Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Art Deco & A Town Called Ambrose

Not many people know this, but when I was younger I wanted to be an architect and most of my influence came from either traditional Mexican looking architecture (popularized by the California Missions) or Art Deco, which was very popular back in the 20s and 30s. After watching the remake of House of Wax I realized one reason why I enjoyed it so much and that was because of the set pieces. They were beautiful and they were all in the vain of Art Deco. This of course wasn’t the first horror movie to use this creepily styled architecture, but the first movie to really utilized the creepiness that I personally remember is House on Haunted Hill (1999). With that said, I want to briefly touch base on why I love looking at Art Deco and why it can be creepy if used right… so with that, I welcome you to the world of Ambrose, LA.

Right off the bat, Ambrose is the type of town that seemed to have been lost in time and probably couldn’t keep up with recent changes, much like a lot of town. It began to decay and fall apart and soon… the people there just left or died. A sad ending to what could have been a great town. The buildings still stand but only to rot and fall apart from the weathering, but they are reminders of what once was. The architecture of the buildings gives us a glimpse of a thriving town during a period where times were innocent and things were simpler. However, the aspect of a rotting town is quite scary because Ambrose isn’t just a ghost town but rather a grim look in time.

This is why I think Art Deco can be used to really build at creepy and almost surrealistic atmosphere to a film. This was an architectural style that was really big in the 20s and 30s, mainly the 20s, and this was also a time in which America was at its peak coining the term The Roaring 20s. Art Deco began to decline once the Great Depression hit. Art Deco’s influence was mostly based on geometric shapes and a modernized view of classic Greco-Roman styles. However, as the style progressed it drew more and more from artistic movements known as Futurism, Cubism and Retro-Futurism. Considering this was a small town, I’m willing to assume that everybody knew everybody and the people who lived in Ambrose were happy, at least on the outside. The core of the town had a really dark secret, as small towns often do. What a perfect architecture to fit a perfect town. Art Deco shows us the progress and booming economy of our Nation, only to mask over the fact that the economy was quickly turning to pot.

Throughout House of Wax, the viewer will see a vast variety of building that have the Art Deco theme to them. The key buildings that bare this heavy influence are the House of Wax and the chapel. Other buildings such as the gas station and the theater have the Art Deco influence but not as heavily. Below, I will take you on a brief pictorial tour of Ambrose, LA.

If the notion of using Art Deco to show a dead town’s secret isn’t scary enough, I’ll revert to talking about House on Haunted Hill. Again, the architecture is used to create a haunting and nightmarish quality to the film. In this movie, the Vannicutt Institute is shown as this monolithic, God-like kingdom to house the criminally insane only again… it has a very dark secret. On the outside it may look imposing and awe-inspiring but it’s secret is very threatening. This film uses the architecture as a gateway into another world. Here, the building is presented to us as a ghostly, foreboding building; almost as thought it was a ghost of the time it was made in. You really can’t get any more retro than that, since most people immediately think of Art Deco when you mention the term retro. Hell, a lot of people don’t know the name per say but they recognize the style as being ‘retro.’

Art Deco can be a very beautiful thing with its curvaceous styling, futuristic appeal and overall beautiful design but it can also represent the ghost of the past. It can be seen as a haunting, eerie window into another world or it can be seen as an angel of beauty that hides a dark secret. Everything depends on the way it’s portrayed in the film and I’m shocked that not many horror movies take advantage of this design. House of Wax really brought the creepiness to the design but I think House on Haunted Hill really popularized it for modern audiences. As someone who is still interested in architecture as a hobby, I still love and respect Art Deco for how it impacted our society.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jumped Drive (2009)

Here is another short film that I assisted on. The original script called for a serious spy caper movie about two spies trying to get a flashdrive, there was a gun scene and I think a murder. Then, at the very end it takes a swan dive into slapstick comedy so we had to change the script because of the drastic genre change. I was primarily named the editor but because of certain situations I became one of the camera guys and helped with the audio. I don’t want to burn any bridges but… the director didn’t do anything on the day of the shooting because he wasn’t there and the ‘real’ director was the sound guy. I hope you enjoy it.

A Monster Named Jennifer

I was rather shocked that I found so many people hating on the Masters of Horror episode Jennifer. Sure it wasn’t anything too special and was heavily sex driven but it was decent. I say this because it was one of the very few episodes that scared the shit out of me as I watched it (the second one being Fair Hair Child). I figured that Jennifer was some sort of cannibal or serial killer or something along those lines but I was way off. She is some sort of deformed human cannibal or a modern day monster. She is a temptress, manipulator and a fiend. When I first saw the little tidbit of her face I was gawking at the screen. I’ll never forget that scene where she lunges and attacks the cat because it was at that moment I yelled out, “Oh fuck no! Now I’m going to have nightmares” and I did.

