Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Raid 2 and Under the Skin are tied for my favorites of the year. What an amazing year.

I can't really pick between them, and they're so insanely different yet both are masterpieces in my opinion. I loved The Raid, but I think I could watch the sequel a million times more. Gareth Evans knows exactly what he's doing, and he's fuckin kicking ass. Sequels are so often pale imitations of the original, just trying to cash in on the brand name especially these days, but The Raid 2 says fuck you to pathetic sequel conventions and blazes its own blood-stained path, enlarging the world of the first film a thousand fold. You get Japanese Yakuza, rival Indonesian gangs, corrupt cops, badass assassins (Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man... hell yeah!), etc. The action is still there but on a much grander scale, and it's unbelievable. I think it easily lives up to the hype and crushes its skull in. My favorite moment (spoiler alert): Rama beats the crap out of a guy in self-defense, brutally burns his face, and then at the last second, we see that man was a cop too (end spoiler). This film doesn't pull its punches, and it never felt long either. I don't think I can say one negative about it.

Under the Skin is, of course, another creature entirely, but damn, it's good. It actually reminded me of Kubrick's The Shining because of the haunting atmosphere it sustains and the eerie way it uses sound and music. You really don't know what you're in for with this movie. I expected it to be a little slow, and maybe some might claim that, but I didn't think it was at all. I mean it was never boring to me. (spoiler alert!) I absolutely love the mature way it handles a disfigured man (end spoiler). It's really a crazy brilliant movie, and I think it will stick with you long after you see it so definitely seek it out.

Honorable Mentions: Nightcrawler and Starry Eyes

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Human Race is one of the best indie horror films I've seen.

True, it does have some CG blood, but it's extremely original, full of surprises, and completely engrossing from start to finish. I really don't understand the negative reviews out there. Did they watch the same movie? I've seen a lot of indie horror, and most of it falls flat, but this film is incredible. It's also quite gory and brutal. No one is safe. The actors are fantastic too especially Eddie McGee, Trista Robinson, and T. Arthur Cottam.

The writer/director Paul Hough plays with your expectations constantly, and the body count is insanely high. I love Battle Royale, which this movie does remind me of. but it's still very much its own beast. I highly recommend you check it out. I can't believe it was shot over 4 years, filming for a few days at a time and then taking 2-3 month breaks. That is just insane, and I had no idea watching it. I couldn't tell they did that at all.

The only negatives are the CG effects and maybe some of the acting, but it still kicks ass. The fact the leads aren't your typical stupid teens but two deaf people and a man with one leg really should be applauded especially since they're real characters, not silly stereotypes. Why can't Hollywood put out something daring and truly horrific like this? Oh, that's right. They only care about brand names and easy cash grabs.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rewatching Killer Klowns

Since it's the greatest month of the year, what better way to celebrate than forcing your Chinese girlfriend to sit through Killer Klowns from Outer Space? And damn, I forgot how creepy this movie is. I mentioned my love for the Mooney puppet eons ago, but one of the clowns trying to lure a little girl outside is beyond disturbing. The huge mallet he's holding behind his back and how you think for a second she's toast as the camera does a slow reveal, showing she has wandered off while her parents blab on without a clue.

I like seeing it with someone who has never watched it before and knows absolutely nothing about it since it helps me view it with fresh eyes. The acting is a bit dodgy and campy at the beginning especially from the old man and Mike, but of course, John Vernon is excellent. The guy playing Dave actually gives a pretty good performance too. I don't think anyone really watches this movie for the acting anyway. "Another door! ANOTHER door! Another door!" Wow, they should've cut those lines. It doesn't bother me though. I just love the thing.

Besides, the clowns are the real stars, and they're absolutely fantastic. Their nasty yellow jagged teeth and the revolting way they laugh. One slightly disappointing thing I noticed more this time is how their true Alien form seems to just be a big green crystal. That's a little weak (I guess a spider is slightly better sadly), but maybe that's just how they die. I do think they put quite a bit of thought into it even explaining several possibilities for the clowns' origins, and it's very clever all the crazy things they came up with like popcorn sneaking across the floor, cotton candy cocoons, the harvesting parade (the stuff of nightmares), the lethal shadow puppet, etc. The design of the clowns is just brilliant, and their space ship is so much fun. I love how you only see a few cocoons in it at the beginning, and then it's full of them at the end. Bye bye small town. That's a devastatingly high body count if you think about it.

