Words by Kit Wood
The summer is a joyous time for everyone. Yes, the weather may be defined in grim adjectives such as ‘miserable’, ‘torrential’ (or most bizarrely and equally irritating) ‘unsummerly’, but at least we have the paradigm of ‘summer cinema.’ So, we can all collectively resound a grand ‘hip, hip, hooray’ for cinema who pulls us all under its undeniably ailing wing for an hour and a half to get you out of the rain. (As a side note, wings can be replaced with an umbrella, depending on how you wish to run with my piss-poor attempt to create a metaphor, should you so wish.)
But the problem with summer cinema is that it seems to blanket the population- a heterogeneous species that we all are- into a populous overcrowded herd. A form of cinema that is founded on ticked boxes from marketers, focus groups, think tanks and other turds in ties that mould models in an attempt to satisfy hoi polloi. It’s far too easy to be cynical on trash cinema, but then again, I’m incredibly lazy. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy far too much screened unnecessary violence, sex, adultery and other 18 certificates, but never to the point where film can only ever stimulate one or two slothful brain cells, at its best. In fact, a great proportion of summer films rarely penetrate into our glorified head organs and leave a lasting impression, and alas fall short around the forehead or eyebrow line. (Perhaps this is why film is often referred to as a ‘flick’, because that’s all that is felt. Maybe quality will improve if it were renamed terms like ‘harpooned’ or ‘bludgeoned’.) From perverted cameramen, who resemble more of a lonely neighbour staring into the half-drawn curtains of that single mother down the road, than to a professional cinematographer. Or on the other side of summer cinema are animated testicles and Pixar sex offenders. Which is exactly why the poster review to J.J Abrams’ Super 8 is not completely untrue as it is heralded as the ‘Summer’s best film’.
Super 8 is a film that combines breath-taking CGI and special effects with sweet nostalgia, and often juxtaposes the two. Set in small town, USA in the late 1970s, Super 8 portrays the story of a group of children who embark on making their very own ‘B-Movie’ inspired zombie film. While filming a scene for their film they witness a military train crash into an oncoming vehicle, and its extraterrestrial cargo is unleashed onto their small town. The coming-of-age story of the children, and their passion for filmmaking seems a stronger tale than the all-too-familiar alien vs. human plotline. Their passion for film, highlighted by Charles’ (Riley Griffiths) bedroom, adorned with posters from the old horror masters- Carpenter’s Halloween with its famous tagline ‘…The Night He Came Home’ to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, creates a longer lasting effect than the impressiveness of how lifelike the alien looks or breaths, or how realistically a human is eaten. The salubrious undercurrent of small town Americana- from the lonely gas stations, the abandoned railway stops, the screeching muscle cars and the truck-stop diners creates a feel more akin to Kerouac than to Abrams. The inclusion of nostalgia and the occasional film reference greatly gives Super 8 a sense of time and place, and most importantly, burns an identity into the film. However, this identity is schizophrenic in nature, and the film is torn between its Americana and with science fiction. Yet, illogically, this marriage of genres is effective, and the film’s conflict between Man and Alien, with its allegorical Cold War fears, evolves into a conflict between the past and the future, with the invasion of small town life by futuristic science and ominous militarianism.