Ravenous Monster’s retrospective series continues with another diagnosis from the good Dr. Abner Mality…. Greetings, fear freaks! Today we take a strange detour through the decade of the 50’s, the years when the shadow of the mushroom cloud loomed over horror like…well, like a mushroom […]Featured Article
Ravenous Monster’s retrospective series continues with another diagnosis from the good Dr. Abner Mality….
Greetings, fear freaks! Today we take a strange detour through the decade of the 50’s, the years when the shadow of the mushroom cloud loomed over horror like…well, like a mushroom cloud! This was the age of the atom, when radioactive mutants ran amuck, giant insects plagued the world and slumbering dinosaurs awoke due to nuclear mishap. It was also the age of the alien, as visitors from the stars tumbled to Earth in vast numbers, with most of them being none too friendly.
Faced with this onslaught of scientific mutation, the old monsters of the 30’s and 40’s, the vampires, werewolves and mummies, retreated to their catacombs. It seemed the real horror of Hiroshima reduced the supernatural beings of old to quaint bygones. Or did they?
Classic horror is hard to kill. The end of the 50’s brought the rise of an English studio known as Hammer, that would soon return Dracula and Frankenstein to prominence with a new and bloodier take on their familiar tales. But overshadowed by Hammer’s success are a few brave horror tales from America that tried to update the classic formula in their own unique ways. Most of these films have vanished into almost total obscurity, overwhelmed by atomic monsters and Hammer’s success. That brings us to the subject of this little treatise.
During the late 50’s, there were a series of low-budget but thoughtful monster movies scripted by a clever lady named Pat Fielder. Those who saw the name on the credits of these films felt certain Pat was a guy which was probably just the way the studio wanted it. These movies were all concerned with taking some typical monster/SF cliché and updating it in a fresh way. Two of them were straight up science fiction: “The Flame Barrier”, an extremely rare movie dealing with a deadly organism brought back to Earth by satellite, and “The Monster That Challenged the World”, the story of giant prehistoric millipedes invading the Salton Sea area of California. To this day, I haven’t seen “The Flame Barrier” and it has never been released on DVD. But “The Monster That Challenged the World” is one of my favorite “big bug” movies. In fact, I put it right up there with “Them!” and “Tarantula” as the best of the breed.
Fiedler, with the help of talented director Paul Landres, also tackled the subject of vampirism in two more movies, “The Return of Dracula” and “The Vampire”. And those are the films I will put under my cinematic microscope this time around.
We’ll start with 1958’s “The Return of Dracula”, even though it was made after “The Vampire”. The film came out the same year as Hammer’s “Horror of Dracula” and the bloody, bombastic English shocker pretty much plowed the low-budget American movie right into the ground. In fact, “Return of Dracula” may be the most obscure Dracula movie ever released by a major studio (not counting cheapo porn parodies, exotic foreign films and micro-budget home movies). However, those few who have seen it have found it to be a very unique look at how the King of the Vampires adapts to life in bucolic 1950’s suburbia and the reputation of the movie has steadily grown.
The film is structured in a highly unorthodox manner and the strange pacing works to the movie’s advantage, as you are never quite sure what’s going to happen next. It is definitely a low-key film and I’ll say right now, if you’re looking for jolting shocks, gore and non-stop action, you’d better stay clear. In many ways, “The Return of Dracula” is a film noir with vampire elements and many pundits have compared it to a supernatural version of Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt”. Only in this case, Uncle Charlie is Count Dracula himself!
A grim-toned narrator tells us we are in modern Transylvania (part of Romania), where, despite propaganda to the contrary, vampires exist and Dracula is the worst of them all. We follow a determined group of men led by Inspector Merriman as they trudge through a graveyard in search of a grave. The sun is about to come up, so they know their prey will be present. But to their shock and surprise, the tomb they open is empty. Dracula has escaped and is on the loose!
We next get a very atmospheric and cool shot of Dracula materializing out of the fog at a night-time train station. And now is the time to mention the excellent performance of Francis Lederer as Dracula. The urbane and very Continental-looking Count is clearly a vampire who has kept up with the times. No cape for this fiend, but a billowing trench coat serves in much the same way. With a fedora hat and snazzy attire, this Dracula would pass for a handsome middle-aged businessman. Lederer plays Dracula in a totally different manner from Lugosi, Lee, Oldman and the other screen vampires…subtle, even friendly and polite at times, but ultimately completely evil. Lederer, who went on to become a successful financier after retiring from acting, was said to hate this movie, but honestly he had no reason to, as it is a very effective performance.
Dracula makes his way to the train compartment occupied by one Bellac Gordal – one of the lucky few who has been granted permission to leave the country to visit distant relatives in America. Only perhaps Gordal is not so lucky after all. A hypnotic gaze from the stranger sitting across from him, a quick twist of the neck and Bellac Gordal’s troubles are over for good. Things are getting a bit too hot for Dracula in the “Old Country”, so it’s time to visit America and see what the hunting is like in small-town California.
That’s our cue to jump to a small unnamed community in the California foothills. It’s the kind of place that Wally and The Beav could have easily called home. The idyllic simplicity of this community might prompt a lot of snickers from today’s jaded viewers, but it is absolutely integral to the horror of this story. Count Dracula represents all the decadence and decay of old Europe while small town suburban America of the 50’s is the complete antithesis of that. “The Return of Dracula” is therefore a culture clash of the most extreme kind. And although this sort of safe and homey community seems mostly a thing of the past today, I can assure you that it did at one time exist.
We now are introduced to the Mayberry family. Yes, that is actually their surname, but Barney Fife is unfortunately nowhere to be found. Widow Cora is the family matriarch while teenage daughter Rachel and young Mickey are the children in her care. Cora is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a long-unseen relative from “The Old Country”, a painter named Bellac Gordal.
In a neat take-off on the earlier scene Dracula materializes at the local train station in much the same manner he did back in Transylvania. He finds the Mayberrys and introduces himself as “Cousin Bellac”. The unsuspecting family is only too happy to welcome him, the arch-fiend of darkness, into their home!
There’s no need to cover the rest of the film in detail, but “Cousin Bellac” soon sets up shop in his new American home and bodies begin to appear, drained of blood. Dracula is especially taken with young Rachel (naturally) and sets about seducing her in a subtle way, with the ultimate goal of making her his vampire bride. Actress Norma Eberhardt is very effective in her role as Rachel, seeming to be an all-American girl much of the time, but with a strange dark side. Dracula’s appeal to her gives the opportunity for finely delivered dialogue like this: “You only fear the unknown. Only this casing, this clumsy flesh stands between you and me. You are already balanced between two worlds. Eternity awaits you now.”
Rachel’s high school jock boyfriend is suspicious of Cousin Bellac, who keeps odd hours, but the foreign visitor is too charming and self-assured to challenge directly. But odd events continue to take place. Rachel’s friend, the blind and sickly Jennie Blake, succumbs to a peculiar “wasting disease”. But then she’s seen prowling around in white after her demise, much like Mina Harker did in the classic Dracula tale. An insurance investigator looking into the unusual deaths is savagely attacked by a white wolf. And finally, a strange visitor from Europe, an Inspector Merriman, arrives and reveals that he believes a vampire has made its home in small town California.
The rest of the movie you’ll have to see. The ending may be considered somewhat disappointing but it is quite ironic and nicely set up by an earlier scene. The movie is in subdued black and white, which greatly works to its advantage, with the exception of one shocking scene in color – the closest thing this movie gets to an actual visceral jolt. I’ll let you discover that for yourself, too.
“The Return of Dracula” is a very different kind of vampire movie that still manages to embrace all the clichés we know. Judging by its budget, one would expect a potboiler ready for the drive-in, but the acting, script and direction is way above the norm and shows the Fiedler/Landres duo to best effect. Film noir fans would certainly enjoy this treatment and if you are a Dracula completist, you owe it to yourself to see Francis Lederer’s excellent interpretation.
A year earlier, the Fiedler/Landres combo had tried a completely different take on vampirism with “The Vampire”. It would be hard to imagine a vampire movie more different than “The Return of Dracula”, yet both films are excellent in their own ways. I remember “The Vampire” very well from my misspent childhood, which was spent sneaking out to the TV way past my bedtime and fiddling with the aerial in a desperate attempt to tune in every monster movie possible. “The Vampire” pretty near traumatized me with two brutally unforgettable scenes and I never forgot this highly unusual take on the subject.
Whereas Count Dracula was a suave supernatural fiend in “Return of Dracula”, the lead character of “The Vampire” is a slavering, animalistic brute created by modern science. In fact, the monster here is more reminiscent of Mr. Hyde and The Wolfman than what we think of as a vampire. And no, he doesn’t glow in the dark or go on beer runs with teenagers either, thank God. But he does have the vampire’s relentless thirst for blood.
The film takes place in another one of those idyllic small towns of the 50’s; it could even be the same one visited by “Bellac Gordal”! As the story opens, a young paper delivery boy finds eccentric scientist Dr. Matt Campbell collapsed in his laboratory. The boy quickly summons beloved town doctor Paul Beecher (who works out of his own home – a notion that today seems more science fictional than an alien invasion) but by the time Beecher arrives, it’s too late. Campbell dies, but not before he tells Beecher he has made a great scientific breakthrough and hands him a vial full of pills. Beecher puts the pills in his coat.
Local sheriff and Paul’s friend Buck Donnelly finds nothing suspicious in Campbell’s death but the university the late doctor worked for is sending a team to find out what he was working on at the time of his demise. Beecher heads to his practice, where he spends the rest of the day taking care of local patients like elderly and almost deaf Carrie Wirtz and the anxious, sickly Marion Wilkins. At the end of the day, Beecher develops a killer headache and asks his young daughter Betsey to get the aspirin in his coat pocket. And as I’m sure you can guess, she grabs the wrong pills. And thereby hangs the horror of our tale.