For me, it was the way her face looked that sent me over the edge. If it was any other facial disfigurement that seemed natural, it wouldn’t have been frightening but her face is… monstrous, for lack of a better term. Her lips are pulled back and stretched to look like some sort of sloppy harlequin smile. She also had those really slimy, yellow sharp teeth that I just knew was accompanied with horrendous breath. Top all that off with huge, gaping pools of blackness known as here eyes and you have “a face for radio.” It was this overall facial design that made me so scared of her because the rest of her body is beautiful.

Another factor into how this character scared me was the way that she was presented. Throughout a good majority of the episode, you hardly see her face and when you do, its only bits and pieces. It freaked me out because you hardly see anything. Besides, seeing a freaky woman stare at you behind foggy glass with saucer shaped black eyes is quite scary. It’s not until she eats the cat when you see her full face and then after that, it goes back to showing bits and pieces. I don’t think the presentation of the character affected me as much as the character herself. Did. Jennifer is a monster; she brutally kills people and feeds off of men’s sexual desires. I quickly got over her but those first two or three weeks I’ll never forget. Seeing that face smile at me from out my window made me sleep with the closet light on.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review - Buried (2010)

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good contained thriller and I know there are a lot out there but they all incorporate a large space. Even movies like The Decent take place in confined areas but the cave is still pretty big in area. Then, a short little Sundance film arose to the calling and its title was simply… Buried. When I saw previews for this I knew that the whole movie would be in a box and people should know that it only takes place in that box, but I also expected the movie to exceed in three major film components: sound, aesthetics and performance. Needless to say, it exceeds both of these things. The plot is simple, a truck driver is captured by ‘terrorists’ and is buried in a coffin unless he comes up with $5 million (?) in three or so hours. Maybe less. It’s a very intense piece and Reynolds still manages to be Reynolds during some breakdown moments.


Sound makes for great atmosphere and considering you need good atmosphere to keep you on your heels, Buried’s use of sound is fantastic. Everything from the buzzing of the phone, to the clicking of the flashlight, down to the creeks in the wood… I have to say that I felt like I was in that box with him. The sound doesn’t just create atmosphere, there are times where the soundtrack isn’t present but feels like it should be, so the sound provides a realistic soundtrack to grip the audience. The creaking, the dirt falling, the scraping all contributes to make the audience feel paranoid that something is going to happen. There were times where I was just waiting for the whole coffin to collapse in on itself.


This sort of encompasses both the lighting and the cinematography, which was both phenomenal but the cinematography really nailed the tension and the visual. When you think about having a movie take place entirely in a box, what sorts of camera angles do you expect? You’d think there are only so many they can choose from but you are wrong. I don’t want to reveal anything just yet but some angles were brilliant and some pay homage to the late Alfred Hitchcock (I’ll get to that later). Also, considering that Reynolds only uses a lighter, a flashlight, a cell phone light and a glow stick… the lighting was very strong. It did a great job isolating certain parts of his body to reveal what’s going on. I’d have to say, when the lights went out I began picking at my thumb.


Ryan Reynolds is really digging into different genres and I really respect him for doing this. He made a name for himself in the horror genre with Amityville Horror and now he tackled a pretty tough role playing Paul Conroy in Buried. It’s just him and a slew of assorted voices over the phone. Going into this, I wanted the performance to be amazing because it needs to be that way to keep the audience engaged in the character and to give him depth. Reynolds nailed it (no pun intended). I loved the character of Paul, I was with him in every little thought that crept into his mind and I felt terrible that he was in that situation. He gave the character depth and emotion and even in the darkest of times, you can totally see Reynolds being Reynolds.

There is one thing about this film that stuck out to me and I’m not sure if this is intentional or if I am just seeing things. This film seems to be a direct tribute to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. I noticed this right when I saw the poster for buried and how it bares a close resemblance to that of Vertigo. The main title sequence is done in animation; much like the way Psycho’s title sequence was produced. Also, certain camera angles scream Hitchcock but I won’t name the scenes. Even the fact that this is a contained thriller is something Hitchcock would do since he is the master. If this wasn’t a Hitchcock tribute, than what a coincidence the film is.

The only problem I had with it was that it didn’t make me feel cramped or struggling for air, which is good I guess. Also, I don’t want to reveal any spoilers but this may be one: to those who saw it, how did Dan Brenner not know that what was never found? I never caught onto that but it’s something that is still lingering in my head. Speaking of which, a good movie makes the audience member remember it and even though this isn’t horror… it certainly is a frightening situation that I can’t shake. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie makes you claustrophobic.

