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Saturday, May 31, 2008
In honor of this growing phenomenon (and because I have nothing better to blog about) I've decided to spotlight some interesting things that are happening on some of my fellow LOTT Ders' sites. If you have some minutes to kill, and are looking for some fascinating insight on various matters both gothic and macabre, check them out.
Arbogast on Film: The man named for everyone's favorite ill-fated private investigator takes a compelling look at Frank Darabont's The Mist, colored by his own love/hate relationship with the works of Stephen King.
Frankensteinia: The venerable Pierre Fournier celebrates the birthdays this week of three giants of the genre, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
Gospel of the Living Dead: Prof. Kim Paffenroth has published the timeline he's put together on the life of Dante Alighieri, derived from work on his new book, Valley of the Dead. Of particular interest is the period during which the Italian poet's whereabouts were completely unknown.
The Groovy Age of Horror: Curt Purcell begins what is sure to be a gripping series on the history of supernatural horror.
The Horrors of It All: The one and only Karswell takes a peak at the new book, Sex, Drugs and Violence in the Comics. Count me in.
Kindertrauma: You'll never look at Chuck Jones' innocuous little mouse Sniffles quite the same again after reading Unkle Lancifer's chilling review of the 1940 Warner Bros. short Sniffles Takes a Trip.
Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire: The lovely Tenebrous Kate provides essential fashion tips for men, derived from the best of genre cinema. Did you know the codpiece was making a comeback?
Theofantastique: John W. Morehead scowls disapprovingly at A&E's recent revamp of Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain.
Unspeakable Horror: If vampire poetry is what you're looking for, Chad Helder has the cure for what ails you.
Friday, May 30, 2008
The jerseys are now being sold at the website for Smith's Red Bank, New Jersey comic book store, Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash. It's sure to be the next big thing in slacker culture, so make sure to get ahead of the curve. Thanks to /Film for picking up on this one.
* * * * * * * * * *
Speaking of thanks, I'd like to extend them as well to JA of My New Plaid Pants, who posted my review of Inside on Showhype.com, so that countless others can be infected with my weighty opinions. And while I'm plugging, my League of Tana Tea Drinkers cohort Max at The Drunken Severed Head has scored a very cool interview with David Patrick "Waaarriooors...come out to plaaay-ayy!" Kelly, so be a lamb and check it out.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Night of the Living Dead: For years I've been waiting for a mondo, balls-out special edition of Romero's original public domain masterpiece, and now it's finally here--courtesy of Diary of the Dead-producers the Weinsteins. Aside from a reportedly immaculate digital transfer, there are also two commentaries, a 90-minute documentary, an interview with Romero and the final recorded interview with the late Duane Jones.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Directed by Alexandro Bustillo and Julien Maury (recently booted from the Hellraiser remake), Inside is the kind of movie that makes you question why you wanted to see it in the first place. It would be easy to dismiss it as just another depressing and sadistic piece of torture porn, but that's not really what it is. I wouldn't categorize it with garbage like Hostel and Saw III, which truly earn their pornography tag by making titillation through explicit violence their primary goal.
That's not what Inside is all about. It is disturbingly graphic, and shatters horror film taboos left and right, but I can honestly say that many of the depictions of violence were not gratuitous, in that they served a story and a theme that was every bit as unsettling, if not moreso. They are not there for their own sake.
Inside is a very well-made movie, with excellent photography by Laurent Barès, a riveting score by François Eudes (sound designer for the Hills Have Eyes remake), and a constantly building and expertly constructed aura of suspense. It's two main leads, newcomer Alysson Paradis as victim Sarah and tenured French leading lady Béatrice Dalle as the nameless antagonist, both turn in powerful performaces in roles quite rare for films of this kind.
