Three Random Tips For Writing Comedy Horror

Well, I thought that I’d talk about the comedy horror genre today – this is mostly because, at the time of writing, I’ve been dabbling with it a bit. So, I thought that I’d offer a few random tips for writing in this awesome genre 🙂

1) The two genres are more similar than you think: One of the reasons why comedy horror is such an interesting genre is because although horror and comedy might seem like completely opposite things, they’re a lot more similar than you think.

They both involve evoking strong emotions in the reader, they both involve suspense (eg: the set-up to a joke, or the ominous silence before something horrible happens), they both involve a certain amount of larger-than-life drama, they both rely on contrasting different things for dramatic effect, they both rely on more subtle moments (whether amusing or ominous) to keep the reader’s interest between more spectacular moments etc…

In essence, many of the underlying techniques used in the horror genre can be used for comedy, and vice versa. So, if you know a bit about one genre then it isn’t too difficult to add elements of the other genre to it. Still, it is worth looking at things in both genres in order to get a sense of how each one does things differently.

2) Character reactions: If you want to give a scene of horror more of a comedic tone, one way to do this is through how the characters react to the events of your story.

In a traditional horror story, the horrific scenes are horrific because of the way that the characters react to them. It doesn’t matter how vile the monster is, how grisly a description is or how unsettling the ghosts are… it isn’t scary until the characters react to it. In a typical horror story, they might react with mute shock, they might scream, they might try to fight for their lives or they might flee in abject terror. This reaction of horror is one of the things that makes horror stories horror stories.

So, to add some comedy to your horror story, just have your characters react in an unexpected or mildly “unrealistic” way. For example, if a traditional Dracula-style vampire suddenly lurches from the shadows and a character finds this amusing or makes a sarcastic remark about Halloween costumes, then this makes the audience consider how silly a 19th century vampire appearing in the present day would be.

3) Gruesomeness: You can add comedy to scenes of gory horror in a number of different ways.

The first is to focus more on the horrific events (eg: a physical description of what is happening) that are happening rather than on their gory consequence (eg: injuries, blood etc..). This allows you to add macabre slapstick comedy and/or farce to your story without grossing your audience out too much. So, this approach is better for slightly “lighter” or “sillier” comedy stories.

A slightly more sophisticated approach than this is to only include gore in moments where it would be amusing for it to appear. For example, the scene in the classic sci-fi horror movie “Alien” where the alien creature bursts out of a character’s chest is a gruesome, horrific scene. If it was bloodless, it wouldn’t have the same dramatic impact. So, if you were to write a scene in a comedy horror story that was inspired by this one, you might start by having a character complain of indigestion before including a gory scene of something exploding out of their chest.

The other approach is to go completely over-the-top with your gory descriptions, but to make the surrounding descriptions comedic through the use of amusing metaphors, similes and other such things. After all, there are a well-known set of metaphors and terms that “serious” horror writers use to describe gruesome moments, so by using completely different and/or slightly absurd ones, you can add some macabre comedy to these scenes.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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“Pop Up” By C. A. Brown (Short Story)

Dan stared at the towering ossuary, a vast structure of jumbled bones reaching towards the slate sky like the grasping hands of a thousand undead. The only thing he could think to say was: ‘How the bloody hell did this get planning permission?’

Beside him, Tina laughed: ‘It’s a pop-up, it’ll probably be gone in a couple of weeks. Makes a change from the usual.’ She gestured at the sad-looking rows of shuttered shops surrounding it like gravel around a grave.

‘Yeah, but what is it supposed to be? I mean, you’d think there would be a sign or something.’

‘It’s probably a restaurant. They always are. Best case scenario, it’s an ironic homage to Halloween-themed breakfast cereals from the ’80s. Worst case scenario, it’s something political or, even worse, it’s a work of conceptual art.’ Tina raised her phone and took a photo.

‘I don’t know how they expect anyone to visit it. It isn’t like they’ve rolled out the welcome mat.’ Dan put on a silly voice: ‘Welcome, welcome to the house of bones. All the fun of the graveyard in one easy-to-reach location.

