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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut (2008) Horror Slasher

Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut - It's a film about a fictional independent horror crew shooting a movie about a crew of fictional filmmakers shooting a movie at haunted house attraction. What a movie within a movie within a movie sounds sort of confusing but really this is just a clever idea pulled off with precision by Amy Lynn Best and Mike Watt through their Happy Clouds pictures. Sprinkle in appearances by Debbie Rochon and Tom Sullivan with a competent cast and you have a slightly off kilter slasher that surprises where it can and fulfills expectations. The somewhat cynical approach the characters take when talking about what is involved in making independent horror brings a savory satire to the affair that promises a cliche but delivers something unexpected.
  In 2008 the film was featured in a Sirens of Cinema article and since Mike Watt was a contributor to the Magazine (maybe more I don't remember) and Happy Cloud Pictures were often covered I can understand the attention. These two have been making quality independent horror for a couple decades. In that article Best expressed her happiness with the set at the Hundred Acre Manor haunted attraction in Pennsylvania. A large facility with completed rooms made for a set that came ready for order. She and writer, partner Mike Watt spent a weekend looking at the location that Best described as "It went on forever and had some of the most wonderful sets." (Sirens of Cinema, vol 2 no.10 Identity Crisis: Dissecting Splatter Movie the Director's Cut by William Wright). They also worked on the script and the set dictated a lot of what they could do. It expanded and changed but remained a very character based story.
The film that came out of this experiment in meta film making is Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut and it is an surprising in its simplicity while still being complex in its structure. The story of  a film crew lead by Amy Lynn Parker (Best) as she directs a crew at the haunted attraction. There is this commentary on the what is needed to make an lower budget horror film. As Parker says in one of the in film interviews with her character. "When we first started making movies all you needed was a shower scene. Now you have to have a minimum of a shower scene and at two lesbian sex scenes, a randomly placed naked tits, we've been trying to figure out how to motivate everything and still mix it up." Since this is a movie in a movie this is the director character talking about the movie they are filming Tesseract, but also about the low budget movie realities. Sure there are lots of horror movies that do not follow this formula but for real horror junkies, myself included as you move down the food chain of more and more limited budgets there is the choice to increase the nudity as the money gets smaller.
   There is an argument to be made that this is a choice that the movie makers are limiting themselves to. Then by including the nudity and sex that the film makers are creating the environment where that is expected by the fans. Or you could say they are playing to a particular audience and could instead choose a different audience that loves horror but is the 'show me some titties' crowd.  It may also be a matter of scale because what I consider a small or micro budget may be giant to a company like Happy Cloud. Consider The Signal (2007) made for 50k and took in more than 500k, this seems like a low budget film but what could they have done if the only had 10k, would the film still be as successful? Or the the example everyone knows about Paranormal Activity (2007) that was make for 15k and has pulled in 193 million. What is the difference between these films that did not smear the screen with sex and nudity and the low budget films that feel the need to have a couple women in nightgowns making out and heavy petting? Is this an issue where the movie makers are boxing themselves in or are the returns on the films they made dictating the content? This film manages to not only have the conversation about nudity in the inner film Tesseract but also includes it in the outer film Splatter movie under the guise of playful actresses and crew. So is the point to complain within the inner movie while doubling the thing you are complaining about in the outer film? I am really not making an argument either way but it seems a conversation I would not mind hearing on a panel horror convention.
  Best for her part attempts turn expectations sideways  even if still participating in the exploitation. The rape scene as it place out in the inner film with Debbie Rochon playing herself  and a character that is a jaded stalking fan seems to be a pretty shocking and  an F-U to the viewers who are waiting for there misogynistic fill of violence against women. The film though is not preachy it really is a look behind the scenes of a micro-budget film making. While doing so it gives the viewer some tense moments where the killer is making a mess of the production. Finishing with a twist the film leaves the viewer in a place they did not expect to be. Now you may notice I watch a lot of Amy Lynn Best films. Something about her that just strikes me the right way. We really should be friends and probably wopuld be if we lived closer to each other. So check out the list of movies or search her name and see what else you can see that she had a hand in. As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. I do fear that Twitter has become too much of a promotional tool for people in film to actually get those follow backs but hey its an experiment. Now since the last post I have been followed back by Southbound's @HiRadioSilence and @BettinelliOlpin showing that they are not too into self promotion to put up with my tweet's about beer and food and horror movies. Thanks guys!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Southbound (2015) Horror Anthology

Southbound (2015) - I love anthologies and this is one I was waiting to see since I read about it a ways back. Directors Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath and Radio Silence bring us intersecting stories where the participants touch each other only in the slightest way, a location or an emotion or a character but are intertwined.Then again some of the stories are connected with a vice grip. The wrap around story of two killers, Mitch (Chad Villella) and Jack (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin) trying to stay ahead of their demons cross with the paths of the women in the second story only in the women are staying at the motel they pass repeatedly in the freaky cycle of going nowhere fast. Harsh and edgy with a radio DJ (voice of Larry Fessenden) connecting the stories via the FM we get slightly on the nose vignettes leading us through the stories. Mitch's guilt at not protecting his daughter at a time of danger is his own little hell in the first piece that we will learn more about later.
