Put a Sock in It!

quiet jim
No, this is not Jim Halpert stifling a young Michael Scott

If you’re a fan of monster movies you know that the monster must always have a weakness – something that allows the tortured protagonists to finally vanquish their nemeses in the final reel. Dracula had his wooden stake and Werewolf had his silver bullet. The relentless T1000 robot in Terminator 2 had a problem wading in molten steel, and the shark in Jaws had a weakness for consuming anything that entered his formidable maw. The indomitable Martian invaders in War of the Worlds succumbed to simple bacteria that feeble Earthlings had built up an immunity to after breathing in funky air and ingesting green-tinted meat for millions of years.

And the aliens in Signs, like the Wicked Witch of the West couldn’t countenance water spritzed upon their skins – which is the movie from which I drew parallel at a recent viewing of A Quiet Place directed by former star of The Office John Krasinski. This time around, an isolated family must bob and weave in total silence to avoid being chomped on by swift, toothful aliens who apparently overtook the entire globe, leaving nothing but apocalypse in their wake. Visual clues like newspaper headlines presented early on “tell” the audience that although the invaders are unable to see they possess ultra-sensitive hearing capabilities. Additional exposition occurs in the form of a white board in the family’s basement that documents a stream-of-consciousness take on the grim situation that includes the question “What is their weakness?”

The creepy aliens (who bear a remarkable resemblance to the stalkers in Signs) have such superior auditory gifts that any creature that should utter a sound, or cause a sound to be uttered is quickly annihilated in the most gruesome fashion.

So A Quite Place is truly a quiet place as none of the nervous characters dare speak, drop a utensil, or even fart. They walk around barefoot on sandy paths and communicate using sign language – for which each is conveniently fluent, as one of the family members is deaf.

The movie is compact and tense, yet relies too often on cheap jump scares. And when you think about it, there are an awful lot of sounds emitted in the wilds of the forest near the family homestead. Why do the aliens always seek out the source of a human whimper or the sound of a breaking plate when there exists a never-ending background cacophony of rummaging creatures, blowing winds and falling trees to confuse them? I suppose the movie sprints along too quickly to allow the audience to question such thing.

But let’s return to the monsters’ weakness – a subject alluded to often in flashes to that white board in the basement. Yeah … what the fuck is their weakness? What could possibly immobilize a creature that possesses super-sensitive hearing? (Remember: all the world’s nations and their military might could not vanquish what is essentially a marauding pack of unarmed jackals – albeit jackals possessing stunning speed and fangs galore.)

Is it so hard to figure out, as our favorite family finally does, that the power of the aliens’ hearing is also the root of their downfall? Shit, a little bit of feedback throws these wretched creatures to the floor writhing in pain, vulnerable to a shotgun blast in what passes for a face on their planet.

Still, I enjoyed A Quiet Place not in spite of but because of its appropriation of material from other films. Watch it for its homage (intentional or otherwise) to Signs, Terminator, Aliens, War of the Worlds, Predator, and Night of the Living Dead.

Schlock Treatment

I love a good old schlocky TV commercial; one that reeks of amateurism. They’re so much more entertaining than slick ads pumped out by Madison Avenue elites bent on harnessing data and analyzing sentiment – only to produce something forgettable or cluelessly offensive.

Say what you want about production quality – everyone remembers Crazy Eddie, the “Clapper” and the myriad Ronco products hawked on the three-digit channels in TV’s off-hours. Pure fools-gold.

Think about this: the 1990 mob classic Goodfellas for which Martin Scorsese earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director was not entirely directed by him. In fact, Scorsese the master turned over the direction of the TV ad for Morrie’s wigs to window salesman Steve Pacca who wrote and directed his own shitty ads. Feast on Pacca’s handiwork from Goodfellas.

Life Alert is another producer of splendiferous TV schlock. These are the ads that instilled “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” into the popular vernacular. There’s always some old fuck prone on the kitchen floor or spread out in the shower stall squirming in pain – too far from the land-line to call the operator and request the number for 911. Luckily there’s Life Alert.

Consider this gem of schlock that is running now.

It opens with a cheesy homage to Psycho where a confused old fossil collapses in the shower, pulling on the curtain as the shower rings pop one by one. Next up is a woman in pain who gets to recite the time-honored Life Alert “I’ve fallen” tag line. The ad wraps up with a dude who seems to be lounging in the park, but is in fact unable to right his flabby ass. Thankfully the Life Alert operator answers the geezer’s entreaties for assistance and announces, “Don’t worry, help is on the way” – in the form of a fire truck?

That’s strange because I’m pretty sure the geezer didn’t say, “I’ve self-immolated and I can’t put myself out!”

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