Monday, April 30, 2012

Video: My interview with Taaffe O'Connel from Days of the Dead Atlanta.

For an interview that was so much fun to do, this sure was a pain in the ass to share with you guys. Youtube, I have a bone to pick with you. I didn’t know about the hoops you have to jump through to post a video longer than 15 minutes. This interview was just over 16. I’m not gonna go into the computer problems and wireless network going kablooey (yes, kablooey) that made this process take 2 days, but when I went to Leah’s and spent a couple of hours uploading it, it was immediately deleted for being too long. Why didn’t you tell me ‘this video is too long to upload” at the beginning. Better yet, why not tell me one of the other 5 times I started uploading it. That’s just damn inconsiderate youtube. Why wait until it’s too late. I hate technology, have I mentioned that lately? That’s why this interview is in two parts. I hate multi-part videos, but that’s just how this one worked out. Sorry.

You guys aren’t here to listen to me bitch about my computer problems though, are you? No, you’re here to see the interview with Taaffe O’Connell. She was one of the most genuinely friendly guests at Days of the Dead. Some of the guests, to be honest, seemed to feel like they were at work and meeting the fans was a job. Taaffe seemed like she was really enjoying meeting the fans. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe she said it was her first con, or at least her first con in a while. She’s had such an extensive career in TV and movies that she has plenty of great stories. Probably her best-known role among horror fans is in one of my favorite flicks Galaxy of Terror. She thought it was cool that the first time I saw it was at a drive in…in 2006. Anyway, here’s the first part of the video. In this one we talk about breaking into TV, New Year’s Evil, playing dead, Galaxy of Terror, and giant space maggot rape…

In part two, we talk Chained Fury, almost getting sold into slavery in the Philippines, some of her lesser known horror flicks like Stoneman and Dismembered, comedy, The Change Up, fake boobs, cannibalism, and her current producing projects Taaffe’s Twisted Picts and Taaffe’s Twisted Tales…

Se? I love Taaffe, she was awesome. Since this interview is almost 2 months old at this point, I dropped her a line and asked her if she had any new developments in the projects that she’d like to share with the Cellmates, and here’s what she said…

“Things are very exciting over here. "Taaffe's Twisted Pics" spotlights what we feel is some off the hook terror talent--"Bottles" being one of them--by entrepreneurial filmmakers (actors, writers, directors, etc.) who understand that the motion micture and yelevision industries are all about "making things happen" and not waiting for them to happen! My next 'Pic" is "2 Kings"--a truly twisted tale about Twins that not even God can part—single-handedly done by Filmmaker (writer, director, actor, cinematographer, editor, etc) Jon Alex--you'll swear that it took a crew of thousands to Twist this Tale!

For more info on these films, and how to jumpstart you career in motion pictures and television check out : (LINK) We have complete "Industry Directories" that folks call 'Your Keys to Know What's Really Happening in the Motion Picture and Television Industries!”

Well there you have it folks. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did doing it. The song you hear during the titles is “Monster” by Mission Creeps. You can check them out HERE. Come back tomorrow for my review of Bottles, the first in the Taffe’s Twisted Picts series.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekend Upcoming Horror Flick Bonanza: Area 407

You all know from reading the blog that, in general, I'm kinda sick of found footage movies, but here's one I actually can't wait to check out. Remember, when I was talking about Rec 3 I said that I think the found footage gimmick is played out? As long as they keep making money and costing next to nothing to make, though, the market is going to continue to be over saturated with them. What that means to me is that if a FFF is going to catch my interest, it's got to offer something I've never seen before. So many movies are just the same old shaky cam ghost hunt. Well, Area 407 is offering up something I haven't seen before in a found footage flick...dinosaurs. Freakin' dinosaurs! No one, and I mean NO ONE, can deny the sheer coolness of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are awesome, and that's all there is to it. We need more dinosaur movies in fact. Well, here's the first one in a while, and I for one am excited. Jurassic Activity anyone?

Here's the synopsis: After taking off on a flight from New York to Los Angeles on New Years Eve, the passengers of Flight 37A are soon sent into shock and alarm as the plane experiences severe turbulence. The relentless weather attack causes panic and terror amongst the passengers until the plane ultimately crashes in a remote government-testing reserve, AREA 407. Through footage captured by two teenage sisters, the accident and crash lead to further events that should not be viewed by the faint of heart. As they continue to film, it becomes apparent that the remaining survivors of Flight 37A may not survive the night.

And here’s the trailer…

And, since IFC Midnight is hooking y’all up, here are a couple of clips…

AREA 407 is currently available on IFC Midnight Cable VOD and Digital Outlets (SundanceNOW, iTunes, Amazon Streaming, XBOX Zune, Playstation Unlimited) and in select theaters. Check your local listings to find it in a theater near you (if you’re lucky) or watch it on VOD. I should have a review up eventually. Did I mention that it’s got dinosaurs in it? Dinosaurs rule!

Weekend Upcoming Horror Flick Bonanza: Rec 3

This one I'm really excited about. I really dug Rec 1 and 2. For the record, they're FAR superior to their American counterparts Quarantine 1 and 2. From what I hear, the beginning of Rec 3 follows the found footage motif of the first two, and then switches to standard third person cinematography. While some online are complaining about the change of format, I personally welcome it. The Rec series did the found footage thing well, but the gimmick has gotten played out. I applaud their decision to change it up instead of beating that dead horse.

Here’s the synopsis: Koldo and Clara are about to celebrate the most important day of their lives: their wedding. Everything appears to be running smoothly and the bride and groom and their families are enjoying a wonderful day; that is until some of the guests start showing signs of a strange illness. Before they know what’s happening, the bride and groom find themselves in the middle of a hellish ordeal, as an uncontrollable torrent of violence is unleashed on the wedding. Amidst the chaos, Koldo and Clara become separated and begin a desperate search for one another. What started off as an idyllic day quickly descends into a nightmare of the worst kind.

