After the doctor said, “It’s a boy!” it was all down hill for the next two weeks. But, if you’re just tuning in, that’s a feeble incipience, so try this:

At 44, with my oldest son about to start college, the last thing I expected (or next to last, second to Harlan Ellison scripting “The Gene Roddenberry Story”) was another baby. But, as they say at the bowling alley, split happens, and on August 9, after 12 hours of hard labor, the doctor made the glaze-eyed proclamation, “She’s dilated ten centimeters.” “What’s that roughly in hat size?” I asked, drawing sneers.

Then, at 4:54 pm, split happened. “Meth Spawns!” read the next day’s headline at Tony Isabella’s “Tony’s Tips”; “Mazel-Tov! That’s Excelsior spelled backwards,” read an email from Stan Lee. Baby weighed in at roughly 7 lbs. 12 ounces and was 21-inches long. Most importantly, he was healthy as a small horsling. But Chantzie, the little wife, didn’t fare as well, and because she was having such a rough go, her doctor saw fit to hospitalize her a few days beyond the insurance racket’s typical 24-hours-and-out-the-door standard.

By day nine, life was returning to normal. I went into the office for the first time since my new son’s arrival and was busy at the keyboard when the phone rang. “Can you come home?” asked Chantzie. “I don’t feel well.” So I packed up my computer and headed out. Imagine my chagrin as I pulled up and found an ambulance in front of my home. I ran up the steps and inside only to find my wife being placed on a stretcher by a team of EMTs, a tube in her nose, our sleeping infant just two feet away. All I could do was watch as they sped my bride away to the local hospital?couldn’t follow until someone came to watch the child.

By midnight, the danger had pretty much passed. After a series of tests?X-rays, CAT-scans, blood analysis, the works?the ER doctor concluded that my wife had fallen victim to a combination of infection and dehydration. The catheter placed in her during delivery had caused an infection, and her 103.8-degree fever combined with round-the-clock nursing had depleted her of vital fluids and nutrients. But, as I said, the danger was over. She was on I.V. now and watched round the clock, and I was home with an infant. So fine. My work was cut out.

Now, staying home for three days with a baby that wakes up every two hours doesn’t leave you much time for anything, let alone sleep, so I decided to catch up on my Tivo. I’m a sucker for a good mummy film and I’d been meaning to watch “The Fallen Ones,” which I’d missed during its Sci-Fi Channel run. San popcorn, I sat back on the couch, sleeping infant beside me, and turned on the box. That’s when the phone rang. The caller i.d. indicated that it wasn’t the hospital.

“Hello?” I said, annoyed that anyone would phone so late.
“Yes. Hello. Ve’re sending the cousins to get the baby,” said the disembodied voice of an older European woman. She sounded Transylvanian?very Bela Lugosi.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“I said ve’re sending the cousins from Villiamsburg to get the baby.”
I couldn’t quite believe my ears. “Who is this?” I asked, knowing full well.
“It’s your mother-in-law.”
“And what planet are you from?” I asked.
“Excuse me?” she replied, unaccustomed, as it were, to be being insulted on that particular planet.
“I said what planet are you from? As in what makes you think I’m giving my baby to anyone, let alone the cousins from Villiamsburg?” I shook my head. Couldn’t even enjoy being miserable these days without the phone ringing.
“The cousins have raised nine children, kay’nine’a’hora,” said the harbinger of marital bliss.
“Well that’s peachy,” said I. “And may they raise nine more, kay’nine’a’hora. But not mine, thank you.”
“So you won’t let?”
“Yes,” I said emphatically. “I won’t let. Tell the cousins from Villiamsburg that if I see a horse and buggy pulling up in front of my house I’m getting the shotgun.”
Vhat?”
“Tell them,” I said, “they can have my baby when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
And with that I returned to my mummy movie.

“The Fallen Ones” is a B-flic in the grandest sense. It’s designed for kitsch geeks who loved the old Saturday matinees, Adam West’s “Batman” and Roger Corman films. The story opens in ancient Sumeria where Ammon the Destroyer (an angel of death of Biblical proportions) meets the high priest and his 42-ft. son to discuss how to navigate around the little flood G-d is readying to unleash on the world. Later, in present-day Arizona, the incomparable Casper Van Dien, an archaeologist working on a desert excavation for development magnet Robert Wagner, meets hottie Kristen Miller who Wagner’s brought in to micromanage things and annoy/arouse his Van Dieness. Suddenly, the joint is rocked by an earthquake, which unearths what appears to be a 42-foot tall mummy. So Van Dien brings in his mentor “Rabbi Eli” to translate the Sumerian text. Tom Bosley (Mr. Cunningham on “Happy Days”) plays the rabbi the way you’d expect him to on an episode of “The Love Boat.” Good stuff. All I needed was the popcorn.

“The Fallen Ones” was written and directed by Kevin VanHook, who hasn’t startled us with anything this cool since his days with Valiant Comics. So I gave Kevin a call.

Meth: How’d you make the transition from comics to film?

VanHook: After writing and drawing comics for about 14 years, I decided to actively make the jump. I’d been teaching myself about visual effects. In 1994, when I moved from New York to San Diego, I was pretty much writing comic books exclusively and I started a studio to support me during the transition. Then in 1996, I made a short film which was effects-laden?something that was purposely difficult that made me certain that I was sincere about making the move. It was the toughest thing I’d ever done in my life but it was something I enjoyed, and from that point on I only wanted to make films. So I worked on creating visual effects and entering the door into filmmaking sideways.

Meth: “The Fallen Ones” is a classic B-horror film. Was that purposeful?

VanHook: Absolutely. It was designed to echo back to those kinds of films, as well as things like “Raiders of the Lost Arc,” which in its own way was mimicking the serials of the 30s and 40s. It has that feel: The hero and story are classically structured. The hero speaks a little more old-fashion than the others?he sounds like he’s out of the 50s?and it made VanDien likable.

Meth: Were you surprised by the level of success on the Sci-Fi Channel? I heard that it had a huge share?that it beat the “Blade: Trinity” TV debut.

VanHook: I don’t know if I was surprised, but I was certainly pleased. I was always very proud of it, even in its idea form. You can go in with the best project in the world and go up against a major movie and get crushed; it can not be the right thing for the right time. But I think it struck a chord with fans because it even did well in the re-runs.

Meth: I’m looking forward to the DVD release. Are there extras?

VanHook: All sorts of behind-the-scenes stuff and images that no one has seen yet. And you can now see it commercial free!

The structure of “The Fallen Ones” is very comic book like?not as scary like the cousins from Villiamsburg stealing your baby, but a hoot you’ll really enjoy. It’s available from Anchor Bay Entertainment (http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com) in a few weeks.


© 2004, Clifford Meth



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