The skies darkened. Tina laughed. She tapped her phone a couple of times: ‘Maybe it’s got a website?’ She tapped a few more times and raised an eyebrow: ‘Apparently not.’

Quelle surprise. It looks like it hasn’t even discovered the telegraph, let alone the internet.’

‘No, it’s modern. It’s some underground thing that’s probably shared by word of mouth. On social media, of course. Do people have actual conversations any more?’

‘Aren’t we?’

Tina shook her head: ‘This is more of a discussion than a conversation, I think.’

Amongst the matchstick sculpture of femurs, tibias and scapulas, a single skull stared down at them. Slowly, its hollow sockets began to glow bright orange. Two rows of weathered teeth chattered eagerly, the noise skittering through the air like crickets in a campsite.

Tina’s laughter howled along the deserted street. Dan was about to make a sarcastic comment when the air rumbled. The sky flashed like a selfie and then the rain started to pour. The kind of heavy, opaque rain that Hollywood film-makers like to think that they invented. Gasping, Tina gestured towards the ossuary’s yawning mouth: ‘Come on, let’s get inside!’

As another lightning flash stabbed the sky, Dan pointed his thumb over his shoulder: ‘The bus shelter is closer.’

‘Fair enough.’ Tina said. They ran towards it. According to the parts of the timetable that poked out from behind the burnt and graffiti-stained glass, the 41 bus would arrive in five minutes. More like ten, Dan thought.

Tina huddled close to Dan on the cold plastic bench. Behind the sheets of rain, the other side of the road wasn’t even visible. Then, a pair of lights appeared in the distance. Tina smiled. It’s on time! For half a second, she thought about getting her phone out and documenting this unprecedented occurrence.

The lights got closer. It was only when they were the size of footballs that something began to feel wrong. Neither Dan nor Tina could place what it was. Perhaps it was because the light was a subtly different hue than standard bus headlights? Perhaps the two orbs were a centimetre off from their remembered models of what a bus looked like? They didn’t know. Both of them just stared.

As the lights got closer, they separated. A silhouette appeared against the rain, like a preliminary sketch. With slopping footsteps, the skeleton stepped out of the rain. It raised a large iron lantern and fixed two hollow sockets on the dumbfounded couple.

Dan regained the power of speech: ‘Nice cos…’ His voice broke off as he realised that the skeleton’s neck was too thin to be a costume. Tina gasped.

Seconds later, another lantern-bearing skeleton appeared. In a voice like teeth on a blackboard, it said: ‘Sorry folks, we don’t usually do outreach but the roof is leaking. Any donations will be very much appreciated.’

The other one rattled its head: ‘Yeah, we’re already on our final warning with the health and safety people. Give us a hand. Or maybe a leg?’

Dan laughed and fumbled for his wallet. The skeletons shook their heads. Tina’s eyes widened. They didn’t want money, they wanted…

But, before she could scream, the skeletons said: ‘We’ve got wi-fi and free coffee. Artisanal cupcakes too.’

Who could argue with that?

Three Basic Tips For Writing Vampire-Themed Comedy

Well, at the time of writing, I’m still busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic (which will begin tomorrow evening). Since it will be a comedic vampire-themed comic, I thought that I’d talk about how to write this genre of comedy.

So, here are a few basic tips for writing vampire-themed comedy. This article will contain mild SPOILERS for my upcoming comic though.

1) Do your research: Generally speaking, the more things you see, play or read in the vampire genre, the better. If you’re familiar with the genre, then working out ways to parody and just generally have fun with it will become considerably easier. This will also help you to spot common themes in the genre and to see how different people interpret the genre, which can help you to find your own “take” on the genre.

I mean, one of the initial inspirations for my comic was the fact that I’d been going through a phase of replaying “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” almost obsessively a few weeks earlier. Although this game has a lot of mythology surrounding vampirism, it’s basically a game about a character who suddenly becomes a vampire and has to deal with the complex politics etc.. of vampire society (whilst also doing more typical computer game stuff too).

Although the game is a masterpiece, one thing that I felt that the game fell slightly short on was showing how the player character reacts emotionally to becoming a vampire. So, when making my Halloween comic, I thought that it would be funny to show characters reacting in wildly different ways when they discover that they’ve become vampires.