I really hope the Chiodo brothers get to do their sequel one day. The practical FX in this movie are incredible.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Damn I love Starship Troopers!

Paul Verhoeven was really on a roll there for a while: RoboCop, Total Recall (fuck that remake! in fact, fuck all remakes! well, not The Thing or The Fly or The Blob... dammit '80s remakes don't count, just the money-grabbing bullshit they pump out now), Basic Instinct, and this glorious bugs vs. human bloodbath. Sure, we also got Hollow Man and Showgirls, but the man gave us ED-209 blasting huge red craters in a corporate numskull and don't forget about "Quaaaiiiiddd" or the freakin awesome Johnnycab scene. Heck, RoboCop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers are pretty much a perfect holy trilogy. They're masterpieces. Any filmmaker would be lucky to make one of them, much less all three.

"You have 10 seconds to comply." Best line ever.

And did I mention Michael "I make fuckin Highlander II good" Ironside? Alright, Highlander II still sucks, but Ironside is the king of awesome. I'm actually tempted to re-watch Highlander II because of him. That has to be some kind of miracle. Seriously, no one should ever be subjected to that film again. I'm pretty sure that'd be a human rights violation. Fine. I confess. I like that movie. It's awful, but Sean Connery and Michael Ironside make everything better. Not to mention, there are much, much worse movies out there (Raptor comes to mind... jeez it's definitely a whole new level of wretched when you're reusing footage from your other crappy movie).

Back to Starship Troopers. What's not to love here? Sure, they have some CGI, but it's done well, and they also have a ton of practical FX too. This movie is a great example of how to blend the two and not overdo the computer shit (take note studio dipshits! yeah, they don't care). Plus, the characters are great fun, you get some fantastic gore, and even a bit of nudity. Don't forget the badass score by Basil Poledouris (he also did the incredible music for RoboCop). The real question is why the hell didn't the studio give Verhoeven and Neumeier a bucket load of cash for a sequel instead of the embarrassingly small, straight-to-DVD crap they put out. Oh well, at least number three was better but nowhere near the original and still obviously hampered by a tiny budget.

I actually cared about Johnny Rico and his high school buddies. You even get Clancy Brown in a great supporting role and Doogie Howser. This is how you do an epic, sci-fi war movie. It's funny with plenty of satire, but it's also gripping and good. It doesn't shy away from showing the horrors of war. Even an imaginary war with giant bugs. I'm not a huge fan of '90s movies, but there were some damn good ones (Demon Knight!). So all I got to say is Paul Verhoeven, I salute you. Now, take over Hollywood again!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Blob (1988) shares a lot of similarities with John Carpenter's The Thing (1982).

Obviously, they're both remakes and quite dark, gory ones at that (long live the '80s!), but I forgot the extremely gruesome Thing-esque ways the Blob consumes its victims. You get faces melting, tentacles wrapping around people, a nice gestation dinner courtesy of the hobo, etc. Rob Bottin pretty much influenced all the FX artists that came after him with Carpenter's masterpiece (talk to any practical effects guy and they'll almost always cite it as the fuel for their dream), and it's easy to see that here to a degree I was never aware of as a kid. Heck, you even get flamethrowers. How can you not love flamethrowers? The Blob also has fantastic storytelling, making you care about the characters long before any blood hits the screen. In fact, it does an excellent job surprising you with who lives and who dies. Some deaths are horribly tragic. I think a huge part of this must be the writing of Frank Darabont. He clearly gets character development, and the acting doesn't disappoint either (Jeffrey DeMunn! aka Dale on The Walking Dead, a Darabont regular who knocks it out of the park here). These two movies would be the perfect companions for an awesome horror marathon (hell throw in David Cronenberg's The Fly while you're at it!). Unlike so many other remakes, these actually do something new and take the stories in different directions. They're not copying and pasting the originals. They're not afraid to kill people you love either and then melt their faces off right in front of your eyes. I love that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hot Girl of Horror #30: Yvonne Strahovski