Monday, September 20, 2010

They Came From The Video Store

In effort to preserve some of my greatest childhood memories I have decided to create an article that shares some of the most memorable trailers that I came by as a beginner horror fan. A few of these movies I have never seen, and probably never will, but they all meant something that would later help me in the career that I want to go in. As trivial as it may seem, these trailers taught me the importance of video editing and the importance a movie trailer is for the overall film. Certain edit techniques are used in all of these trailers to give the movie a larger than life feel when in actuality they are some of the worst movies made. It taught me that the trailer for a movie is essentially a lie and that was very important if you want to get into the filmmaking business. I look back on these trailers not with hate but with nostalgia and I am sure if I ever do see some of these movies, I’ll have a great time laughing at them. Remember, these trailers came from the video store rental days, so they may see dated.












Warrior Wars: My First Movie

Folks, I want to take a moment to take you back to a time when I was a freshman in high school. During a time in which I wanted to make movies and it was my passion. My ex-friend Josh Good (That’s a story for another time) and I would watch spirit videos, which were 15-minute movies that were made for the school to boost school spirit. They were made by the Dirty Dog Production Team who were a group of Juniors at the time. Josh and I wanted to make a spirit video and we were partially inspired by Jib-Jab animations since we used to watch them over and over. When we finally became freshman Josh invested in a cheap camera we gathered our friends and we shot what would be known as Warrior Wars; the first non Dirty Dog Production spirit video.

The script was simple and I wrote it despite Josh’s name attached to the credits. It was simple to write because we thought of everything that we could parody in Star Wars on such a small budget. I consulted my Mad Magazines for some influence since they released an issue that was mocking Star Wars Episode III at the time. We also gathered help from some of our favorite teachers from the school to help out, most notably Dr. Keller who was in all the Dirty Dog videos. He gave us unlimited access to anywhere we wanted in the school after hours. He also starred as the main character in the movie. He even gave us a fake ID to use for the antagonist.

I made the ‘lightsabers’ with PVC piping and paint. I bought the Darth Vader helmet and I bought and designed the Ken doll. Keep in mind, we made this for fun and when it debuted around our school… everybody loved it. It was more over the top than the Dirty Dogs and for a brief week or so Josh and I knew what it felt like to be on top of the world.

Things to look out for:
- Erbach is used for all the fake studio names. Miss Jen Erbach was our history teacher and she was one of the nicest people we ever met. That’s our tribute to her.
- In the opening scene when Darth Wildcat is running down the field, you can see in the background my head peaking out from one of the pillars. You’ll then see me again in a long brown coat grabbing the camera equipment.
- Also, when the actor takes off the helmet to breath, that wasn’t scripted… he really couldn’t breath but we decided to leave it in for comedy.
- You’ll also see our equipment all over the place.
- When the teacher is running down the hallway, the actor who played Darth Wildcat was waiting for our call to tell him to start running.
- The ‘BOOYA’ was Keller’s catchphrase that he would always say in all the spirit videos, which is why it’s followed by ‘Go Warriors.’
- The assembly at the end was our impersonation assembly.
- When the three teachers pretending to be the Three Stooges come on, the guy in the middle (Curly) is Mr. Leduc… one of our Exec. Producers.

With all that being said, I hope you enjoy my first movie. Stay tuned and I might talk about the sequel that we made called Warrior Wars II: What New Hope? Bigger budget, more people, more madness.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review - Devil (2010)

The other night I finally watched Devil. It was a spur of the moment thing and my buddy and I decided why the hell not. We paid $12 to see it, which was $4 more because it was digital. This sudden incline of price affected my viewing of Devil because for that price, this film should have been the best thing I would ever see in theaters. I know, I’m a cheapskate. Unfortunately, I walked out of the theater angry and sort of let down only because that idiotic price still lingered in my head causing me to judge the movie harshly. That’s when I forced myself to get over it and I realized… Devil wasn’t bad. I actually liked it. It was a great original concept that kept me guessing who the devil was.

As you already saw in the trailer, Devil takes place mostly inside an elevator and the Devil isn’t Satan himself but rather a different form of evil. 5 strangers are trapped within the elevator while this devil is loose. It picks off the people one by one but he doesn’t randomly take their souls because all these people have committed some kind of crime that they are not willing to cope with. Meanwhile, a detective who recently lost his entire family in a car crash tries to figure out who the killer is. One of the security guards keeps trying to tell everybody that it isn’t a killer but rather a monster but nobody believes him.