All this quality was enough to distract me from the overall unsavoriness of the movie itself, as well as from some its noteable flaws. There are several gaping holes in logic and lapses in believability. There's also the problem of a paper-thin plot that is supported mainly by the constant influx of fresh victims, much like the classic slasher movie formula. And then there's the sporadic CGI, which, while ambitious, is enough to take you out of the movie in parts.
But as my wife so succinctly said to me as the credits rolled, "There are a lot of people who wouldn't be able to watch this movie." As a parent and someone who has vicariously experienced pregnancy, I perceived that the difficulty I had with it might not be as strong for someone who had not experienced those things. Conversely, for many women of a particularly sensitive nature, I could see this picture provoking nothing but disgust and contempt.
After seeing Inside, I found myself doing what I usually do after seeing a movie that has disturbed me--watching the special features, almost as a way of proving to myself on a subconscious level that it never really happened, that these people are just actors and everyone is fine. And as good a movie as it is, I really question its rewatchability. I, for one, cannot imagine subjecting myself to it again.
Complex reactions for a thematically complex film. At its heart, Inside is a movie about loss and what it can do to us, what we allow it to do to us. It's not fun, and I don't know if I would even use the word "enjoyable". But it is very intriguing, and well worth a look.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Nevertheless, The Serpent and the Rainbow proved to be a brief aberration. The first heyday of zombie movies may have been over, but Romero's influence of the genre was here to stay. As proof of that, in 1990 Columbia Pictures got behind a remake of the seminal classic Night of the Living Dead, penned by George Romero and directed by makeup effects wiz Tom Savini. In part an attempt to cash in on the success of the original to an extent that Romero was unjustly prevented from doing the first time around, the new version was a mixed bag.
Romero was lauded for transforming his female lead Barbara from a traumatized wreck into a strong-willed heroine. The remake featured several interesting new interpretations, but many fans felt it was hamstrung by the large studio involvement and the need to fit within R-rating parameters, something none of the previous films had been required to do.
With the dearth of quality horror films in the 1990s came a dearth of memorable zombie flicks as well. Horror was moving more into the mainstream, resulting in safer, less graphically violent pictures--meaing there was less and less of a place for cinematic flesh-eating.
But there were exceptions, and chief among them came from the other side of the world--New Zealand, to be exact. Maverick filmmaker Peter Jackson, who had previously opened eyes with Bad Taste (1987), created in 1992 what is to this day still considered by many to be the most violent motion picture ever made: Braindead (a.k.a. Dead Alive).
One of the reasons Jackson was able to get away with it was the fact that his movie was a comedy, and thus the violence was so completely and cartoonishly over-the-top that it couldn't possibly be taken seriously--reanimated (and flatulent) digestive tracts, zombie copulation, an entire room of ghouls dispatched with a twirling lawnmower, etc. Braindead became an international cult sensation thanks to home video distribution, and gave the sub-genre a much-needed shot in the arm.
Other major entries of the period that distinctly stood out was 1993's Dellamorte Dellamore (a.k.a. Cemetery Man), an Italian effort that harkened back to the "spaghetti zombie" days of a decade earlier; and Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993), which turned out to be a surprisingly effective installment in an otherwise tired series thanks to a bold move away from comedy in favor of a more serious tone.
But aside from some refreshing exceptions, modern zombie films experienced perhaps the lowest point in their popularity during the 1990s. Ultra low-budget and shot-on-video productions dominated the niche as it went decidedly underground. Yet by the end of the decade and turn of the new century, just as down-and-dirty horror was experiencing a resurgence, so would the cinema of the living dead in particular. The second great zombie movie explosion was at hand.
To Be Continued...
Part 1: They're Coming to Get You
Part 2: No More Room in Hell
But in the case of next month's home invasion thriller The Strangers, according to an article featured this week in Advertising Age, it gets even more cynical that that. I'm sure you've had the movie's "inspired by true events" tagline shoved down your throat by now, and you're probably wondering, "When did that happen? How could I have missed it in the news?" Simple: because it never did actually happen.
