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Friday, April 30, 2010

Visceral Visionaries: Ugly Shyla

Surreal. Unorthodox. Harrowing. These are some of the words which are certainly applicable to the work of Ugly Shyla, a young woman from the bayou country of Louisiana who has fused religious iconography and truly disturbing imagery to produce a line of unique sculpture, epitomized by the Ugly Art Dolls. Her work has previously been seen in such publications as Bizarre Magazine and SPIN.

Viewing herself as something of a channeler or medium as much as a creator, Shyla is on an artistic journey that even she is sometimes at a loss to fully understand or explain. In addition to, and in support of her sculpture, she also works as an alternative model, further exploring the southern gothic themes that resonate so strongly in her work...

How did the idea for the Ugly Art Dolls come to be?

I never planned it. I never in a million years thought I'd grow up to make dolls.

You talk about being inspired by dreams and subconscious visions. Can you tell me more about that?
Like most surreal artists, my work comes from the unconscious, the subconscious, dreams, flashes of vision and things I see between waking and sleep.

I find it interesting how frank you are about being kind of in the dark when it comes to why it is that you create the dolls. Talk a little about being at a loss to explain your art or put it into words, and why that is.
I think it's because the art isn't totally "mine". Like I said, it comes from somewhere else, from another side of the veil. So I end up being in the dark about it.

I understand you're self-taught. What was that process like, did it come naturally or was it difficult?
It came very natural, like I was guided to do it. I won't lie, some of it was a bitch to learn, but it still was a natural process.

What kind of materials do you typically use to create the dolls?
Porcelain, oil-based clay, plaster, resin, ceramic glaze, china paint and anything else I can get my hands on.

What are some of the ones you are the most proud of and why?
My Mary Mother Of Sorrows doll is the one I'm most proud of right now. Which I think is because I consider religious art one of the highest art forms. You are making the divine into something tangible.

How has the reaction been to your work--are there particular types of dolls, or specific ones that people have reacted to the strongest?
The dolls of dead children seems to be very upsetting to people, which is the point. They should have to look death in the eye. The Female Circumcision piece is also very jarring for people which again is the point, and sometimes people are upset with the Menstrual Art I do with my own blood.

I get the feeling you get people occasionally misunderstanding and somehow thinking these can be used as children's toys. Is that true?
It's because people aren't familiar with dolls as art objects, they just associate them with being a child's plaything. As long as dolls have existed, there have been dolls for play and dolls for art, so I don't know why people don't get that.

Your work has been photographed in magazines and shown in galleries. How was it first discovered?
I started out doing more mainstream art doll events. I cut my teeth there, and I guess they got discovered by me traveling with them, and through the internet. I'm actually not sure, being as I was just a young girl from way down south, where it's hard to get anything out there. There isn't an art scene down here at all, so I guess traveling played a big part in it. Also, my father's side of the family has all owned their own businesses at one time or another. So being a good PR and business woman is in my blood.

You also work as an alternative model. How did you get into this, and is it mainly to promote your art, or an end in itself?
I got into it because people wanted to take pics of me, because I was the weird girl that made the weird dolls. Then I realized it was a great vehicle to get my work out there. Then it became a side art form in itself, and because of it I have gotten to work with a lot of artists I admire.

What future projects do you have on the horizon that people can look forward to?
I'm working on some monochromatic dolls, more female anatomy artwork and more jewelry.

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Find out more about Shyla's art at UglyArt.net, and her modeling at UglyShyla.com. Connect with her on: MySpace Facebook Twitter * Special thanks to Vault contributor and previous Visceral Visionary Nos for introducing me to Shyla's work!

New Drool-Worthy Jonah Hex Trailer and One-Sheet...

By Paige MacGregor

Revenge may get ugly, but apparently it also gets sexy. A new Jonah Hex one-sheet that features Michael Fassbender, John Malkovich, Josh Brolin and Megan Fox (left to right, above) was released this week, and I must admit that this is the first time I’ve been more than a little bit excited about the film (based on the classic horror/western DC comic of the '70s and early '80s.) Although Malkovitch is a little old for me, there’s no denying that he’s a very entertaining actor, and the fact that he joins seductive leading lady Fox, delectable indie actor Fassbender, and the (usually) ruggedly handsome Josh Brolin (all scarred up to play Hex) is enough to make my head explode.

