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Monday, June 30, 2008
The film, originally released in South Korea in 2005, tells the tale of Su-hyeon, a woman suffering from leukemia, whose sister and roommate Ji-hyeon gives her a wig to cover the baldness which results from her chemotherapy. But little do either of them know that the wig was actually made from the hair of a suicide victim (gasp!), and thus Su-hyeon begins to take on the characteristics of the hair's original owner (which, needless to say, are not pleasant ones.)
Right off the bat, we've got an inescapably silly premise, and director Shin-yeon Won takes it all way too seriously. While interestingly shot, the pace is discouragingly slow for the most part, and the structure is such that at times the plot can be pretty tough to follow. Then, once you actually figure things out, it all turns out to be so cliche you almost wishe you still didn't know what the heck was going on.
The film's only memorable performance is given by Seon Yu as Ji-hyeon, the perpetually anguished and put-upon sister of the possessed wig-wearing cancer victim. Of course, she puts in her solid performance in spite the maddeningly inexplicable decision of screenwriter Hyun-jung Do to make her character completely mute as a result of a car accident which is vaguely connected to the wig, but never fully explained.
The scares are few and far between, and in this case the marketing of the American DVD as "Unrated" is particularly cynical. There's nothing beyond PG-13 level material here, but when it comes down to it, any foreign film that is released straight to DVD in the U.S. without being submitted to the MPAA for a rating can technically be termed "unrated".
The big revelation near the end manages to be confusing, ludicrous and boring all at the same time. And the final scenes, meant to be both shocking and poignant, are just clumsy.
Director Shin-yeon Won may be a talented stylist, and "one to watch", as some critics have branded him--but his debut The Wig is definitely not a picture that does his nascent skills any justice. He's made two more horror/thrillers since, which are allegedly far better, so he may become a major player in Asian horror despite this lackluster first effort.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Not only is Cronenberg directing, but the music for the opera was written and orchestrated by the film's original composer Howard Shore (acclaimed in recent years for his Lord of the Rings score), and the musical director is none other than Placido Domingo, one of the most important tenors of the 20th century.
Toronto's Globe & Mail has an interesting piece on the opera's impending debut. The article reveals that the story's setting has been changed by Cronenberg back to the 1950s--the era of the original movie version of The Fly--due to its "visual richness." True to Cronenberg's intentions, the opera's librettist David Henry Hwang has retained the horror of the body that distinguished the director's classic.
According to the article, the idea for this bold new treatment came from the operatic nature of Shore's original score, on which Shore, Cronenberg and even the movie's producer Mel Brooks had often remarked.
“I had always thought the movie was like a stage play,” Cronenberg tells the Globe & Mail. “It's three people in a room, a triangle, and the emotions are very intense, very heightened."
The ambitious production will be a fully realized stage piece, complete with bass-baritone Daniel Okelitch as Seth Brundle, singing while in a mutated fly suit and hanging from the rafters in a harness to simulate wall-crawling. It's a far-cry from Puccini, but opera lovers will note that it's not as unorthodox as it may seem, as imagery from the likes of Gounod's Faust or Mozart's Don Giovanni will attest.
The Paris engagement of The Fly will run from Wednesday, July 2 through Sunday, July 13. It will make its American debut at the Los Angeles Opera in September. One wonders--will a traditional opera audience accept the outlandish production? Will it attract those not normally inclined to attend an opera? It'll be pretty fascinating to see how it all plays out.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I continue to be impressed. Del Toro is a great filmmaker who'd be great no matter what kind of films he chose to make. The fact that he revels in genre filmmaking is a boon to fans everywhere. If you'd like to see more, there's a fantastic comics-style "animated prologue" at Apple's Hellboy II page that takes us back to 1955, when the story of the Golden Army was first told to the young Hellboy. (While you're there, you can also watch the trailer with better resolution.)
Friday, June 27, 2008
Now, Horror Yearbook is reporting that the reason for the movie's delay is actually a very good one. Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics is quoted as saying that the studio was so pleased with the finished film (originally intended for DVD) that they ponied up some more money for a second round of shooting, in order to "beef up" the picture for a theatrical release.
Good news for fans of The Chin. It looks like My Name Is Bruce will indeed be coming soon to a theater near you, although the release date remains unknown. Maybe Halloween?