  Guilt carries through to the second story about an all girl band that after a blowout on a desert road are hard pressed to get help. The driver Sadie (Fabianne Therese), with band mates Kim (Nathalie Love) and Ava (Hannah Marks) are soon offered a ride by a slightly off couple who live in the area. The couple Betty (Susan Burke) and Dale (Davey Johnson) are having friends Raymond (Dana Gould) and Bunny (Anessa Ramsey) with there silent twins (Max and Nick Folkman) over for a group dinner. As the night wears on Sadie is plagued with references to her behavior that may have caused another band mate, Alex's (Karina Fontes) death? That guilt is a driver in the conflict but as the real danger is revealed we see that all the locals are more than they appear to be. Sadie is soon in a fight for her life, one that brings her to an unexpected relationship with passerby Lucas (Mather Zickel). The guilt that he now has to deal with from their meeting drives the third segment of the film. The weird turn in this second story drives Sadie out into the desert and brings her face to face and involved with the next piece, a lone girl on a dark desert highway cool wind in her hair.
  Lucas needs to do all he can to deal with a medical emergency but can not seem to get any useful help. As he drives into an abandoned town he works desperately to find some help. When arriving at the hospital he roams the halls looking for help that is not there.  Playing on a television we see Carnival of Souls (1962) playing and that certainly fits the mood of the film. A film where the lead actress is drawn to a strange carnival and later we learn she has been dead the entire time. The creepy and airy fantasy that is that movie is also building in the one we are watching. Lucas is pushed hard to do everything to save the accident victim but it is obvious to the viewer that the information he is getting is just slightly wrong. Left emotionally wrought from his experience he stumbles about looking for a way back out of the hospital. The nightmare of his night is only broken by a call from his wife, but its not her. Instead he has the same people who have tormented him on the line. Telling him to help but ultimately killing the car accident victim. He gets to live with his guilt as he drives out of town with the guilt he thinks he has been absolved of. As he goes he passes a woman on the phone and we pick up the film from there.
  She is a local in the town and walks back into a bar, in that bar are a few locals who are disrupted by a shotgun wielding man, Danny (David Yow). He is demanding to see his sister a woman he is there to save. All of them are more than they first appear with long claws and scary eyes but he does not care. He is there for his sister Jesse (Tipper Newton), and these hick demons are not going to stop him. Things are not really working out for him even as he gets the bar tender to lead him to Jesse. As the Barkeep says to Danny before he is reunited with his Sister, "You're fucked Danny and you don't even know it." This is true for all the characters involved in this film, they are all fucked when we meet them and they don't even know it. Whether it is the desert valley that is cursed or the guilt of losing your sibling or, of causing a death, it is all like the in Carnival of Souls, people caught in a hell that is unrelenting and unforgiving. Circling around the film leaves Jesse and joins a family where the guilty father's secret seals the family's fate. They are to come into contact with the pair of desparados we started the film with. When all is said and done there is little redemption for the victims or perpetrators in Southbound. It is a tale about entering that in between realm somewhere outside the normal world but not fully in the depths of hell. A purgatory where all decisions have consequences and no crimes go unpunished. A very decent dark string of tales these are waiting for you on the road heading Southbound.
