Thursday, September 30, 2010
Battered and worn out, Krista escapes from an abusive relationship, making her way to a no-tell motel on the desert outskirts. While she waits for her sister to arrive and help her sort out the wreckage of her life in a few days time. The combined effects of booze, painkillers and her traumatic experiences create a nightmarish world for Krista, leaving her to question what is real and why she is forced to suffer.
We love independent cinema around these parts, and it doesn't get any more DIY than Stacie Ponder's Ludlow. The entire film takes place almost solely within the cramped confines of a motel room. Aside from a handful of brief appearances, all the heavy lifting is done by our lead actress. The fact that the owner of the site Final Girl, a blog that has inspired the one you're reading now, helmed Ludlow is what peaked my interest in the film. Shouldering the load in mostly a one woman performance, Shannon Lark's presence is what kept my attention throughout.
Make no mistake, this is Ms. Lark's movie. She's in nearly every frame of the film, and has the unenviable task of being asked to sell the madness she finds herself in but doing so in a manner has to believe that she's really living the experience and can't just "snap out if it" at any time. Ludlow puts its lead in multiple hellish scenarios. We see the physical trauma of her nearly bleeding out or losing her teeth (in the most stomach turning moment in the film). Krista's fatigue also lends itself to more psychological horror, whether it be fear of abandonment as shown in the brief screen time Lark shares with her sister Maddy (Elissa Dowling) or resignation that she deserves no better than what she's just escaped from. Lark's delivers a monolouge towards the end where she justifies going back to her ex in the flat, self-hating tones instantly recognizeable to anyone that's ever listened to excuses one makes for their abuser. Ms. Lark lends Krista a layer of toughness, even in her darkest moments, that it adds a level of intrigue in watching the film. I found myself asking just how evil a son of a bitch her ex boyfriend had to be to break this woman.
Credit also goes to Ms Ponder for her directorial chops as well. Two moments stood out for me. The opening shots of the desert stretching out into seeming infinity while Krista vomits in the middle of the highway set the stage for the emptiness her character feels weighed down throughout her arc. The landscape seems to stretch out forever and it just looks hot and nasty. There's also a terrific audio cue shortly after Krista arrives in the hotel. Ponder draws focus to the sound of a faucet dripping, zooms in on it, amplifies and distorts it until it becomes a weird and disconcerting cacophony of noise, once again hinting at the madness that follows in short order.
If I have a quibble, it's a minor one with the ending. Without spoiling the closing moments, the film ends in heartbreaking fashion, one that Ponder hints at throughout, yet it manages to provide a wallop when finally revealed. However, within the run time of the film, we've been subjected to a series of nightmarish, grisly scenarios, all through the jumbled perspective of Krista, only to snap back to reality. We have to take it on faith that the last image is reality, that an "ollie ollie oxen free" card won't be pulled moments after the credits roll. A small addition to ground the moment, something as simple as a cell phone ringing in the hotel room, could work as a means to say that this is it, giving the end that much more impact.
Ludlow screens in Boston MA on October 13th as part of the All Things Horror film series. For those that want a peek behind the curtain take a gander at Stacie Ponder's series of articles detailing the production of her film.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Hey, gang. You may or may not have noticed a pronounced lack of posting from me of late. The entire month of September was pretty much shot due to a surprise health problem. I've been in and out of the hospital for the entire month and it's really chipping away at my sanity. It's about 5 a.m. right now and I have a burning need to post something, anything. Luckily, I have a few steroid influenced things to say, so if you can spare a few minutes, let me catch you up.
You probably don't want to hear all the gruesome details of all the needles, IV's, crap food, and other typical associations here at the hospital (nah, they're treating me ok here), so let me do you a solid and talk about some real HORROR instead. Ah, that feels good. I've missed writing and thinking about horror films and this is the first time I've been inspired to dust off a keyboard in a while. One of the real disappointments for me was missing The Last Exorcism which I'd been very eager to see especially after reading Mike's glowing review. Sigh. At least I have All Things Horror Presents: Four Nights of Fright to look forward to, in addition to many exciting horror events going on around Boston in October.
