Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Festival round up: January '08

Of the fourteen 2007 entries, I've only received one rejection (the Almost Famous festival out in Arizona, which is currently pinned to the wall behind / above my computer) and one disqualification (Show Us Your Shorts and that was because I mailed it out right when the holiday season started so it arrived too late...ah well.) New Filmmakers NY has, apparently, rolled my entry over so I'm in consideration for the Summer programme. The next festival I'm supposed to hear from is FirstGlance on or around February 2.
I've entered two more festivals, as of last night as a matter of fact: ShockerFest and Fantastic Fest. My movie is not, I'm sorry to say, a horror film, but I'm hoping that some elements will appeal to them. It's in a limbo state as far as its genre classification is concerned. It's more of a thriller than a drama and far more dramatic than horrific. You don't really see any monsters and not even that much blood, but it's about demons. Tough to classify. Ah well. I have a feeling that-that will plague me for the duration of my career. I welcome it! :D
And: the contest details have been posted for the Diary of the Dead competition. Basically, they want a three minute zombie flick. I should have known they'd restrict it to zombies, but three minutes? That's a tough one. If nothing else, it'll be an interesting challenge so I've written my script and will start actual storyboards tomorrow or this weeekend. I have very specific shots that I want so I want to attempt to sketch them out to make it easier for my crew if they want to join me. If not, I can do it's three minutes...
Well, that's enough for this month's festival round-up! More to come when I have something to share!

The day I've been dreading has arrived...

Okay, look want to add yet another pointless slapstick sequel chock-a-block with snappy one liners? Have at it. You want to have Freddy vs. Jason vs. the rest of the New Line Stable o' Horror? Whatever. But you're never, NEVER EVER going to be able to top the original Nightmare. You're never EVER going to find a better Freddy than Robert Englund and absolutely not EVER, NEVER NEVER EVER going to find a better Nancy than Heather Langenkamp. The backstory's been covered several times. The sequels have covered nearly every angle, for better or worse. So...where do you expect to go from here? New Line may be the house that Freddy built, but certainly the Hobbits brought in enough to keep it going without most likely ruining its foundation?
Wes Craven once said, just before he made New Nightmare, that he sat down and tried to watch all of the films in the series and by the end, he could make neither heads nor tails of the story. It was part of the reason why he made New Nightmare, to bring Freddy back to his roots and make him scary again. (That stupid fifth claw aside, it was actually a fantastic entry in the series, in my opinion.)
On a personal level, and pardon my American here, I think this is a really shit idea. The original Nightmare is extremely important to me and the only thing I've ever seen happen with 99% of the remakes being forced onto us is somehow, the remake is worse than any of the crappy sequels the original spawned. Other than a lucky strike with the American version of The Ring (I really liked it, surprisingly enough considering how much I LOVE the original...The Ring 2, not so much) I have not seen one remake that was even close to being good much less up to par with the original.
I actually almost started crying. If I felt better, I probably would have.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Cloverfield is a first person "docudrama" (meaning, it's like Blair Witch) starring some relative unknowns (I want to save you all the time -- Marlena was played by Lizzy Caplan who was Janis Ian in Mean Girls...I couldn't place her for the life of me) and directed by Matt Reeves. A big monster (and a bunch of little monsters that fall off of the big monster) attacks New York City and is taken up from the view point of four people as they struggle to survive and reach their friend who lives in the middle of Manhattan.
The effects were great (what you can see of them, anyway) and the monsters look great (no Gojira here), but the camera man was really annoying as a character, and it's the Blair Witch sickness all over again. Other than that stuff, and as a whole, it was actually really good and really needs to be seen on a big screen so that when the monster is in view, you can actually see it.
Also, if I were a Trekkie, I would be over the moon -- the teaser for the prequel is really quite good.
One last thing: is it just me or did some of the sets seem strangely small? I've read that Matt Reeves had never done anything like this before, had never directed anything so VFX intensive, and it kind of felt like that in certain scenes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

St. George of the Dead and my conundrum, part two.

Well, cooler heads prevailed; or, my mommy told me to get my happy butt over to the Diary of the Dead MySpace page and look into the contest because it's GEORGE A. ROMERO, for the love of pete. So, yeah...I'm still thinking, of course, but I'm considering it and considering scrapping the zombie short for now and doing something else...we'll see.
For now, though, I'm going to look for a script I have on my hard drive, print it out, and then go play more Resistance: Fall of Man even though I've beaten it already.

