April 25, 2012
This is the last time, you guys, I swear

Further notes on Lena Dunham, after watching the pilot episode of Girls:

1. In spite of myself, despite the fact that she is my personal nemesis du jour, I almost (note: almost; girlfriend still has her own HBO show and a DVD on Criterion and makes work that I find totally problematic and objectionable) feel bad for Lena Dunham.  While Tiny Furniture played like a calculated attempt to make me angry, it was at least coherent as a film; Girls just feels half-baked, underdeveloped, underwritten.  The characters seem wooden, almost impossible to differentiate from each other except along the lines of stereotypes (post-post-ironic, self-deprecating quipster; uptight ice queen; international party girl trainwreck; clueless, virginal suburban ingenue).  If I was a writer for the New York Times, I might posit that this is a comment on my much-demonized “Millenial” generation and our (supposed) generational lack of engagement, arrested development, over-educated over-entitlement, and preoccupation with the Internet and pop culture with neglect to all else - but I don’t give Girls that much credit.  I think this is a clear case of HBO (and/or Judd Apatow) attempting to strike while the zeitgeist was hot, rushing this project into production before it was fully fleshed out.  As a 25-year-old with one serious, half-finished short film to my name, it’s hard not to sympathize: if my stock suddenly skyrocketed on the indie film fest circuit, and HBO knocked on the door to ask if I wanted My Very Own TV Series That I Wrote And Starred In Myself, of course I’d say yes (note: it hasn’t, and they wouldn’t, because my mother isn’t Laurie Simmons).  And of course it would suck, because I’m totally not ready to develop/write/direct a TV series at this stage in my career - let alone at a fairly quick turnaround (Tiny Furniture was released in 2010, with Girls premiering in 2012).  Perhaps the next book in the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…” series should be, “If You Give a 20-Something a TV Series, You Probably Want to Make Sure That She Has a Team of More Experienced People Working with Her to Make Sure it Doesn’t Totally Blow, and You Probably Also Want to Take Your Sweet Time in Development to Further Make Sure of the Above.”

2. The aforementioned "international party girl trainwreck" character type, played by Jemima “Daughter of the drummer from Bad Company” Kirke, appears in both Tiny Furniture and Girls.  Putting aside for a moment the fact that this is just lazy screenwriting on Dunham’s part (or is it an environmental statement - character recycling?), Kirke steals every scene in both the film and the TV show.  She plays the part to the hilt, to the point where it almost verges into self-parody, and in doing so is far more compelling and interesting than any of the other characters in either story.  If either Tiny Furniture or Girls had focused on the toxic friendship between Dunham and Kirke’s characters, each secretly envious of the other’s lifestyle, I might have enjoyed them.  This story would probably have also left a lot more room open for legitimate comment or critique of class/race-based privileges.

3. While critics seem to want to mark the presence of a large number of (upper-middle class, white) women, or simply shows with the word “girls” in the title (does “The Girlie Show” on 30 Rock count?), in comedic series programming as a kind of feminist coup, Dunham’s conceptions of sex and gender could use a serious update.  The depiction of Hannah’s mother as a shrieking harpy willing to throw her daughter under the bus for the chance at owning a lake house falls back on stereotypes; ditto Marnie’s boyfriend, who is repeatedly mocked for being too much of a pussy (Dunham’s Hannah actually comments that he “has a vagina”) to just fuck her and then act like a jerk like a real man should.  Girls strongly affirms normative views of gender roles, just like any good feminist work should (a side note: are, or will there be, any gay people on this show?  They seem to have been written out of Dunham’s fantasy version of New York, along with all non-white and non-upper-middle-class people.  Considering that she is herself a New Yorker, I would recommend Lena Dunham take a good, hard look at the cross-section of other New Yorkers riding the "elitist" subway with her - assuming she takes the subway).  Way to get down with the struggle, L.D.!