So, first I simply had to re-watch Dario Argento's Phenomena.
For some reason, I just couldn't shake the need to watch Dario Argento's Phenomena (aka Creepers). I feel it's an often overlooked classic, mostly due to a chopped up version that had been floating around rendering incoherent what was already a bit of a mess. A few years back Anchor Bay put out a nice intact version and that's the one I'd recommend checking out if you haven't seen this yet. For those unfamiliar, the story follows a very committed Jennifer Connelly as a boarding school student who attempts to solve a series of brutal murders with a telepathic ability to communicate with insects. Yep, she talks to bugs and they love her! I personally think Phenomena is an excellent horror film and one of Argento's scariest. What it lacks from Argento-isms (red herrings, convoluted story) it makes up for in atmosphere and mystery. There's something sinister about the wind rustling through the trees in key dark scenes that really gets me. The nasty, crusty special makeup effects are provided by the always reliable Sergio Stivaletti. Yeah, I think this is one of my faves.
Next up, Frank Henenlotter's sadly forgotten Brain Damage.
I'm pretty sure Frank Henelotter is one of few horror filmmakers who still has the ability to shock. Bad Biology (highly recommended) was his triumphant return to horror filmmaking after a long lay off, and the man hasn't lost a beat. If anything, he has become more tenacious and provocative. Everyone knows Henenlotter from the Basket Case series, as well as the excellent Frankenhooker, but not enough praise is lavished, that's right lavished on the often overlooked Brain Damage. I don't even believe it has received a DVD release of any sort, and that's a true crime. Brain Damage is the story of Aylmer, a penis-like monster with the ability to chemically make pretty colors in the brain's of downtrodden New Yorkers. The drug-like haze makes life tolerable and folks will do anything to appease Aylmer for a fix. Unfortunately, Aylmer often has a hankering for juicy human brains and trades happy color fun times for his share of the meat. Plenty of sleaze and grue in this one, but not at the expense of caring about the characters.
Why not a little of Joe Dante's The Howling? Sure, I'll take some!
Joe Dante is the man! No, it's not shouted enough, so let's hear you loud and clear. JOE DANTE IS THE MAN! When people rattle off a list of favorite filmmakers, I bet Joe Dante rarely comes up. I think one of the main reasons is that he seems so humble and low key and would just rather have a few laughs, knock out a good movie, and kick back with some beer afterward. Now based on his filmography which includes great stuff like Piranha, Gremlins, Explorers, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and the upcoming 3D horror film The Hole, you may be surprised that I think his strongest attribute is sublety. I know that sounds crazy considering this is the man responsible for Gremlins 2: The New Batch, but there's something about the very sly humor and camera movement that shows Dante is very alive behind the eyes. The Howling is still potent after all these years, mostly due to a pretty timeless John Sayles script which explores repressed human animal desires. Boasting a great cast, the film is powered by some incredible werewolf transformation sequences by the master Rob Bottin.
A surprising little supernatural read in S.E. Hinton's Hawkes Harbor.
Browsing the bookshelf outside of my room, I noticed a hard back copy of an S.E. Hinton book I'd never heard of. I've always been a big fan of her teen angst and complex emotional novels like The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and That Was Then, This is Now and was curious about what she was up to these days. Turns out Hawkes Harbor (2004) is part adventure, part exploration of brutal mental health practices, a complicated character study, and a supernatural horror story all in one. It's a very engaging read with some incredible characters and one that I can heartily recommend. Hinton has created characters with such depth you can really feel them burning on the pages as you are compelled to keep reading.
For now, I'll probably be in the hospital for a few more days, but as I keep improving, I'll be certain to share more of my thoughts on all things horror.
Monday, September 27, 2010
With Halloween season just about to kick off, your local cinemas are releasing horror films en masse over the next month. It's a welcome return to form from days when horror movies and October release dates went hand in hand. It seems like August and January became the dumping ground for Horror the past few years. Both of Rob Zombie's Halloween films dropped in August, which is akin to releasing A Christmas Carol in May. This year we're getting dosed with horror, grindhouse and exploitation flicks every Friday. In fact, you could argue the well received Devil kick started the season at the end of September.