After a troubled and restless sleep, Beecher awakens and is immediately called to the home of Marion Wilkins. Marion has fallen into a coma-like state near death. Paul is baffled since she didn’t seem to be especially sick the day before. He notices two puncture-like wounds on the woman’s neck and then, as he continues his examination, Marion shockingly dies.
That throws Beecher into a deep feeling of uneasiness, which Betsey and his lovely nurse Carol (Coleen Gray, an absolute knockout) can sense. Marion’s death is unexplained but doesn’t seem to be due to foul play.
The university personnel arrive in town to look over Campbell’s lab. Paul is happy to see his old friend, psychologist Will Beaumont, in charge. Beaumont is accompanied by the creepy and sunglass-sporting Henry Winston – a former patient of his. Investigating Campbell’s lab, the men find that every test animal is dead except for the vampire bats which are thriving. Campbell’s notes reveal he was trying to develop a pill that would cause man to regress to a more primitive state.
Later that night, as Henry is working by himself in the lab, he is brutally attacked and murdered by some savage, half-human fiend. His blood has been drained in addition to being strangled and bludgeoned. Beecher awakens after another night of nightmares and is summoned to the site of the crime. Donnelly now has a murder on his hands and three strange deaths in as many days. Beecher is in a daze and a horrible suspicion starts to grow in the back of his mind.
Yep, it looks like Doc Campbell’s pills do a bit more than cure headaches or gas. Dr. Paul Beecher, one of the most respected and kindest men in town, now finds himself transformed into a primitive, blood-sucking monster once the clock strikes 11:00 PM.
John Beal delivers a fantastically moving, award-caliber performance as Beecher. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in any horror movie. The only thing I can compare to it is Frederic March’s Oscar-winning turn as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1932. It’s heart-breaking because Beecher is a loving family man and a doctor who would rather help his patients than accept payment. But the monster he becomes is a repulsive, shambling brute that kills everything in its path. The difference between man and monster has never been greater and never better portrayed. You can almost feel Beecher’s agony as he realizes what’s going on.
In this movie, vampirism is strictly a scientific phenomenon, fitting the rationalism of 50’s cinema. Beecher’s vampire doesn’t need to crawl into a coffin and couldn’t care less about crosses and garlic. It’s pretty obvious that “The Vampire” is an allegory of drug addiction and a very effective one. If Beecher doesn’t get his “fix”, all hell breaks loose. And just as in real life, the pills finally don’t help anymore.
The rest of the film I will leave you gentle viewers to discover, but it’s a harrowing ride. Is it a modern day torture and gore fest? No, but neither is it the gentle horror of the old Universals. There are a couple of jolting shocks that really work, no matter what era of horror you call your own. In one, investigators get a gruesome surprise when exhuming the body of one of Beecher’s victims. When I saw the scene for the first time as a kid, I literally jumped a foot in the air. And I just about did the same thing over 30 years later! In another brutal scene, a victim is roughly tossed into a raging furnace. Without showing a ton of blood, “The Vampire” is still a rough ride, because ANYBODY can become the victim of this monster. There’s something disgusting about the slobbering, Neanderthal-like ignorance of the vampire – the total opposite of the cultured Dracula in “The Return of Dracula”.
As was the case with all the movies she wrote and scripted, Pat Fiedler includes all sorts of quirky touches and snappy dialogue for her characters. In many cases, those quirks don’t need to be there, but their addition makes the films much more realistic and enjoyable. In “The Vampire”, it’s the talky psychologist Will Beaumont, who tries to analyze everybody he knows, who comes across the best. The great character actor Dabbs Greer plays Beaumont. His grim partner Henry would seem to be the villain of the piece, but is anything but. From John Beal’s lead character to the smallest bit player in the film, everything “clicks”.
All of Ms. Fiedler’s movies are criminally underrated, but none more so than these two vampire flicks. Each manages to excel but in completely different ways. The good news is, both have now been combined into one DVD package, from the always reliable “Midnight Movies” line of Fox Movies. Although lacking extras, both films are completely uncut and are in beautifully atmospheric black and white. I managed to pick up this combo for about $7.00. What horror fan could ask for more?
Following his review of Scream 4, writer Justin Hamelin takes a look back at the original trilogy…. Randy Meeks said it best. “Simplicity! If it gets too complicated, you lose your target audience!” Writer Kevin Williamson had a recipe for a blockbuster juggernaut. Horror legend […]Featured Article
Following his review of Scream 4, writer Justin Hamelin takes a look back at the original trilogy….
Randy Meeks said it best.
“Simplicity! If it gets too complicated, you lose your target audience!”
Writer Kevin Williamson had a recipe for a blockbuster juggernaut. Horror legend Wes Craven was fresh off of resuscitating his own gory empire with the kick ass A New Nightmare two years earlier. Craven had the wit, creativity and reputation to bring Williamson’s monster to life.
Wes Craven knows how to make a horror franchise. It’s really quite simple: hot, young, up and coming actors, the perfect ratio of blood to laughs, and an iconic serial killer hiding behind a Halloween mask that was already on sale at just about every convenience store in the nation.
The horror genre had all but been pushed aside by mainstream Hollywood through the 1990’s after a wonderfully successful run in the 1980’s. Was that due to the cinema rule of thumb that everything eventually cycles through, or was it because no one had the creativity or the cajones to soak Hollywood in blood, once again?
In 1996, Scream gave a whole new generation the chance to absorb a true horror film experience, much like their parents had with the likes of The Exorcist, Jaws, and Halloween (1). Scream also offered a new question to ponder when asked, “What’s your favorite scary movie?”
Kevin Williamson was not only a screenwriter, but also quite the salesman. He provided a solid outline for a sequel to Scream even when he was taking bids for the original script. Hoping to establish his own original franchise, Williamson immediately struck gold. His viciously tongue-in-cheek exposé on the sagging horror landscape of the 90’s swiping at just about every social caveat mainstream Tinsel Town had to offer was an easy trilogy (and then some) to pitch.
Scream opens with one of the most memorable high tension scenes in horror history. The beautiful and very much established Drew Barrymore plays the sweet and innocent Casey Becker. Casey meets her maker in incredibly gruesome fashion almost before the opening credits are done rolling. Following a nerve-racking game of horror trivia, we’re treated to the eye opening evisceration of her jock boyfriend. After a deliciously anxious shot of her parents taking their sweet assed time coming home from a night out, Casey is turned into a human piñata. Craven does an excellent job of tearing at the audience’s guts as we watch Casey’s mother listen to her daughter’s last gasps of life over the telephone line.
Not only does the film instantly play on the horror cliché of living in big houses in the middle of nowhere, but movie nights alone with Jiffy Pops will never be safe again!
The next day, the wholesome town of Woodsboro is turned upside down – shocked by the ruthless murders of two squeaky clean teens and getting sucked into the paranoid frenzy that accompanies the arrival of a serial killer on the loose. We meet the gorgeous Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who’s still emotionally traumatized over her own mother Maureen’s brutal rape and murder almost a year earlier. The film circles around this murder and the dark consequences Mrs. Prescott’s infidelities had on all involved.
Skeet Ulrich plays Sid’s certified douche bag boyfriend, Billy Loomis. He looks like the poster child for 1990’s teen angst, complete with greasy long hair and an omnipresent darkness about him. No doubt in this writer’s mind that Billy loved Nirvana. Ultimately, we find out Billy and his buddy Stu (Lillard) are the slice-and-dicers behind the massacre. After an awesomely drawn out, but completely necessary dialogue between the two nut cases and target-number-one Sidney, the two fellas finally get put out of their misery by Gale Weathers of all people.
Scream is chock full of brutal slayings – Rose McGowan’s one sided battle with a garage door, Principal Himbry’s (Henry Winkler) sudden demise in his office, and TV cameraman Kenny’s filleted throat are about as good as horror gets.
The cast of Scream is as close to perfect as a film can get for a genre-bashing gore fest. The likes of David Arquette as the goofy Deputy Dewey Riley, Jamie Kennedy as a horror film buff and self-proclaimed nerd Randy Meeks, TV A-lister Courteney Cox as bitchy television journalist Gale Weathers, and the extremely off kilter Matthew Lillard as Stu are strokes of casting genius by the film’s crew. These four in particular provide perfectly timed laughs to break up the tension of a simple blood bath. And let’s not forget the contributions from buxom chick Rose McGowan of Charmed and Planet Terror fame, good looking male lead Skeet Ulrich, well-established Hollywood star power from Drew Barrymore, and yes – FONZIE! Henry Winkler can never make a movie worse, only better. The stunning Neve Campbell puts the cast of characters over the top.
Scream had it all- humor, psychological twists, and legitimate scares complete with eye-opening gore and terror. The film had sharp-tongued swipes at horror, to boot and the most fun list of rules any film has ever brought into conversation (2). My two favorite Scream in-jokes are Wes Craven’s uncredited role as the high school janitor Fred, complete with a Mr. Krueger sweatshirt and hat, and Sidney’s anecdote about scary movies, “They’re all the same, some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who’s always running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door.”
The film is also a commentary from Williamson and Craven on the state of the nation’s youth. Deputy Dewey asks his sheriff if he believes Billy Loomis is guilty of the murdering Casey Becker and her boyfriend, to which the Sheriff replies, “Twenty years ago, I would’ve said not a chance. But these kids today….damned if I know.”
And finally, Marco Beltrami’s score propels the film fantastically. He scored all three original films plus the fourth installment, another home run by the brains behind the operation.
Simply put, Scream is a massive achievement both within the horror genre and as a box office performer. Having helped create more spawns that one could possibly want to list, with the I Know What You Did Last Summer series being the most clearly influenced. Scream has also been spoofed, the ultimate nod of respect. The Wayans brothers live in mansions thanks to their Scary Movie franchise.
