Sunday, October 23, 2016

Octaman (1971) and Dark Movies

It can be easy for a viewer to lose interest in a poorly made movie.  The story may not be gripping.  There might not be enough action, or the characters are not interesting.  There may be poor editing.  The audio or the video quality can be so bad that things cannot be heard or seen.  It all comes down to the effort that people put in, and how much attention they pay to what they are doing.

Octaman suffered from poor filmmaking.  The 1971 movie involved a bunch of scientific researchers who found a new species.  They noticed that it was a hybrid mutation of a man and octopus.  Their research would lead to one of the octopus men, or octamen, to attack them.  People died.  The monster tried to kidnap a woman.  It was your standard animal attack movie with a monster animal.

That doesn’t sound like the greatest movie ever.  The story is not good, the acting is just as bad, and it isn’t remembered by anyone outside of bad movie watchers.  The reason for that lack of remembrance is that the cinematography was terrible.  When they shot the movie at nighttime, everything was so dark that the action was incomprehensible.  Characters were attacked and killed, yet nothing could be seen to show that.  There was no way to tell how or where the attack happened.

Cinematography is one of the most important parts of making a movie.  Half of cinematic storytelling is visual, and that is where cinematography comes in.  Much like how a photographer composes a still image, a cinematographer creates the look of a movie.  They decide where everything is placed in the shot to make it look the best.  They choose how the colours pop.  If there is an old style tint, it is up to the cinematographer to ensure that the cameras are set up to make the scenery fit that choice.  The imagery of a movie comes through the cinematography.

Working hand-in-hand with the cinematography is the lighting.  Light can make a big difference in how scenery looks.  Take a movie like Barry Lyndon, which used natural light.  It gave the movie an earthier feel, which complemented the time in which it took place.  Compare that to a movie like New Year’s Eve, where the artificial lighting of New York built the big city romance that the movie tried to present.  Lighting and cinematography are visual cues that give audiences an emotional connection to a movie.  It may be a subconscious emotion, but it’s there all the same.

The two aspects must work together to provide the best product possible.  That is where Octaman failed.  With a lack of proper lighting, the movie fell short in imagery.  There was no effort put in to make the movie look special.  It looked like someone plopped down the camera and said “Let’s shoot here.”  That’s first year film school methods, and even then, some students put out better looking stuff.  It looked simple, which isn’t what you want with a monster movie.  You want a slight sense of wonder, a large sense of terror, and the looming image of the creature.  You don’t want wide shots of the creature emerging from a trailer to walk over and strangle people.  Close ups, low angle shots… Anything to make the action more exciting.

If any of that stuff was there, it was ruined by the poor lighting.  Scenes set at night were too dark.  It was like looking at a black screen and just hearing noises.  In certain situations, that can work to a filmmaker’s advantage.  If the movie is set in a first person point of view, it might be good to have the camera black with only sound.  It helps the audience sympathise with the character behind the camera.  Octaman was not one of those cases.  Octaman was a monster movie.  Audiences wanted to see the kills.  Seeing is the most important part of that.  With the screen being black, it was impossible to see the monster doing its thing.  It was impossible to see the look of terror on the characters’ faces.  It was impossible to see anything.

An easy way to solve this issue would be to give a slight amount of light to the location.  Whether it was moonlight or a lamp was filtered to look like moonlight, it would have made edges stand out.  There would have been outlines.  Motion would have been seen, allowing any audience members to understand how the struggles played out.  A flashlight or a campfire near the action could have been a light source.  There needed to be a way to see an outline of the monster and the people.  Even better would be the use of shadows to show textures.  The problem was that nothing could be seen, so any imagery would have been an improvement.  Use of shadows in a dim light to allow the contours of bodies to be shown would have been a giant leap forward.

This is one of the shortest recent posts in the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  It’s not because there isn’t a lot to write about when it comes to Octaman.  The reason the post isn’t long is that there was an important topic to cover and that topic didn’t necessitate an extended length.  Darkness in film still needs a source of light, however faint, in order for audiences to distinguish the action.  Unless there is a specific reason to have a pure black screen, a movie should never feature it.  There should always be imagery on the screen since half of a movie is visuals.  A lack of visual material takes away from how much someone can enjoy a movie, and we’re all interested in movies for the entertainment value.  Let us see what you want to entertain us with.  Light up your movies.
Here are some notes that should be better than the movie:

  • Octaman was suggested by @T_Lawson, who also suggested Sextette.
  • I mentioned New Year’s Eve in this post.
  • Buck Kartalian was in Octaman.  He was also in Gymkata.
  • Have you seen Octaman?  Have you seen movies that you couldn’t understand what was happening since you couldn’t see it?  You can ask any questions you want in the comments below.
  • In the comments, you can also put your suggestions for future installments of the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  If you want to see me watch and cover a movie, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
  • Sometimes I put up clips of the bad movies I watch on snapchat.  Add me: jurassicgriffin.
  • Next week’s movie is going to be Killer Condom, which is probably one of those movies where the title sounds better than the movie is.  I’ve known about this movie for years but haven’t actually sat down and watched it.  Next week is the week.  I hope you’re as excited as me.  See you then.

No comments:

Post a Comment