Rec 3 has been getting good reviews since it’s release in Spain in March, and Magnet is set to release it stateside on VOD August 3 and in theaters starting September 7. Check out the flick’s official facebook page HERE to keep up with the events leading up to the release.

Weekend Upcoming Horror Flick Bonanza: Asylum Blackout

Over the last week, I've gotten a LOT of emails containing details about upcoming horror flicks that you Cellmates should know about. Honestly, this week has been hectic as hell, so they've been piling up, but tonight I'm cleaning out the inbox and bringing you all the info on these movies. It’s a parade of previews! It’s a cavalcade of coming attractions! It’s a tantalizing train of teasers! It’s a festival of future fright films! Ok, I’ll stop. Anyway, first up we've got IFC Midnight’s upcoming release Asylum Blackout.

Here's the synopsis: George, Max and Ricky are in a rock band. Between small gigs and rehearsals, they hope for their big breakthrough. In the meanwhile, someone has to pay the bills! So they work in the kitchen of a high security asylum. Good pay, minimum risk - they have no physical contact with the inmates. One night, just before dinner time, a big storm shuts down the security system, the doors open and the lunatics break loose. Help is on its way and should soon arrive. They just have to wait for it…and survive until then.

So let me get this straight, on a dark and stormy night 3 dudes get stuck in a nuthouse with the crazies running wild? I’m in. I love movies that take place in sanitariums. The trailer looks cool too. Here, see for yourself…

See? Told ya. If you wanna see it like I do, Asylum Blackout is going to be in select theaters and available nationwide on IFC Midnight Cable VOD and Digital Outlets (SundanceNOW, iTunes, Amazon Streaming, XBOX Zune, Playstation Unlimited) on May 4, 2012.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The All Wet Blogathon: Gettin' freaky in the rain!

Welcome to Son of Celluloid’s contribution to the All Wet Blogathon. The idea here is to post screenshots and talk about your favorite movie moment involving rain. You’d think that would be easy considering I write about horror movies, right? After all, dark, stormy nights are one of the trademarks of the genre. That’s precisely what makes this a challenge. I mean, just how many great horror movie scenes take place in the rain? Dr. Loomis and Nurse Chambers approaching Smith’s Grove to find the inmates milling around in the rain in Halloween is one of my favorites. Janet Leigh driving along through the pouring rain, wrestling with her conscience, and eventually pulling into the Bates Motel in Psycho is a classic. Great scenes take place in the rain in damn near every Friday the 13th flick. The storm during the opening moments of Suspiria sets the mood perfectly. It might not exactly be horror, but the rain scene in the Rocky Horror Picture Show is always fun (“Buy an umbrella you cheap bitch!”). Second place would have to go to the reanimating rain that pours down as the zombies rise and 45 Grave asks “Do you wanna party?” in Return of the Living Dead. In my humble opinion though, one scene stands head and shoulders above the rest as far as great cinematic rain scenes go…the climax of Tod Browning’s Freaks.

Freaks tells the story of Hans, a wealthy midget that works as a “freak” in a circus sideshow. Cleopatra, the circus’s beautiful trapeze artist, hatches a plan to seduce Hans, marry him, poison him, take his money, and live happily ever after in the arms of Hercules, the strongman. The freaks, not knowing her plan, accept her as “one of us” until Cleopatra mocks and insults them at the wedding reception. When Hans becomes ill, the freaks become suspicious. When her plot is uncovered, the close-knit family of outcasts knows that revenge is a must, and Cleopatra will truly become one of them.

This is one of my all time favorite movies. Released in 1932, the flick was way ahead of its time. It also basically destroyed Tod Browning’s career. The freaks in the movie were actual sideshow freaks, and audiences of the day definitely weren’t ready for that. The relatively safe horrors of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein were all the rage, but the real life bizarreness and deformities of these “actors” were just too much for the movie going public to handle. Ten years later, WW2 would make America face real life monsters and grotesqueness, and, in the limited way allowed by the Hayes code, they began to be a little more accepted on the silver screen. Had Freaks been released in this era, it may have been seen for the masterpiece it is. In its time, however, it was quite controversial, facing censorship and even being banned in some countries.

While the audience freaking out (pun intended) and the censors basically cutting the legs out from under the film (ok, that one was bad, I’ll admit it) had a lot to do with the 30’s being a much less “enlightened” time than today regarding physical deformities, birth defects, handicaps, etc, it also can’t be denied that Browning may have just done his job a little too well. That final scene is, in my mind, the most genuinely terrifying thing that had been committed to celluloid up to that moment. Sure, there had been brilliant horror moments like Nosferatu’s shadowy hand clutching the beautiful maiden’s heart, the unmasking of The Phantom of the Opera, the awakening of Frankenstein’s monster, or Caesar carrying his prey through an expressionist cityscape in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but none could rival the sheer “OH SHIT!” factor of this scene.

Let me set the stage for you...

The caravan of circus wagons is struggling its way through a terrible thunderstorm. In Hans’s cart, he and some of the others confront Cleopatra. Meanwhile, in another cart, Hercules tries to attack his ex, Venus, who is an ally of the freaks. Her current boyfriend, Phroso the clown, fights him off. The storm causes the carts to capsize, and everyone spills out into the driving rain and thick mud. The knife wielding freaks close in on Cleopatra and Hercules with malicious retribution on their minds. Dripping with rain and mud, they are shadowy nightmares, only made more terrifying when the lightning gives us a good look the murder in their eyes. Got the idea? Good. Now for the visuals. Imagine being in the audience in 1931, when Universal’s Dracula is your idea of scary, and seeing this…

That’s freakin’ scary now, much less then. Those drenched freaks mean business! It’s one of those images that, if you saw it, you would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the end was near, and that it wasn’t gonna be quick or pretty. I mean, look at these guys…

How much atmosphere does that rain add, huh? An entire pissed off sideshow coming after you with blades is a horrifying sight, but how much creepier do they look dripping wet and muddy. They just seem more crazed that way, don’t they? Then there’s one of the greatest images in horror film history; this guy…

No arms, no legs, knife in his teeth, crawling through the mud, and coming straight after you. That’s brilliant! He’s scary as hell! If he’s going through all of that trouble to get to you, he’s not leaving until he gets his pound of flesh. Plus, throughout the flick we’ve been shown some of the amazing things he can accomplish. He even rolled and lit a cigarette entirely with his mouth. Then we are left to ponder just what atrocities he could commit with a knife in his teeth. That thought alone is absolutely disturbing…or intriguing depending on your outlook. It was just too damn much for 1931 audiences, and I can almost see why.