I really enjoyed the characters in this movie, especially the ones that were trapped in the elevator. They start off as typical people you would run into, then they slowly descend into a state of fear, and in no time they are all paranoid and traumatized. It’s a wonderful example of a character study and the way they completely turn on each other near the end seemed very realistic to me. Even the security staff and the police, as minor as their roles were, they were likable but not so three dimensional as the people inside the elevator.

Devil does a great job keeping the suspense. The elevator scenes felt cluttered and cramped and made me guessing whom the devil really was. When the lights kept flickering on and off I knew shit was going to hit the fan and I kept anticipating something jumping right out in front of me. When a murder finally does happen, I was taken aback by it and the film does a phenomenal job of eliminating possible suspects. The only thing missing from these scenes was Shyamalan’s directing because these were scenes that could have really used the M. Night treatment. I think the problem here was that they relied too much on soundtrack than they did on natural noises and silence. This is something that Shyamalan is known for creating.

In terms of nitpicking, I could really nitpick this and there were some things that could have been done butter. I wished that the characters were given better dialogue, I really wished they did something more with the religious Hispanic guard and I wanted to see more of the people in the elevator so that we can see them evolve more. What all this boils down to is I wished the Shyamalan directed this. It was his story and I think he should have taken care of it. That’s not to say that I discredit John Dowdle’s work. Even the score seemed a little awkward because it sounded like something that would belong in a Christopher Nolan film than a thriller. You can really see how the budget affected the film too.

Overall, I enjoyed it. It’s nothing spectacular or jaw dropping but it was fun and it did the job well. I don’t want to say that I knew the ending before the movie came but I did. Although, when I guessed it I was only making a joke still… it was a surprise to see who the devil was. I want to see this movie again without the influence of paying a small fortune because I still think that the price is bothering me. Thought I may seem trivial, that’s like if you had to pay $12 to see The Last Exorcism thinking that it would be the greatest horror film of the year when it really wasn’t.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Lecture from Alfred Hitchcock

Every time somebody says Alfred Hitchcock’s name I immediately think of something. No, it’s not Psycho; Rope, his posture or his infamous character but rather a scene in which he lectures us about the importance of birds while eating a Thanksgiving turkey. Why do I remember this? Well, a few years ago I dived into the Hitchcock realm and started to watch all his movies and during my journey I came across The Birds. I watched the trailer and throughout the entire 5 minutes of it, I could not help but laugh my ass off. I’ve never seen the director of a movie take part in the trailer for his own film. He was such a wonderful, lovable person that it soon became one of the most memorable ‘lectures’ that I can remember.

I guess the reason why I love it so much is because of the way he talks and acts. His voice is so charismatic and luring while his speech is highly intellectual and very captivating. The scene in which he decides not to eat the turkey is probably one of the best examples of dry humor that I can find and every time I watch it… I laugh. It’s also worthy to note that it’s a great example of satire and I immediately have a different view on The Birds because of it. It sends out a rather Green message and really pokes fun at the way people treat wild animals. Since I haven’t seen The Birds in a long time I’m not sure if they mention that the birds are rebelling against humans but if they don’t, this trailer obviously does.

All I can say is, they don’t make trailers like this anymore and I doubt they ever will.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Shadow of Count Orlok

As many of you may know, I am taking a horror genre class where we study on the mythological/analytical and theological aspects of vampires and zombies. During our studies we were required to view the first vampire film Nosferatu. I was so glad that I got to finally see the movie that launched the vampire sub-genre however; I was so tired from the previous night that I fell asleep during the film. Shame on me. This is why I can’t do a proper article on my thoughts but I do want to elaborate on something that was brought up in class by one of my classmates. When asked about how Nosferatu changed filmmaking he said (and I am paraphrasing): it was the first movie to really utilized the German expressionist aesthetic as a tool for suspense. In other words, it was the first film to really use shadows of the approaching antagonist as means of drawing suspense.

From films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Student of Prague, we can plainly see that German Expressionist films often use surreal and nightmarish scenery. Their buildings are often crooked and misshapen and the shadows are usually distorted but painted into the background. This is something that German Expressionist films are actually famous for and in modern times directors such as Tim Burton keep the style alive. However, Nosferatu is a little different because once Orlok comes off the boat he makes way to Ellen and that’s where we see his frightening figure, in shadow, climb up the stairwell.

