Nothing is worse than the feeling you get when you start a
sentence by saying, “Back in my day…”, but low and behold, here I am, thinking
that very thing.
It’s depressing when someone like me, who is only
twenty-four, looks back on the films that he watched with a sense of longing
for the “good ol’ days”. For whatever
reason, it seems that very few modern filmmakers take chances anymore, and by
chances I mean the career threatening ones that their predecessors took not too
long ago. On the other hand, those who risk
everything for the sake of the story are being ripped to shreds by the studio
system. It’s dangerous out there and it
seems that very few filmmakers are willing to step up to the plate.
However, the purpose of this article is not to read my ranting
and raving (where’s the fun in that?); instead, I want to bring a particular
director back to the forefront of discussion, where he rightfully belongs.
Joe Dante is the type of filmmaker who has a unique talent for
combining slapstick Tex Avery cartoons with horrific and incredibly outrageous
scenarios. Everyone has seen at least
one of his films, whether it be Gremlins, The ‘burbs, The Howling, Innerspace, Matinee (arguably his best) and countless others. From the very first frame to the last, the
audience is quite aware that Dante is someone who loves movies, which makes the
audience’s experience all the more entertaining. Dante even directed a handful of Eerie,
episodes, one of the most underrated and unjustly forgotten children’s shows
from the 90’s. That alone should give
him instant geek credentials.
Every time I saw Dante’s name fade up on screen, I knew I
was in store for quality entertainment.
And he delivered… until Small Soldiers in 1998. That’s not to say that I didn’t like Small
Soldiers, I did. A lot. But something was missing. It felt as if he was trying to cater to a
different kind of audience. Now this is
where it gets tricky, because there is nothing wrong with trying to broaden
your horizons; it’s what any true artist should do. But in Dante’s case, it felt as if he was
losing his creative spark with each subsequent picture.
Take, for example, Looney Tunes: Back in Action. A great idea on paper, but for one reason or
another, the execution just didn’t bode well for the talent involved, which is
a shame. Dante’s undying love for all
things Looney Tunes should have been the secret formula that revived his
career; instead it tossed him deeper into obscurity. Then Dante directed the opening and closing
segments for the horror anthology Trapped Ashes. Again, what looked great on paper failed to
impress on the silver screen.
Basically, what I am trying to say is, I want Dante to come
back. I want him to succeed and relive
his glory days as one of the top names in genre filmmaking. Will his new thriller The Hole do just
that? I’ve only seen a couple of stills,
but, like every Dante picture, my interest is piqued. I just hope that, whether it be his next film
or the film after that, he finds a way to truly enthrall us with his
storytelling skills. There’s no doubt
that those skills exist within him… now he just needs to find a way to
successfully bring it out for a whole new generation of moviegoers.