Notes from Andy in 2017 –
This made its way online on August 23rd 2012, and is the first piece I wrote that had anything to do with horror. I have resisted the urge to edit it to within an inch of its life, even though the writing style is a bit rough and ready compared to what I aim for now, and the “peace out” ending makes me cringe. All I have done is italicize the text in the parentheses, add in some links, and perform some other minor editorial tweaks and corrections, and I hope you’ll agree that my writing has improved over the last five years.
Some more recent history and notes for those not from the UK:
Where the shop used to be in my hometown is now a very nice kebab place, but I now live several thousand miles away from it. LA Nails is also still there, as far as I know, and still stinks of nail polish remover. The British movie classification system in the 90s was as follows: we had U for Universal, PG for Parental Guidance, and then 15 and 18 for respective ages to rent/buy. Another rating, 12, came to be around 2002. ChoicesUK, as the name suggests, never made it to North America. PWOT, short for Pointless Waste of Time, is the web forum of Cracked.com.
I have yet to re-watch Alien Cargo.
This is a bit more personal than the last couple, so bear with me.
Last night, I watched a movie for the second time called Alien Cargo. It starred the cinematic giants of Jason London (of Dazed and Confused fame) and Missy Crider (who apparently was in Mulholland Drive, but I don’t remember, mainly due to messily removing memories of that film with an ice pick). It has a 5.5 rating on IMDb, and is Unrated on Rotten Tomatoes. It also has a terrible, terrible title. So why did I watch this?
A little history. I have lived in the town where I currently live for virtually my entire life. Stuff’s come and stuff’s gone, and to be honest I’ve never been that attached to most of it, with two exceptions. One was a shop called 1st Compute, a brilliant emporium of all things game-related run by one of those omnipotent shop-holders who know all release dates ever, and if you’re a regular will sell you stuff without asking your age. It disappeared one summer when I was at university. To pour acid into the wound it is now called LA Nails and stinks of nail varnish remover. This is what I think of when people online complain about remakes and reboots doing unspeakable things to their childhoods. This was much worse and much more personal than that.
The second was the video rental store, ChoicesUK. You may remember them as a competitor to Blockbuster that went into administration and all but vanished in 2007. The store that they occupied here is still empty five years later.
It’s a little difficult to express how much I lived in this shop when it was open. I even went in there to buy sweets and crisps with spare money I had, just so I had an excuse to browse. Now, as I recall in around 1999, the actual video card was my Mum’s (I got my own later) and with this I could get virtually anything I liked out, with some exceptions on the ratings of course – I was generally allowed to watch the ‘next one up’, so 15s when I was 12 (this was before the 12 rating even existed). My sister usually got Disney films and the like, as well as new releases (which were expensive), so I generally got out the stuff that was on the ‘£2.00 for a week’ shelves. And as many comedies and certainly horror were out of reach, that left me with the science fiction shelf.
I must have seen everything on that shelf at least twice. It included things like Event Horizon (I covered up the rating), Mission To Mars, Red Planet, The Arrival, Deep Rising and Deep Impact. It also included a lot of crap, which thankfully has been lost to the mists of time. One film I saw when I was 11 though stayed with me. I had a faint memory of the plot and the setting, and I also remembered that it was quite creepy to the 10 year old me, but I had no idea who had been in it or what it was called. Here’s what I had to go on, in my own rambling summary:
“It was about a crew on a spaceship where all bar two of them were asleep for two months at a time to run the ship. Trouble was Shift 2 woke up and there was no sign of Shift 1 and it was 6 months later than when they were supposed to wake up.”
A couple of days ago, I was telling someone about this, and it suddenly occurred to me that someone, somewhere online must have heard of it. So, armed with my vague description, I posted on PWOT, and someone told me the title. About 10 minutes later I was watching Alien Cargo on Youtube.
To call it a nostalgia trip was a bit of an understatement. This was something I had watched, and been creeped out by, over half my lifetime ago. I also went in fully expecting it to be awful. And it kinda wasn’t. First things first, this isn’t a lost classic. The script is dire, the CGI looks like it’s made out of Lego and hilariously a man turns up at the beginning who may as well be wearing a t-shirt saying “Hi! I’m Mr Exposition! Please explain things to me!”
However, I was pleasantly surprised. The set-design is excellent and claustrophobic, the sinister score hangs over the whole thing like a blanket, and the two leads are juuust good enough to be engaging and likeable. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it unless you’re a fan of “small crew stuck on big ship in space” movies (that seems a kinder name than “Alien rip-offs”) as you’re unlikely to get the same nostalgia trip out of it I did, but it is worth noting that it lacks an awful lot of the pointless jump-cut OOGA BOOGA stuff that seems to dominate the horror and sci-fi genre nowadays (ie: 2012). It’s tense. It takes its time. I dig that.
So what’s my point? My point is, sometimes stuff you liked when you were a kid can surprise you when you’re an adult, and that it’s sometimes worth seeking out movies you saw once or twice, or music you used to listen to. It can invoke all sorts of nice memories of Times Gone By. And you never know, you might discover a new schlocky classic.