Granted, I’m not expecting a great deal from Jonah Hex; it’s received very little press as compared to many of the other horror/thrillers coming out this year (A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.) and chances are it will be a disappointment at the box office (its June 18 release date pits it against the highly anticipated Toy Story 3). But any opportunity to ogle both Fox and Fassbender during the same film is a-okay by me.

The trailer for Jonah Hex was also released on Yahoo yesterday, and I just have to point out that within just the first twenty seconds, we get more than an eyeful of Fassbender’s character, Burke. The 2:30 trailer promises guns, girls (well, a girl, but Megan Fox is worth more than one girl, in my opinion) and explosions—just what every action audience could ask for. While the one-sheet re-energized my excitement in the film, the Jonah Hex trailer has me on the edge of my seat with anticipation over Michael Fassbender’s performance. Aside from John Malkovitch (maybe), Fassbender can act circles around the film’s other leads.

My guess as to who will enjoy Jonah Hex? People like me, who will go to the theater just to watch a gun-wielding Megan Fox prance around in a bustier on the big screen. Also, Michael Fassbender fans who are excited to see the actor--generally consigned to indie films--in his second recent mainstream movie (the last being Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds). While we can’t predict whether Jonah Hex will be a “good” movie, it’s sure to be at least be entertaining--and probably a bit titillating.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Retro Review: City of the Living Dead (1980)

Allow me to make something perfectly clear: I have a soft spot in my heart a mile wide for the work of Lucio Fulci. Especially Zombi 2 and his unofficial "Gates of Hell trilogy". So when Stacie Ponder of Final Girl announced that the next edition of her ever-popular Final Girl Film Club would be setting its sights on Fulci's City of the Living Dead, there was no way I wasn't going to be a part of it. Hell, I'll take any excuse to immerse myself in the bizarre, bleak, gauche and gore-drenched ouvre of Fulci.

This particular one, I have a long history with. Well, this one and Zombi 2, actually. See folks, I'm a child of the video store era, and I came to love horror movies thanks to browsing the racks at the local mom-and-pop rental store. For years, Fulci was the forbidden fruit for me. There were certain horror movies I was allowed to rent, and his most certainly were not among them.

But there were those massive VHS boxes, beckoning to me. The Zombi 2 box with the infamous tagline "We Are Going to Eat You!" and that worm-filled, buck-toothed face of the conquistador zombie. And then, of course there was City of the Living Dead--or as I knew it back then, The Gates of Hell. I will never forget the ghastly image of that green, one-eyed zombie face hovering above that city skyline. Add to that the ostentatious warning on the front about the film's extreme content, and the sordid plot synopsis on the back about suicidal priests and roving undead, and it was pretty much a total package that a 12-year-old video store browser is not likely to forget.

It would be years before I finally had the opportunity to actually get my hands on the thing and watch it. City of the Living Dead would be the last of the pseudo-trilogy that I would get to see, having already seen The Beyond and House by the Cemetery, both of which actually came out after CLD. And even though House by the Cemetery is my favorite, CLD is one hell of a horrific experience as well, and was worth those years of waiting to come of age.

The Lovecraftian plot is a bit pedestrian, maybe even hackneyed: A priest commits suicide, opening the doorway to Hell in the process and unleashing an undead uprising in the New England town of Dunwich (yes, Dunwich). A newspaper reporter (Christopher George) and a woman somehow psychically linked to the events (Catriona MacColl) must find a way to close the opening to Hell before the living dead take over the earth. As flimsy as the plot may be, I give credit to Fulci and his collaborator Dardano Sacchetti for diving into Lovecraft with such relish. Who knew Italian filmmakers would take such passionate interest in the works of everyone's favorite morbid Rhode Islander?

It's always tough to judge the acting in Fulci's films due to the Italian practice of dubbing everyone's lines in later--some actors are speaking English, others Italian, and some are even dubbed with other voices. MacColl is terrific as always, bringing an air of classic horror class to the seedy proceedings. The rest of the gang is spotty at best--although I have to give props to the one and only Giovanni Radice as the town scapegoat. The dude has presence, although unlike in House by the Edge of the Park, in which he shows off his dancing skills, here he mainly shows off his ability to take a drill to the brain, in what still may be the most disturbingly explicit and realistic murder ever staged for film.

As for the rest of the cast, we can't really blame them with the lines they're given to recite. I've only seen it dubbed in English, but I can't imagine the original Italian is much better. I particularly can't help but chuckle at the adorable attempt to reproduce "tough New Yorker dialect"--when's the last time you heard an NYC cop ask, "What the dickens is this??"

