July 16, 2015

Screening Report: Terminator 2 - Shocking Dark (7/15/15 Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers, NY)

I am sure you are getting tired of me talking about how great it is to find 35mm screenings of cult, classic, and forgotten films. Please, do not hold it against me, but there is a good possibility you will be hearing it from me again, and likely many more times beyond that. There is just something about discovering these movies or revisiting old favorites that just gets the blood pumping. Now, this screening was just as much fun, but it was not a film screening, oh no, this was something altogether different. This was a projection of a VHS tape. Yes, you read that correctly. VHS.

As you can imagine, this looks absolutely terrible. The resolution of a VHS tape was never intended to be blown up to the size of a movie screen. It is a monthly screening series at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY, called Video Vortex. They screen movies off of tape, showing movies that are little known, little seen, and are difficult, if not impossible to locate in a format other than VHS. This months movie was a movie I have known of and have wanted to see for some time. The movie is none other than Terminator 2.

Yes, you also read that right, as well. It may bear a familiar title, but it has none of the familiar faces. There is no Arnold Schwarzenegger, no Linda Hamilton, not even Edward Furlong. Beyond that, the movie even better that Arnold classic to the punch, releasing a year before the science fiction/action flick wowed audiences. This one, which also goes by the title Shocking Dark and us one in a long line of unaffiliated Italian produced ripo.., err, homages.

This movie is pretty amazing. No, it is not a good movie, but as you watch, there is no way you cannot be entertained. While it is called Terminator 2, the idea of Terminator are not exactly front and center. Instead, it targets another James Cameron helmed movie, Aliens. Yes, Terminator 2 is basically a low budget rip off of Aliens. At times it feels like a shot for shot remake. Yes, it is that close. Of course, the further in, the less hilarious it gets, but I found myself loving every ridiculous minute.

There just seems to be something right about watching this cheap copy of a movie from a blown up VHS image. It is dark, muddy, smeary, audio is lousy, but it just creates the right atmosphere. That, however, did not dissuade me from walking out and wanting this to get cleaned up and released on Blu-ray.

The movie was directed by Vincent Dawn, which is a pseudonym for Bruno Mattei. Mattei was also behind movies such as Hell of the Living Dead and Rats: Nights of Terror. With this movie, he had to have known exactly what he was doing. And what was he doing? He was making a near exact copy of Aliens. If you have seen that movie, you know almost everything you need to know about Shocking Dark. It is almost scary how similar they are.

Now, Aliens is an absolute classic, this is not. Well, it might be to a certain segment. The thing about this rip off is just how amateurish it is. It is at times hysterical, at times silly, and other times dull. Early on it looks like the only acting direction was to scream and look wildly around. I have seen better bad movies, and movies that were much worse than this, but there is something about this that I really got into. There is something about Italian genre film making that is unlike anything else in cinema.

To describe the movie fully would be pointless. If you know Aliens, you know this. If you do not know Aliens, why not and what are you waiting for? Seeing it in this outmoded format was just an added bonus. So far as the screening, it went mostly well. Mostly because there were some idiots behind me to my right that knew the movie and decided to say the lines before they came up while laughing like hyenas. Now, I am not against having fun at a screening like this, but there is something called appropriate reaction. I have experienced worse, so it did not really ruin my time, but really, people should know better.

Shocking Dark is a blast, one I would gladly watch again and would love to introduce to friends. This is another type of screening we should be thankful for. Seriously, the deeper down the crazy rabbit hole of genre films I go, the more crazy stuff I discover. An entire world of insanity just opens up before you. You cannot help but smile.

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