Scream has raked in over $172 million worldwide since it’s release fifteen years ago. I not only recommend it to anyone who has yet to see it, but I suggest it to anyone who has trouble answering that famous, age old question, “What’s your favorite scary movie?”
Less than a year after the release of the original film, Scream 2 followed in the footsteps of its predecessor both in style and box office performance, earning over $172 million since its respective release.
Randy Meeks returns, and in this installment he’s discussing sequels with fellow uber-movie nerd Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) during a college class. The two argue over whether or not any sequel is better than the original. Many believe Scream 2 achieved such status.
Two years after the Woodsboro murders, we reunite with Sid and Randy, who are now students at the fictional Windsor College. After a brutal double-murder during the premiere of the movie’s film-within-a-film “Stab”, (based on Gail Weather’s bestselling book), Ghostface is back and ready to hunt down Sid. Windsor becomes a media circus, led by the fame-intoxicated Gale Weathers (Cox returning as the television journalist from Hell). Good old Deputy Dewey (Arquette) comes to town to look after his hometown pals Sid and Randy. Love is also in full bloom for Gail and Dewey, with life imitating art in this case.
We meet a new group of familiar up-and-coming Hollywood faces, namely Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joshua Jackson, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O’Connell, Portia de Rossi, as well as Tori Spelling, Heather Graham and Luke Wilson, who star in the “Stab” sequences. Casting became admittedly much easier following the success of the first film as well as Drew Barrymore’s willingness to be attached to the franchise. Spelling plays Sidney in “Stab”, both a nod and a jab to the original Scream film, in which Sid sarcastically predicts they’d get Spelling to play her if they ever made a movie about the Woodsboro killings.
Inevitably, Ghostface makes its way onto campus, thus beginning a harrowing game of cat and mouse with Sid that eventually costs the lives of her roommate, her boyfriend, and – NOOOOOOOOO! – Randy Meeks. Killing Randy was widely frowned upon. I for one, see it as the most disappointing moment in all of the films. It really didn’t need to happen. A dead Randy does a lot less for the eventual third movie than a live Randy would have done.
To cap off a solid film that was about as much fun as the original, we find out the killer tandem at Windsor is Randy’s ‘black swan’, Mickey, and….Roseanne’s sister? Yep, it’s Mrs. Loomis, AKA Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf), the small town newswoman who bugs Gale throughout the film.
Mickey is driven by his passion for the rules of cinema and Mrs. Loomis is deranged by the murder of her son at the hands of Sid as well as her hatred for Maureen Prescott for tearing her family apart. Not to worry, they both end up getting pumped full of lead for their troubles. Care to guess who’s there to help off them? You guessed it, Gale Weathers!
With the success of the first film and the booming internet effect, Scream 2 was hit hard by leaked information. The entire script was leaked. Williamson and Craven were forced to write and film from the seat of their pants. The manpower behind the cameras would not be bitten twice. The final pages of the script were not given to the actors until weeks prior to shooting and the pages revealing the killers were only given to the actors involved on the day of shooting.
Shot on a budget of $24 million, the film made just under $33 million on its opening weekend. In fact, Scream 2 was viewed as a powerhouse by Hollywood even before its release. So much so that films such as James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies and James Cameron’s Titanic bumped their release dates back a week to avoid going head to head with the second film in the Scream series. It’s also worth noting that Scream 2 broke December opening weekend records until 2000’s What Women Want took over the throne. Damn you, Mel Gibson!
Personally, I believe Scream 2 is just a slight hair beneath the original, with the killing of Randy and the half-baked character development of Debbie Salt as the main reasons this sequel isn’t quite as good as the original. We hardly have any reason to believe she is the killer until everything is explained to us in the last eight minutes of the film. However, Scream 2 is still one of the best follow-ups Hollywood has offered.
Fittingly, three years after Scream 2 ends, Scream 3 picks up. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette all return and Liev Schreiber reprises his role as the exonerated Cotton Weary, wrongfully accused of murdering Maureen Prescott in the original film. Based on early press clippings, Scream 3 seemed to have promise. However, that would be presumptuous, no?
Shortly before production began, the Columbine High School tragedy occurred. This led to The Weinstein Company forcing a greater emphasis on the comedy in the third installment while making the violence and horror a menial element, much to the chagrin of Craven, who also returned for the third film. Craven went so far as to threaten to retire from the horror industry. Craven supposedly claimed, “Either we make a Scream movie or we make a movie and call it something else. But if it’s a Scream movie, it’s going to have certain standards.”
Original writer Kevin Williamson was tied up with other obligations, leaving just a stack of notes for whoever was to take his place on the third film. That someone would be Ehren Kruger, who decided to scrap the notes and go about doing his own thing. The goal of The Weinstein Company and Kruger was to avoid backlash from critics regarding real life violence imitating film violence.
The third film kicks off with Cotton Weary and his girlfriend murdered within the first ten minutes, and thus, Ghostface is back!
This film revolves around Sid’s isolation as a telephone hotline crisis counselor. Gail and Dewey are back as lovers and a very fun murder-investigating duo. Newcomer Patrick Dempsey is Detective Mark Kincaid, hell bent on keeping a serial killer out of his jurisdiction while also having a bit of a thing for Sidney.
The production of “Stab 3” is going on in Hollywood, with Dewey as a consultant for the film since he survived the actual events and before long the cast of the flick are being picked off one at a time.
While the laughs are overly cheap, the scares practically non-existent and the character development wafer thin, the overall body count of Scream 3 is impressively high. Interestingly, considering the insistence by the higher ups to avoid violence, although most of the violence in Scream 3 is kiddy stuff compared to the first two films.
Cotton, his girlfriend, several cast members of “Stab 3”, a security guard played by Seinfeld’s Patrick Warburton (we’ll always love you, Putty) all get axed. Also biting the dust are Lance Henriksen (oh no they didn’t) as film producer John Milton, as well as the lone killer in this film.
Turns out, Sid’s got a half brother. Roman Bridger (Scott Foley) is a love child of Rina Reynolds – Maureen Prescott before she was Maureen Prescott. Roman is the director of “Stab 3” as well as the director of the newest massacre. If I thought Debbie Salt was poorly developed in Scream 2, then Roman Bridger is the quintessential hurry-up-and-just-pick-a-murderer example.
A few elements that saves Scream 3 from becoming an all together lame bust are these: Another solid crew of well-known faces including Parker Posey, Jenny McCarthy, Dempsey, Emily Mortimer and obviously the three remaining big wigs Campbell, Cox, and Arquette. And the return of Randy Meeks, sort of, with a videotaped run down of the rules a trilogy must follow. Although this one hardly covers the biggest rule Randy points out, but we’ll get to that in a moment. (3)
One rule is never broken, humorously enough. Throughout the trilogy, each killer bestows a rambling rant upon Sid when they should be cutting her eyes out. This gives Gale the opportunity to save Sid’s life in all three films. Those meddling kids!
Scream 3 still managed to gross $161 million. It also ironically became exactly what the first two films raked over the coals. Scream 3 is a predictable, unenthusiastic and uncreative film that desperately misses Williamson’s input. This film is a lot like an embarrassing uncle. They’re still part of the family, so no matter how cheesy or lame they may be, I can’t bring myself to hate it. Lord knows there are enough reasons to do so.
All in all, the original three Scream films were made for a collective $79 million. $40 million of that went to part three. The trilogy has racked up an incredible $550 million and counting.
So, to recap, Craven and Williamson achieved a monster success by keeping it simple. A gorgeous female lead who avoids the shortfalls of the ‘rules’? Check. Loveable goofballs to offset the horror? Got ‘em. Red herrings to keep the audience guessing? Yep. Above all else, it made fun of everything that was wrong with horror in the decade leading up to the original Scream’s release. Simplicity. Keep that in mind, Hollywood.
1) I am by no means comparing the horror value of Scream to any of the three films mentioned. I am simply comparing the theater experience all four films had on their audiences, complete with popcorn throwing and screaming at the movie screen throughout the film.
2) The Rules!!! For the most part, the films did a great job of keeping these rules in mind. Here’s a quick rundown of The Rules for Surviving a Horror Movie, made famous by Randy Meeks.
1- Don’t have sex.
2- Don’t drink or do drugs.
3- Never say “I’ll be right back”. Because you won’t.
4- Never investigate any strange noises, especially outside.
1- The body count is always bigger.
2- The death scenes are always more elaborate, with more blood and gore.
3- Never under any circumstances assume the killer is dead.
• Randy starts to describe the third rule: “If you want your films to become a successful franchise, never, ever…” before being interrupted by Dewey. The joke is that the filmmakers are admitting there is no surefire way to ensure a film franchise is successful. However, the film’s original teaser trailer featured an extended version of the rules scene which reveals that originally the third rule was supposed to be, “Never, ever, under any circumstances assume the killer is dead.” This references Randy’s last line in the original Scream which stated that a killer always comes back to life for one last scare.
1- The killer is going to be superhuman. Stabbing will not work. Shooting will not work. You have to cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up.
2- Anyone, including the main character, can die.
3- The past will always come back to bite you in the ass. Any sins committed in the past are about to break out and get you.
4- Basically, all bets are off.
In all three movies, at least one rule is broken, namely:
* Several characters survive Scream even after having sex, Sidney in particular.
* In both Scream 2 or Scream 3, the death scenes are never any more elaborate than those in the first. Sure, the body count is much higher in part three than it is in either of the first two films, but the only even remotely elaborate kill was watching a dude get burnt to a crisp by lighting a lighter in a house full of gas.
3) * In Scream 3, Roman Bridger is not superhuman, as one head shot is enough to kill him. However, he was stabbed multiple times earlier in the film, surviving due to a bulletproof vest he wore, a fact which he revealed to Sydney before his last attempt to kill her, an attempt that ended when he was shot in the head.