  I enjoyed this one and recommend it. I thought the stories flowed one into the next in a pretty fluid motion and they are well tied together with emotion. As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. I do fear that Twitter has become too much of a promotional tool for people in film to actually get those follow backs but hey its an experiment.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Femme Fatales Magazine

Femme Fatales Magazine was a B-Movie sci-fi horror magazine I read from the late 90s to about 06, So I was in my thirties and so very much into genre film at the time. I loved this magazine for the focus on small independent films filled with scream queens and horror and gore. When I first started reading it it was smaller and focus more in my interests but after 2003 or so it became more like Maxim or FHM and I started to lose interest. The wiki page in the link gives a nice concise history of the magazine. I would say though that for me it introduced me to some of my favorite horror actresses. Debbie Rochon, Tiffany Shepis, Brinke Stevens and too many others to name. It covered the independent horror scene in detail and with enthusiasm, giving the writers producers, directors and actors a forum to promote their work. Femme Fatales brought the actresses on board as writers giving an opportunity for these woman to not only be the object of the magazine focus in front of a camera but also contributor to the discussions behind. After the shift to a more objectifying presentation in 2003 I have to say I moved away from this  and my collection ends in 2006.  They got into the Sexiest Women's list and the such that all these teaser magazines were doing at the time and as entertaining as that can be it was not really why I was reading Femme Fatales.
Yeah yeah I know you want to know who the top ten sexiest women in 2006 were. It is ten years later and you have to wonder what they are up to now.
10. Sophia Bush -  At the time an actress on One Tree Hill and Nip Tuck she is a successful television actress who has a recurring role of Erin Lindsay on the Chicago Fire, Chicago med, Chicago PD and Law and Order Special Victims Unit. @SophiaBush
9. Amber Smith - Spokes-model and actress she gain fame through modelling and for a while was a very hot item. She was featured in Michelob Ultra amber lite beer campaign where she shuttled around the country doing promotions. She has acting career with regular gigs in soft pornish adult shows Sin City Diaries 2007 and Lingerie 2010.  Maybe a real account on Twitter? @AmberLeeSmith
8. Jessica Alba - Successful businesswoman and actress with the face of an angel. Recently watched her in The Veil (2016) which I have not gotten around to writing about. At the time of this list she was a 25 year old who just finished the first Frank Miller's Sin City (2005) film.
7. Masuimi Max - They list her claim to fame as being the world's most notorious German-Asian fetish model. Ten years later it seems her career is still oing strong Facebook page here and website here. @masuimimax
6. Stacy Fuson - At the time she was the St. Pauli Girl! She now describes herself as a Business Executive | Model | Actress | Entrepreneur | Philanthropist | Playboy Playmate | Poker Shark and is all over the social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a website. This woman knows how to promote herself.
5. Emmanuelle Vaugier -  Fresh off a part in House of the Dead 2 this lovely lady came in the fifth position. This actress singer is still working hard in the industry. An actress and singer she can be found on Twitter, and her own website.
4. Ziyi Zhang - Having just been in several high profile films, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon(200), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) and 2046 (2004) she was and is a fine actress but at the time of the list was at a peak in recognition.
3. Charlize Theron - Probably still making sexiest women lists, she was in an off time with a couple not great movies in a row after the Oscar worthy performance in Monster (2003). Still she is one of the loveliest women around and recently is killing it with the awesome role of  Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). On Twitter
2. Scarlett Johansson - described at the time as America's most respected barely legal sex symbol, Scarlet's fame has certainly grown over the last ten years. She is massive at this point in her career and still if not more beautiful.
1. Angelina Jolie - Yeah you should have expected this one. So big she does not need to use social media she and husband Brad Pitt are in the entertainment news constantly. A little research and even a decade later she is making lists. These things are definately for the young and marketably hot at the time of construction. So where she has been more raising children than  selling herself we can understand her slipping to #72 in the recent FHM poll.

The Hollow (2015) Horror Monster

The Hollow (2015) - A fiery tree demon returns wanting to burn the life out of its victims. The result of a curse laid upon the island town by six witches burned by the townspeople, as they burned the brought a storm to the island. They vanished each struck by a bolt of lightning their spirits entering the storm and becoming the vengeful creature that would return 100 years later. The local legend that seemed just a myth is now hundred years later a very real threat. This precarious edifice of a plot dangles on the edge of collapse while the melodrama of the main characters wails it way towards the inevitable conclusion. Never a story about the growth of characters it is firmly placed in the realm of survival. It is a paper thin the story of the island where in 1915 they were burning girls for practicing witchcraft and that those girls were actually witches. Then that they could conjure a storm that could take their spirits and turn it into the creature that only appears every hundred years, is complicated by the story line of the main characters. Emma the youngest of three sisters traumatized by the death of her parents in a fiery car crash is having visions of island and the trouble to come.
