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Friday, February 29, 2008

REVEALED! Bruce Campbell Really Is God!

Well, it looks like Bruce's die-hard fan base has been right all these years! This picture appeared this morning on Ain't It Cool News, submitted by the man himself.

It's apparently from Mr. Campbell's upcoming movie My Name Is Bruce, which capitalizes on the actor's cult following. In the flick, Campbell plays himself--when a bunch of fanboys discover a real-life supernatural threat to humanity, they enlist the aid of an unwitting Bruce, who turns out to be nothing like his cinematic persona. The film has screened at a few festivals over the past year, and will be going straight to DVD sometime this year.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dexter Head Honcho Takes the Dirty Sexy Money

Variety announced a major shakeup Tuesday afternoon for Showtime's runaway hit series Dexter. The serial killer drama's executive producer and "showrunner" (read: dude in charge) Daniel Cerone has flown the coop, opting for a similar position on ABC's Dirty Sexy Money.

Cerone has been the top man on Dexter since the show's beginning in 2006, following a run as a writer-producer on Charmed. Despite Cerone's departure, Dexter is still on track to kick off it's third season on September 30. Assuming that the writers strike put a crimp in its development, it's safe to guess that the season is still being scripted. No word on what impact, if any, Cerone's absence will have on the creative direction.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wait, You Mean Zombies in a Shopping Mall Has Already Been Done?

Apparently that's news to Capcom, the video game developer that had the nerve to act surprised when Richard Rubenstein--owner of the intellectual property of Dawn of the Dead--sued them last Monday for copyright infringement over their game Dead Rising.

Capcom tried in vain to block the lawsuit, claiming that the concept of zombies in a mall was not something that could be copyrighted. But Rubenstein's MKR Group took it further, declaring that, "Both works are dark comedies. Both works provided thoughtful social commentary on the 'mall culture' zeitgeist, in addition to serving up a sizable portion of sensationalistic violence."

I was wondering how long it would take for this to happen. George Romero even mentioned the alarming similarity during his recent Opie & Anthony interview. Rubenstein owns the rights to both Dawn and Day of the Dead--in fact I believe it was a dispute between he and Romero over the ownership of the concept that partly created such difficulty in getting a fourth Dead film made for so many years.

Rubinstein is known for being quite the litigious fellow--going after fan websites and that sort of thing. But it's hard not to see his point on this one. The game is clearly inspired 100% by Dawn, and it looks like Capcom is trying to get away with adapting the concept without having to pay to officially license the property.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is "The Signal" Real?

Of course not, but I figured that headline might get your attention.

The polls have officially closed early for the strangest/creepiest horror-related news story of the year. Late yesterday afternoon, United Press International reported that a man sitting in a screening of The Signal in Fullerton, California promptly went bananas and began stabbing fellow patrons before fleeing the building.

In case you haven't heard, the low-budget thriller is all about a mysterious transmission sent via TV, cell phones, etc. which turns people into psychopaths. So it appears we're talking about one seriously impressionable dude here.

Reportedly, in the middle of the movie, the looney tune in question began abruptly stabbing the seat next to him, then the person next to him. Then he stabbed a second audience member sitting near the exit. Police arrived on the scene to find theatergoers rushing out in a panic. The perpetrator was already long gone, and has yet to be found.

The victims suffered lacerations to the arms and chest, and are currently recovering in the hospital. They're both expected to live.

Could we be seeing a wide release for The Signal as a result of this craziness? Talk about guerilla marketing...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Diary: A Near-Return to Form for Uncle George

If you're going into Diary of the Dead expecting something on par with George Romero's seminal Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. If you're going in hoping for a redemption of the series following the decidedly average Land of the Dead, your hopes are well-founded.

Diary is a major improvement over Land in nearly every way. Free of studio constraints, Romero is able once again to infuse his own personal flavor. This is without question a George Romero film. Yet it still manages to feel completely different from all the others--a feat actually accomplished by all five entries in the series. Romero had taken his timeline as far as it could go, and by returning to the beginning, he thankfully shifts gears from the often perplexing Land--in which an overly cynical Romero expected too much sympathy for his zombies, and instead of lamenting over humanity's inability to save itself, seemed to be saying that the world is a better place in the hands of the undead.

By stripping his mythos down, the director also delivers in another area in which Land was alarmingly lacking: scares. This movie is suspenseful as hell, and reminds us why Romero is among the very best at creating an atmosphere of gnawing dread. A scene in a darkened warehouse, as well as the film's climactic moments inside a mansion, are strong examples.

Many critics, and even fans, are pointing to the acting as the movie's major downfall. To those I pose the question: Have you ever actually seen a George Romero movie? As much as we love them, time and nostalgia have sweetened our appraisals of the dramatic performances in them. There isn't a single actor whose work is nearly as bad as anything on display in, say, Day of the Dead, which is filled with often laughably awful dramatics despite its brilliance in other areas. I won't say there are any particular standouts in Diary either, with the possible exception of the world-weary film professor played by Scott Wentworth, who is given some of the best lines in Romero's intelligent, if somewhat overstated script.