Yeah Herc, that was probably pretty close to their reactions too. Tod Browning crafted this incredible sequence, and it still stands up as a triumph not just of horror cinema, but of the art of filmmaking itself. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my favorite movie moment involving rain. I’d like to thank Andrew at Encore’s World of Film for the chance to participate in this blogathon. Go check out his blog (just click on the banner at the beginning of the article), enjoy all of the other entries when they're all posted Sunday, and stay tuned to Son of Celluloid for more…huh? What’s that? How did it all end? The freaks caught up with Herc and vengeance was theirs. What about Cleopatra? She didn’t get off quite as easily as Herc did. No, death would have been too merciful. What did they do to her? Well, you’ll just have to watch Freaks and find out for yourself, now won’t you? Gooble gobble!

Oh, a little footnote here; while I was writing this piece this song was in my head. I think it's fitting for this particular blogathon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

All Wet Blogathon coming up this weekend.

You know, it's been a while since I've participated in a blogathon. I think it's about time I did. Encore's World of Film is holding one called the All Wet blogathon. It's all about your favorite movie scene involving rain. Lets see, I write about horror movies. How many hundreds of horror movies take place on "A dark and stormy night?" This is gonna be fun. Come back Saturday for my contribution, and on Sunday I'll post a link so you can go check out all of the other entries. Also, all of my blogging friends, click on that banner and come join in the soggy fun. Let's all get wet together! Um...yeah.

Review: Das Komabrutale Duell

Stabbings! Socket wrench limb transplants! Blood geysers! Beheadings! Face ripping! There, have I got your attention? Good. I figured that would do the trick. International horror is an area where I’m kinda hit and miss. Italian horror I’m well versed in. Japanese horror I’m well versed in. Current French horror I know. Filipino horror and Ozploitation, I have a passable knowledge of. Korean horror I know fairly well. One area that I have only really discovered in the past few of years and I’m doing my best to delve further into is German splatter flicks. I mean, of course I’ve seen and adore all of Jorg Buttgereit’s films like any other self respecting horror freak. I’ve seen Andreas Schnass’s Violent Shit series, and I’ve seen a couple of Olaf Ittenback movies, though strangely I have yet to see his best known film The Burning Moon. I need to go deeper though, and catch up with the likes Marc Rohnstock, Timo Rose, and Andreas Bethmann. While reading up on German underground splatter, I had heard of a German flick called Das Kommabrutale Duell from 1999, even hearing some call it the goriest flick they’d ever seen. So when Stephen Biro at Unearthed Films gave me the opportunity to review Das Kommabrutale Duell, which I will abbreviate as DKD from here on, I was all over it. Let me tell you guys, this flick is a hell of a lot of fun. Oh, one last German horror note. I’ve been trying for what seems like forever to track down Marian Dora's movie Cannibal. It’s out of print and it’s going for a damn fortune on ebay, so if any of you happen to have a copy and wanna hook your old buddy SOC up, I’d be eternally grateful. Yeah, I just put a personal wish list request in a movie review. It’s my blog, and I can do that kinda stuff. Get over it.

Bludgeonings! Shootings! Power drill torture! Fight Scenes! DKD tells the story of a brutal feud between the Eightlets Mafia and the Bandera family. Stephen, a member of the Banderas, has recently gotten out of the hospital after spending years in a coma after an Eightlats attack. Back on the streets he finds that the war is still raging, and that his rivals have murdered his pregnant girlfriend. The Bandera family has an advantage, however. They’re immortal. No matter what you do to them, they just keep on coming. That’s about it. The story is paper thin, but that’s not the point here. That pesky story business is just there to give director/writer/producer Heiko Fipper an excuse to give us 85 minutes of pure nonstop violence. As Joe Bob would say, there’s no plot getting in the way of the story. With this flick, that’s a good thing.

Electrocution! Bondage! Dismemberment! A severed head in a toilet! The acting is fine in this flick. In a serious drama, it probably wouldn’t fly, but it’s more than good enough for this. I especially liked the manic performance Mike Hoffman as Mike Eisentemplar. The scene where he growls the immortal line “Stop babbling like an idiot and tear my fucking head off!” was actually the turning point where I went from “this is pretty cool” to “I love this flick.” There are some other choice lines in this like “Your ribcage is hanging open. I’ll staple it shut in the basement” and “You’ve gotta staple my junk!” Yeah, if this film is to be believed, that stapler can fix damn near anything! The direction is interesting. Sometimes it’s shaky, but that seems more like a side effect of the handheld camera than an intentional gimmick. The frequent freeze frames and slow motion kinda left me puzzled. The editing employs old school iris shot transitions and Warriors style wipe cuts, which I love. There are also some really cool camera angles employed throughout. The fight scenes could have been shot better, in that they could have hidden the AWFUL punches that missed by a mile a little better, but other than that, Fipper proves himself competent and exhibits some dramatic and impressive visual flares.

