After all yesterday's Chop Till You Drop goodness, I'm in the mood for some retro slasher reels. Behold!
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
Good morning all. I completely forgot to mention something really cool yesterday. If you head on over to the Chop Till You Drop site, you can get your hands on these babies.
Fashioned after those “retro style” action figures of late, this Slashback Series line is pretty darn awesome. For thirty bones a piece, you too can own these slices of eighties horror history. Click here for the Etsy site.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Hey gang, hope you're having a good weekend and were able to get out and catch It Follows. If not, well... Anyhoo, here's what's been going on otherwise.
Huge news this week, as it was announced that FOX is bringing back my favourite show of all time, The X-Files for a six-episode run. Not only that, but both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will be returning as the inimitable Mulder & Scully.
I'm excited about this, which is weird as just a few years ago, when the second film came out, I felt like the show had run its course. Duchovny had re-branded himself with a new show, Californication and Anderson was on hiatus (in that she was nowhere near as visible as she has become in the last few years with roles on Hannibal and The Fall), so along with the second film not being as strong as it should have been, I was of the mind that they should just close up shop and move on.
|David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson as FBI Special Agents Mulder & Scully|
Now I'm not so sure. With the return of Twin Peaks on the horizon, this somehow feels right. And with a run of six episodes, they've got time to a nice, well conceived arc. So, I'm back in. No announcement has been made about timeline, but one can expect Mulder & Scully to be back sometime in 2016.
The Man In Black.
Slender: The Arrival released this week on various platforms.
It looks super creepy, but I wonder if the experience is better served by watching people play it via YouTube, rather than actually playing it yourself (like its predecessor Slender: The Eight Pages). I still have to smile when I think how a SA Photoshop meme became a modern urban legend phenomenon. It just further goes to show that the World Wide Web has become the new campfire.
The Void is Growing.
Disciples rejoice! The Lovecraft-inspired horror project from Astron 6 members Steven Kostanski & Jeremy Gillespie, The Void has reached its funding goal of $50,000.
It's rather incredible that it took in the back half of that amount in the last week after landing on a couple of well-trafficked sites like Cracked.com. I couldn't be happier for these guys, for not only that they now have the funds to truly make the film they want to make, but also that the horror community got behind them so definitively.
|One of the many horrors that await us...|
Part of that is obviously due to the project being awesome, but they also have some really great perks available, including posters from the best artists working in the biz, Astron 6 soundtracks and even interesting ways to become involved in the production.
Having now met their goal with still over a week to go, the production team have now introduced some stretch goals, which you can check out here.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Hey all. Just a reminder that David Robert Mitchell's It Follows expands to select theatres this weekend. If it is playing anywhere near you, do yourself a favour and GO SEE IT.
On the strengths of its run in four theatres in NY & LA, the Weinsteins have decided to forego their usual indie-horror VOD route and take a chance on a theatrical release. Don't make them regret it.
I really can't stress the importance of this film doing well this weekend. It Follows is one of the freshest indie horrors to come out in a while, and if we, as a fan base, do not support it, you are not ever allowed to complain that the only horrors that get released are bland, carbon copies of the same old thing.
So again I say, GO SEE IT! Even if, for some reason, you don't feel it lives up to the hype, just by putting your butt in the seat, you are saying yes to studios taking a chance on stuff that is new, exciting and provocative.
Do your part.
Okay, rant over.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
It took over two years, but I was able to orchestrate another VHS Nite at my abode last weekend. This time around, I planned a VHS double-bill featuring killer robots, the first being Jim Wynorski's 1986 flick Chopping Mall.
It had been many, many years since I'd watched this movie and had been meaning to revisit it ever since I snagged a VHS copy from The Vault a while back. I remember digging this film when I first saw it, mainly because of the nudity, solid head explosion scene and cool looking robots. Watching it again, I was happy to discover that it was even better than I remembered.
This movie has so much going for it and is fully entrenched in that happy-go-lucky exploitation feel that a lot of low-budget, but well-produced, horror movies from the eighties had. Being older I was able to fully appreciate all the references and cameos (like Dick Miller, Gerrit Graham as well as Mary Woronov & Paul Bartel reprising their roles from 1982's Eating Raoul) that Wynorski put in there.
I was now even more awestruck by the practical robot effects. With the exception of the laser beams (with added War of the Worlds foley), all of the Protectors actions were done in camera by way of remote control. It may not seem like much now, but in 1986 that must have been a pretty ambitious undertaking for a project that cost under a million to make. And the robots also shit-talk, which only adds to the levity.