It's a testament to the continued effectiveness of G.A.R.'s satirical powers that I found myself actively disagreeing with his social viewpoints throughout much of the movie. I kept feeling that by railing against the modern information age, the 67-year-old auteur comes off as a bit of a reactive curmudgeon, taking on some of the close-minded qualities of characters he might have lampooned 20 or 30 years ago. Yet I'm grateful to him for making such a thoughtful horror movie, one filled with so much detail that it will stand up to the repeated viewings I'll surely subject it to once it comes out on DVD.

There's also a surprising amount of humor on display, balanced perfectly with the grave and weighty tone. We get some snarky digs at modern-day fast-moving zombies that will surely please Romero purists. Plus the brilliant appearance of what can only be described as the greatest and most unlikely zombie-slayer since Father McGruder kicked ass for the Lord in Dead Alive. You'll never look at Historic Williamsburgh the same.

As for you gorehounds out there, you might want to lower your expectations. I was actually pretty surprised and a little disappointed by the amount of restraint shown in this area. There isn't the requisite "zombie banquet" scene, nor is there a single dismemberment in the whole picture. It's even more restrained than the studio-produced Land of the Dead, which is not at all what I expected. Don't get me wrong, I pride myself on being a cerebral horror fan, but when I go to see a George Romero zombie flick I expect to see some lovingly shot organ-munching.

Not that the film isn't without its share of "interesting kills" for those who go in for that sort of thing. In particular, there's an ingenious bit of business in which one of the protagonists bonks a ghoul over the head with a jar of acid, then watches as the chemical slowly eats through the creature's skull and destroys its brain. Good stuff.

There are clever tips of the hat to previous Dead flicks throughout, including a snippet of newscaster dialogue from Night that can be heard in the background at one point. There's also a scene in an apartment complex which directly conjures up the tenement scene in Dawn--and the impact is just as disturbing. This is by far the picture's grimmest moment.

Unfortunately, the homemade video gimmick on which the premise is hung doesn't always hold up. There are times in which it does feel a bit contrived, and the idea that the student filmmakers would add incidental music in post-production--especially to a scene in which one of the characters encounters her own reanimated loved ones--is kind of ludicrous. The movie is also too heavily narrated, with certain things overexplained, thus taking away from some of the visual impact (especially true during a jarring final scene that would've worked ten times better without narration.)

Now let me get the inevitable comparisons out of the way. Night of the Living Dead has always been the most frightening of the bunch to me, and still is. Dawn of the Dead is the best film all-around thanks to its enjoyable combination of horror, emotional resonance, quality filmmaking and commentary. Although Day of the Dead works better than Diary of the Dead as a horror movie, Diary is a higher quality film and a better overall package. And well, you know where I stand with regards to Land of the Dead.

It's a shame that virtually no money or effort was put into marketing this movie. I had to travel from Connecticut to Manhattan to see it, and the theater didn't even have a lobby poster for the flick. If properly pushed, this quality pic would've definitely yielded far better box-office results than it has, as it is a cut above most of the horror fare out there. Unfortunately, as a result of the mishandling, it looks like Uncle George is destined for the direct-to-DVD market from here on in.

Apparently, when there's no more room in theaters, the dead will sit on the video shelf.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Quick! Check Out This X-Files 2 Footage While You Can!

While sitting and watching the Oscars tonight, I started to drift sometime between the Documentary Short Subject nominations and one of the Best Song performances, and so I took a quick peek on the web--only to discover this little chestnut.

Apparently, a preliminary trailer for X-Files 2 was screened for fans yesterday at WonderCon in San Francisco. The following is bootleg footage of that trailer taken by a diligent spy--so enjoy before Fox's legal bulldogs descend!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

LiLo Gets Razzed

Disney-Channel-poppet-turned-psycho-junkie-broad Lindsay Lohan has been getting so much attention lately thanks to a certain New York magazine pictorial, so what's a little bit more? Despite our best efforts to forget her work in last year's epic horror clunker I Know Who Killed Me, the prestigious Golden Rasberries--or Razzies--have seen fit to bestow a record-setting number of nominations on the flick.

The "film" has received a staggering total of nine nominations. Lohan herself has pulled off the impressive feat of being nominated twice for Worst Actress thanks to her double role. The twin performances have also earned her the distinction of being the only person to ever be singly nominated for Worst Screen Couple.

The serial killer pic has also gotten nods for Worst Picture, Worst Remake/Rip-Off and my personal favorite, Worst Excuse for a Horror Movie. Additionally, Chris Siverston was nominated for Worst Director, first-(and hopefully last-)time screenwriter Jeff Hammond for Worst Script, and Julia Ormond for Worst Supporting Actress.

