You know how they always say that movies are a reflection the times in which they are made? Well, that very idea got the wheels in my head turning when I was watching the Troma release of the film, “Tainted” the other night. “Tainted” is an independent vampire film that was made in about the mid-late 1990s by the film company, Am I Wrong Productions. It’s a film I’ve owned on DVD for quite sometime, but dug it out the other night when I wanted to watch something that had some “indie grit” as opposed to something mainstream that is over produced and over polished (I’m rarely in the mood for the latter these days). “Tainted” was also made long before Edward Cullen and Bella Swan sparkled their way onto our movie screens. Hence, we still get to see blood-thirsty vamps inspired by the late and great Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu. I’m still trying to figure out how we went from Stoker’s “Dracula” (which is partially inspired by Vlad Dracula the Impaler) and Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” to Twilight’s glittery pretty-boy, Mr. Cullen. But, I digress. That is a discussion I’ll have to reserve for another article.
Now is “Tainted” technically unflawed? No it isn’t. Like all films it has it’s pros and cons. But the pros and cons of this or any film is not what I’m getting into here (my film reviews are for things like that). What I will be getting into though is how watching this film really got me thinking about the time in which we are living and how drastically things have changed in just a short decade.
When one watches this film, the “indie grit” is obvious. In fact, it’s that gritty appearance that was the norm for many films (particularly horror films) of the 1970s, 1980s and early-mid 1990s. In fact, I will say that the “grindhouse grit” charm also was evident in many sci-fi and horror/thriller films (and even some mainstream films) from the 1920s all the way up into the mid 1990s. But oh how we’ve forgotten that. How spoiled we’ve become with the modern Hollywood cgi and over polished/produced appearance of many mainstream movies of the day. One of the biggest criticisms I see of independent films from today (on the IMDb boards mainly) and decades past is that of the “grit” appearance many have. Like I said, we’ve become very spoiled with over-polished production. I’m sure we’ve all seen the IMDb boards where individuals who like to fancy themselves as film connoisseurs degrade many independent films as having nothing more than a ‘basic video look.’ Then, I’ll go watch the film/s in question. Yes, I will say there are films that do appear to be the product someone who wanted their 15 minutes of fame, the ego inflation, and fantasy of being perceived as a “filmmaker.” Consequently, they slapped together a piece of crap with little to no effort behind it. But there are also many incidents where the film does not have a ‘basic video look’ at all. In fact, it’s actually very well done from the cinematography to the special effects to the acting to the editing. It just doesn’t have the overly polished appearance we’ve all gotten accustomed to and spoiled with recently in movies (and music, for that matter). Really, in my opinion, that’s something to think about.
Another aspect of the film that caught my attention is that the place of employment for the main characters is a video rental store. Ah yes, the video rental store. Let’s all have a moment of silence for what was once a popular childhood staple for those of us who were kids throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Some rental stores were brand name chains while others where independently owned. Either way, the opportunity to go out, browse and bring home a movie to watch was an option when looking for something to do during the week or on weekends. It was one of those things that we loved but took for granted. I’m certain I speak for many when I say that the idea of the video rental store being on the brink of extinction hardly crossed our minds as we went out to pick up a video for a ‘movie night.’ But here we are, a mere 10-30 years later constantly hearing about yet another video rental store in our area closing it’s doors. On the one hand, I can understand why many have turned to services such as Netflix. It allows one to rent movies from the privacy of his/her home. You never have to leave the house, nor is the worry about dealing with others present. Sounds great? Perhaps, as we all have our days where we would rather stay home and not have to deal with people outside of our safe haven. And, of course, there are those who physically cannot leave their homes. In situations such as those, a service like Netflix is a wonderful convenience. In many ways, new technologies aren’t such a bad thing. But can such conveniences be taken to the point to where they can be more of a hindrance than a good thing?