Each Monday for the next month, we'll take a brief look at what films hit at the end of the week, and guesstimate a to how they'll do.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
With a combined 40 years of horror and sci-fi event production and programming experience, J. Cannibal & Garen Daly bring you TerrorThon'10: 9 Days of Horror.
From September 24th through October 2nd, you can attend U.S. premieres, cast and crew Q&As, cult classics, live performances, after-parties, and plenty of opportunities to win prizes!
Festival highlights include:
Godfather of Gore: the US premiere of the Herschell Gordon Lewis documentary! A Q&A with director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Bad Biology, Frankenhooker) will follow.
Spookadelica: A live American spookshow, brought to you by Something Weird Video, who will be filming the event for a documentary.
Outstanding local films with cast & crew!
New England premiere of TUCKER & DALE vs. EVIL
New England premiere of THE REVENANT
The epic 10th installment of the annual zombie party, J. CANNIBAL'S FEAST OF FLESH
Feast of Flesh this time around will be featuring one of my favorite weirdo films, Night of the Creeps! I can hardly wait to see this film on the big screen; it'll be a true cinematic treat, combined with the lovely ghouls from Black Cat Burlesque and live music from Planetoid. Feast of Flesh starts at 10pm on Saturday, October 2nd at the Somerville Theatre. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.
Check out the official schedule at the Canniblog. Don't miss it!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Please take a second to click to our page detailing our October movie nights. We've rented the digital screening room at the Somerville Theater every Wednesday night as a way of celebrating the Halloween season.
You need not worry that we've watered down our programming as a way to cram the schedule. Chris, Izzy and myself have lined up some kick-ass indie features every week.
I'll update the page as we get closer to each night, but take a look now for a quick glimpse at what we've lined up.
Friday, September 17, 2010
5. Jack Sparrow gets pulled under a sea (of blood) Who would have thought fresh faced Johnny Depp would rise above his teen horror roots and become one of the biggest draws in Hollywood? To horror fans, you'll always be handsome but dippy Glen, the poor sap that just couldn't stay awake and wound up getting sucked through your mattress.
4. "Welcome to Prime Time Bitch!" There's no way I'm topping Freddy's best one liner in the whole series
Sorry the quality is so crappy on this one-for whatever reason embedding has been disabled on the better looking versions of it. You can find it in two seconds on YouTube. This scene was Elm Street firing on all cylinders. From Freddy's taunt coming out of dick Caveat's mouth, to the screen dissolving to static to Freddy delivering his best line before smashing the girls head through the boob tube, you could point to this scene as the moment when Freddy transcended the horror genre and truly became a pop culture icon.
3. Freddy Comes "Out" (A Nightmare on elm Street part two) While most fans rip Freddy's Revenge as a weak follow up to the first, I have a soft spot for the film. Maybe it's because I saw this one first or maybe it's just Jesse's sweet dance moves but I love this movie. No matter what side of the fence you fall on, there's no denying the moment Freddy claws his way out of Jesse's body and promptly guts Grady still looks cool as hell. from the nod to American Werewolf, to Freddy shedding Jesse's skin like a snake, the effects still hold up today.
2. Tina's goes for a spin (A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 1) Speaking of holding up-it's been more than a quarter century but Tina getting tossed around the room still looks amazing today. The room was built on a pivot, which allowed the whole thing to be flipped upside down by a hand crank. Meanwhile all the filming equipment and crew were bolted to the "floor" of the set. If you need further evidence as to how practical done right blows away CGI compare this scene with the laughable attempt at recreating it in the reboot.
1.Kruger meets Kafka (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) This tops my list due to the sheer meanness of Debbie's death. First Freddy snaps her arms off at the elbow in what must be excruciating pain. As Debbie screams in agony, roach tentacles pop out through the openings her bones tore through, and her arms flop to the floor like useless hunks of meet. Follow that up with her skin being pulled off by the trap goo as she turns into a cockroach before Freddy delivers the coup de grace and you have the most sadistic moment in the franchise.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Can I just say how much I hate the cinematic method of opening a film at the conclusion of events, then flashing back in time and telling the tale of how we got to that scene? After rewatching The Strangers, a film with as nerve wracking a first half as you'll ever find, and being pointed to an indie horror short that used this same backwards conceit, I was reminded how much it sucked me out of the film.