Plus, having at least a vague understanding of the genre allows you to include all sorts of small references and parodies too. For example, in one scene in my Halloween comic, a character refers to vampires as members of “the un-dead”. Although this phrasing might sound a bit strange, it’s actually a reference to one of Bram Stoker’s working titles for “Dracula”.

Likewise, look at other comedy horror genres too. For example, some great examples of how to make horror hilarious can be found in the zombie-comedy genre. So, don’t restrict yourself to just the vampire genre.

2) Practicality and rules: Simply put, one of the best ways to come up with vampire-themed comedy is just to think about the tropes and conventions of the genre in more practical ways. Needless to say, this can be a very useful source of slapstick comedy and/or farce.

In addition to this, try to play around with the “rules” of the genre too. After all, most things in the vampire genre either make a point of following or ignoring various “rules” (eg: related to garlic, sunlight, crosses, stakes, bats, blood etc..). So, a lot of comedy can be found by playing about with these rules – either proving or disproving them in amusing ways, or showing your characters discussing them.

Or, if you’re feeling bold, try to invent some new “rules” for the vampires in your story or comic to follow. Although this sort of thing tends to be done more often in the horror genre than in the comedy genre, it certainly has the potential for comedy.

3) Non-gothic vampires: Simply put, the vampire genre is often heavily associated with the goth subculture. Although this can be useful for goth-themed humour, it can also be amusing to try to link the vampire genre to other subcultures too or to show non-gothic vampires.

The heavy metal genre is a brilliant example of this. Although vampire-themed gothic rock songs are a lot more common, there’s certainly vampire-themed heavy metal out there. Some examples include songs like “We Drink Your Blood” by Powerwolf and “Love Bites” By Judas Priest.

Needless to say, heavy metal interpretations of the genre generally focus more on hedonism, gruesome horror, vampires as a type of monster etc..- in contrast to more atmospheric, philosophical and character-based gothic interpretations of the genre.

So, say, contrasting a gothic interpretation of the vampire genre with a more “heavy metal” interpretation of it can be a great source of comedy. In fact, contrasting a gothic interpretation of the genre with pretty much anything else can be a great source of comedy.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Two Very Basic Tips For Writing “Film Noir” Comedy

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this topic before, but I thought that I’d talk about writing film noir comedy today. This is one of my favourite genres and it was one that I was reminded of recently after I started playing an absolutely hilarious old sci-fi film noir computer game from 1994 called “Under A Killing Moon”.

This is a screenshot from “Under A Killing Moon” (1994), containing an example of the game’s comedic dialogue.

Although I’m not sure if I’ll review this game [Edit: Unfortunately not, due to getting distracted by another game], it’s something in a pretty rare genre. I mean, the only other examples of comedic film noir-style stuff I can think of are a brilliantly unique and absolutely hilarious novel called “Crooked Little Vein” by Warren Ellis, possibly Malcolm Pryce’s “Aberystwyth” books (Surprisingly, although I actually lived in Aberystwyth for several years, I still haven’t read these books), Andrew Hussie’s “Problem Sleuth” webcomic and maybe a few episodes of various TV shows.

Still, having seen a few things in the genre (and having attempted to make several film noir-themed comic updates for my occasional webcomic over the years), I can probably offer a couple of very basic tips:

1) Observational humour: A lot of the best moments in the “film noir” comedy genre come from sarcastic descriptions of run-down, grim, squalid or otherwise disgusting locations. This type of humour can also come from descriptions of unusual objects, and the history behind them.

In short, film noir comedy works best when it is observational. The observations have to be short and pithy. They also either have to show the detective talking about something strange in an unsurprised matter-of-fact way, or show the detective giving an elaborate history of something trivial.

Here’s an example from Warren Ellis’ “Crooked Little Vein”: ‘My suit and shirt were piled on the plastic chair I use for clients. I stole it from a twenty-four-hour diner off Union Square, back in my professional drinking days.

Not only does this quote include a description of something intriguingly unusual, like using a chair for storing clothes (personally, I find that a sofa works much better for this though) – but the hilarious story about the narrator’s professional drinking days is explained quickly and matter-of-factly. This sentence is designed to leave all of the comedy to the audience’s imaginations.

