Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Liveblogging On the Lot

All right, let's give this liveblogging thing a shot. Tonight's episode of ON THE LOT is on the air. Here goes nothing...

8:00 p.m. What, no Adrianna Costa intro? Voiceover announcer: "It's horror film night on the lot." Dude, that's every week.

8:03 p.m. And David gets eliminated, but pervy uncle Garry Marshall reassures him that he got to meet girls.

8:04 p.m. Adrianna informs us who will be directing horror films. What a surprise, it's the contestants who didn't direct last week!

8:06 p.m. Eli Roth is the guest judge. Terrific. You know how much I loved HOSTEL.

8:07 p.m. Kenny's THE MALIBU MYTH kicks off horror night. Looks like Tatyana Ali, who was in David's film last week, is back again. The guy relies heavily on transitional effects, but I have a feeling his aggressive direction will go over well with whoever's watching this show. The film has something to do with missing teens turned into bloodthirsty monsters. Essentially it's a pre-credits sequence to JEEPERS CREEPERS but jokier. The woman in the car talks about what a blog says, but it doesn't appear she has a computer. Continuity is for suckers, though, right? Considering that I don't think the directors have sufficient time to make something scary, I'll give Kenny credit for putting together a short with more polish than most of what we've seen in ON THE LOT'S run. Roth namechecks three horror films to prove how cool he is. Somebody punch him, please.

8:16 p.m. The success of Sam's ANKLEBITERS is going to rely on a puppet. Umm, OK. Actually, it is convincing enough, but is there anything to this other than it being a clip from a feature film? Roth throws out a comparison to DEAD ALIVE, but I have to agree with him that the prologue essentially makes what follows irrelevant. We already know that a new creature "will change everything". Then again, the time limitations pretty much guarantee we won't be surprised.

8:24 p.m. We're two for two with prologues for these shorts. Will Andrew's MIDNIGHT SNACK make it three for three? Nope. Hey, Lin Shaye is back too. Wisely he's not bothered with much dialogue, and he does OK building atmosphere. Still, this isn't going to scare anyone. Sure enough, a joke is the exclamation point on the short. Roth compares it unfavorably to a "got milk?" commercial. Sadly, I can't disagree with what the guy's saying.

8:31 p.m. I expected horror night to be a catastrophe, but I'll grudgingly grant that these films have been better than what we've seen in previous weeks. There's nothing in them that would make people pull them up on any of the numerous online content providers, but they have a sheen of professionalism that helps explain why these people were chosen.

8:34 p.m. They have people make one-sheets for these shorts? Why? I guess it's a nice souvenir for the contestants.

8:35 p.m. Jason's ETERNAL WATERS is up. Boy does that guy like that dream-like, fractured editing style. A boy is drowning in a pool. Now he's underwater in a coffin. Watch out! There's an Asian man with a knife in the house! I guess this is supposed to be redemptive or something, but I'm not seeing it. Roth isn't buying the actress cast as the mother. "You dressed her up like a teenager. She's this blonde with, you know, the big breasts, and she's in a tight t-shirt. It's hard to take her seriously as a mother." Surely he's just taken Garry's lines.

8:38 p.m. Garry Marshall has two words for Jason: "Sen-sational." Oh Garry.

8:43 p.m. Shira-Lee claims to have known almost nothing about horror films before this. For real? Her OPEN HOUSE has an expecting couple wandering into a home for sale. There's no real estate agent...but there is a ghost or something warning the woman to get out. Yawn.

8:46 p.m. Good point, Carrie. Ghosts during the day aren't scary. Roth likes the tag, which is the man suggesting that a name has come to him. It's the name of the ghost woman's dead son. OOOOOOOOOO! C'mon, that was lame. Garry nails it: no conflict.

8:49 p.m. I'll say this for liveblogging the show. It's made ON THE LOT pass much faster.

8:50 p.m. Fox is advertising DON'T FORGET THE LYRICS. Isn't this the same thing as NBC's THE SINGING BEE?

8:51 p.m. The challenge for next week's show, airing on Monday due to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, is based on the well-worn trailer phrase "when two worlds collide". Yeah, that ought to stretch their creative muscles.

8:52 p.m. Mateen's PROFILE strives for everyday horror. A white police officer pulls over a black driver. Flash forward to the cops giving him a beating in the station bathroom. Of all the directors, he fulfills the task at hand, which is to make the viewers uncomfortable. (One part draws an audible gasp from the studio audience.) Granted, with material this charged, it isn't hard to shake people up, but I'll give him credit for making something that actually could horrify those watching. None of the other films did that. He does make a really odd choice in closing it with an aerial shot of the area that then becomes a view of the planet. Roth: "And then it's the point of view of the moon or something." Ha.

The judges are especially critical, maybe because it gets under their skin? Hitchcock's childhood fear of the police informed much of what happened in his films, and it's that fear of authority with a racial angle that makes the film somewhat effective. (The perspective shifts are correctly identified as a problem.)

I've agreed with Roth, a director I find awfully smug and whose last two films I think are reprehensible, so it's nice that he gives me a rich comment to dine on here. Says the guy whose HOSTEL PART II has a naked woman hanging by her feet getting gutted by another naked woman who showers in her blood, "With subject matter that's this volatile, it's easy to put a shocking image up, but it's tough to relate that horror to the audience." Did I mention that Roth plays scenes like that for laughs?

8:59 p.m. The judges are split on their favorites. Carrie goes for Andrew, Roth for Kenny, and Garry for Jason.

9:25 p.m. Speaking of horrors, my longest entry of the whole liveblogging experience gets chomped in an attempt to publish while the wireless connection is interrupted.

I expected tonight's show to have the directors flailing, but they acquitted themselves better than they have at any other time during the show. OK, so only Mateen's film had a glimmer of frightening images/scenarios, but I was prepared for much worse. I think Shira-Lee's a goner out of this group, but if Mateen succeeds only at making people feel bad, he could be susceptible.

Perhaps the pressure of writing during the show made it feel like the time went quickly, but stepping out of the comfort zone for these filmmakers did produce a smidgen of the creative spark missing in their other films and more entertaining TV. All but Shira-Lee relied on what we've seen from them before, but it didn't seem as tired. (Did anyone catch the mention in the opening tease that they use professional writers? Interesting...) Was it me, or was this show tighter? The judges could still be tougher. As usual, the guest judge made the most valuable feedback.

And so goes this experiment in liveblogging. Thoughts?

When the links for the films are available, I'll update the entry for those who want easy access to them.


  1. Oh, you can't beat liveblogging for catching all the juicy cluelessness. There's way too much to remember to write about afterwards.

    I actually thought ETERNAL WATERS was the best of the night -- it had more going on in terms of plot, and it had a third act that wasn't essentially a joke. And I was surprised that Jason was the only one who seemed to have seen any J-horror.

    That said, the polish you speak of bothers me more week by week. It's like somebody taught these people a bag of tricks -- filters, angles, cuts, music beats -- and they pour it all over whatever the assignment is, every week. Kenny may be incompetent, but I'll take his rough-edged ignorance over the other directors' chrome sheen. At least it feels like his vision, not a Frankenstein monster stitched together out of the ultra-commercial surfaces that represent these contestants' highest aspirations.

  2. Hmm, maybe I'll have to give Jason's film another look.

    You know, despite what I've written, I agree with what you're saying in your last paragraph. I guess I've been happy to see an increase in polish because it gives me a slight idea of what earned the directors their places on the show. Fair enough, though, that the polish also removes any trace of personality or feeling. Kenny's roughness feels like a co-opted style too, but his films are undeniably his.