Nevertheless, Fulci's films work for me for other reasons, and City of the Living Dead is a shining example of what I'm talking about. I'm far from the first to say it, but Fulci at his best draws us into a surreal world that's best described as a fever dream--linear plot and character development are far less important than atmosphere and tension. If you don't ask too many logical questions--and really, why the hell would you?--then you'll better be able to appreciate the film for the visceral nightmare that it is.

Sergio Salvati's gritty cinematography is the veritable distillation of all that I love about 1970s grindhouse horror, with its murky lighting, prodigious use of fog and gratuitous zoom shots. The master of funky Italian horror synth scores, Fabio Frizzi does the honors here with a typically off-beat and unsettling score that complements Fulci's work even better than it does in The Beyond, though not quite as well as in Zombi 2. I'm always amazed by how Frizzi's material works despite the fact that on the surface, the style of music would seem to incongruous with the subject matter. Yet somehow, the score melds inextricably with the rest of the film, to the point that the Fulci style and the Frizzi sound are virtually inseparable in the minds of so many horror fans.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Fulci flick without copious amounts of nasty, grim, depression-inducing grue, now would it? In addition to the aforementioned Radice braining, we get maggot-ridden corpses, skulls crushed by hand, and in what may be the most notorious Fulci moment of them all, poor Daniela Doria literally vomiting her guts out. This was the scene that everybody always talked about, and was a main selling point in getting people interested to see it (we horror fans are an unusual lot, aren't we?) And the way it's played out is classic Fulci, and a prime example of the nightmarish quality of this film. Everything about it feels very much like some kind of awful, terrifying dream.

So ignore the minutiae of the story, and for God's sake, don't try to make too much sense of it. Don't ask why, in the late 20th century, a woman would be buried without being embalmed. Don't ask why there would appear to be bodies buried for decades under about three inches of dead leaves in the Dunwich cemetery. And most of all, don't ever dare ask what the hell the ending means--I'm not even sure Fulci would've been able to say. This film is all about setting a mood, and what a bleak one it is!

There's a purity to Fulci's brand of horror that I find irresistible. It's all about delivering a harrowing emotional experience, weaving a tapestry of relentless dread and foreboding, and overwhelming the senses with truly shocking imagery. It would be hard to call City of the Living Dead a great film in the conventional sense. But a great horror movie? Hell yes.

I'm glad I discovered City of the Living Dead on the video shelf all those years ago, and that it stuck with me long enough for me to seek it out when I got old enough to see it. And I'm glad it was selected for the Final Girl Film Club--always a pleasure to share the love of a movie with others. Keep an eye on the blogosphere in the weeks to come for other participating blog posts on Lucio Fulci's gory gem...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dissecting the New Green Band Trailer for Romero's Survival of the Dead

By Paige MacGregor

Ever wonder what happened after the events of George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead (2007)? Chances are you didn’t, but on the off-chance that you did, you’re in luck, because the master of zombie horror is releasing a follow-up to Diary of the Dead, aptly titled Survival of the Dead. The final green band trailer for Survival of the Dead was released by Magnet this week, and we have the only “in-depth” analysis of the trailer that you’ll find on the interwebs.

As you can see from the trailer, Survival of the Dead features a number of zombie movie stereotypes and clichés, including small groups of seemingly overconfident military personnel (first seen at the 0:12 mark), the zombie that comes back to life from under a sheet on the examining table (around the 0:21 mark), individuals attempting to “cure” zombies because they cannot bear to part with undead loved ones (1:07), heavily armed backwoods civilians (first seen at 0:34 and again throughout the trailer), the quintessential man crying as he shoots a gun (1:36), and, of course, the zombie hand poking through a doorway as the door is forced shut (somewhere between the 1:38 and 1:41 mark).

What Survival of the Dead appears to have that other zombie films haven’t featured (to my knowledge, at least) includes a zombie riding horseback (at the 1:31 mark), a “safe” island haven inhabited by feuding families (discussed at 0:48), some pretty serious Apple product placement (also at 0:48), and a zombie with an axe (0:38), among other things. The story is intriguing and the more I watch the trailer the more interested I am in seeing the film—maybe even enough to see it in theaters when it’s released the end of next month (May 28th).

