In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mother Knows Best.


On my last night at Fantasia, I was fortunate enough to catch John McNaughton's newest film The Harvest.


Bed-ridden Andy (Charlie Tahan) knows little of the world beyond the confines of his room and the smothering care of his mother (Samantha Morton). When Maryann (Natalia Calis) moves in next door and strikes up a friendship with Andy, his mother immediately puts a stop to it. Is she simply being overprotective, or does she have something to hide?

I loved this film. It just goes to show you how versatile a director McNaughton really is, as The Harvest is quite different in tone than his previous genre pictures. It has none of the stark morosity of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or the overt and gore-laden comedy of The Borrower, yet despite this innocence, still maintains a playfully dark flavour.

It's more of a PG-13 thriller told largely from the kid's perspectives and I, as a kid who grew up in the eighties, really respond to these types of stories. You've heard me mention an underseen gem from the UK called Paperhouse and there are moments in The Harvest that capture that kind of magic. The flawless representations of youth and friendship had me smiling a lot, and I was, therefore, completely invested when they were ultimately threatened.

Due to my mention of the phrase “PG-13”, you'd be right in assuming that the film is not particularly edgy by today's standards, but that doesn't take anything away from its quality. Its conclusion was slightly less satisfying than I would've liked, but admittedly, anything over-the-top may have betrayed the grounded center of the story.

Samantha Morton & Charlie Tahan in The Harvest.

Everything about this production was top-notch and infinitely helped by the gravitas brought by veterans like Michael Shannon and Peter Fonda. You really couldn't have found two better youngsters either. Charlie Tahan – who I'd just coincidentally watched in Burning Bright on the train ride up to Montreal – and Natalia Calis – the best thing, by and large, about the 2012 flick The Possession – were wonderful together as Andy & Maryann.

The real standout here though, was Samantha Morton as Andy's domineering mother, Katharine. I would put this performance up there with some of my favourite film maternals, like Rebecca De Mornay's Payton Flanders in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes from Misery. Morton is positively scary and able to convey it with just a look. You will constantly be in awe about how she could be so dreadful to her own family.

Director John McNaughton.

This is a tight thriller that plays to a horror fan of any age. It is so solid, in fact, that it makes me sad we had to wait over a decade for McNaughton to bring us a new feature. So, here's hoping he has broken ground on a new chapter in his career.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

DKTM 230


It's been an active week with Fantasia Film Festival still going strong and this year's San Diego Comic Con festivities in full swing, so here are some highlights.

Framing Frontieres.

This week, Fangoria posted a link to posters for some of the projects being pitched at this year's Frontieres film market at Fantasia. Here's just a taste.







For the rest, click here.

#SDCC

Since Thursday, all manner of pop culture enthusiasts have descended on the San Diego Convention Center for this year's Comic Con. As always, there is way too much news coming out of there to cover it all, but here are some things of note.

AMC's The Walking Dead unveiled a lengthy trailer for the show's fifth season.



So, some things of note. It looks like it will expand beyond the confines of Terminus, which is good because the last thing we need is another long stretch stuck in a single location. Also, it looks like we're going to find out what happened to Beth after her abduction in that mysterious car. I'm also a little troubled by the conspicuous lack of Darryl and Maggie in this trailer. The Walking Dead returns October 12th.

Sam Raimi dropped a couple of bombs during the Screen Gems panel on Friday. First, he said that he is developing an Evil Dead TV series with usual suspects Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Again, whenever news of the Deadites comes out, I always take it with a grain of salt. Remember how a while back Army of Darkness 2 was a sure thing. Well, they were quick to back pedal on that this weekend. I've always adopted a wait-and-see attitude to these sorts of things.

Sam Raimi at SDCC, pic courtesy of Rue Morgue.

Second was some news of The Last of Us film adaptation, which seems redundant, but whatever. Raimi is producing the picture, which will be written by the game's creative director Neil Druckmann. Nothing is set in stone right now, but the most promising news what they were seeking out Maisie Williams (Arya from Game of Thrones) for the role of Ellie.

Ellie?

Bioware teased their upcoming horror IP, tentatively called Shadow Realms.



