Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fantastic Fest: Vegan Friendly Slasher STILL LIFE Has No Meat On Its Bones

A few months ago I decided turn give up mean at go vegetarian for a number of personal reasons I won't bore you with here. When I heard about the Argentinan slasher film Still Life (Naturaleza Muerta) playing the festival, I was intrigued. There's a lot of cogent political and ecological statements you can make about the meat industry while delivering a bloody good time within the genre.

After seeing the film, I want to eat a massive plate of bacon in protest two the hour and a half of time that I wasted on the movie.

Still Life follows Jazmin, a broadcast journalist pursuing the disappearance of a woman who stands to inherit her father's lucrative slaughterhouse and meat packing plant. Jazmin suffers from being completely uninteresting and a major bitch to everyone around her. Whether she's withholding key evidence she uncovers from the police, committing numerous breaking and entering felonies, or running in terror from a golden retriever (because, you know, THOSE are vicious killers) you won't give a hot damn about any of it. The film gives you an array of paper thin, disinteresting suspects including a vegan farmer, a vegan activist and a vegan with a few screws loose.

Many a slasher film has been able to overcome poor storytelling and thin characters with over the top kill sequences sure to please the gorehound. Still Life comes up excruciatingly short in this department, often cutting the camera away at the last moment before delivering one extended kill sequence that contains nothing you have not seen done better a hundred times before. It's a slasher movie with no body count.

Obvious technical shortcomings including glaring editing mistakes make you wonder how this made it through the final stages as it is. The color correction is way off. Shots are inserted that make no cohesive sense. It comes off like a student film from a middling scholar that's still in its early drafting stage.

Just to sum up: a cast of uninspired characters get mixed up in a mystery whose resolution you won't give a damn about even if you don't see the reveal coming from a mile away. There's no great gore or FX to fall back on and the whole things looks awful to boot. Now pass me a double cheeseburger. 

Fantastic Fest: IT FOLLOWS Is Relentlessly Terrifying

No matter what you do, it comes after you. It does not need to sleep. It does not need to eat. It never tires. It can take any form: a loved one, a friend, or a complete stranger. No one can see it but you. It will never stop coming for you unless you can pass the infection on. Even then, you're only putting off the inevitable. This is the minimalist approach David Robert Mitchell's thriller It Follows takes. Working with a simple idea, peeling it down to its core and executing it to near perfection It Follows is a text book case in what can be accomplished in indie horror.

Jay (Maika Monroe) finds her idyllic new relationship turn to a waking nightmare when her boyfriend knowingly passes the curse onto her after their first sexual encounter. Warning her that it will never stop coming, he dumps her bound body on her front lawn and peels off into the night. Armed only with the support of her sister Kelly, her first crush and friend Paul and their nerdy friend Annie, the quartet find themselves on the move, trying to stave of the inevitable and outsmart a creature that is relentless in its pursuit.

The most striking aspect of the film is the intricacy of the camerawork. Shooting in scope, Mitchell frames certain shots so that anyone in the background could be “It”. Rather than serve as a distraction, the technique keeps the audience alert, knowing that danger can strike at any moment. While the film is by no means downbeat, even during the closing moments, the imagery warns you that security is an illusion, and a monster can lurk behind any face.

It would be easy to dismiss the sexual theme of It Follows as “Don't have sex.” After all, it's the act of intercourse that passes the curse on, and even then you're never safe as “It” just works backwards through the line once it finds the latest victim. Like the old adage goes “When you sleep with a person, you sleep with every person they have ever been with before you.” However, if you dig a bit deeper, the film has a strong and positive message. The teenagers in the film are in control of their own sexuality. Once Jay is marked, she and her friends understand the repercussions of the sexual act, and they freely give them sexuality in a way that empowers them.

It Follows has a fairy tale like quality to it due to the sense of timelessness that went into the aesthetic. While the characters are armed with modern devices like cell phones (that work!) and e-readers, it's a very analog design. The wardrobe and set design are lifted from the 1970s, right down to details like chunk black and white CRT tube televisions and polaroid photos framing mirrors. While it seems like a small detail on its own, it lends the film a sense of the inevitable. Whatever it is that stalks its prey, it has always been here, and it always will be here.

