Features and Columns · Movies

Horrifying and Humorous: The Early Films of Joe Dante

From ‘Movie Orgy’ to ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie.’
The Howling
Embassy Pictures
By  · Published on October 7th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores the early filmography of horror director Joe Dante.

If you wanted to make a film about the Hollywood horror scene in the early 1980s, you couldn’t pick a more fruitful subject than Joe Dante.

The man’s early career plays like a Forrest Gump-style who’s who of genre film: from a pivotal internship with low budget legend Roger Corman to multiple stints with Rick Baker’s protégée, Rob Bottin, to a fatefully friendly partnership with Steven Spielberg.

But Dante’s early films also speak to a tonal truth that not only feels characteristically early-’80s but also defines the gait and appeal of Dante’s later filmography. Namely: a gift for balancing the frightening and the fun.

From the get-go, Dante was never pretentious when it came to reveling in B-pictures. Like his contemporary Sam Raimi, Dante had a knack for lacing genuine genre beats with a lighter touch. So, for instance, when Piranha‘s genetically engineered monstrosities gnaw a swimmer’s legs down to the bone, it’s as much a gorefest as it is a live-action Looney Tunes gag.

For a more in-depth introduction to Dante’s pre-Gremlins career, we recommend a peek at the following video essay, which covers Dante’s output from the copyright nightmare of Movie Orgy to his ghoulish contribution to Twilight Zone: The Movie.

Watch “The Early Films Of Joe Dante – Piranha, The Howling & More!“:

Who made this?

Andrew J. Wright (a.k.a. Dr. Urdu) is a Canadian video essayist devoted to horror history. The channel aims to shed light on the deeper intricacies of an often derided genre by presenting these films as more than just cheap thrill rides. You can subscribe to Dr. Urdu on YouTube here. You can follow Wright on Twitter here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.