Although I won’t include any quotes of this, another inventive thing that Warren Ellis’ “Crooked Little Vein” does is to combine matter-of-fact descriptions with “shock value” humour. Often, something incredibly bizarre, obscene, depraved and/or transgressive will happen – and the narrator will just describe it in a fairly neutral way. By contrasting the narrator’s understated and unfazed reactions with shocking events, Ellis is able to create huge amounts of comedic irony.

2) Characters: Generally speaking, “film noir” comedy comes from the characters. Typically, the detective who is narrating the story should be somewhat down on their luck – with the humour coming from their endearingly crappy life.

The detective should be cynical and world-weary, but not too bitter or depressed. They should be in the gutter, looking at the stars – if only to comment sarcastically about how the light pollution from the nearby motorway is blocking most of them out.

Likewise, a huge part of film noir comedy comes from the detective’s conversations with other characters. These characters should be slightly eccentric in some subtle way or another. Likewise, the dialogue should contain lots of small quick moments of understated humour, wit and cynicism rather than more elaborate jokes.

Here’s a good example from “Under A Killing Moon”:

This screenshot from “Under A Killing Moon” (1994) shows the police chief talking to Tex Murphy, the game’s private detective.

Although the police chief is clearly insulting Tex, this is done in a darkly comedic way (eg: “I figured you’d be dead by now”) and with a level of boldness that says a lot about the relationship between the two characters. Whilst this moment isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, the irreverence of it makes the conversation a lot more amusing.

But, in conclusion, the general rule with film noir comedy is that lots of smaller subtle moments of humour are usually better than a few more elaborate jokes.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Review: “How To Rob A Bank” (Film)

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last reviewed a film. So, I thought that I’d check out a comedic heist movie from 2007 called “How To Rob A Bank (…And Tips To Actually Get Away With It)“.

This was mostly because I was in the mood for something a bit more light-hearted after spending a while playing “Silent Hill 3“. And, after looking for second-hand DVDs online, I ended up finding this one.

So, let’s take a look at “How To Rob A Bank”. Needless to say, this review may contain some mild SPOILERS.

I don’t know why the cover art shows Nick Stahl holding a pistol. He’s completely unarmed for the whole film!

This film begins with a guy called Jinx (played by Nick Stahl) who is inside a locked bank vault with a hostage called Jessica (played by Erika Christensen). However, as soon as they begin talking, it quickly becomes apparent that Jessica is actually one of the bank robbers and Jinx is just a guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yes, surprisingly, the sketchy-looking guy is actually the innocent bystander here.

Outside the vault, an armed bank robber called Simon (played by Gavin Rossdale) is absolutely furious about the fact that he can’t get into the vault. So, he calls Jessica… but Jinx picks up the phone instead. Needless to say, the two have quite a laugh about this bizarre misunderstanding and quickly become the best of friends:

Did I say “the best of friends”? I meant to say “bitter enemies”.

Of course, whilst all of this is going on, the police have finally shown up – led by Officer DeGepse (played by Terry Crews) who ends up talking to Jinx via mobile phone. Whilst all of this is going on, Jessica manages to trick DeGepse into thinking that she’s another hostage.

Reluctantly, Jinx goes along with it, before giving DeGepse Simon’s phone number. Simon is understandably annoyed that the cops have got his phone number, but DeGepse refuses to disclose who gave it to him (despite Simon guessing correctly rather quickly). But, then Jinx accidentally starts a conference call…

And, even more amusingly, Jinx tricks Simon into apologising to DeGepse, then tricks DeGepse into accepting the apology.

Needless to say, they’re all in a bit of a pickle….

One of the very first things that I will say about this film is that it isn’t really your typical Hollywood movie. In fact, it’s actually a low-mid budget independent film… and it is all the better for it!

Instead of flashy action sequences, the film focuses a lot more on dialogue, humour and clever plotting. Seriously, a good portion of the film is set within just one room and quite a bit of the film consists of people phoning each other… and it still manages to be a really interesting, and funny, film.

