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Son of Oddservations – Second Issue SPECIAL REPORT!

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21st century “cinema” is currently defined by reboots, sequels and reimaginings of 20th century – and earlier – properties, and shows no sign of altering course – only getting worse. Seemingly gone are the days of original screenplays, before bloated budgets dictated that big Hollywood studios exploit properties with a track record of popularity or at least familiarity, upping the odds to recoup said massive production/post-production expenditures. We’ve all been through the sad sojourns – pathetic attempts to recapture the glory days of the fantastic genres – reboots of Poltergeist, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Star Wars, Mad MaxPlanet of the Apes, ad nauseum.

Now, it’s Ghostbusters turn to spook us.

Readers no doubt know the “October surprise” of this new remodel: the proton-packers have been gender-bent from male to female. Of course, such a shock to the system created a universe-quaking rift within the fanboy community. Fans claw each other’s throats over alarming concerns: Is the new female cast a cheap marketing gimmick to attract attention? Are fans angered over enduring yet another reboot of a cherished ‘80s property? Are the women actually going to be funny? Was this really a good idea to begin with? Is a percentage of the fannish community truly misogynistic? Are some fans really “jerks” or are they simply expressing their thoughts about reboots and marketing gimmicks that happen to fly in the face of big studio dictates and political-correctness?

We’ll explore that today in this explosive, controversial issue of Son of Oddservations.

Am I an “Asshole”? According to Ghostbusters director, I likely am.

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My personal stance is: I don’t like reboots, modern-era sequels and reimaginings. This philosophy is at the heated core of Son of Oddservations. I think there’s a deplorable over-abundance of them. I’ve deduced that they’re nothing more than a big cheat – revenue-rich studios who can afford purchasing popular, or at least recognizable, properties who simply “doll up” old movie ideas with new filmmaking technologies, CGI, and a cast popular at a given moment in time. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon: “Back in my day, we had ORIGINAL screenplays and movies – Eraserhead, Night of the Living Dead, El Topo, Battle Beyond the Stars, Escape from New York, The Fog, The Burning – THOSE filmmakers had to think of original stories and characters – and didn’t have the benefit of upping their chances of making a profit having their feature film familiar to the populous.”

Worsening a film scene already in crisis, is yet another creative contagion – the adaptation of popular books or video games into feature films. This too is nothing new, but when paired with the avalanche of reboots, sequels, and reimaginings, it becomes a juggernaut of massive un-originality.

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In the case of the girl Ghostbusters, the upcoming movie is a reboot/reimagining of the 1984 horror comedy hit whose title it insultingly mirrors, not an adaptation. Therefore it deserves more scrutiny as a greed-motivated project than a well-intentioned homage. The first strike against it is that it arrives amidst a blatant glut of like-minded money-grabs that offer the moviegoer nothing more than an “updated” version of the original with flashy new effects (most if not all CGI) and phony nostalgia.

Years-long “trends” – from the comic book, movie and television mediums – have been swapping out genders, races, disabilities, ethnicities, etc. of established characters, presumably “freshening them up” for the new millennium. Creating diverse characters is fine and noble – but the problem is these schemes alter established, beloved characters. I consider this patronizing, pandering, and a pinnacle of creative laziness. If concocting diverse characters is the goal – why not create all-new characters that stand on their own merit rather than tinkering with existing ones? There’s only one answer: these creatives are LAZY and looking for the easiest way out and to bypass actual creative challenges by securing properties. It’s too much work and trouble to dream up an all-new character, so they scarf off old ones, and in the process tick off legions of Purist fanboys.

This is EXACTLY what’s transpiring with the ‘new’ girl Ghostbusters. The new line-up appears to be female doppelgangers of Venkman, Egon, Zeddemore, and Stantz. Though the new characters are purportedly NOT the same as the original, at least in name.

So here we are in 2016, now having to face a future of four “funny ladies” usurping the Ghostbusters franchise. I thought the original film was terrific – most fans hold it in high esteem. The 1988 sequel is another story. But now we’re challenged with: should we as a paying moviegoer shell out our heard-earned $15.50 and see this drek. Another drip in the endless sea of reboots and reimaginings. I say emphatically “NO!” and encourage fanboys to take that money and spend it on a DVD release of an old grindhouse cult classic or a modern-day indie that has a better sense of how to adequately honor the past (examples being Astron-6’s Father’s Day, Chris Woods’ Amerikan Holokaust, and Bellflower).

