Saturday, April 30, 2016

Downton Abbey Werewolves on a Train, or thoughts on Howl

Missing Downton Abbey?  You can see Ed Speelers, who you remember as Jimmy the handsome footman in a small, direct to video indie British werewolf movie, Howl (2015).  He plays Joe, a train guard in love with the tea girl, trying for a promotion and working the night shift when the train breaks down and he’s held siege in the forest by howling wolves.  The passengers include your typical cross-section of London life; a bored teen, a pretentious yuppie, a nice older couple who remembers The War, a British lady with a small yappy dog, an overworked professional lady, a nerdy anorak student and a hungover football hooligan.  All it takes is no phone service and one werewolf outside the doors to unite this disparate group of commuters.
This is no Shaun of the Dead with werewolves; it’s an old-fashioned horror with none of that dry British humor, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  The werewolves look more like naked Viking beserker bodybuilders but with lots of teeth, I'm just grateful they didn't CGI them.  Sean Pertwee’s cameos as the unlucky train driver.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Saving Private Werewolf, or Thoughts on Dog Soldiers

Dog Soldiers (2002), was an updated old fashioned werewolf movie, starring Kevin McKidd, who you may remember as Lucius Vorenus from Rome, as Private Cooper and Sean Pertwee as the avuncular hard man Sgt. Wells, classic non-com, taking care of his troops and getting them home in time for footy.  Together with their squad they’re on a training mission in the Scottish Highlands when they encounter Liam Cunningham from Game of Thrones as SAS Captain Ryan and a pack of werewolves.
In the first half of the movie we get to know and like the soldiers, as they tell war stories around the campfire and set the mood.  They keep finding bloody entrails and dead cattle lying in the woods so you know where this will end up.  The mandatory resistance and arguments about the existence of werewolves in this type of movie is short; they’re soldiers, they have an enemy and it’s as simple as that.  The bipedal werewolves refreshingly analog, guy in a suit, like the original Alien but with fur, and the first twilight firefight with tracer rounds and werewolf shadows is beautifully filmed.
The second half is in a farmhouse that they can fortify and also has a convenient selection of sterling silverware they can melt into bullets.  The movie turns into Night of the Living Dead except with werewolves, and they just have to make it through the night, until they discover the larger government conspiracy, the secret program to weaponize lycanthropy, of course.

Director Neil Marshall, also director of The Descent (2005) and the under-rated Doomsday (2008) moved onto TV and directing episodes of Game of Thrones, Black Sails, Constantine and Hannibal, basically all of your favorite shows.  Sean Pertwee, son of Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor, can be seen in Gotham as Alfred Pennyworth, playing basically the same character.  He also had a cameo in another werewolf movie, Howl (2015).  He first came to my notice in Event Horizon (1997) and don’t forget he was Inspector Lestrade in Elementary.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Werewolf, The Witch, and The Bride, or Thoughts on Penny Dreadful Season 2