Girls also highlights Dunham’s bizarre preoccupation with terrible sex - something she talked about to no end in interviews leading up to the show’s premiere.  I acknowledge that I am speaking from a privileged (male) point of view, here: but there’s no way all of these people could be having this much bad sex.  While putting the emphasis on the awkward, uncomfortable aspect of sex is interesting on the network that gave us the ridiculous parade of pale heaving bosoms and soft-lit Alexander Skarsgard ass that is True Blood (come back soon, please?) and that stupid brothel scene from Game of Thrones, the decision to focus more-or-less exclusively on bad sex reads as sex-negative.  Watching these characters have sex makes me want to take a vow of celibacy, which is hardly progressive.  Is it naive of me to want a show to attempt to depict the full range of human amorous/sexual experience?  Or one that acknowledges that good sex is at least a possibility?

4. Making one of your characters the butt of a joke for wearing pink sweatsuits, watching Sex and the City, and living in an overpriced NoLiTa apartment isn’t actually funny: if you’re Lena Dunham, it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

5. Judging from the internet response/backlash (see the hilarious Gawker recaps for reference), I’d say the zeitgeist is turning against Dunham and her circus of white privilege: weirdly enough, I actually feel a bit upset about this.  While I am very glad to see that culture/the American HBO-viewing public at large don’t want to accept L.D.’s perspective on the world as the universal story it purports to be, it felt nice to be the underdog, to have something to push back against. I can still have my new slogan, though: “I hated Lena Dunham’s work when it was still underground!”

February 28, 2012
Let us eat cake

Possibly my most passionate (and massively unpopular) opinion of the last few years:

I despise young, up-and-coming filmmaker Lena Dunham, and her 2010 feature Tiny Furniture.

There, I said it.  ”Despise” is a strong word, and I use it intentionally.  As someone who, quite proudly, is not easily or frequently offended by films (I loved Antichrist, for chrissakes), I can say that I found Dunham’s Tiny Furniture not just politically (socially? morally? economically?) reprehensible, but demeaning and derisive on a personal level.  Since its release - and especially through the near-universal critical praise, the development of Dunham’s Apatow-produced HBO series, and through its recent release via the Criterion Collection - I was confounded and amazed: how is it possible that a person I’ve never met could create a film that seemed so intentionally, calculatedly aimed at making me angry?  I was so dumbfounded, I was verging on paranoid delusion.  When a professor screening the film in class chided me, “Why do you have to be so mean to the poor girl?”, the only response I could manage was, “She started it.”  I couldn’t even bring myself to ask him to reconsider his wording.

However, there may now be one person who has managed to anger me even more than Dunham herself: writer Elizabeth Gumport, reviewing Tiny Furniture for n + 1.  Gumport’s review starts out promising: “Who among us is noble enough not to envy Lena Dunham?”  However, it quickly becomes apparent she means “noble” less in the sense of honor and goodwill, and more in the sense of plutocracy.  As a fellow independent filmmaker of her generation (or perhaps “not the voice of my generation, but a voice, of generation,” as she points out in the trailer for the aforementioned HBO series Girls), I am the first to admit that my feelings on Dunham and her film come in no small part from a bit of professional jealousy.  However, in attempting to write off all of Dunham’s detractors as a bunch of envious whiners, Gumport (and, I’d venture to say, all the rest of the critics who originally gave the film such glowing reviews) reaffirms the inherent value, the naturalness, the “rightness” of the socio-economic hierarchies that Dunham supposedly “questions” in her film.  That is: the rich are rich because they should be, because they are better than us.  We should not question the distribution of wealth and privilege, of who is left out of the process when a girl like Lena Dunham gets to see her movie completed and distributed to widespread acclaim.  It is not our concern.  Let us eat cake.

And ay, there’s the rub: Tiny Furniture is carefully calculated to lead to this conclusion.  Dunham’s character Aura, as much as she may annoy, is our protagonist: she matters, her struggles matter, even if they may be that she is too used to her own class-based privileges to hold down a no-effort job as a restaurant hostess without any real customers.  How difficult it is to live for free in Tribeca!  ”What makes its boldness radical,” Gumport writes, “is that it treats privilege positively: instead of implying privilege’s existence via its absence, Dunham makes it present, as a material experience that offers specific pleasures and advantages.  She doesn’t speak truth to power, but from it, which these days is as rare, and as necessary.”  Finally, the story we have all waited so long for: the problems of wealthy, white, overeducated, well-connected Manhattanites, and their struggles with the deep indignity of sporadic forays into employment!  If the personal is political, Tiny Furniture advocates for a return to feudalism.  Gumport valorizes Aura’s decision to stay in Manhattan and not work a day job, as if accepting the place laid out for her by her own privilege required bravery, or even effort.  No matter that the only character who does explicitly work for a living, David Call’s restaurant chef Keith, is represented as sleazy and disgusting, his only interests porn and pill-popping, as if work itself were a moral failure.  In the end, he fucks Aura and then casts her aside - the archetypal bad boy “ruins” the princess taking her first steps outside her ivory tower.  Or maybe she’s just the Uptown Girl, looking for her Downtown Man (that’s what he is).