Thursday, June 26, 2008
A rather humdrum shot, until you realize that this spot figures prominently in the blood-soaked climactic battle between pillaging bikers and put-out SWAT deserters/TV news employees. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is also near the spot where Peter pours a little bubbly out for his fallen homey Roger.
A favorite shot of mine. Imagine my glee upon discovering the actual hallway that led to our heroes' secret upstairs lair (which isn't actually there, by the way.) You can just picture those zombies about to stagger across the end of the hall, can't you? Interestingly, from the opposite angle, the hall goes on a lot further than it did in the movie, which leads me to believe that they must've built a false wall--ironically mirroring the very actions of the characters in the flick. There was also a large auditorium at the end of the hall, which I think was used as Tom Savini's makeup workshop.
This is the main entrance to the mall, which was walled off by tractor trailers in the movie, and later breached by the bikers and hordes of the undead. Unfortunately, it was completely rebuilt, so that the giant glass doors are no longer there. Oddly, I'm wearing a different shirt than in the earlier pics, which can only mean we visited the mall on two different days. Can it be that I abused the missus' good will that grossly? I don't remember it that way, but I suppose it's possible.
And finally, we bid a fond farewell to George Romero's most well-known filming location! The sign at the exit to the parking lot is one of the only places I could still find the classic '70s Monroeville Mall logo, which had been replaced in most other places with a newer one.
As a reminder of the journey, I purchased a winter coat at the mall's Abercrombie & Fitch, which I wore with pride until it was stolen some years later at a house party I attended. I also got a backpack, which I'm glad to say I still own, although I feel a little too old to wear it comfortably in public these days.
Yes, life is all about the passage from one stage to the next, and as we returned from western Pennsylvania to our walk-up apartment in my parents' house in Brooklyn, the symbolism of the moment was palpable. Literally leaving the free-wheeling yet undeniably silly caprices of youth behind me, returning to the place where I hoped to start a family and embrace the more responsible but even more exciting challenges of parenthood, I was ready. I had gotten it out of my system.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's quite late and I really should retire. After all, the kids expect me to be ready first thing in the morning to watch Enter the Dragon, and practice our kung fu moves all over the house.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
At this point, the deal is only for the U.K., which is probably just as well, since the good ol' arcade game has died an ignominious death here in the States thanks to massive improvements on home systems that give gamers little reason to leave the house (aside from experiencing life, meeting girls, exercising, etc.)
I love the idea that you could conceivably play Peter Cushing's Dr. Van Helsing, hunting down a coven of Dracula's brides; or maybe you could be Oliver Reed, tearing through the Spanish countryside on a lycanthropic killing spree; the possibilities are very cool indeed. With the recent MySpace film Beyond the Rave, a series of postage stamps, and now this, Hammer is back in a big way.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Although in my opinion the finest leading man of the Hollywood studio era, Cagney grew weary of the endless gangster roles he was so damn good at. And so this project was close to his heart, a chance to stretch his acting chops and show moviegoers all he could do. Some balk at the schmaltziness and general whitewashing of Chaney's career (par for the course for most biopics at the time), but for my money this is one of Cagney's best performances, and that covers a lot of ground.
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Well, I don't know about you folks, but I've been spending most of the night on YouTube immersed in the national treasure that was George Carlin. It's become cliche when a public figure passes to say that the world will be a little emptier without them, but in this rare case it is literally and irrefutably true. We've really lost something here--one of the greatest humorists in American history, in point of fact. Carlin was scheduled to receive the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this November, and I don't think it's any stretch at all to imagine that ol' Sam Clemens would be damn proud of George Carlin and his body of work. Enjoy:
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Let's pick up the action as the two of us explore the infamous shopping center that was once infested with fake zombies:
Here we have the very escalator upon which scores of extras in blue facepaint once stumbled around aimlessly. I was tempted to do the same, but figured I would probably wind up breaking my neck.
My lovely bride, perhaps the greatest sport in the history of good sports, patronizes her husband by posing in the same elevator in which Flyboy met his tragic demise. I couldn't find the trapdoor in the ceiling, but I'm positive this is the one, since it's the only elevator in the department store. I think it might've been covered by a drop ceiling.
The instantly recognizable windowed ceiling above the fountain. Famous from both Dawn of the Dead, and the episode of Mister Roger's Nieghborhood in which Chef Brockett participates in a bake-off at the Monroeville Mall.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Instantly, zombie flicks were being greenlit left and right, to a degree not seen in 20 years. But while back then, zombie movies were confined to the cult periphery of the horror scene, overshadowed by slashers and Satanism movies, this time around, the zombie was firmly fixed in the public eye, at the forefront of the horror rebirth.