Ethan Chandler turned out to be a werewolf at the end of Season One, bringing the Universal Monster count up to three and introducing Inspector Rusk, investigating what is now known as the Mariner’s Inn Massacre.  It’s always interesting to see these Dexter paradigm flips; in any other TV series a Victorian detective chasing a werewolf Jack the Ripper would be a great show, in Penny Dreadful Inspector Rusk is the bad guy.
The Vanessa Ives back-story is filled out in flashbacks of her witch education on the moors, and the more we learn about her the more intriguing she becomes.  Her haunted eyes are utilized to great effect as she is tormented throughout Season 2 by a rival witch.
Sir Malcom falls under the spell said rival witch Evelyn Poole, played by Helen McCrory who you may remember as another witch, Narcissa Malfoy, and her three daughters.  She has a memorable introduction in her room full of creepy antique dolls (actually modern, considering the time period) in which she does doll-surgery and gives them human hearts.
The Creature, now known as John Clare, finds redemption for a while in a wax museum with a nice family and a blind daughter, but you should know by now that there are no happy endings in Penny Dreadful.  There are some odd moments where Vanessa Ives and John Clare meet doing charity work at a cholera ward.  The two characters intersect and share a kinship as outsiders without being aware of the larger plot elements surrounding them and develop a casual friendship.  They enjoy nice conversations on poetry and philosophy between fighting witches and tearing people in half.  It seems superfluous and unnecessary to the plot but being as these are the two most interesting characters in the series, why not put them in some scenes?
Billie Piper becomes the Lily, the Bride of Frankenstein, after dying of consumption but being helped along by Victor.  It’s complicated because she was resurrected for the Creature but of course Victor falls in love with her but at least now she’s blonde again and can speak with her actual accent.
Dorian Grey meets a trans Lady, Angelique, and scandalizes London nightlife without being involved in the larger story arc, although he’s still enamored with Vanessa Ives.  But we finally get to see his portrait, chained and alive in a secret room, and also very reminiscent of William Blake painting.
Ferdinand Lyle, as played with campy bohemian panache by Simon Russell Beale is upgraded to team member as their expert in dead languages and all around researcher, charmed by Ethan Chandler who’s happy to flirt back.  His amused self-assurance is refreshing in our polarized modern world.

Much like American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful takes familiar characters and reshuffles them into new and updated circumstances.   American Horror Story does it with its cast while reformatting the premise, while Penny Dreadful tells a more traditional tale.  However both series paint their stories in bloody swaths of boundary-pushing scenarios in an effort to entertain their viewers, the modern Grand Guignol audience.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

At the Birth of the French New Wave Action Thriller, or Thoughts on Luc Besson’s Nikita

Anne Parillaud stars in Nikita (1990)
 Kinetic action filmmaker Luc Besson, director and producer of The Professional (1994), The Fifth Element (1997) and The Transporter (2002), introduced his signature style with Nikita (1990), released in the US as La Femme Nikita (1990).  Nikita was one of the first big budget action movies with a female action hero.  French actress Anne Parillaud’s transformation from violent junkie street punk to violent chic supermodel hadn’t really been done before in the early 90’s, the simple act of flipping the gender dynamics was considered revolutionary.  Diving down a garbage chute being chased by a fireball shot by an RPG was a stunt usually reserved for Arnold, Sly and Jean-Claude before Nikita.  Xena, Warrior Princess came in 1995 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer arrived two years later in 1997, and those two ladies were on TV, not the big screen. 
The film is en Francais, so you’ll have to read subtitles but don’t let that put you off.  The first half of the movie is one long training montage as Nikita learns spycraft from French handler Tcheky Karyo, combat skills and also gets an advanced education in makeup and seduction by Jeanne Moreau.  The second half is a gloriously violent, Gaelic/Hong Kong action movie as Nikita, now a highly trained killer black ops agent is released into the wild.  The politics of her kills are never explained or elaborated upon, the audience simply accepts the premise that all governments have state-sponsored assassins.  Nikita becomes a French James Bond, a Jeanne Bond, if you will.
Anne Parillaud was married to Luc Besson at the time (he would leave her to marry Milla Jovavich), and there’s also a Jean Reno cameo where he plays the Cleaner, a variation on the role he would go on to play in Luc Besson’s Leon, or The Professional with a very young Natalie Portman in 1994.  The movie inspired an American shot for shot remake, Point of No Return (1993) starring Bridget Fonda, and 2 TV series.  Luc Besson went on to produce both The Transporter and Taken franchises, but with the box-office safety net of casting charismatic male action stars.

This is my 100th post, so I made a Nikita poster for you...

