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Now that SUPER 8 has passed the $100-million mark at the box office, the time is right to look
back at the inspirations behind this well-crafted monster movie. Like every
filmmaker, young Charles Kaznyk wholeheartedly believes his picture is of the
utmost importance. While making his zombie movie—entitled THE CASE—Charles and
his friends unexpectedly witness a train crash, which ultimately leads to the
release of a violent and hideous creature.
What makes SUPER 8 refreshingly charming and genuinely
nostalgic is writer/director J.J. Abrams’ influences from sci-fi/horror movies
and comic books. Played by newcomer Riley Griffiths, Charles
Kazynk is a bonified horror geek, who has watched George A. Romero movies one
too many times and has a massive collection of comic books. Because the film is
set during the late 1970s, the production design needs to reflect the clothing,
hairstyle and music of that time period. Charles’ messy room is littered with
toys, posters and horror comics, specifically CREEPY magazine. Originally
printed by Warren Publishing, CREEPY was an anthology magazine with
MAD-inspired black and white illustrations. Each issue had a stand-alone story
presented by its host, Uncle Creepy.
During the ’70s, CREEPY and its sister publications, EERIE
and VAMPIRELLA, published numerous morality and coming-of-age tales. Usually in
these stories, an ordinary situation takes on an ironic and paranormal twist.
These everyday situations sometimes involved children because these comics were
aimed to young readers. In the film, what was supposed to be a regular night of
filming suddenly turns into a life-and-death situation for Charles and his
friends. When a pick-up truck collides with an incoming train, the massive
derailment forces a powerful creature to escape from its secured compartment.
Because these horror comics were targeted to their age
group, children were usually the heroes in these stories. The adolescents were
the ones who knew more than the adults. During the town meeting, the misguided
adults are arguing with Deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) about the electrical
blackouts, unexplained robberies and missing dogs. Echoing Cold War prejudices,
the adults believe their homes are being invaded by another superpower. After
watching their footage of the train crash, Charles and Joe (Joel Courtney) realize
a superstrong monster is lurking around in the shadows.
In the film, the real antagonist to the kids is the
military. Led by Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich),
the troops are sent in to remove evidence of the crash site and capture the
escaped being. Reminiscent to the social commentary in these comics, the film
has a strong anti-torture message as Colonel Nelec poisons an innocent civilian
in order to find the escapee. Rebelling against authority, Charles and Joe
unexpectedly find themselves confronting Nelec and his armed soldiers. In a
deadly game of cat and mouse, the entire group is unfortunately caught in the
middle of the creature’s path.
Even though Steven Speilberg’s name is printed everywhere
with SUPER 8, Abrams’ personal stamp can be felt all over this movie. Anyone
who has seen Abrams’ television series LOST will instantly notice his visual
style and writing skills. Substitute plane for train, you will still have an
elaborate and spectacular crash sequence. Similar to Jack and Kate in LOST, Joe
and Alice (Elle Fanning) have issues with their fathers. Much like the series
itself, there are clever uses of flashbacks in the movie told through film
footage. The creature wants out of the small American town, just like the Smoke
Monster wanted off the island. What also made the TV series and this movie
stand out are Larry Fong’s eye-catching photography and Michael Giacchino’s
Surprisingly, this 2011 summer season is different because
audiences have two hit movies that are period pieces, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and
SUPER 8. Depicting the ’70s, SUPER 8 represents a trip down memory lane through
horror movies and comics. The list of influences is right there on screen for
any viewer to see. Delivering on suspense and excitement, SUPER 8 is a purely
entertaining monster flick.
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