Universal Pictures President of Marketing Adam Fogelson told Ad Age:
There is absolutely a distinction between 'based on' and 'inspired by. 'Based on' means there are specific events that are being used as the basis for the story. 'Inspired by,' well, that's a much looser definition.
By "looser definition," Mr. Fogelson seems to mean, "bold-faced lie." Because in the production notes for The Strangers, the film's writer/director Bryan Bertino relates the supposed "true events" that "inspired" his movie:
That part of the story came to me from a childhood memory. As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody that didn't live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses. In The Strangers, the fact that someone is at home does not deter the people who've knocked on the front door; it's the reverse.
There you have it, folks. That sure is a loose definition for "inspired by true events," isn't it? It's amazing what today's marketing gurus can pull off with a little semantic tapdancing. Now granted, home invasions do occur all the time, often with horrific results. But to say that the movie is inspired by true events is more than a little misleading, since the idea is to get people to think there was a real case on which The Strangers was based, when, in fact, there was not.
When a studio pulls a trick like this to drum up interest in a movie, it gets me thinking that they're hedging their bets and trying to compensate for a release they don't have much faith in. Which is a shame, since the trailers have actually looked pretty promising.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Barker was on-hand to honor Young and his "classy horror movie music," adding that the composer "is himself, [when] so many people are not."
Also present was Sam Raimi, whose last movie, Spider-Man 3, was scored by Young. Raimi's impending return to the horror genre, next year's Drag Me to Hell, is Young's next project.
In accepting BMI's award, Young called it, "the brightest moment of my life." He joins previous winners such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Danny Elfman.
Young first broke into the business on the 1982 bottom-of-the-barrel slasher The Dorm that Dripped Blood. In addition to the first two Hellraiser films, he composed the scores for genre efforts such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, Invaders from Mars, Flowers in the Attic, The Fly II, The Dark Half, Tales from the Hood, Species, Urban Legend, The Grudge 1 & 2, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Ghost Rider. Outside of horror, his work includes the music for Murder in the First, Copycat, The Gift, Swordfish and The Shipping News, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2001.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Conceived as a satire of the Bush administration, the latest installation in the beloved franchise would've featured the infamous Dr. Herbert West putting a zombie president in the White House. But Gordon said the following to FEARnet yesterday:
It doesn’t look like it is going to happen. I’ve been having second thoughts on it, because I keep reading about Oliver Stone and the movie he is doing about the Bush presidency. I am worried it is a little bit too late to start doing movies about the Bush administration. By the time this movie would come out, we would have a new President, and it would be like, 'Who cares?'
Fans may disagree with Gordon as to the relevancy of the project (I know I do), but it sounds like the guy has made up his mind. Dr. West is staying in retirement, at least for now.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
My first reaction upon seeing photos of the cast of the 2008 remake of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was "Funny, they don't look Jewish."
I consider Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) to be one of the great unintentional blood libels of the latter half of the 20th Century. I don't think for a minute that Craven is anti-Semitic but rather that he, like all of us, carries with him learned associations that exist apart from his conscious mind. Just as David Lynch has in the past identified a sense of evil in effeminacy (BLUE VELVET) and ethnicity (WILD AT HEART), Wes Craven particularizes in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT his perception of pure evil with a distinctly Hebraic flavor. Though none of the characters identify themselves explicitly as being Jewish, David Hess' Krug is depicted as an obnoxious cigar-smoking "Jew Yorker" whose perpetual stubble, curly hair, olive-colored skin and outer borough accent code him as an obvious Heeb. Add to that, Krug has been convicted for the killing of a Catholic priest and two nuns.
