Here in Austin, we treasure our movie-going experience like pirates treasure booty, so it's only fitting that the best non-Alamo theater in town is the Highland Galaxy on Middle Fiskville Road, just behind funktastic ghetto-grotto Highland Mall. The Highland was one of the first chain theaters in the country to install Texas Instruments eye-poppingly crystal-clear DLP optical semiconductor projection technology -- we caught both 3-D screenings of Coraline and My Bloody Valentine 3-D there and we're still reeling from the optacular awesomeness of it all -- and now the Highland has announced another bold move into uncharted theatrical ballyhoo territory.
That would be the pending installation of a row of D-Box theater seats slated to coincide with this weekend's opening of McG's Terminator: Salvation. Despite the virtually unmarketable name, D-Box Motion Mode® technology, which utilizes either hydraulics or very small Teamsters to literally shake, rattle, and roll audience members all over the the place, sounds like a swell idea to us, or, at the very least, a great way to get your date to latch onto you once the lights go down and those seats start a'rockin'.
That said, it's hardly a new idea. Similar kinetic gambits to lure dwindling audiences into theaters have been a staple of theatrical and economic downturns at least since William Castle hot-wired theatergoers butts for The Tingler way back in 1959. Ditto that for Irwin Allen's 1974 suckbuster Earthquake, which used a patented process called Sensurround® to rattle and hum viewers right into Marjoe Gortner's head. Ick! (It should be noted here that the Alamo Drafthouse has in the past replicated both of these bombastic ballyhoo strategies to better effect than even the original innovators managed.)
There is, naturally, a potential downside to all this. While D-Boxing may indeed provide a fun new way for young, attention deficit destroyed gameboys (and girls) to feel like they're part of the action on-screen, we're going to bet that it's not recommended for all movies. We've done some serious thinking on the matter, in fact, and compiled a short list of five films (and there are plenty more where these came from) that we'd never, ever want to see utilizing this new, improved rump-shakin' and mind-blowing technology. Because, you know, that's what we do. We blow minds for a living. Like D-Box Technologies, yo. Check it:
1.) Irréversible: Gaspar Noé's 2002 atrocity exhibition is a psychologically invasive, brutal tour de force that left audiences literally reeling and nauseous; during its Austin run, Dobie Theater regularly had to send in a mop and bucket brigade to clean up after disoriented patrons literally lost their super-unfun trauma-meals all over the venue's already sticky floors. Noé's dazzlingly transgressive (and vertigo-inducing) camerawork, combined with a nasty, nasty narrative involving rape, murder, fire extinguishers, and Monica Bellucci, remains infamous as one of the most walked-out-upon films ever to screen at Cannes. It's a powerful film, and one worthy of both the accolades and revulsion it inspires in viewers. But watching it in a mobile theater chair? Why not just suck off a shotgun and get it over with already?
2.) Der Todesking: German provocateur Jorg Buttgereit's 1990 follow-up to his necrophiliac funbomb Nekromantik is a relatively unexploitive reflection on death and dying that nevertheless insinuates itself within and then gnaws upon your mind like a pregnant, hungry spider. Buttgereit, interviewed in the wickedly entertaining documentary Corpse F**king Art (seriously, it's one unforgettable laugh-'til-you-gag doc), has said that Der Todesking was envisioned as "a movie against the horror audience...designed to avoid [the copious amounts of] blood" that so scandalized/titillated viewers of his debut feature. Whatever. An interlinked ring of individual narratives revolving around the act of self-destruction, Der Todesking is a guaranteed gorge-riser that works just as well as a grimly poetic (and very German) meditation on human frailty, physical and otherwise. Your D-Box is made of cheap pine and has six feet of dirt on top of it.
3.) Begotten: Before E. Elias Merhige went (semi-) mainstream with Shadow of the Vampire, he shot 78-minutes of some of the most disturbing images ever put on film and called it Begotten. Experimental, haunting, dreamlike, and intentionally confounding (on first viewing, anyway), Begotten was banned in Singapore, hailed by Richard Corliss, Janet Maslin, and the Christian Science Monitor, all of whom apparently know a great god-death/rebirth analogy when they see it. Replete with gibbering, shadowy fiends/disciples, horrifically sexualized imagery, and grainy images that would later, ahem, give birth to the equally disconcerting surrealist imagery found in Hideo Nakata's Ringu VHS-tape (not to mention the work of Guy Maddin), Merhige's stylized nightmare/dreamscape is a calculatedly misbegotten travelogue through Hell, accompanied by a jittery, muffled soundtrack of caterwauling crickets, doomed souls and worse. All that's missing is a theater seat for you to molt your soul in. Huzzah, D-Box!
4.) City Hunter: You'd think that the pairing of Jackie Chan and robotic theater seats would be a no-brainer, but Jing Wong's 1993 live-action adaptation of Tsukasa Hojo's tough guy manga is so maniacally, gleefully dumb that it's virtually impossible to sit through without clawing your eyes out. Chan, mugging to the camera throughout and apparently under the influence of both Lou Costello and Buddy Hackett, is at his absolute nadir here. Surrounded by leggy gamines and the occasional (but always awful) song-and-dance routine, this is Chan at his most unspeakably irritating, and we count ourselves among his most forgiving fans. As for enduring this in a D-Box? Take our life, please.
5.) Scarlet Diva: As much as we love all things Asian (as in Asia Argento), this self-absorbed, pseudo-autobiographical ode to sex, drugs, and privilege is a grind-and-a-half to sit through and not nearly as much fun today as it was when it first appeared nine years ago. The debut feature from Dario's No. 1 daughter is chocablock with supersaturated shenanigans that ultimately go nowhere and resolve nada; it's like lifestyles of the wasted and inelegant, and as such its almost certainly more interesting to members of the immediate Argento clan than it is to anyone sitting in a mobile theater seat. (Maybe, just maybe, the sex scenes could take on even more palpably sleazy Eurotrash panache, but we're betting this is one nookiefest necessitating zero additional sensory verisimilitude.)
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