Editors Note: We asked the one and only Mr. Rob Schwarz from Stranger Dimensions to tell us a little about the films that inspired him over the years…we didn’t get quite what we expected. He likes The Last Action Hero – we were expecting X-Files.
If you’re like me, pinning down your “favourite” movies is a bit difficult. It’s one of those questions where, if you’re asked, your mind goes blank and you can’t give a good answer.
You might have a seemingly infinite number to choose from, but it doesn’t matter — you have to think about it for a while. Maybe a week, even. Now, I could list a ton of my favorite movies. It’d be a long list, mostly science fiction out of the 80s and 90s. It’d include films like Total Recall, and real oddball stuff like Last Action Hero, The 6th Day, and Twelve Monkeys. You’d probably scoff a bit and stop reading immediately. Or not…
I mean, most of them are admittedly middle-of-the-road, hardly the best of the best. But I like them for their wild ideas.
No, instead of doing that, let’s just look at my top three.
These aren’t necessarily my all-time favourite films, not at all. But they each represent one of my favourite genres (or sub-genres), and they’ve stuck with me ever since I first saw them. They’re the kinds of movies — everyone has them — that I didn’t just like. In their own unique ways, they had a pretty big impact on me.
The Witches (1990)
I’ve always thought the best children’s movies are the ones that scare you a bit. They’re the most memorable, anyway. In that sense, there’s no other film more nightmarishly memorable to me than 1990’s The Witches, based on the Roald Dahl children’s book of the same name.
Directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Angelica Houston as the Grand Witch, The Witches is forever etched into my brain. It tells the story of a group of ancient witches who lure children into their annual convention meeting with chocolate, only to turn them into mice and try to stomp them flat. Their ultimate goal, of course, is to rid the world of all children everywhere.
If you ever watch it, pay attention to the film’s cinematography. I’m not saying it’s good, but it’s incredibly unnerving. Certain scenes have that almost camcorder video look that makes everything feel a bit too real. That’s how I remember it, anyway.
The design of the witches themselves (courtesy Jim Henson), the horrible spells they cast on people, the futile deaths that occur. One woman, after taste-testing some soup, finds herself slowly transformed into a mouse and squashed, just like that. It’s all quite horrific.
Just to put it into perspective, I’ve only ever seen The Witches once, as a young kid, and I remember it like I just watched it this morning. Ironically, though, despite being thoroughly terrified by this movie when I was younger, nowadays I’m a big fan of witches, witchcraft, and the paranormal folklore behind it all.
Your first reaction to seeing Cloverfield on a list of favourite movies might be “Really?” But I’ll tell you what — Cloverfield, of all things, is the movie that first got me into blogging way back in 2008. I’d managed small websites before then, but it wasn’t until I participated as a judge in a Cloverfield fan forum short story contest that I decided to start a blog of my own. Incredibly cheesy? Yes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
See, I grew up falling asleep to reruns of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s because of that, I think, I developed my love of cheesy old science fiction B movies. Monster movies, too — not just Godzilla and King Kong, but the classic Universal Monsters, like Creature from the Black Lagoon.
I’m a big fan of those high-quality low-quality movies, you know? The ones where they tried — they really tried — but failed for one reason or another, usually due to budget.
The best part about Cloverfield, though, if you want the truth, wasn’t even the movie itself — it was the viral marketing and discussions leading up to it. After that very first teaser trailer (with no title, just the date 01-18-08) everyone was going crazy trying to figure out what it could be.
Then, later, the monster speculation began. Was it Godzilla? Was it Cthulhu? A new Attack of the 50 Foot Woman? Maybe Voltron, or a film adaptation of the old arcade game Rampage (which, well, apparently they’re working on right now).
Little seeds were thrown out to those paying attention, stuff about Japanese deep sea mining corporations and Slusho! Weird MySpace profiles and photos. It set the path for J.J. Abrams’ future films Super 8, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and was the first time I ever got sucked into a guerrilla marketing campaign. Those were good times.
In the end, though, it didn’t really matter much what the monster was. Funny how that works.
Somewhere In Time (1980)
Now we get to the good stuff.
On my moderately popular paranormal website Stranger Dimensions, I’ve written a lot about time travel and, more specifically, the Internet urban legend known as John Titor. But I’ve never really talked about what got me interested in that stuff in the first place.
I mean, the origin of my interest in the paranormal (ghosts and folklore, etc.) is an easy one: I grew up with Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and the books of Daniel Cohen, with a touch of Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM mixed in during my later teenage years. But with time travel, and the other strange anomalies of the universe, things were a bit different.
That all started with a movie.
You may think I’m talking about Back to the Future or The Terminator, or maybe even something a bit goofier like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. And it’s true, I’d list each of those as easy favourites. But it was one film, based on a novel by Richard Matheson, that set me on the path of actually researching the idea of time travel, and introduced me to the weird world of online paranormal websites and forums.
That movie was Somewhere In Time.
Now, I should mention — Richard Matheson has a way of unnerving me unlike anyone else. This is the guy who wrote The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, What Dreams May Come, and many episodes of The Twilight Zone, and there’s just something about his stories that I find haunting, the stuff of nightmares. Not scary-monster-thriller nightmares, but the kind of nightmares where you just wake up feeling cold. The ones that stay with you for a while.
I won’t summarise the entire film here, but suffice it to say, it stars Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and involves a man’s trip back in time from 1980 to 1912.
Mostly, I was compelled by the film’s method of time travel. In a weird way, I felt it could be possible — to, by self-hypnosis, trick the brain into believing you were in a different time. This idea is what got me started researching time travel online, and directly (the night I watched it, in fact) led me to John Titor’s forum posts. If you know anything about me or my website, that’s a pretty big deal.
So there you go. A few of my favourite films — the three that, in their own ways, jostled me into the world of the paranormal, and led me to create my own little corner of the Internet. Like I said, everyone has those movies that are a bit more important than the others, even if they aren’t the greatest ever made.
What are yours?
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