Figure 1 – Jaws 3D anaglyph poster by davrosuk

I’m still looking for Halloween movies. I have found a couple of good ones, but I won’t talk about those this week; instead, I’m going to go back to the… past and talk about some less-good Halloween movies. Yes, I know I did that last week, but here’s the thing: there are dozens, if not hundreds, of bad ones. This week’s offerings (Burnt Offerings?) date back to the 1980s, when we were all a lot younger.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll already know that I’m really into 3-D movies. For me, 3-D offers just that tiny bit more “reality” than your standard film. And 3-D TV? Well, to me, that symbolizes that future we’re supposed to be living in (do you realize that Terminator’s “Judgment Day” has come and gone?) but aren’t: we have no jetpacks, real flying cars, etc. But what we do have that’s futuristic (it’s been referred to by SF writers variously as “tri-d,” “3-D TV,” “Holoset,” “Holo tank,” and “Goddamn noisy squawk box” (Jubal Harshaw for the latter). So from the fifties, when I was a kid, I’ always wanted one as proof of the future. Well, a few years ago I got one; it was an “open-box” place and I sold my old 42” plasma, so it actually only cost a couple of hundred bucks. And it’s 3-D! So when our local video store went out of business, I acquired a bunch of 3-D movies on the cheap (Somebody beat me to a couple of the better ones). And I’ve acquired cheap ones (nothing over $10) here and there, until I have most of the 3-D movies that I’ve seen in theatres and some I was never able to see. So I live in the future, ‘cos I’ve got a 50” 3-D TV! Neener, neener, as they say.

Three of the movies I went to the Old Post Office Theater (it really was the Post Office; my office desk came out of that and was used in that Post Office for years) in Pullman, Washington in 1982 and 1983 to see. They weren’t really good movies—in fact one I’ll name was downright terrible—but they were in 3-D.

This week I finally acquired the three: Jaws 3-D; Amityville 3-D; and Friday the 13th part III-D. (Since they were all third in their various series, the number 3 conveniently morphed into 3-D.) And although they’re all suitable for Halloween viewing, only two of the three are fairly decent stand-alone films; in fact, two of them share none of the previous movies’ cast. Two of them were written by pretty decent writers: David Ambrose (under the pseudonym William Wales) wrote Amityville 3-D, and Richard Matheson and Carl Gottlieb wrote the screenplay for Jaws 3-D. The other film wasn’t written so much as assembled, in my opinion, by throwing 3”x5” cards with scenes on them into the air and then writing down the order in which they fell.

I won’t go overboard in describing the storylines; many of you have probably seen these films on TV (not 3-D). To begin with, Jaws 3-D is a direct, years-later sequel to Jaws II. The lead/name actors are Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr., with an unknown Lea Thompson in her first movie role that I know of. Quaid’s character works at Sea World in California as head of the maintenance crew; his girlfriend (Bess Armstrong) has a Ph.D. in marine biology or some such, and is doing research on various Sea World inhabitants. Quaid’s younger brother has just arrived for a visit. The two are the putative children of Roy Scheider’s Amity (not Amityville) police chief, all grown up. The brother has a fear of the water thanks to their childhood shark experiences. Gossett owns Sea World and several other marine parks, and has had built an underwater complex with clear acrylic tunnels at a cost of millions, so that the park visitors can see the fish from underwater. There’s also a lagoon with closeable gates to keep unwanted visitors from the sea out.

Well, obviously a shark’s gonna (and did) get inside the lagoon and start eating people. But when the 10-foot shark is captured for Armstrong’s experiment, but Gossett wants to exhibit it as the only Great White in captivity. He does, and the shark dies. Guess who shows up? Its mommy, who’s about 35 feet long. Chaos ensues until mommy is finally blowed up real good by Simon McCorkindale’s character. There is a minimum of 3-D objects thrust in the viewer’s face as opposed to, let’s say, Friday the 13th Part III-D; they include a spear, a severed arm, a grouper head (it’s a big fish, in case you didn’t know) and so on. The movie is nothing to write home about, but it’s competently written and competently acted. There’s a bunch of gore and tension, which qualify this as a scary, Halloween-type movie.