Swordplay! Table saw skull splitting! Hot glue gun brain surgery! Eye gouging! Everything I’ve talked about so far, the plot, the acting, the directing, the dialog…you know, the things you usually read about in a movie review? Well, they might as well not have been mentioned at all, because they’re all there just as a means to deliver what this flick is really about; the carnage. This one goes way above and beyond in that department. I don’t know if you could tell by the review so far, but DKD is pretty much wall-to-wall gore. I would estimate that there are 3-4 minutes in the entire film where some sort of violence isn’t taking place. Most of the gore looks decent, some of it looks great, and the blood looks awful. Well, not all of the blood, but most of the time what’s spurting out of those Hong Kong-esque arterial sprays looks more like an unholy dollar store tomato soup/coffee/diarrhea concoction than blood. You can’t help but laugh at it, but that’s the point here. This isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. It’s just wholesale slaughter just for the sake of the bloodshed. It’s a celebration of annihilation. I believe that they may have actually used more “blood” than Dead Alive. It’s brutal at times, and it gets pretty slapstick during other scenes. Joe and I nicknamed the fight scenes “Three Stooges Deathmatch.” That’s not to say that this is a horror comedy per se. It’s played straight, and the laughs come from the sheer over-the-topness factor of the splatter. Gorehounds, this one will most definitely be up your alley as much as it was up mine. If the thought of someone getting their brains blown out, their friend tearing off another friend’s head, splitting his brain in two, hot gluing half into each of their heads, and then they both get up and keep going makes you crack up, then this is the flick for you. If not, well, I’m not sure we can be friends any more.

Crotch stapling! Chainsaws! Zombies! Crucifixion! Das Komabrutale Duell is advertised as a “party splatter movie,” and I think that’s a perfect description. This is the kind of flick that is designed for you and your buddies to sit around with your mind-altering substance of choice and alternate between laughing hysterically and saying “Holy shit, did you see that?” It’s banned in Germany. I don’t know about you, but when a film gets banned, I know it’s something I wanna see. I believe Unearthed Films’s release is the only region 1 DVD release ever, so head to their site HERE and get yourself a copy. They don’t come any crazier, they don’t come any bloodier, and they don’t come any more fun. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The winner of the "The Thing" shirt featuring art by Chris Kuchta is...

Well Cellmates, the time has come. I've thrown all of the names into the cauldron...actually, I'm lying. I didn't do it that way this time. I just used 'cause I'm lazy. Anyway, the winner of this truly awesome shirt is...
Ron Oliver!
Congratulations Ron. I'd like to thank Chris Kuchta for letting me bestow some of his awesome wares upon a lucky reader. I'm sure I can speak for Mr. Kuchta when I also say thank you all for entering, we got a great response to the giveaway. If you didn't win, there are three things you can do.
1. Cry about it. Actually, nevermind. Put on your big girl panties, suck it up, and just do 2 and 3.
2. Go order this or another killer shirt or art print from Chris's website.
3. Keep your eyes right here on Son of Celluloid, because I'm gonna have more great giveaways coming up real soon. Like, probably next Monday kinda soon.
So Ron, enjoy your shirt. The rest of you, hang tight for more giveaways, interviews, reviews, and other coolness.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: The Devil's Carnival