I first saw her on Dexter... if only the ending to that show wasn't so terrible. I did actually like her character though. She was also in Chuck and now 24. Besides her two-season stint with TV's most infamous serial killer, she also appeared in Gone, a 2006 Australian movie (not very surprising since she was born in the "land down under"), and I, Frankenstein. Not the best horror movies by any means, but Gone doesn't sound too bad. TV tends to be far better than film these days anyway with Breaking Bad, Dexter (except the finale), Game of Thrones, etc. Hopefully, she'll do more horror in the future or I wish they could fix that Dexter finale (update: New Blood was a much better ending I thought although they didn't bring back Hannah). Yes, she's gorgeous but I think she's really a fantastic actress and she has shown she has a lot of range too. Alright, enough of my lame rambling.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Slasher Movies: Dead or Alive?

I'll admit it: I'm not the biggest fan of the slasher sub-genre. There are some classics, of course, that I love like Psycho II (yes, I actually prefer the sequel over the original... I'm in a weird minority on that one), Halloween II (same thing... I can't deny Carpenter's original, but I love the ending to this one, I love the beginning, "You don't know what death is!" I love the mask and Loomis, etc.), Friday the 13th Part VI, Scream, but almost all the new ones fall flat for me. It doesn't help that no-budget filmmakers tend to do a slasher with the same old tired formula of teens getting picked off one by one. If it doesn't try to do something new, I just get bored. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is actually phenomenal in my opinion, and I absolutely love the concept behind Maurice Devereaux's Slashers. It has to be one of the most original, exciting ideas for a slasher film in decades. I'm sure the sub-genre isn't really going anywhere. I just wish more filmmakers would take risks with it and try something entirely new like Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. That was another excellent one, and if you count The Cabin in the Woods as a slasher, I'd include it as well. I don't think it's really that difficult to change it up. For example, I found a new Kickstarter project called The Orange Man that does something I love: your typical teenagers are replaced with middle-aged men. I'm not a huge fan of comedy hybrids, but I think that is a brilliant idea for a slasher. I'm sick to death of seeing teenagers. Maybe I'm just turning into a bitter old man, but teenagers are freakin annoying unless the characters are done extremely well, and most of the time, they're not.

It's funny I started writing this thinking I hated slashers, but actually, all those films above I love so my problem is with the bad, half-assed ones. I tend to agree more and more with my friend Jason about wanting to see the monster get killed. I hate slashers where the victims don't fight back, and it happens so often. It drives me nuts or the damn protagonist trips and falls. Stop doing that! Yes, it might actually happen in real life, but it has been overused so much in slashers that it's unbearable if you've seen any. Probably like most horror fans, I'm dying to see something different, and actually, I want to see more monster movies with practical FX. Those are quite a bit more tough to do than slashers though, which is why we don't have many, but I'd love to see another new, good slasher movie. I'm just a bit tired of being burned by the crappy ones.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Feast Sequels

It's hard to say anything good about them. Ok, there's the Rambo III gag in Feast III, which is pretty funny, and for some reason, I enjoyed the outrageous, out-of-nowhere twist at the very, very end, but you have to suffer through a lot of crude, bad-taste bits to get there. I wasn't even a big fan of the first one since it had a fair amount of shaky cam and humor that just didn't work for me. You also didn't get a good look at the monsters, which the sequels proved may have been for the best. The clever introductions for the characters and not knowing who would die was probably the original's biggest asset, but by the third film, the formula becomes predictable (you also realize compared to the sequels, the first movie was a masterpiece). Feast II has an embarrassingly-awful rooftop sequence where the background is obviously green screen, and it stands out like a sore thumb. Then they go so over the top with toilet humor. Plus, the characters are severely lacking. I know they're not supposed to be your typical protagonists, and that's a cool choice, but unfortunately, they're not interesting either. They're pretty boring. So often the jokes fall flat because they're too obvious and infantile.