The reason why it’s so different because it’s the first time that the shadow is moving and the first time where it’s used to create suspense. We know Orlok is there but we don’t see him… we just see his hunched over figure, his long talon-like figers and his eerie presence. All these combine for one shocking moment in the film. It’s very cinematic and somewhat nourish but it’s a tactic that we would see again in films like Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I’m aware there are other points in the film that this happens but I was, regretfully, asleep during these moments and woke up just in time to see the ending.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Thing & The Faculty

A few days ago on Twitter I was tweeting while watching The Faculty. That started up an interesting debate with Tyler Foster of DVD Talk and Trevor Schoenfeld of Schofizzy’s Movie Reviews. Trevor and me thought that The Faculty was a rather unique twist on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which the film actually addressed. However, Tyler thought that the film bared a close resemblance to Carpenter’s The Thing. Knowing my profound love for The Thing I didn’t really see it and I stuck to my ground that was until I got to a specific scene in The Faculty that was exactly like the infamous blood testing scene in The Thing. So, Mr. Foster was right to some degree! There was a hint of The Thing in The Faculty and here is my breakdown of the scene.

Aside from the obvious that they both are a result of an alien that takes over the human body, here the scenes start off with one of the main characters performing some kind of test to prove that the others aren’t’ infected. In The Thing, MacReady heats the end of a copper wire to poke the Petri dish full of blood. In The Faculty, Zeke proposes that the group sniff homemade drugs that have sodium to weed out the infected person. They both keep the audience in suspense and guessing who might be the infected person. Though The Thing does a better job of suspense while The Faculty just gives us an awkward sense of humor.

When the test is passed around, both films have a scare point… showing us the person who is really infected. In these scenes, they are the last person we would have suspected and right fully so however, in The Faculty Delilah is still human whereas Palmer is no longer human. The other funny thing I noticed that both films have is the infected person goes batshit insane. The Palmer-thing goes apeshit killing people and Delilah goes bizerk and destroys Zeke’s drug lab.

I also find it funny that both scenes have the infected person break out of the building they are in and further their crazy behavior. Only difference is: in The Faculty, another infected person driving a car picks up Delilah. In The Thing, the Palmer-thing is lit on fire and left to burn.

Now lets talk about the setting. In The Faculty, this scene takes place in Zeke’s garage whereas in The Thing… it takes place inside the lounge area. But lets breakdown Zeke’s garage. It’s filled with boxes, equipment, tubing and other typical storage looking things and bares an uncanny resemblance to the storage facility the research team found a near-frozen MacReady in. In other words, the garage looks just like a typical storage room you’d expect to find at Outpost 31. The garage is clustered and feels musty; perfectly attributing the claustrophobic rooms from The Thing. If it’s a coincidence; than what a coincidence.

I guess you can also say that each character is some sort of high school reincarnation of the research team at Outpost 31. Though the characters who ended up being infected seem to have switched. Below is how I see the matchup of each character.

Zeke = MacReady

Casey = Windows

Delilah = Garry

Stokely = Palmer

Marybeth = Nauls

Stan = Childs

The other similarity, as Tyler mentioned, is that in each movie the alien takes over the body in some way. Though in The Thing, it replicates the body and jumps from host to host singularly. In The Faculty, the alien parasite invades and controls the human body and can jump into multiple hosts. So this testing scene even further bares a resemblance to The Thing.

I still maintain the fact that The Faculty is more or less a direct homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers though there is hints of The Thing scattered around. Either way you slice it, these two films are both very interesting interpretations of classic science fiction film and literature.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Halloween Horror Nights' Short Film Contest

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon the Universal Halloween Horror Nights short horror movie contest. I was referred to this contest by a thread that was made on Talk Horror and I figured that I would take a look and see what the indie genre had to offer. I guess, the contest is this: indie filmmakers were given the opportunity to turn in their 3 ½ minute long horror short to Universal. Then, a panel of judges picked out the 10 finalists. These finalists would be judged by the public to decide who gets awarded two tickets to Halloween Horror Nights 2010, gets exclusive invitations to the Eyegore Awards as well as $1,000 cash prize. Had I knew about this, I would have been all over this competition. Anyway, here are the films…

A young woman encounters a deranged killer that escaped. However, not everything is what it appears to be. I wasn’t a big fan of this one because it seemed too generic. That’s not to say that it was awful, because it wasn’t.

An elderly woman looking for her lost cat become the target of two homicidal hoodlums… or are the hoodlums the target of something more wickedly? This was a fun little short that reminded me of the style of Sam and Ted Raimi. It was fun and overall entertaining.

Love Me Tender
A young girl who sees her Valentine’s Day crush talk to anther girl decides to give him a kiss he won’t ever forget. This wasn’t really horror as much as it was a revenge movie… I guess. I don’t want to reveal anything but, it was good but certainly not horror.