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It’s The League of the Supernatural Gentlemen, or Thoughts on Penny Dreadful Season 1

Penny Dreadfuls, the Victorian precursor to American pulp fiction, was a response to the rising literacy amongst the working class and one of the first iterations of pop culture.  Instead of reading Jane Austen or poems by Browning, the people wanted tales of sordid murders and unspeakable crimes.  This demand gave rise to the supernatural themes that we enjoy to this day, perhaps the most famous of the time being Varney the Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood.
Which brings us to Season One of Penny Dreadful (2014), which takes a bunch of literary titans: Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein and his Creation, Dorian Grey, and in future seasons Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and places them (figuratively) in an elegant Victorian drawing room.  All of these characters are in public domain and up for grabs, but they also provide a cinematic shorthand for the kind of series the audience can expect.
The most interesting characters however, are the ones that have been specifically created for the series, especially former Bond Girl Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, the breakout star.  Her portrayal of a tormented, psychic witch, devout without being tiresomely preachy, solemn and sensual, all eyes and refined manners, acts as an emotional core to the series. 
Timothy Dalton, proving once again that there is life after Bond, as Sir Malcom Harker, the default leader of the expedition, or at least the one with all the money.  Josh Hartnett plays Ethan Chandler, the American cowboy with a secret, originally hired as a bodyguard and becomes a valuable member of the team.  Along the way he meets Doctor Who favorite Billie Piper as Brona Croft, (“means sadness” she explains in a coarse working-class Irish lilt).
Harry Treadaway and Rory Kinnear as Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster weave in and out of the story as Sir Malcom’s medical expert while going off to perform his own experiments.  Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of the Monster as a savage, anguished yet eloquent man of the Modern Age is complex and layered with nuance.  The Frankenstein addition makes the series technically steampunk, but the series remains firmly in the supernatural demi-monde, as Vanessa Ives explains.  The ridiculously handsome Reeve Carney as Dorian Grey, but alas we don’t get to see his portrait until Season Two.
In this gaslit world of opium dens and Grand Guignol theaters, the vampire gets an Egyptian mythos back-story and the audience is treated to a shocking monster switcheroo with Dr. Frankenstein.  The modern, almost Matrix-like action scenes, juxtaposed with the sumptuous costumes and period-accurate sets work better than they should, adding to the unreal quality of the dark world they are exploring.  The Individual story arcs intersect nicely as the plot is centered amongst a small group in London, rather than, say, a diverse group in Westeros.
Much like HBO’s Rome and Starz’ Spartacus, the series also goes to great pains to include LGBT characters and how they lived and were treated in that time period.  Simon Russell Beale plays Ferdinand Lyle, an amateur Egyptologist, closeted and married, in the sense that Oscar Wilde was also married, Dorian Grey is bisexual and even Ethan Chandler romances men with the same easy charm that he does women. 
The First Season has the team fighting vampires, introducing the players and saving Sir Malcom’s daughter, Mina Harker.  If that name is familiar to you that is because you remember it from a certain novel by Bram Stoker, another author who has been dead for at least 101 years, and the countless movies based on it.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Gothic Grandeur and Cyanide, or Thoughts on Raul Julia in The Addams Family

 Excellent casting decisions and a respect for the source material made Chas Addams’ eponymous cartoon and TV show a box office hit in 1991 with the big screen debut of The Addams Family.  The opening scene reproduces the classic New Yorker cartoon concerning Christmas carolers and immediately sets the tone and introduces Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Thing and Lurch to a new generation.
Thing is freed from his box and roams the halls on his fingers, an obvious green screen effect that looked revolutionary and new in 1991.  He still plays chess with Gomez but his bloodless stump ensures that this PG-13 reboot will focus more on humor than horror, much like the original cartoon.
Gomez and Morticia’s immortal love story is told in a series of sword fights and tangos.    Latin American acting superstar Raul Julia and Hollywood royalty Angelica Huston (Director John’s daughter) consume their roles with dramatic abandon.   Raul Julia portrays Gomez as debonair, singing and athletic madman.  The malice-obsessed patriarch is equally matched by Angelica Huston’s dark and glamorous Morticia, played with sly wit and a sharp tongue in shades of black and silver, lit in every scene like a black and white silent movie star.  The house is a family member too with secret passages, haunted libraries and growling polar bear rugs.  Star Trek alumni Carel Struycken plays Lurch with Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester.
The cartoon and 60’s TV show has always been about the real world conforming to The Addams Family, and not vice versa, and Director Barry Sonnenfeld makes every effort to reproduce the cartoons we remember in between plot points.  However the movie is stolen by an 11 year-old Christina Ricci in one of her first roles.  Serious, solemn, and homicidal, her Wednesday Addams completely overshadows Jimmy Workman’s Pugsley and dominates every scene she’s in, including a Tarantino inspired death scene from Hamlet for the school recital, complete with severed limbs and blood squibs.
The film inspired two sequels and a Broadway musical, and is admirably summarized by Morticia’s quote of the Addams Family motto; “Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc” (we gladly feast upon those who would subdue us). 