You can't tell much of the game from this, but isn't it funny that we've come to the point where I'm not one-hundred percent sure whether that trailer is live action or CG.

Trailer Trash.

Here are some new horror trailers to mull over. First up, is See No Evil 2.



I never saw the first one, but the inclusion of The Soska Sisters, Danielle Harris and Katharine Isabelle means I cannot ignore this. Next, is the trailer for the bizarre little ditty The Deep Dark.



This film about a talking wall (voiced by Denise Poirier of Aeon Flux fame) is certainly intriguing, and hopefully a little more palatable than last year's similar Motivational Growth. Lastly, we have the trailer for Kevin Smith's newest project, Tusk. I must warn you though, this trailer seems to show a lot.



I love Michael Parks, so he's certainly a draw here. Also, did anyone else find the most disturbing thing about this trailer was seeing Haley Joel Osment as an adult?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lively Update.

Hey all. I just wanted to update you on the status of Lively, as it has a couple of screenings coming up. Tonight, it plays Toronto at a place called 3030 as part of the short film showcase Come To Daddy, co-presented by Fangoria and DJ John Nicol.


And a week from today, Lively has its US premiere at the Long Beach International Film Festival in NYC, as part of its inaugural Midnight Madness Series.


It looks like a pretty cool event, so if you are in NYC and decide to attend, let me know how it went.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Ghost In The Machine.


Sunday night saw the world premiere of Timur Bekmambetov's newest production venture Cybernatural directed by Leo Gabriadze.


An online chat between six high schoolers is interrupted by a seventh participant claiming to be a classmate that they cyber-bullied to suicide one year before. At first, they dismiss it as a sick joke, but when they start dying in front of their eyes, they realize they've no choice but to play its deadly game.

This was a fun movie. Considering that it is solely comprised of computer desktops and Skype view screens, I was surprised by how well this worked. The filmmakers have carved out a new narrative here by implementing the technology that we use everyday. Much like the J-horror invasion at the turn of the century, Cybernatural causes us to look at how vulnerable our always-connected lifestyles make us. I think this type of storytelling could really find a horror foothold, especially within the generation for which it is now second nature.

Cybernatural definitely has the potential to become a hit and I found it far more technically impressive than the Paranormal Activity flicks. I think it works better as a whole, evn if its individual set pieces are not as pronounced. I mean, there's only so much you can do with the stuttering and pixelated realities of Skype feeds.

One down, five to go.

I don't want to understate the storytelling though. Gabriadze envisioned this almost like a stage play, so everything was shot in real time with very long takes, which he then tweaked day-by-day. It's not a perfect medium, as multiple windows of characters yelling over one-another can be overwhelming, but it never – except for the Facebook wall death sequence which seemed a little over-the-top – strays from the world it creates.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Cybernatural is that it somehow circumvented copyrights. Timur must have some very good lawyers because pretty much every major online institution is represented here. It helps the production immensely because recreating an online experience on film becomes much less tangible when you see stuff like Schmoogle and MyFace. By using the real deal – these characters had Facebook walls, iTunes playlists and YouTube accounts – they successfully maintained a world that mirrored our own.

The following Q&A, befitting the film we had just watched, featured seven participants. Gabriadze and producer Adam Sidman were live on stage and Bekmambetov, writer Nelson Greaves and actors Shelley Hennig, Courtney Halverson & Moses Jacob Storm joined via Skype.

Technology!

Cybernatural is an experimental film that won't play with everyone, but if you are looking for a fresh take on a supernatural tale, then I urge you to check it out.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Frontières!


I wanted to break from the reviews for a moment to give a shout out to my good friends Serena Whitney and Justin McConnell, who are pitching their feature project, Mark of Kane to investors at this year's Off Frontières at the Fantasia Film Festival

They've been preparing for this opportunity for months and have some really cool materials made up to showcase their project, like this pamphlet;




My last night at Fantasia, I also finally met filmmaker Todd E. Freeman whose been a name in my Facebook feed for months now. We both have projects in the ABC's of Death 2.5 (mine of course being M is For Manure, and his being M is for Marriage) so that was a good conversation starter. He is in Montreal because he is also pitching at Frontières. He has put all the pieces together for his next feature Love Sick, he just has to find some generous investors to back it.


