Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Best Laid Plans

The older I get the more I believe the adage "if it's too good to be true, it probably is." The job you love doesn't pay well. The person you love only exists in your head. Your pants shrink. Well, maybe not the last one.

Recently I watched two amazing movies back to back. Yes, I'm a bit late to the part on both of them but at least I made it to the party. The House of the Devil (2009) and Wake Wood (2011) are in my opinion two of the best horror films that came out in recent years. I saw them a few days apart and was blown away. I can't remember the last time I saw two new great films back to back.

I was against The House of the Devil from the start. The only other Ti West film I'd seen was The Innkeepers which was a huge let down for me last year. But upon picking up the DVD at the always awesome Eyesore Cinema I decided I needed to see this movie. I'd heard good things from a variety of people and I couldn't not watch it. (Well, yes I could not not watch it but what would I not not watch if I didn't?) Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is your every day cash strapped college student looking for a quick fix to her money problems. She decides to take a high paying babysitting job just outside of town and from the get go things are not as they appear. The film ingeniously combines the haunted house genre with the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Oh, this film is shot like it's from the 1980s. I'll admit, I thought I would hate it but I loved it. I LOVED IT, JERRY! It's so subtle, effective and added a lot to the film without being heavy handed. Donahue gives a wonderful performance alongside Tom Noonan and Greta Gerwig. It's a wonderfully fun and unsettling trip down memory lane.

A day later, I popped Wake Wood into my DVD player. Now, Pet Sematary has always scared me. But Wake Wood traumatized me then broke my heart. The film begins with the very, very violent death of Patrick (Aiden Gillen) and Louise(Eva Bristhisle)'s young daughter. A while later they move to the small town of Wake Wood which has a secret. They can bring a loved one back from the dead for 3 days. They will have limited memory but they will be the person you loved. The whole community helps perform the ritual on the condition that you never leave the village. Louise and Patrick decide to bring their daughter back, but as always, sometimes dead is better. It's a thrilling ride with a real emotional core and (again) great performances. Wake Wood matches ambition with pay off.

Monday, July 23, 2012

For the Love of Horror: The Case of the Cabal Cut

How many people remember Clive Barker's Nightbreed? I had a very vague recollection of it from an early horror movie binge in my life; it was fun but it never quite stuck in my mind. It was epic but empty. Granted I was young and gravitated more towards the Nancy Thompsons and Laurie Strodes of the cinematic world. Nightbreed was relegated in my mind as a compeletist's film, something that came up more for Clive Barker fans than anyone else.

But lo, then I met Ron Mckenzie. Ron works for Rue Morgue and is the co-author of the very awesome Daddy's Little Monster article series. He extolled the virtues of Nightbreed to me with such passion that he convinced me to give it another shot. While it's not my favourite movie, it is an intriguing one and definitely worth watching if only for David Cronenberg's evil villain performance. The story follows Boon a man plagued by dreams of a mythical place called Midian where the Nightbreed live. Boon (Craig Sheffer) goes off in search of the place followed by his loving girlfriend, Lori (Anne Bobby, whom I loved in Beautiful Girls) and the truly disturbed Decker (Cronenberg, whom I loved from everything). What follows veers away from horror and delves far more into the realm of fantasy. From the creature and set designs it's easy to see how Barker envisioned this as a Star Wars-esque trilogy. Distributors Morgan Creek and Fox wound up taking an axe to the film and slicing out an hour of footage which yielded the Theatrical Cut that Barker was always dissatisfied with. Nightbreed was a marketing mess with the studios presenting it as a straight up slasher which is the opposite of what Nightbreed is. (seriously, I think Pretty Woman has more in common with a slasher than  Nightbreed)

In the past few years there have been rumblings of "lost footage" and "director's cuts" of Nightbreed which has elicited a fair amount of excitement around the project. Lo and behold in 2009 Barker collaborator Mark Miller found several boxes of footage that with Barker's blessings what assembled into what is now known as Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut. The Cabal Cut runs at 155 minutes and is comprised of footage from the film and VHS tapes meaning picture and sound quality can vary even within a scene. The project has garnered enough support from Nightbreed's loyal fan base that Morgan Creek is allowing it to be screened at various festivals around the world to see what kind of interest can be generated.

I was lucky enough to catch the Cabal Cut at the always amazeballs Rue Morgue Cinemacabre Movie Nights this past week. Held at the TIFF Lightbox theatre it was a full room with palpable excitement. What followed was two and a half hours of cinematic passion. While I'm still not sold on Nightbreed as a film the time, love and energy put into this project was honestly inspiring. Like, Patch Adams inspiring. Not everything works, the club scene of Lori singing was awkward as were the scenes of prolonged kisses between Lori and Boone. The inserts in the final battle/confrontation were heavy handed and confusing. BUT majority of the additions fill in subplots and characters making the film much richer.