Comedy is very difficult to pull off particularly if you decide to just use a ton of bodily fluids and monsters with giant wangs. That doesn't equal funny. You can't just think of the most inappropriate, outlandish thing and call that a joke. Good humor actually has some intelligence and truth behind it. I knew pretty much what these sequels were when I sat down to watch them and I didn't expect much so I wasn't really disappointed. It's just a shame because they could've been a lot better. The faces of the monsters look great even if their bodies are pretty poorly designed. These sequels just come off as thrown together with very minimal effort like no one really cared.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hot Girl of Horror #29: Nora Arnezeder

Maniac (2012), which was actually quite good as far as slashers go and especially as far as remakes. I love the way they recreated the image of the original poster in the film. Despite not seeing the original until a few years ago, that poster was always stuck in my head from the days of roaming VHS rental stores as a kid. That's all of the horror she has done, but it's definitely not a bad one to have on your resume. It's not like Children of the Corn IV. Poor Naomi Watts. But heck, a credit is a credit, and actresses usually can't be too picky at the start of their careers. I think it's safe to say Nora has a bright future ahead of her, and maybe, just maybe, it'll include a couple more horror flicks. Probably not but you never know. At least, she picked a great horror film to be in so I can't blame her if she doesn't take a risk on another one. I think she'd definitely elevate any horror film she is in though. I would certainly give it a chance at least. No one reads this, do they? I can't blame ya. I wouldn't either.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Interview with Kyle Rankin, Director of Nuclear Family, Infestation, etc.

He's currently running a Kickstarter for a new zombie comedy film with Ray Wise called Night of the Living Deb. Be sure to check it out here and pledge! You can even read the first 16 pages of the script, and trust me, it's going to be good!

1. I really loved Infestation. How long did it take to write that and what sparked the idea? It really reminds me of Aliens sometimes.

Firstly, thanks for watching AND for the comparison to a great film. It took me about two months to write a first draft. Then, when Mel Gibson’s company (Icon) got involved, I did more polishing while we were casting and pre-producing. The idea started with a visual for an opening scene, and also a common question screenwriters ask themselves: ‘what if?’ In the case of Infestation it was ‘What if a normal guy wakes up encased in a cocoon and has no idea how he got there?’

2. How were you able to get that film financed?

I sent it to a producer I know and he brought it to Icon. Like a lot of luck in the film business, it was all about timing. Icon had recently had a meeting and decided to make a lower budget genre film. I’m just happy they were willing to fund a genre hybrid (horror/comedy) because that tends to scare away the big studios.

3. You shot that movie in Bulgaria. Was that just for budget reasons? I actually had no idea it was filmed there so it definitely turned out well.

Thanks. Bulgaria was a great place for us because every production dollar meant more. We were able to get cool locations, a smart crew, nice accommodations, and talented US ex-pats to fill our smaller roles. All this while also experiencing another culture. It was a fun learning experience.

4. Were you involved in the distribution of Infestation? Any tips for filmmakers trying to get a widespread distribution deal?

That was all Icon and their affiliates. As an indie filmmaker myself, I certainly understand how difficult it is to get your films out there. I guess my only tip would be: make the best movie you possibly can... not one you CALCULATE the masses will buy, but one you feel passionate about.

5. Do you recommend finding a sales agent or going to any of the film markets?

I never hired a sales agent because they always asked for money up front. If you’re anything like me, you’re broke by the time your film is finished because you’ve invested everything into it. I’ve also never been to a film market for the same reason: they cost money. What I have done is the film festival route... and it’s paid off for me. I found folks who liked and passed along my work and THAT led to distribution, and I’ve also paid for more festival travel and entrance fees by winning money at this or that festival. It can be a great way to connect with like-minded people.

6. Have you heard any horror stories about distribution deals gone wrong?

Yes. I’ve even experienced one myself. There are a LOT of disreputable distribution companies out there that prey on desperate artists. In my case, the company made about $50,000 off of my old films... then produced a bogus report saying that that’s what they paid to make copies of my film and send it out, etc. My advice to anyone would be to enlist the help of a lawyer. If a company is legit, this won’t scare them away.

7. How did you deal with nudity on set? Was that as awkward as everyone says? Anything that helped make that process easier?

It can be a bit odd, but I always insist on a closed set with a skeleton crew when nudity is being shot. This way, the actors feel they’re being taken care of, and you can mitigate uncomfortable feelings.