Cast in the role of Krug's accomplice, Weasel Podowski, Fred J. Lincoln wears the slate-colored hair and slack suit of a Lower East Side alter cocker while both Jeramie Rain (as Sadie, a common Jewish name that also brings to mind Manson killer Susan Atkins, aka Sadie Mae Glutz) and Marc Sheffler (as Krug's schlemiel of a son, Junior) have "difficult" ethnic hair. Weasel's rap sheet identifies him as a child molester, which fits the historical blood libel that slandered Jews as sacrificers of children. The quartet is shown to be "animal-like," to inhabit a dirty tenement (a dwelling associated with foreigners) and, while transporting their kidnap victims from the city to the country, Krug and Sadie engage in rear-entry sex (coitus more ferarum, or "sex by way of the beasts"), a form of copulation frequently associated (however unfairly) with non-Christians.
The transition of the kidnappers/killers from the city to the country is a key element of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, illustrating an old white Anglo-Saxon fear of the contamination of suburbia's assumed purity by ethnic types (as Fairfield County, the film's location and setting, became a destination for upwardly mobile urban Jews post-World War II). The waspy surname of one of the victims and her parents, Collingwood, is eerily similar to Sadie's imaged alias (Agatha Greenwood), suggesting that Krug & Company aspire in some part to assimilate even while they shred the very fabric of Christian society.
In the film's most disturbing sequence, Krug, Weasel and Sadie kill their captives after stripping them and humiliating them sexually. When Phyllis tries to escape, she is run to ground, stabbed and then butchered in a scene that can't help but evoke shechita, or Jewish ritual slaughter. Phyllis' intestines are pulled out of her oozing abdominal cavity and examined, as a shochet would do to determine if a slaughtered animal were fit to be declared kosher. Obviously, Phyllis' disemboweling is not genuinely kosher but does suggest that Krug & Co. are operating on auto
pilot, as if by collective cultural memory, in the same way that their earlier torment of Phyllis and Mari echoed the treatment of Jews bound for concentration camps. The kidnappers seem to be maltreating their captives as a form of confused racial self-hatred, channeling ritualistic acts that both glorify and slander their ancestors.
Having killed Phylllis, Krug rapes Mari... but not before he uses a switchblade to carve his name into her sternum. This gesture reminded me of Rabbi Lowe scratching the word "EMET" into the forehead of The Golem. (With his helmet hair, Krug even resembles Paul Wegener's iconic
1920 interpretation of THE GOLEM.) As EMET is the Hebrew word for "truth," Krug's mutilation of Mari might be said to be his way of sending a wake-up call to WASP society, announcing both his arrival and his intention to destroy their four-square, missionary position world. (In this regard, Krug also bears a resemblance to the character of Berger from the musical HAIR, who comes to his position of iconoclastic hippie king from a distinctly urban Jewish environment.) And can it be mere coincidence that Krug comes to his decision to shoot Mari after having overheard her reciting the Lord's Prayer, as she wades into a woodland pond in a cleansing act of self baptism?
At this point it's worth remembering that LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a remake of sorts of Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960), a Medieval morality tale set at a time when Christianity was waging war against Paganism for world and spiritual dominance. LAST HOUSE hews closely to the VIRGIN SPRING template by having its spree killers (who pose as salesmen, and in so doing aligning themselves with Jews via the merchant class) taken in by Mari's parents, who feed them in a scene that mimics da Vinci's The Last Supper (while leaving an empty chair in the foreground - for Elijah?). Over the course of the evening, the truth comes out and Mari's parents turn on her killers. While the ensuing slaughter is strong stuff, the third act's oddest/most brutal bit of business is Mrs. Collingwood's oral castration of Weasel in a scene that seems to mock the Jewish rite of circumcision (thus explaining the chair left empty for Elijah). It should also be noted that she performs this act after first using Weasel's leather belt to bind his hands in what could be construed as an allusion to the philactery, the calfskin box containing Hebraic scripture that some Jews wear strapped to their heads and wrapped around their left arms during weekday prayers.