But, let's not take away from our colourful cast of characters, including the lovely Barbara Crampton as Suzie, Tony O'Dell as the quintessential nerd Ferdy and John Terlesky as the perpetually gum-chewing Mike.
This movie is super fun, and at a brisk seventy-five minutes, runs at a great pace for almost the entire movie.
Moving on from this, I fired up 1995's Evolver, a thrifty acquisition from Amazon.com. I came across this movie when I heard about the robot design being somewhat similar to that of the Protectors in Chopping Mall. And you know what? It is.
The premise here is that Ethan Embry (inexplicably credited here as Ethan Randall) wins a robot in a video game contest, which then goes ape-shit after a few rounds of Laser Tag. And all this while the robot's creator played by John “Q” DeLancie glowers in disbelief that his creation has somehow reverted back to its original military programming. And like the Protectors in Chopping Mall, Evolver also has a mouth on him, which funnily enough is voiced by William H. Macy. I know, right?
What is kind of hilarious is how tiny the thing is when it first rolls out of its crate. From the cover, I was expecting it to be a giant, but it barely comes up to the actors' waists. Still, once it switches out its Nerf ammunition for ball-bearings, knives and then lasers, things get a little more interesting.
Also, there are some pretty crazy virtual reality scenes that take place in an arcade. I love watching nineties films because of their nonsensical grasp of hacker and video game culture. I mean look, here we are twenty years later, and we STILL don't have a consumer product VR headset. Sure, developers are messing about with the Oculus Rift, but I'm still not able to walk into a Best Buy and grab one, am I?
In addition to the characters being somewhat irritating or douchey, (Embry's character has one of the worst cases of Dawson Leery Syndrome I've seen in quite some time – in that the female lead Cassidy Rae is basically throwing herself at him and he's too much of a nerd to realize it) so is the robot. Evolver is not only homicidal, he's also kind of a dick about it.
However, as with Chopping Mall, I was also impressed with the design by FX guru Steve Johnson. There was a lot of articulation in the head, neck and arms, which gave him a lot of range. I kept expecting him to get larger at some point, but nope. Even when he morphs into military grade “Level 4” badass, he is still pretty toy-sized.
So, Evolver wasn't quite as good as Chopping Mall, but still serves as an entertaining banner of its decade.
It was another successful movie night in the Western frontier. Now, I have to start scouring for two more suitable titles to play together. Although, if frequency holds, I've got plenty of time.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
While on the subject of the paranormal, I figured I'd throw out a trailer for one of the most well known and beloved of the bunch.
It been a very long time since I saw this, so I think it is due for a rewatch sometime in the near future, especially with the remake looming. Perhaps a marathon, as all I remember from Part 2 is the braces and tequila worm scenes and Julian Beck lookin' all crazy.
And I don't know if I ever saw the third one all the way through. Hmmmm.
Monday, March 23, 2015
The Black Museum kicked off its fifth semester of lectures last week with a comprehensive look at the steely character known as the paranormal investigator.
Toronto journalist Brian Baker was on hand to guide us through the creaky mansions, abandoned asylums and hallowed grounds that have made the paranormal investigator the most earthly trope of supernatural horror.
Baker began with saying that ghosts have always been a part of our history. Even though the ghost story dates all the way back to 33 B.C, he chose to focus his talk on the transition from Victorian Gothic hauntings into modern horror.
But what are hauntings exactly? Well, Baker explained they could be broken down into three categories.
Ghost – is an apparition, the spirit of a dead person appearing to the living.
Poltergeist – is a supernatural being that can physically move objects.
Demon – is a spirit that is otherworldly, and not human.
This can also be seen as an evolution; a shift due to audiences needing to be more scared by their eerie entertainment. So, ghosts became poltergeists, and poltergeists became demons.
|Brian Baker ain't afraid of no ghost.|
From here, the lecture was broken into two halves, the first being the real-life ghost hunters and then those of fiction. Though not officially recognized by the scientific community, paranormal investigation has ballooned in recent years with chapters popping up in every major city. There are programs functioning in several universities, but they often funded by like-minded philanthropists and not the school system. A dip in the interest in the eighties saw many of these programs shut down – as evidenced at the beginning of the film The Ghostbusters.