Unlike many heist movies, this one doesn’t focus that much on the elaborate (and mildly confusing) plot behind the heist but, instead, it begins “in medias res” and focuses more on Jinx and Jessica trying to figure out a sneaky way to get past both the other bank robbers and the cops. Although this film certainly contains a bit of suspense, it’s more of a clever comedy film than a thriller movie.

Most of the film consists of scenes like this… and it’s still a surprisingly good film!

And, yes, this film is funny. Although there are only a few “laugh out loud” moments, a lot of this film is filled with subtle humour, ironic humour and irreverent humour.

The bulk of the film’s humour comes from the surprisingly well-written dialogue (and the interactions between the characters in general) and the farcical premise of the film. There’s also a little bit of social satire, some amusing cutaway/flashback moments, some random 80s pop music references and a bit of slapstick comedy in order to keep the humour slightly varied.

For example, one of Simon’s henchmen has a malfunctioning pistol that keeps jamming throughout the film.

Although the film is a comedy, it still tries to squeeze in some endearingly cynical “Fight Club“-esque anti-corporation politics too. The most notable example of this being that the events of the film are set into motion because Jinx’s greedy bank has placed a surcharge on all ATM transactions, which means that he has to enter the bank to withdraw his last $20. And, yes, there are a couple of amusingly cynical speeches about this in the film.

One thing that helps to keep this film focused and interesting is the lean and efficient 78 minute running time. Unlike many Hollywood films, this film actually seems to have an editor and it is all the better for it. Although the film’s pacing sags a little during a couple of scenes, the compact running time helps to ensure that the story keeps moving and the audience remains interested.

Another cool thing about this film is that it was made in the pre-smartphone era. So, all of the mobile phones in this film are good old-fashioned flip phones (which used to be really cool 10-20 years ago) and they’re actually used as phones too. There’s no mobile internet, no “apps” or any of that nonsense. Seriously, there isn’t even any texting. There’s just three groups of people talking to each other on the phone. This helps to keep the film compellingly focused. Seriously, this film just wouldn’t work if the characters were using modern smartphones.

Surprisingly, the film’s flip-phones are also camera phones, but this feature thankfully isn’t used (mostly since some of the clever ruses in the film rely on the absence of cameras).

Another interesting thing about this film is how it handles moral ambiguity. Jinx is originally an innocent bystander, but he soon realises that joining in with the heist might help him get out of the bank. Likewise, although Jessica is initially a rather bitter and villainous character, she ends up being something of a “good criminal” after she realises that she’s in the same situation as Jinx.

So, yes, there’s actual character development in this film.

Likewise, Jessica’s mysterious boss – Nick – also seems to be something of a reluctantly “good” criminal as the film progresses.

Amusingly both DeGepse and Simon are both weary and cynical characters. In a way, they are literally polar opposites of each other, yet also have a lot in common in their amusingly frustrated attitudes towards the situation.

Seriously, I cannot praise the characters in this film enough! Although there isn’t a huge amount of deep characterisation, the characters come across as being somewhat more “realistic” than the characters in an average Hollywood movie. Likewise, a lot of what makes this film so good is the dynamics and interactions between the characters.

Of course, most of those interactions take place over a phone line – but they’re still amusing and/or compelling.

In terms of lighting, set design and special effects, this film is a little on the minimalist side. The bank vault is a fairly featureless white room and the bank just looks like an old American bank. Although, I noticed something eerily surprising about one of the film’s props…

OMG! I’ve just realised that the computer monitor for the bank’s CCTV is exactly the same type of monitor as the monitor on the computer I’m typing this review on!

The film has very few special effects and, aside from some clunky CGI renderings of the vault door mechanism, the film’s few practical effects work reasonably well. Likewise, although the lighting in this film is mostly fairly “ordinary”, there are a couple of moments of beautifully gloomy lighting here.

Amusingly, some cheaper mobile phones that were around in the mid-late 2000s actually had a LED torch feature – so, you didn’t have to use the screen as a torch.

Musically speaking, most of the film’s soundtrack isn’t very memorable. However, the ending credits are graced with a Duran Duran song which, when you’ve seen the film, will make a lot more sense.