8. Any chance of a sequel to Infestation?

That would be so much fun... but probably not. In the end, it must not have made enough money to get a sequel greenlight. That’s what sequels are all about: money, based on the original title's performance (domestically and overseas).

9. What are the most difficult challenges you've faced as a filmmaker?

Money would have to be number one. Heck, it may even be two and three, too. I have an endless stream of ideas and several screenplays ready to go... I also know a gaggle of talented actors who would love to be working more. With money, I’d simply go film to film without stopping to gather funds.

10. How did you overcome them?

I told myself that I’d never overcome the access to money hurdle unless I wrote scripts that people and companies wanted to pay for. This isn’t easy, but I’ve had the pleasure of making it happen several times. The thing I’m trying now is Kickstarter... because I love the idea of interacting directly with my backers and creating a product I love.

11. Provided they have the time and the money, do you think directors should rehearse with their actors before filming? Why or why not?

Yes. Time on set is usually so limited, so any discussion about character, situation, motivation, etc., that can happen beforehand is only going to benefit the final product. The first few days of a project can also be stressful as far as getting on the same page with the actors, so if there’s already agreement and accord... rehearsal time pays for itself.

12. What do you think is the key to collaborating with actors?

Being fun. I think of them as children, but I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. They are pretending, so anything I can do to facilitate and elevate that activity is going to help the film. I’m a task-master where my crew is concerned, but not my cast... I don’t want to mess with their freedom of thought.

13. Any advice on how to deal with egos and difficult crew or actors?

Once or twice I’ve pulled someone aside and asked if they’d rather leave than be part of what we were trying to accomplish. This is an important discussion to have. I mentioned treating actors like children, and that also means acting like a parent myself. Part of being a parent is setting and maintaining firm boundaries.

14. How do you get your actors comfortable so they can give the best performances possible?

As director, I set the tone on set. I can’t, for instance, joke around with everyone and then later discipline someone for laughing and ignoring their job. In that same vein, it’s my job to keep everyone safe. You mentioned physical nudity earlier, and it made me realize there’s also emotional nudity. It wouldn’t feel good to an actor to get emotionally nude in a scene and then see a crew member, say, looking at their phone and laughing at some text. It wouldn’t make them feel honored and cared for. It’s my job to make sure everyone’s on the same page in regards to creating a comfortable space.

15. What is it like working with Ray Wise?

Super fun. We’re old friends, so it’s like hanging out and laughing with a good pal.

16. Do you give him much direction at all or just let him do his thing?

I let him fly for the most part. After all these years, we’ve built up a shorthand, so if I need him to tweak a performance... I just say one or two words and he gets it. Similarly if he wants to tell me something, it’s done sometimes just with a look.

17. How did you first meet Ray Wise and get him aboard your initial project together? You guys have collaborated quite a few times.

I was a broke 25-year-old in Maine and read an article about how to get your short film noticed. It mentioned zeroing in on ONE actor you respect and courting them. I picked Ray and sent nice letters to him and his manager. He ended up liking a short script I sent, so he flew to Maine for a weekend and acted in my film. I was blown away by the kindness back then... and I still am when I think back on it.

18. Any suggestions on how to find good actors? Did you use a casting director or contact agents or actors yourself?

It’s very difficult to get to actors, but sometimes you meet someone who KNOWS an actor, or you run into someone out and about (a benefit of living in LA). Also, I never do a shotgun approach to casting. Instead, I pick, say, the five people I need that I think will be great (names within reason considering my budget) and I go after them, sometimes through their representation and sometimes using other means.

19. What do you think is the biggest mistake of most indie filmmakers?

Not making a film that fits into a specific genre. When you’re unknown, a great way to get noticed is to make a film that has its feet firmly planted in a particular mold. For instance, I think that making a kickass horror movie is better than making a sci-fi romantic comedy (if getting noticed is your goal). Blends are difficult to get distributed and even tough fits for festivals... as they want to program similar films together in blocks.

20. What is your process like for working with a composer?

Fun and exciting. I’ve worked with a great composer named Steven Guntheinz on my past few films and he’s a treasure. It’s important to me that film scoring aid and magnify the emotions I’m going for in a particular scene instead of telling the audience what to feel. Steven understands that.