But we've come a long way since then, as now we are over-saturated with media about paranormal investigations, including the likes of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. However, the two most widely known investigators were the husband and wife team of Ed & Lorraine Warren.
The Warrens claimed to have investigated over ten-thousand cases over their long careers, the most famous being turned into the popular movies The Amityville Horror, A Haunting In Connecticut & The Conjuring.
|Paranormal pioneers Lorraine & Edward Warren.|
“These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.” - Ed Warren.
Moving onto fiction, Baker pointed out the two most influential pieces of literature on modern supernatural horror were Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and Richard Matheson's Hell House (1971), later adapted into the films The Haunting (1963) and The Legend of Hell House (1973) respectively. These works brought about two of the main themes of the subgenre, faith vs. science and characters denying the existence of the supernatural despite the evidence in front of them.
The Amityville Horror (1979) based on Jay Anson's account from two years previous featured the most famous icon of supernatural horror, 112 Ocean Ave and its foreboding quarter-window eyes. Focusing more on the second film of the film franchise, Baker brought up perhaps the most popular trope of the haunting/possession films, isolation. Very often you see the evil spirit isolate its target from the rest by breaking down the family unit. This then brings about the last common theme of Good vs. Evil.
|112 Ocean Ave, the infamous Amityville house.|
Moving into the eighties saw one of the most popular films of the genre, Poltergeist. Its notoriety went beyond the film when people began speaking of a Poltergeist “curse” after several tragedies befell several members of the cast. It is rumoured that the crew used real skeletons in the swimming pool scenes and that brought about a curse that then inadvertently caused the deaths of Dominique Dunne, Julian Beck, Will Sampson and Heather O'Roarke. Complete nonsense to be sure, similar stories surround other such films of the time, like The Omen, but it makes a great story.
Moving into present day, Baker brought up films such as The Frighteners, which saw the ghost hunter using his gifts for personal gain, and Grave Encounters that played up the hammy reality television host angle. He also spent some time on the solid 2012 film The Awakening, which brought the Victorian ghost tale full circle. He also didn't leave out Paranormal Activity, which is a perfect example of what can happen when you wait too long to reach out for the professionals. Nope, your idiot boyfriend is no substitute for Zelda Rubenstein.
As with television, films about paranormal investigation are everywhere with five titles being released just this year (Insidious 3, The Conjuring 2, the Poltergeist remake, Amitville: The Awakening & Paranormal Activity 6) and no sign of things slowing down.
Baker's talk was a solid and informative walk down the annals of paranormal investigation. And who knows, maybe, someday, one of these guys will actually nab some irrefutable proof of the other side.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Spring is officially here, and thankfully I didn't even need a calendar to tell me so. It was already evident in the fact that we've had a string of plus-zero days and the ice has melted to the point that I don't have to risk breaking my neck every morning. Good deal. I've got a spot of past, present and future for you today, so let's get right to it.
A VHS Adventure.
Over in Alberta, that crazy retro-minded collective, The House of Heathans have themselves a new project called The B-Movie Odyssey. Expanding on the universe introduced in The Last Video Store and M is for Magnetic Tape, video jockey Kevin Martin finds himself sucked into the world of home video. Here's the pilot episode below.
If the subject matter didn't already sell me, the Tristan Risk Final Girl cameo certainly did. B-Movie Odyssey is actually a contest entry for Storyhive, a community powered funding program for emerging filmmakers in Alberta and British Columbia. So, if you liked what you saw, go on over to the website and cast a vote for it. The winner gets $50,000 and a Telus distribution deal.
Where Paradise Is Home.
This week saw a new trailer for the upcoming FOX show Wayward Pines.
There are certainly a lot of intriguing notions in this show, but I'm weary that the more I learn, it becomes less like Twin Peaks and more like Lost. If this is just a show about M. Night trying to be clever, I'm going to lose interest real fast. However, there is a ton of talent in this show, and NBC's Hannibal has proven that network shows can compete with their cable brethren. Wayward Pines premieres Thursday, May 14th.
Eat Your Heart Out, Peter Weller.
Below, is perhaps one of the better proof of concept trailers I have ever seen.
We are certainly getting photo-realistic with our animations these days, aren't we? I've heard some negative feedback about the Leviathan design, but I like it. The front end resembles a Great White shark, which offers up intriguing possibilities about shared evolution. Hopefully, there is more of a story here than director Ruairi Robinson's last project, The Last Days of Mars. But, that trailer above is a great jumping off point.
