1993 / Director. Joe Dante.
Whenever I hear people criticising or ridiculing movies like SHARKNADO, MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS or PIRANHACONDA I point them to legendary filmmakers like William Castle and Roger Corman. Those men, amongst others, were pioneers in cinematic gimmickry. They made movies about mutants, aliens and a variety of other grotesquely cheesy creatures. The films were never actually “good” - they were fun. I think the wider modern audience has forgotten how to embrace the genre and with all the big budget, stylised and special FX-dominated cinema saturating the market, the schlocky B-movies are fobbed off. If you pack an audience in to see GI JOE and then pack one into see BIG ASS SPIDER I know which is going to have more fun. In 1993 director Joe Dante made MATINEE, a affectionately nostalgic look back at the classic B-movies of the 50s and 60s. Set during the height of the Cuban missile crisis, two young brothers from a Florida military base spend their weekends at a local movie-house consuming all of the latest creature features. When their filmmaking hero Lawrence Woolsey comes to town with his newest extravaganza, these two kids get themselves a free pass to witness the mayhem first hand. What ensues is a feast for the eyes and a beautifully captured and romantically reminiscent homage to a lost era of cinema. Joe Dante was a protege of Corman's and started his career making films like THE HOWLING, PIRANHA and went on to make further b-movies like GREMLINS, The 'BURBS and INNERSPACE. He belongs to a generation of kids who grew up on these films and his affection for the period is absolute. Many of Dante's regulars appear in the film – Dick Miller, Robert Picado, Kevin McCarthy – and the main cast includes John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty and Simon Fenton (there's even a glimpse of Naomi Watts before she found fame). The film is personal and educational in many ways. My kids are now aware of the Cuban missile crisis and have an entry point to the history and they've also been educated in the classic b-movie days before multiplexes, home video and digital download. One thing most kids will come away from MATINEE with is disappointment that they don't have anything like it these days... well actually, they DO! Enter The Asylum. Rather than dissing what they do, people should embrace it. What they do is nothing new but they are carrying on a legacy of cheap, schlocky and thrilling genre. We don't lap this stuff up for its artistic merits, we relish it's absurdity and audacity. The farther fetched, all the better. MATINEE is such a great little movie that celebrates this form of cinema and every time I watch it I wish I could have lived to experience those times – not the fear of war but the fear of latex movie monsters!