The enviably towering apartments and fierce Vidal Sassoon stylings aside, it is quite harsh and sad to realize that throughout half of Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror and suspense classic, Rosemary’s Baby, we are watching a lonely Midwesterner gestate and produce the inhuman spawn of the […]Featured Article
The enviably towering apartments and fierce Vidal Sassoon stylings aside, it is quite harsh and sad to realize that throughout half of Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror and suspense classic, Rosemary’s Baby, we are watching a lonely Midwesterner gestate and produce the inhuman spawn of the Devil Himself. Based on Ira Levin’s 1967 shocking, best-selling novel of the same name, Rosemary’s Baby leads us to half-expect its star Mia Farrow to ascend to a place on the New York City catwalks by the end—and not through the tunnel of hysteria and derangement which precedes her shrewd, solitary detective work on those who profess to care for her the most.
With a husband who enjoys conceiving Lucifer, Jr. “in a necrophilia sort of way” (while Rosemary is passed out) and batty older neighbors who insidiously administer the desserts and shakes to feed the demon baby, one is not sure whether to categorize the film as pathetic, absurd or wholly plausible, even in modern times. While playing dress-up and piano jazz in her sprawling and lonely Central Park West apartment gem, Rosemary is bullied into a spine-chilling truth: Her husband has bartered their unborn child to the Satan-worshipping neighbors’ local international coven, in exchange for instant fame and glory as a major American actor.
The 1967 novel performs a masterful authorial trick: Its blah language, staccato storytelling and pedestrian narrative seduce readers into believing nothing really is going on. Truly, nothing is. Upon arrival into an elusive apartment at the fictitious Bramford, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse nest as hopeful honeymooners on the verge of all the children, success, wealth and stability they can dream of. Polanski’s direction of a young John Cassavetes leaves no doubts as to how this scenario will unfold with such a doting and patient wife, who takes more joy in hanging curtains than hanging out with the girls; Guy Woodhouse is a prick. While the film leaves her entire large family (5 siblings and 16 nieces and nephews) absent, with very little explanation, the novel reveals that the very Catholic Rosemary has fallen for a Protestant/Jew that her family does not approve of. The increasingly paranoid Rosemary imagines her punishments of Hail Marys and family scorn should she cry out to the gang back home, but it is not known why her sad reality of having witches as neighbors is not well worth the shame.
What is known is that the baby would have been registered at Bergdorf-Goodman, Barney’s or Tiffany’s. The cinematic feast for the eyes gives no indication that the expertly detailed railroad apartments, glowing white furnishings and carpet, and gingham housedresses or silk “baby night” pants suits are the modern swathings of the Devil’s conception. However, the glamour and vogue carry the masterpiece’s slow-plot and lullaby tone like art gallery pieces for the leisurely to spend their fair share of time on. Filmed in the 1960’s and starring one of the era’s most popular gamine beauties, the generation of Hair and Blaxploitation may have relished the sacrilegious punch lines, pot-smoking revival of the couple’s young friends, and visions of bestiality that mark the transformation of Guy into an inhuman incubus who rapes Rosemary. Postmodern audiences desensitized to gore, impalements and bloodbaths may miss the point. Rosemary regresses into a malnourished, shadowy ghost who chews on raw meat and is the human pod for a clawed little beast that the cameras refuse to even show us…yum, yum. Very few could avoid succumbing to the type of chills which linger and permeate long after the credits roll.
Rosemary and Guy leave behind one friend in their former building, a writer named Hutch (Maurice Evans). Hutch expresses concerns about witchcraft scandals in the Bramford. Of course, who believes in that anymore? Rosemary and Guy wave off Hutch’s concerns, and prepare to come out as “New York High Society” in the classy building. The couple moves into their new bare apartment, enjoy takeout, start to make love and notice that they can hear faint murmurings through the wall at the end of the apartment. Most would have never unpacked, they’d have moved. Yet, Rosemary’s Midwestern naiveté and trust mutes this as just her latest adventure.
The complicated, ensuing plot entails Rosemary briefly meeting a young woman in the dank basement laundry room—a former drug addict who waxes poetic about the elderly couple who has taken her in. Through this young woman, Terrie, Rosemary is introduced to the movie’s herbal weed: Tannus Root – which will be fed to her to provide sustenance for the demonic child and it will also identify her satanic victimizers via horribly malodorous crumbles steeped inside a hideous medallion.
A couple of days later, as Rosemary and Guy return home from a show they find Terrie crumpled on the sidewalk of the Bramford. The introduction of one of horror’s most magnificently-portrayed and underrated stars occurs with an upward pan of the camera to the nonchalant faces of Minnie and Roman Castavet (Ruth Gordan and Sidney Blackmer). They identify themselves as the neighbors who saved Terrie from destitution, substantiating claims she was troubled. They clarify that they are the adjoining neighbors to the Woodhouses.
The Castavets’ insidious encroachments start with a persistent dinner invitation. Gordon won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her brash foiling to Blackmer’s gentle, grandfatherly aura; given how he brags on his travels and she fusses over every bite that the couple eats, one would think that these senior citizens had not seen or talked to anyone for decades. The Castavets’ grand effort evokes a sad ethos as the couple returns from dinner laughing at them.
The tangle of deception starts immediately at this dinner, with Guy and Roman having a sneaky cigar-moment; multiple viewings reveal the anticipation and guilt pressed into Guy’s face. After just getting by in Yamaha commercials and small stints in no-name plays like “Nobody Loves an Albatross,” Guy is suddenly cast to play the lead in one of Broadway’s most eventful new productions. The problem? The original actor suddenly fell blind, and his understudy Guy feigns regret and sympathy while they prepare for his big moment. Newly exalted on the theatric stage, he seduces Rosemary to believe he wants to be a daddy—and soon.
Meanwhile, Rosemary cannot even enjoy a cabaret piano album, good book, or the first day of her period without Minnie or Roman coming by. Even their “baby night” is co-opted by the couple, who insist upon offering dessert as Guy and Rosemary settle into a candlelight dinner, fireplace night to start their baby making. Domineering, overbearing and at times just plain insulting, Guy practically orders Rosemary to eat the “mouse” (as Minnie calls it) with its chalky under-taste with which Rosemary is uncomfortable. Part horror film, cinema noir masterpiece, and psychological thriller, viewers should strongly feel for the patronizing and aggressive infantilizing of Rosemary into others’ wishes and schemes. She ends the night passed out.
From the couple’s pristine and glowing white bedroom to the eerie, dark mahogany Castevet apartment, Rosemary’s Baby is one of the first American films to show a graphic ring of frontally-nude elderly people; audiences had to wait for Speilberg’s Schindler’s List and its cruel depiction of the Holocaust to see it again. Doused with Christopher Komeda’s carnivalesque horn score and William A. Fraker’s lucid cinematography, the seamless and ethereal nightmare (about which Rosemary shouts “This is no dream…this is really happening!”) travels from the Sistine Chapel, to a yacht where Hutch appears calmly, to Yankee Stadium where Pope John VI delivers sacraments for Rosemary’s forced bestiality. There is a vivid humping scene, with Rosemary and Guy’s mandatory exhibitionist intercourse flanked by the elderly coven members’ gross chanting. Initially, Guy swaggers and swoons onto his petite, lithe wife who willingly relents to being restrained to the bed. He slowly transforms into a beast with prickly hairs sprouting, fingernails shooting into claws, and beady yellow eyes peering down.
A young Charles Grodin plays a bit cameo part as Dr. Hill, recommended to Rosemary by her yuppie friends who have used the obstetrician before. Of course, the Castavets have a much better idea for her: Dr. Abe Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy). The gruff doctor is unwavering about poor Rosemary’s submission to the ideas and drinks of Minnie and Roman, as Guy submerges himself in his big moment. The film offers a valid and premonitory critique of the advent of psychology and psychoanalysis as it relates specifically to women; though she can be nauseating and exaggerated as helpless and devoted, Rosemary is an intelligent and astute woman who can’t even determine what she wants to eat or how much pain she is supposed to take during a pregnancy.
The feminist eruption of the times appear when Rosemary’s brazen and Barbarella-like young girlfriends come by for a party she insists on throwing (with “no one under 65 invited”); Guy gets the door slammed in his face, as they slap Rosemary to her senses and insist she return to Dr. Hill to extinguish her pain with traditional treatment and accept that Guy has been abusing her. As we watch Hutch fall ill after frantically wanting to meet Rosemary to pass off the book “All of Them Witches,” and Rosemary cannot even go downtown without Minnie showing up, viewers know they are in store for revelations no one wants to imagine.
Like Terrie and the stricken-blind actor, Hutch becomes a victim of satanic schemes after visiting Rosemary to express alarm over her appearance. Yet the gift of his death to Rosemary is enlightenment. Through the lone clue of “The name is an anagram” and a Scrabble board, Rosemary sees that Roman Castavet is actually Steven Marcato—son of legendary witch innovator Adrian Marcato. Fully pregnant in a sweltering 1965 July in New York City, Rosemary makes valiant but thwarted efforts to alert Dr. Sapirstein, Dr. Hill and her friend Elise to what she believes will be the eventual capture of her newborn for the use in a coven’s rituals. How sad, gleefully thrilling and cinematically compelling to witness Farrow hobbling through doctors’ offices, phone booths, and cage elevators to escape her husband and her doctor. They chase her down to treat hysteria. Of course, it’s no dream, and it is really happening – she delivers her little “Andy or Jenny” while passing out from tranquilizers, screaming for forgiveness, being held down by senior citizens and tricked into a Prozac-level daze to calm her reactions to the baby’s death.
The rather cheeky and abrupt conclusion of the film leaves much to the imagination about what Rosemary finally confronts in her child’s bassinet, once she figures out how to hide her medications and make it to the other side of an apartment with a butcher knife that will do her no good against the satiated and victorious coven celebrating in the Castavet’s home. The novel’s extended ending dialogue offers a bit more of a peek into what Rosemary plans to do as the mother of the half baby/half beast and underworld angel she had not planned on. But, Polanski leaves us with the lullaby of “La la la la,” as we watch a deranged Rosemary rocking her child’s bassinet as she instinctually gazes into a baby’s face that only a mother (or witches) could love.
