Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Return of Joe Bob

So as some of you may know, streaming channel Shudder brought back Joe Bob Briggs for a 24 hour marathon of new movie hosting for Friday the 13th.  So far, this has pretty much been a technical disaster... Joe Bob has been great fun when you could catch him playing, but for a lot of folks, the majority of the time has been spent staring at the loading screen as Shudder's drastically overloaded servers screamed and died, one by one.

Shudder's computer issues aren't what spurred me to post, though - I'm a night owl by nature and was up late last night and thus able to enjoy watching his presentation of 80's drive-in classic The Prowler, followed by Sorority Babes in the Slime Bowl-a-rama (Yes, it's a real movie, and a fun one at that).  Shudder chose to broadcast this Joe Bob marathon live, which was an experience.  A lot of people on their boards are complaining that it should be added to the Shudder video library for on-demand streaming, and yet...

It's been a long time since I experienced the feel of a late night movie playing in real time. 

And I'd forgotten how much fun it was.

With instant streaming, ANY movie, no matter how great, is your plaything.  "Ehh, I'll watch a few minutes of this and see if it keeps my interest", you think, as you browse a library of five million movies.  On-demand streaming elevates you, the viewer, above every movie.  It's just something available at your whim.  Broadcast showings, however, are another story, and suddenly I miss them.  The movie isn't your toy, it's ON, right now, and if you want to see it you have to respect its unmutable sense of timing.  There's no pausing to go to the bathroom or get another snack, unless you have commercial breaks and that's what they were for. 

When I dropped in on the showing of The Prowler, I suddenly found myself...

... in the middle of the movie.  Remember that?  It was a rare thing to catch a full movie from opening credits to end titles.  Usually you came in somewhere in the middle, thought, "Hey, this looks interesting", and had to figure out what the hell was going on from there.

... TENSE.  Which was a funny thing, because hardly any movies scare me anymore, and horror movies are particularly impacted by the "Pause any time, take a break" technology.  To work their best, they require a certain level of inescapable immersion, and only cinema and broadcast TV offer that.  You can't pause, you can't go get cookies, you're just THERE - glued to the creepy inside of the old dark house along with the protagonists as they wander slowly from room to room.  If you can pause, it's boring.  If you can't pause... it's immersion.  The Prowler isn't by any stretch a scary movie, but I was more into the climax than I've been in any other horror flicks for some time, because of that sheer "I can't look away or I'll miss something" feeling.

... Accepting.  You know you can't stay up to see all of the next movie.  Remember that?  Some movies you only knew by their first 15 minutes, because they came on late and you really wanted to watch them but there was just no way, so you watched the first fifteen minutes and then it was gone... into the ether, lost just like all the other movies that aired before the days of video stores and on-demand viewing.  

... Accompanied.  Face it, horror hosts were great just because they talked to you.  Those of us up watching monster movies at 3am are usually doing so alone - the kids are in bed, the wife is in bed, or the parents have gone to bed.  Either way, it's you and a dark room and a quiet house and a guy or gal on TV, introducing the movie and telling you some trivia about it and giving you the sense that he's right there with you, watching and enjoying.  Streaming isn't the same, even when you stream hosted movies - the immediacy just isn't there. 

... You can't pick the movie.  Maybe it'll be good, maybe not.  With streaming, you filter everything but the best.  Good and bad cease to have meaning.  There's no rush, no thrill of finding out that the next flick coming on is Phantasm instead of Leprechaun 5. Whatever's coming on, you're watching it, but greatness is rare and suddenly fully appreciated again.

Maybe it'll go somewhere, this "broadcast non-pausable TV" concept.  I know that I certainly enjoyed the ride.

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