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Weekend Movie Suggestions, or Haunted Hijinks with Grungy Christina Ricci in Casper

Christina Ricci’s most famous role to date being Wednesday Addams, it seemed natural to cast her in Casper (1995), a remake of the 50’s comic and cartoon.  She plays Kat Harvey, a precocious, self-assured teen moves to Whipstaff Manor in Friendship, Maine.  Her technical level of professionalism as an actor is impressive and a little scary considering her youth and it’s worth watching if only for the free acting lessons.  Whipstaff Manor is of course the home of Casper and his three wiseguy ghost uncles, Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso.
Casper, as voiced by Malachai Pearson, is a very friendly ghost, and the CGI character interacts with the human actors in a far more organic and intimate way than Jar Jar ever did.  He’s translucent; the technology is reminiscent of Slimer from Ghostbusters (1984) and very close to the original illustrations.  The entire conceit works because the filmmakers weren’t going for realism and this is essentially a lighthearted kids comedy set in a haunted house. 
There are cameos galore by Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson, Ben Stein, Don Kassir as the Cryptkeeper, Don Novello, aka Father Guido Sarducci as an exorcist and also Dan Akroyd in full Ghostbusters wardrobe.  The movie is far more successful than Eddie Murphy’s The Haunted Mansion (2003) or Tim Burton’s forgettable Dark Shadows remake (2012).

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Purple Movie in Black and White, or Thoughts on Prince in Under The Cherry Moon

Rock and roll movies are historically tricky.  It’s a general rule of thumb for the public that musicians can’t act, and vice versa.   No one went to see an Elvis movie for the plot.  Those line have blurred a bit since the 80’s with the introduction of music videos, and Prince was one of the first artists to take advantage with his big screen debut in Purple Rain (1984) and his second film, Under The Cherry Moon (1986).
Directed by Prince, Under the Cherry Moon was filmed in black and white.  The movie opens in a smoky Casablanca (1942)-inspired bar with a nice Art Deco font for the credits to set the mood and tone.  Prince is playing piano in a glittery headband and ruffled shirt, and his eyeliner and cheekbones dominate the screen.  It’s an 80’s version of the 40’s with shoulder pads and big hair. 
Prince plays Christopher, a gigolo/hustler/piano player who indulges in rose petal baths, buying out flower stands and somehow transcending race, sexuality and labels of gay or straight.  He’s Prince, the world’s greatest lover, and that’s all you need to know.  Is it any different than Elvis playing a racecar driver in Viva Las Vegas?  Though I’m certain Prince saw himself more as Valentino than Elvis in this movie, and in life.
Prince creates a fantasy world of elegant parties with footmen in wigs, white linen suits and random elephants, where he can gatecrash wearing backless silk jackets, matador pants and his signature Cuban heels.  Although he plays a piano player, the movie doesn’t showcase Prince’s musical talents, and focuses instead on his showmanship, and shaky comedic timing.  The movie only truly comes to life during the musical numbers, where Prince can do splits on pianos and showcase his signature moves and voice.
He falls love with heiress Kristen Scott Thomas in her first movie.  She is, regrettably, the only one in this movie who can act.  Prince doesn’t need to act; he’s playing his himself, a character and brand he crafted, decades before Lady Gaga. 
The movie was not a success, and currently holds a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Hip Hop was transforming the musical landscape at the time and would leave Prince far behind, and his vision of old-Hollywood glamour would soon be eclipsed by thug life and gold chains.  But he did get to star and direct in two more films, the live concert movie Sign O’ the Times (1987) and the sequel to Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge (1990), in addition to writing the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).