Any time a theater experience starts with a live performance by a couple of hot, scantily clad contortionists and a sideshow barker leading the crowd in chants of “Take me to hell!” you know you’re in for a good time. That’s exactly how the festivities kicked off Wednesday at the Plaza. Director Darren Lynn Bousman and writer Terrance Zdunich, the creative minds behind the cult hit Repo! The Genetic Opera have reunited with many of their stock players, as well as some new faces, to being us a new dark musical in The Devil’s Carnival, and they’ve taken the flick on tour. For now, this is the only way to see it, and it comes complete with bonus features in the form of live performances, a 15 minute collection of behind the scenes footage from Repo, and Q & A sessions with the filmmakers and (in select cities) stars. The main event is, of course, the movie itself; and let me tell you folks, it’s a hell of a flick, pun completely intended.
The Devil’s Carnival tells the stories of three lost souls; John, a heartbroken father who kills himself out of grief over his lost son, Merrywood, a kleptomaniac with an obsession for all things sparkly, and Tamara, whose only sins seem to be her gullibility and horrible taste in men. They wake up to find themselves in The Devil’s Carnival. Here, the games, sideshows, and attractions are all presided over by Lucifer and his assorted cast of minions. As Lucifer tells us Aesop’s Tales, their connections to the lives, deaths, and transgressions of the three sinners are revealed. Step right up folks, it’s time to have some fun at the expense of the damned, and there’s a loser every time.
First off, it’s inevitable that this movie is going to draw comparisons to Repo. It’s a musical by the same writer and director and it stars many of the same people. That is about where the similarity ends, however. This flick is completely different. It’s far more dark fantasy musical than horror rock opera. True, it maintains some of the unmistakable songwriting and visual styles of the Bousman/Zdunich creative team, but another Repo it isn’t. In the place of Repo’s dysopian technogoth-cityscape is a surreal carnival nightmare-realm. In place of the industrial rock are tunes that would sound at home in an old time vaudeville show. In place of the violent, sometimes graphic horror of Repo, there are morality tales and dark fantasy. This is a very good thing. As much as I enjoyed Repo, had they gone the safe route and recreated that feel to appeal to Repo’s cult following, I would have been highly disappointed. Instead, in The Devil’s Carnival they have created a whole new world with its own rules, mythology, atmosphere, and magic.
Aesthetically, the flick is mind blowing. During the post shot Q&A, Bousman said that it was filmed in graveyard for carnival equipment. They could not have found a more perfect place. This rag-tag midway was lit with Argento-esque vivid reds, blues, and greens, and accented with lots and lots of darkness. The carnival seems to exist within a void. The result is lush, garish, and desolate at the same time. It looks like something EC comics would have come up with in their heyday. Bousman’s eye for detail and creating compelling visuals is fully on display. The costumes are perfectly appropriate for the setting, and the makeup looks great. Lucifer’s makeup in particular is killer. Like the look of the film itself, he walks a line between cartoonish and menacing. He reminded me a little bit of a better-looking mixture of the devil from Judgement Day and the Graffix bong jester. Wow, let’s see who gets those references. The Painted Doll’s makeup was more subtle, but extremely effective. I hate so single them out, because everyone looked great, but I can’t make the entire review about the makeup and wardrobe.
The acting, however, I could probably go on and on forever about. Everyone was spot on. Honestly, the only thing I could say that I didn’t like about the acting is that only a few characters got significant screen time. A whole carnival’s worth of characters were introduced, but we only really got to know certain ones. As the film is the first of a proposed series, and we learn that certain performers are chosen for certain performances, hopefully we’ll get more time with some of them, particularly Bill Moseley’s Magician, in subsequent films. Writer Terrance Zdunich plays Lucifer, and he eats the screen alive. As good as he was as Graverobber in Repo, I think Old Scratch just might be the role he was born to play. He even gets to deliver the best line of the film “I'm not in the market of killing innocent children. That’s God’s jurisdiction. I just deal with the guilty.” I mean, come on, how great is that line? Dayton Callie pretty much owns every scene he’s in as Ticket-Keeper, Shawn Crahan gets over on sheer presence alone, and Emilie Autumn, who I had never heard of before this film (I know, I know, my friends have already taken me to task over that) is absolutely enchanting as The Painted Doll. There are so many great performances by the likes of Ogre, Sean Patrick Flanery, Briana Evigan, Jessica Lowndes, and so many others that there really isn’t a weak link at all. When you take into account that all of these roles required not only great acting performances, but strong vocal performances as well, the cast becomes even more impressive.
When it comes to the music, I’m not going to lie; I thought it started out a little slow. The first couple of numbers are good, real good, but not great. Then, as the movie picks up steam, so does the soundtrack. The back end is loaded with great tunes. Songs like “Trust Me,” “Beautiful Stranger,” and “Grace for Sale” are all sure-fire crowd-pleasures, showing off both Zdunich’s songwriting skill and his flare for the dramatic. There are a couple of songs, however, that stand head and shoulders above the rest. The first truly great musical moment comes courtesy of Five Finger Death Punch vocalist Ivan Moody as The Hobo Clown. Now I’m not a FFDP fan by any means, but the way he performs “A Penny for a Tale,” a damn good song in its own right, is downright awe-inspiring. His rich baritone soars, wringing and coaxing every last bit of dramatic potential from the song. Who knew there was real talent there? “Prick Goes the Scorpions Tale,” performed by Emilie Autumn, is my personal favorite song in the flick. It’s the “Zydrate Anatomy” of The Devil’s Carnival, meaning that it is the catchiest and the most likely to get firmly stuck in your head. In a perfect world, both of these songs would probably be nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar. Neither would win it though. Why? Because “In All My Dreams I Drown” would take the award, that’s why. Holy shit this duet between Jessica Lowndes and Terrance Zdunich is incredible. I can’t call it my favorite (for personal reasons I find the song kinda depressing), but the power and beauty of this song are undeniable. If this song doesn’t grab you somewhere down deep, you’re either dead or you have no soul. It has a little bit of a Leonard Cohen vibe to it. It’s an absolute masterpiece, and I don’t use that word lightly. I’ll put it this way, out of both Repo and Carnival, it’s the best song, and I could easily see it being covered over and over again once mainstream vocal artists discover it. All of the other songs prove that Zdunich is a skilled composer, but “In All My Dreams I Drown” proves that he’s a master of the craft.
My only complaint about the film is its length. I don’t know the exact running time, but it’s right around an hour. I realize that the short running time was probably due to the budget. I can’t fault it for that, but I would have liked to see more. The back-stories of the three sinners could have used some fleshing out, particularly Tamara, and their judgments felt a little rushed at moments. The ending of the film, however, lets us know that this is just the prologue for a truly intriguing story. I can’t wait to see what comes next. I guess the filmmakers embrace the old carnie philosophy of “always leave them wanting more.”
At this point Cellmates, I’m going to rant a little bit. While I wouldn’t really call this movie “horror,” it does appeal to the same audience, so for the purposes of this little call to action I’m going to consider it under the banner of Independent Horror. There is a lot of lip service paid to the cause of supporting indie horror. I hear people complain all the time that Hollywood and the mainstream film industry is out of ideas and keep feeding us crap. I agree whole-heartedly. The problem is, most horror fans seem unwilling to put their money where their mouth is. They seem unwilling to drive an hour or more to see a limited run indie flick. They’d rather download a torrent than cast a vote for better movies by buying a ticket. They won’t take the time to search these films out. Every time I go to a small theater to see an indie horror movie and I (well, Leah’s usually with me) am the only one there, I fear for the state of the horror business. That’s why it did my heart good to see The Devil’s Carnival Roadshow play to a packed house. It showed me that sometimes, if you capture people’s imaginations, they will show up. As both Bousman and Zdunich emphasized during the Q & A, the support of the fans got this film made, and the continuation of the project all depends on the support of the fans. I implore you Cellmates; if you live in one of the cities listed below, please go see this flick. Not only is it outstanding, but you will be striking a blow for filmmaking outside the Hollywood system. Buy a soundtrack or T-shirt if you can. The indie film industry survives on the support of people just like you and me, so I’ll send out the battle cry you hear so often on this site, SUPPORT INDEPENDENT HORROR! Ok, I’m done ranting now. You can go HERE to get tickets to a show near you. Here are the remaining dates on the tour…
4/20 – Tampa, FL @ The Tampa Pitcher Show
4/21 – Charlotte, NC @ The Neighborhood Theater
4/22 – Richmond, VA @ The Byrd
4/24 – Pittsburgh, PA @ The Hollywood Theater
4/25 – Baltimore, MD @ The Charles Theatre
4/26 – New York, NY @ Times Scare NYC
4/27 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Painted Bride
4/28 – South Hadley, MA @ The Tower Theater
4/29 – Boston, MA @ The Foxboro Theater
5/1 – Toronto, ON, Canada @ Toronto Underground Theater
5/2 – Toledo, OH @ Collingwood Arts Center
5/3 – Chicago, IL @ The Music Box Theater
5/4 – Des Moines, IA @ The Fluer Cinema Cafe
5/5 – Kansas City, KS @ Leawood Cinema Theater
5/6 – Denver, CO @ The Oriental Theater
5/7 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Tower Theater
5/9 – Seattle, WA @ The Admiral Theater
5/10 – Portland, OR @ The Clinton St. Theater
5/11 – Sacramento, CA @ The Colonial Theater
If you live in any of those cities, I can’t recommend enough that you go. This is the kind of movie that is meant to be seen in an atmosphere like this, and as there are no details currently available about a DVD release, this may be your only chance to see it for a while. While they may not be the first to use the “afterlife as carnival” motif (before you even say it Juggalos, it's way older than COC too), I promise you that you’ve never witnessed anything like this movie before. It’s a completely engrossing and enjoyable cinematic experience, and the added fun of the Roadshow just makes it that much better. It’s well worth going out of your way to attend. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Video: My interview with Laurence Harvey from Days of the Dead Atlanta.

