Joe Dante, the iconic ’80s director, is next at-bat for a well-deserved comeback in the horror genre.
With the current state of Hollywood horror, and how this problem is a symptom of a much larger one concerning the creative nexus of the industry, it feels like now is a proper time to reintroduce the iconic horror director Joe Dante into the equation as a remedy for this problem. For the uninitiated, Joe Dante is a film director best known for the Gremlins franchise and the now-cult classic The Howling. He is best known for his whacky and absurd style of filmmaking, one that blends horror and comedy into an almost identical shape. While still not officially retired, it has been a few decades since he has been given a chance to direct a big-budget spectacle of his own musings.
Now, he pops up from time to time to direct episodes of the hit TV remake of Hawaii Five-O and appears in some documentaries on classic horror movies of the ’80s. It was only as recently as this year that his name was even hinted at by the mainstream press, as it was announced he will be serving as a consultant for new Gremlins prequel. Despite not being a true indicator of whether he will be offered a new directing gig in the future, it is a smitten of hope he will one day find himself in a position to exert his creative vision on the screen.
The main reason Joe Dante should be back in the limelight more than any other is what he can bring to the table in terms of sheer creative force. Whether acclaimed or not, there is no denying his voice is one of total chaos, fun, shocking, and comedic tempo. Very few artists have this kind of range in their filmmaking. There is perhaps no better example than Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Part meta-commentary on consumerism and part horror and part comedy, it uses every trick he learned throughout his career to give us viewers an over-the-top masterpiece of shlock and guts. The combination is uncanny, and it otherwise would’ve never worked if it wasn’t for the impeccable and crafty magic of Dante’s direction. His whole vision is what holds the whole thing together, creating a canvas of absurd proportions the likes filmgoers rarely get to experience.
Dante finds a way to turn the macabre into a humorous escapade from reality. His films act more as a circus whose main attraction happens to be horror-like tropes of disgust and gore. No better example of these exits than, once more, Gremlins 2. The amount of self-referential 4th wall breaks is nothing short of creative genius, all while showcasing Dante’s succinct style in all its might and glory. His most recent films, however, have all gravitated towards a more comedic tone. Despite its initial reception, Looney Tunes: Back in Action has now turned into a cult-classic along the ranks of other early 2000s comedies like Freddy Got Fingered and Jackass. Its zesty spirit and illogical adventures, which see characters simply transitioning from one place to another, along with the meta-commentary of filmmaking itself through its opening scenes, is pleasant and entertaining.
Master of Tone and Style
Dante is a man who can combine various genres into one big bowl of soup packed with supplemental nutrients and secret formulas (just makes sure to avoid water). This presents us with a very dynamic filmmaker who puts his eggs in many baskets, much evidence to his success in the 1980s. In the stale world of Hollywood today, it feels as if his contributions are of much necessity. A new Dante movie is an opportunity to see a true virtuoso at work, a one last hurrah in what will be remembered as a legendary career spanning many cult hits and one blockbuster franchise. It should be mentioned, nothing should be given based only on reputation, especially in a business as profit-centric as Hollywood, but one can’t deny the enticing possibility of another Dante classic. It isn’t far-fetched to suggest a man as creative and collaborative as Dante has something left in the tank to give the world of cinema.
A Chance of Redemption
A new Dante movie with the tone of his previous works, while carrying a commentary regarding the modern world, offers endless possibilities of output. A Gremlins move in space, or Indiana Jones style, or maybe even The Godfather. Okay, this is probably too far-fetched and certainly not helping the cause of ridding the unnecessary and convoluted remakes/sequels Hollywood is currently infested with. Perhaps a more low-budget effort coupled with an original idea, something along the lines of suburban nightmares.
Whatever it may be, there’s no doubt a man with Dante’s reputation is worthy of showing what he’s got, as it may very well be his last chance to make one final imprint on the culture. Of course, there’s always the chance that it fails to live up to expectations, but it is a risk some executive up on the City of Angels should be willing to take. We saw only a few years ago how George Miller was able to harbor off any fears of failure with the immensely successful Mad Max: Fury Road; a sudden hit that all but revitalized his reputation and further cemented it as one of the best minds cinema has produced.
Beyond the realm of speculation, there seems to be no indication of Dante’s return. The only telling sign is the amount of New Hollywood directors currently working on what may perhaps be their final projects. Francis Ford Coppola’s return to film with his highly-anticipated Megalopolis and even William Friedkin’s rumored return are good indications of what could soon happen with Dante. Hard to believe there isn’t at least some talk behind closed doors about making this a possibility. In the meantime, we await the silent Dante’s empire.