The world lost a little glamour yesterday, and he will be sorely missed.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Rise of Giselle St. Clair, or Thoughts on Better Call Saul Season 2

From her first, unexplained appearance in Season 1 smoking a cigarette in Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill’s shadowy parking garage like a modern Edward Hopper painting, attorney Kim Drexler, played with exasperating perfection by Rhea Seehorn, has emerged as Jimmy’s primary motivation, after of course, his own self-interest.  Along with his brother Chuck, she’s the most interesting new character of the show, and the closest thing Jimmy has to an equal partner and confidante.
Kim’s Mesa Verde client phoning montage, to dig her out of the hole Jimmy created, shows her ambition and determination, two qualities that always win an audience over.  She’s savvy, smart and her only flaw is her friendship with Jimmy, though she’s just as aware as Chuck about his fondness for shortcuts and side-deals.
As for Jimmy, he was sidetracked for most of the season by his $7000 cocobolo desk and corner office at Davis & Main, a job he took to impress Kim.  His cause for termination montage with loud suits and even louder bagpipes and smelly bathrooms is just as amusing as Kim’s montage, but only because we as an audience enjoy seeing Jimmy act like Saul.
There’s a heartbreaking scene at the start of episode 7, “Inflatable”, where young Jimmy watches his father get scammed by another hard luck story.  Even with his insistence his father refuses to believe that a stranger would lie to him.  The flashback serves a dual purpose, it shows the viewers that young Jimmy McGill has always had a talent for grifting and taking advantage of human nature and it forms his worldview of wolves and sheep.
Chucks psychosomatic electrical allergy continues to wreak havoc on both the McGill brothers, but he has evolved into a formidable enemy for Jimmy.  Their sibling rivalry becomes almost biblical in the final episode as their mother calls for Jimmy on her deathbed, while Chuck sits with her.  Always the good son, the dutiful son, but everyone liked Jimmy more because he could make them laugh.  And it’s nice to see Clea Duvall in these hospital scenes getting some work and screen time in the tiny and thankless role of Chuck’s physician.
Better Call Saul circles around the process of becoming Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad, but it’s a much faster arc for Mike Ermentraut.  Mike and Jimmy have joined forces on occasion and have overlapping circles, maybe even travelling a parallel path, but they’re not exactly simpatico, as Jimmy would say.  Mike’s hard stare and soft heart, as demonstrated by his obvious affection for his daughter in-law and granddaughter, the reason he moved to New Mexico, is juxtaposed by his one-man war against Hector Salamanca.  He’s buying sniper rifles taking shady side-jobs to support his family and I suppose, out of boredom.  Nobody really wants to retire; you always need a project to occupy your day.  Why not keep your skill-set sharp and rob a cartel?
Season Two ends on a dual cliffhanger for Jimmy and Mike that is still emotionally satisfying because we trust the writers and they’ve told us a good story so far.  Jimmy still hasn’t made the transition to what Jesse so eloquently referred to as a “criminal lawyer” but he’s closer.  Also, knowing the ending, this being a prequel to Breaking Bad, allows us to relax and enjoy the journey until we reach that point where Badger gets arrested and Walter White shows up in Saul’s waiting room.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Subverting the Medium is the Message, or Thoughts on David Cronenberg’s Videodrome