And hey, if it doesn't become a movie, maybe Team Ico can make a video game out of it, as it seems apparent by now that we're never getting The Last Guardian. But, that's a whole 'nother matter.
Friday, March 20, 2015
I've got some great news going into the weekend. My short film The Monitor will be playing the twelfth edition of The Calgary Underground Film Festival next month.
I'm absolutely honoured as CUFF is one of the premiere genre film festivals in Canada. If you happen to be in Alberta, my short film will be playing in front of the bat-shit crazy flick I Am A Knife With Legs at midnight on Sat, April 18th.
This year has some great flicks playing including Benson & Moorhead's Spring, the super sexy Duke of Burgundy, a revival of the infamous 1981 animal attack film Roar as well as a great David Cronenberg retrospective. For more info on the films playing, click here.
Man, this is just tremendous. Anyway, as you were.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
I want to go back to the beginning this week. One of the very first movie posters I can remember marvelling at was for the 1980 Michael Caine/David Warner vehicle The Island.
I subsequently watched it on late-night television, but remember very little, except the climax where Caine has to save his kid from the pirates. But this trailer sure makes it seem pretty action packed!
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Good afternoon all. While I nurse this hangover with a large dose of couch, let me serve you up some new morsels from the world of horror.
Spring Is In The Air.
This week, the campaign for Red Spring went up on IndieGogo. This post-apocalyptic vampire tale is actor/writer Jeff Sinasac's (a real class act I've had the pleasure of working with several times) baby and he needs your help to raise the remaining funds to make this project a reality. Here below is the concept trailer and Jeff's pitch video.
Based on Jeff & Tom's track record, this should be quite something, so please, donate what you can or at least pass along the link to get the word out. Click here to see the campaign page.
Still Here. Tonight.
Ted Geoghegan's debut film We Are Still Here starring Barbara Crampton has its world premiere at SXSW this evening. Check out this sweet poster.
Hopefully, this makes its way to a festival near me soon.
If you're in the mood for a cool short, here's one from Andrés Borghi called Alexia.
I think this would make a good pairing with the upcoming film Unfriended (formerly Cybernatural), as their sense of the here and now seems really fresh to me.
Anyway, that's it for now. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Friday, March 13, 2015
All right, here we are at the second of three Friday the 13th's this year. I hope you all find a suitable way to celebrate. Meanwhile, check out this sweet coffee table made by Slaughter FX.
You got eight hundred bones to spare, right? Plus, if you happen to have access to EPIX, there's a Friday the 13th marathon going on all day starting... Well, right now! Check on the image below for the schedule.
On another note, David Robert Mitchell's horror juggernaut It Follows opens up in a few theatres in NY and LA this weekend, with a larger roll-out the following week. Check this site to see if you live in one of those cities.
I know we here in Canada have to wait until the 27th, so don't squander this wonderful gift you have been given. If it is anywhere near you. GO SEE IT. No excuses.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Today's trailer is for 1984's Murder Rock, because today feels like a Fulci kind-of-day.
I have an inkling this might be a good double bill with Night Train To Terror. You know, just in case you feel like overdosing on random eighties dance numbers.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Hey all. Well, the clocks are now turned ahead, so things are looking up on this side of The Wall. More sun, means more heat, which means less bone-chilling,ball-shrivelling cold. Hallelujah!
Vive La France.
Here's a trailer for a cool looking French film that premiered at Fantastic Fest last year called Horsehead.
Though the trailer isn't new, I bring it up because Horsehead was recently picked up for distribution in Canada by Black Fawn Films, so hopefully I'll be getting a crack at this visually stunning flick this May.
Check out this cool book from Tom Hodge of The Dude Designs (take a moment to check out his site, because he's pretty great).
This is a collection of over two-hundred and forty covers from the VHS era with a forward from Mondo's Justin Ismael. What makes this book even more special it is an exploration of VHS art from the UK, so a good deal of them will not be familiar to those of us this side of the pond.
VHS Video Cover Art is currently available for pre-order through Amazon for release May 28th.
Don't Use The Good China.
Here's another example that anything can be re-appropriated for more horrifying means. Check out these pieces from Israeli ceramic sculptor Ronit Baranga.