All in all, this is a funny heist movie which relies more on well-written dialogue, well-written characters and clever plotting than on fast-paced action in order to remain compelling. It’s very different from the average Hollywood movie and is really interesting as a result.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Review: “Mallrats” (Film)

Well, for the next film in my series of 1990s film reviews, I thought that I’d take a look at a Kevin Smith film from 1995 called “Mallrats”. I’m genuinely surprised that it has taken me this long to watch this film.

Seriously, despite buying a second-hand DVD of this film from a market stall about eight years ago, I only eventually got round to watching it for the first time shortly before I wrote this review.

So, this review has been a long time in the making. And, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “Mallrats”:

“Mallrats” is a stoner/slacker-themed romantic comedy that focuses on two adorable slackers called Brodie and TS Quint, whose girlfriends (Rene and Brandi) break up with them on the same morning.

It really doesn’t seem to be their day.

Slightly disappointed by this turn of events, they decide to distract themselves by visiting their local shopping centre.

Needless to say, it isn’t long before they begin to hatch a convoluted and hilariously calamity-stricken plan (with the help of their friends Jay and Silent Bob) to win back the love of Rene and Brandi…..

Or, rather, a number of hilarious calamity-stricken plans…

I’m not doing the film justice with this short plot summary, but “Mallrats” is one of those films that is surprisingly difficult to describe. There are so many small story arcs, running jokes, clever references, sub-plots and other such things that a full summary of this complex comedy would probably guzzle up most of the review. Yet, despite this level of complexity, Mallrats is still a lean and streamlined 91-94 minutes in length. Now, this is good film-making!

As the title of the film suggests, most of the events of “Mallrats” take place within a large shopping centre and this helps to lend the film’s multitude of jokes and sub-plots a real sense of narrative focus that prevents the film from becoming chaotic or confusing. This is one of the most complex comedies that I’ve seen in a while – and it works really well, especially since many of the film’s sub-plots ended up being connected to each other in various ways.

In addition to lots of amusing sub-plots (such as one involving a notorious security guard called LaFours, one about a guy staring at a “Magic Eye” picture etc..) this comedic complexity is also a central part of the film’s dialogue too.

And, yes, the running joke about the “Magic Eye” picture is absolutely brilliant!

Although the comedy in this film includes a mixture of farce, pop culture references, gross-out humour/ “edgy” humour, character-based humour and slapstick comedy, the bulk of the film’s comedy comes from the gloriously irreverent and surprisingly complex rapid-fire dialogue.

Oh, and immature humour too. I totally forgot about that.

Kevin Smith’s films often focus heavily on good writing and “Mallrats” is no exception. Not only is the dialogue filled with lots of amusing comments, sarcasm and funny insults but there are also a fair number of short descriptions of amusing events that occurred outside the events of the film too. This occasional use of narrative dialogue also allows a film that is (mostly) set in a single location to feel a lot more varied and complex.

Seriously, this is one of those films where the scenes that just show the characters sitting around and talking can sometimes be some of the best scenes in the film.

The eccentric characters in this film are absolutely brilliant too – in addition to a few comedic background characters, the film mostly focuses on the friendship between TS Quint and Brodie, who are nice – but somewhat immature – “slacker” characters. They are contrasted with Rene and Brandi, who tend to be slightly more sarcastic and “realistic” characters.

But, the stand-out characters are Jay and Silent Bob, two stoners who turn up in many of Kevin Smith’s films (probably because Silent Bob is played by none other than Smith himself).

Not only do these characters get up to all sorts of hilarious mischief, but the version of these two characters in “Mallrats” is much better than the versions of them that appeared in “Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back” (since Jay isn’t homophobic, since both characters have better taste in music etc..). Plus, since they aren’t the main characters here, their personalities tend to stand out a bit more when contrasted with the other characters.

Well, it wouldn’t be a Kevin Smith movie without these guys.

Stylistically, this film is brilliant! Not only does it open with a really cool comic book style opening credits montage (set to some wonderfully ’90s punk music), but the set design and general style of the film treads a very careful line between “realistic” and “highly stylised”. This goes really well with the film’s eccentric story and comics-related theme.