Again, I hasten to add that I don't believe ex-Baptist Wes Craven set out to slander the Jews with LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT but the Jewishness of the killers he created cannot be ignored. My feeling is that Craven was writing/casting/directing instinctively from a series of societal and cultural presets and prejudices. Certainly, living and working (first as a taxi driver and then as a young filmmaker) in New York, Craven would have had plenty of negative experiences with people of all ethnic persuasions. I half suspect Krug was modeled on a particularly noxious distributor who blew fetid cigar smoke in Craven's face while cheating him out of profits. However it all came together, these textures (real or imagined) give the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT intriguing layers of meaning. You won't find this kind of subtext in a New Millennium remake claiming to pay homage to 70s cinema while pissing all over a glorious, difficult and demanding decade that was never afraid to get blood on its hands.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The pics show Argento himself, as well as Adrien Brody and French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, who play a detective and a flight attendant on the trail of a murderer who's kidnapped the attendant's sister. The film hits theaters next year, and is not Argento's first English-language effort, despite erroneous reports.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Although the movie doesn't begin filming until August of next year, producers want the cast in place by this July in order to shoot the trailer. In addition to the role of Tim Curry, the actor who played Rocky Horror's infamous Dr. Frank N. Furter, Thinking Rom is looking to cast such parts as Rocky Horror creator Richard O'Brien, director Jim Sharman, as well as other members of the Rocky Horror cast.
Auditions are being held beginning June 30. For more information on the production, check out Thinking Room's official website.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The new film version, which was first covered here in the Vault some months ago, begins shooting at the end of July. Oliver Parker, who seems to have specialized in translating Wilde's work to the screen, wil direct. Barnes also appeared in last year's sci-fi also-ran Stardust.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
I've marveled at it so much in fact, that I've come to regard as one of the most underrated and undercelebrated pictures in modern horror history. Let's think about this. The movie, directed by Spanish expatriate Jorge Grau in 1974, was directly influenced by George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Yet it came out years before Romero's own sequel, Dawn of the Dead.
And although Dawn of the Dead is most often regarded as the movie that brought extreme zombie gore into the horror mainstream, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue had already done it. And in color, too. In fact, it was Grau's specific intention to take the horror of Night of the Living Dead and make it more explicit, capitalizing on color film to take it to the next level. In short, it would seem in a way that Grau beat Romero himself to the punch.
So why then, is The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue not regarded in quite the same light as Romero's films? It's certainly an excellent horror movie, and even contains a social message, much like Romero's films are usually hailed for having. What did Romero have that Grau didn't?
For one thing, Dawn of the Dead is a sprawling horror epic, giving the illusion of a much grander scale, unlike Manchester Morgue, the action of which is less ambitious, and more like Night of the Living Dead in its close-quarters intimacy. Dawn of the Dead also has more memorable individual performances overall, even if Fernando Hilbeck as Manchester's Guthrie is more terrifying than any zombie in Dawn.
And let's be frank here. Dawn of the Dead also had the Romero name to give it momentum. The director's reputation based on the mainstream classic Night of the Living Dead from a decade earlier turned Dawn of the Dead into an anticipated and high-grossing event. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, by contrast, was a strictly grindhouse flick that attained cult status in later years. Had Dawn of the Dead not had the Romero name, it might've been relegated to the obscure grindhouse circuit as well.
Jorge Grau's highly entertaining chiller was clearly ahead of the curve, the only zombie picture made between Night of the Livng Dead and Dawn of the Dead that truly embraced Romero's "rules" and the template he set up and did something interesting with it. It's an underappreciated gem, and for any fan of modern horror--and zombie flicks in particular--a must-see.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I've been a big Shyamalan supporter/defender since day one, and although I have my problems with Signs, I always enjoyed his films very much. That is, until a little picture called Lady in the Water was excreted into the world last year, promptly taking its place on the same list as movies like Howard the Duck, Ishtar, Showgirls and Waterworld.