What can we do, when our cultural critics will one moment champion #Occupy as the rebirth of the spirit of the ’60s and the first real progressive movement seen in this country in decades, and the next champion Lena Dunham’s essentially conservative retreat into the rarefied world/womb of money and privilege that is her mother’s apartment?  At this point, it is barely even worth mentioning that both of Dunham’s parents are successful artists, and that Dunham’s real mother and sister appear in the film as Aura’s mother and sister, all shot within their real Tribeca loft.  Gumport even valorizes this decision: “The movie shows us how wealth, privilege, and power actually manifest themselves… Plenty of people can afford to take the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building; even more can purchase a postcard of the view, or Google it… But how many of them will ever set foot in a Tribeca loft, never mind own one?”  Gumport and Dunham’s shared sense of noblesse oblige is touching; I imagine French peasants must have felt much the same way viewing Versailles.  Right before they cut off someone’s head.

Concluding her article, Gumport writes, “The value Tiny Furniture places on ordinary existence calls all of us to account.  Which life did you leave unlived?”  The sad truth is that the societal privileges that divide us require most of us to leave the kind of dreams that both Aura and Lena Dunham get to live out (to say nothing of Ms. Gumport) by the wayside.  The “ordinary existence” of being able to focus solely on ones dreams - the privilege to become an artist - is not as ordinary as Dunham’s film would have us believe.  For most, such dreams are left to dry up like a raisin in the sun.

(PS: Elizabeth Gumport - Ayn Rand called, she wants her crazy back!)

February 3, 2012
The quest for the New York apartment (part one)

I’m sure there must be a special circle of hell, somewhere deep in the Malebolge, where sinners must endlessly troll Craigslist, looking for a no-lease/no-credit-check room share somewhere in New York City.  I’m just getting to the end of the first week of my search, and already Sisyphus is looking pretty good in comparison.  I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced such soaring highs and crushing lows in such a short period of time as I have in the past week of looking for roommates.  I do have to say, responding to the “Rooms and Shares” section of New York Craigslist has to be one of the most entertaining free activities there is in this city (send my regards to Broadway and all, but truth is clearly much stranger than fiction).

My search started off on what seemed like a positive note: in mid-January, a friend of mine, who also happens to work in film (as well as doing his own experimental video/noise music projects), was looking for two new roommates in Bushwick, starting at the beginning of February - exactly when I planned to move!  Trying to contain my excitement, I scrambled to get in touch with the right people from my desk at work, ignoring any number of more pressing requests for IT help.  Of course, when I got in touch with him, I found that one room had already been spoken for to begin with, and an old roommate of mine had claimed the other bedroom.  Undaunted, I thought, “Well, I’ll just look at apartment share listings while I wait for something else to fall into my lap through random acquaintances.”  My descent into the Dark Side of Craigslist had begun.

On my last day of work, a Thursday, I responded to an innocent-sounding Craigslist ad for a room in a Bushwick/East Williamsburg loft - right off the L train, with a bunch of people roughly my own age, and right in my price range.  “Great!” I thought, as a reply told me to come up any time in the next four days, “people really over-emphasize how hard this is!” Hopping on a Megabus from Philadelphia, I soon found out how wrong I was.  While still on the bus, I received an email telling me that, due to a personal emergency, I couldn’t see the apartment until the following Saturday.  Sure, I said - and, after wasting another day and a half (getting drunk with friends in Brooklyn), I woke up to an email Saturday morning: the apartment had been rented.  Weirder still, it turned out to be in the infamous McKibbin St. lofts, the rowdy “art dorm” of New York Times fame/infamy.