Sleepaway Camp, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis, and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Last one for today, I promise. :D
Sleepaway Camp was written and directed by Robert Hiltzik and starred Felissa Rose as Angela, a quiet young girl who goes away to a camp on the lake where her family was brutally killed in a boating accident. When the other campers, freaked out by her silence and big creepy brown eyes staring at them, start picking on her, her cousin Rick comes to the rescue...then the campers start turning up dead.
I don't like most slasher flicks. I've never pretended to. They're almost always the same thing: crazy guy goes on rampage, kills everyone except the supposedly virginal Final Girl who finds the strength within her to vanquish the foe, but only after trying to get help from everyone else and screaming a lot. Slasher flicks are tired and mainly an excuse for gratuitous boob shots and lots of blood. Sleepaway Camp (I'm not going to bother with the sequels), though not a good movie, actually subverts the subgenre's conventions while still holding true to them and, especially given the time (it was made in 1983) is a really good attempt at doing something different. There's very little gore and very little sex and the ending is certainly unconventional. There have been plenty of bait and switch tactics in slasher flicks (killer wearing a mask of the Final Girl, evil twins, dreams...that sort of thing), but this ending is different, though unsatisfactory in a lot of respects.
I'm not sure that telling the ending of a nearly twenty five year old movie counts as a spoiler, but it is one of the things that made me watch it (if you watch Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, you'll see the grand denouement there, too.) Angela's a boy. When her family was killed, she went to live with her aunt Martha who didn't want to have another boy in the house so she named her Angela and made her dress in girl's clothes. The very end of the movie is this creepy shot of Angela with her mouth open in a silent scream, naked as the day she was born as the boy she is, after having decapitated the boy who was trying to get with her while at camp.
While this is the big secret ending, and a great ending it is, the WHOLE ending is really unsatisfactory. It didn't make me hate the movie, but it needed a little more closure...which is preobably why there are four or five sequels, the latest one stars several of the actors from the first one, including Felissa Rose (her interview in Going to Pieces is the other reason I watched Sleepaway Camp.)
In a genre filled with bad movies, few are so bad or worse than this, the fourth installment in the Return of the Living Dead series. The Return of the Living Dead films are the reason why "zombies" and the ubiquitous moan of "braaaaains" go together -- never have Romero's ghouls called out for brains...or more cops.
Here's the low-down on Return's zombies: they're created by this noxious green gas called 2-4-5 Trioxin. Trioxin zombies cannot be re-killed by destroying the brain. If you burn a trioxin zombie, it releases more trioxin into the air. You breathe it, you die and come back. You're in the ground, already dead, you come back. Brains, whatever chemicals are in there, stop the pain of being dead. Strangely, once the brains have been eaten, that person doesn't come back. I suppose that while the ghoul needs its brain to walk around and eat brains, it doesn't need ALL of its brains and that's why shooting them doesn't work...I dunno, I'm not John Russo so ask him the whys and wherefores (he was a producer with George A. Romero on Night of the Living Dead, by the way.)
Necropolis screws up in the first five minutes of the film by rewriting twenty years of RotLD history by saying that the trioxin zombies can be killed with a bullet to the brain. And it all goes down hill from there with terrible acting, a terrible script, okay direction, and very very bad special effects. At least the zombie extras were game...
Bad bad movie. I won't be bothering with the fifth installment, made right after Necropolis, called Rave to the Grave.
A crew of three grad students make a documentary about up and coming slasher Leslie Vernon, who wants to be bigger and better than his real life heroes Freddy, Jason, and Michael.
Though I knew what was going to happen about forty minutes into the flick, this is a rare slasher flick that honours the subgenre lovingly and acknowledges its downfalls without poking too much fun. It's pretty well written and directed, though a little too well lit, with a solid performance from Angela Goethals. Nathan Baesel's Leslie is a tad uneven, though not in a good way, but it works for this flick.
I recommend it, even if you're not really into slasher flicks.

Masters of Horror: The Damned Thing

The Damned Thing was directed by Tobe Hooper from a script by Richard Christian Matheson which was adapted from a story by Ambrose Bierce. It's about a sheriff who, as a young boy, watched his father kill his mother and come after him before being ripped to shreds (in a pretty impressive effect from those wonderful peeps at KNB) by an unseen force. Now, his birthday's coming and the damned thing's coming after him, too.
This is an episode that felt really rushed. Everything about it was great, but it felt like they took their time with the first thirty minutes and then read the rest of the script and said, "Holy crap, we have to fit all of this into thirty minutes?! OKAY HURRY!! HURRY!!" Other than that, it was pretty good.
Overall, from what I've seen of season two (I've seen seven of the thirteen episodes) the quality of the work has gone (mostly) up. I hope that they get a green light for season three (and this strike ends soon enough for that to happen) because I'd heard that if there's a third season, Stephen King would come aboard (if I see him at the theatre, I should ask...but I usually try to not bother him, unlike our red shirts.) And, who knows...maybe George A. Romero will have a little time before embarking on Diary of the Dead 2 to give us an episode.
While we're on my season three wishlist, I'd also like to see Guillermo del Toro and Park Chan Wook come on board. At this point, I'm REALLY dreaming, but at least I know this...