On April 23rd, the Charles Band Road Show raped and pillaged its way to the Orpheum Theater, located on the infamous State Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Madison, WI. This evening’s gathering was a stop along the World Premier Tour for Full Moon Pictures’ latest […]Event Coverage Music & Events
On April 23rd, the Charles Band Road Show raped and pillaged its way to the Orpheum Theater, located on the infamous State Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Madison, WI. This evening’s gathering was a stop along the World Premier Tour for Full Moon Pictures’ latest freaky film, Evil Bong 3-D: The Wrath of Bong, presented in three dimensions and with the added wonder of Sniff-o-Rama! Alcohol was consumed in the name of cinema appreciation, breasts were bared in the name of audience participation, and the great Sid Haig was made paranoid by a certain webzine photographer’s Camera of Doom – more on that later.
Amid booze, boobs, bongs, and the bizarre, Ravenous Monster showed up to devour the entire spectacle.
Upon entering the theatre lobby, fans were presented a pair of cardboard 3-D glasses and a card containing eight numbered scratch-n’-sniffs – a harbinger of the gross olfactory assault to come. Once we’d been given our implements of sensorial suffering, the Full Moon Pictures merchandise machine forcibly removed the money from our wallets and crammed our arms full of Puppet Master Box Sets, and Evil Bong T-shirts and the like with near-lethal efficiency. Well, not exactly, but with Incest Death Squad’s Cory Udler and the exploitation flick super-capitalist, Charles Band himself manning the merch tables, my description isn’t too much of a stretch.
The truly great Sid Haig sat just beyond the merchandise, hocking his own stuff and amiably signing autographs and posing for pictures. Sid was a cool cat – well, between barking out Captain Spaulding one-liners anyway. Everything on his table cost twenty bucks and so I plopped down a pretty, green picture of President Andrew Jackson in exchange for an 8×10 of Bill Mosely, Sid Haig, and Sheri Moon Zombie on the set of The Devil’s Rejects. Sid signed the picture to me with the inspiring quote, “We’re here to fuck up your day”.
Then it was time for Ravenous Monster photographer and scribe, Billy Boyce to shoot some pictures of Sid and me. Billy’s camera snaps more shots in a minute than a M134 Minigun spits out rounds. Amid the lightening storm of flashes, Sid threw his hands up and asked if he was being arrested, which prompted Billy to ask him to calmly put his hands down and begin reciting a bullshit version of Miranda Rights. Ravenous Monster doesn’t just cover horror stars, we scare them too. It’s only fair.
Next we moved into the theater proper. Since the main event was the Evil Bong 3-D screening, the festivities began with a stripped down and condensed version of the Charles Band Road Show. Charles took the stage to talk about his career path – the circumstances that led him to the moment we were all experiencing. It was reminiscent of my college days if my professor had been a horror and exploitation filmmaker and the curriculum revolved around how the promo poster for Ghoulies undid centuries of potty training over the course of a single weekend.
Soon it was audience participation time. Charles set up a faux movie scene involving revenge, a botched execution, deadly lasers and BOOBIES – a staple of the Road Show. And I must note here that my research for this piece uncovered several facts, not the least of which is that BOOBIES must always be spelled in CAPS. There were a few male roles and one female role. Audience members were asked to come to the stage to audition for each role by explaining why they were the best choice to play their respective parts. The rest of us were asked to vote by applause, with the winner of each role remaining on stage. The majority of the aspiring actors were far weirder and a good deal more frightening than anything we would witness onscreen later.
When it was time to cast the female role, Charles explained that the character may have to bare her breasts, but for purely artistic purposes, of course. Three of the four potential actresses had no reservations about this particular element of the performance – in fact one of them, when asked why she should get the part, explained that “a set of 36-D’s and no gag reflex” made her the most qualified. And with that, the one female role quickly became three female roles. As the scene unfolded, it was cringe-inducing and more than a little awkward, ending with three exposed sets of the aforementioned BOOBIES. Did I mention that Charles Band makes exploitation movies?
Finally, it was time for the main event – Evil Bong 3-D! The lights dimmed and after a rousing trailer featuring clips from the Full Moon canon set to Guns n’ Roses’ November Rain, it was time for the feature. Evil Bong 3-D is not about a sled named Rosebud. It’s a horror comedy about an extraterrestrial bong that transports its smokers, our heroes, to a world inhabited by mostly-nude weed aliens who are harvesting human semen for nefarious, world-dominating purposes. Can our heroes figure out a way to get home? It will come as no shock that the film is silly, disgusting, and ridiculous, but endearingly so. In short, it’s a blast. The large cast includes stars John Patrick Jordan, Mitch Eakins, Brian Lloyd, and the lovely Robin Sydney.
Evil Bong 3-D doesn’t need any help being an over-the-top spectacle, but apparently 3-D just wasn’t enough for Charles Band. No, in order to truly get the audience into the palm of his hand, he needed us to smell the movie. This where our card of 8 scratch-n’-sniffs came into play. During the course of the movie numbers appear in the lower right corner of the screen, each corresponding to a scratch-n’-sniff with the same number. The majority of the scents were of various strains of space-weed, and some others were run-of-the-mill such as perfume and pizza. In fact, I recall the filmmakers taking full advantage of this potentially malicious device only once with a well timed fart sequence, a smell that was alarmingly similar to that of the pizza and a joke that would later come back to bite me in the ass, appropriately enough.
Upon exiting the theater and making my way back into the lobby, I spotted Charles Band behind one of the merchandise tables. He was standing with an attractive young lady whom I failed to recognize as Robin Sydney, mainly because her hair color was slightly different than it was in the movie I’d just finished watching. That’s right, hair color threw off my keen powers of recognition and this led to my attempted conversation with her about the inherent value of fart jokes – a conversation that is as horrifying in retrospect as anything ever committed to film.
It’s fortunate that I’m not a species because those aforementioned “keen powers of recognition” combined with the law of natural selection most certainly would have rendered me extinct. At best, I could expect to live on as a Flintstones character alongside their pet saber-toothed tiger. However, as an individual I’m lucky enough to have my friends and my wife around to keep me safe from myself. Although, apparently they’re unable to keep me from talking flatulence with Robin Sydney, but I digress. Both she and Charles were very friendly and it was a nice way to end my coverage of the event.
If you’re a fan of the absurd, the hilarious, the tasteless, or any combination thereof, don’t miss the Charles Band Road Show when it rolls into a city near you. And don’t forget to check out Evil Bong 3-D: The Wrath of Bong! For more information, check out http://www.fullmoondirect.com/.
Hobo with a Shotgun, directed by Jason Eisener and starring Rutger Hauer in the titular role, looks, sounds, and plays exactly like what it’s emulating – an exploitation extravaganza circa the early 1980’s. Having originally been made as a fake trailer for the promotion of […]Movie Reviews Movies & TV
Hobo with a Shotgun, directed by Jason Eisener and starring Rutger Hauer in the titular role, looks, sounds, and plays exactly like what it’s emulating – an exploitation extravaganza circa the early 1980’s. Having originally been made as a fake trailer for the promotion of the Quinton Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez throwback vehicle, Grindhouse (2007), Hobo with a Shotgun is that film’s second faux trailer to become a feature, following Machete (2010). Simply put, it’s a blood-stained, trashy roller coaster that’s one hell of a fun ride.
As the film begins, a hobo (Hauer) rides into town on a freight train boxcar and past a sign stating, “Welcome to Hope Town”, rechristened “Scum Town” by a cynical graffiti artist. Hope Town is a dismal urban nightmare, crawling with punks, junkies, and criminals wreaking havoc on everything and everyone. Hobo soon stumbles upon a malicious spectacle: The Drake (Brian Downey), a crime lord who has the entire city under his thumb, and his two deranged sons, Ivan (Nick Bateman) and Slick (Gregory Smith), executing The Drake’s brother Logan in front of a crowd of apathetic onlookers and in glorious gory fashion.
Later, as Hobo panhandles to earn enough money for a $49.99 lawn mower in the local pawn shop – his ticket out of poverty, he spots Ivan and Slick and decides to follow them. Inside a club, the brothers brutalize a kid named Otis who owes them money. Abby (Molly Dunsworth), a hooker with a heart of gold intervenes which makes Slick decide to kill her for her troubles. Fortunately for Abby, Hobo saves the day, knocking out Slick with a sock full of coins – a bum’s weapon of preference, and dragging him to the local police precinct.
At the precinct, the cop plays Hobo for a fool, setting him up for Slick and Ivan’s vengeance routine. Outside, the sadistic brothers viciously beat Hobo and carve the word “Scum” into his chest before leaving him for dead in a dumpster. However, karma pays off in spades, especially in the movies, when Abby rescues Hobo, taking him back to her apartment, cleaning him up, and forging a mutually needed friendship.
The next day, Hobo is bound and determined to buy that lawnmower. He finds a notorious sleazy filmmaker who pays bums to degrade themselves for money while he films them (based on the real life, disgusting exploits of the infamous Bumfights DVDs). Hobo proceeds to do an assortment of things such as eat glass, eventually earning enough for the coveted mower. Bloodied and humiliated, Hobo makes his way to the pawn shop, but as he’s about to buy the mower three armed robbers storm the place and threaten the customers – a mother and her infant son, as well as the shopkeeper. Hobo removes a shotgun from the wall and dispatches the would-be robbers. Afterward he has an epiphany: Hope Town needs a vigilante. Hobo buys the shotgun instead of the lawnmower and just like that we’ve got an awesome exploitation flick on our hands.