Naturally, as with any other movement, they weren't all classics. Some, like the Australian effort Undead (2003), were decidedly mediocre affairs, while others, like the infamous Uwe Boll's game adaptation House of the Dead (2003), were downright awful.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Clearly, a disservice is being done to one of the movies' oldest and most beloved niches. I mean really, what comes to mind first when you think film genres, horror or courtroom drama? Come on now. So taking some inspiration from fellow LoTT D member Final Girl, I've taken it upon myself to put together "the list that should have been." That's right: The Vault of Horror has taken the liberty of creating AFI's Top 10 Horror Films list, since they couldn't be bothered to do it themselves.
#1 The Shining (1980)
Surprisingly, this movie does have its detractors (King purists!), so let me explain my choice. Simply put, AFI judges its films as films. And here you have what might be the highest quality horror picture ever made. One of the all-time greatest directors, riveting acting, amazing cinematography and score, and most importantly, scary as all get-out.
#2 Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The most enduring piece of cinema to come out of the entire Universal monster movie cycle, rich in symbolism, rife with dark humor and thematically bold. It's also quite beautiful to look at.
#3 Dawn of the Dead (1978)
My personal favorite horror movie, an epic of gore and social commenary that pushed the envelope for the entire genre. Marred only by its drama-class-level acting.
#4 Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock's grim yet stylish chiller invented both the slasher sub-genre and the modern thriller in one swift stroke. Could do without the clunky exposition in the final scene, though.
#5 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
An unrelenting nightmare of terror, and the crowned jewel of '70s exploitation horror. A classic that demonstrates how effective you can be on a low budget and a small scale.
#6 The Exorcist (1973)
Along with The Shining, one of the only horror movies that could've conceivably won the Academy Award. Though perhaps more terrifying to Catholics than others, this grand-daddy of all Satan flicks still packs a hell of a punch.
#7 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Perhaps more influential than any other horror film ever made, this milestone motion picture is the literal dividing line between old-school and modern eras.
#8 Frankenstein (1931)
Though overshadowed by its sequel, there's something deeply effective about James Whale's original, and Boris Karloff's brilliant wordless performance. It may not be as shocking today, but that will never take away from just what a damn good movie it is.
#9 The Thing (1982)
There's a devout cult following built around John Carpenter's mind-blowing sci-fi/horror remake, and with good reason. With all the love it gets, this one's still underrated.
#10 The Evil Dead (1981)
Despite an ultra low budget, this revered gem endures thanks to the sheer gusto of its performances and its willingness to plumb the depths of grisly gore without flinching.
There you have it, folks! Whether you agree or disagree with the choices, I hope you'll at least agree that this needed to be done. AFI, take a hike. We horror fans take care of our own.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Stan Winston came to Hollywood in 1968, and got his first experience as as assistant in the makeup department at Walt Disney Studios. He would come to be known primarily as a maker of monsters, with his first work being on the 1972 TV movie Gargoyles.
To the realm of horror, he contributed the likes of The Entity, The Monster Squad, Leviathan, Edward Scissorhands, The Ghost and the Darkness, Interview with the Vampire, The Relic, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Lake Placid, End of Days and Constantine. He also made uncredited assists on Friday the 13th Part III and The Thing. Beyond the genre, his work can be found in films as wide-ranging as The Wiz, Heartbeeps, Starman, Predator, Tank Girl, Invaders from Mars, Batman Returns, Congo, Small Soldiers, Inspector Gadget, Galaxy Quest, Pearl Harbor, AI, Big Fish and this summer's blockbuster Iron Man. His work on Aliens, Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgement Day earned him Academy Awards.
Although he worked in several genres, Winston had a special love for horror films. In fact, his pet project was the underrated 1988 monster flick Pumpkinhead, which he wrote and directed. He also produced recent chillers Wrong Turn and The Deaths of Ian Stone. Here's a great quote from the man himself on the subject:
"People who are afraid to go to horror movies are generally afraid their whole lives. People say to me, 'Do you have nightmares?' I never have nightmares! And I go to movies and see the most bizarre things in the world, and go... Wow that is really sick, how fun is that! And I don't have to carry it around. I think that's very healthy."