There's a lesson to be learned here, folks. And it's that Lindsay Lohan should focus more on pictures that don't move.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thanks to everyone who made their voice heard in the "King of Horror" poll. Congrats to the legendary Vincent Price, who took an early lead and never lost it. Bruce Campbell also made a respectable showing in second place, and it's also interesting that Boris Karloff edged out long-time rival Bela Lugosi for fourth by a single vote. Check back tomorrow for a new poll.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ben "Gill Man" Chapman 1928-2008

The Creature no longer walks among us. Benjamin F. Chapman Jr., best known for portraying the iconic Gill Man in the 1954 classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, passed away yesterday in Honolulu at the age of 79.

Chapman was one of the last living actors to have portrayed one of the famous "Universal Monsters"--although he only portrayed the Creature in his out-of-water scenes (Ricou Browning, who played the underwater Gill Man, is still with us.) Although he only did a handful of other early 1950s B-movies, Chapman spent the rest of his life graciously meeting and greeting fans at conventions and autograph signings across the country.

Standing an imposing 6'5" (a big part of what got him cast as the Creature), Chapman served his nation in the Korean War, and even crossed paths with the Rat Pack during his days as a bartender, partying with the likes of Peter Lawford and a pre-presidential JFK.

For more on Mr. Chapman, check out his official website: http://www.the-reelgillman.com/.

Special thanks to Karswell of The Horrors of It All.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Noms for Genre Entertainment's Top Honors Announced

Coming on the heels of my woeful lamentation for Oscar's neglect of sci-fi/horror/fantasy projects, here come the nominations for the 34th annual Saturn Awards, which were announced yesterday. Since 1975, the Saturns have recognized excellence in the "speculative" genres of movies and TV. In the interest of unity of theme, I'll stick with the horror stuff. Here goes:

Best Horror Film

30 Days of Night


Ghost Rider


The Mist

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

No 28 Weeks Later?? Bizarre. And since when is Ghost Rider a horror movie? Incidentally, horror-themed sci-fi flicks Cloverfield and I Am Legend were also nominated for Best Science Fiction Film.

Best Actor

John Cusack (1408)

Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd)

Will Smith (I Am Legend)

Will Smith?? Hmmm.

Best Actress

Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd)

Belen Rueda (The Orphanage)

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Rickman (Sweeney Todd)

Shame to see Rickman get it for Sweeney and not Timothy Spall.

Best Supporting Actress

Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)

Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist)

Rose McGowan (Planet Terror)

Best Direction

Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd)

Frank Darabont (The Mist)

Best Writing

John Logan (Sweeney Todd)

Best Costume

Colleen Atwood (Sweeney Todd)

Atwood was also nominated for the Oscar.

Best Makeup

Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero & Jake Garber (Planet Terror)

Davina Lamont (30 Days of Night)

Peter Owen & Ivana Primorac (Sweeney Todd)

Nicotero is the heir to the Savini throne, but my vote goes to Lamont.

Best International Film

Day Watch (Belarus)

The Orphanage (Spain)

Very surprising not to see [REC], which I found to be better than any American horror movie I saw all year.

Best Network TV Series


Best Syndicated/Cable TV Series


Go, Dex! Best show I've seen since the heyday of HBO.

Best International Series

Jeckyll (UK)

Best Actor on TV

Michael C. Hall (Dexter)

After literally stealing the show on Six Feet Under and now starring in this cult smash, watch for Hall to become one of the major movie stars of the next decade.

Best Supporting Actor on TV

Erik King (Dexter)

Best Supporting Actress on TV

Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter)

Jaime Murray (Dexter)

Carpenter is another major reason to catch Dexter. She'll be playing the lead in Quarantine, this year's American version of [REC]--which will at least make that pill a lot easier to swallow.

Best DVD Release

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Remix)


White Noise 2

Best Classic Film DVD Release


The Monster Squad

Witchfinder General

Monster Squad finally got its feverishly awaited release last year, so that's got to be the sentimental favorite.

Best Collection on DVD

The Mario Bava Collection (Vol. 1&2)

Vincent Price (MGM Screen Legends Collection)

Best Retro TV Series on DVD

Count Dracula

The 1977 BBC miniseries is now available with the baby-killing scene fully restored. Yay!

George Pal Memorial Award

Guillermo del Toro

Special Achievement Award
Tim Lucas (author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark)

For the complete list of nominees, go here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ms. Alba, Haven't You Done Enough Harm Already?

As if her lame retread of the Chinese cult favorite The Eye hasn't built enough ill will toward Jessica Alba amongst genre fans, the vacuous actress has now seen fit to desecrate some of the finest horror films ever made.