I had run into Laurence Harvey a few times throughout the course of Days of the Dead Atlanta, and marveled at how this genuinely friendly, well spoken English gentleman had portrayed the brutal psychotic Martin in Human Centipede so effectively. He told me that if I came by his booth on Sunday he'd be glad to do an interview. Sunday morning rolled around, and I approached him and asked if now was a good time. He looked at me with eyes full of the kind of desperation only known by those working the morning after a night of serious partying and asked "Do you have a cigarette?" With that we stepped outside and filmed this. Probably my favorite moment was before the camera started rolling. I said as diplomatically as possible so as not to offend him "We should sit down. It will make framing easier since there's a bit of a height difference." Mr. Harvey, who, as you can see from the pic is kinda diminutive, smiled and sarcastically laughed "Oh, you noticed!" One thing I do need to point out here; during the interview, he announces that he and Dieter Laser were going to appear together in Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence. Since we did this interview, it has sadly been announced that Deiter Laser has left the cast. Damn, I was so looking forward to seeing Martin and Dr. Heiter together. Oh well. This was one of my favorite interviews from the con, and I felt fortunate to catch him at his first event like this. The video isn't so good on this one because for some reason I had to render it at a lower resolution to get the video and audio to sync up right. I'm still learning as far as the whole video editing and rendering thing goes since I went to a crappy film school, so bear with me. It's still a great interview though. Laurence is the man. The credits song is "Ass to Mouth" by Justin. There's a link in the video description. I couldn't think of a more fitting song. Watch, share, comment, and enjoy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Rage