Hobo goes on a rampage blowing away the criminal scum and the victimizers that plague Hope Town. He becomes an instant hero, much to the chagrin of The Drake. After feeling his hold on Hope Town wane in favor of the vengeful vagrant, The Drake sends Ivan and Slick on the hunt for the new hero. The brothers storm a news station and implore the viewers to obliterate all hobos and vagabonds, causing mobs to spring forth and join their cause while creating a split in the public’s loyalties.
The film’s final act is an action-packed, gore-soaked descent into weirdness, involving the use of modified yard maintenance tools and hunting implements (A nod to Evil Dead), as well as two demon-like, ironclad storm troopers on motorcycles, Rip and Grinder, known collectively as The Plague, providing the film an inexplicable, but wholly enjoyable dollop of the supernatural. Most of all, we’re bestowed the pleasure of sitting on the edges of our seats watching to see whether or not our Hobo hero and his gal-pal Abby can rid Hope Town of its malicious pestilence otherwise known as The Drake, once and for all.
Hobo with a Shotgun pulls off quite a trick – it’s a good movie masquerading as a bad one. This starts with John Davies’s script and relies heavily on its outstanding cast and visionary directing by Eisener. The movie features purposely “bad” dialogue in faithful reverence to the movies it’s imitating, movies that feature accidentally bad dialogue. However, the ostensibly bad dialogue is just that, an aesthetic ruse concealing a structurally rock-solid story and a script rife with subtext that can only be articulated by actors with real chops.
The principal cast members, namely Rutger Hauer and Molly Dunsworth carry on their shoulders the successful execution of this experiment, walking a tightrope between exploitation trash, and nuanced drama to convey a story that has almost as much heart as it does gore. Hauer, who frequently used to star in the types of movies to which this one pays homage, turns in a brilliant and dynamic performance. Sometimes angry, sometimes compassionate, and always trying to do what’s right, Hauer’s Hobo gives this film its heart by providing an oddly believable antihero for us to get behind, and one that generates legitimate empathy. Dunsworth’s Abby is the perfect dance partner, exhibiting many of the same qualities as Hauer’s character, fulfilling the role of Hobo’s soul mate, another lost Saint stuck in the gutter and looking for a way out. The phrase, “two peas in a pod” is an appropriate one.
The rest of the cast play archetypes, roles designed to be so over-the-top as to render them exploitation cartoon characters, and they do so with gusto. This in effect funnels the realistic human elements of the story toward Hobo and Abby, our conduits into this world. It provides us a stable anchor to the story by making the various silly and surreal elements more palatable and a lot less able to shatter our suspension of disbelief. This design is the engine that propels us through the movie in a blaze and allows Hobo with a Shotgun to succeed as something more than a superficial splatter fest which is something Robert Rodriguez’s Machete was unable to do.
Technically, Hobo with a Shotgun is a dead ringer for the era it’s evoking. The colors are oversaturated and the contrast is on overload. As we progress through the movie the palette shifts to a neon nightmare-scape, emphasizing inky blacks lit with hot pink lights and other neon atrocities, creating even more dramatic contrasts and contributing to the film’s surreal visual compositions. The editing style, also courtesy of Eisener, is a faithful throwback to the film’s exploitation predecessors, particularly during the many sequences that feature ultra-violence and the resultant practical gore effects. And tying it all together, the soundtrack is full of synthesized drums with foreboding synth-bass passages and other weird 80’s flourishes, ala Escape from New York and similar films.
Hobo with a Shotgun doesn’t have many weaknesses. Although, to fully appreciate it, it helps to first have an appreciation of the positive attributes possessed by the awesomely trashy film’s this aspires to be. If you can’t find a redeeming, enjoyable element in films like Death Wish, the aforementioned Escape from New York, and the Dirty Harry canon, then you may be blind to the clever film lurking beneath the blood-stained exploitation skin here. Occasionally this film approaches the line of acceptable goofiness, but never crosses it egregiously enough to negate its successes or jar us out of our investment in the story. Hobo with a Shotgun is good, nasty fun and a good deal more craft than meets the eye.
Madeleine Roux’s first novel, Allison Hewitt is Trapped is a zombie book with brains. Not the kind that satiate the story’s hungry horde of walking dead, but rather the kind that manifest from an author who respects the intelligence of her readers and whose writing […]Book Reviews Books & Comics
Madeleine Roux’s first novel, Allison Hewitt is Trapped is a zombie book with brains. Not the kind that satiate the story’s hungry horde of walking dead, but rather the kind that manifest from an author who respects the intelligence of her readers and whose writing chops are sharper than the axe wielded by the book’s titular character.
The story is told in a series of blog entries written from Allison’s first-person perspective. When the story opens, Allison and her coworkers are trapped inside the Madison, Wisconsin bookstore at which they all work. The city’s been overrun by zombies and as Allison soon finds out via comments on her blog, many other cities around the country and eventually around the world are devastated as well.
Allison describes the difficulties of tasks we all take for granted, such as eating, going to the bathroom, and even keeping one’s mind occupied. There are also the obstacles presented by having to live in close proximity to people she probably wouldn’t bother to hang out with outside of work under normal circumstances. To complicate things a bit more, Allison rescues a stray dog which compounds the aforementioned issues.
Soon the group’s tasks broaden and with them so does the scope of the story. The first step is the decision to move from the confines of the bookstore to the more habitable apartments upstairs which are rife with their own unique perils and surprises. Shortly after the group settles into the apartments Allison receives a message from her mother saying she’s coming to find Allison. Then a voice breaks through the radio static, beckoning survivors to a safe zone about ten blocks away. Allison decides to go, hoping that her mother will find her there. At the safe zone, Allison meets Collin – the voice on the radio, as well as several other new characters, but unfortunately there’s no sign of mom.
It doesn’t take long for Allison to settle into a new routine, but as the safe zone fills up things become unstable. Events come to a head in shocking fashion, shattering Allison’s temporary sense of security and changing her outlook on her friends, her family and her future. With a renewed determination to find her mother, Allison leaves the safe zone and heads toward a fortified colony in Colorado called Liberty Village.
Allison Hewitt is Trapped is part coming-of-age story and part road story in which the journey from the bookstore in Wisconsin to Liberty Village in Colorado and the people we meet and lose along the way paint a picture of hope and redemption on an incredibly bleak canvass. The contrast is fascinating and nothing short of special.
Stylistically, Roux’s book is appealing on many levels. First, the chapters are short which leads to a convenient, quick read. I’m not a fan of putting a book down in mid-chapter and I was able to devour Allison Hewitt is Trapped in bite-sized chunks as the opportunity presented itself throughout the day. I’m also impressed with Roux’s deft inclusion of organic cliffhangers to end each chapter. It thrusts this book into page-turner territory. Moreover, each chapter is followed by a series of comments from other bloggers (remember, each chapter is a blog entry from our heroine) who are also trying desperately to survive the zombie apocalypse. Some of these comments offer suggestions, while others subtly deliver exposition. It’s a brilliant device by Roux that operates outside of the story proper, providing us information without having to remain contiguous with the events and tone of the chapters these comments follow.
Authors tend to fall into one of two categories. In one category reside the wordsmiths, the writers whose prose are filled with elevated language of the floweriest kind. They could describe opening a soda with the poeticism and grandeur of Shakespeare, but their storytelling skills are either obscured by pretension or they’re nonexistent. In the other group, and on the other side of the spectrum, dwell the writers whose stories are innovative, compelling, and brilliant, but their textual representations of those concepts leave a lot to be desired. However, Madeleine falls into the third and smallest group of writers – those who possess both the ability to compose appealing prose and the ability to spin a yarn like nobody’s business.
Allison Hewitt is Trapped never stays too long in one place, darting from the colloquial to the poetic, from the funny to the poignant, from the introspective to the action-packed, and from horror to adventure – its motif is its dynamism. For example, there are no lily white or jet black characters. The differences between who’s good and who’s bad are fluid and even our heroine does reprehensible things in certain contexts. Roux’s awareness of this is borne out in both the prologue and the epilogue and used for a little social commentary – something all good zombie stories have included since George A. Romero accidentally detonated a sociopolitical zombie bomb back in 1968.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the following: Regardless of any messages about gender one may glean from the book’s text, Allison Hewitt is Trapped grades highly on its merits as a successful work of fiction, independently of its author’s gender and that of its protagonist. However, the comparisons to other female-centric horror/fantasy books are inevitable. As opposed to Stephenie Meyer’s Bella, an anti-feminist who, in the time it takes a werewolf to remove his shirt, undermines the genre’s slug-like progress in featuring autonomous female heroes, and Charlaine Harris’s ham-handed characterization of her vapid, navel-gazing protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse, Roux’s Allison is a near perfect representation of a strong, non-objectified female genre protagonist and one deserving exposure.
Allison Hewitt is Trapped has only one flaw and it’s a relatively minor one. During the course of her adventure, Allison falls in love and this romantic subplot has profound consequences for our girl. However, we’re not shown enough of the romance’s formative stage to really optimize its emotional payoff. I would like to have seen this facet of the book developed more completely. As written, some scenes that should be incredibly moving are rendered a bit impotent.
Madeleine is relatively young for a published novelist and the story behind how her book came to be is sensational. But make no mistake – she is no novelty act and her book is not propped up by its strange conception and subsequent birth. Roux is a fantastic writer and Allison Hewitt is Trapped is the proof.
With the glut of crappy remakes to go along with half-baked motives and embarrassingly cheesy acting that have plagued mainstream horror cinema over the last few years, I sometimes wonder what I’ll see first (if I ever witness either at all)- a Chicago Cubs world […]Movie Interviews Movies & TV
With the glut of crappy remakes to go along with half-baked motives and embarrassingly cheesy acting that have plagued mainstream horror cinema over the last few years, I sometimes wonder what I’ll see first (if I ever witness either at all)- a Chicago Cubs world championship or another big time, Hollywood horror blockbuster to sit alongside Jaws, The Exorcist and the original bad boys of grue (I prefer my Freddy, Jason and Michael to be in their late 50’s in this day and age, thank you very much) on the mantel of the macabre.