The Marksman
A man is on a mission to rid the world of people disguised as demons but when he finds a seductive one, things take an unexpected twist. I really enjoyed this one. The effects were great and surprisingly I didn’t see the ending coming. I felt as thought it was sort of in the vain of Frailty. It was rather creepy when the woman reveals herself for what she really is.

Mister Wednesday’s Playground
A young woman is kidnapped by a girl who tortures her in preparation for meeting the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday. This was short that I had to watch over and over again because I didn’t fully understand it. Everything leading up to the end made sense but the ending didn’t. Perhaps I’m not getting it.

We follow a young woman who suddenly comes down with a case of severe paranoia and fear and the things she does while in that state of mind. I enjoyed this one for how it personifies the element of fear.

Suffering In Ecstasy
Not sure how to describe this one but I think it’s about a girl who gets some sort of high from inflicting severe masochistic pain on herself, but then she gets admitted to the psych ward. It was truly shocking and quite frightening but I didn’t make much sense.

A young boy is depressed when his dad refuses to buy him a costume for Halloween because of the financial burden it would be so the boy takes matter into his own hands. This was the only animated short and it was fun and faithful to the spirit of Halloween.

The Widower
Haunted by his dead wife’s suicide while pregnant, a man tries to forget things but the spirits won’t allow him to. This wasn’t a bad short but I felt very confusing towards the end. It had a great character though.

The Winter Stalker
A psychotic old man takes a liking to a young woman and begins to “stalk” her while contemplating sending her a special gift. However, this stalker may be a person that we all know and love. This is perhaps my favorite one because it’s a whole new take on a beloved Children’s tale. Combined with excellent photography and great performances, I have to say this one gets my vote.

If you like any of the shorts you saw, please vote for your favorite short by
clicking right here. Voting ends at September 17th at noon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review - M (2010)

Before I get into the review of M, I want to first take the opportunity to give my thanks to the Cole Brothers for keeping me well informed about their movie. How did they do this? They send me a press release along with production stills with the movie itself so it was easy for me to understand their film. With that said, I really enjoyed their horror film M because it was a horror but it was also sort of a drama. The film is about a young yuppie couple that get tied up and gagged in their basement when a deranged killer invades their home. While the police are hot on the trail and their friends from work begin to worry, the couple soon realizes that the killer has a hidden agenda and that it was all planned… from the beginning. Overall, I liked this film but I have 1 or 2 nitpicky things with it.

The first thing that I noticed right off the bat was the performances of Steven Twardokus (who plays Roy) and Sabrina Carmichael (who plays Roy’s wife Jessica). I thought they really played their roles well. The emotions felt real and whenever the masked killer took a hammer and nail to one of the characters, you felt it and you can see the pain through their performances. They made their characters likable and even after they find out why the killer is doing all this, you still feel for them. You feel sorry for them. Even the killer, as lumbering as he was, seemed to have a character somewhere inside of him much like Michael Meyers. You’ll notice that he breathes really heavy before and after he kills his victims.

Since I am really big on the technical aspect of films too, and even though this was an indie film, I looked at the way the camera moved and the way the set was lit and my general consensus of that was… WOW! For an indie film, the Cole Brothers really took the cinematography to a whole new level. Sure, the lighting was in all the right places but I think the main star of the tech side of things was the camera. I saw swooping shots, 360 movements around characters, very stylized panning and even an over-the-head shot that turned into a swooping shot. It doesn’t really add anything to the film but it certainly is nice to look at.

I also want to take a moment to comment on the brutality of the movie. Yes, this is a torture movie but it’s not anything like such torture films as Hostel or Saw… it’s a bit more down to Earth. The killer likes to drills screws into people’s legs, cutting his victims and nailing boards into their thighs. The film is quite bloody and what I enjoyed about it was that it’s raw torture. It isn’t elaborate or ‘out there,’ it’s just raw and painful torture. The type of torture that the every day Joe can inflict.

Once we realized the killer’s true motives for torturing these seemingly innocent couple, Roy begins to recap what really happened and for the sake of not being a dick, I won’t spoil anything. However, what I will say is that it seems as though this film has a small theme of childhood angst. I’m sure we can all connect, in some way or the other, to the film’s subplot and personally… I think that was a nice touch. It’s not original by far but it ends up in a different location then many other films don’t.

The only things I had a problem with was that they really could have done more with the cops that were tracking the killer. They were in the film every now and then but they had the potential of being great supporting characters. I also wish, and this probably just a personal grievance I have, that the film didn’t have to introduce the main characters through the act of sex. I understand it shows their relationship but I felt that it could have been later on or the next day.