In a new cover story for Latina magazine, Alba ineptly attempts to recreate famous scenes from her five supposedly favorite horror movies. Check out this cringe-worthy Psycho shot:

If only young Jessica possessed a tenth of the poise, class and chops of a Janet Leigh, this might not be nearly as sad. Want more? Here's her take on Rosemary's Baby:

Check her out displaying the acting skills she honed on the Disney Channel. And speaking of sacrilege, here's Jessie's impersonation of Tippi Hedren in The Birds:

Alba has some better luck with Scream, in which she steps into the shoes of an actress nearly as inane and irritating as herself:

Notice how they made sure that Ghostface can actually be seen creeping up on her, just so readers would be able to tell what movie it's supposed to be? Nice touch. If you have the constitution for one more, here's a rather artful--if only loosely adapted--tribute to The Exorcist:

Now if only that ceiling wasn't there, then maybe she might have simply floated away into the stratosphere, so that we would no longer have to be subjected to drek like Good Luck Chuck and FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

And the Oscar Doesn't Go To...

While I enjoy the Academy Awards as much as a straight man possibly can, it is a yearly frustration to watch quality genre films get routinely ignored. Aside from the patronizing technical categories, most great science-fiction, fantasy and horror movies are nowhere to be found come Oscar night. And so, in collaboration with Cinefantastique Online, where you can find an all-encompassing run-down of overlooked genre pictures, The Vault of Horror presents the nominees we should've seen:

Carlyle got far more attention for his light-hearted comedic turn in The Full Monty, and that's a real shame. I defy you to find a performance more nuanced and multi-faceted than his in 28 Weeks Later in any other 2007 horror film. The talented Scotsman conveys all the guilt and pain of a failed husband/father, and later plays it to the hilt as the movie's crazed star zombie. It's a role worthy of his acting chops, and it anchors the entire film.

Who Would I Bump? Much like Tom Cruise, George Clooney is a competent leading man, and he delivers a competent performance in Michael Clayton. But when you get right down to it, it's the same performance he gives in most of his dramatic pictures.

Best Director: Robert Zemeckis (Beowulf)

Nothing illustrates the plight of genre filmmakers like Zemeckis' legacy. Not to take away from Forrest Gump (I love the film) but it's very telling that one of our generation's finest sci-fi/fantasy/horror directors has received only a single nomination/win, and it was for one of his only non-genre efforts. Zemeckis' achievement in further innovating photo-realistic CGI moviemaking with Beowulf is something that has gone sorely underrecognized.

Who Would I Bump? Not to hate too much on Michael Clayton, which I greatly enjoyed, but does Tony Gilroy deserve this much recognition for crafting a well-made but not particularly mind-blowing espionage thriller of a type that's been a Hollywood standard for years?

The best performance in this excellent motion picture is not Johnny Depp's, but rather the enthralling work of this tenured British character actor in the role of the deliciously despicable Beadle Bamford. You literally can't take your eyes off him while he occupies the screen.

Who Would I Bump? This one's tough to call, as I admit I haven't seen all the films in the category. The performances I have seen--such as that of Tom Wilkinson--are simply too good to get rid of.

Best Original Screenplay: Andrew Currie, Robert Chomiak & Dennis Heaton (Fido)

This one is the biggest tragedy of them all. The witty, satirical script for this amazing horror comedy is what makes it such a modern classic. In parts hysterically funny, while in others filled with charm and pathos, it's the kind of material which--had it been written for a more mainstream picture--would surely have been nominated.
Who Would I Bump? The nomination of Ratatouille baffles me. While an enjoyable effort from Pixar, it's far from their best work, particularly in the script department, in which it falls short of flicks like Cars and The Incredibles.

Best Animated Feature: Beowulf

In a category with so few releases to choose from in the first place, how does this solid piece of epic filmmaking get ignored? With great performances, an intelligent adaptation of one of Western civilizations' oldest stories, and some truly groundbreaking technique, it's a gem from top to bottom.

Who Would I Bump? Surf's Up. Enough with the penguins already.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Forget About a Wide Release for Romero

Well, it looks like I'm going to be making that 35-mile trek down to New Rochelle after all. George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead has taken in $225,000 in 42 theaters over it's opening limited-release weekend. That breaks down to a minimally respectable $5,357.14 per-screen average. Not too bad for a small-budget horror film, but keep in mind that's about $300 per screening, which isn't all that great, either. Especially for a movie by a cult favorite director like Romero. The bottom line is that it doesn't appear as though the film will be getting that wide release after all.
So why didn't enough of you get out there to support this flick in the towns in which it was released? I guess one of the reasons may be Land of the Dead's tepid reception in the fan community. There's also the DVD factor--a lot of people out there just aren't motivated enough to see a movie like this in the theater. That leads me to draw the sad conclusion that there may not be enough died-in-the-wool Romero supporters left out there to make a theatrical release worthwhile. I guess everyone's saving up their dough for Saw XXVII. Too bad.
As for me, I'll be hopping in the Solomobile Thursday night for the big trip to Westchester. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

China to Horror Movies: Drop Dead!