The Orphanage

So, I watched the Spanish haunted house film The Orphanage a few days ago (I've been too preoccupied with Resistance: Fall of Man to give a review...) It was directed by J.A. Bayona, written by Sergio Sanchez, produced by the ever-wonderful Guillermo del Toro (and a bunch of other people), and starred Belen Rueda as Laura, a former orphan of the house of the title and mother to adopted son Simon (played by Roger Princep.) Strange things start to happen shortly after Laura, Simon, and her husband Carlos move in to the old orphanage that was once her home. Is it all in her head or are these things real?
As far as my description of the movie goes, I'll stop there. It's too brilliant to go into knowing everything. I haven't seen a haunted house movie this good since Poltergeist and I've seen quite a few. It's sad and hopeful and creepy all in one little package. Yes, I did say creepy. There were two parts specifically that creeped me out, but I don't want to mention them and spoil the fun.
Thankfully, the print my theatre got was subtitled (it's in Castilian Spanish with English subtitles.) I have a really hard time paying attention to a movie when it's been dubbed into English. I find myself looking at the actors lips as they're acting their hearts out, pouring all this emotion into their lines, but hearing some droll American or British voice reciting the translation. I hate it.
Anyway, I highly highly highly recommend seeing this film in the theatre. Everything about this movie is fantastic: the writing, the direction, the performances, the score, the special effects, but most especially the sound design. Absolutely awesome!

St. George of the Dead and my conundrum...

<embed src="" width="400" height="360" allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="&file=diaryofthedead-trailer.flv&height=360&width=400&autostart=false" allowscriptaccess="always"/><br />Get More <a href="">Diary of the Dead Trailers</a> at
If you watch that trailer, you'll know what my conundrum is. About a week or two after the writer's strike started, I stopped using MySpace (well, except for one point where I had to answer an email that came in response to one I sent -- didn't want to be rude) because MySpace is owned by Fox. But with George A. Romero running a short horror film contest, the winner of which will be put on the DVD of Diary of the Dead, I'm sorely tempted to go back just for that. My only problem is, outside of the contest being run through MySpace...I don't have anything ready. Yes, I have a zombie script that I'm going to be shooting in May, but I don't want to give George A. Romero a zombie short. He's already done it all and better than I could so while I want to make a couple of zombie movies, I don't know if I want to send my zombie stuff to him for what could possibly be his best zombie film ever.
Oh, how I wish he had an official non-MySpace website that was also hosting the contest, but I know that MySpace is brilliant given what he's saying in Diary of the Dead. I mean, his son's a web designer, for pete's sakes... Maybe the writer's strike will be over soon and I can go enter in clear conscience, but until then, I'm just going to have to languish in my despair of not entering. 
I wonder how many entrants are going to send him zombie flicks...and ripoffs of the Diary idea to boot...

Monday, January 7, 2008

One Missed Call, Fido

One Missed Call is a remake of the film of the same name from the masterful Takeshi Miike. The original film isn't a really good example of the awesomeness of Miike-san, for that I recommend Audition, but it's interesting as part of his filmography for how mundane it is compared to the rest, being one of a hundred Ringu ripoffs.
The American version is about a series of mysterious voice messages, received as the missed call of the title, reveal one's last words and one's time of death. To solve the mystery and save her life, Shannon Sossomon and Ed Burns (eh?) must trace the connections back to the beginning.
Somewhat competently directed by Frenchman Eric Valette (Fango raves about his Malefique and he's directing the Clock Tower adaptation), but poorly performed by all of the cast across the board and very, very poorly written by Andrew Klavan, this is a bad movie. The interesting ending and swift pacing does nothing to redeem the hour and a half one must lose to watch it.
Fido is a technicolour 50s-style zombie romp about a boy, his mother, and their pet zombie. You see, the zombie wars have come and gone and with the advent of a miracle collar, zombies are no longer a nuisance, they're a benefit, doing the things we living folks don't want to do. The titular hero zombie, played by Billy Connelly (who somehow has a Scottish accent even when he moans), starts a chain reaction of infection when his collar goes on the fritz and the boy who loves him doesn't kill the ghoul he created in time to prevent her from infecting someone else and, as so often happens, they go on to infect others and so on and so forth...
The film, directed by Andrew Currie and starring Connelly and Carrie-Anne Moss, with a performance by Tim Blake Nelson, is a wonderful mix of Leave It to Beaver and Land of the Dead (with a dash of Day's idea of domesticating the flesheaters.) Why specifically Land of the Dead? Out of all of the films in the Cycle, you ask? Simple: complacence. A protected, walled city and the people within who are aware of the issues, but choose to blissfully ignore them. They don't want to talk about the dead menace because they're in their happy place, even if it is a zombie who delivers the milk and mows the lawn. It's also about freedom and equality and not being afraid of who you are. Good stuff. I recommend it highly.

