I'm off to Sin City for a few days, so I'll be incognito for a bit. Not to fear though, I'll be back before you know it, hopefully with a tale or two. Stay safe, kiddies.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
I'll be travelling out to Las Vegas tomorrow morning, so I figured I'd celebrate with something from the desert. It's California I know, but hey, close enough.
This narrator really loves his job.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Last week, I checked out the latest edition of Justin McConnell's short film showcase Little Terrors. Once again, he put together a solid line-up of shorts, with most of them being of European pedigree this time around. Here was the cream of the crop.
I was hugely impressed with UK filmmaker Rob Mcllelan's philosophical sci-fi short ABE. It's simple, great looking and the visual effects are spectacular. I have rarely seen a CG character with such presence and weight onscreen, and certainly not from an indie venture. If only Hollywood held such high standards. But don't take my word for it, here it is below.
And if you'd like to see an interview with Mclellan, click here.
This Little Terrors programme featured several shorts from the UK based short film collective Bloody Cuts, the best of which was Don't Move by Anthony Melton. It was a cool idea that cleverly started in the middle and finished on a fantastic gore set piece. Check it out below.
Another solid short was Child Eater, which recently played SXSW. It was a little rough around the edges, but I liked how director Erlingur Thoroddsen was able to infuse some original lore into the tried-and-true babysitter in peril genre. It's not easy, let me tell you. Here's the trailer below.
Next, was a wonderfully skillful short from Spain called Ocho. It was gorgeous and even more impressive was there's not one line of dialogue within the fifteen-minute running time. This is just an excellently crafted horror short. Check out the trailer below.
Bewilderbeast, from Danish director Balder Skånström-Bo is like a work of art. While it is true that twenty-five minutes is a problematic length, there is no denying that he created a universe that demands your attention. There is true vision here. Here is the trailer below.
The perfect capper was Spaniards Adrián Cardona & David Muñoz new splatstick opera Fist of Jesus. Anyone familiar with their 2010 short film Brutal Relax should know exactly what to expect. So, put on your slicker and behold, Fist of Jesus!
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Hello all. Here are some horror tidbits to enjoy with your Sunday brunch.
Welcome To Fear Street.
Over the last several months, I've been frequenting a bar that spins tunes and scores from genre films on Wednesday nights. The current DJ is a cool dude by the name of Dave Bertrand, formerly of Montreal's Blue Sunshine movie house and here below is a mix he recently made up for Fangoria.com. Enjoy!
Staircases To Nowhere.
On the heels of the theatrical release of The Shining examination documentary Room 237, here is the comprehensive making-of documentary called Staircases To Nowhere: Making Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining". Made by British university students over the course of three years, the doc talks with several crew members that worked on the iconic film, providing a real sense of the meticulousness of their director Stanley Kubrick. Here it is below, if you'd like to check it out.
Lastly, here's an amusing fake trailer made by indie filmmaker troupe Slash Consortium.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Last week, the second semester of The Black Museum lectures finished up with one I had been looking forward to for a while.
Film scholar Andrea Butler took us through a comprehensive rundown of the history of film poster art, starting with its origins and continuing through the decades. And all with a common theme.
“How do these artifacts of popular culture guide us in a historical look at the genre? Monsters are made into icons and audiences are able to connect with them within the same frame of the cinema and get close to that unknowable other, but without threat. How we want to see our monsters is intertwined with the cultural and political climate of the era that produced these posters.” -Andrea Butler.
She began with a familiar story about being enraptured as a kid, by the explicit and lurid VHS cover boxes in her local video store. Being too young to view said movies, she would have to make up her own scenarios. Years later, when she was able to finally watch these forbidden films, she realized that her imagination was often scarier than the real thing. That is when she became fascinated with the role that poster art plays in marketing a film.
Moving onto the origins of the film poster, she pointed out that early instances focused more on the act of watching a film rather the film itself, as it was still considered a novelty. It was not unusual to see the cinema audience featured prominently in the advertisement.
As with pretty much any media, it did not take long for marketers to realize that sensationalism got butts in the seats, so posters depicting acts of violence quickly became popular. This led to the Hays Code being instituted in 1930.
Butler then brought up the Hollywood star system that bred horror icons Bela Lugosi & Boris Karloff, who became forever connected to their onscreen monstrosities, Dracula and Frankenstein.
The fourties, which saw the atom bomb, the Roswell incident and later the Cold War brought with it the birth of the B movie. As a result, there was a shift in focus on poster art from the actors, to the monsters and mutants they were battling.
This over-the-top cinema led to the rise of Bill Castle and gimmick cinema, which was in itself an attempt to get viewers away from their television sets – the new entertainment novelty in the fifties.
From there, Butler introduced the birth of the American serial killer when the ghastly real-life crimes of Ed Gein were discovered in 1957. The first was Alfred Hitchcock with Psycho three years later, but many would follow, like H.G. Lewis and Roger Corman.