However, despite these minor criticisms I really enjoyed this film. I fell asleep the first time I saw it because I was tired and I wanted to see where the film led. M is a wonderful horror film that really shows the capability that indie directors have. The Cole Brothers really took it to the next level and I hope to see more from them.

Visit Masked Films official website

Visit M's official YouTube page

Visit CRC Digital Entertainment's official website.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two Religions, One Demon

I remember when Exorcist: The Beginning came out and everybody was trashing it or at least it seemed that way. When I finally got around to seeing it I loved it and enjoyed it ever since. It wasn’t until recently I became interested in the demonic possession films and I decided to re-watch Exorcist: The Beginning because my feelings for it may have changed. They didn’t. I still enjoyed it but there was always something about it that I felt sort of tackled the issue of religion. It doesn’t necessarily bash Christianity but rather… challenges it in the sense of comparing it to other religions. Every religion out there is the same as the next and as shown in the movie, all the major wars in the world have been fought over religion when most religion is the same. That’s what stuck out to me in this film.

First of all, I find it funny that the setting of the film takes place in Kenya and we all know that most of the tribes down there aren’t Christian. From what I remember studying, Christianity derived from the Middle East and not Kenya so right off the bat it’s going to be a film that clashes with different religions beliefs. Throughout the film Merrin talks about the demons of Christianity and how they may have possessed a young local boy. However, at the same time the Turkana believe an evil spirit may have possessed the boy. Before Merrin or Father Francis have a chance to exorcise the boy, the Turkana send a group of high priests to do a ritual chant over the boy so that they can purge him of evil.

To me, I find it rather fascinating that both the Turkana and the British believe that there is an evil in that land and that the evil has manifested itself into some form. However, both parties have a different name for the evil and they both believe the evil came from different places. As I stated before, all religions is essentially the same; there is a good and there is a bad even though the origins of these forces are different. This film provides two different perspectives of religion and these perspectives can be seen as two polar opposites: the British believing in Christianity (The good) and the Turkana believing in their primitive gods (The bad). It really challenges the aspects and formulas of religion and I think that is one of the strong points in this film.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rose Red: A Different Kind of Haunted House

There was always something that fascinated me about Stephen King’s Rose Red. Perhaps it was the fact that King wrote it, or maybe it was because the story was about a haunted house, maybe it’s because it dealt with paranormal investigation or because it was the first TV miniseries that I watched live. It was actually neither. The main reason why I loved Rose Red so much is because it’s about an evil house; it wasn’t haunted or possessed by demons but just a wicked house. It was Christine in house form and I think that’s what attracted me. Up until then, I only knew about houses with ghosts but then Rose Red came along and changed my view on haunting as well as spirits.

Throughout the film, Joyce tells us (via voiceover) that houses are alive, which is a trait that we often associate with houses when we hear them creak and groan. Rose Red personifies the house and literally turns it alive. She tells us that Rose Red was born evil, that it wasn’t the ground it was on or the area it was built it… it was just simply evil and that it feeds off of the people who come in. She tells us that it breathes, it feels, it hears and it grows on the inside but not on the outside. It’s a frightening aspect that always made me think about Monster House. We hear Rose Red change and groan as the show progresses and we see it manifests it’s evil into living forms.

This leads me right to my next observation. As I stated, this film is not a haunted house movie and the things in this house are not demons or ghosts per say but rather manifestations. Rose Red is an empathic vampire (a type of vampire known throughout King’s world) that feeds off of the emotions and feelings of its guests. When the psychics visit it uses their energy to bring itself out of a sleep. The ‘ghosts’ in this movie appropriately look like rotting, vampire corpses and considering the house is a vampire… I’d say it fits. This was always an aspect that scared me because of the way they look and the fact that they aren’t spirits but rather living forms of evil. They torment and torture the guests to the breaking point and turn them into capacitors for the house to drain. By this point, the house is literally alive

Finally, the one thing that separates Rose Red from typical haunted houses is that it continues to grow on the inside but doesn’t change physically on the outside. Most haunted houses play with its victims giving them the illusion that they are going around in circles or walking through a maze. This house literally turns it’s rooms into mazes, shifts it’s rooms and creates never ending stairwells and hallways. It enhances the idea that the house is alive and psychotic. Anyone who has been in a large house would know that getting lost in one is pretty scary when your alone and it’s dark; imagine being in a large house that changes rooms on you. It’s frightening.