Winston was remembered today by his greatest collaborator, James Cameron. Together, these two men brought to life one of the most iconic and influential special effects creations in movie history, the animatronic killing machine of The Terminator. Cameron sent the following message this afternoon to Ain't It Cool News:
"Stan was a great man. I'm proud to have been his friend, and his collaborator on what for both of us, was some of our best work. We met in pre-production on Terminator in 1983, and quickly sized each other up as the kind of crazy son of a bitch that you wanted for a friend. We've stayed friends for over a quarter of a century, and would have been for much longer if he had not been cut down.
"We've lost a great artist, a man who made a contribution to the cinema of the fantastic that will resound for a long long time... We all know Stan's work, the genius of his designs. But not even the fans necessarily know how great he was as a man. I mean a real man --- a man who knows that even though your artistic passion can rule your life, you still make time for your family and your friends.
"I spoke with Stan by phone Saturday morning, and apparently it was one of the last conversations he had. Incredibly, in retrospect, he was full of life, you'd never have known he was at death's door. We talked for a long time about all the fun times, and all the dragons we'd slain together. He said that once you've shown something is possible, everybody can do it. What was important was being first. Breaking new ground.
"Well that's just what he did his whole career, and today's creature and character effects business uses the techniques he developed every single day. He inspired a generation of fantasy effects geeks, and his legacy will be found in their dreams up on the screens of the future, not just in the films he worked on directly."
Not one to rest on his laurels, Winston was still very much active the field he pioneered. He was in the midst of work on the fourth Terminator film, and was all set to get started on Jurassic Park IV when he succumbed to bone cancer Sunday night at the age of 62.
I'd like to close out with one last quote that speaks to Cameron's comments on Stan Winston, the man. There's a truth to it that so many of us may often forget, to our great detriment. Yet it remains true nonetheless:
"There's nothing more important to me in my life than my family, and nothing will ever take over. I believe that's why the work shows as well as it [does], because my work is not a sacrifice. My work is a joy. I'm not sacrificing my family for my work. I go in and I love what I do. I love nothing more than my family."
Sunday, June 15, 2008
This one slipped under the radar a few weeks ago, but both the 1982 giallo classic Tenebrae and the 1985 supernatural chiller Phenomena (a.k.a. Creepers) are now officially obtainable. The latter is particularly notable for featuring the very first starring role of 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly (pre-eyebrow waxing), recommended to Argento by his long-time friend and one-time collaborator Sergio Leone, who had used her the year before in Once Upon a Time in America.
I'll admit I'm not as familiar with Argento's work as I should be, although I'm crazy about Suspiria (who isn't?). But this is definitely a reason for fans of Italian horror to be happy. Now all we need is a boxed set release for Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell/The Beyond/House by the Cemetery trilogy.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Producer Brad Fuller told IESB that the new film will condense the first three movies of the original series. I'm not sure if this means that Jason's mother Pamela will make an appearance at the beginning, but it does mean that Jason will start out his killing spree wearing the sack (from Part 2), and then transition to the mask (from Part 3) at a key moment in the film.
Rumor has it that the crucial mask-donning scene has been shot both from behind and from the front, and that the decision will be made during the editing process whether to show Jason's face.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
Well now it seems that 30 Days of Night writer Steve Niles is denying the latter report. In speaking with ShockTillYouDrop last week, he claimed it was completely untrue, and that he has no idea where rumors of a DTV release would be c0ming from. Furthermore, he stated that he and director David Slade would be involved once again, should the presumably theatrically released sequel come to fruition.
30 Days of Night topped the box office in its opening weekend, which would point to the feasability of a sequel. But it also paradoxically earned only $39 million, which might put a theatrical sequel on shaky ground. Clearly, someone doesn't have their facts straight here.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
My photographic tribute to one of the film's iconic shots, taken in the parking lot. Thankfully, the lightposts were among the few things that remained unchanged.
I thought about leaving this one out, but it was just too damn cool. So you'll just have to excuse the awful tucked-in shirt. After locating and sneaking into this access passageway under the nose of a security guard, I proudly took this shot before getting kind of creeped out and leaving. You'll recognize it as the secret hall that led to the survivors' upstairs living quarters, which was overrun by zombies in the climax of the movie. In reality, there's no stairway--it just leads to the backdoors of a bunch of mall stores.
The entrance to Penney's, where our heroes fumbled for their keys and fought off the zombie hordes with a blowtorch. Also where some of the climactic zombie chow-down was shot. Note the updated store sign.