Rage is not at all what I was expecting. That’s not a bad thing. True, I didn’t know a damn thing about it before I saw it. Well, I did know that it has gotten some good buzz on the festival circuit, but that’s about it. That awesome poster had me thinking it would be an old school slasher flick along the lines of Nail Gun Massacre, Night School, Nightmare Beach, or any other classic “motorcycle helmeted psycho” movies. What I got instead was a cat and mouse thriller, and an effective and entertaining one at that, from the mind of writer/director/costar/cinematographer/editor/sound editor/effects supervisor/damn-near-one-man-crew Chris Witherspoon. With the exception of a couple of lapses into “modern horror” cliché crap visually; this is a well made and skillfully told taut ride that delivers far better than any of the big budget studio stuff being released lately.
Dennis, a struggling writer, has decided that he really does love his wife, so he’d heading into the city to break things off with his mistress. While there, he runs afoul of a mysterious figure on a crotch rocket who may or may not be the jealous ex of his woman-on-the-side scorned. A cat and mouse game ensues between Dennis and The Biker (that’s the character’s actual name) that escalates from taunting and vandalism to physical violence. Dennis eventually loses his pursuer and returns home. The Biker, however, proves to be more determined to destroy Dennis than we thought. With the battle now on the home front, it appears that no one is safe and this fight won’t end until someone isn’t breathing.
Witherspoon has crafted a nice indie thriller here. It’s a very simple setup, but its one that could easily fall apart if not handled correctly. It draws its inspiration from Spielberg’s The Duel; a fact that is hammered home not so subtly when two characters discuss that movie in detail. I also see shades of The Hitcher (the original, not that godawful remake) in there. The pacing of the flick is right on. The first act in the city ramps up the tension and tightens the screw consistently. I’ve heard a couple of people say that it drug in the middle, but I think that little respite was necessary to make the Biker’s reappearance and the final act more forceful. I also liked that moments of black humor punctuated the suspense. One moment involving a mistaken identity I saw coming a mile away but it was so well played that it still had me laughing out loud. A great score helps the proceedings immensely. It’s minimalist in the right spots and hard hitting when it needs to be. I absolutely loved the “reveal” at the end. It makes the film more realistic at the last minute and makes the entire film more chilling in retrospect. It also puts it firmly in “this could happen to you” territory. It’s also refreshing that, in the end, nothing is alright and no one is going to live happily ever after.
The acting is quite good. The supporting cast, of which there are very few, do well, and the three leads really shine. Rick Crawford, who plays Dennis, is excellent. He plays a very emotionally complex character well. He’s very expressive. He reminds me a little of Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs. My only issue with him isn’t with the acting, but the character. We feel for Dennis throughout the movie as he is bullied and tormented by The Biker, but later on in the flick he proves himself to be such a spineless, cowardly wuss that it’s difficult to muster much sympathy for him. I’m not 100% sure if that’s what they were going for, but I think they wanted the audience to develop a disdain for the character by the end, and they accomplished their goal. Audrey Walker, who plays Dennis’ wife Crystal, positively OWNS the final third of the movie. Her acting in the rape scene alone is award worthy. She doesn’t play a big role in the initial proceedings, but when the third act comes crashing in, she delivers a tour de force performance. Chris Witherspoon, in a very Argento like move, plays the killer in his own film. He steps in front of the camera as The Biker, and he plays him perfectly. There is a universally recognizable quality to him, which is needed for an “everyman psycho” type of character. At the same time, just like Voorhees, Myers, or any other masked, mute character, a certain amount of personality has to be portrayed purely through bodily movement. Witherspoon does just that. The combination of both makes the Biker oddly familiar yet coldly menacing. In other words, Witherspoon plays a great villain.
When it comes to the violence, this is one of those flicks where you can tell just how big of a horror fan the reviewer is. I’ve seen reviewers call the flick “brutally violent” and talk about gore. These must be the more mainstream movie watchers who are unaccustomed to real gore. The more seasoned horror freaks talk about how the film doesn’t focus on the carnage. I think they’re understating the case. The only scene that I would call truly brutal is the rape scene. Make no mistake; that scene is brutal. Those particularly sensitive to sexual violence might have problems getting through it. Most of the other mayhem takes place either off screen or with shaky cam and rapid edits obscuring our view. I’ll get back to that in a moment. I’ll also contradict what I’m about to say two paragraphs down, but get over it. That’s how I roll. Anyway, the film doesn’t focus on the violence going on, it focuses more on the character’s reactions to what is going on. I really dug that. It made the violence more real, and therefore more affecting. For example, during the rape scene we could have watched what The Biker was actually doing to Crystal the whole time, and it would have been harrowing. Instead, we see what’s going on, but the camera focuses more on the faces of Crystal and Dennis while the deed is being done, and it hits like a punch in the gut. With actors as strong as Walker and Crawford, focusing on their emotional reactions made it so much more intense than just showing the action would have. This focus on the effect of the violence rather than the act itself is thematic as well as visual. For example, throughout the first part of the movie, The Biker’s attacks on Dennis are far shorter than the time we spend watching Dennis fall apart as a result of them. Good call on Witherspoon’s part.
That brings me to the look of the film, meaning the cinematography, editing and overall visual style. I think this is the movie’s greatest strength as well as its greatest weakness. For the most part, this movie looks amazing, especially when you take the budget into account. It has a cool saturated color palate that really makes the action pop. Witherspoon proves that he has a real gift for setting up great shots and moving the camera with purpose. Throughout the movie, it has a very old school feel without seeming dated. For the most part, it doesn’t rely on new school camera “trickery,” it’s just beautiful shots that are edited in such a way that the visual power really gets a chance to shine. It’s refreshing to see a film that’s not a “throwback” using this kind of back to basics approach of a movie just plain ‘ol being shot well. There’s one shot, a simple close-up of Dennis’ eyes, that is lit, framed, and captured so perfectly that I paused it just to admire the shot for a moment.
Then, when the Biker physically attacks Dennis, the shaky cam and rapid fire editing starts. Why, oh why, did Witherspoon have to do that? If you read this blog, you know how much I abhor shaky cam and rapid fire editing during action sequences. It mars an otherwise gorgeous movie. The idea behind this technique is that it’s supposed to add intensity to a violent scene. It actually does quite the opposite, lessening its impact. Remember when I said that I liked the way that the violence is less important than its mental effect on the characters? Well, if the camera had been allowed to gaze at the violence in the same way that it pores over the rest of the movie, the flick could have had its cake and ate it too. Had the violence been allowed to shine AND been coupled with the focus on its emotional toll, it would have been amazing! Next to the camera mastery of the rest of the film, however, the style used to shoot these scenes really stood out like a sore thumb and took me out of the movie. The same goes for some of the digital manipulation of the film, such as when the screen dissolves into black and white for flashbacks, or the annoying “jump cuts of basically the same shot” thing everyone does these days. Witherspoon’s shots are more than strong enough to speak for themselves without employing these “cheat” tactics. I think he should have had more confidence in the action itself and not felt the need to use techniques that are usually used to hide deficiencies, because that weren’t there to hide in the first place. These few moments frustrated the hell out of me. I realize that these aren’t so much mistakes as artistic choices, but I feel that they are choices that hurt the film.
Chris Witherspoon is definitely a name I’ll be watching out for in the future. Despite him embracing some abhorrent recent trends in horror film-making, he’s got a lot of skill, real talent, and I’m excited to see what he comes up with in the future. I really liked Rage. It was one of those “slow burn to an intense climax” films, which are sadly becoming a lost art. Honestly, I’m surprised this flick isn’t better known than it is. It definitely deserves wider recognition. Rage looks great, has a simple but classic story, features great acting, and holds its suspense commendably. Plus, it’s got chainsaw murders. How can you not love a flick with chainsaw murders? One and a half severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Video: My interview with Sean Whalen from Days of the Dead Atlanta.

It's time for another interview from Days of the Dead. This time it's Sean Whalen. Horror fans probably know him best as Roach from People Under the Stairs (one of my favorites), but you've also seen him in Idle Hands, Laid to Rest, and the classic "Aaron Burr" Got Milk commercial among many others. Sean was really cool. I think my favorite moment was the look on his face when I asked him about Python. There's some static going on in parts of the audio, and I have no idea what happened. This is the only interview it happened on. No clue. Whatever, I'm posting it anyway, screwed up sound and all. So there. Anyway, go check out Sean's videos on youtube, particularly Dorothy 50 Years Later, it's funny as hell. Enjoy, and I'll post another interview next week. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, comment on the video. I like comments. Just humor me.

