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When I was a young child, Santa Clause (aka my mom and dad) had given me a My Buddy doll. For those uninitiated, the My Buddy doll is a rather large humanoid doll, like a cabbage patch kid bending the stretch of it’s toddler years. At first, I was excited for it, perhaps riding off the high from previous presents and the anticipation of others to come. But as soon as bed time rolled around, I laid there for 5 long minutes with this deadweight body next to me, staring blankly into the ceiling with it’s dead eyes and stupid gregarious smile. No doubt waiting for me to go to sleep…
It didn’t take long for me to exile MyBuddy to the living room. It’s worth noting that I was born in 1984 and the first Child’s Play movie was released in 1988, the perfect time for my impressionable mind to absorb the imagery from the trailers and project that onto that hell doll.
Oh right, this was supposed to be a move review. My point is that The S from Hell revolves around that same kind of childhood fear.
The S from Hell (2010) is a short documentary focusing around the 1964 Screen Gems logo that appeared after popular shows such as “The Monkees” and “The Flintstones” and the terror and unease it instilled in children. Under the direction of Rodney Ascher the documentary is not so much informative as it is evokative. Ascher’s aim is to have the audience feel the same fear and confusion as the children did when submitted to the logo.
Ascher achieves this with interviews of those tormented by the logo accompanied with dramatic reenactments, repeated viewings of the Screen Gems logo with it’s revolving blade like shapes and that jarring early 60’s synth fanfare. The film uses imagery such as a tiny television blasting the logo amongst a dark wallpapered background (nicely resembling but not mimicking the television from Poltergeist), a stepped slow motion progression of the animation highlighting it’s most sinister components, and a nightmare sequence in which a little girl is chased by a flying blue Screen Gems logo. These all lend an eerie aura to the documentary reminding me of paranormal documentaries about UFO abductees or Sasquatch witnesses.
I really enjoyed watching this film. It’s just so odd and well constructed with great competence and style. Ascher has certainly succeeded in selling the fear felt by the logophobics. The film itself never cracks a smile but there is enough tongue-in-cheek to keep the viewer amused all the way through. And the length is just right; it’s just a 9min film. Long enough to get the job during a lunch break, not so long that you find yourself wondering “why the fuck am I still watching this?” Combine the snack-size of the film with the fact that it is now available for viewing in all it’s glowing glory on it’s website, http://www.thesfromhell.com/, you really have no excuse for not checking it out. Like right now.
James Stroman studied digital art at Indiana University and is a graphic designer, video artist, and all around visual tinkerer. He is the graphic designer for Atomic Age Cinema!, and assistant designer for Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)