But then I find myself meandering around the local video store (yes, some still exist) a few weeks back and after an hour or so of rummaging through the bargain bins and 2-for-$1 rental racks, I was literally jogging back to my apartment with a sack full of goodies, prepared to spend a weekday off in front of the boob tube, feasting on leftover pizza while creatures and psychos on screen feasted on one another.
That being said, I’m a lot more interested in that damn Cubs’ World Series win now that I know the independent horror film scene is in good hands. While one can never top the rush of seeing a truly horrific film on the big screen amidst a hundred terrified strangers, I am here today to respectfully demand that each and every one of you reading this article promptly venture to the local video store or head on over to your favorite website and treat yourself to an allowance for some wildly fun independent horror.
I was fortunate enough to track down another multi-talented indie actress and pick her brains (not literally, of course) on a number of subjects, including her Best Actress win at the Indy Horror Film Festival in March and delve a little deeper into one of my favorite indie horror flicks, “Bled White”, in which she stars.
A veteran of over 15 years in the acting business, Rosa Frausto seems destined to be in the mix for the title of Scream Queen for quite a while. Not only does she celebrate her birthday on All Hollow’s Eve, but she also has several years of professional training under her belt, not to mention being trilingual (I wonder if she knows how to say “holy crap, a zombie!” in French?) and being one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the chance to chat with- the first thing she did upon starting the interview was thank ME for MY time and say some extremely kind things about the friend who led her to this interview.
Even scream queens need a break from the action now and then. The multi-talented Ms. Frausto took a few moments out of some rare R&R time to answer a few questions for her fiendish fan base.
If there is a huge Hollywood horror blockbuster on the horizon, I know one young woman who is more than ready to become this generation’s scream queen.
RavMon: First things first, congratulations on your Best Actress win for “Paranormal Calamity” at the Indy Horror Film Festival earlier this month. What did the win mean to you, personally?
Rosa: Thank you so much! It really touched me a lot because I’ve been working as an independent actor for 15 years and I wasn’t doing it for the recognition. To me, it’s just the love and the dedication I have for it. However, I am truly humbled to receive this award because even though I wasn’t looking for recognition, it does help push my career forward and makes me go even further for my family, friends and fans.
RavMon: You worked with Charlene Tilton on “Paranormal Calamity”. She’s certainly not a newbie to the acting scene. Did she offer any advice or did you take anything out of watching her act?
Rosa: Charlene Tilton and I had different work schedules so I didn’t get to meet her on set but she did a great job with her character as she is a very experienced actor. So although I didn’t meet her, her performance shows dedication and love so I take that with me moving forward.
RavMon: Being extensively trained in the art of acting, as well as a laundry list of dance skills, it’s clear you took the time to devote yourself entirely to this career. What led you or inspired you to make such a difficult career your goal?
Rosa: It all happened when I was a junior in high school. I was a business major and my friend was a senior who was a drama major. She wrote a play titled “Rising Star”. She wanted me to audition for this part she had me in mind for. I never acted in my life but being that I’m very outgoing I took a shot and auditioned for it. Got the part and fell in love with acting since. I continued my goals in the business/administrative field to have a fall back plan and then went ahead and took acting classes because I knew I loved it.
RavMon: You have tackled a number of roles in your career, ranging from horror to comedy to some pretty deep issues (namely “El Dia De Los Muertos” – a film based on true events in which a gang of suburban teens are killing Chicago’s homeless for sport, leading up to the murder of an illegal Mexican working girl and “Fresh Cut”). Is there a specific genre you feel most comfortable in? If so, what makes that genre so appealing to you?
Rosa: I played Ana Lucia in “Dia De Los Muertos”, the main victim. As a matter of fact, Ricardo Islas, who is filming “Frankenstien” right now, also directed “El Dia de Los Muertos”. He (Islas) gave me my first lead in this movie and I was so excited because we flew out to shoot some scenes it in Mexico, it was wonderful!
Fresh Cut is a short film that was only premiered at the Detroit Film Festival in March 2010 and it didn’t go anywhere after that. I was a bit saddened because I cut my long hair for this short. No pay. Well gas was paid and food, but I loved the script and I did it anyway. I played a young skin head (Manny) who’s dating another skin head who makes her beat up the man who abused my character when I was a little girl. I do end up killing him by bad influence of my boyfriend because he felt I wasn’t a tough skinhead. The part was originally meant to be played by a boy. The director, Alejandro Rojas, saw me at an audition and changed his mind and decided to cast me instead. The trailer is up on Youtube.
Yes, I’ve taken roles where I usually play a teenager and/ or the victim and I am comfortable with both because I could cry on cue and break down quickly. Playing a teenager and/or the victim is pretty cool because casting directors never know my real age. As long as I’m older than 18 they are happy but it’s cool because they get startled when they know my real age. It’s great.
RavMon: What actresses in the horror community do you look up to?
Rosa: Hmmm… Good question. I don’t really have one. There really isn’t a scream queen in this day and age that I could actually name.
RavMon: Can’t really argue with that. That being said, what’s your all-time favorite scary movie?
Rosa: I love this question! I have two favorites and they are “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” [the originals]. I could watch those two forever. “Halloween” is a must, especially on my birthday, October 31st.
RavMon: I particularly enjoyed “Bled White”. On such a small budget, what were some of the obstacles the crew faced and what really hooked you onto this project?
Rosa: I’m happy you saw it. Thank you! “Bled White” had a lot of obstacles while filming because it was winter and below zero temperatures. I’m talking 20 below, it was crazy. The hotel my scenes took place in had no heat. We relied on two space heaters. I was only on set for two days and I hardly ate for almost a whole day because I didn’t want to ruin my zombie look. The black teeth, the latex on my face along with blood on my face and body. I wanted to stay in character. “For the love of film”, that’s what I say. That’s the way to get through obstacles when working on independent films.
RavMon: You have worked with a handful of directors a number of times, most notably Juan J. Frausto, Diane Mejia and Armando Hernandez. Is there one particular director you enjoy working with most?
Rosa: They are all wonderful directors and I love all the directors I get to work with. However, Juan J. Frausto, besides the fact that he is my brother, is the best director in my eyes because I’ve seen him work since I was a little girl.
RavMon: To your younger fans, particularly young Latina women who are hoping to pursue a career in acting, what words of advice can you offer?
Rosa: My advice to them is, start off by doing it all yourself. Get trained in acting, get all the advice you can, always keep in touch with photographers, look for those auditions out there, colleges especially. Always network as much as possible, go to film festivals, market yourself and stay focused because a lot of giving up will come to mind but don’t stop. And lastly, love yourself and your family always.
RavMon: What projects are you currently working on?
Rosa: I am ecstatic to announce a film titled “Road Kill”, directed by my brother Juan J. Frausto, has been selected to screen at one of the top festivals in the USA- the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, April 19-23. “Road Kill” is a film where I play one of the leads. It’s a bloody one too! I also have my first lesbian scene in it. You can check out the trailer online.
I also just finished working on my first TV pilot directed by Chapman University students in the city of Orange, Ca. It will have its first screening for cast and crew this coming May 2011 which I’m really looking forward to seeing. I’m crossing fingers for it to get picked up for actual TV airing. If it does, I’ll let you know. Also, there’s another scary independent film project in the talks and I’ve been cast to play one of the leads so that’s another smile on my face.
RavMon: Keep your eyes peeled for all things Rosa Frausto by checking out her official website, www.rosafrausto.com, join her fan page on Facebook (Rosa Frausto Fan Page – 245 people and counting!) and check out her IMDB page!
Whenever you hear ‘Part 4’ with a film, it’s human nature to shudder. So I don’t blame anyone for going into Scream 4 with skepticism. However, I went in with teenage exuberance – I seriously had butterflies in my stomach when the trailers ended and […]Movie Reviews Movies & TV
Whenever you hear ‘Part 4’ with a film, it’s human nature to shudder. So I don’t blame anyone for going into Scream 4 with skepticism. However, I went in with teenage exuberance – I seriously had butterflies in my stomach when the trailers ended and I heard the first sounds of a phone ringing. I was not disappointed.
15 years after the original Woodsboro murders, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has finally come out of the darkness, literally and figuratively, by promoting her new book which tells her perspective of the original massacre. It’s only fitting that Sid’s last stop on the book tour is her old stomping grounds. It’s also only right that Dewey (that’s SHERIFF Riley, to you!), played by David Arquette, and Gail Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox) are married and also living in Ghostface’s hometown.
Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) is the new black sheep of the town, with a direct bloodline to “the angel of death”, as Sidney is known by the town’s new batch of high school babes and stud muffins. Jill has the usual bunch of high school pals – jailbait gals and smart ass guys who believe they can protect those gals. But when guts start getting misplaced again by a new Ghostface, Sidney is immediately Target Numero Uno, back to being the tormented babe who has death seemingly nipping at her heels with every step and no one is safe!
Sheriff Riley is on the case, while newswoman-turned-writer Gail is foaming at the mouth not only to catch the killer, (by now one could argue that Gail Weathers is one of the most efficient villain hunters in horror cinema history, this side of Van Helsing) but to add a spark to her writing career as well.
Sidney, Dewey, and Gail offer comfy nostalgia, with Dewey’s air-headed lines and Gail’s wonderful bitchiness supplying the laughs. Sidney gets to kick some serious ass, and make room on your list of memorable quotes for Ms. Campbell after this one!
Scream 4’s cast is top-notch. Hayden Panettierre of TV’s Heroes does an excellent job as Kirby, Jill’s best friend and virtual reincarnate of Sidney’s best friend, Tatum from the original film – a foul mouthed beauty who’s more than willing to put up her dukes if need be. Rory Culkin is entertaining rocking an Eddie Vedder ‘do to play Charlie, an off-kilter movie buff – Randy Meeks would be proud. But it’s Emma Roberts’ turn as Sidney’s cousin that really gives this installment its life. Her character morphs splendidly as the film evolves. Kudos goes to the brains behind the film for collecting the same kind of great up-and-coming cast as they did for the original.