With a cast of teens delivering phenomenal performances, a sense of dread the permeates the entirety of the film and gorgeous imagery on a tight budget It Follows is everything I love about independent horror in a nutshell. Give yourself over to the film and I promise you, it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in terror. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fantastic Fest: ALLELUIA Delivers Loads Of Uncomfortable, Dysfunctional Sex

Following up his tale of countryside horror Calvaire, belgian director Fabrice du Welz delivers Alleluia a twisted, dysfunctional love story.

Gloria is a single mother cajoled by her neighbor to join an online dating service and except an offer for a lunch date. Her date, Michel, is a handsome, middle aged gentleman that sweeps the woman off her feet with his constant flattery. The evening ends with the new couple making love in the hallway outside her flat in order to not wake her daughter. After loaning her new beau a decent chunk of money, the smitten woman is crushed to learn that she has been deceived, as she discovers Michel is bedding a number of women across the town.

Rather than learn the lesson to not lend creepos money after one date, Gloria tracks Michel down, refusing to take no for an answer. He claims the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother has warped his views on love, and he uses his charms to con women like Gloria out of their money in exchange for sexual gratification. Rather than run for the hills, Gloria decides to join up with Michel, increasing the scope of schemes in order to land bigger scores.

This is the point where Alleluia teeters off the rails, and heads into random, bizarre directions. Despite her initial encouragement and participation, Gloria is incapable of accepting Michel bed another woman, despite their plans hinging on that fine point. Before the couple can collect their money and bounce, Gloria flies off into a murderous rage, her temper overwhelming her until some old codger lays in pieces after her piques of violence. Michel realizes early on he created a monster he has no hope of controlling. However the only thing that scare him more than her rage is the thought of leaving her.

What give pause about Alleluia is the misogynistic streak that runs throughout. In presenting this dysfunctional couple, Du Welz lends Michel a sympathetic bent. The film almost absolves Michel's being a con man by painting him as someone that injects happiness and pleasure in to lonely women's lives. also, while Michel's infidelity acts as the trigger for Gloria's murderous rage, he is conspicuous by his absence with regards to an active hand in the violence. If anything, he is seen as a victim, cowering in fear and trying to shield himself from his lover's wrath. Alleluia goes so far as to paint him in a heroic light in the films' final stages despite it being his selfishness, weak will and outright duplicity being the cause of the problems.

On the other hand, Gloria's histrionics mark an paradigm shift from the women the film introduces us to. While her loneliness is apparent at the outset, we also understand that she survived a man she calls a "bastard" of a husband and raised a lively little girl on her own. That she would willingly abandon the girl for a man that gave her one night of passion seems far fetched. That Gloria would propose to act as a partner in his schemes, then fly into a rage when she seems them in action appears counterproductive. Often during her fits Gloria acts like a petulant child in the throes of a tantrum, stomping her feet and thrashing about until Michel soothes her by making funny faces and sounds.

Fantastic Fest: CUB Earns Its Scouting Badge In Murder

From the land of fluffy waffles, decadent chocolate and fine beers comes one of the better slasher films in a long while. Making its American premiere at Fantastic Fest last night, Belgium's Cub delivers a slasher with a nice twist: the merry band of meat puppets getting hunted down consists primarily of a group of prepubescent cub scouts. It's a great concept that would never fly in the States, and luckily, director Jonas Govaerts does not hold back once things ramp up.

A trio of teenage scout leaders takes their charges to the woods for a weekend of adventure. The trip is supposed to consist some fun and games, eating hot dogs cooked over campfires and scaring the kids with the legend of “Kai” a local legend about a young werewolf that hunts his unsuspecting prey right near the site.

The group does not realize that there IS a Kai, he just happens to be a young boy wearing a horned mask made of tree bark. He and his father have booby trapped the entire area, and their underground lair alerts them to any intruders while ensnaring their prey through a variety of complicated mechanisms. A slasher film is only as good as its kills, and after a slow start, Cub makes terrific use of the triggered mechanisms with some sequences that garnered appreciative laughter and cheers from the audience. Cub is not the goriest movie o the year-or even the goriest one of the festival yesterday, but it is clever in how it executes its kills.