The green band trailer for Survival of the Dead hints at the gore and mayhem that Romero fans have come to expect, but what intrigues me most about this film isn’t necessarily the violence or blood. Instead, it is the storyline—a rather unusual draw for a genre that has little variation (outside of films that take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the zombie genre, like Zombie Strippers). Obviously, the film revolves around a group of military personnel who find out about an island—Plum Island, to be exact—off the coast of Delaware that residents claim to be safe from the zombie hoards. Without any other options, our group of protagonists heads for Plum Island, only to find themselves in the middle of a seemingly endless feud between two families over the fate of the island and its inhabitants.

Whether Romero intended to parallel the ongoing religious feud in Ireland by plopping two heavily accented families—the O’Flynns and the Muldoons—on a small island and having them square off against one another is a mystery, but the parallel can be drawn just from the green band trailer. In my opinion, it will be interesting to see such a blood feud play out when zombies are thrown into the mix—I would imagine that the military outsiders would be floored, to say the least, by the emphasis placed on maintaining separation between the O’Flynn and Muldoon camps even in the face of the living dead.

Although it won’t be released in theaters until May 28, Survival of the Dead will be available on VOD, Xbox Live, Playstation and Amazon this Friday (April 30th). For more information on Survival of the Dead, head over to the film’s official website where you can also see the bloody red band trailer.


A Review by BJ-C

Back when I was just a wee little board whore on Bloody-Disgusting, I kept making a mention that there was potential business in a naturalized zombie outbreak that hadn’t been tapped into quite yet. However, thanks to first-time director Jim Townsend (and B-Sol), I finally got to see it put into motion! When a married couple’s farm produces yet another year’s worth of spoiled crop for wine production, the wife Dionne goes to her witch mother. Literally, she’s a witch. While Dionne has left behind her bewitching family craft, her mother helps cast a spell in order to save the next year's crop.

While most zombie freaks expect infected primates or crazy voodoo, with Attack of the Vegan Zombies we are given an entirely new origin for the undead. The ritual to save the crop required human blood and without a warning, the husband was volunteered. Well, the man lives on a vineyard, so what do you think was coursing through his veins? Dionysus would have been extremely proud of our husband character. Simpler terms? HOMEBOY WAS WAAAASTED. The crop comes in seemingly well, despite the unknown blood alcohol level. The crop is then harvested, new characters are introduced in pairs, vines go insane, and undead chaos ensues. I must make mention that the film has killer vines that attack like something out of a Sam Raimi forest. Literally.

However, the undead chaos isn’t exactly what you may expect. While the typical zombie is used to gnawing on human remains and slurping up brains, the zombies from the mind of Jim Townsend are of a higher class, if you will. They don’t want to eat brains and remains, but alcohol within your blood? That’s more like it.

The gore is kept to a minimum, there’s a lesbian scene that SO could have been longer, and the makeup on the zombies could've been applied using the contents of a crayola box. While I’m normally the one to complain about bad makeup, this is a film in which they weren’t trying to impress us; rather, they just added crappy green makeup and went on with their lives. A ballsy move, but I get it.

The film itself is quite enjoyable, but it is clearly an independent film. Most of the acting is downright painful, and the editing could really use some tweaking, but that almost adds to the film’s charm. Plenty of scenes absolutely scream "b-movie tribute", but there’s also a touch of spoof and monster flick tossed in for good measure. As much as the film is a b-movie, I regret to inform you that there is only one nude scene. Sorry, kids.

The film is extremely predictable, and it’s supposed to be. Those involved are clearly in on the joke, and it makes the film twice as enjoyable than if you take it too seriously. Fans of the dialogue of Army of Darkness will enjoy the script, and fans of “good-bad” movies will eat this up.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you this is the greatest independent, low-budget b-movie ever made. I will tell you that if you’re into really obviously ridiculous films, you’re in for a treat. I’m one to always admit that I love “shitty” films, but not because they’re awful, just because they’re not trying to be something they’re not. Attack of the Vegan Zombies isn’t trying to change the zombie genre, and it’s not trying to reinvent the b-movie sub-genre. It just is what it is, and I respect the film for it.

The Vault of Horror & Day of the Woman Present: The Top 10 Penultimate Girls!

Ever since Carol J. Clover published her treatise Men, Women & Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film some 18 years ago, the term "final girl" has been one of the most universally recognized tropes in the entire horror genre (hell, we hear there's even a blog named for it!) We're all well-acquainted with the concept of the virtuous, resourceful female survivor who outlives all of her friends, and somehow finds the strength within herself to face off with and overcome the slasher/monster in the end. In other words, nice girls die last (or usually don't at all.)