Whenever things seem rough, whenever the daily trials of life get you down, just be thankful you don't live in China.
In a move believed to be connected to the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, that bastion of freedom and democracy is banning all things horror, according to a story reported Thursday by Reuters. Producers and distributors have three weeks to report all forbidden materials to China's General Administration of Press and Publications.
A statement posted on the Chinese government's website (that's got to be some fun reading) declares that the mission is to "control and cleanse the negative effect these items have on society, and to prevent horror, violent [and] cruel publications from entering the market through official channels and to protect adolescents' psychological health." I'd suggest another method of protecting adolescents' psychological health would be to refrain from running them over with tanks.
The People's Republic has been the site of a growing market for horror films, both domestic (as epitomized by the breakthrough Chinese flick The Eye) and foreign (read: pirate DVD black market). But now the cultural police seem to be clamping down thanks to the upcoming Summer Games, in an attempt to make a good impression on the rest of the world. Well boys, you're off to a smashing start. Try book-burning next, that should help make you even more friends.
The ban comes on the heels of recent crackdowns on supposed "vulgar" content from video, audio and internet media.
My condolenscences go out to all the horror fans in China. But then, if any of you are reading this, you'd better log off before anyone sees you.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wanna Pay 100 Bucks for an Action Figure?

Me neither. But still, for the curious, here's a look at the Cloverfield monster action figure that Hasbro is selling exclusively through their website. These photos were posted there yesterday, even though the toy is not available until September 30.

And for anyone who does have a C-note that's just begging to be squandered, here's the lowdown. It's 14 inches tall, makes an authentic monster sound, and comes with ten parasites (yippee!), as well as a Statue of Liberty head accessory (we're doomed as a nation). Batteries not included, kids!
Well, at least we finally get a good look at the thing.

Friday, February 15, 2008

John Landis Enters the Crypt

There I was, feeling a little bummed out that Diary of the Dead is thus far getting only a limited release of 42 theaters nationwide--with the closest one to me being 35 miles away--when, lo and behold, this life-affirming news comes over the wire.
Variety reported last night that John Landis, best known to horror aficionados as the director of An American Werewolf in London, will be stepping in to helm the biopic "Ghoulishly Yours, William M. Gaines," based on the life of the famous EC Comics and Mad Magazine publisher.
As you probably have guessed, I am a big fan of EC Comics (that's my favorite Tales from the Crypt cover, by the way.) It all began back in the 1950s when my dad first discovered them as a kid. Fast-forward 30 years later, and he passed along the love for those gore-soaked pages to me, his only begotten son.
The picture is expected to focus on the rise of EC Comics in the '50s, and in particular the First Amendment battle that ensued when his horror comics were targeted by the U.S. Senate for their "harmful influence" on kids like my dad. As another life-long fan of EC and classic horror in general, I'm hoping for Landis to knock this one out of the park.
Now all I need is for Diary of the Dead to go wide next weekend...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love Hurts

...from The Vault of Horror.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saw V Actor to Face Real-Life Death

Thespians have been known to go to great lengths and suffer serious trials for their art, but how many would be willing to make the supreme sacrifice? Apparently, a member of the cast of the new Saw sequel will be facing just such a challenge next month, when director David Hackl begins filming for Lions Gate.
In an interview yesterday with Bloody-Disgusting, the auteur indicated that Jason Ehl, Jigsaw trap-builder extraordinaire, had crafted a trap prop for the movie that was less than entirely safe:

"Today I am looking forward to making a phone call to one of our cast to ask him how he feels about getting into a trap that could potentially kill him. For real. Of course we will make it as safe as we can and have paramedics standing by while we shoot. Its not like he really has an option and maybe it will make him appreciate his life. Ha!!"

Hmmm. I wonder how gung-ho Hackl would be if he were the one stepping into the device? It wouldn't be the first time someone died making a movie (Vic Morrow in Twilight Zone: The Movie, Brandon Lee in The Crow), but it would be the first time they were intentionally put in harm's way. Lawyer up, Lions Gate!

* * * * * * * * * *

In more Saw-related shenanigans, The Guardian reports today that the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed claims that the official poster for Saw IV (pictured here) was inappropriate. The ad for the movie--featured in British newspapers, magazines and the sides of public buses--was the target of 57 complaints from those who felt it was disturbing to children. Six of the complainants claimed that the ad had actually upset their own children. The ASA stated that while it was understandable the ad was distasteful to some, it was unlikely to cause widespread offense.
I normally don't sympathize with so called "media watchdogs", and even less so with perpetually outraged parents, but I'm going to play devil's advocate here. Magazine and newspaper ads seem perfectly acceptable to me, but public buses? That may be taking it a bit too far. It is a severed head we're talking about here, lest we become too callous to such imagery. I don't remember the ad running in such a public fashion here in America. I can sort of understand how that would bother some parents, and potentially disturb little kids. Not my kids, mind you, but normal kids.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

X-Files Set Pix: Hoax...or Cover-Up?