Love Sick starring Tristan Risk & Francisco Barreiro.

Good luck to my peeps and everyone who is throwing their ideas out there this weekend. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there like that. Hopefully, the bean counters will recognize your passion and give you all that you need to make your dreams become flesh. Who knows? Maybe I'll even be there someday...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

She's A Man-Eater.


Immediately after Late Phases, was the Canadian premiere of the hot new horror comedy, Life After Beth.


While still mourning his dead girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza), Zach (Dave DeHaan) discovers she is still alive & kicking, holed away in her parent's attic. After being reunited, he soon realizes that Beth isn't quite the same girl she used to be.

I found Life After Beth entertaining, but wouldn't say it was anything spectacular. A lot of the jokes were featured in the trailer, and there wasn't much more depth to the proceedings than what was glimpsed in such. I certainly see the comment made within about relationships and the difficulties of letting go, but they didn't really land for me. I guess I prefer my zombie girlfriend pictures to be of a somewhat different tone. I did, however, appreciate that the movie opened up in the third act to give us Jeff Baena's version of the zombie apocalypse. There were a good amount of gore gags – almost a given when dealing with zombie fare – but the movie, save one or two clever exceptions, played things pretty safe.

Dave DeHann & Aubrey Plaza in  Life After Beth.

To Baena's credit, he assembled an impressive ensemble for this movie. DeHaan & Plaza make a deliciously awkward couple, even before all the undead insanity starts. I liked Plaza overall, but I did find her moments of rage a little cringe-worthy, so perhaps that's not in her range. I certainly give her kudos for enduring all that zombie make-up though, not to mention having a oven strapped to her back. The cast was rounded out by an all-too-brief appearance from Anna Kendrick, as well as John C. Reilly & Molly Shannon as Beth's off-kilter parents. Matthew Gray Gubler also kills it as Zach's war-hungry brother, Kyle.

Director Jeff Baena, Plaza & Matthew Gray Gruber.

I no doubt enjoyed the experience of watching Life After Beth – and it was awesome to see the lovely Aubrey Plaza in person – but this will likely be a movie that is soon forgotten by me.

*Q&A photo courtesy of Ali Chappell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Wolf At Your Door.


Saturday was a long day of films, the most anticipated for me being Adrián García Bogliano's, Late Phases.


After several residents of senior community are viciously mutilated, blind war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) takes it upon himself to find out the cause, and stop him – or it – for good.

Bogliano's newest is a slight departure from his previous film Here Comes The Devil. Sure, they are both narratively straightforward and feature strained family relationships, but while Devil focuses on youth, this one centeres on the other side of the spectrum. Ambrose (played with crusty zeal by Damici) has basically been cast off by the world, so when the opportunity arises to go some good, he accepts, even though he is in no shape to do so. Ambrose is, in fact, a man with nothing to lose.

What Late Phases also shared with Devil was great performances. In addition to Damici, who it was good to see have a significant role away from his compatriot Jim Mickle, there were also a handful of actors I don't get to see as much as I'd prefer, like Tom Noonan and Dana Ashbrook.

Nick Damici & Tom Noonan in Late Phases.

I was excited to see Bob Kurtzman's name in the opening credits, as that meant the effects were in good hands. I really liked the creature designs in Late Phases. Most of the time when you see a werewolf movie, they are some variation of what we've seen in go-to films like An American Werewolf In London. Here, I felt like Kurtzman really tried for something unique, while also adding touches that somewhat recalled creatures from his previous work. The featured (and lengthy) transformation scene, though it does cheat with some cutaways, was well executed.

Apart from that, Late Phases isn't too flashy and is of a pace you would expect about a blind old man doing mock detective work. The bloody climax was terrific though and worth the wait.

Bogliano is steadily making a name for himself with these solid genre pieces utilizing tried-and-true formulas (rape revenge, evil children, werewolves, etc) and I'll be sure to check out any of his future projects.