The next week brought similar challenges: responding to yet another ad for a room close to the L train, I found that yes, I had done it again: I had unwittingly responded to another room in the McKibbin Lofts!  I showed up (more out of morbid curiosity/schadenfreude than anything else), calling the cell phone number of the girl I was meant to meet from outside the building.  Her phone was off.  I called again and again - nothing.  Eventually, I followed someone into 255 McKibbin. Lacking the apartment number for the place I was meant to see, I wandered around the building aimlessly, taking in the sights and sounds of the future of American art: a darkroom in the basement; people who didn’t seem to be tenants (like myself) wandering in from off the street; vegan pizza deliveries arriving by bike every 5 minutes; a sign above the mailboxes reading “DON’T LEAVE ANY MAIL OR PACKAGES HERE, THEY WILL BE STOLEN;” graffiti on the walls declaring “BEDBUGS FOREVER.”  I got back on the L train to Manhattan, determined not to be fooled again.  About an hour later, I received an email from my would-be roommate: “So, like, are you going to come here tonight, or what?”

The next few days brought more false starts in Bushwick: a man who seemed to move women into his small apartment (located between Black Hebrew israelites and a soup kitchen) in order to sleep with them, and told me earnestly of his desire to get into designing fetish gear; another shared loft located in a former coffin factory decorated with trash, including a 5-foot plush “Rastafarian banana,” suncatchers made of old CDS, and every bad painting ever thrown away by a first-semester failing art student at Pratt.  I never received a response from the guy whose “$850 Room (Fort Greene)” came with the following description and pictures (I guess he didn’t appreciate my HP Lovecraft joke?):

2 bedroom apt. Bedroom for rent is 8’ x 12’ with a closet (9’ H x 5’ 7w x 1’9 D) and a window. It’s on the 1st floor and there is a laundry room down the hall. Bills are $60 a month at the most. No pets, no smoking. I’m quiet, rarely have people over and I’m usually in my room writing or watching movies. I listen to music on headphones. I like watching you do yoga and cooking meals under the nearby overpass. I am an orphan and belong to an ancient cult. I am male.

The following Wednesday I made a big break in my search: I was put in touch with a friend-of-a-friend who had an open room in East Williamsburg, right near the Graham Ave. L stop!  I was overjoyed: it was my dream neighborhood, a place where I could be with “my people” (the Italian-Americans)!  On top of that, the roommates were also working artists and filmmakers!  It was too good to be true!  Of course, it really was too good to be true: the room was only available to sublet for the month of February.  Not wanting to re-start my search only one month later, I sadly turned the room down, feeling good about at least meeting some potential new friends in New York.  Returning to the internet with a new sense of purpose, I resumed my search and steeled myself for week two.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my adventures in searching for a room in Brooklyn!  Maybe next time I’ll even actually have an apartment and be a real-live New Yorker?

January 19, 2012
Who knew being a film student was so fashionable?

The new look for fall 2012 is (apparently) “Steadicam operator!”  According to the A/W 2012 Mugler menswear collection, I (and every other broke, no-budget indie filmmaker) am so hot right now.  Or something.

If anything, this just confirms that I totally don’t “get” fashion.  Is this meant to be a “comment” on something?  Is it “conceptual” “art”?  Am I actually being told to wear a Steadicam as if it was a piece of clothing?  BTW, wearing a Steadicam is hard and it hurts like a bitch, even when you’re not trying to actually operate the damn thing (I gave up on trying to learn after my first try.  Apparently they’re only designed for people much taller than me, anyway - isn’t that discrimination against those of us who descend from tiny Italian men?).  So kudos to this guy, I guess?

I love going on imaginary fantasy shopping sprees in the future when I’m super-rich (yeah rite) and I to buy the whole Christopher Kane menswear collection (yeah rite) as much as the next person, but that’s because I really like clothes.  You know, like clothes that are, like, actually made of clothing.  That’s so not hip of me, I guess.

January 19, 2012
Apropos of my last post on Lana Del Rey…

What the hell was this shit?