Last month, if you recall, there were some controversial spy shots from the set of X-Files 2 that leaked to the internet showing director Chris Carter and some guy in a werewolf mask. Quickly, the word spread that the highly anticipated sequel would be lycanthropic in theme--harkening back to an obscure season one episode, rather than the alien invasion storyline most fans had hoped to see resolved.
Now, Movieweb is reporting that the pictures were well-orchestrated fakes. According to someone claiming to be a crewmember, Carter intentionally had the photos leaked in order to throw off the fanboys.
Movieweb isn't questioning the new revelation, but Bloody-Disgusting points out that it's also very possible that this latest development is more like damage control. Could it be that the pix were legit, and now Carter and the studio are using some reverse psychology to invalidate what would otherwise be a major spoiler? Or could it be that I've watched too much X-Files myself? The truth is out there, people.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Roy Scheider 1932-2008

Tough-guy actor Roy Scheider, best known as police chief Martin Brody in Steven Speilberg's 1975 breakout picture Jaws, passed away last night at age 75, reportedly of complications from a staph infection.
A New Jersey kid at heart, Scheider was a boxer in his youth and actually made his acting debut starring in the 1963 horror flick Curse of the Living Corpse. Supporting roles in 1971's Klute and The French Connection made him a star, but he'll always be known for his part alongside Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss in Speilberg's monster shark film, in which he uttered the immortal line, "You're gonna need a bigger boat." He earned an Oscar nomination for his lead performance in All That Jazz (1979).
Genre fans will also remember him for taking over the role of Heywood Floyd in 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the 1984 sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey; for his starring turn in the troubled 1990s sci-fi series SeaQuest DSV; and most recently for playing Frank Castle's father in The Punisher (2004).

Farewell and adieu to ye fair Spanish ladies,
Farewell and adieu, ye ladies of Spain.
For we've received orders to sail back to Boston,
And so nevermore shall we see you again.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Juno Goes to Hell

Horror fans know her best as the screen's most twisted "Little Red Riding Hood" in 2005's Hard Candy, and now the Oscar-nominated Ellen Page will be returning to the genre along with a director doing the very same thing.
Variety has reported that Page, recently nominated for her star-making performance in the indy sleeper hit Juno, will be starring in Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell, playing the part of a young woman afflicted with a supernatural curse. This is Raimi's first horror pic since Army of Darkness (1992), the last installment in the Evil Dead trilogy. Page also played Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand.
Filming on the new project, to be produced by Raimi's Ghost House Pictures, will begin next month.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sneak a Peek at the Diary of the Dead

Can you feel the excitement in the air, people? Just six days to go until George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead. Yes, I know there's been a lot of zombie content lately here in the Vault, but damn it, this is my website and I'll do what I like!
Ahem...Anyway, IGN has posted some killer new footage of 2008's most anxiously awaited horror film, which only continues to boost my confidence. I particularly like the look of the ghouls in this one. I've always been a fan of having them look as human as possible, as opposed to demonic or monstrous. They are, after all, human corpses, are they not? And thank goodness, no hokey contact lenses. Check it out for yourself, let me know what you think:

Friday, February 8, 2008

Jenna Jameson: Demon Slayer?

Chalk this up as one of the more...unusual genre pairings of recent months. Former adult film star and current Tito Ortiz girlfriend Jenna Jameson will be the subject of her very own horror comic book, Shadow Hunter. Jameson will appear in the book as Jezzerie Jaden, a scantily clad swordswoman who must protect the earth from demonic invasion. Think Van Helsing in thigh-highs.
Published by Virgin Comics (stop snickering...), the series will be written by Witchblade scribe Christina Z in collaboration with Jenna, with covers by Marvel cover artist Greg Horn and internal art by Mukesh Singh, who also worked on Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper comic for Virgin. Go here for more info. Meantime, check out the trailer:
Jenna Jameson's Shadow Hunter: Trailer

[Special thanks to TheRedCarpet]
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The Vault of Horror train just keeps on barrelin' down the tracks, people. Everyone loves a good "Top 10" list, and starting today, I'll be contributing one each week to that hallowed home of horror movie news, Bloody-Disgusting. Be sure and check it out! That is all.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

George Romero Talks to Opie & Anthony

Whether you love or hate Opie & Anthony (I fall amongst the former), it is very cool that they gave George A. Romero 45 minutes on a national radio show. Romero sat down with O & A and their comic sidekick Jim Norton to plug Diary of the Dead, plus talk frankly about a whole bunch of other horror-related stuff yesterday on XM Satellite Radio's The Virus (Ch. 202).
If you'd like to take a listen, you can download the show in its entirety here (for a small fee). For the rest of you, here are some interesting highlights:

  • For me, the most candid moment came when George was asked what he thought of Max Brooks' written work (World War Z, Zombie Survival Guide). It was obvious Romero didn't want to badmouth the guy, but he basically intimated that he and Brooks have totally different objectives. Brooks, he explained, was more interested in "zombies for zombies' sake", while his films are more about the living people. He seems to feel Brooks takes the material too literally, and I'd have to agree.

  • He didn't sound all to happy with Land of Dead. It sounded like he had to make some studio concessions, which is why he's so glad to be back to making independent films. Also, he felt the story got too overblown, which is why he brought it back to an intimate setting again.