One thing that is apparent is that people nowadays are generally becoming more anti-social than ever before. As a result of this anti-social behavior, having less of a regard for others and their feelings take shape. I remember growing up in the 80s and 90s where everyone in the neighborhood knew everybody else. People would smile and say hello to one another as they passed on the street and many wouldn’t have to think twice about helping a neighbor (or even a stranger) in need. I’ve heard similar testaments from my parents, grandparents, and their friends as they tell stories about their times growing up. It is listening to such testaments and then watching the world today that you come to the realization of how things really have changed. Today, for the most part, we live in neighborhoods and apartment complexes where a person doesn’t even know what their next-door neighbor looks like. I’m also certain that we’ve all had the experience of passing someone on the street and seeing the other person’s eyes quickly darting away (as though the idea of interaction with a fellow human being were unimaginable). And helping a neighbor or stranger in need? We aren’t seeing too much of that these days either, especially when it comes to helping a stranger. Of course, many will claim the reason being for this is that there are ‘more crazies’ out there now than there were years ago. That may be true, but did you ever stop to think about what may be causing some of that? Think about this. If you have a culture that is becoming devoid of humans interacting with one another, how can one really know and understand what makes a person hurt? How can one truly experience genuine joy, pain, sadness, anger, and develop empathy for those emotions if there is no human interaction to glean those experiences from? When one is unable to empathize and relate with other humans beings, causing hurt and not thinking anything of it becomes quite easy. If you look at the history and psychology of many serial killers, this is a trait many of them share.
Now, what does a video rental store have to do with such things, you ask? Plenty. Many of the social scenes that have shaped our culture, economy, and provided an outlet for youths and adults over the last 50 years to learn and develop social and interaction skills are being phased out. In the years of the video rental store, one could go out with or meet up with friends and pick one or a few movies and have a movie night. Even flying solo and renting a movie still had its advantages. A person could still browse, be around other people, and have the option of asking a store employee for their opinion on a particular film. Again, it was about human interaction and it is that interaction that is being threatened. There is a forming disconnection between ourselves and the world in which we live.
I will clarify that I don’t have anything against new and modern technology. I love social networking as much as the next person and it is thanks to much of the newer technology that I and many other independent artists have been given a platform to create and promote our works in any way we choose. It has allowed me to make contacts I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to make. I also don’t have anything against iPhones, Netflix, or anything else like them. I am, however, left a little concerned when I see so much of the human race become dependent on these things as though they were a necessity like food. Every year, it appears that yet another type of social venue is being replaced with a new technological gadget giving one the ability of doing everything from renting movies to “experiencing” a night/dance club scene without even having to leave home and interact with flesh and blood humans. What if in 10 years, nightclubs were on the brink of extinction? What if in 20 years, there were no more nightclubs? It may seem far-fetched, but several clubs have already closed their doors. Each new ‘dance party’ video game (can we even call them video games anymore?) is one step closer to being a virtual reality nightclub scene. Remember, those of us who grew up with a video rental store on practically every street corner probably (at the time) thought they would be around forever. Again, why go to the nightclub when you can bring that experience into your home? You wouldn’t even have to interact with real people…Yes, I got all this just from watching an independent film of the 1990s. Like I stated in my introduction, movies are often a reflection of the times in which they were created.
“Tainted” was released in 1998, which really wasn’t all that long ago. In watching it, it is evident of the times that have changed. In little over a decade, we’ve become spoiled with an abundance of over-produced entertainment and technology that is supposedly making life easier for everyone. But even a so-called easier life comes with a price. I feel that there really needs to be more of a balance when it comes to how dependent we are on new technology. There are dangers in being too dependent.
Last month, I reviewed the short documentary, “A Cult Influence.” One thing that was mentioned in the documentary is a new crop of independent rental stores arising out from the ash. Not only that, but there is still a demand for this amongst the underground consumers. I think this is fantastic and it gives me great hope that maybe all is not lost. So this New Years, let’s make it a resolution to be more interactive with one another. Support a local video store (a small business), rent a movie that may be less than typical of what you may normally choose. Experience something new and different. And finally, if you see someone walking up to pass you on the street, smile and greet them. If they get freaked out and run away, so what? They’re the one with the problems, not you.
“Tainted” is available on DVD at the Troma store. Two other films are also on the DVD: https://www.tromashop.com/troma-triple-b-header-2-tainted-dvd