Not since the infamous Ashlee Simpson lipsync-jig incident has someone failed this hard on a live SNL performance - and on “Blue Jeans,” no less, which I found to be the best of the tracks from “Born to Die” I’ve heard so far.  While it remains to be seen if this flop is a total career-killer for Miss Elizabeth Grant, it is refreshing to see the American TV-on-the-internet-going public respond so unanimously to a performance that was, well, just bad.  The glossy image that many suspected was all Lana Del Rey had was definitely wearing thin last Saturday night, and her “catatonic Effy Stonem in the mental hospital in Skins series 4” vibe came across as boring and irritating, rather than “seductive,” or “smoldering,” or “sultry,” or whatever other s-word it was meant to be.

Not to go all Theodor Adorno on y’all, but I’m glad to find that, despite appearances to the contrary, the average person has enough critical thinking ability about his or her pop culture to find that this was a lazy, uninspired, and just plain shitty pop performance.  In a time when pop stars so pointedly ask us to find them “intelligent,” “risk-taking,” and (dare I say it?) “conceptual” (I’m looking at you, Lady Gaga and Ke$ha), they deserve to be held to task when they fail, not followed blindly.  And you know what?  Madonna was totally right - “Born This Way” is reductive.*  As bitchy and faux-intellectual as that remark might have sounded, she is spot on.  Seriously, go read some gender theory and get back to me.

Perhaps there’s hope for pop culture after all, even if the apocalypse is looming at the end of the year (maybe).  I mean, whatever.  I’m going to go play a video game.

* Last year, I seriously thought about writing an academic paper doing a comparative analysis of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R,” and Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and how each responded to the highly publicized gay-teen-suicides of the late Aughts.  My conclusion: “We R Who We R” is the most radical, “Born This Way” is reductive.  Does this mean I can put Madonna on my grad thesis committee?

January 10, 2012
A brief visual chronology of awesome cinematic jackets

Lucifer Rising (Kenneth Anger, 1973)

Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman, 1985)

Drive (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2011)

January 5, 2012
Getting along famously: Bruce LaBruce

In which I describe the reasons that I should totally be friends with some famous or sorta-famous person IRL, based on the possibly-questionable impressions gained from his or her public persona and/or artistic output.

In the end, we can all be reassured by one undeniable truth: no one pisses people off like Bruce LaBruce.  And I mean no one.

In my daydreams (where I am, y’know, a totally successful and famous avant-garde filmmaker, and never have to field the question, “Umm, I don’t get it?” ever again), I have this fantasy scenario where some interviewer (because I’m, y’know, a totally successful and famous avant-garde filmmaker) asks me to come up with one of those ideal “dinner parties”* of other famous filmmakers.  I answer quickly, and without hesitation: and Bruce LaBruce is always on my list, primarily for the above reason.

LaBruce’s life’s work has been asking the eternal question: “Is it art, or is it porn?”  The results are usually hilarious, sometimes profound, and always interesting.  Although LaBruce is hardly the first person to attempt the gay porn/avant-garde film crossover, he is certainly the first to do it in the (relatively) high-budget feature-film format - and certainly the first to do it in the form of a zombie movie, with 2008’s Otto: or, Up With Dead People.  Either way, he seems to be having way more fun than anyone involved with Flaming Creatures.

Recently, LaBruce caught some flak for declaring gay culture dead in his Vice Magazine column.  This just confirms my appreciation for him, as American Horror Story put it, because “he’s cool, and he’s pissy, and he hates everyone and everything” (that last quote originally used to describe Morrissey, obvs).

* Do you remember those things from high school?  Where you would always suggest to invite Emma Goldman and Andy Warhol and Guy Debord and Shane MacGowan, and everyone would look at you like you were crazy?  No, just me?  OK.

December 27, 2011
In defense of Lana Del Rey (sort of)

I’ll admit that I’m very late to the game here - almost everything that can be said about blog-controversial singer Lana Del Rey has already been said, at this point (full disclosure: I first heard of Lana Del Rey from the above Gawker article, and totally missed the boat on the first wave of pre-release buzz/bitching).  But in watching the video for her single “Born to Die” (above) - my first instance of actually hearing any of her songs, as well - I’m really confused.