This rattles my brain. It's like that test where it's hard to read off the names of colours, because the words are printed in a different colour that the word (“red” in yellow and so on). Baranga has tapped into that, as dishes are not supposed to have mouths in them;
“The useful, passive, tableware can now be perceived as an active object, aware of itself and its surroundings – responding to it. It does not allow to be taken for granted, to be used. It decides on its own how to behave in the situation.”
Weeeeeeird. To see the rest of the set, click here.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
This week, I finally managed to cross Starry Eyes off my list of must-see 2014 horror titles.
After auditioning for the lead in a horror film, Sarah (Alex Essoe) discovers she may have to give up more than she thought for the part.
This was one of those few occasions where I knew almost nothing going in other than it involved Hollywood, a satanic cult and had a lot of festival buzz behind it. I enjoyed that I didn't know exactly where it was going to go. Sure, its Tinsel Town metaphor may have been thinly veiled, but I couldn't help but smile through a lot of those moments.
In some ways, this film is a strange beast. It has a retro sensibility, but also doesn't get sucked into a lot of the usual trappings associated with this oft-used device. Helped along by a great synth score (to add to the many fantastic ones of 2014) it feels vintage yet modern at the same time. It reminded me of stuff I'd seen before - Ti West's House of the Devil and 2012's Canadian body horror flick Thanatomorphose were two that came to mind - yet this was one of those rare instances where a film subsequently improved upon those beats. Starry Eyes felt more well rounded and not just about one thing; there was a journey here, an arc.
|Sarah (Alex Essoe) auditions for The Silver Scream.|
Which brings me to lead actress Alex Essoe. She turned in a fine performance that not only required an emotional range, but a physical one, as well. Essoe's transformation takes her far away from the sweet and innocent soul she begins the film as. In addition to Essoe, there were a lot of familiar faces from the indie horror scene including Pat Healy, Noah Segan, Amanda Fuller and, of course, Marc Senter being his usual eccentric screwball self. The majority of the characters in Starry Eyes may not be the most three-dimensional you've ever seen, but at least they are memorable. I thought Maria Olsen as the casting director had this great Miss “Suspiria” Tanner vibe going on and Louis Dezsern steals both scenes he's in as the sleazy producer.
|The producer (Louis Dezsern) up to no good.|
Which reminds me that I also want to commend co-writer/directors Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer for being able to toe the line of bad taste. The subject matter is that of films made over the last ten years by the likes of Lucky McKee and his entourage, but Kolsch & Widmyer seemed to know how to regulate the amount of lasciviousness. They know how to repulse, but not anger. At least me anyway.
Starry Eyes is a solid little film that is well made and anchored by a strong lead. In a year stocked with really great indies I hope this one doesn't get overlooked. It may seem superficial at first, but its undertones run deeper.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
I watched the Japanese 1968 flick Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell last night.
As you can see, this one’s a wee bit strange. With equal parts aliens and vampires, it gives you about as much as a decidedly PG-rated film can.
One of the four genre efforts (Genocide, The X From Outer Space and The Living Skeleton being the others) from Japanese studio Shochiku, a label better known for straight-up dramas, I can see the visual style of the film’s opening sequence influencing both Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon (1980) and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (2003).
All four aforementioned titles are currently available through Criterion in a four-disc set entitled When Horror Came To Shochiku.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Hey all. It's been a solid weekend filled with the new season of House of Cards and watching Rousey defend her title in fourteen seconds flat, but now it's time for some genre news.
Picture The Void.
The IndieGogo campaign for The Void has been going excellently, with over ten-thousand dollars raised in less than a week. On Thursday, the filmmakers (Steve Kostanski & Jeremy Gillespie) announced perhaps their best contribution perks yet.
These three posters were commission from some of the best in the business (Graham Humprheys, Justin Erickson and Gary Pullin respectively). One-hundred twenty dollars will get you one of these three (each limited to 100) prints, and three hundred will get you the trio.
To visit the campaign page, click here.
Black Museum V.
The fifth semester of the Toronto lecture series, The Black Museum kicked off last Thursday with a screening of Andrea Bianchi's batshit crazy film Burial Ground on 35mm.
|Poster art by Trevor Henderson|
Before the screening, they announced the first lectures of their fifth stanza. Check it out!
For more info on The Black Museum, go here.
I'm liking what I'm seeing here. I think the addition of the kid mirrors the dynamic of Found in an interesting way. If you are lucky enough to be in Indiana, you can catch an encore screening (the premiere was last night) today at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in Bloomington at 7pm. Say hi to Scott for me.