Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Atmosphere for the Win!

I'm a sucker for good atmosphere in fiction and film. My love for Disney's clunky sci-fi snoozer, The Black Hole is predicated primarily on the power of the movie's atmosphere.

God knows the "science" is stoopid, not to mention the dime-store dialogue.

But wow. There is a moment when our heroes (a small band of American explorers on board the Palamino, a chubby hypodermic needle of a spacecraft) escape the pull of the black hole (right) only to cruise by the supposedly derelict hull of the Cygnus (a cathedral in space...spooky as hell). The Cygnus is dark, dead. Little V.I.N.C.E.N.T. (a robot) is clinging to the outside of the ship, the Palamino's searchlights rove over the grey hulk of the larger ship...chills. Really.
Embedding is disabled, but here is the link to the scene via YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ts-v6AHr38 (the creeps start at around 3:45 as the Palamino makes another pass on the Cygnus)

I'm that big of a sucker for atmosphere.

So much so, that when I write, sometimes I find myself lost in the atmosphere. The story...meh. Who needs a story when you have atmosphere?

I love old Hammer films for the same reason. And Roger Corman? Don't get me started. No one used the cheesy plastic skull with cobwebs and rubber spiders as well as Corman.

Am I destined to be lost to a world of pulp movies with spooky vibes? The thing is, in a book, atmosphere can be magnificent. I've just picked up this year's Stoker winner for best first novel, The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti. Wow. Atmosphere so thick I almost have to chisel my way out.

In a word: heaven. If you like your heaven in a dark, scary place.


Jameson T. Caine said...

I remember seeing The Black Hole in the theater as a kid. Wow, that was a long time ago.

I agree about old Hammer films. They're just dripping with atmosphere. I also like some of the films by rival studio Amicus. In the 80's, Lucio Fulci made some wonderfully atmospheric films. Of course, few of them made a lick of sense, but they looked and "felt" spooky as hell.

I often play some of these films when writing. They get me in a frame of mind that helps in the creative process.

Fox Lee said...

Creepiest Disney movie I ever saw was when Donald Duck went to the land of math. *shivers*

L.R. Bonehill said...

Cheers, Aaron - that clip brought back memories. I loved The Black Hole when I was a kid and Vincent was great. He always reminded me of Wordy, which probably doesn’t mean anything to most people (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTmcnxZWOmA).

The Hammer films were pretty much a staple of Saturday night horror double bills, same with Roger Corman’s Poe films and the Amicus anthologies.

All in all, great stuff that I still love today.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Haven't seen The Black Hole. Probably because in was '79 and I was finishing up high school (and I probably still recalled Star Wars from a couple of years earlier). Great to see Anthony Perkins and Borgnine in a sci-fi.

I know what you're saying about atmosphere. One of the scariest movies I have seen was 'The Legend of Hell House' with Roddy McDowall. That's from '73 which I think pre-dates the "Slasher" movies. You see no violence, but the atmosphere is creepy as hell. It was re-done in '99 with Liam Neeson (The Haunting) and was nowhere near as good.

Brendan P. Myers said...

Great article. Love the new look as well. Has a lot of . . . atmosphere.

Unknown said...

I love atmosphere too, but when I write I have to concentrate on plot or else I'm doomed.

I need to watch The Black Hole again.

Jamie Eyberg said...

You are the second person I have heard that seems to like The Gentling Box. I might have to look that one up.

couldn't agree more with your assessment of The Black Hole. The power of suggestion that enveloped it more than made up for the rest of the bad film making within it.

Barry Napier said...

...adds yet another book to his Go Buy This list...

Aaron Polson said...

Jameson - good point. I used to play tv/movies in the background, just as grounding "noise".

Natalie - Okay, "Mathmagic land" is freakin' weird. I had to sub for a math teacher once, and that was on the bill. Yikes.

LR - Wordy is effed up. Thanks for the clip.

Alan - the '63 Haunting is pretty fabulous, too. Special effects and gore don't replace good ol' atmosphere.

Thanks, Brendan.

Jeremy - my current MS has a touch of Black Hole (only the good parts, of course)

Jamie, Barry - its a good book, but kind of tiring to read. Very dense with imagery. Very dense.

Katey said...

Yeah, definitely adding that one to my to-buy list. Sounds brilliant-- I love me some atmosphere.

I should've pegged you for a Roger Corman fan. Bwahahaha!

Aaron Polson said...

Nice, Katey. Yeah. I like me some cheesey horror.

Danielle Birch said...

I love good, dark atmosphere. Haven't seen The Black Hole so will look out for it.

Aaron Polson said...

Danielle - it is dated, but the music and (of course)atmosphere are fabulous.