From what I understand, the blogosphere has been up-in-arms about the questionable “authenticity” of Del Rey’s music, image, and, in particular, her collagen-filled lips.  The transformation of plain, blonde Lizzy Grant into the old-Hollywood auburn-haired bombshell Lana Del Rey rings false, her image cooked up through too many focus groups.  Lana Del Rey (not Lizzy Grant) is a hip, suburban 16-year-old’s Tumblr feed, distilled into human form and packaged as a pop idol.  The references are easy to catch (her stage name is a portmanteau of Lana Turner and the Ford Del Rey, for one), but to all this, I have to say - so what?

Lana Del Rey might be one of the more in-your-face examples of the growing “normies playing at being weirdos” trend (see: every terrible “think piece” about hipsters ever), a keen corporate response to the recent mainstream-crossover success of artists like Adele and the Black Keys - but this is hardly anything new, and certainly not a cause for righteous anger.  Personally, I find Jenny Lewis - frontwoman of Rilo Kiley, faux-indie-pop-country singer, child star of films such as The Wizard (1989) and Troop Beverly Hills (1989), and famous, as far as I can tell, primarily for her hair color - a much more egregious example of the same.  And what of pop music in Britain?  American bloggers have little problem accepting artists such as Blur or Bat for Lashes as “indie” - despite their major-label backing and pop star exposure in their home country.  Should Del Rey be judged any differently simply for being American, and (more to the point) a woman?

In my eyes, Lana Del Rey’s main crime is being, well, a bit too boring for her hype.  Tagged as the “gangster Nancy Sinatra,” she possess little of Sinatra’s attitude and spunk.  Del Rey seems to have mastered the Effy Stonem school of the tortured, brooding, and vacant stare; her music videos, while quite beautiful and nostalgic, have all the earmarks of perfume ads (complete with the obligatory occult/Illuminati visual references).  Her two singles to date, “Video Games” and “Born to Die,” aim for cinematic swell, but seem held back by Del Rey’s own slow, brittle, and tired delivery (personally, I’m much more of a fan of the “Video Games” sample-heavy b-side, "Blue Jeans," which sounds like Stevie Nicks by way of Kate Bush, and sees Del Rey’s vocal dive straight to the emotional core of the song).  Like Lady Gaga, Del Rey’s music is often upstaged by her own aesthetics - hardly a surprise for a pop-star-in-the-making.

There’s a simple solution to problems with Lana Del Rey “authenticity”: don’t listen to her music, don’t watch her videos.  If nothing else, I’m excited to hear real instruments in radio pop music again - as warm weather (hopefully) approaches again, and road trip season begins, and my mind turns to all things big-cinematic-Americana-dream-1950s.

November 14, 2011
This is how the other half lives

I’ve been fascinated by the new (or, at least, new to me) trend in the “fashion film.”  Spurred in part by ongoing developments in the DSLR market, fashion lines are more and more frequently pushing their branding and advertising efforts into moving-image media.  Usually, these amount to little more than technically marvelous, all-style-no-substance displays of gorgeous vapidity.  However, I was really blown away by the film City Limits (2010), created by Australian filmmaker Kris Moyes for the Autumn/Winter 2010 “Nightmare on Wall Street” collection by fashion label Romance Was Born.

The film reads as a bizarre combination of Wall Street and Kill Bill, written by Ryan Trecartin and directed by Dario Argento.  What’s more: City Limits rises above the limitations of the fashion film as a form/genre.  Rather than being another shallow and soulless extension of a luxury brand, it manages to poke fun at the shallow and soulless nature of fashion as a whole through its hilarious dialogue (“Whenever I play deep house, it’s always: Chicago, Detroit, Detroit, Chicago.” “Who here has been to India?  You may go.”) and over-the-top violence.  Congrats, Kris: you may have made the only fashion marketing film appropriate for the days of #Occupy.

October 26, 2011
The 2011 Netflix Instant Halloween horror marathon

It’s no secret that I love horror movies, or that Halloween is my favorite holiday (I usually like to claim I invented Halloween).  It’s definitely “my thing.”  This year, instead of hosting my traditional Halloween party, I’ll be spending the Hallo-freakin’-weekend seeing the NYC premiere of Ti West’s new film The Innkeepersseeing what’s up with the freaks on Coney Island, and making brain-shaped Jello shots.  My friend Rob asked me to curate a horror film marathon for Mischief Night (meant to be watched in order, back-to-back, doiye) care of Netflix Instant, so I thought I’d share the wealth. Happy haunting!