The film also focuses on young Maurice Luijten as the cub scout “Sam.” He's a bit of a recluse and picked on by nearly all the other kids, while the pact leaders make references to his “troubled” upbringing. Sam manages to find and befriend Kai before being forced to take him in in battle. Young Luijten manages to sell the roiling turmoil inside what could turn out to be a sociopath if he's not given some love and attention.

There are some troubling aspects to the film. Those who cannot stomach violence against animals will want to avoid this title, as one of they key sequences involves a dog trapped in a potato sack and being used as a canine pinata. I appreciate a film that can travel down some dark paths, but once Cub makes that trip, it grabs the audience by the ankles and won't let them up for any reason. It's one of the darker, more nihilistic slasher films I've come across in a long time. The only comparison I can make is the Malevolence/Bereavement films from Stevan Mena. It's not so much the idea that no one is spared. There would be little point in a movie about cub scouts getting stalked by a killer if none of them suffered any real consequences. It's due to the way Govaerts snuffs out any hope for his characters over and over again, which can be grueling at times.

That said, Cub still manages to impress due to offering up a great slasher icon in Kai. The subgenre has by and large been ignored in America as of late. In our wake, we're seeing a terrific wave of balls to the walls slasher movies coming out of Europe. Cub evokes memories of the 80's classics by offering up creative and crowd pleasing ways to die. It also has the benefit of being incredibly well acted and well shot, which is a distinction our VHS worn collection of 80s favorites cannot always claim.

Fantastic Fest: ABCs OF DEATH Part 2 Blows The First Entry Out Of The Water

Similar to V/H/S 2, the second installment in the ABCs of Death franchise manages to improve on the flawed original entry in immeasurable ways. The core concept remains the same: each director (or directing team) is assigned a letter, and are given three to five minutes to find creative ways to off somebody. While this sounds like a great idea in theory, the first film proved difficult to sit through (something producer Ant Timpson addressed in his intro to the second film). Luckily, a new crop of talent manage to breathe life into the idea, and this time around there's a sense of oneupsmanship with each passing short.

The improvement begins with a beautiful animated sequence played over a haunting score. Things kick off in style with the first four shorts tackling a rank amateur assassin, a smarmy broadcast journalist encountering mutated beavers and a visually lush stop motion sequence that contains the always disquieting image of human teeth on a stuffed toy.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the first film was an over reliance on gonzo Asian cinema. While fart addicted lesbian lovers and nazi sympathizers spewing come out of gigantic fake penises is good in small doses, when these segments make up over half the film it becomes a hodge podge of steaming garbage. The entries from the Far East this time around are far stronger from both a storytelling and visuals standpoint, with a court of zombies passing judgement on humans (O Is For Oligarchy), a 120 year old grandmother that refuses to die and a young girl who fantasizes about (Y Is For Youth) taking revenge on her neglectful parents.

The real draw for the series is the creative and often humorous ways the human form is torn into something that closely resembles shredded taco meat. There's a ton of great segments to choose from within including the Soska Twins (T Is For Torture Porn) having the lovely Tristan Risk force acrew of scumbag porn producers to literally go fuk themselves, a quasi-sequel from the Inside Team (X Is For Xylophone) that might top any of the already impressive gore the duo has on their resume. The winner of the contest that earned an entry (M Is For Mastic ate) dares you to unburn the images of a burly, fur covered man slo-mo running the streets in piss stained tighty whities. The most impressive effects sequence closed out the show in Z Is For Zygote where a mother to be chews on a root in order to prevent her labor from commencing There's a truly spectacular sequence where she is turned inside out by her now teenage fetus. Manborg's Steven Kostanski also shines with a gory, hilarious tribute to the 1980s toy commercials of the 1980s aimed at young boys with "W Is For Wish"

My personal favorite goes to indie stalwart Larry Fessenden for N Is For Nexus. With a closing shot that mirrors the first minus the context, a Halloween backdrop and lovely homemade Frankenstein and Bride costumes, Fessenden lends more weight and tragedy in less than four minutes than many features can ever claim credit for.

While there are stumbles along the way-which is inevitable over the course of 26 segments-ABCs of Death part 2 is a fun flick that should be a staple for the midnight and cult cinema circuit.

Fantastic Fest: "TUSK" Walruses have never been more frightening or more hilarious.