I guess you can say that houses are alive. We make our houses part of our life and part of our family and the house usually reflects on the people who occupy it. There is something about houses that make them seem anthropomorphic so I guess in a sense… houses do have spirits in them.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Dark Photography of April Taylor

I few days ago I was contacted by one April A. Taylor, who must have heard that I support independent horror themed photography (at least I’d like to think so) and after I trolled around her site and took a look at her photography I was stunned. To describe her photography is quite hard and many of those who covered it stole the words right out of my mouth, however I still want to express my opinion. Her photography is shocking in the sense of how graphic the pictures are. Each photo looks as though it was taken on an old camera, which is probably wasn’t, but it gives the illusion that the photos are grainy, raw and vintage. The angles are incredibly stylized, which only enhances the beauty of each photo; it sort of reads like a comic book. The subject of each photo is incredibly haunting and very morbid… as one has already stated it’s “quite disturbing” and I couldn’t agree more.

Rather than bore anybody with just one paragraph stating my opinion on April’s photography, I think I will pick out some choice selections from her ‘Dark Art’ section. That way I can expand on some specific thoughts.

The picture on the front of the webpage immediately captivated me and I had to find out where it was from. I found out that it was from a photo compilation known as A Twisted Fairytale. Now, in honesty, I’m not sure if it tells a story but I love the way the model was photographed. With the filters and the grain, it gives the photos this vintage and rugged look as though it was taken during the 1800s… a perfect period in which a fairytale could have been set.

This compilation looks as though it’s set during the post-apocalypse. Each photo was taken crooked, giving them a distorted look and causing emotions of awe and weirdness. The filters give the photos this grungy and almost desolate look to the photo. I also like how the model is wearing a gas mask; typifying the existence of the nuclear apocalypse. The compilation is named Loss of Innocents and I think that is a perfect title because even in today’s day and age, innocents is gone and when something happens as cataclysmic as a nuclear bomb… innocents (what little of it is left) would be whipped out.

This is one of the more disturbing photo compilation and I think that’s partly due to the fact that the lighting and makeup make the model look as though she is dead. The compilation looks like typical post-mortis photography but there is something about it that’s very disturbing and quite haunting. Perhaps it’s the attention to detail like the ice or maybe the fact that the model is wrapped in plastic…. I’m not sure. Personally, the photo above is my favorite because in evokes shivers and makes the picture feel cold.

In this compilation it looks as though there is a story being told and I think the story here is similar to Near Dark only in opposites. Here, the girl has fallen in love with somebody and he is turned into a zombie. They seclude themselves from other people by living the forest and she provides him with food, even if it means herself. I like the way these were shot because it gives the stills a sense of grindhouse with the grain, over exposure and rich colors.

Again, these are just my personal favorite compilations but if you want to look at more of her work, please visit her webpage here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Trailer - Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

Well, with courtesy from FearNet us grindhouse/horror fans have been given a small taste of what Hobo With a Shotgun looks like. The original trailer was used as a device to promote Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse and was featured in the film but only in Canada and Austin, TX. I had to catch the trailer on YouTube and I thought it was flawless. I believe the people who made the original Hobo With A Shotgun trailer also did Treevenge. You can visit Jason Eisner’s YouTube page here.

Now lets talk about the Grindhouse trailer for Hobo. As I said before, the trailer is flawless and features David Brunt as a hobo who decides to take the law into his own hands “one shell at a time.” So, I guess it’s sort of like a revenge exploitation movie. I guess you can also say its like Taxi Driver in the sense that a normal homeless man was pushed to the edge after seeing society crumble around him. Near the end of the trailer it goes from exploitation to absurdity and I loved it. There are scenes in the trailer where I am left asking myself, ‘How did it come to that?’ or ‘What the hell are they doing?’ It was a shame I couldn’t see this on the big screen.

The official trailer for the feature length film is a little different. Here David Brunt is replaced by Rutger Hauer (from The Hitchhiker), who looks like he could pull the off the role. The trailer starts off with Hauer, as the hobo, creepily talking to a baby in a nursery wishing that he or she becomes something and doesn’t have to end up living a life of violence. It’s eerie, scary and meaningful. It’s intercut with sick, demented, twisted and surreal images of violence and it’s alarming. Again, like the original trailer… once Hauer’s speech is done it descends into a nightmare of absurdity. However, this film looks like it could be an homage to great apocalyptic films like Road Warriors, Mad Max or even Robocop. This could be a movie that pushes a message about our society and how violence has become the norm almost. It looks like it’s post-apocalyptic but it’s not… it’s set in modern times. The funny thing is, the background to the scenes I wondered about from the first trailer seem more absurd than that scenes themselves.

All I can say is that I am ready for this movie.