The great divide among fans is the gender-bending issue. Has Ghostbusters – old and new – been hijacked by political forces on both sides and used as a billyclub? They sure have. The politically correct suggest that those fans not accepting of the new film be dismissed as misogynists. It’s not the movie, it’s those Purist fans, just not “with the times” with their heads craned backwards, living in the past when women were simply damsels in distress. That’s old school – time to get with it, because they’ve come a long way, baby!

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The Purist camp looks down on reboots, reimaginings and sequels by big Hollywood. They see this new Ghostbusters as a pathetic attempt to cash in on the franchise, made tenfold worse by tinkering with the original concept and gender-bending sex roles. It’s not that Purists “don’t like women” (God knows we rented enough exploitative VHS tapes in our time featuring scantily-clad babes!) – we despise when our beloved creative treasures from our past are remade and remodeled to appease a generation who evidently can’t tolerate movies as they existed in their original incarnations. To take Ghostbusters or any other ‘70s/’Slimer costume80s film franchise and giving it a facelift is so insulting to the original – it’s stating that “you’re not good enough anymore, you need to be forgotten about and let high-technology take over.” It may even cause Purists to hate the originals, since the making of all these reboots will now have a both a physical and mental connection to the original films. Look at the Star Wars movies – there are three fantastically good original films – outnumbered by three horrible prequels, one really bad sequel (The Farce Awakens) – with more to banality to come!

So it’s not the ladies at fault here, it’s the greed of big Hollywood that churns out this stuff hedging their bets for a big return by bastardizing beloved originals with cheap 2016 gimmicks: political-correctness, gender-bending, race-bending, ethnicity-bending – name your poison.

 

But, if we as ‘fans’ don’t fall lock-step as to what big Hollywood and big political-correctness wants, we’re put-down and called ‘assholes’ as some guy named Paul Feig did to us. I did my research, Fieg has a far-from-admirable fan resume. Melissa McCarthy movies. Bridesmaids. Spy. Really? Do we need him directing a retool of Ghostbusters? Hardly. Go back to RomComs.

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No sooner I wrapped penning my piece on the girlie Ghostbusters – and then get sucker-punched by the new Rocky Horror Fox TV musical trailer!!! Geez, big Hollywood, is it your fetid fetish to repeatedly kick horror Purists in the ‘nards? We all knew it would be knitting needles-in-the-eyes bad – but once you expose yourself to this sacrilege, beware: keep a suicide hotline number handy.

One of the hot new trends – just like in the movies – is taking musicals and giving them TV reboots. The latest victim goes right for the groin – The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the movie adaptation of Richard O’Brien’s stage play that helped define the midnight movie phenomenon in 1975.  A sacred cow to the cult movie fan who doesn’t want their properties tinkered with or rebooted.

Previously a counterculture, underground curiosity crafted for horror, live theater, and art-house connoisseurs, this new Rocky Horror has been terraformed for the mainstream in a world that has since become more tolerant of alternative lifestyles. But wasn’t that part of the experience of cult movies back then? To be exposed to a world orbiting the mainstream? Isn’t that what made B-movies, cult movies, midnight movies, art-house and ultimately Rocky Horror what it was? Isn’t that its identity – its soul – its being? The Rocky Horror Picture Show doesn’t belong on television, the bastion of mainstreamers. In fact, for the longest time TRHPS was unavailable on DVD and VHS because Purist fans wanted the film to remain an in-theater movie experience. But obviously the greedy prevailed, with a DVD release now part of its legacy – and now a TV musical reboot.  We’ve all been Riff-Raff’ed!

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We visited “gender-bending” in the commentary above about the girlie Ghostbusters. And now we have Rocky Horror “race-bending” – Dr. Frank N. Furter is now black! Geez, couldn’t they at least made her straight? That would have been truly a unexpected! Par for the course, it has a cast better suited for “American Idol” or “Glee” than a cult film. You have to wonder if today’s youth even heard of or saw the original RHPS in-between J-Lo and Justin Bieber listening binges.

Do I feel it’s okay for younger generations to experience the ‘70s and ‘80s – yes, I do. But it should be done in more respectful and solemn ways. Why cannot today’s youthful population simply GO TO AN AUTHENTIC MIDNIGHT MOVIE and experience the original RHPS that way? Why the fix for a reboot? Why trounce on the beloved memories of the original? It OFFENDS Purists and those who hold the ‘75 movie dear. We all know why, however: $$$. As noted above, TV and movies are now simply reboot and adaptation machines. If you desire original filmmaking, a moviegoer must to turn to the indie arena.

