By: Bryant Daniels
I’ve seen a lot of bizarre movies in my time. Stuff that no one should be made to suffer through, well, at least no sane person. Myself, I’m attracted to the strange. The more unique, the better. Whether it’s the good versus evil narrative of The Visitor or the ever present Eraserhead, I generally find something to keep me engaged.
Nothing is different for 1980’s Forbidden Zone, directed by Richard Elfman, who is the brother to famous composer Danny Elfman (The Simpsons theme and ALL of Tim Burton’s movie). There is absolutely something to enjoy in this stage show put to film, but to be honest, I’m still trying to determine if I liked it. I mean, I watched it two days in a row, and I can’t decide if it’s from morbid curiosity or if there was something I actually gained from one family’s journey to hell.
Forbidden Zone is a performance “art” piece put to film. Technically, according to Richard Elfman, this film is the stage performance of Danny Elfman’s band The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Later in their career The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo would drop the cabaret aspects of their show and become the new wave sensation Oingo Boingo. Shortly before that, we were blessed or cursed with Forbidden Zone; I guess the determination of blessing or curse is up to your personal preference and patience.
This will not be for everybody. The one thing I can say is that at an hour and ten minute running time, Forbidden Zone moves at a fairly fast clip and does not waste a single frame. I can also say that the music is nothing less than spectacular. The numbers feel directly composed from 30’s and 40’s Hollywood musicals, and as a send up/criticism of the “golden age” of film it works on every account. Not only are criticisms lobbied against old Hollywood via character design and performances, you can tell that Danny and Richard respect the final result, and understand that there is a gray area between being offensive and being artful. Trigger warning: there is the use of “blackface” and simulated rape sequences, but it is meant as a criticism and is not done in a genuine attempt at replication.
Honestly, I cannot recommend Forbidden Zone to everyone, or possibly even anyone. I mean, it’s called “the Citizen Cane of cult classics” for a reason. If you want something different and interesting, and are okay with some bizarre content, then I absolutely recommend it. However, if you like something that is a bit more escapist, then this is not for you. But, then again, if you like good music, then sure. It’s really difficult to surmise a proper response to such an unusual film. You know what? See it, it’s an hour and ten minutes, and if you don’t like it, then this type of film is not for you. Me, well I’m going to watch it a few more times and try to find a place for it in my personal film journey.
P.S. – There is a sequel coming out…so, there ya go.
– 10/10 or – 1/10
Forbidden Zone – 1980
Starring: Danny Elfman, Herve Villechaize, Susan Tyrell, Gisele Lindley, Matthew Bright, and Marie-Pascale Elfman
Directed by: Richard Elfman
Running time: 74 minutes
P.P.S. – I will be putting out a commentary for this!Share: