Tuesday, September 30, 2014

October 18th THE TRILOGY OF INDIE TERROR At The Somerville Theater

Just in time for Halloween your friends at All Things Horror are proud to present our own Trilogy of Terror. Featuring three works of stunning independent genre cinema. We've lined up something for everyone's taste, and have plenty more up our sleeves. So rather than settle for the same old edited for television “classics” your local cable providers are running around the clock, come down to the Somerville microcinema and catch three of your future favorite films, today.

The lineup!

THE LAST BUCK HUNT The husband and wife team of Becky & Nick Sayers are bringing us this mix of backwoods humor and horror. Led by a wanna-be hunting prodigy, the hapless crew of an outdoors show hunt a legendary buck that's terrorized residents of the Northwest for years. The show's unassuming cameraman tries to hold the crew together as their outdoors adventure turns deadly. Filmed in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, The Last Buck Hunt is an independent feature film where the cast becomes an endangered species in this horror-comedy, you'll have to decide whether to laugh or scream.

THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA Pete Schuermann's docudrama proves once again that the truth is stranger than any fiction. Many horror and B-movie fans are familiar with the schlockfest The Creeping Terror from the merciless lampooning it received at the hands of the MST3K crew. Less known is the story behind the film's creation and it's shady director Vic Savage. This film delves deep into the conniving scam artist as he wrangled funds by any means necessary, even hooking up with Charles Manson himself at one point. Alternately gut busting funny and horrific, often within the same scene, this is one of the most talked about indie films of the year. The film includes interviews with the men and women Savage scammed while his ex-wife provides eye opening insights into the abuse the man was capable of inflicting.

BAG BOY, LOVER BOY Taking its cue from the heyday of grindhouse cinema, this film would have fit right in with 42nd Street cinema crowd of sleazebags and dirt merchants. Not since the original Maniac has a movie captured New York at its dirtiest. Newcomer John Watcher is a revelation as Albert, a developmentally disabled, emotionally stunted adult that unknowingly finds himself taken advantage of by a photographer looking to shock the world with his images of sex, violence and exploitation. When Albert is unable to separate art from reality, he winds up creating his own macabre and grotesque works of art. We are proud to bring one of the more controversial films of this past summer's Fantasia Film festival to Boston.

Tickets are $10 online and $12 at the door. 

Fantastic Fest: WYRMWOOD-zombies With A Dash Of Mad Max

Wyrmwood kicks off with a bang as a group of Mad Max cosplay enthusiasts stomp a mudhole in zombie ass . It is enough to give one hope that this Australian import might rise above the average zombie fare. Unfortunately the opening minutes provide the high point. It is by no means a bad film, and at times is quite fun, but it feels like two separate titles, and it makes for a disjointed experience.

When the does zombie apocalypse breaks Barry is forced to shoot his wife and daughter through the skull with a nail gun after they turn into the undead. Stricken with grief he is determined to find his sister, Brooke (Bianca Bradley), as she is his sole remaining family. Unfortunately a branch of military run amok has captured Brooke and they have their own ideas for her, stringing her up in a roomful of the dead while pumping sedatives in to her bloodstream

Brooke is one cool wrinkle of Wyrmwood, as she develops a telepathic a link to the undead. She finds herself able to control their actions and when the time is right she can sic her zombie charges upon whoever is pissed her off. I would've loved to have seen the whole film focus on this development. Unfortunately Wyrmwood is too divided between Barry and his search for Brooke along with her struggles. It’s too bad, because Ms. Bradley is a more than kickass heroine, and I would have loved seeing more of her roaming the Outback with a zombie army at her disposal.

Despite some flaws, no one can accuse of Wyrmwood of being boring. In fact, it is a fun, pulpy movie. There is plenty of gore most of it practical in nature and the camaraderie between Barry and the survivalist group is actually pretty good. There are also decent bits of humor sprinkled throughout the film. It is not enough to warrant more than one look but if you are jonesing for a bloody zombie flick this time of year try and seek this film out as it makes the festival circuit.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fantastic Fest: GOODNIGHT MOMMY Shows That Twins Are Still Terrifing

Goodnight Mommy (dirs. Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz)

Fantastic Fest always offers at least one “secret screening” tucked into its programming. These films are unannounced and a complete to surprise to the audience. This year the fest’s secret screening was the Austrian horror film GOODNIGHT MOMMY, and it shocked the audiences. No one had any idea that they were going to see a gruesome and terrifying story of a family askew. 

The film opens with twin boys trying to deal with their changed mother. Lukas and Elias are a bit freaked by their mother’s extensive facial bandages, and she too seems to be struggling a bit with her temporary appearance. The mother is a television presenter and has gotten what we can only imagine is a good amount of plastic surgery to maintain her youthful looks. The boys’ father is not around or mentioned, though mother does allude to a recent accident which has had a great effect on their family. 

The mother’s concentration on her recovery causes friction between her and the restless boys. As any young kids during their summer holiday they want to run, play, make noise, pull pranks, and explore around the house. She must constantly remind the boys to keep it down because she needs to rest, and like the children that they are they do not realize that they are going against her requests when they set out to play.  When mother’s reactions swing from understandable to downright vindictive both the twins and the audience begin to suspect that something more is going on with her than merely some cosmetic upkeep. The boys both suspect that the woman in the bandages is not their mother, and they strategize how to keep alive with this nasty stranger in the house. 

Child actors can make or break a film, and the Schwarz twins (whose real names are also Lukas and Elias) do a great job of carrying the film. They have the most screen time and are able to quickly shift from playful children to being overly cautious kids. Neither mode is annoying or persistently perky, though they do get rambunctious enough to understand why their mother would snap at them. 

The film’s other major strength is the writing. It magnificently balances the perception of the mother in the boys’ eyes in such a way that leaves you guessing until the very end. It is not merely the cinematography – which is quite beautiful and communicative – that conveys this uneasy balance; it is also the situations that the boys find them in. 

After the secret screening at Fantastic Fest the buzz was the film was quite capable but really shined in the third act. I whole heartedly agree, in that the film gets much darker than you anticipate very close to the end of it. Even though we have seen many films featuring twins or mean parents, this film has a refreshingly unpredictable ending. 

I had never even heard of this film before Fantastic Fest and I am really glad that I got to check it out there. It is always inspiring to encounter films which take well-worn situations (like twin children) and rework them to show that there is always an opportunity for original scares. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

MondoCon 2014

Mondo has been cornering the market of innovative and artistic film art for many years.  When it was announced that they would be hosting the first ever MondoCon in Austin, concurrent with the first few days of Fantastic Fest, film poster fans had a collective and deserved freak-out. Finding so many artists in one location, all ready to sell their art directly to their fans is a first for the movie art community.  

During the inaugural MondoCon last weekend I was able to sneak away from Fantastic Fest for a quick visit. There were two large halls of artists booths.  Many artists had organized signings, which lead to fairly long lines of fans, but I found that it was much more fun to wander booth to booth and chat with the artists myself. 

Without knowing me off-line, you may not know that I am a huge movie poster art geek.  Poster art brings alive the heart, spirit, and often the guts of a film, and can capture exactly how a film makes you feel in one single image.  I set out for MondoCon with the explicit purpose of meeting two artists. 

First up, Gary Pullin.
Gary is the former Art Director at Rue Morgue and has produced may of their iconic horror illustrations.  He has kept himself very busy designing posters, DVD covers, and even the tour poster for the Italian giallo band Goblin's first North American tour.

Gary was very friendly and open to chatting with all of the visiting fans about the illustrations surrounding him. 

My second fan-girl encounter was with the living legend that is Basil Gogos.  I may not have taken time away from the awesomeness that is Fantastic Fest had I not know that arguable the godfather of modern horror art was sitting just a few miles away. Basil is the man behind the covers for Famous Monsters of Filmland from the 1960s and 1970s.  Nearly every iconic Universal Monster portrait from that era was either by his hand, or owes him a great artistic debt.  

Basil was so happy to be connecting with fans and introduced everyone to his tiny dog Cleopatra, who was helping him run the booth.  When he spotted the horror tattoos on my arm, he said, "Those are nice. Do you have any of mine?"  I just so happen to have two on my legs, and seeing them brought a smile to his face. Getting to thank this man for the art he created and for the sincerity that he brought to a medium that could have been easily dismissed was a huge high for my trip to Austin. 

The convention also featured film screenings, galleries of film concept art, as well as panels where artists discussed their process for creating art and the current climate of poster art today. 

Given the crowds of elated fans and the rows of artists that were happily connecting with their most targeted audience, it looks like MondoCon was an enormous success.  Hopefully the convention continues for many years and continues to draw like-minded movie art fans and artists together.

(Photocredits: MondoCon)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fantastic Fest: THE BABADOOK Is A Terrifying Modern Fairy Tale

One of the fews films at this year's festival capable of raising the hair on the back of your arms, Jennifer Kent's The Babadook terrified me right down to my core.

Emilia (Essie Davis) plays a widowed mother furtively trying to hold the last frayed ends of her nerves and sanity together, before she snaps and goes careening into insanity. Her loved died while taking her to the hospital to deliver their son Robbie, now age seven. While Robbie is a sweet child by nature, he is hyperactive, loud and a bundle of nervous, twitchy energy with a motor that never seems to run itself down. Emilia is utterly and devastatingly alone. She either cannot move on from or stop being reminded by others about her dead husband. Her harried sister lacks any empathy for Emilia, treating her more like a nuisance she can't wait to discard and her domineering boss at the nursing home cuts Emilia no slack over her plight.

The sudden appearance of a children's pop-up book, "The Babadook", with its sinister promise of doing serious harm if let in, has the obvious effect of catapulting Robbie into a spiral of nightmares and walking terror. Convinced the Babadook is real and present, the boy's behavior worsens with each passing day, and Emilia, already at the end of her rope, lacks the strength and resources to adequately cope with this new crisis.

The Babadook is at its most chilling when it deconstructs the psychological turmoil of parentdom. Davis is a revelation as a woman in over her head who is self aware enough to know it. Kent wisely holds back on overusing the monster for much of the film, suggesting that it could be a manifestation of Emilia's trauma. From the barely masked look of desperation Davis wears with each passing scene, to the visual cues in the form of piled up clutter around the house, the film focuses on the gradual wearing down of Emilia into submission. Davis’ is so good, that when the internal switch goes off her performance shifts from sympathetic to terrifying, allowing the audience to shift their allegiance to Robbie, who at his core just wants to protect his mommy. Davis’ transformation reminds you that no matter what, her child is essentially helpless and reliant on his mother for protection.

When The Babadook is at its best, it holds a mirror up to parents that reminds them of the times they have been completely overwhelmed by the task of raising a child, wondering what they did to get themselves into this horrid mess.  When it shifts to a more traditional horror film in the third act it loses a bit of steam. The Babadook design itself is fine, owing a debt to Conrad Veidt in the German expressionist silent classic The Man Who Laughs. It feels a bit too much like Home Alone Meets The Boogeyman at times, but does manage to recover nicely.

With one of the year’s best performances and grounded, real life terrors anchoring the film, it is easy to recommend The Babadook to anyone looking for something scary. Ms. Kent has crafted a modern fairy tale that should be one of the more talked about and appreciated genre efforts for many years to come.

This Weekend See THE GUEST In Theaters, Download The Soundtrack For Free

If you're fortunate enough to live in one of the cities screening the latest collaboration from Simon Barrett & Adam Wingard, there's bonus motivation to heading to the theaters this weekend. As seen above, if you tweet #TheGuest with a picture of your ticket stub, you get a download code for the films soundtrack. That's WAY better marketing than giving out beer coozies.

Soundtrack listing:
Haunted When The Minutes Drag by Love and Rockets
Hourglass by Survive
Anthonio (Berlin Breakdown Version) by Annie
The Magician by Mike Simonetti
Masquerade by Clan of Xymox
Omniverse by Survive
Because I Love You (The Postman Song) by Stevie B
Storm Column by Gatekeeper
A Day by Clan of Xymox
Emma by Sisters of Mercy
Obsidian by Gatekeeper
Cry In The Wind by Clan of Xymox

EVERYBODY LOVES A GOOD SYNOPSIS: A soldier (Dan Stevens) introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.

THE GUEST is currently playing in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Miami, Seattle, Phoenix and San Antonio before expanding nationwide October 10th. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fantastic Fest: SPRING Is A Moving, Unapologetically Romantic Monster Movie

Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson's first feature Resolution remains one of my favorite films of the past few years. Looking back on the movie, it's amazing how thoughtful it is despite the small scope of what essentially is a one location movie. For their sophomore effort, Moorhead and Benson stretch their boundaries, traveling to oceanside villas of Italy for Spring. The sweeping backdrops only add to a a stunningly beautiful and moving story for what was my favorite film of all Fantastic Fest.

Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) needs to see him escape his problems and the country after a week that sees him burying his mother followed by him nearly killing a man in a bar fight. A small inheritance allows him to travel abroad to Italy where he finds himself “living the life of a bored, rich American house wife” while trying to drink his sorrows behind him. A chance encounter brings him into contact with the beautiful Louise (Nadia Hilker), and while she seems aloof to his charms at first, he manages to win her over and convince her to go on a date with him. The chemistry is apparent from their first moments together and the evening ends with them in bed. What Evan does not know is Louise is something more than human, and their encounter triggers the start of a monstrous transformation within her.

While the monster aspect of Spring takes a backseat to the romantic elements, the film offers a creature unlike anything seen in film before, and its evolving nature allows FX supervisor Robert Kurtzman the chance to play with a variety of designs. The monster's explanation owes equal debt to Lovecraftian horror as well as Darwinism. It's mythology helps further one of the central themes of Spring, which is the constant struggle between faith and fact. Despite being afforded millenia to study herself Louise admits that what she understands rests on unproven theory.

Spring rests on the chemistry and performances and Pucci and Hilker. Just as Resolution explored the bonds of male friendship, Spring unapologetically examines why people fall in love, and whether or not it's an emotion one controls or simply takes over.Two films in to their career, Benson and Moorhead have an uncanny knack for making you believe in their characters and their motivations in short order. Given what you learn about Evan's history, it makes complete sense he would seek a deeper connection than a brief fling would offer. By the same token, Louise’s stand offishness makes perfect sense as well. Even as I found myself getting further invested in the pair's burgeoning relationship, I found myself questioning whether or not Evan was being selfish with what he was proposing to Louise. Spring asks Is this really worth it? a question that might not ever be more evident that in the moments after Evan discovers Louise’s nature and sits there with a mute, dumbstruck expression on face. Pucci and Hilker have a terrific cadence in their interactions with a great deal of push/pull as one tries to convince the other what the best course of action is. The filmmakers know how to manipulate this chemistry, especially during the elongated single take of the duo arguing while walking the cobblestone streets of the villa.

When people ask why I would travel halfway across the country just to watch movies when there's a half dozen cineplexes within a fifteen minute drive in any direction from my house, I would point them towards films like Spring. There's a reason why it's called “Fantastic” Fest and not “So-So” Fest, and it's because of the films like these that move you in ways that are completely unexpected. There is a joyous optimism in Spring that transcends the love story. It's every bit the tale of committing every part of yourself to a course of action and seeing it through to the end, knowing that it isn't always the end result that matters, but the peace that comes from the knowledge that you took your best shot, and you won't lie awake asking what could have been. While it's a theme that apples to the romance within the film, it also serves as a larger call to the act of independent filmmaking itself.  

Fantastic Fest: IT FOLLOWS interview with writer & director David Robert Mitchell

Fantastic Fest is the film festival where you find your next favorite film. Early on in the fest I found my next favorite film: IT FOLLOWS. One of the most original story premises I have seen in quite some time the film features an unknown force that follows whoever is infected with the curse, but it is much more than that. It is rumination on the current state of sexuality in our country. It is atmospheric and damn creepy. It is smartly written and never makes the audience feel like they are incapable of following the story. I was not the only one paying attention to IT FOLLOWS, as it won two of the “Next Wave” awards at the fest, including Best Screenplay and overall Best Film. 

I got to sit down with the director David Robert Mitchell in the Drafthouse’s trippy karaoke rooms to talk about the film, feminism, and nightmares. 

To start off, the film is called IT FOLLOWS. How did you define “It”?
I didn’t necessarily define “It” within the film. It was the idea that these characters stumble into this nightmare. The idea is that if you or I were to enter a nightmare we wouldn’t necessarily be able to define “It,” and that’s how I built the movie. If you are confronted with something that doesn’t make sense, it goes against logic, and is outside of what we understand, then that in itself is undefinable. The honest answer is that all kinds of ideas of what this could be but, the characters themselves are unable to figure this out, in the way that anyone would be unable to figure this out. It’s truly just about confronting the nightmare. I know this is vague, but it’s the truth.

Well the film itself does leave “It” ambiguous. 
A lot of films like this turn in to an exercise in trying to find an object that relates to a moment in time that connects with it and reveals a mystery in some way. Or that it’s about finding the origin of something. Sometimes those can be really great movies, and there are many that I like. But that didn’t feel right for this. This was more about: What do you do when you are confronted by this situation? And not about trying to get to the bottom of it.

I have to tell you it is difficult writing about this film because I have to write “They are all running away from the… the It.”
During production we would give each one the actor’s name. It would be the “whatever It.”

What films did you look at to inspire IT FOLLOWS?
I didn’t look at anything specific, more tonally I would look at other films. I watch a ton of horror films, I watch a lot of movies in general, and I’m a big film fan. I couldn’t say specifically, but there is a huge number. The idea for the film came from a nightmare I had when I was a kid. The idea of being followed by something very slow, that looks like different people that other people can’t see. It was a recurring nightmare. I could always get away. I would be sitting down to dinner with my family and someone would just walk in through the front door and no one else would be reacting, but I knew it was this monster coming to hurt me. It was dream logic, where you understand what’s going on. I could run, or climb down a window; I could always get away, but its waiting and eventually would come. It was easy to keep distance from it, but what’s disturbing is that no matter what it is still coming closer. You could go really far away, but you are going to want to sleep or relax. The idea is that you don’t know at what moment it is actually going to get there. This always sat with me. It’s basically an anxiety dream. I stopped having it when I was young, but I always remembered it. Later I thought I’d love to take some of these ideas and build them into a film. All of the sexual elements came later.

As I was watching this film I really noticed the camera work. If you pay attention to it, it is far beyond what we are used to seeing. Can you talk a bit about all of the different styles of camera movement?
We worked with a great cinematographer, Mike Gioulakis, who is a super talented guy. We spent a lot of time planning the look of the movie. Even before production we had pre-preproduction. We story boarded the film. Some of it was changed as we went along, but we had solid plan for how we wanted to do it. The goal was to try to be bold with it, to be specific, to be deliberate with it. We made very clear choice with camera movement, but also with sound, editorial, music, performance, all of that. Nothing was done for the sake of safety. We wanted the movie to be beautiful, but a mixture of beautiful and disturbing. Some of that was difficult.

