The horror genre has always been maligned by the mainstream. For as long as I can remember, the general public has frowned upon not only horror movies but also games, TV programs, books, you name it. As a result the horror community has remained small and extremely tight-knit. It's a circle of the nicest, most down-to-Earth people you could ever hope to meet. How many times have you been standing in line for something and noticed someone else in line wearing an Evil Dead t-shirt or something like that? Instantly there's a connection between you and this stranger. You both smile and nod. Maybe even start a conversation. I've made so many fast friends like that. It's pretty amazing. We love and support everyone who loves and supports us with great conviction and affection. Especially our champions, one of which is the subject of my little rant. A company who has long been one of horror's best friends. A company called Lionsgate.
Here is a studio with some balls. In 2003 when no one else would release Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses, they gave it a home. They took the chance. Two years later they gave Rob the green light to deliver a sequel that turned out to be one of the best films of the decade, The Devil's Rejects. I don't think any other studio would have touched that one with a ten-foot pole. The chance taking wouldn't end there though. Their slate also included what has become one of our genre's biggest and most thriving franchises, the Saw films. When the original flick dropped in 2004, it was hugely successful. Lionsgate got behind its creators and then took a chance on a really young director whom no one had even heard of to direct Saw II, III, and IV. That director is Darren Lynn Bousman, and he pulled off quite a feat. This guy progressed the series in a direction that no one could have imagined ... they got better and better. Saw was a movie that did not need a single sequel, much less several. I was one of those folks who cried foul upon the announcement of the sequels. I don't think I've ever been happier to eat my own words. In the end Darren's movies have brought in around three hundred million dollars for Lionsgate.
Also in 2004 the studio took home the Academy Award for best picture with Crash. While I was happy for them, it also got me a bit worried. Now that they've been placed up there with the majors, would they forget about all of us loyal fans? Thankfully years have passed, and they've honored their roots. Like New Line, Lionsgate is a company that the horror genre helped to build, and to this day they give young filmmakers a platform to get their movies out there on a fairly big scale DVD-wise, and I commend them on that. Yet, a chill runs down my spine. Something is in the air. Could these days be coming to an end?
Recently things have gotten kind of hairy and not in a cool Lycanthropic way. In what has to be the most absurd turn of events ever, Lionsgate opted to take Clive Barker's latest film, The Midnight Meat Train, and dump it into a few second-run theatres across the country. I'm still scratching my head over that one. The movie was given absolutely no chance to perform at the box office. This was a film that ordinarily would have been championed by the studio. When I went to see it, three tickets cost me less than ten dollars. I felt so bad that I bought three more just for the hell of it. Clive recently spoke out about this situation on MTV’s Movie Blog.
“There’s room for everything,” he told the site. “You don’t have to shit on somebody else’s work to advance your own material ... This is all about ego, and though I mourn the fact that ‘Midnight Meat Train’ was never given its chance in theaters, it’s a beautifully stylish, scary movie, and it isn’t going anywhere. People will find it, and whether they find it in midnight shows or they find it on DVD, they’ll find it, and in the end the Joe Drakes of the world will disappear.”
Drake is the current president of Lionsgate (replacing Peter Block), whose lap the release decision apparently fell into when it all came down, with Drake choosing to shift attention to films like The Strangers, which he received a producing credit on; he didn’t want other horror movies taking away the spotlight. Clive went on to call Drake a ”small-minded nobody”.
What a sad, sad situation. Something like this couldn't possibly happen again, could it? Enter Darren Lynn Bousman's Repo! The Genetic Opera (review here). I caught this film recently and was completely blown away. It has easily found its way onto my upcoming "Year's Best" list, and I'm not alone. There's been plenty of positive buzz around this film. It's been coming from just about everywhere and anyone who's seen it. Everywhere ... but from Lionsgate. In fact it's been announced that when the film does go theatrical, it will be on fewer than ten screens. Color me stunned. Given that kind of release, it's pretty safe to assume there will be no marketing budget behind it, and the folks who would have gone and seen it around those few screens won't even know that it's there. Dare I say it, this is even worse treatment than Meat Train received.
Ponder this if you will: Bousman has made Lionsgate hundreds of millions of dollars, and he gets less than ten screens for his new movie. That's akin to being punished for doing good. It's not like this is some backyard high school play. This is a visionary film with extreme marketability. Here are just a few points of interest:
The best part? Repo! is nothing short of amazing. We've all been crying out for something original. Something that gets away from the formulaic bullshit that we're being spoon fed. This is it! I'd be hard pressed to find a single thing wrong with it, and I was waiting for that moment when a song wouldn't fit or the experience got old. That moment never came. It's brilliant at what it does. Picture if you will The Rocky Horror Picture Show having a head-on collision with the great E.C. Comics of yesteryear set to a killer rock soundtrack. It's an experience I won't soon forget, and it's a damned shame the majority of fans aren't getting their chance to see it up on the big-screen where it deserves to be. At the very least this flick should be playing midnight showings everywhere.
Unfortunately it seems as if the best we could ever hope for is a Blu-ray release, but with the way things are going, even that would surprise me. Could it be that one of our favorite studios is now too cool to take the same chances it normally would have? Is that a direct result of the obsession for more Oscar gold, and did anyone remind Lionsgate that plenty of genre films have won Oscars? Could it be that Joe Drake just hates horror movies and wants to distance the company from them as quickly as possible? Is he ashamed of them and us? Or maybe, just maybe, it's an instance of the studio not having the slightest idea what it is sitting on.
Lionsgate, we still love you and are very grateful for all that you've done for horror. We'll still go see the Saw flicks every October despite how ludicrous the prospect of a second trilogy seems. All that we ask is that you don't turn your backs on us. Considering how much money we've spent on your movies and DVD's, that's not too much to ask, is it? God, I hope not. Hold tight, everyone. This could get bumpy.
For more on Repo! The Genetic Opera, visit the official Repo! site here.
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