  • When asked what he thought of modern horror movies like Saw and Hostel, his response was: "I've seen enough of them to know not to see the sequels." Ouch.

  • Continuing in the same vein, the director lamented the lack of creativity and insight amongst Hollywood studios which motivates them to greenlight endless horror remakes. He was particularly perturbed by the news of the redo of A Nightmare on Elm Street, a film of which he's very fond.

  • Touching on the Resident Evil controversy a bit, Romero explained that the American producers very much liked his script, but it was the German production company that first set the project in motion which rejected it and opted to move further away from the video game.

  • Speaking of which, the explosion in popularity for zombies lately can be credited more to the zombie-related video games of recent years than from his films, according to the modest filmmaker.

  • Unfortunately he was never asked to elaborate on it, but Romero briefly mentioned that he and Stephen King had spoken in the past about doing an adaptation of King's 1999 novel The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

  • In response to years of fan speculation, Romero denied that Day of the Dead had anything to do with the AIDS epidemic. Rather, his intention was strictly to focus on the breakdown of society caused by lack of trust and communication.

  • In another unexpected and interesting moment, Romero seemed a bit conflicted when asked how he felt about Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2. While he did say he enjoyed Fulci's films, it was clear he still had sour grapes when discussing how Fulci "ripped off" the European title of Dawn of the Dead and made an unofficial sequel without anyone's permission.

  • I had never heard this story before: George indicated that his casting of African-American Duane Jones as the lead in Night of the Living Dead was not meant as a statement on race relations, but it was literally while they were on their way to deliver the first finished print of the movie that they heard news on the radio of Martin Luther King's assassination. He and Jones knew then that, intentional or not, his movie would have a powerful racial message. Romero denied that the militia's shooting of Ben at the end of the movie was intended as a racial comment.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bush Warns Nation of Zombie Menace

People, we've had our share of fun here in The Vault of Horror. I know I don't usually get politicial, but there's a serious problem facing our great nation, and I for one am glad the president has had the fortitude to face it head-on. I can only hope that whomever succeeds him in the White House come the end of 2008 will possess the integrity to pick up where he left off in battling this potentially catastrophic danger to national security. It's just too bad that the reporter featured here is all-too-typical of the liberal media we have to contend with here in America, trying to undermine our leader at every turn.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Saw Video Game Will Tie Into Next Sequel

Every now and then I've got to throw one to the gamers. The new and improved Bloody-Disgusting broke the news yesterday that Brash Entertainment's Saw video game will somehow be tied directly into Saw V, which is set to hit theaters on October 24.
It sounds like this decision was made while the game was being produced, since apparently the makers--who specialize in film-based releases--attempted to get it ready in time for the new sequel's release, but were unsuccessful. The game will instead come out sometime in 2009. It's not clear how it will be tied in, but one thing that is known is that Saw V's screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton are not involved in the project.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Blood & Guts: A History of Horror Movies, Part 5