The Strangers opens with a 911 call playing over a scene of carnage. A house is completely overturned. Bloodstains cover the floors and walls. In the middle of it all we have a motionless, gore stained couple lying on the floor. Then we cut back to the night before, when said couple are making their way to the home. When an odd girl knocks on their door to ask "Is Tamara home?" the film really picks up. This act in the film is filled with nail biting moments. I wish the trailer hadn't spoiled it, but the scene with Liv Tyler standing in the kitchen, completely oblivious to the presence of a hulking dude in a suit and sackcloth mask looming in the back ground ala Michael Myers circa 1978 just fills me with chills.
|Would you believe he just wanted to borrow a cup of sugar?|
Everything after the the couple know for sure that they're being hunted down is a big yawner. I already know they're going to end up dead on the floor. Unless something really awesome happens, like one of the masked kids tags in The Iron Sheik who then proceeds to stomp a mud hole into Scott Speedman with his patented curled steel toe boots then breaks Liv Tyler in half with the dreaded Camel Clutch, is an afterthought. All the tension and atmosphere created in the first half goes bye-bye, and we're left with a run of the mill slasher movie without the crowd pleasing kill scenes. A good horror film relies on its audience investing in the fate of its leads. If I didn't already know the couple would end up dead by the film's end, then the moments where they try to escape or call for help would carry much more weight.
It's a move that smacks of a director that lacks confidence in the development of his characters and their ability to move the story along. It's almost as if he's telling his audience they're too stupid or he's not skilled enough to get you through the first fifteen minutes of two people having a normal evening before a piece of feces punches a fan. we have to get a quick tease before the action really starts.
A movie like Memento can get away with this construct for a couple reasons. First, Christopher Nolan is a flat out genius. Second, the twists the film takes when moving backwards in time help setup why we get the opening scene. The same goes for Irreversible. We're treated to a horrific scene were one man bashes the ever-loving snot out of another man's skull with a fire extinguisher until all that's left is some pulpy grey matter and bone fragments. On its own, that's an amazing horrific acts. however, as the film reverses itself we come to understand why this happened and can even justify this opening carnage.
The above are examples of two clever, unconventional films. Masked kids hunting down a middle class couple in order to play stab the tail on the donkey simply doesn't work when the film begins at its end.
|I just wanted to throw this caption in to say the French home invasion film "Them" does the concept just a little bit better if you're in to that sort of thing...|
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Speaking of a wider audience, March's feature Pig Hunt was chosen as one of eight films released on DVD by Fangoria as part of their Fright Fest imprint. You can read Chris' original review, here but suffice to say if you watch one film with a 3000 pound man eating pig that's under the control of naked hippie pot farmers that are in constant conflict with a gang of psychotic rednecks, then make this your film. Right now it's exclusively available for rental at Blockbuster, but it's also up for purchase as well.
This has been a terrific year for Andrew Kasch. Not only did his critically acclaimed exhaustive documentary on the Nightmare on Elm St series Never Sleep Again come out, but his comedic short slasher film Thirsty (staring Wrong Turn 2 & upcoming Knights of Badassery director Joe Lynch) has been chosen as part of the upcoming horror anthology The Black Box.
One of my favorite short horror films HOW MY DAD KILLED DRACULA is now available for digital download. Fans of things that are awesome have three ways to watch this kid-friendly short at home or take it on the go Click the above title to link to the site for purchase:
$1.99 nets you the standard definition version of the film, which is
The twin Soska Sisters continue their march towards global domination as Dead Hooker In A Trunk has recently been accepted at pair of interational film festivals: The Abertoir Festival in the UK and the CineFantasy Festival Curta Fantastico (that name makes me want to salsa dance) in Brazil.
Dead Hooker in a Trunk - Exclusive Clip
Uploaded by dreadcentral. - Full seasons and entire episodes online.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010