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News broke the week of May 23rd, 2016 that presumptive EIC Michael Gingold and layout artist Bill Mohalley had been relieved of their duties as Fangoria Entertainment staff. Gingold, who had been with Fangoria his entire adult life, had long been a contributor, reviewer and ambassador of the revered periodical that enjoyed a continuous run from 1979 to 2015. Mohalley’s contributions to horror magazines dates back to the Warren days, having been a layout artist for Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and Famous Monsters, and joined Fangoria (then part of Starlog Communications) in 1983.

And for the moment, Fangoria has gone the way of Starlog – it’s ceased publishing since fall of 2015.

I’ve been with Fangoria since its birth in 1979; I remember purchasing my first copy with Godzilla on the cover at an Eckerd Drugs store in St. Petersburg, Florida at Gateway Mall. In those days, a fan could actually purchase a monster magazine at a drugstore or even gas station (true!). I’ve seen the magazine go through some changes, but Fangoria has always been a dependable read and had its pulse on horror happenings since before Famous Monsters ceased publishing in 1983, ironically due to full color competition from Fangoria.

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Mike Gingold, working with various EIC’s over the years – including Tony Timpone and Chris Alexander, ably steered Fangoria as it saw the horror genre and its fan base tested with the advent of the digital revolution, the decline of the horror film in the late 1980’s, the modern challenges of print publishing, and the dominance of CGI superhero and teen vampire movies. Friends, that’s a lot of destruction to weather for a primarily print publication, whereas internet horror news sources such as Dread Central offered more reflexive and responsive news, views and attitudes toward the horror community.

As a subscriber, I read my Fangorias cover-to-cover every issue, and absorbed and admired much of Mike and Bill’s work. Mike is a master article writer and movie critic and penned hundreds of reviews, some of which had me laughing so hard I fell off my chair (true!). Mike is also a great communicator – his passion for horror emanates from his writing and social media presence. I have no doubt that wherever Mike Gingold lands, I rest easy knowing horror is strengthened due to his talent and that Fangoria has chronicled and championed horror – especially indie horror – over its venerable run. It truly was the spinal cord of the horror genre, as was FM for its time.

Only examining future issues (if indeed there will be any) of Fangoria, will we as fans be able to determine if the magazine will continue its legacy of quality in film commentary, but with most of the original staff gone, they’ll have to work hard to retain the gruff old-timers, Grindhouse Purists, and figure ways to attract new fans, especially ones who have their noses buried in smartphones who don’t know what a magazine is.

On May 25th, Fangoria’s new EIC Ken Hanley attempted to soften any blows by releasing an announcement about Gingold and Mohalley’s departure and reassure subscribers (me included, as I re-subscribed just before they stopped publishing) that Fango will be resurrected.

It’s important to realize at this time of Fangoria upheaval, that – like Starlog – it’s not the magazines that have failed the readers: it’s the mainstream movies the magazines report on that fail the magazines and moviegoers. The cornerstone of the horror film, being the most masculine of the fantastic genres, is that WE DON’T LIKE CHANGE.

Change betrays the grindhouse.

Change betrays the drive-in.

Change betrays horror.

A cornerstone of the horror fan is that we love the past. If you talk to a fan, you’re likely to hear more about Lon Chaney than you would James Wan. Not that there’s anything wrong with Wan, let’s face it – he and some of the Saw guys are keeping horror on life support currently, but horror fans generally agree that 20th century horror reigns: the days of classic Universal horror, silent films, the giant bug movies of the ‘50s, the horror pulps + comics, ‘60s experimental horror, ‘70s grindhouse, and ‘80s exploitation and slasher movies. We don’t want their beloved genre devolving into sparkly Twilight vamps and PG-13 kiddie shows. But that’s what’s happened and THAT’S why I proclaim that select mainstream horror is failing its audience. True, there will always be pioneers and game-changers in the indie arena, but with the current grip of big Hollywood over the exhibition end of the industry – where does the indie filmmaker get to strut their horror stuff? And even if they’re lucky enough to get buzz and a theatrical release, more perils await in the dwindling DVD/Blu-Ray wasteland and digital pirates galore who’ll share links to illegal downloads or streaming of their indie films.

To put it another way, who wants to read about PG-13 horrors and Twilight vampires? That was the situation with Starlog; Purist fans couldn’t stand the notion of reading issue-after-issue about lame properties that betray the ‘70s and ‘80s: X-Files, Jurassic Park, Independence Day, etc. Let’s be truthful and real: the 1990’s was no 1970’s or 1980s. And until we get a renaissance of that kind of spirit again, Fangoria may never again flourish as a magazine that reports and comments about new horror creativity in print form.

Update: At the time of this writing, news broke that Gingold and Mohalley have  joined the Delirium magazine staff as Associate Editor and Layout Artist respectively.

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