In the mid-sixties, the Hays code was eradicated which was when things, as Butler stated, “got really interesting.” Led by George A. Romero, American genre film of the sixties and seventies, fuelled by the Manson murders and Vietnam, became the playground of the human monster.
To be honest, Butler covered so much ground during this section of her lecture, I wouldn't be able to do it all justice. However, I will pass along her visual representations of some trends that appeared during this era.
|Nature run amuck. (Right click to enlarge)|
|Death framed in the holidays they represent.|
|Urban terrors from beneath. (Right click to enlarge)|
|Showcasing the killer.|
During the slasher craze of the eighties, the killer gradually shifted from villain to anti-hero. Butler needed to look no further than horror's three largest slasher franchises to illustrate her point. I'm sure you'll notice how the focal point changes over the years.
Then the nineties happened. It was a decade of diminishing returns, with posters to match. We're still struggling with the “floating heads” syndrome brought on by the Scream franchise – which Butler actually pointed out was a phenomenon that had its origins with the star system of the thirties & fourties.
However, there were some bright spots of artistic merit in the nineties.
It took a good half-dozen years of the 2000's to shake off the decade that preceded it, but good art, spearheaded by companies like Mondo, has made a comeback. These guys have been knocking it out of the park over the last five years or so with current and retro editions of film poster art.
Lastly, Butler showed off a recent interview she did with Toronto based artist Ghoulish Gary Pullin. And much to my elation – because it saves me having to transcribe it – here it is below.
Butler concluded her talk by saying;
“Remember, in order to battle with monsters in the real world, we must familiarize ourselves with their fictional counterparts in all their forms and incarnations.” -Andrea Butler.
This was a fantastic installment of The Black Museum and my favourite so far – and I've seen some doozies. To finish strong, here are some more awesome posters that were showcased during the show.
That last one I actually won at the show, just to make the evening even more awesome! Consider me already signed up for season three!
|The Birds (Polish)|
|Art by legend Saul Bass|
|Blood Beach (Italian)|
|Friday the 13th (UK)|
|Surprisingly American, surprisingly recent (2011)|
That last one I actually won at the show, just to make the evening even more awesome! Consider me already signed up for season three!
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Sunday, May 19, 2013
There's lots of interesting news coming out of the Cannes film market this week, so here's the skinny.
Goin' Back To Class.
There was interesting news out of the Cannes market this week. It looks like the Drafthouse guys are putting together another installment of ABC's of Death. Scheduled for release in 2014, this one will feature twenty-six new directors, including the likes of Sion Sono (Cold Fish), Canadian Vincenzo Natali (Splice), indie darling Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter) and animators Bill Plympton (I Married A Strange Person) & Robert Morgan (Bobby Yeah). As with the first one, the creators will also be looking for submissions for the twenty-sixth director. I wonder what letter it will be this year?
Even though the reception to ABC's of Death was mixed, I considered it a wonderful experiment that will no doubt be refined and improved on this time around. For those who haven't seen it, I believe it is being released on Blu-ray this Tuesday. For more info on ABC's of Death 2, click here for the news release.
Speaking of anthologies, this week also saw the unveiling of the red band trailer for V/H/S 2. This project features installments from Adam Wingard (You're Next), Edúardo Sanchez (Lovely Molly), Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre), Gareth Evans (The Raid) & Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), with writer Simon Barrett contributing the wraparound story. Now, I chose not to watch this trailer, as I found the one for V/H/S showed too much, but if you'd like to sample the goods, here it is below.
Thy Will Be Done.
Here's a trailer for the Canadian horror flick Kingdom Come. Though the byline is very familiar - strangers wake up in a remote place blah blah blah - there are some solid creature effects in this trailer that peaked my interest. Here it is below.
I'm pulling for this one, as not only was it shot in my neck of the woods, but it also stars Ryan Barrett, whom I just worked with on my upcoming short film Lively.
Friday, May 17, 2013
The third last title on my Time Out Best 100 List countdown was Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1934 film The Black Cat. It took some doing, as it was surprisingly difficult to find, but I finally managed to track it down.
Newlyweds Peter (David Manners) & Joan (Julie Bishop) and a mysterious doctor named Werdegast (Bela Lugosi) end up at the manor of Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff) after their bus crashes. Soon, the couple realize they are caught in the middle of a deadly vendetta between the two men.
The Black Cat is an odd little film. I can certainly see the significance, since this was the first time that genre juggernauts Bela Lugosi & Boris Karloff appeared in the same film together. I can only imagine what a big deal that would’ve been in the thirties – Universal obviously did as they continued pairing them for many years afterwards. I mean, the only thing that even approaches this from our era is perhaps Freddy vs. Jason, and that took over a decade to produce just a single outing.