Seriously, this opening montage is AMAZING 🙂

And, yes, despite being made in 1995, this film feels oddly “modern” (even down to the extended cameo by Stan Lee) in some parts due to the main characters’ obsession with *ugh* superhero comics. Even so, these elements of the film are mostly played for irreverent laughs rather than taken seriously. So, even if – like me- you aren’t a fan of superhero comics, then these elements of the film are still enjoyable to watch.

Seriously, the film is as much a parody of superhero comics as it is a homage to them.

But, despite these modern elements, this film is still gloriously “90s” in so many ways.

Whether it’s the awesome punk music (seriously, I love 90s punk music 🙂), the focus on “edgy” humour, the costume and set design or even just the general “atmosphere” of the film, this film is very much a piece of 1990s nostalgia 🙂

For example, the set design, costume design and lighting here are about as “1990s” as you can get!

In terms of the special effects, set design and lighting, this film is surprisingly good. Since it’s a low-mid budget comedy movie from over two decades ago, the special effects are a little on the basic side of things but they mostly work fairly well (with the only exception being a very slight jump in the footage when two characters use a motorised grappling hook).

Likewise, the shopping centre that the film is set in not only features some really cool lighting and set design, but also the occasional amusing background detail too. Although one of these background details (the carpet shop’s name) hasn’t aged well and seems a bit awkward when seen today – many of the background details are timelessly comedic:

Like this one.

*Sigh* I miss the days when lighting like THIS was pretty much mandatory in films.

Likewise, this scene set at Brodie’s house features some really cool lighting (and a “Tremors” poster 🙂 )

Musically, this film is really good – with lots of awesome 1990s punk music playing in the background during a few scenes. Although I didn’t recognise any of the punk music, it certainly sounded like the kind of thing that I’d have probably considered to be even cooler if I’d watched this film when I was younger.

All in all, despite it’s immature and “edgy” exterior, “Mallrats” is actually a surprisingly complex and intelligently-made comedy film. Not only will this film make you laugh out loud, but you’ll be genuinely surprised at how many story threads, running jokes and comedic characters Kevin Smith manages to cram into just 91-94 minutes.

Although a few elements of the film’s humour are a bit dated, “Mallrats” still stands up really well as a comedy film to this day. Seriously, I wish modern Hollywood was as intelligent and creative as it often used to be in the 90s.

If I had to give this film a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

Review: “Blue Streak (Film)”

Well, the next film in what seems to be turning into a series of 1990s film reviews is a comedic heist/detective thriller movie from 1999 called “Blue Streak”.

Although I’d vaguely heard of this film quite a few years ago, I hadn’t seen it before. But, since it sounded interesting and was going fairly cheap second-hand, I decided to check it out.

So, let’s take a look at “Blue Streak”. Needless to say, this review will contain SPOILERS.

And, yes, this is a DVD from the days when film studios added small print to DVD covers about the BBFC increasing the age rating due to the special features.

“Blue Streak” begins with an elite jewel thief called Logan (played by Martin Lawrence) pulling off a thrilling high-tech heist in a skyscraper in Los Angeles. Things start out fairly well for Logan and his accomplices, and he is soon able to purloin a rather impressive diamond.

A daring late-night heist in a heavily-guarded building in the middle of a large city? What could possibly go wrong?

However, thanks to a betrayal by one of his accomplices and a couple of unfortunate coincidences, the police are soon alerted. On the run from the law and threatened by his traitorous accomplice, Logan manages to get to a nearby building site and hide in an air vent. But, he realises that it’s only a matter of time before the cops find him. So, he conceals the diamond in the vent and hands himself in.

Two years later, Logan is released from prison and decides to go back to the building site to pick up his diamond. However, there’s just one problem…

The building is now a police station.

After a failed attempt at sneaking into the station, Logan quickly realises that the only way that he’s going to get hold of the diamond is to impersonate a detective. However, although he just planned to sneak in and grab the diamond, his disguise is perhaps a little bit too good – since he quickly gets assigned a partner and sent out to investigate crimes. Needless to say, hilarity ensues…

Even more amusingly, Logan is also told to teach his inexperienced new partner how to be a detective.

One of the first things that I will say about “Blue Streak” is that, like a couple of the films from the 1990s I’ve reviewed recently, it is just fun to watch.