That last disaster was a film of nearly career-threatening proportions for the relatively new director. But now he has the chance to win back the faith of moviegoers with this new harder-edged tale of an epidemic of mass suicide. But there's a lot riding on it. If it's another filmic catastophe, it will certainly peg Shyamalan as a one-trick pony hack, rather than the truly great filmmaker he once seemed to have the potential to be.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I was down to two films that were going to be my first movie. One was Thank You for Smoking and the other was this horror film that I wrote. I was in between the two, and Thank You for Smoking went and the other one didn't.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
And while that will certainly make for one hell of a 3-D shot, it doesn't justify an entire movie by any means.
Monday, May 12, 2008
To give you just an example of what I'm talking about, here is a sampling of the films being offered on Monsters HD during this very month:
- Planet of the Apes
- Bride of Frankenstein
- The Day the Earth Stood Still
- The Raven
- Horror of Dracula
- Bubba Ho Tep
- Day of the Dead
- The Fog
- An American Werewolf in London
- The Thing (both versions)
- Tombs of the Blind Dead
- One Million Years B.C.
- The Mummy (Hammer)
- The Omen
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes
My wife has (correctly) pointed out that were I to have Monsters HD at home, I would probably never leave the house. Unfortunately, I only came to discover the channel because my parents have it. Yes, dear old Mom and Dad have entered the world of high-def before me. But that's OK, because now that they've moved out here to the wiles of Connecticut from the mean streets of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, flicks like Motel Hell, The Howling and Waxwork are just a two-minute car ride away. I haven't spent this much time with the folks since I got married.
Monsters HD is currently available to subscribers of Optimum iO TV and Dish Network. But only those with HD, of course. Sadly, I discovered that you can't even record the movies on a videocassette. Boooo! I guess it's all part of cable/sattelite's master plan to persuade everyone to switch over to HD as soon as possible. Consider me convinced. As for the wife--well, I'm hoping they'll start up a Hallmark Channel HD real soon...
** 5/14 UPDATE ** Well, it looks like the Solomon curse has struck again. No sooner do I sing the praises of Monsters HD than Dish Network promptly drops the channel. Apparently, there's a big legal squabble going on, with Dish citing low ratings and repetitive programming as the cause, and Monsters HD claiming breach of contract. But the service is still available via Optimum iO, which means I'm still in business.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Gotta love that. That's long-time Smith regular Jeff Anderson and Seth Rogen sporting perhaps the coolest hockey jerseys of all time. It would appear the new comedy takes place in the Pittsburgh area, with some scenes even filmed at horrordom's most famous shopping mall. Cool.
Friday, May 9, 2008
The mystery surrounding the man who played the screen's first Count Dracula in F.W. Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu is one of the things that led to the long-running urban legend of Schreck's real-life vampirism--a legend Eickhoff reports was first jokingly popularized in a French book on surrealism in cinema published in 1953. But myths aside, the real man provides more than enough fodder for a
biographer, of which Eickhoff--who first published his book in German last December--is the first.
"Whoever hopes to discover a vampire will be disappointed, but they will find an actor of real skill and versatility," said Eickhoff in a Reuters interview yesterday.
Eickhoff's book focuses mainly on Schreck's films, making the case that Nosferatu has unjustly overshadowed the rest of what was an impressive body of work consisting of more than 800 stage and screen roles. As for personal anecdotes and recollections from colleagues, Eickhoff eerily found almost none. One rare and fascinating remembrance describes him as living in "a remote and strange world," and being fond of long walks in deep, dark forests.
This book is sure to be snatched up by many an old-school horror fan looking to learn more about one of the genre's most enigmatic actors of all time. If you spreken ze deutch, you can buy the book right now in its original form at Amazon.com's German site.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Pierce's incredible body of work includes such films as The Man Who Laughs (1928), Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), White Zombie (1932), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Black Cat (1934), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula's Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Wolf Man (1941), The Mummy's Tomb (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943) and Beauty and the Beast (1962):