But you know who everyone has completely forgotten thanks to the rise of this pop culture film studies phenomenon? Those poor girls who almost made it. The girls who gave it everything they had and came up just short. The also-rans who perhaps just weren't resourceful or virtuous enough, and met their grisly end just before the final girl made her stand. That's right, we're talking about the penultimate girls.

To help chronicle the exploits of these misunderstood and forgotten females, I've turned to the mistress of Day of the Woman herself, Ms. BJ-C, and together we've put together a very special edition of the "Tuesday Top 10". We hope you enjoy it. So without further ado, we bring to you, the girls without whom the final girls couldn't be final: The Penultimate Girls...

10. Tina Gray
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
In the tradition of Psycho, Tina is a female character killed off just as the audience is getting to know her. However, her death plays a vital role in the film, and in fact she is the only girl who bites the dust in NOES. She might not be on screen long enough for us to love her, but watching her body bag slide through the school hallways makes it impossible for us to forget her.

9. Chris Hargensen
Carrie (1976)

There are always those characters in horror films that you just cannot wait to see die off. Chris was by far the most easily hated character in the entire film, and yet she lasts longer than everyone in her high school but Amy Irving. She isn't a best friend, or a good person, but she's a character we all love to despise, and seeing her reach her demise is one of the best moments of the film.

8. Tatum
Scream (1996)
Tatum's death was one of the most heartbreaking moments of the entire Scream series. Mostly because it's Rose McGowan and she's a total fox. The typical "average girl" of the party crashes into Ghostface and goes through one of the most memorable death scenes in the movie. "Oh no, Mr. Ghostface, I want to be in the sequel!" I guess the moral of the story is don't get beer in the garage alone?

7. Lambert
Alien (1979)
If Ripley represented a strong female lead who broke the stereotype for women in horror films and stood her ground against the monster, than Lambert was th total opposite, fulfilling every stereotype of the hysterical, helpless woman who falls apart when the stuff hits the fan. She quickly becomes a total liability to the rest of the crew, and does nothing but weep and shiver before being gutted (and most likely raped) by ol' phallus-head.

6. Pam
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The subject of one of the most masterful camera shots in horror film history, poor Pam (Teri McMinn) wanders from her safe tree swing into Leatherface's domain, only to become the first on-screen victim of cinema's favorite cannibal family. Pam's fate is far from pretty, as she's hoisted on that meat hook, and subsequently stuffed inside a refrigerator. But seeing what Sally goes through after her, we wonder if maybe Pam was the one who got off easy.

5. Brenda
Friday the 13th (1980)
All Brenda wanted to do was play a friendly game of strip Monopoly, drink some beer and smoke some weed. Little did she know she was about to become Pamela Voorhees' last victim. After braving the rain to go check on some weird noises outside, she finds herself on the business end of an archery range, and the next thing you know, her lifeless corpse is being tossed through the window of Alice's cabin as a prelude to Ms. Voorhees' be-sweatered entrance.

4. Helen Shivers
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
While portraying the "harder" version of Jennifer Love Hewitt, SMG has a way of making us all adore her character, and we even feel for her when she wakes up with her beautiful hair chopped to bits. She's one of the girls it hurts to see go and sadly, we can predict her death easily once JLH is shown to be the main character.

3. Sara
Suspiria (1977)
In grand penultimate girl tradition, Sara is a friend and confidante of the final girl--in this case, Jessica Harper's Suzy Banyon. Poor Sara gets oh-so-close to figuring out just what the hell is going on, before falling victim to one of the bleakest on-screen deaths in movie history. Stalked by our faceless killer, she is driven into a room filled with razor wire, where she fillets herself amidst the metallic vines.

2. Annie Brackett
Halloween (1978)
A best friend is someone who is willing to skip out on Halloween festivities in order to babysit with you. A best friend is also someone who is willing to let you take both the kids while she goes to wang her boyfriend. Laurie Strode is the best friend anyone could have, and Annie Brackett was lucky enough to have her. In both the original film as well as Rob Zombie's, Annie is portrayed as both a character you can't get enough of, and a character you hate to see killed off.

1. Marion Crane
Psycho (1960)
Without a doubt, the most iconic of all penultimate girls. Perhaps this is because her entire existence as a movie character hinges on the fact that she defies expectations by not living to the end of the picture, and in fact being killed off midway through in legitimately shocking fashion. By all the rules of film narrative, it should've been Janet Leigh's character who made it to the end, not her far less interesting sister. Yet the story messes with our heads, and becomes completely unforgettable in the process.

