Friday, April 22, 2011

Summer Goes Supernatural

When the temperature inches up, most of us strip down to shorts and flip-flops, and take our two weeks vacationing in the lower latitudes or perhaps hitting a theme park run by a rodent of unusual size for a little bit of relaxation.

But for pop culture, when the summer hits, it's time to get freaky.

Like a drunken coed who finds "Girls Gone Wild" empowering, pop culture flashes the world with its goods during the summer season and spares no expense on blockbuster events chockablock with special effects. Moreover, when the real world is focused on clear and sunny days, pop trends towards dark, stormy and paranormal.
Within the entertainment world, summer blockbusters have been very good to the supernatural and unexplained. Some of the best installments of "paranormal pop culture" debuted during the warmer months.
The concept of the blockbuster extends beyond just movies and includes any outperforming entertainment product (novels, video games, etc.).
They existed in some form before June 1975 but it's historically considered the year of the first, and it was just a big fish story about a man and the need for a bigger boat. Even before "Star Wars" in 1977, Steven Spielberg's "Jaws," a movie version of a Peter Benchley's blockbuster book, redefined the event movie. The cryptozoological Moby Dick tale was the first movie to open nationwide on the same day, instead of being rolled out slowly, and it survived through box office staying power. The overwhelming success of "Jaws" led to more summer blockbusters - some which would become cultural events, and many that would cement actors' careers and make studios a lot of money and not surprisingly, several of those were anchored with paranormal themes.
Following "Jaws," the antichrist romp "The Omen" continued the paranormal blockbuster trend in June '76, as did "Alien" in '79, and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" in 1981 and 1982, respectively. Revisit the most memorable characters and catchphrases from summers past, and your favorite flicks are likely littered with ghosts ("Ghostbusters," "Poltergeist," "The Sixth Sense," "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"), UFOs and aliens ("The Thing," "Men In Black," "Signs"), cryptids ("Gremlins," "The Descent") or other unexplained phenomena ("An American Werewolf in London," "The Mummy," "Hellboy," the Harry Potter franchise).
This summer, the trend shows no signs of abating with 16 films to be released that deal with the mystical, magical and monstrous; beings from other worlds and the underworld; or the dead, undead and walking dead. To name but a few, Harry Potter returns for the second-part of his last adventure in wizardy in "Deathly Hallows, part 2" while Norse god "Thor" sets out on his first; a "Priest" battles vampires and another vampires battles a teen in "Fright Night"; "Cowboys and Aliens" fight and good robot aliens fight the bad ones in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" while kids with a "Super 8" film the invasion; patriotic "Captain America" seeks an unexplained cosmic cube and drunken Captain Jack Sparrow seeks mermaids and zombies in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." These supernatural cinematic offerings don't even include paranormal pop on TV screens and in video games or books, either.
However, the correlation between paranormal blockbusters and summer isn't as difficult to prove as the existence of Bigfoot. When a big studio is planning a movie's opening date, it times the ones with the largest mainstream appeal and the films considered bankable "tentpole" vehicles for wide release during months when people have extra free time to flock to climate-controlled theaters. Do the quick math, and you can figure out that an event movie with a few pretty faces, cool effects and centered around a popular paranormal trend equals a good chance of being a success.
But an intriguing side note to these paranormal summers is that while much of the mainstream isn't quite ready to dredge Loch Ness, these mysterious and unexplained topics resonate with people on a deeper level than we may initially think. When a movie makes a $100 million and more, and becomes a pop culture touchstone, that means there are a lot of people interested in things like the afterlife or outer space life.
And that's the freakiest part of summer: As people head out on vacations this summer and gaze into the night sky, and inevitably ask what's "out there," the answer may be as close as the local Cineplex.

1 comments:

Britt+Whit said...

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Britt+Whit