The Cabal Cut is a truly successful fan effort that is incredibly impressive and well worth your time even if you only have a passing interest in Nightbreed. The Cabal Cut is one of the reasons I love writing, watching and investing my personal time in genre films, because the the fans give a damn and creators listen. I'm very excited to see where the Cabal Cut goes. With any luck Morgan Creek will pony up the dough, restore the footage and we'll all get the film that Nightbreed was meant to be.

For more information visit: http://www.occupymidian.com/

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What To Do When You Find Footage

 The "Found Footage" genre of horror films is become just as rote and  predictable as the slasher or leprechaun genre but it's still a relatively new genre and as I love my readers I thought it would be helpful to play out a few scenarios with you.

First off, who did you find it with?

If you're single - it's you and people who are obligated to be near you (classmates, priests etc). Like most living things, you will die alone.

If you're happily coupled up it will be you and your significant other finding the aforementioned footage. Then cue your formerly super amazing partner turning into a dickish shrew and insisting on documenting everything that happens to the both of you. For research, duh.

If you're with your friends. Split up. Yes, this is the opposite of what you're supposed to do in these situations but, for real. Get going. Ditch those hurtbags and get the hell out of dodge. Even if you die a horrible death at least you'll avoid the inevitable "where are we going?", "I have to go back for her!" and "Is that a bite mark?".

Well, once you've "found" the footage there isn't a lot of turning back. Often these things have a way of seeping into your life without you even knowing it. Like ticks. So let's assume once you find said footage, you're going to have to play along for a bit because finding random footage with the combined curious nature of humanity always leads to a bad place.

Where are you?

If you're in a city, get the hell out. Being in a city means one of two things, either electronic devices and your possessions are possessed/haunted or you're in a post-apocalyptic war-zone after an outbreak or monster attack. Either way, get thee to a small town; people are God-fearing and know how to stockpile canned goods.

If you're in nature/cabin/small town, you're trespassing. Maybe you're trespassing on a farmer's property or the general area where a witch killed some children.  Work on getting out of there, but really, your chances are slim to none you'll make it out alive. Stick to the roads and leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

If you're in a location that a tragedy or haunting has already occurred, you're fucked. For real. I hope there are cyanide pills in your first aid kit.

Why are you messing around with film?

Because you need to. If it's a class project, take the 'F'. If it's for a job, quit. Remember any entity willing to do shit on camera is after your immortal soul. Eating instant noodles and working at a call centre isn't as bad as sending your soul to eternal damnation... in theory.

You want to learn how to use your equipment properly and need something to practice on. Remember that summer you had with your friends that changed you all? Film that. Don't film your girlfriend's mental illness/possession.

You're just so damn curious. Curiosity massacred the cat.

How do you dispose of the film?

Don't watch it. Burn it. And burn any unlabelled VHSs/DVDs/Laser Discs lying around your home. And burn them outside in a controlled area. Only you can prevent forest fires.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Little Pig, Little Pig Let Me In...

I've only done one of these mash-ups before with two films directly suited to each other. These two films are not directly related BUT I did see them on the same day. They've become oddly and inextricably intertwined in my head. Let's see if we can't pry them apart with some...

I caught an afternoon matinee of Prometheus (2012) this past weekend and while I admire the film its stunning visuals I think this may be one of the most inept films ever made. Honestly and truly, something like The Room has more artistic integrity that this waste of space. It's a lazy film that tries to get away with it by falling back on philosophy. And like the philosophy students I so readily avoided in university, Prometheus seems content to rest on its laurels forever randomizing scenes, characters and motivations. 

At its core a great film should aid you in suspending disbelief so you are carried away to a magical film world which allows you to escape reality for a few hours. Prometheus doesn't even try to do this. Yes it has beautiful visuals but a bland, meandering plot mixed in with characters that behave like asshats through the entire thing fails at elevating the piece beyond anything. It's not even a cheesy, thrilling movie. It's dull, lifeless and a waste of a premise. Also, fuck you Ridley Scott - it's totally a prequel to Alien. Why you were running around saying it wasn't really but exists in the same universe I'll never know. I hope you choke on the pile of cash they drove up to your manor to get you to do this. And Damon Lindelof needs a good smack. 

Prometheus blew chunks, beautiful hi-res chunks.

Inside (2007) on the other hand take place mainly in one location on Christmas Eve. The film follows Sarah (Alysson Paradis) who survives (along with her unborn child) a car crash that kills her husband. Several months later a deeply depressed and heavily pregnant Sarah prepares to spend the night alone before going to the hospital to deliver the baby the following morning. As she prepares for bed a strange woman arrives at her door knowing Sarah's name and that her husband is dead. What follows is 90 minutes of sheer unrelenting brutality. 

With visitors showing up and every household item being used as a weapon, Inside is a relentless, visceral experience. While it's not perfect and definitely not for everyone it has more guts (figuratively) than Prometheus could ever dream of. 

Prometheus travels to the far reaches of the universe over several years whereas Inside sets the menace much closer to home. While both films deal with a need to understand creation and fight for survival Inside actually bothers to tell a story with a clear beginning, middle and brutal end. Something Prometheus couldn't do if their android butler showed them how.