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Thanks for joining BJ-C and myself for this little homage to some of horror's most under-recognized characters. They may not have made it to the end, but they came so close, and they deserve our respect, damn it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Peek at the New "Buried" Poster: Simple, Yet Terrifying...

By Paige MacGregor

Very few film posters can elicit a physical reaction from viewers (except disgust, maybe, in certain situations), but that is exactly what happened when I first saw the new one-sheet for director Rodrigo Cortés’ newest film, Buried. After a very successful world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Buried was snatched up Lionsgate, and is coming to theaters this October. Now Lionsgate has released this rather risky one-sheet for the film, featuring nothing more than Buried star Ryan Reynolds trapped in a coffin, under what is presumably six feet of earth.

Personally, I think the poster is not only gorgeous and intriguing, but given that I had to pop a lorazepam after I saw it—hey, I’m claustrophobic—I'd say it’s highly effective, as well. The film, which was scripted by first-time writer Chris Sparling, is described in the official synopsis as follows:
Paul Conroy is not ready to die. But when he wakes up 6 feet underground with no idea of who put him there or why, life for the truck driver and family man instantly becomes a hellish struggle for survival. Buried with only a cell phone and a lighter, his contact with the outside world and ability to piece together clues that could help him discover his location are maddeningly limited. Poor reception, a rapidly draining battery, and a dwindling oxygen supply become his worst enemies in a tightly confined race against time- fighting panic, despair and delirium, Paul has only 90 minutes to be rescued before his worst nightmare comes true.
For more information on Buried, you can check out the film’s recently launched web site, ExperienceBuried.com. There’s not much there right now, but Lionsgate is sure to be adding more information, and probably a teaser trailer or two soon.

VAULTCAST: Conversations in the Dark... w/Andre Dumas

Remakes! There, doesn't that just make your stomach get all tight and your palms cold and sweaty? Horror fans tend to get a bit up in arms at the very notion of remakes, but take a listen as The Horror Digest's Andre Dumas and myself wax philosophic about exactly why remakes are not always a bad thing, and how they can actually serve an important purpose!

So if you want to find out exactly what we mean, or if you want to listen to us pick the movies we'd most like to see remade, and the ones we wish never were, listen in on the embedded player below, jump to the Vaultcast page, or download it right here.

The Horror Digest: http://horrordigest.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/thehorrordigest

Monday, April 26, 2010

TRAILER TRASH: Mad Doctor Edition!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Random Ramblings from the Vault...

  • So Cary Elwes finally realized it might be a good idea for his career to make another appearance in the Saw series? I bet he never expected it would become such a big deal after he went slummin' in that first one. I'm assuming they're going to be ignoring the fact that his character's dessicated corpse was already seen in Saw II...
  • Five days until the Nightmare on Elm Street remake is finally upon us, just in time for the momentous 26th anniversary of the original... Hmmm, you'd think Platinum Dunes could've planned that out just a little bit better.
  • Anyone who loves Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein would also do well to check out Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy. Made seven years after that first horror comedy, it's also Bud & Lou's last movie together, and seeing the boys mix it up with Kharis (or technically, Klaris), is nearly as hysterical as their antics with Lugosi, Glenn Strange and Lon Chaney Jr.
  • I'd like to coax my colleague Brad Miska of Bloody-Disgusting to institute a book section of the web's premiere horror news website. Come on, Brad my man, make it happen--if B-D can boast a music department, surely a literary section ain't out of the question, right? Pretty please?
  • So what's the deal with this movie Ninety that Darren Bousman is now signed to direct? Supposedly it will contain 90 kills within 90 minutes. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that's going to become awfully tedious by about 12 minutes in.
  • Folks, this blogger is dying to set his eyeballs on The Human Centipede. I've been forced to miss not one, but two sneak preview screenings in NYC in recent weeks. If there are any Vault dwellers out there who have seen thing and feel up to penning a review, give me a holler...
  • How refreshing was it to see Chiller TV actually living up to its potential on Earth Day, playing a zombie movie marathon that included the original Dawn of the Dead and The Evil Dead? Just goes to show that that channel doesn't have to perpetually suck if it only tries.
  • After hearing the rave reviews on the performance of Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass From trusted sources like BJ-C of Day of the Woman, Britt Hayes of Brutal as Hell and others, I'm just a little less worried about Let Me In, the upcoming American remake of Let the Right One In...
  • I was recently asked on my Formspring page what I felt was the "next step" for the zombie subgenre, and I had to confess it might be time to simply put it in mothballs for a few years. The only two exceptions I'm making is for AMC's Walking Dead TV series and the planned World War Z movie...
  • My recent edition of Conversations in the Dark with Classic-Horror.com's Nate Yapp raised the eternal issue of "Karloff vs. Lugosi"... I maintain that Karloff was the superior actor, who could've still had a great career even without horror (although he was admittedly made by Frankenstein.) Lugosi needed the Dracula role to make him an icon, and without it, I think he would've remained an obscure Eastern European actor with a very thick accent. What say you?