Tusk (dir. Kevin Smith) 

TUSK’s premise is almost too good to be true: A crazy Canadian entraps a douchey hipster and turns him into a walrus. Kevin Smith’s second entry square into the horror genre takes this premise and runs with it, and the end product is a campy, unapologetic film that is indeed about turning a hipster into a walrus. 

This hipster in question is played by Justin Long. Having graduated past playing a Mac computer on commercials, he now takes his turn at playing Wallace, a Los Aneles podcaster who makes his money off of making fun of clumsy You Tubers. Though a series of flashbacks we see that Wallace is a pretty slimy guy. He treats his beautiful and loyal girlfriend like an accessory, and is obsessed with his new income and status. He makes the trek to Canada to interview the star of an online video which he makes famous, or rather infamous for the star’s lack of bodily coordination. When he shows up at the poor kid’s house to wring every last drop of exploitation out of him and discovers the kid has killed himself, Wallace’s only concern is finding the next target. Luckily he finds a hand written note pinned up to a local bar’s bulletin board advertising free room and board in exchange for light chores and an ear to hear an old man’s tales. Here is where it gets interesting. 

The note was left by Howard Howe (Michael Parks in what might be my favorite performance off his, which says a lot), a retired mariner who lives far outside of any town. After a brief stop to get a giant soda and to further tease Canadians for being Canadian Wallace arrives at Howe’s home hoping to find the topic of his next podcast. Howe starts by humoring Wallace and telling him a few snippets of his adventures at sea, which are impressive. His encounters with Ernest Hemingway and being lost at sea lead Wallace to believe he has found a jackpot.

Parks really shines here and gleefully chews up the scenery while spinning these tales. In fact, his performance for the rest of the film is campy and lavish, but he thankfully manages to stop just shy of making it a farce. As fun as it is to watch the absurdity of Wallace and Howe’s predicament, it is a damn creepy horror film and their interactions toe the line between suspense and humor perfectly. 

One performance that does miss a few notes, however, is Johnny Depp’s. Yup, though he is credited in the film as his character’s name, Guy Lapointe, Depp does have a fairly big part in TUSK. When it is apparent that Wallace has gone missing his girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and co-podcaster (Haley Joel Osment, who grew up to be a fine actor) head to the great white north and team up with the only detective who can help them: Lapointe. Lapointe tells of his long history with Howe, who is Lapointe’s white whale of sorts. The flashbacks are funny enough, but far too much screen time is spent with Lapointe hamming it up. The joke of seeing Depp using a ridiculous accent while wearing a gigantic fake nose does not get funnier as times goes by, and the film would benefit with tighter editing on his scenes. 

All while Lapointe and Wallace’s friends are searching for Wallace, Howe has been making quick work of transforming Wallace into a walrus. Body horror this gruesome may not have been widely released since HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, and TUSK gives that film healthy competition in terms of gore. A fellow critic at the screening actually dry heaved at certain scenes, and this is a man who watches movies for a living!

TUSK’s biggest strength is that it knows what the audience’s expectations are and it exceeds each of them. It is preposterous, disgusting, and hilarious. It is destined to be a classic, and was a hell of a lot of fun to watch. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Interview With Pete Schuermann Director Of THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA

The Creep Behind The Camera was easily one of my favorite films at this past Fantasia Film Festival. The docudrama details the sordid history of Vic Savage and his efforts to get Z-grade monster movie The Creeping Terror off the ground. Equal parts hilarious, haunting and downright disturbing-often within moments of one another-the film is a case of real life trumping fiction. Director Pete Schuermann paints a striking portrait of a small time hustler that could have one arm around your shoulder while the other picks your pocket. Schuermann pulls no punches in the biopic, putting all Savages worst tendencies-the lying, the boozing and drugging, the womanizing, the physical and verbal spousal abuse his wife Lois endured along with even darker demons that lurked within Art Nelson/ “Vic Savage.”

Ahead of this October's Screamfest (running from the 14th through the 23rd) Schuermann sat down for a phone interview to talk about what drew him to Savage and what it took to balance the humor and the horror of a story you could not make up if you tried.

The subject of your film is Vic Savage, director of The Creeping Terror, which has been immortalized by MST3000. What was it about his story that drew you in and made you want to make this film?
There's been kind of a concurrent thing going on with me and movies and the message I wanted to do with a feature film. When I was very young and eager to get in to the film business, I kept encountering the same kind of people-well maybe not as bad as Art Nelson-but people that had no problem taking advantage of men and women dying to get into the film business one way or the other. A lot of the people I encountered left that impression. I definitely had a “Let's get even with them some day” desire to make this movie. Also, being a big fan of these films since I was thirteen years old and being in to monster movies and the whole genre of B and Z grade movies from the era. We used to do our own version of the Mystery Science Theater when we were young. When I saw the MSK show I was in hysterics through the whole thing but I was dumbfounded that I had never heard of it. I had all the old monster movie books and old Starlogs. As I got into my adult phase I had completed my first documentary and the questions started coming in about what I was going to do next. That's when I started going through the Michael Medved book, The Golden Turkey Awards and there's this fantastic picture of the pickup truck with them parading up and down Hollywood Boulevard and I thought “Man wouldn't that be a great scene in a movie?” I started researching online. Medved was vague about who Nelson was. He said he was a con man that came and went but then I found all kinds of blogs about the subject. When I encountered Nelson's ex-wife Lois, she had written a book Hollywood Con Man where she uses aliases for the names but she outlined what he was really like and their experiences in Hollywood. That's when it came together.

A typical biopic often glosses over the bad side of people but your put that front and center. One of the more powerful things is how you give Lois a voice. There were moments where she welled up bringing up memories about just how terrible a man Nelson was. At the same time your movie is often funny. How much of a challenge is it to balance the humor and horrific when you're talking about a real person and you don't want to glorify or excuse his actions?
That's a great question. It's definitely a challenge and an ongoing one. We've opened ourselves for criticism with some people who ask how we can possibly have humor alongside these awful things, but I think that the people who resonate with the kind of things we are trying to say and do appreciate that it is so absurd what he was doing and saying-he has this carpet and he's telling everyone how this is going to be the greatest monster movie ever-and he does these awful things and everyone around him has an awareness that he's either trying to get laid or trying to scam money, but they deny it. This might be a little deep philosophically but I think I deliberately wanted to make it so you had to laugh at this because it's so ridiculous and because it makes you think about the similar people you know in your own life that you let get away with it. Yeah, everybody does get off the hook in Hollywood retrospectives. We all know that we are opportunists. We see the starlets come in to the director's office and ask “What are you willing to do to be in the movie?” Whats the moral choice? Nobody talks about it, it's like alcoholism, which of course, is a big part of our movie. I decided to go for broke. I like movies that are roller coasters where you feel one thing at one moment and something completely different the next. I love the quote from Steven Spielberg when he was asked what the proudest moment of his directing career was and he said it was in Jaws when Roy Schneider is scooping chum into the ocean and bitches “Come scoop some of this shit. The audience laughs and I remember seeing this when I was ten, and that laughter turns into screams. If you can be a director and manipulate people like that it's a big challenge. The verdict is still out if we pulled it off.

When you deal with this really dark material, especially when you're examining the life of another director, how easy is it to shake of the subject matter when you go home at night?
It was a challenge, mainly because of the dedication, hmm, you're rolling the dice trying to be profound and silly at the same time. Knowing that you're all in on this, when you cross the threshold and you're no longer a straight forward documentary with talking heads. That and getting to know the real Lois, who is a sweet, sweet lady, and you know despite that she has been through hell and back and probably experienced, my God the things that this person has seen. She's a sweet old lady that would remind you of your Grandma, and she's very Christian now. The weight of that hangs over your head. All of that hits home. I can say this about Josh (who played Vic Savage/Art Nelson) he's not particularly a method actor. He can be sleeping on set, and we'll wake him up only to see him immediately turn it on and off. It did bother him to have to push Jodie Thomas (Lois) around because she's a sweetheart and five foot nothing. Jodie loved it. She loves dark movies and thought it was awesome. If the people around started getting weirded out I think it would have been worse.

You mentioned the film being a roller coaster. The film doesn't so much build Nelson/Savage's dark side so much as it presents it from the get-go, but it contrasts that with scenes moments later where he's jerking off in the bushes stalking Jayne Mansfield before one of her dogs attacks him. This is great! When you talked earlier about how Hollywood is now versus then, and bring in some of the talking heads like Bill Thoroughby who produced The Creeping Terror, it seems like everybody saw through Savage from day one, and saw what a schnook he was yet they continued to enable him. Why was it that he was able to dupe people for so long or even get an opportunity to begin with?

You were talking about me and my home life and bringing the work home. This is something that I will still obsess over and my wife will hear me go on about it. How can they hire this person? How can this nice girl go out with and marry this guy? I just don't get it. It's a question we raise in the movie but don't answer because I really don't have an answer. I think it's just avarice on one hand and the lure of all these things. For Thoroughby, he was looking at it as an exit strategy from a Hollywood system he didn't like and he thought he could make money. His dad had told him “Don't go to Hollywood” so in one sense it was a way to show his dad he could make it work for him. For the women though, and I tried to play this out in some of the scenes-Lois figured out early on what he was about but he continually wore her down by telling her she couldn't make it without him because she knew nothing. I think that happens for a lot of abused women. Like you said if this “schnook” won't accept me who the hell else will? Ultimately, I don't have a real good answer and it's something I'll seek throughout my life. You just shake your head and as how they fall for this crap.

So what's the next step for the film. Is it still making the festival rounds or has it been picked up for distribution?
The next step is a critical juncture for us. We play LA's Screamfest this October. They've also gotten the rights for The Creeping Terror so it's going to be a double feature. We're bringing the monster prop out there and since it's in Hollywood we figure let's try to bring a lot of that crowd in. We figure between Fantasia and Screamfest, why keep going the fest route, let's sell this movie while it's hot!

Are you tossing the monster on the back of the flatbed and cruising around Hollywood in order to drum up interest?
I guarantee you we'll be doing that. The festival is at the Mann's Chinese so we will definitely be going up and down Hollywood Boulevard.

What I really appreciated about the film was how funny it was. You had bits where everyone working the monster would pass out from the heat and the fumes. It was a hoot and so over the top.
That was definitely a fun part and I still get people that come up and say “Those actors you hired to do the interviews were really good” and I have to correct them and tell them they were the real people involved.

It's a sign of a good actor when they can deliver a line badly really well. How did you see this playing out in your head as you were researching the subject?
It was fun. The research took about a year. We really did think we were going to do a straight forward documentary with a little bit of dramatization. But as I went forward I kept thinking “I got to turn this part into a scene.” It was hearing about the Charles Manson connection that turned the corner along with reading Lois' book. Her book is kind of off the record and more like a diary. Seeing how her life with him unfolded as he was making the movie and showing what a joke he (Savage) was- the movie and his life paralleled each other. It was after reading her book we had our “Aha” moment where we had an arc, which is ironic, because the book does not have one. We had to build that monster.

Well you certainly built something.

Thanks To Pete Schuermann for taking the time to talk to us. Look for The Creep Behind The Camera to make it's Boston premiere on October 19th at the Somerville Theater. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Don't Know How I Feel About An American I SAW THE DEVIL

In things I'm on the fence about*, it was announced earlier today that the horror Super Friends team of Simon Barrett & Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way To Die, You're Next, The Guest) have been targeted an American adaptation of I Saw The Devil from South Korea's Jee-Woo Kim.

On the plus side, Barrett and Wingard have a strong records as collaborators, Aside from the films mentioned above, they've shepherded the V/H/S franchise and contributed on of the stronger shorts in the first ABC's Of Death in “Q Is For Quack.” They have a keen knack for taking their films into unexplored territory, and they proved they can make a top notch serial killer film with A Horrible Way To Die, which starred AJ Bowen as a tormented harbinger of death. Another plus is the source material. From the opening moments where a light snowfall blankets the landscape to it's bloody climaxI Saw The Devil is poetry on film. It's visually stunning, emotional and at times, bat shit insane.

It's that last factor that has me a little worried. While I have no doubt Barrett and Wingard will seek to put their own imprint on the material, the cultural sensibilities of I Saw The Devil strike me as something so far off the grid for American audiences, it just might not translate. You can look to the recent Oldboy remake for an example, and it's not like that movie was made with the involvement of a bunch of hacks. If the duo want to replicate or top the more out of left field moments of the original, it stands to reason that studio executives wary of the bottom line and marketability may try to rein them in.

As it stands right now the film is in the “preliminary development” stage and for all we know, things could fall apart, leaving both men free to turn their attention to the Mighty Ducks reboot we've been craving for all these years.

* List includes, but is not limited too:

  • Green Tea
  • Non fuzzy handcuffs used in role play
  • The creative direction of the WWE

Trailer For THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT Is Super Creepy.

With all my excitement regarding Fantastic Fest later this week, I'd be remiss if I forgot about some of the other soon-to-be-released horror fare that's got my knickers in a twist.

Case in point: In a matter of weeks the promising title The Houses October Built hits select theaters, iTunes and various VOD platform October 10th from RLJ Entertainment. As someone who has been known to drag his unsuspecting friends and long suffering wife to stand in hours long lines for haunted attractions (though, to be fair, knocking back a half dozen or so pumpkin martinis beforehand makes the waiting time fly by) the idea of the denizens in a theme park haunted house attacking the patrons for kicks is so simple in nature, and ripe for exploration, that it stuns be it has not been done with any success before:
Beneath the fake blood and cheap masks of countless haunted house attractions across the country, there are whispers of truly terrifying alternatives. Looking to find an authentic, blood-curdling good fright for Halloween, five friends set off on a road trip in an RV to track down these underground Haunts. Just when their search seems to reach a dead end, strange and disturbing things start happening and it becomes clear that the Haunt has come to them…

While I could do without the world's umpteenth found footage movie, the trailer has some very creepy moments, including what could be a child or a dwarf in a porcelain doll mask. Don't lie and tell me you would pass up on that. Another upside: No long lines, no punk kids screeching when one of the wandering attractions says "Boo" giving you an ear splitting headache and watching at home means you can toss back a DOZEN pumpkin martinis. Trust me, your liver will thank you.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

HONEYMOON Is One Of The Most Heartbreaking Horror Movies Of The Year

Some of the true giant films of the genre stick with us due to their ability to tug at our emotions just as strongly as they scare the pants off us. Whether it's Karloff's Monster's heartbreak at his Bride's rejection, or the doomed romance between David and Nurse Jenny in American Werewolf in London the genuine emotion conveyed has as much to do with their success than any other singular factor. Although it's a much more scaled back in both production and scope, Leigh Janiak's Honeymoon is a standout effort in this regard, and one of the best films of the year.

We're introduced to Bea (Game of Throne's Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) via their wedding video, where the couple partake in a “confessional booth” gimmick that runs through they're dating history, Paul's clumsy yet charming proposal and their undying love for one another. The newlyweds decide to escape the claustrophobic confines of the city for their honeymoon, retreating to Bea's remote lakeside childhood home. While Paul has what many a rough neck would refer to as “city boy hands”, Leslie and Treadaway share outstanding chemistry with one another, building the couple into one you truly enjoy watching over the film's first arc. Bea is almost too adorable for words, and it's obvious she's taking great joy in sharing the warm memories of her childhood with the man she wants to spend her forever with while still teasing his lack of outdoors aptitude.

A chance encounter with Bea's old boyfriend and his wife leaves Paul feeling uneasy, Bea begins exhibiting strange behaviors, including sleeping walking half naked in the woods in the middle of the night. The couple seem to grow apart overnight. What makes matter's worse, Bea can't seem to remember how to execute simple tasks or key moments in the couple's courtship. The pit welling in Paul's stomach increases in size with each passing moment as he can no longer recognize Bea as the woman he fell in love with. Janiak explores the expected and familiar ideas of this concept before shifting into unexpected territory, playing with the viewer's expectations until the stunning last few minutes which are equal parts horrific and heartbreaking.

Watching Honeymoon, I could not help but make the analogy to living with a partner that comes down with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. While the timeline is accelerated for story purposes, one cannot help but share that feeling of utter helplessness when a loved one no longer recognizes the world around them and sees a stranger in the face of a person they have beside for years. That Honeymoon manages to convey the depths of despair and terror that accompanies this experience is a testament to the fantastic work of Leslie and Treadaway under Janiak's steady direction.

Honeymoon is out September 12th on various VOD platforms. It is one of the true standout efforts of the year, and the rare but welcome horror movie that you should have a handkerchief by the couch when it gets a little dusty in the room.