David Cronenberg, the Canadian David Lynch crafted Videodrome (1983), a provocative, and surreal erotic sci-fi thriller that is still thematically relevant today though the tech is a little dated. It’s similar to Ringu (1998) or The RIng (2002), in that how scared can you get about a haunted VHS tape when you don’t even own a video player anymore?  But like that old quote by Marshall McLuhan, what happens when the message becomes the medium, in the form of organic television sets and digital hallucinatory dreams?
James Woods stars as Max Renn, the managing director of a sleazy Toronto cable TV station searching for new content to titillate his late night viewers when he discovers Videodrome; a pirate TV station broadcasting what appears to be real scenes of scenes of sexual sadism in an ominous red room with walls made of meat or clay.  Debbie Harry, in a signature red dress that contributed to the overall vision of the movie, portrays masochistic radio psychiatrist Nicki Brand.  Both of the main characters are in media, connecting with audience over the airwaves, which concurrently creates intimacy and distance.  Both characters become obsessed with the Videodrome, Max wants to produce it and Nicki wants to star in it.
David Cronenberg is literally filming the last days of Rome as Max passes on a TV series about Roman orgies and chases what the filmmaker calls “the subterranean market” and explores the nature of realism; what is real, and what we perceive as reality on TV. 
“The television screen has become the retina of the mind’s eye,” states Professor Brian O’Blivion (such an 80’s punk rock name, played by Jack Creley), running the Cathode Ray Mission where everyone watches television in cardboard booths for salvation.  The movie gets stranger and more surreal as it progresses, drawing the viewer into Max’s hallucinatory visions of pulsating videos, flesh guns and intestines spilling out of TV screens.  The Videodrome signal induces brain tumors in the viewer, which causes the hallucinations, and of course, this being the 80’s, is central to a government conspiracy.
But the most intriguing aspect of Videodrome is how it fetishizes media; TV screens, cathode ray tubes, video formats and videotapes just as much as the content they provide.  Thanks to special effects by makeup legend Rick Baker television becomes organic and flesh becomes machine, a theme David Cronenberg would explore in depth in Crash (1996).  In Videodrome TV is the drug, the embodiment of our digital hallucinations, all our hopes, dreams, nightmares and darkest fantasies.
The infamous cigarette burn scene and the flesh gun scene have softened over time as we have access to far more disturbing and real content online.  We live in Videodrome now, staring at our tiny screens, addicted to our phones, relating to our world and staying connected through this elaborate sequence of zeroes and ones.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

70’s Canadian Swinger Zombies, or Marilyn Chambers in Rabid

Canadian director David Cronenberg made Rabid (1977), a bio-horror classic starring porn queen Marilyn Chambers (Behind the Green Door, 1972) in her mainstream debut as Rose.  Her first scene in black leather is reminiscent of Marianne Faithful in Girl on a Motorcycle (1968).  Regrettably she crashes but fortunately for her there’s an isolated plastic surgery clinic in the woods nearby, conveniently staffed by a mad doctor with controversial treatments.
The doctor treats her injuries with what writer Cronenberg calls “morphogenetically neutral” tissue, which mutates into a rather phallic stinger from her armpit that feeds on blood.  Mariilyn Chamber’s porn background and natural 70’s sex appeal becomes apparent as she uses her body and looks to attract her willing male victims, much like a vampire.  And once she gets her arms around you, you’re done.
The virus spreads with flu symptoms, including light sensitivity and bleeding from the eyes before going full 28-Days-Later-zombie, but with foaming mouths.  This is 9 years after Night of the Living Dead, exploring similar themes but without the supernatural element.  The mutation, infection, and outbreak is misdiagnosed in the press as rabies, and causes the inevitable panic and societal breakdown. Montreal tries to control the outbreak with hazmat suits, military checkpoints and martial law, but if we’ve learned one thing from this genre it’s all it takes is one infected to start up a new vector.
David Cronenberg made some of the creepiest horror movies of 80’s including Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983) The Fly remake starring Jeff Goldblum (1986), and Dead Ringers (1988) before going mainstream with violent crime thrillers like A History of Violence (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007).
Rabid crosses boundaries between science, sexuality, and horror in creepy and disturbing ways, themes the director also explored in Shivers (1975) with STD zombies.  He almost single-handedly developed the bio-horror genre, but what’s really strange is seeing all the doctors and patients casually smoking in the hospital like it’s no big deal. 