By the way, the music that you hear over the credits is "Forsaken (Requiem)" by The Crimson Ghosts.  It's off of their album Dead Eyes Can See. They're bad ass, go check 'em out HERE.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Zombiethon

This review originally appeared at

Ah, Zombiethon, how I love you. This movie and I go way back. How far? To the big box VHS days, that’s how far. I used to rent this flick from my local video store on a regular basis. I’ve always had a thing for zombies. My zombie obsession predated the current fad. I was zombie crazy before it was cool. I have zombies on vinyl. Sorry, I went hipster there for a moment. If it happens again, just smack me. Anyway, I was originally drawn in by what is still some of my favorite cover art of all time (Wizard Video always had killer cover art), rented it, and fell in love with it. A couple of years later, I happened to find a copy on sale for 5 bucks. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it. I also couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve lamented how obscure and hard to find it is. Well folks, thanks to Full Moon’s Grindhouse Collection, Zombiethon is finally available on DVD. Now you too can own a copy and witness the nostalgic 80’s flesh munching glory for yourself.

See? I now own two generations of Zombiethon.

Zombiethon is one of many horror compilation tapes released during the home video heyday. These featured clips from horror movies, presumably all the best parts, with some sort of framing device. They were advertised as “all killer, no filler.” Probably the best known flick of this type is Terror in the Aisles. That one featured short clips from A-list fright fare interspersed with Donald Pleasance saying a bunch of pretentious, pseudo-intellectual crap like “Perhaps we invent artificial horrors to help us cope with the real ones." Zombiethon features clips, and in some cases whole scenes, from b-movie zombie (mostly) fare, almost all of them involving gore and nudity, interspersed with some of the wackiest and most bizarre zombie scenes ever filmed. Now you tell me which one you’d rather see. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Zombiethon by a landslide.

There’s really no worry about spoilers here, as there’s really not a plot, so let’s just jump in brains first, shall we? We start off with a woman in a schoolgirl outfit being chased by a zombie. The camera spends most of the time looking up her skirt by the way. Charles Band, who owned Wizard video, never has been one to skimp on the sleaze. He chases her all the way to The El Rey Theater, where she goes inside, sits next to a bunch of other zombies, and proceeds to watch a truncated version of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie. This review may break the record for the most uses of the word zombie in one post. Anyway, all the good stuff is here, aka the nudity and gore. The zombie vs. shark fight is here, as is a smorgasbord of undead mayhem, including the scene that had a big hand in me renting this over and over. You see, I have an unhealthy obsession with the infamous eyeball scene from Zombie, and my video store didn’t have that movie, but they did have Zombiethon. Then we cut to a bikini clad girl on the beach, who is attacked by what I’m guessing is a robot zombie. No, it doesn’t make any sense, but who cares? This is Zombiethon! She runs away to the El Ray, where we now see clips from Zombie Lake. We start off with some underwater skinny dipping footage that can only be described as rather, well…gynecological. Lots of “Nazi Zombies attacking naked women” goodness ensues, culminating in some flamethrower action.

Then, in my favorite moment of the flick, a woman in a sheer white dress spouts some bad goth poetry on a beach. There’s something about a voodoo doll, and she takes off the dress. Then a zombie rises out of the sand and picks her up in his arms. As she embraces her undead date, she coos seductively into his ear “I want more out of life. Let’s go to a movie.” Guess where he carries his topless bride. Yep, to the good ol’ El Ray! This is one of my favorite ridiculous moments in cinema history. What does any of this surreal random crap mean? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s brilliant in its weirdness.

After some footage from Oasis of the Zombies, another zombie chases a woman and her young daughter into the theater. Then the zombies watch scenes from Fear, aka Murder Syndrome. This flick is notable for two reasons. One, it’s the only movie in this movie (damn that sounds weird) that I haven’t seen. Two, it’s not even a zombie movie. I have no idea why it’s in Zombiethon. There are some gory murders, including one by chainsaw that I particularly enjoy, but no zombies. Hmmm. We then thrill to the hijinks of the incredibly fake looking zombies in the theater, including the zombie projectionist who is having a hell of a time switching reels. Some of the cheesiest music ever recorded plays over this “hilarity.” The Invisible Dead is up next, and it doesn’t have any zombies either. What the hell? It does have some terrible dialog, 70’s bush, and a semi-invisible gorilla however, so you can’t be too mad. In the meantime the little girl is playing with the zombies; who throw popcorn, remove each others heads, raise hell, and generally act like the usual Friday night crowd at your local multiplex. It was the 80’s, so at least they weren’t texting. After that there’s some footage from Virgin Among the Living Dead. Then, with just a touch of its burning hand, Zombiethon sends its Astro-Zombies to rape the land. Prime directive, exterminate the whole human race. If you don’t get that reference, I don’t think we can be friends any more. Anyway, the zombies decide to throw a party in the theater and it’s time to go home.

There is nothing I don’t love about this movie. Some of the zombies look awful. The music is cheesy as hell. The cutscenes make no sense. It’s so ludicrous that it’s beautiful. You also have the best parts of Fulci’s Zombie, which is one of the best undead flicks ever made, Oasis of the Zombies, which is one of the worst undead flicks ever made, and five more in between. The picture quality in some of the recycled video footage is sub-par, but that’s part of Zombiethon’s charm. It will take you back to the days when you didn’t have pristine quality prints of foreign gore films. This is how many of us started watching these movies, on worn out VHS tapes. The Hi-Def snobs can shut the hell up.

Those who grew up on this stuff, those who respect the history of the genre, and those after a retro horror experience will dig Zombiethon. It’s the perfect time capsule of the golden age of the video store. There’s plenty of shlock, blood, guts, and tits. Who could ask for more? For me, it’s a fun ride down memory lane, and I am ecstatic that Full Moon has made it available again. Now I can stop worrying about my VHS copy giving out on me. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.
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