  Starting the story with the sisters Sarah (Stephanie Hunt), Marley (Sarah Dugdale) and Emma (Alisha Newton), down on their luck after the parents death and a long recovery by young Emma from the accident that killed her parents. They are heading to the island to live with their aunt that they hardly know in a very nice BMW X3, I guess they didn't think of selling the car to ease their financial burden. Sarah and Marley are adults but somehow the only way they can stay together is to travel to the Aunt? The money problems are the basis for tension between them, and the fact Emma wakes screaming from regular naps also raises tension. Add to that Emma wanders off every time her sisters turn there heads and you have a basis for some argumentative frantic searching that continues throughout the film.
  Cliche rule the day in the lead up to the start trouble, running out of gas, getting lost and no phone reception. To hear Marley say "This is not happening." Then when they are scared and running from sounds coming from the forest Emma falls hurting her ankle. All the shouting begins when they get to Aunt Cora's house. She is dead in her jeep and there is another injured woman ready to give the audience a jump scare. There is this really strange in the editing where Marley and Emma head to the house while Sarah checks out her aunt and finds the injured woman. It's daylight and then there is a short cut showing the formation of the creature, then it cuts back to the house, it seems like it is night. For some really unknown reason Marley decides Emma should be in the cellar, and Sarah arrives at the door with the injured woman. It is night and the storm is waging, but the car is only 100 yards from the house, how did the day to night switch happen?
  I struggled with the interpersonal dialog between the sisters as it seemed either the writing or the delivery somehow it just was not good. An example is after the strange shift to night and the group is in the cellar of aunt Cora's house, Marley stands to confront her sister. Emma apparently is sleeping again since her real role is to be someone the other two have to care and search for.
 Marley: "It's time you tell me what happened to aunt Cora."
 Sarah: "I'm not sure okay."
 Marley: "Stop treating me like a child, tell me what happened."
Sarah: "I don't know what happened to her."
Marley: "I deserve to know Sarah."
Sarah: "Fine you want to know. her eyes were gone, just gone like someone cut themout of her head or something and then some sick twist set her insides on fire."
Marley: "What, (turns away) what."
Sarah: "Sorry I shouldn't have told you. Not like that."
  There is something not really genuine between the two. It could be that the conflicts are setup and exercised but we really don't know much about them beside the conflict. Sarah had to quit medical school after her parents death but even the sharing of that was a bit awkward. Then there are the mechanics of the how we get to things and this I guess has to be put on the director. The next day the plan is to siphon gas from the jeep and take the beamer back to town, but not really. You see that they have armed Marley with a hatchet but Sarah obviously has never siphoned gas because the hose she has is way too long. Of course the plan never really was this in the directors head, he is using this idea to get to the conflict between the sisters and as soon as that piece of dialog is concluded we see that the BMW is gone from the road anyway. Then of course the hatchet comes in handy when the attacks of the vines starts. Even sister Emma seems to be just a tool to make the plot move at time serving no other purpose than to vanish and be searched for.
  What they are going for is the idea that Emma is guilt ridden after her parents death. her visions make her fail like she is putting her sisters in danger and so she thinks they would be safer without her. Sarah places the responsible sister who feels she has to take care and protect her two sisters. She is in over her head but is trying to be the adult. Marley is there to tell the audience how bad things are and it works against the character because she seems incapable of problem solving instead just complaining about how things are. These dynamics I am pretty sure were intended to create a tension that the film needs to push the plot forward but I just found tedious. Even after being rescued and being filled in on the curse they still spend the better part of the film running around yelling. They are warned that the creature hears them and that is how it tracks them so being quiet is essential to survival. The broken on the nose exposition to get the information to the audience is such a painful experience. An great example of how the film tries to hard show and tell us what we need to know is there is a story told about Jill who was locked out of the freezer some survivors were hiding in. The decision was made not just to share the story but to show the perfected arranged bloody hand prints on the freezer door.