VAULT VLOG: The Alien Prequel Is a Bad Idea, and Enough with the 3-D Already

Friday, April 23, 2010

After Dark Originals Posters Are Unveiled

By Paige MacGregor

As if bringing horror fanatics the 8 Films to Die For film series wasn't enough, After Dark Films earlier this year announced the inception of After Dark Originals, a festival dedicated to After Dark Films' own original productions (these are films completely financed and owned by ADF). Now After Dark Films has released three gorgeous one-sheets--one for the festival itself and one each for two of the films that will screen at the festival this year--that are sure to catch the fancy of even the most casual horror fan.

Below you can feast your eyes upon the posters for Prowl (vampires?) and Re-Kill (zombies?), two of the eight films that will be featured at After Dark Originals this year. Details on all eight films can be found at BloodyDisgusting.com. Be sure to check it out, as it looks like there are definitely some very worthwhile features included.

The Many Faces of George Zucco

Beastly: A Tale as Old as Time Gets a Modern Update

By Paige MacGregor

What happens when the hottest, richest guy in school has a run-in with the school’s resident “witch”? In the case of director Daniel Barnz’ (The Cutting Room, Phoebe in Wonderland) upcoming film, Beastly, the consequences can be devastating.

Barnz’ film, a modern-day adaptation of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story, is set for release this July. And although it might not sound like the type of film usually featured on The Vault of Horror, Beastly is worth mentioning for several reasons, not the least of which is its eclectic cast, which includes Alex Pettyfer (Wild Child, Tormented), Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Mary-Kate Olson (New York Minute, The Wackness) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother).

When Kyle (Pettyfer) upsets school outcast and rumored witch Kendra (Olson), she places a curse on him that transforms his good looks into mutilated hideousness. The spell gives Kyle one year to find a woman to fall in love with him despite his new appearance; failing to do so means he will retain his new, horrifying appearance forever.

The transformation that Pettyfer’s character undergoes in the film is one torn from the pages of fantasy and horror alike, and the source material that the film uses—the “Beauty and the Beast” story—falls solidly within the confines of the “dark fantasy” genre, placing Beastly within The Vault of Horror’s jurisdiction.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the trailer below and see for yourself.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Visceral Visionaries: Amanda Norman

The astute Vault dwellers out there may have noticed the spiffy new header adorning the top of the site these days, in place of the classic E.C. title card I had been rocking for the past three years. Well, the amazingly talented individual responsible for it is one Amanda Norman, one of the UK's most gifted horror photographers. The banner was kindly sent to me by Amanda, along with the answers for the following Visceral Visionaries interview.

I invite you to read on, and discover the haunting work of Amanda Norman in the process...

You've talked in the past about being inspired by Universal and Hammer horror. How so, and which films in particular stand out?

Universal Horror was my first introduction to horror. I was fascinated with these films due to the monsters and creepy imagery of old crumbling castles, lightning and fog-filled graveyards. I never found these films scary, but it's only now in my adult years that I appreciate how the directors of these films made use of light to cast long eerie shadows and to highlight spooky things. The Frankenstein and Werewolf movies particularly stand out as these monsters did make me nervous.
The posters to advertise these films are my true inspiration. They had such wonderful Gothic imagery and close-ups of the monsters' faces. These posters definitely inspire my dark portraits, and I've created my own 'B-Movie' style posters in tribute to them
To me, Hammer Horror was the adult version of Universal Horror, and as an impressionable teenager, I loved these movies, my favorite being the Karnstein trilogy : The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, Twins of Evil. The graveyard scenes in all Hammer Horror movies inspire my graveyard photography.