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Plight of the Over-Eager Ghost Hunter, or Thoughts on Sara Paxton in The Innkeepers

Old hotels, schools and theaters are notoriously haunted.  Anywhere where large groups of people interacted, laughed, loved and cried is bound to pick up a few ghost stories, given enough time.  The setting of an old hotel over a long weekend is used to great effect in The Innkeepers (2011), written and directed by Ti West from You’re Next (2011) and The House of the Devil (2009). 
Sara Paxton (the mermaid in Aquamarine 2006) plays Claire, an awkward, asthmatic, over-imaginative, slacker ghost hunter working front desk of the The Yankee Pedlar Inn, an actual historic 1891 Connecticut hotel that looks haunted enough with it’s narrow hallways and winding stairs.  Together with ghost-nerd skeptic Luke, played by Pat Healey like an American Simon Pegg, they work the front desk and run a website on paranormal phenomenon on the side.  But really they’re just bored co-workers in a dead-end job, unsupervised and with goofy rituals to pass the time.
The movie is a slow burn with lots of set up but not boring thanks to Sara Paxton’s natural charisma; she immediately has the viewer’s sympathy, we want to follow her.  But that doesn’t stop the cheap jump scares with ringing phones and websites to break tension and give you a taste of what’s to come.  It’s almost a horror comedy for the first half, with Sara’s natural comedic talent and the director setting up the audience with timing and manipulation, which are the same elements that make for a good scary movie.
Ghost hunting must be a lot like cops on a stakeout, a lot of boring moments waiting for something to happen.  Claire is so eager for an experience that she grabs the camcorder with every unexplained bump in the night, wanting to investigate but also afraid.  The EVP recording scenes build tension even with nothing happening because we as an audience know something will happen; the movie has an unspoken pact with us, this is a ghost story.  When Claire finally starts hearing voices and the piano starts playing by itself we’re just as curiously frightened as she is.
The second half ramps up the tension as Claire’s heightened state and obsession with witnessing a supernatural event sends her and the audience to a very dark place.  It’s quirky, clever ghost story, and a proponent of the less is more school.  The frights are crafted through careful editing and sound effects, and in many ways is a more realistic version of a be careful what you wish for situation for the would-be ghost hunter.

A then unknown Lena Dunham has a scene-stealing role as an annoying barista Claire has to deal with, and 80’s superstar Kelly McGillis (you remember Kelly; Top Gun, Witness and The Accused) plays a New Age psychic who warns Claire to stay away from the basement, so you immediately know where she needs to go next.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Coffee is the Devil’s Drink, or Thoughts on Troll 2

Much like Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), Troll 2 (1990) is so bad it somehow boomerangs around and becomes good.  Imagine if you can, an Italian director with a minimal command of the English language, deciding to write a screenplay in English, and direct an American cast, in Italian.  Did I mention that the cast of largely amateur performers didn’t speak Italian?  Because that happened too.  The awkward acting, cringe-inducing dialogue and confusing plot makes for a memorable viewing experience.
A family goes on vacation to the town of Nilbog (there are no trolls in this movie), and drinks contaminated or maybe magic green milk and get chased by a bunch of goblins.  There’s a ghost grandpa that only the son can see, and the boyfriend of the older sister shows up.  They used actual residents of the small Utah towns surrounding the location to fill in the cast, which ends up being more frightening than the goblins, as these people actually live there.

Directed by Claudio Fragasso (under the screen credit/pseudonym Drake Floyd) and starring Michael Stephenson, who went on to make a documentary on the experience entitled Best Worst Movie (2009), which it most certainly is.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.