I was certainly glad to see Karloff in a more dialogue heavy role this time around. Up to this point, I'd only seen him in roles that were either incidental or cursory, like The Old Dark House and 1968's Targets – which, granted, he's super badass in – or sympathetic, like his legendary role as Frankenstein's monster. In The Black Cat, he gets to play a straight up villain. Lugosi is, of course, in top form as well, continuing his hypnotic cadence that made his turn as Dracula so iconic.
|Lugosi (left) & Karloff square off in The Black Cat.|
I have to say though that I found how little this film resembles the Edgar Allan Poe story it is supposed to be based on rather distracting. I realize the film says it only “suggests” the Poe story, but I was definitely expecting more than just that a black cat happens to walk into frame every once and a while. It was quite baffling. I guess the use of a recognized work to sell an unrelated project is not a new tactic, but silly me, I thought those were more innocent times. But then again, I am talking about a film that involved war criminals, Satan worshippers, torture and implied necrophilia, so maybe it's not so innocent, after all.
Getting back to the cat, I think it gets a raw deal in this picture. The feline in question not only gets called the living embodiment of evil in one scene, but is also skewered with a letter opener in another. Perhaps most peculiar is when Peter later says,
“Strange about the cat. Joan seemed so curiously affected when you killed it.”
Really? I don’t how things were in the thirties, but nowadays chicks tend to frown upon animals being impaled in their presence.
|The title character in one of its rare appearances.|
At a scant sixty-five minutes, The Black Cat actually manages to feel longer due to a narrative which seems to be pulling in different directions at once. As I said before, I understand the significance but its inclusion on Time Out List seems a little dubious.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
With the whirlwind of activity going on the last six weeks, I never had the chance to report on the VHS documentary I saw at Shock Stock. Let’s fix that now.
Adjust your Tracking is a labour of love conceived by the curators of VHShitfest, Dan Kinem & Levi Peretic. Most people consider VHS a dead format, but there are still a precious few that consider it the best way to view their favourite movies. This documentary showcases these individuals.
This is a fun doc rife with colourful characters. I found their unbridled enthusiasm for the format infectious and made me want to drive around looking for yard sales and swap meets. I’ve never been much good at tracking down these sorts of places, but these guys have it down to a fine art. Some of the titles they pulled out of their archives were just crazy, and the stories of where and how they found them were sometimes even crazier.
In addition to the collectors, Adjust Your Tracking interviews some icons in the industry like Fangoria founder Tony Timpone and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman. It also features input from indie filmmakers like Gary Cohen (Video Violence) and Keith Crocker (The Bloody Ape) who both likely owe their careers to the direct-to-video market spawned by the rise of VHS. Kinem & Peretic go full on nostalgic with the presentation, with tracking lines and analogue titling abound. There are also a lot of old VHS and video stores commercials peppered throughout that are good for more than a few laughs.
|Director Dan Kinem in his natural habitat.|
As much as I found it this engaging, I’m not sure how wide an appeal Adjust Your Tracking possesses, as there was no real arc to the proceedings. When you look at the really great genre-based documentaries of the past few years, they always lead up to something. Last year’s The American Scream had three families preparing their haunted houses for Halloween and Best Worst Movie (coincidentally also by Michael Paul Stephenson) had the eventual cast and crew reunion of Troll 2. Adjust Your Tracking is, ultimately, just talking heads gushing over VHS. While I found that interesting for ninety minutes, maybe not everyone will.
But then again, I guess that describes the very nature of VHS in this day and age, doesn’t it?
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
With all the rain and cold here, this trailer seems appropriate.
This shit is gold! Having seen this more than twenty years ago, all I remember is the melting faces, but with all the stuff going on in this trailer, me thinks it deserves a rewatch!
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Hey everyone! My crew & I finished off the last few shots of Lively last night, so I can really, truly get things back on track here. However, first things first!
In my absence, there have obviously been countless things that have hit the Web, so I'm just going to throw up as much as I can.
First, there's this awesome trailer for The Shining documentary Room 237. It's just perfect.
Second, here's a trailer for a film called Found that just hit my radar this week. It is one of those films where I slapped myself for not thinking of the idea first. This has shot way up on my list of most anticipated genre films.
Lastly, we all remember the glory days of exploitative Italian film, right? Well, it looks like director Raffaele Picchio is taking a stab of bringing it back with Morituris. Thanks to Fangoria for the heads up.
Here is just some fantastic horror art that has appeared on my Facebook stream over the last few weeks.
|Fright Fest Originals poster for The Descent by Gary Pullin.|
|Hausu poster by Trevor Henderson|
|Scream Factory Blu-ray release of Day of the Dead by Nathan Thomas Milliner.|
|Mondo poster of Evil Dead 2 by Jason Edmiston.|
|Mondo poster of Army of Darkness by Randy Ortiz.|
R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013
Unfortunately, I have to end on a sad note today. Stop motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen passed away on Tuesday at the age of 92. His contributions to genre film are immeasurable. His creature creations were a fixture in my home growing up, as there was not a weekend that went by that something he worked on wasn't showing on TV. My favourite will always be Clash of the Titans. The reason this movie works is the efforts of Harryhausen, from the smallest things like Perseus' clockwork owl Bubo, to the gargantuan Kraken. However, for me, the most striking was the villainous Medusa.
Rest in peace, Mr. Harryhausen. You will be missed, but your legacy will live on forever. To check out a wonderful database of all of hia creations, click here.