In the wake of the turbulent 1960s, the horror genre had been dramatically and permanenently altered. One taboo after another was being torn down, and it would be in the following two decades--viewed by some as the genre's second golden age--that the doors would be completely blown off.
In many ways, the 1970s represent an era in horror flicks which has yet to be equalled in terms of shocking themes, graphic violence and unflinchingly grim outlook. The demise of the restrictive Hays Code spawned two branches: one in which top-flight films began to be made with horror subject matter, and the other in which blood-soaked low-budget exploitation material meant easy money.
The success of Rosemary's Baby led to 1973's The Exorcist, often hailed as the most frightening horror film ever made. Whether or not it was, The Exorcist was a mainstream American film dealing with demonic possession--something that would've been unheard of just several years before. A series of occult and Satanic-themed pictures would follow, including Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) and The Omen (1976). All dealt frankly with matters of religion, and contained powerful dramatic performances.
On the other end of the spectrum, American audiences were confronted with a type of horror they were thoroughly unprepared for, and in the process some of horror's finest directors would make their names. Wes Craven emerged on the scene in 1972 with The Last House on the Left, featuring brutal scenes of rape and disembowelment. Two years later, Tobe Hooper created what was arguably the pinnacle of the subgenre, the nightmarish Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And in 1978, George Romero followed up his seminal '60s masterpiece Night of the Living Dead with Dawn of the Dead, this time ratcheting up both the gore quotient and the social commentary.
This explosion of explicit gore content was unheard of in the history of cinema, particularly American cinema--and it didn't go unnoticed outside U.S. boundaries. Other countries, most notably Italy, soon followed suit. Italian filmmakers such as Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci churned out films that in many ways surpassed their American counterparts in terms of their power to both disturb and revolt.
Popular horror fiction writer Stephen King would become a force to be reckoned with in the movie world, as well. Beginning with 1976's Carrie, his novels and short stories would prove a fertile source of film material. Perhaps the greatest of them all would be Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980), quite possibly the best-made fright film ever.
By the end of the 1970s, the new style of horror was firmly in place, and even some of the old subgenres would begin to be reinvigorated by it. Ridley Scott gave us Alien in 1979, capitalizing on the success of Star Wars to bring back the horror/sci-fi movie. And it was the year before that John Carpenter produced a film that would take the territory first mined by Psycho to a whole new level, defining 1980s horror in the process.
Halloween was a new kind of horror flick, specifically, it was a slasher flick, portraying a superhuman, stalker/killer (in this case, Michael Myers) who systemically murders a series of hopeless victims over the course of 90 minutes. Although most still regard it as the high watermark of slasher movies, it spawned literally countless followers.
Chief among them would be Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), the franchises which gave the world Jason Voorhess and Freddy Kreuger, respectively. The 1980s would be dominated by these types of horror movies and their limitless sequels. And although today a generation of fans who grew up on them look back with fondness and nostalgia, at the time they were viewed by critics and older fans as the genre's all-time nadir.
Nevertheless, by the early 1980s horror had begun to struggle again at the box office. Some point to the advent of VHS home video, with most low-budget flicks in general having trouble competing for audience dollars with massive Hollywood productions. Horror would find a new home in the video market, with releases such as The Evil Dead (1981), The Fly (1986) and Re-Animator (1985) becoming run-away hits with audiences that found it easier to pay less and watch in their own homes. In the U.K., this led to the phenomenon of the so-called "video nasties"--movies deemed by British censors to be unacceptable due to home video's availability to children. Naturally, these pictures would become the most sought-after for British horror fans.
The 1980s' other major contribution would be the proliferation of horror comedy. Although humor had always had a place in the genre, never before had gut-wrenching violence been so deftly meshed with black comedy as it was in such pictures as Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II (1987), Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead (1985) or Peter Jackson's Bad Taste (1987). With the almost mind-numbing level horror movie violence had achieved, it was a natural reaction to spoof it.
The 1970s and 1980s produced some of the most powerful and disturbing horror movies ever seen. Some would even argue the genre hasn't reached similar heights since. Yet despite changing times, the standard set during those years would become a benchmark to inspire and motivate every horror filmmaker who came after.
Other major releases:
Part 1: The Silent Dead
Part 2: Gods & Monsters
Part 3: It Came from Hollywood
Part 4: The Times, They Are a-Changin'
Soon to come - Part 6: From Post Mortem to Postmodern

Saturday, February 2, 2008

My Undead Darlings

I know they've done plenty of things to make me even prouder. But at the moment, those escape me.

And for the record, they're ten times cooler than those two kids at the airport office in Dawn of the Dead.

Friday, February 1, 2008

RKO to Remake (Defile) Five Horror Classics

Who knew that RKO Pictures even still existed, but apparently it still does, and it's the longest running of all the golden-age Hollywood studios still around. But what it's doing right now is pretty cynical and downright depressing, if you ask me.
Variety reports that the studio is creating a subsidiary called the Roseblood Movie Co. (get it, 'cause RKO made Citizen Kane) which will be charged with remaking a slate of eight RKO films from the 1930s through the 1950s, five of which fall into the horror genre, and four of which were produced by the legendary Val Lewton.
On the chopping block are Lewton chillers Bedlam, The Bodysnatcher, I Walked with a Zombie and The Seventh Victim. Roseblood is also tackling the 1933 fright flick The Monkey's Paw. The subsidiary will be partnering with Saw producers Twisted Pictures to fund the projects, which are planned to begin production in the fall and be made over a period of two years.
In addition, Roseblood will also be remaking film noir pieces Lady Scarface and While the City Sleeps, as well as the early Lucille Ball pic Five Came Back.
I usually don't get too worked up about the remake epidemic, but RKO is basically making a business of raping their treasure trove of classic movies. Unable to produce anything new and original that's worthwhile, they've made it their mission to mine their library for every penny its worth, which translates to inferior and unnecessary retreads of well-regarded films. These are the people who, three years ago, took the timeless 1948 Cary Grant vehicle Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse and turned it into Are We There Yet? starring Ice Cube. That pretty much sums up the progression of American film and culture in general over the past 60 years.
If you visit RKO's website, it gives you a pretty clear idea of the hollow merchandising machine we're dealing with here. Phrases such as "exploiting [our] brands", as well as terms like "repositioning" and "entertainment properties" abound. Folks, I've dealt with enough of these soulless marketing types in my travels to see that this does not bode well. Think it'll end here? This is the same studio that owns It's Wonderful Life. So think again.
These are people who almost surely have no respect or even knowledge of the "entertainment properties" they own. They also have no faith in you, the consumer, giving enough of a crap about classic films, otherwise they'd realize there's money to be made in "repositioning" the movies they already own. I guess if this mindset continues, we can just look forward to generation after generation simply remaking the films of a few decades before--over and over again.
I don't know about you, but I have no intention of plopping down $10 to go see "Wonderful", starring Ben Stiller as George Bailey and Owen Wilson as Clarence.
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