1. Popcorn (Mark Herrier, 1991)

What better way to kick of a horror movie marathon than a horror movie about a horror movie marathon? A group of film students decide to throw a marathon of 1950s B-horror movies in an old theater right before its closing… and one of them is the killer (duh).

As a film studies major, I’m totally a sucker for this ode to the schlocky, weirdly “meta” films of William Castle, Herschell Gordon Lewis and the like. Don’t you wish we still got films in “Odorama,” or that we still had theater seats rigged to deliver electric shocks? Wasn’t that awesome? Don’t they seem, like, oddly prescient of current “event-based” promotion strategies and multi-platform marketing campaigns? No, just me? OK.

2. An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)

Famous as the film that inspired Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” An American Werewolf in London was also a major breakthrough for special-effects makeup.  I remember my mom showing me this movie as a kid - I remember it as being totally scandalous because it shows some British girl’s boobs and a dude waking up naked in a zoo.  I watched it again for the first time in years last Halloween, and guess what - this movie is totally goofy and weird, and (despite my memories of it being “really good”) a totally low-budget, camp B-movie.  Still, the dream sequence is probably one of the greatest “WTF?!” moments in the history of cinema (you will not see it coming).

3. Theater of Blood (Douglas Hickox, 1973)

Did you know that at one point (probably around Otto Preminger’s Laura in 1944), Vincent Price was considered a serious actor? Trapped for years in B-horror due to typecasting, he longed for a return to “respectable” films, and to be given the chance to do Shakespeare. This camp classic gave him that chance. Price stars as Edward Lionheart, a failed actor who avenges himself on his critics by offing them in spectacular, Shakespearean ways (in his “Merchant of Venice,” Shylock does get his pound of flesh) with the help of a group of homeless drug addicts and that shady character in the aviators and fake mustache. Also featuring Diana Rigg, who you may know from one of my other favorite Halloween-themed films.

Fun fact: Vincent Price and John Cage have the exact same voice. Check it out!

4. The Burning (Tony Maylam, 1981)

Considering that I spent a good portion of my youth watching horny teenagers in short-shorts getting shot with arrows or stabbed with hunting knives, I’m really glad my parents never decided to send me off to summer camp. On the other hand, all of those unsupervised hours with the VCR could have been avoided if they had just decided to pack me off for some time in the great outdoors, so maybe it’s a vicious cycle. At the very least, it could have helped me get a tan instead of my usual pasty, cathode-ray-tube glow. Plus then they maybe could have avoided having an experimental/independent filmmaker for a son, and I’d be, I don’t know, an I-banker, or whatever. But what can you do? We are the 99%.

That being said, The Burning manages to stand out well in the crowded territory of the summer camp slasher through its strong characters, bizarre soundtrack and totally nasty, mean-spirited vibes.

5. Inferno (Dario Argento, 1980)

The second film in his “Three Mothers” trilogy (following 1977’s groundbreaking Suspiria and followed by 2007’s “WTF happened here?!” Mother of Tears) is Argento at his most amazingly, brilliantly off-the-rails. Set, like every other Italian horror film, in “New York,” Inferno ostensibly deals with the chaos and murders surrounding the re-awakening of Mater Tenebrarum, “The Mother of Darkness,” an evil, immortal witch. Really, it’s all just an excuse for over-the-top lighting, gratuitous gore, booming prog rock and psychedelic insanity.

6. Return of the Living Dead (Dan O’Bannon, 1985)

"Tina - I know you’re in there… because I can smell your brains!

If you’ve made it this far into my horror marathon - congratulations, you’ve earned it, it’s your time to watch this ’80s “punks vs. zombies” epic yet again. After the heavy vibes of The Burning and Inferno you need a break, and let’s face it - you’re probably too drunk/high/whatever to deal with much else at this point. This is pretty much the pitch-perfect fun, funny horror movie - from the government-issue zombie barrels that just happen to break open if you push them, to the constantly-reused zombie reanimation sequence, to Clu Gulager, to the punk chick who gets naked and dances in a graveyard just because. Hey, it’s Halloween.