Not only does it work really well as a comedy film, but it also works fairly well as a mildly suspenseful light-hearted thriller film too (since Logan’s former accomplice is after him, since Logan gets involved in a major case and since Logan still also has to find that pesky diamond too).

The premise of this film is also fairly clever too. This certainly isn’t an ordinary detective movie! Not to mention that the fact that Logan is somewhat out of his depth also easily allows for a good mixture of comedy, action and suspense too.

For example, in one scene Logan accidentally ends up in the middle of an armed robbery at a cornershop. Having very little police experience, he hides behind a row of shelves whilst the robber and the shopkeeper have a dramatic shootout. Outside the shop, Logan’s new partner rigidly follows police procedure to the letter.

And, yes, this part of the scene is played in a hilariously stuffy and serious way.

By a slight twist of fate, Logan then apprehends the robber… only to discover that he is none other than his old friend (and accomplice) Tulley, who is somewhat surprised to see him. Logan then tries to help Tulley escape before his partner makes a dramatic entrance.

However, Tulley ends up fleeing down a one-way alleyway and ends up hiding behind a dumpster whilst the police gather at the other end of the alleyway. Disregarding procedure, Logan strides down the alleyway (as the other cops look on in awe) to “confront” Tulley. Of course, the two of them then end up having an absolutely hilarious argument with each other.

So, yes, the premise of the film allows for an enjoyable mixture of comedy, action and suspense.

Needless to say – the comedy elements of this film are absolutely brilliant, with a lot of the best comedy in the film coming from both Martin Lawrence and Dave Chappelle’s hilariously funny performances as Logan and Tulley. This is especially true in scenes where Logan and Tulley end up arguing with each other.

Interestingly, in the special features on the DVD, the makers of this film point out that the film ended up containing a lot more “Logan & Tulley”-based scenes than originally planned, purely because these scenes are so hilarious.

Not only is this film filled with all sorts of amusingly irreverent, ironic and informal dialogue but, like a lot of good comedies, the film also includes a variety of different types of humour.

In addition to the comedic dialogue, there’s also character-based humour, slapstick comedy, “double act“- based humour, farce, parody and satire too. Although the humour in this film isn’t always the most sophisticated thing in the world, it is rarely predictable and it works really well.

The film’s action/thriller scenes are also fairly well-handled too. Unlike in some action-comedy films I’ve seen, the emphasis remains firmly on the comedy. Whilst the film might contain a few dramatic gunfights and suspenseful scenes, these are often used as a basis for amusing dialogue or slapstick comedy rather than just as an excuse for a spectacular gunfight or car chase. Even so, the action in some later scenes of the film is handled in a mildly more “serious” way.

It’s a stand-off, in Mexico. Now, if only there was some quick and pithy way to describe this unusual situation….

The set design, special effects and lighting design in this film are all reasonably good too. Thanks to the focus on practical effects and the relatively small number of action scenes in the film, the special effects are pretty much “timeless”.

Likewise, the film’s locations all look reasonably ok and, best of all, the film also contains some really cool lighting in a few scenes too. However, most of the lighting in this film is fairly “realistic” and “modern” when compared to the cool high-contrast lighting in a lot of other films from this decade. Still, there’s a little bit of classic 1990s-style high-contrast lighting in this film (especially in the earlier scenes).

Seriously, more of the film should have included lighting like this!

Not to mention that lighting and visual style during the opening credits looks really amazing too 🙂

In terms of the music, the most memorable music in the film consists of a couple of rap songs. Interestingly, the DVD’s special features also include a few music videos too although, at the time of writing, I haven’t got round to watching these yet.

All in all, “Blue Streak” is a fun, funny, feel-good film. Not only is this film a really good comedy, but the crime/thriller elements of it also work reasonably well too. Yes, it isn’t a “serious” thriller movie or anything like that, but it still contains some enjoyably light-hearted action and suspense.

Plus, at a lean and streamlined 90 minutes in length, the film moves along at a reasonable pace too. Seriously, if you want something to cheer you up if you’re in a slightly gloomy mood (like I was when I started watching it), then you can do a lot worse than this film.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.