Life in the New Year

Well, sort of...I mean. The year's only started, right?
This is a bit long and rambly...just stuff floating around in brain that I want to get out.
I haven't been around much. That is to say, I've been reading my LiveJournal friends list (I love my peeps, but I can't contribute more than views and comments to my friends list to that place any longer) and replying occasionally, but I haven't been posting at all. I even saw the One Missed Call remake (it blew, by the way, but more on that in another post) and haven't posted a review. Shocking.
Anyway, the first movie I watched this year was the traditional Day of the Dead. I don't really understand why Romero fans are so down on this entry in the series...personally, the more I watch it, the more I love it. However, I suppose that with the underrated Land of the Dead here now, the fans have another target to aim at. By the by, this month's Fangoria has an article on Romero's Diary of the Dead AND a piece on Dario Argento's La Terza Madre. When I saw that issue in my mailbox, I nearly died, but then I would have come back because I would have needed to read it. Great articles, by the way, with fantastic interviews. Both gentlemen seem very excited about these flicks...energized and happy. It's different from the other articles which feature producers bullshitting their way through interviews about how whatever they're doing (even the upteenth zombie flick) is a fresh and daring take on an old favourite.
Diary of the Dead is currently slated for a February release (OMIGOD, THAT'S NEXT MONTH Y'ALL!!!) The Third Mother doesn't yet have one, that I know of...not that my theatre'd get it. The new G.M. thinks I need therapy because I love horror films. That's one film I would go to the local art house for. Their presentation's crappy, but see a new Argento flick on the big screen, especially the finale of the Three Mothers Trilogy? Count me in.
Meanwhile, I've been desperate for some learnin'...I've been watching the documentaries I haven't yet watched on all of my horror movies. It's been pretty intense. So far, I think the most informative of the newest ones I watched was 30 Days in Hell which was included with Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects if you got the two disc set (is there a single disc set?) I also watched the Darkest Days documentary which came with the two disc (and all of the uber sets, I'm sure) of Ridley Scott's Final Cut of Blade Runner, and about a bazillion other things. I'd already watched all of the Alien Quadrilogy and Dawn of the Dead special stuff, and Full Tilt Boogie... And I watched Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film yesterday. Almost made me change my mind about slasher films. Almost. It's just too bad that there really is no such philosophical thought put into most of the slashers made and released, especially lately. A good 93% of them are only there for blood and boobs and really don't do anything new.
I've also been reading. I started by trying to read all of Edgar Allen Poe. So far, I think my favourites are "Ligeia" and "The Fall of the House of Usher," but I've had to take a break. It's tough reading his stuff. I moved on to Clive Barker's newest, Mister B. Gone (highly recommend it if you like Clive's a small book, but really good) and H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness which the wonderful Guillermo del Toro will be turning into a film. I don't know HOW exactly, but if anyone can, it's del Toro. When I finish that (included with the story was Lovecraft's essay on the Supernatural in Literature which is what I'm on now), I'll be reading my first Philip K. Dick book: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration for Blade Runner.) I don't normally read sci-fi. I think Dune's it for me and I LOVE Frank Herbert's Dune Chronicles (yes, I know that Peter Berg is remaking Dune...yes, I am sad about that, but it can't be any worse than Sci-Fi's version. I hope, anyway.)
I've heard from one festival so far and that was my first official rejection notice, from the Almost Famous Film Festival. I figure that I'll do what Stephen King did and pin the rejections to the wall above my computer. Makes me look forward even more to doing the zombie flick, actually! I should be hearing from two more festivals this month: FirstGlance Hollywood and NewFilmmakers NY.
On another note, I received a call from Miss Kristin Mellian, the lead actress in Without/Within, about writing something for her and her fiancee. It's actually a pretty neat idea, but I've got to mull it over. It's not that I won't write it, but I haven't written something that wasn't my own idea in a very long while so I've got to let the idea percolate in m'brain.
I think that's it for now, of all the things I wanted to and can get out of my brain...