21. What kind of guidance do you give him? How do you tell him what kind of music you want?

Instead of being specific about instruments I want to hear or anything, I give him emotional notes the way I would an actor. Since he’s an artist, too, he then feels free to pull something great from his heart.

22. What have you learned about the business side of moviemaking?

Mostly that I’m not very good at it. I think it’s tough for artistically-minded people to understand business and how to sell their own products. It’s something I’m working on and, I’d like to think, getting better at... but man, it doesn’t come naturally.

Kyle Rankin and Dario Argento

23. How crazy was the Project Greenlight experience? I'm sad that show isn't around anymore.

Me, too. It was crazy because I moved from Maine to LA and then 8 months later I’m in Park City with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck saying they’re excited to work with me. It was a rollercoaster. The filming itself was a lot of fun... I didn’t love how I was portrayed in the show, but all that’s lost to the ages now. The best things it did for me was give me lots of experience... and get me an agent, manager, and lawyer.

24. Why did you choose Kickstarter to finance Night of the Living Deb?

It’s a challenge. I wanted to see if I could crowdfund something. I ALSO want to make this special film the way I want to make it. I don’t want notes from studio suits because they need to justify their paychecks. I believe in this story, and I want to be personally responsible for this film’s destiny.

25. What are the most helpful books you've read on filmmaking and screenwriting?

I immediately think of two: The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, and The Conversations with famous editor Walter Murch. They’re both wonderful and have influenced me greatly.

26. What's the most important piece of advice you'd give an aspiring filmmaker?

That it’s important to make an entertaining film. I know this sounds simple, but it’s a lesson I had to learn. My first film was a slogging, dark, emotionally heavy movie because I thought that’s what great ART was supposed to be. Now, I make films that please me but I also ask myself ‘is this something people would spend $12 to see?’ Or: ‘Is this something a couple would be happy to pay a babysitter AND buy their tickets to see?’ If I can envision people spending the money, I want to make something they’ll enjoy and tell their friends about. I don’t want them to go home feeling like they need a shower or, in general, regretting their choice.

Thanks for the support & interest, Doug!

Thank you so much, Kyle!

And don't forget to visit his Night of the Living Deb Kickstarter!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Contact Lenses in Horror Films

When you change a person's eyes, it really has a startling effect on us. After all, there is a reason why we have the expression, "The eyes are the window to the soul." Take away the eyes or make them grotesque, and you're that much closer to creating a terrifying monster. Almost every zombie film does it. Ok, not Romero's original trilogy (likely because contact lenses were in their infancy at the time and painful to wear especially full scleral lenses) but Land of the Dead certainly does. Then there is, of course, The Walking Dead, which shows what great makeup and contact lenses can do. Clearly, Danny Boyle is a fan with his undead opus 28 Days Later. In fact, it's quite common now.

But contact lenses have been used in horror movies for a long time. The earliest and most striking example I can think of would have to be 1973's The Exorcist where they really helped transform the sweet little girl Regan into the unnerving, possessed puppet of a sinister demon. Naturally, Dick Smith's phenomenal makeup can't be underestimated either. 6 years later, Tobe Hooper employed full scleral lenses to great effect in the TV movie Salem's Lot, which I think still holds up well today. Plenty more horror films used them in the 1980s: DemonsThe Evil DeadAn American Werewolf in London, The Lost Boys, Cat People, etc.

I even used them in my low-budget horror movie. They cost $300 a pair for full scleral lenses, but they were definitely worth it. Of course, you can get contact lenses a lot cheaper these days. If you're making a horror film or just want to scare the crap out of somebody, it's a time-honored tradition. A lot of places will let you order custom ones too. If you just want to see what's out there, Spooky Eyes has a pretty big selection and cheap prices. For full scleral lenses, check out FX Eyes but be warned. They're a lot more expensive.

I guess you could argue too many horror films use them now, but I disagree especially when you can get so many different kinds. They're a great tool at our disposal that often isn't discussed, which is a shame since they really do add a lot.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Schoolgirl Apocalypse (2011) is pretty darn good. A smart story with strong characters.

