War of the Worlds
Both Terrifying War of the Worlds Machines
The re-make of War of the Worlds (2005) with Tom Cruise is one of my favorite re-makes of any film. I’m 45, so I’m old enough to have been a TV watching child at the time when the original screen version (1953) would air once a year, much like The Wizard of Oz. (That’s Gene Barry on the 1953 version, of course)
It was ALWAYS just as big an event in my household. (I’m sure in others too)
You see, back in “olden times” television was “an event” and I actually feel badly for newer generations who’ve never experienced this phenomenon. Not only were TV events VERY exciting, they actually did bring families together to watch these productions. Because we had no technology to preserve television for on demand viewing such as VHS tape or DVDs, we were obligated to be at the screen when something as exciting as War of the Worlds was going to play. And because most families at that time could only afford one television, there we would all be watching a film or show together.
Excitement aside, this film actually brought fear, and lots of it. Even though I could not wait to watch the movie again, I was terrified much the same way the evil flying monkeys of Oz, or the wicked witch herself terrified us all. Heck, even the darned Wizard was downright scary.
So you ask, just what was so scary about the older and arguably MUCH campier screen version of War of the Worlds?
It’s really that simple. Sound. The actual sound the machines made before attacking, as well as when they finally attacked was HORRIFYING! It just was. Many folks forget this inescapable fact about horror films. Without sound, they’d be LAME. Sound is really what scares us the most, and War of the Worlds (BOTH versions) make GREAT use of sound to keep this already frightening story scary as hell on the screen.
I’ll never forget the 1953 sounds of the terrifying machines, and the 2005 version also created some of the most upsetting and horrifying sounds I’ve heard in a movie to represent these invaders from space.
In the newer 2005 version, Steven Spielberg also does something else to add to the fear of these war machines.
Yes, size. In the 1953 version the machines were probably about the height of a small multi-story building near a suburb…maybe 4 to 6 stories or so. Big, but not ridiculously big. In the 2005 version, Steven made the machines Skyscraper tall, making them VERY frightening to behold. To me, this was a master stroke in dealing with a sacred story of old, and I must give Mr. Spielberg all his due credit. (I love him as a director anyhow, but he always seems to “get it done” for me)
I could ramble on about the performances, and Tim Robbins’ cameo, but I won’t. They’re all as decent as need be for this film. For me, it’s the use of crazy lensing to achieve the weird over bright look the film has, as well as honest to goodness great film storytelling that makes the new War of the Worlds the great film it is.