forsaken” has some nudity in it as well but that fit excellently into the story and even served to enhance some of the theme.

mcdolph said...

"wobbly camera for taht realistic feel". it's overused nowadays and ruins an actors performance, which is the bit that really draws you in to the 'realism' of the story.
in support of aric blue: as a video store clerk people ask you to recommend films for them. ask them what kind of film they want? well, as one guy put it - "one with lots of guns and humpin'"

writergurl said...

I can't stand when they use a series of really quick flashcuts to show soemthing going down. i can't think of a dvd example of that right now but there's a new show on FX called "Wanted" that does this. I HATE IT!

Bill Cunningham said...

"one with lots of guns and humpin'"

I think that's going on my tombstone...

Curt said...

Jumping in late here, but any CGI that isn't absolutely perfect jars me right out of a movie. I'd rather watch bad Harryhausen than good CGI.