Roger Corman’s been laying low; since his last turn as a director with 1990’s “Frankenstein Unbound,” the legendary cheapie producer has pretty much kept to dabbling in direct-to-video fare like “Supergator.” But now he’s back, reteaming with alumnus Joe Dante for a three-episode web series for Netflix.com called “Splatter.”
Gimmicks, of course, are involved. Some might argue that casting Corey Feldman as the lead in anything is the only stunt you’d need, even with the meta-wit of him in the role of a once-famous rock star who kills the people who enabled his career and fall from grace. But wait, there’s more! After each episode, viewers will decide who they want to see killed; the next installment will then be filmed with the audience’s choice in mind.
It’s a digital twist on the interactive movie, hailing back to William Castle’s 1961 “Mr. Sardonicus,” which gave audiences a “Punishment Poll,” allowing them to decide whether his evil anti-hero would live or die at the end. (He claimed no audience ever chose to let him live, a convenient way to avoid showing or possibly even bothering to film the merciful ending.)
More recently, there was 1995’s “Mr. Payback,” the first so-called “interactive movie,” where audiences sat in the theater pushing console buttons to determine which of three branching options should be taken 12 times throughout its 20-minute running time. (Siskel & Ebert’s amazingly entertaining pan of the film is well worth a look if you’ve never seen it. “I felt that my favorite venue in the entertainment world, the movie theater, had been soiled,” Siskel gripes.)
Dante, Corman and Feldman could use a mutual career boost. Feldman’s worked with Dante three times before and Corman four, but never on the same projects. (I got this information from Feldman’s blog. Yes, he has a WordPress, too.) At 83, Corman’s mostly been burnishing his own legacy, while Dante’s career has been extremely volatile since his ’80s heyday. Still, he doesn’t forget who gave him the chance to make “Gremlins”: “This is sort of an attempt to repay Roger Corman for the fact that he gave me a career,” he says in one of the low-key behind-the-scenes promotional videos. It’s all quite sweet, even if the product itself will be gory and vengeful.
[Photo: “Splatter,” Netflix, 2009]