 I would introduce the other players in the film but we can tell that the are just pieces to get the girls to the finally. None of them have a good chance to survive and in the end this is only a fight for the sisters. Clumsy is how I would put it, blogger Seth is only in the film to tell the story of the witches and he with other survivors are really only there to point the two sisters in the direction of Emma. Once that location is know they are killed off in short order. Sarah and Marley head to where they think the creature is taking the people it is not killing immediately and old power plant. They even though they know that the fucking creature is hunting through sound shout all the time. It is just so frustrating to watch. Even after they find Jill buried under the roots of one of the witch trees Sarah searches yelling Emma's name. Shut the fuck up!
  Increasing my absolute frustration with this film is the ridiculous last sequence in the power plant where the women find a seal-able place to hide until morning but do not take it. Instead they are chased and wounded all the while fighting off the monster. Even after one of the sisters sacrifices herself sealing the creature in with her, another of them releases the creature so she can check to see if her sister is dead. Thus more running and danger that did not have to happen. When the sun finally rises we see who lives and know that if this film does well we will have to suffer the Hollow 2 prequel that will be made and hoisted upon us.
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. I do fear that Twitter has become too much of a promotional tool for people in film to actually get those follow backs but hey its an experiment.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Rabies (2010) Horror ish

Rabies (2010) - Kalevet (original title) From Israel this wonderful surprise of the most deadly type rambles its infectious happenstance through the lives of its unsuspecting characters leaving all it touches infected. A beginning with urgency leaves us wondering if this is a slasher film. An incestuous(?) couple Ofer (Henry David) and Tali (Liat Harlev) are in a bind. Having run away together Tali has somehow gotten trapped in a locked pit. Ofer leaves to find help before whomever set the trap comes back and we hear a off scream grunt ending the scene. Is Ofer alright, is this the standard Slasher film and we will now see Tali become the next victim. Well guess what this is not your average horror film. It is a slick and clever adventure in how things can go wrong when small things go wrong. Things fall apart when the first event is triggered,
The characters instead of rising to the occasion seem to be infected by the situation and each spirals out of control in unique ways. The cast of characters is defined early in the film. The forestry ranger, Menashe (Menashe Noy) who is out in the park checking on the standards of the place. He and his dog Buba leave his love coworker to do the rounds, Neither he or the dog have great luck, coming across, the "killer", The man in overalls (Yaron Motola), carrying Tali away from the trap he set. Now I call him the killer but to be clear although he seems to be abducting Tali he at this point has not been seen killing anyone. Our killer himself is shot by Menashe with a tranquilizer he gets off two shots, leaving Tali unconscious and the man in the overalls wanders away before also passing out. 
  Ofer stumbling out of the woods is struck by a car, in the car are four tennis players, Two guys , Mikey (Ran Danker) and Pini (Ofer Shechter) who are friends and two girls, Shir (Yael Grobglas) and Adi (Ania Bukstein) are now pulled into the events in the woods. The two guys head into the forest with the injured Ofer to save Tali, not knowing at theis point she is already gone. Shir and Adi stay behind to call and wait for the police.  Neither of these groups will have a good day. Without giving too much away because this is a movie you should see for yourself, they are just so unfortunate in their luck. The guys because of secrets between them and the girls because they are so unfortunate to get the two cops they got to respond to their call.
  The cops Danny (Lior Ashkenazi) and Yuval (Danny Geva) are not great people and their arrival on the scene sets in motion events that so quickly get out of control in the most amazing way. Danny self involved trying to patch things up with his wife via the phone is distracted from the lecherous behavior of his partner Yuval. The latter pushes the buttons of the young women, eventually sexually assaulting Shir and pushing her friend Adi over a line she can't come back from. All eventually end up in conflict is wonderfully unexpected ways. 
 Ofer after leaving the other two guys to fight out there issues in the woods stumbles across Menashe carrying Tali to a trailer they keep in the woods. He mistaking the forestry agent for the killer makes a valiant attempt at saving her from Maneshe. Things again are so wrong in how they play out and these three characters story lines finish up in smoke and fire.
I was very pleased with this entry such a sneaky clever film turning happenstance into disaster at every turn. Writers, and co directors Aharon Kedhales, and Navot Papushado do a great job creating a plague of characters that can only melt down and not rise up when things go wrong. The deaths in the film are creative and at times unexpected and the editing also done by the pair is exceptional at keep the attention moving between the charactes making the story unfold with ease and pace. So I recommend this film and look forward to there latest film Big Bad Wolves which had quite a bit of buzz when it was making the rounds.
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. I do fear that Twitter has become too much of a promotional tool for people in film to actually get those follow backs but hey its an experiment.