Can you tell me about one of the difficulties you encountered?
Gosh. Some of the stuff when Jay’s in the wheelchair, when she wakes up, that scene was very difficult. It was very cold. It was a very difficult environment- that location was tough to be in. Some other ones were tough just due to staging and choreographing the movement. Having scenes with someone in the background, in the distance can be tough. Getting them at the right distance, at the right moment, to coordinate with the dialogue or whatever is happening in the foreground can be difficult to manage. There was a lot of running round and yelling into the distance.

You briefly mentioned that you brought in all of these sexuality elements – which were not in your childhood dreams – but it was an interesting choice to not have this necessarily be teenage sexuality. All of these characters are on the verge of adulthood. Was this a deliberate decision?
I think you are right in that these characters are all in a middle ground. Writing is instinctive. I based building the characters on the types of characters in my first film, which is a very different movie. In that one it is younger kids, and in this one I did want them to be a little bit older. I’ll have to think a little more about that, but I think that is a valid point.

I read the film as a feminist film, and though it deals with burgeoning sexuality it never feels like it is specifically about female sexuality or defining it as problematic.
For me, it was never really about sexuality being problematic. It is about dealing with it across the board. I’ve had some people think the film is taking a puritanical stance, and if people feel that way it’s fine. It’s just not how I see it. I don’t think it’s a judgment of sexuality or female sexuality; I don’t see it that way and I hope that doesn’t come across. We are all mortal. We are all here for a limited amount of time. It opens them up to danger, but it also frees them in some ways. Sex and connections and love are all things that can at least temporarily push away the focus on our mortality. It doesn’t get rid of it, but it pushes it off in the distance a little bit. It’s how we get by.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fantastic Fest: THE STRANGER's vampires have no bite


 The Stranger (dir. Guillermo Amoedo)

It always concerns me when directors are unable to admit the type of film they have made. During the post-screening Q&A at Fantastic Fest with director Guillermo Amoedo and many of the cast members of The Stranger, Amoedo said that he hates the word “vampire” and does not like using it to describe his film. The problem with this is that he did indeed make a film about vampires and the vampire mythology within is the only good part of the film. 

The titular stranger is Caleb (Ariel Levy). He arrives in to a town asking after a woman who has been dead for many years. The tightly knit town does not take kindly to outsiders, and he quickly makes enemies with the local gang of hooligans who try their best to kill him. 

As dire as this opening sounds, the local gang comes across as grown high school bullies rather than a well-organized street gang. Clearly they are quite capable of destructive mayhem, but they are characterized as grown man-children who turn to the lead’s daddy for help, and do not instill terror in the audience. This misstep in tone is unfortunately carried through the rest of the film in regards to the severity of the situation.

Another issue with the film is the dialogue. I did not make specific notes about particular lines that were awful as so many of them were bad. The actors each did their best to deliver these lines, but in the end it sounds like a collage of clich├ęs that could have come out of the movie-within-a-movie at the end of PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE. 

In addition to the poor character development and sub-par dialogue the film had some obvious technical issues. Filmed in Chile but taking place in either Canada or the U.S.A. many of the actors’ dialogue were rerecorded after shooting. Each of these dubbed characters is apparent and comes across as cartoonish. The voices do not synch with the actors’ mouths which is really distracting. The practical makeup effects are also amateur. After suffering burns over most of his face one character’s latex mask looks smooth and yellow, neither of which should be present in fresh burns. At another point in the film the blood spatter across another character looks like Dalmatian spots that keep moving from scene to scene. Because the story did not keep my attention, my mind was given space to wander and notice these unforgivable errors. 

There should be no excuse for losing my attention because THE STRANGER starts out with a really interesting approach to vampirism. Most of the classic rules are still present: immortality, drinking blood, avoiding sunlight, etc. However, Caleb sees his affliction as a terrible and easily transmittable disease. The ways that his “disease” have hurt his life and loved ones is told in chunks through flashbacks and would have made a better film than the one we ended up with. 

Amoedo made a vampire film, and should admit that. Hopefully after accepting this truth he can make better films than THE STRANGER.