A word here about polarized (“Real”) 3-D on TV as opposed to in the theatre. The theatre is darkened (your living room may not be) and polarization is absolute. So if you can see 3-D (some can’t, no matter what, whether it’s polarized or anaglyph—that red/green stuff), you’ll see pretty good 3-D. The TV takes a blu-ray (usually, for polarized; anaglyph can be on DVD, like My Bloody Valentine) on which the film is split into two versions, one for the left eye and one for the right. The film can be split left-right or up-down or some wild variant; the TV then takes the two images and puts them on the screen at the same time with different polarizations, so each eye theoretically sees only the image made for it. But the TV’s not so good at polarizing, so each eye—like in the anaglyph version, where you usually get red/green bleed for each eye—sees a bit of the other eye’s image. So the 3-D isn’t perfect. I find that for some movies, no matter how much you adjust the TV’s 3-D, it’s better to just go for 2-D to 3-D conversion, done on the fly by the TV. I ended up doing that for all three movies! (This is called “passive” 3-D; the “active” kind uses electronic glasses that present only the correct image to the correct eye. It can cause an annoying flicker for some people. (Passive TV pictures are a bit darker than normal TV or active 3-D.)

Figure 2 – Amityville 3D anaglyph poster

Amityville 3-D is also sequential, but we don’t know just how long it’s been since the first and second movies. Tony Roberts is on the outs with his wife; he works for a National Enquirer-type paper, “outing” supernatural scammers who prey on the gullible. His paper sends him and his partner, Melanie (Candy Clark), to play a couple whose child has died in a fire and who want to attend a seance in the Amityville house where Ronald DeFeo shot his wife and children, and which was dramatized by Jay Anson in the book and subsequent movies. Roberts and Clark break up the phony seance, but talking to the real-estate agent afterwards, Roberts finds out the house is for sale, cheap. Since his wife is divorcing him, he decides to buy it and move in; he doesn’t believe any of that stuff about a “Gate to Hell” in the basement. His teenaged daughter Susan (Lori Loughlin), although forbidden to go live with him or even set foot in the house, takes the room with the quarter-circle “eye” windows as her own. She has a friend (Meg Ryan, in her first movie role) who knows all about the Amityville house, and together, they uncover the old dry well (the “Gate to Hell”) in the basement. Several people die in this movie, including the real-estate agent and, oddly enough, Susan. (These kinds of movies don’t usually kill the younger protagonists unless they’re engaging in forbidden activities, like sex, seances, incantations, or exploring deserted “haunted” houses.)

Eventually, the Amityville house explodes and burns, which probably will present a problem for the ensuing 20-some movies. (Some filmmakers have the “spirit” of the house transfer into objects which will then carry the Amityville “curse” to other houses/places. Others just ignore it and carry on with the house mysteriously back in place.)

The daughter’s death—and Melanie’s, later—cause the couple to reunite, at least temporarily, at the end of the film. It’s a fairly straightforward “scary” movie. Again competently written and acted; 3-D things thrown at the viewer include a dying man’s hand, really fake-looking flies, and boards from the explosion. But I guess you have to expect a few of those—I don’t remember Avatar as doing that, however, but I’ll bet they did.

Figure 3 – Friday 13 3D Anaglyph Poster/Scene

Which brings us to the third, and worst, movie of this trio of terror—or terrible trio, depending on how you feel about these things—which is, obviously, Friday the 13th, part III-D, starring nobody I ever heard of, written by ditto, and directed as well by ditto. Wait—I misspoke—there’s a beginning segment, where Betsy Palmer and Amy Steel from the previous F13 movie appear. It’s literally, the best part of this film. There’s no real script, per se. It’s episodic at best, showing us the reasons these people must die gorily at Jason Voorhees’s hands. Let’s see, there’s sex—always punishable in these sorts of things; going down into a darkened cellar alone; smoking dope; riding a motorcycle and being a bad biker (in more than one sense); reading Fangoria; showering nude—the first nudity (semi-nudity) in all 3 films; and generally being a jerk. Also, let’s see—dropping a guy’s wallet in the water and letting your VW’s battery run down. Oh, and running a hole-in-the-wall grocery/convenience store. So they must and they do. Do you care how, really? Pitchfork, machete (because all farms have machetes hanging around); shovel, knife, axe, head squeezed till the eyes pop out… I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of any right now. Oh, and 3-D “pokes” at the viewer? Dozens! Popcorn, weapons of various kinds, etc., etc. The filmmakers, whomever they were, wanted to make sure you knew it was THREE-DIMENSIONAL! Gak. BTW—all three images above are anaglyphic, so if you have a pair of red/green or red/cyan glasses, you can see them in 3D.

Figure 4 – The Peripheral Poster

On to something more pleasant! In one week, Amazon Prime will begin airing a new series based on a terrific book, The Peripheral, by my friend William (Bill) Gibson. If you look around, you can find photos and a trailer (maybe two). I liked the book a lot (and I’m getting into 3D printing myself, but no burritos or whatever she ate a lot) and I hope they do the book justice. Chloe Grace Moretz is the star, and she seems to be growing into a fine actor.

Any comments? Anyone? Bueller? Come on; comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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