Saturday, 17 October 2015
A review of Wes Craven and Richard Rothstein's Invitation to Hell and a little bit about YouTube and TV movies.
So what is a TV movie? A TV movie is a feature-length motion picture that is produced for, and originally distributed by a television network, really they are just made to fill a slice of TV time in contrast to theatrical films, which are made explicitly for initial showing in movie theatres.
The term "TV movie" was coined in the United States in the early 1960's, the main idea was to try and get movie audiences to stay at home and watch these instead of going out to the cinema, they were pitched as sort of one time chances to see something new and cool, remember back then we didn't have the likes of on demand services, remember until the 1970's people didn't even have VHS recorders and even when these came in to play obviously not everyone would have one and tapes were quiet expensive so it wasn't like you could just record pretty much everything like you can now.
You would imagine that these movies would be of an incredibly shoddy quality, Movie ideas with a TV episode budget but the truth is that many early television movies actually featured major stars, and some were accorded higher budgets than standard television series of the same length. What if you missed them being shown though? Well some channels would occasionally repeat them and some of them might go on to have physical releases but a great deal of them end up being forgotten about for a very long time.
The film I want to talk about today was a TV movie but it had a very famous Director a Mr Wes Craven (of nightmare on elm street fame) it was originally shown in 1984 and is called Invitation to Hell. Now I feel it is important to mention that I was only a small child when this was shown and as a result of that and its made for TV nature I didn't actually see it until recently so there are no rose tinted spectacles here. It's only available on region 1 DVD and as far as I know it never received a VHS release here either but like many other films it has found its way on to YouTube and various other on-line services.I know some people would complain about all of the films that have found there way on to here and how those involved with them are not seeing any of the profits but some of these films seem to be on the very edge of being lost, they have been forgotten and ignored by there makers because they don't think that there is any profit in them and sites like YouTube have actually given a new lease of life to many movies that were previously unavailable.
OK so first here is a little idea of the films plot a scientist Matt played by Robert Urich and his wife Patricia played by Joanna Cassidy and their kids arrive at a new home. It is supposed to be the start of a whole new chapter of there lives. You see Matt has a new job a new job that is supposed to come with a better wage so he can provide newer and better things for his kids. They have barely made themselves feel at home before they begin to be pestered to join the Steaming Springs Country Club. The idea is built up that this club is the social heart and soul of the community, that nearly everyone is a member and that everyone wants to be a member. Members seem to be getting promoted faster at work. So why wouldn't you want to join? Well Patricia is very keen to join she views it as the key to a better life for her and her children but Matt has a gut feeling that all is not right and is very hesitant to join. When Patricia and the kids start to act strange Matt finds out she has joined the health club and this is when he decides that he needs to find out what is really happening. Now I don't want to spoil the ending or give away too much but there are some great ideas in this film, I have certainly seen far worse things released on DVD in this region, if I had to pick any faults with the film my biggest fault would be that there is a laser in it which compared to everything else in the film is positively crap-tastic effects wise, if it was me I would have gone out of my way to remove this and to have replaced it with a regular pistol or something. The film to me almost feels like a Tales from the Crypt/Twilight zone episode but stretched out to movie length.
The film deals with a lot of ideas that have been dealt with in horror films before and after, the idea of being tempted to do anything to achieve wealth and fame, about how people feel the need to be accepted and to belong to something. This is the real strength of the film, it talks about the way the world works, the way it deals with real world fears in a horror movie setting, the fear that those around us might change, that we might find ourselves alone and alienated, it feels very Wes Craven like even if he only directed and Richard Rothstein wrote it (he is most famous for writing Universal Solider). I cant call the film a piece of cinematic gold but I would certainly describe it as a nice piece of Movie Silver. If you like Wes Craven and you like things with a Tales from the Crypt/ EC comics sort of morality to them then I really would advise that you track this film down and give it a few hours of your time after all it is October. Do not go here if your looking for monster creatures and explicit gore though as you will find this movie really lacking its basically a gore free zone. It does offer some scares but more in a deep thoughtful way, there are no jump scares or things pulling people through windows but there doesn't need to be
7 out of 10 screaming Skulls