Thursday, April 21, 2011


My Rating: 7/10  

 An anthropologist/paleontologist and his daughter, while traveling through the southwestern US, stumble upon a colony of living, breathing gargoyles.
 Man, that was one concentrated flash of childhood trauma all in one package, here. I watched this when it first aired, at age 6. Talk about traumatized for life. [image] What surprises me now, watching it again after almost 40 years, was how many individual images and scenes from it were locked away in my memory. I didn't remember much about the story, but I did vividly recall various impressions - The lead gargoyle, the slow-mo way they were filmed, the gargoyle at the foot of the bed, the skeleton in the barn, the claws ripping through the barn roof, and on and on. The simple act of filming the gargoyles in that weird, jumpy, slow motion frame rate gave them an unearthly aspect that helped overcome the budget limits. 

At age 6, I wasn't equipped to catch the movie's reflections on genocide, though, and it's less morally clear cut than I recalled. I ended up feeling a bit sorry for the gargoyles, since even though they were evil and dedicated to wiping out the human race, it was clear that their slow reproduction cycle had left them totally outstripped by human numbers and human technology.  It's not your typical horror movie when you're looking at Dracula and thinking, "Boy, you really are a bit pitiful, aren't you?"  Still, they're menacing enough, and it's pretty clear that no pretty human ladies are safe around the alpha gargoyle.

Some great lines in this one, too.
"Lady, you're telling me you have a giant lizard...with a beak.. in your hotel room?"
"Better go with her, man! One of them gar-things is gonna get her!"

I was also pleased that the appeal of the movie wasn't all nostalgia. While I doubt any young moviewatchers of today could sit still through this, or watch it without constant snarking on the FX**(See rant below), it still holds up quite well. As with so many of the 70's TV horror movies, the focus is on mood and creep factor more than outright horror. I'd love to someday assemble a full collection of the 70's made-for-TV flicks like Night Stalker, Trilogy of Terror, Norliss Tapes, Salem's Lot, etc. (I still think the TV movie version of Salem's Lot is one of the best vampire movies ever made)

Keep watching the skies.

Suggested Accompaniment: It was the 70's, man.  You need a biiiiig Danish freehand pipe for this one, preferably with some kind of Tinderbox aromatic that will throw you back 30 years in time.  Might be worth breaking out that cellared bottle of RC cola, too.  

** Regarding the FX - On the Gargoyles IMDB board, there are threads from yoofs snarking on about the "bad FX" and I'm thinking, hell, are they so freaking stupid that they don't understand that..

A) This was made on a budget that wouldn't cover Shia LaBoof's catering bill in a modern movie, 
B) There was no such thing as digital processing and covering up or this or that little bit in 1972, and 
C) They may be guys in suits, but at least they are *real*, and therefore more convincing than the CGI werewolves running across ceilings in Underworld.

I dunno, maybe I just don't play enough videogames. It's possible that if you stick your head in a videogame all day, every day, you might start to be more accepting of the look of videogame CGI as "real". Maybe this is why the kids can crack on the rubber suits in Godzilla while accepting the "I rendered this on my iMac" CGI of Mega-Shark. It just doesn't work for me, though. Even at this stage of technology, I can count on one hand the number of CGI monsters that have been convincing to me. Most of the time, something in my brain just instantly calculates, "This doesn't move like a real animal, the shadows aren't right, it's not touching the surface, nope, that just isn't real", and from there on, I'm impossible to scare or even be moved to care much.  Rubber suits and stop motion models have a physical presence and charisma that CGI has yet to equal, IMO.