Tell me more about this visual influence.
Back then, CGI was unheard of and wasn't needed to create an element of fear. I want my photography to have an element of fear for the viewer without using special effects. I set the scene for the viewer to conjure up thoughts of their own.
None of the models for my 'Dark Portraits' wear make-up. It's their face and the effect of lighting that produces the end result. More recently, in my color dark portraits, I've been playing with texture and color to create something a little different.

How did you first get into photography as a medium?
As a young child, my world was torn apart due to my mother marrying an abusive drunk who would beat her and torment me and my younger sisters. This resulted in us having to move away from family and friends and starting afresh. I loved the place where I grew up. I always visited the old graveyard and church that stood overlooking a bay, and I remember how peaceful and quiet it was there. I always read the gravestones and wondered what those people might have been like. One headstone sticks in my mind; it was of a young couple that died together in a motorbike accident and a photo of them is on the headstone. I re-visited the graveyard years later to capture my memories with a camera.

What came first, the portraits or the graveyard photography?
The graveyard photography came first and the dark portraits followed years later.

In your portraits, you talk about capturing the soul of your subject. Explain.
This question makes me giggle, as I like it!
When a person poses for me, I simply get them to relax and have fun in pulling faces and trying to get them to look evil. It's not that easy, to be honest, hence why I have to bring an element of fun into it. The result of the finished portrait always astounds me, because 8 out of 10 times, they themselves look like a particular monster, for example a vampire, zombie, etc. I don't ask the model to pose like a particular monster, and therefore I like to think that it's their soul that I've captured. It's not really, but it's just a bit of fun.

Would it be asking you to give away too much of your secrets if I asked the process by which you transform your subjects?
Kind of, yes! As I've already stated, it takes time, trust and lighting for me to show you my subjects soul.

What kind of imagery attracts you?
I don't like blood and gore, and I don't like images that reveal the story straight off. I like images that hide a story and show fear to the rest of us. It is then up to us to think about what is going on, and I've got one hell of an imagination.
Some of the best images I've seen are on horror movie posters, and the best one has to be of the priest standing under the light for the Exorcist movie. That's one scary film if you consider that it was based on a true story.

Describe the difference in your approach when you're doing something like graveyard photography, as opposed to portraiture.
I rely a lot on the weather here in the UK. If it's raining or too bright, I can't take the camera out. This is one of the reasons why I started taking 'Dark Portraits', because I couldn't get out and my creative juices were flowing.
When I'm out and about in the graveyard, I'm looking for old graves or statues of angels that look menacing. My goal is to invoke a sense of fear, and if the image isn't scary, then hopefully it will allow the viewer to think about the scene, how old the grave is, who's buried there and so on. I want my graveyard photography to be full of atmosphere and emotion, which isn't easy to portray.

Who inspires you? Anyone in particular out of artists working today?
There is one photographer who inspires my work, and that is Simon Marsden. His photography is dark and beautiful and I think that he's got the best job in the world. He visits all the old country houses and castles in the UK and takes photos. He also likes to tell tales of ghosts as well.

For all the photography geeks out there, tell us a little about the specific stuff you use.
Believe it or not, I'm lucky if I make $10 in one week from my photography, and therefore I don't have any specific equipment. I have an entry level DSL camera (Nikon D40) and a Canon Powershot G9.

How has the response been to your work?
Only the other day, I was telling a work colleague about my graveyard photography, and he looked at me as though I was weird, and said that it's morbid. Quite a lot of people do think that I'm strange, but I can't see what is so wrong about it. Perhaps they have a fear of death? I've only received small pockets of feedback, which has been in my favor. Unfortunately, I'm not well-known as a horror/Gothic photographer, and therefore not a lot of people see my work. In November 2009, I started work on my Zazzle store so that I could sell my photography on merchandise such as business cards, greeting cards and prints. This is slowly picking up thanks to Twitter.

What can we expect from you on the horizon?
In my fantasy dream world, I would be telling you what horror conventions I'm appearing at as I would love to take dark portraits and sell my photography. I would also love to tell you that I'm working on a joint collaboration with some of my favorite people, one of these being Drew Daywalt. Check out Daywalt Fear Factory on YouTube to see his amazing work that will provoke fear.
But back to reality. I've never attended a horror convention, and don't even have a car to travel. As for collaborating with Drew, that is merely a fantasy. I need to work more on self-promotion, as I'm not well-known for my work and people don't know about me yet.

* * * * * * * * * *

On that note, Vault dwellers, I say we do something to remedy that situation, don't you agree? To find out more about Amanda Norman, her Dark Portraits and graveyard photography, visit AmandaNorman.com.
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