With a title like that (and I'm a fan of the title), you might expect your average craptacular Z-level-exploitation film with no effort, but it's not like that at all. For one, the cinematography and production values are very professional. There are some animated sequences that could've been better (you basically get two in a row at one point, which is slightly overkill, and the animation style itself is a little lacking though original with a reason why it is the way it is that makes sense), but this movie is actually very well thought-out with a deeper story lurking beneath the surface. Just from the synopsis, you can tell it's a different take on your typical zombie apocalypse: only the men are turned into crazy blood-thirsty killers. I won't spoil anything, but they have a good reason for this too. There isn't a lot of action, but it's shot quite well with plenty of tension and a good sense of geography. The disappointing thing is I never heard anything at all about this film. Not only is it good but the story behind making it is interesting too since the writer/director of this all Japanese film is a Midwest American. He taught English in Japan before filming this. If you're into Asian films at all or just zombie apocalypse movies, I'd suggest you hunt it down. You can get it off Amazon pretty easily. There is a little bit of CGI at the very end, but given this was a low-budget first-feature with everything else being so good, I'm not going to hate it for that (would've been tough to do those effects practically). It really is worth tracking down, and I hope it gets the audience it deserves.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hot Girl of Horror #28: Lauren Cohan

Yes, I love The Walking Dead. Sure, the CG blood sucks. Really sucks. Drains-the-life-force-out-of-you-until-you're-nothing-but-a-withered-shell-of-a-corpse sucks, and I'm sure they have a tight schedule or whatever, but come on. Do it practical or don't do it. Greg Nicotero is even directing episodes, and they still got crappy CGI in there. Alright, end rant. Maggie is hot. That's my deep insightful analysis. She hasn't done any other horror really. Mostly, just TV work (ugh... The Vampire Diaries... kill me). But she is absolutely perfect on The Walking Dead. A phenomenal actress with drop-dead gorgeous looks. See what I did there? Yes, my writing skills are shit. Time for the pictures...

And the reason why animated GIFs were invented:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Having recently watched all four cinematic adaptations of this classic 1955 serial by Jack Finney, I have to declare this one to be the very best for a number of reasons. Obviously with actors like Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy, the cast is spot on, but what really impressed me is the way something creepy is always happening in the background. Normally, the first act would be reserved for a lot of setup that could be potentially boring or just not as engaging as when our heroes are literally running for their lives. It's different here though especially if you're familiar at all with this infamous story since they keep ratcheting up the tension even from the very beginning when a teacher nonchalantly instructs her children to take the pod flowers back to their parents (not to mention, there's also the eerie excellent credit sequence on a distant planet with the alien seeds spreading). When our main characters witness a crowd of people relentlessly chasing a man down the street, they naturally reason, "He must have done something," despite the chilling odd nature of the scene and for those in the audience who know this tale, the horrifying reality behind these seemingly mundane events sinks in even deeper. We know soon our protagonists will be in the very same situation with their only crime being that they are in fact still human amongst a growing population of soulless pod people.

Of course, the special effects, greatly improved since the 1956 black-and-white version, really add a lot to this terrifying story particularly because you won't find a single drop of CGI. Everything here is practical. Done in-camera, and it gives every moment a visceral real quality that computers won't ever be able to touch. Plus, the actors have something physical to respond to so their performances never seem canned or glazed over. I'm not against CGI done well and in limited quantities for things you can't physically do, but I just have to admit I love practical. The opening space credit sequence without any CGI really puts a smile on my face, because I know, sadly, now that would be all computer-generated yet the clever ingenious way they did it back then still looks flawless today.

I can easily see why this story has been remade so many times. It's just creepy with two brilliant unnerving concepts at its heart: they get you when you sleep (and we all have to sleep) and my husband is not my husband; my wife is not my wife; my child is not my child; they look the same but we know they're not and no one will believe us. That screams pure horror, but aside from the weird bit with a homeless guy's head on his dog (I guess to show errors do occur and to play up the strange grotesque side a bit more though I think it's a little goofy), any future attempts to top this version are pretty futile. I do like the 90s remake; however, it still pales in comparison to this adaptation, and the most recent one ranks the lowest by far, ensuring it'll probably be a long time before anybody else tries again. If you missed this film even if you've watched the other remakes, you got to see this. It's truly a masterpiece.