I've got plenty more to share, but that'll have to wait for another time. God bless the internet!
Friday, June 6, 2008
That's because the cable network that brought us such pinnacles of Western culture as Flavor of Love, Hogan Knows Best and My Fair Brady will be adding to their lineup of "celebreality" programming this fall with "Scream Queens". According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new show will pit ten young actresses against each other in competition for a role in an upcoming Lions Gate horror film. The participants will engage in certain "challenges", and even be assisted by an "acting" coach. Elimination decisions will be made by the upcoming film's director.
Perhaps the best news pertaining to the series is that only eight episodes have been commissioned. It's probably not possible to put into words how bad this will be, except maybe to say that it will most likely make Scott Baio Is 45 and Single look like I, Claudius.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Published by IDW in 2004, Wake the Dead is a modern re-telling of the Frankenstein story, and was a damn fine read in my opinion, nearly as good as the vampire saga for which he's better known. Niles himself talked to Comic Book Resources about the upcoming project today (to be scripted by Bram Stoker's Dracula's James V. Hart), and I urge all those interested to head there.
Now all I can hope for is that Robert Kirkman's mostly excellent The Walking Dead zombie comic gets the HBO series it so richly deserves...
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Fans of TCM recognize The Essentials as the channel's Saturday night series spotlighting the absolutely can't-miss gems of classic cinema. This month, they've introduced a less "serious" and more fun version intended to lure the kiddies into appreciating great movies from the golden age.
And coming up this Sunday night, The Essentials Jr. (hosted by Little Miss Sunshine's delightful Abigail Breslin and Batman & Robin's far-from-delightful Chris O'Donnell) presents Ray Harryhausen's 1957 chestnut 20 Millions Miles to Earth. The last of Harryhausen's special effects extravaganzas to be made in black and white, the movie tells the story of the implacable Ymir, a creature from the planet Venus who arrives on Earth and promptly begins to enlarge to alarming size and go on an old-school call-out-the-national-guard rampage.
It's a must-see for kids young and old, so whether you have procreated or not, I urge you to get yourself in front of the tube this Sunday for a true popcorn treat.
The Essentials, Jr. runs ever Sunday night. Future pics on the slate include the likes of Mutiny on the Bounty and Harvey.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Allen's boyfriend James Corden will play one of the film's two heroes, local boys who attempt to take back the women of their village from the clutches of the movie's titular sapphic succubi.
Best known for her debut number-one single "Smile", Allen is an arch-rival of the even-more-trashy Amy Winehouse, although not as well known across the pond. Her father, actor Keith Allen, may be best known to fans of horror/thrillers from his roles in The Others and Danny Boyle's 1995 debut Shallow Grave.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Specifically, it was the indoor Camp Crystal Lake set in Austin, Texas. Carlson reports that those in charge of the project are very respectiful to the original franchise (what else are they going to say?), and offers this interesting bit from producer Brad Fuller:
"We’re not going back to the original, but we’re using pieces from it. And we’re not disregarding the rest of the series, so fans will see moments from parts three, four and five. And then we’re trying to do some stuff that hasn’t been done before. At a certain level, this franchise started in a certain place and went off in another direction, and we wanted to go back where we thought it was the strongest—the first four movies—more or less use that as our template and go from there."
Fango's report also features comments from the film's stars, including Derek Mears (The Hills Have Eyes II), who is donning the hockey mask this time around. Read more here.
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Special thanks today go out to The Raven's Barrow, which included The Vault of Horror in its roundup of "5 Horror Blogs You Should Be Reading". Aw, shucks!
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Although The Strangers came in third behind both of those blockbusters (which was, of course, inevitable) it pulled in twice what the so-called pundits predicted, scoring a cool $20.7 million. Carrie Bradshaw and the rest of her henhouse ruled the roost with a boffo $55.7 million premiere, while Indy took in $46 million. With so many flocking to Sex and the City in its first weekend, and the Harrison Ford behemoth still raking in audiences, it truly is remarkable that so many people opted to see the Liv Tyler/Scott Speedman home invasion chiller.
Following the impressive numbers for Prom Night, and with M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening on the horizon, 2008 is looking to be a very good year for the horror genre, from a box office point of view. Which is encouraging, since horror is not usually the go-to genre when it comes to dollars and cents. Studios take note: there is a large audience out there for quality fright films (Prom Night notwithstanding).