With a robust body count deliciously seasoned with intense deaths and lots of the red stuff, Scream 4 truly does a solid job of keeping the audience guessing. And without giving away any spoilers, the “rules” are as important as ever. Credit has to go to Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson for reviving a franchise that writer Ehren Kruger tried his best to kill with his much-maligned third installment. If you’re as fortunate as I was to see Scream 4 in a theater that resembled the madhouse theater in Scream 2’s opening scene, the atmosphere only adds to the experience.
It’s hard to keep things fresh after an innovative original, and while Scream 2 was a blast, I will be putting Scream 4 right beside the first film. Scream 4 not only stands tall alongside the new millennium’s horrors, it also breathes new life into a helluva fun franchise. I’ll be waiting with bated breath for a fifth installment.
Wisconsin based filmmaker, Cory Udler marches to the beat of his own drummer. The fact that his drummer is a maniac with ball-peen hammers for sticks and a hollowed out human torso-snare is of little consequence. It just means that Cory makes weird flicks. His […]Movie Interviews Movies & TV
Wisconsin based filmmaker, Cory Udler marches to the beat of his own drummer. The fact that his drummer is a maniac with ball-peen hammers for sticks and a hollowed out human torso-snare is of little consequence. It just means that Cory makes weird flicks. His influences comprise the A-list of B-movies from the pinnacle of exploitation filmmaking. But to say that he doesn’t follow in anyone’s footsteps would be only partially true. Udler walks a filmmaking path along side footprints that may occasionally be shaped like oversized clown shoes, speckled with blood, or dinosaur’s feet, or perhaps even the dainty toe-and-stiletto-heel imprints of horny, shotgun-wielding nuns. But Cory’s exploitation tropes are very much his own. In fact, those same influential legends are now turning to Cory to provide exploitive fodder for their crazy cannons. After writing for the likes of Ted V. Mikels, and writing and directing his own set of exploitation/horror flicks, it appears the sky’s the limit for the esteemed Mr. Udler. Ravenous Monster recently tracked down the movie maverick and picked his brain like a shark among carrion, but with more alcohol and swearing. Read on….
RavMon: Please tell us a bit about your arduous and adventurous path into the world of indie horror filmmaking.
Cory: I was raised on a steady diet of Godzilla movies, The Three Stooges and Hammer Horror movies. When I was about 12 or 13, back in the days of horse drawn carriages and words like “rad”, I discovered a gem of a TV show called “The Incredibly Strange Film Show” hosted by Jonathan Ross. Every episode is on YouTube, so I strongly encourage everyone to go find it and watch it. Basically it was an hour long feature on various weird filmmakers like Ted V Mikels, HG Lewis, Ray Dennis Steckler, Ed Wood and Doris Wishman. Like I said, I was a fan of horror and odd movies before seeing the show, but it was after seeing it that I realized that the characters creating those movies were almost as interesting as the movies themselves. So from that point forward I would seek out Ted’s movies, or Herschell’s movies and just watch them over and over again. I was never a huge Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday The 13th fan. With that stuff you know what you’re going to get. With Ted’s movies or John Waters’ movies, they were different, they had something more to say, and that was my kink from that point forward. How I personally started to make weird movies, I wrote a script called “The Jitters” for a company out of Costa Mesa, California like 8 years ago or something, a horror script. I think they wanted something commercial but I gave them this weird script, probably poorly formatted and written, that had odd subplots about a diphtheria outbreak and shit. The company folded like 2 months after I sent the script in, not due to me I wouldn’t think, but I started to contact Ted V Mikels and Bill Rebane and just some of the guys I admired who’s films I loved, and struck up a relationship with them, started to write for Ted, helped Bill with some little projects he had going at the time. I had written Incest Death Squad and had it just sitting around, and saw on the Troma site that Lloyd Kaufman was looking for scripts so I sent it to him and he actually called me. I met him a few months later and he told me to make it myself and that he’d come and be in it for me, that was it. That was the catalyst, and I made the movie.
RavMon: What are the films that scared and inspired the young Cory Udler and what are the films that inform your work now?
Cory: Any movie from Ted, Herschell, John Waters, George Romero, Jodorowski, Lloyd, Charles Band. The more bizarre and outrageous the better. That’s what inspired me. Out of all of them, Ted, Lloyd and Charles were the guys I always looked up to. They made the best of the best to me. As far as movies that scared me? I was never afraid of monsters. I still find monsters to be quaint and comfortable. It was human beings that scared me the most. Chainsaw still creeps me out. Deranged is another great one. Freaks from Tod Browning. Real people with their darkest sides turned to the lights of the camera, that’s really scary. The scariest movie I’ve seen in probably the last 10 years is Zodiac. I watch it still and find myself frozen in terror that some dude is out there just picking people off and treating it like a sick game. As far as what inspires me now? Nothing, really. Not to sound like I’m above anyone or whatever, but I’m not inspired by anything anyone else is doing. I think my inspiration just comes from 25 years of watching weird shit like Deranged and Zombie Lake, you know?
RavMon: You have a formal background in video production, yet you’re not only a director, but a prolific screenwriter as well. Which of these is your first love?
Cory: Writing, for sure. Directing tends to just be compromise after compromise. When you’re writing, it’s just you, your mind, your heart, your soul and a blank page. Nobody you have to take care of, no egos or schedules to work against. Just you and the words. The sky is the limit when you write. Directing makes me insane, but I do love it when I have that first printed DVD of the final product in my hand. It makes the headaches worth it.
RavMon: How did your relationship with Charles Band and Full Moon Pictures come about?
Cory: Charles came through Madison on his Road Show tour like 5 years ago or something and I talked a friend of mine into going with me. We had a couple too many cocktails and had way too good of a time, so much so that we had Charles almost cracking up every 5 minutes when he was trying to do his show. Now keep in mind, Charles was a guy I admired, and here I am a big stupid half drunk mess yelling out shit like “BOOBIES!” at him during the show. I got to meet him after the show and he said “you guys should come on tour with me.” So I asked him how much it paid. He laughed and said, “Nothing!” I ran into Charles at a convention later that year and from that point forward I did conventions for him, did some press and PR work, I’m actually doing things for him for the Evil Bong 3D show in Madison April 23rd. So yeah, it’s pretty fucking surreal to be able to just e mail Charles or call him and do some work for him. He’s one of my favorite people in the world, and I just love that man to death.
RavMon: I was there when you presented Bill Rebane with the Madison Horror Film Fest Life Time Achievement Award. For those who don’t know, he has the distinction of creating the Midwest’s only movie studio which churned out several films including “Monster A Go-Go” and “The Giant Spider Invasion”. Has he imparted any sage advice to you regarding genre filmmaking in the land of beer and cheese?
Cory: That was a big moment for me, actually. Bill thought it was all a gag until we gave him the plaque, then he was genuinely touched. Bill was a guy who basically told Hollywood to go fuck itself and he built a fully furnished movie studio in the middle of nowhere, in Gleason, Wisconsin. Bill made sure his family was well taken care of, kids through school, everything by making movies in Wisconsin. He’s a one of a kind and a real treasure. Bill and I don’t share the same outlook on the “biz”. Bill has been on me forever to change the name of Incest Death Squad to something else and do some re-shoots on it, re-cut some stuff, try to get a good distribution deal, whatever. I just look at it like “ok, chapter one, done, next”. I want to learn, grow, create better art, better movies, reach more people my way, a more grass roots way. Bill sees filmmaking all from a business perspective, and I have had to as well in the last 3 years, but that shit just bums me out, so I do it my way without answering to a fucking distributor or an investor or whatever. But I have learned more from Bill than I could ever express, even if it wasn’t intentional on his part, I have learned a great deal just by being a part of Bill’s world. I love Bill and his wife, Barb, and I feel like a grandson to them. I’ve also been lucky enough to become friends with Dave Bellmont out of the Twin Cities who has been working on a documentary on Bill’s life and career for many, many years. Kinostadt Films is Dave’s company. I know he’s working on the selects edit of the film now, and it’s going to be fantastic once it’s done. So yeah, I’ve had a lot of fun and a lot of learning from my time knowing Bill. And really, be honest, is there a more fun movie than “Giant Spider Invasion”? No.
RavMon: What is the film scene like now in Wisconsin? Is it any more or less difficult to secure the resources necessary to get a project completed?
Cory: Is there a “scene” in Wisconsin? If there is, I don’t know about it. There are so many incredible actors, but as far as a film scene, I don’t know that there really is one. Then again, I made Incest Death Squad, I’m sure nobody is clamoring to have me as a part of their “scene” if there is indeed one. There are some insanely talented people writing, directing, acting, whatever. I don’t, personally, find it all that difficult. I steal shots, locations, lie to get people to sign off on release forms, not actors or crew, they know what I’m up to, but you know, to get a location or something, fuck yeah, tell them you’re making a student film. People around here either A, don’t give a shit what you’re doing or B, want to be a part of it. I write, direct, DP, edit, cast the movies, get locations, schedule, name it, I do it. And I’ve been lucky to have my cast and crews help me with everything. Tom Lodewyck is the greatest guy to me, he takes such good care of me and I love that guy. He’s helped me and the movies so much, I can’t even tell you. So, no, I don’t think it’s as difficult here as say LA to make a movie at the level I make movies at. I’m not making high budget commercial shit. I’m making weird exploitation movies.
RavMon: You prominently feature music in your films and I think you do it quite successfully. What’s your approach to picking the music for your films?
Cory: 9 times out of 10 I have a song in my head when I’m writing a particular scene. Most of the time I don’t have the money or resource to get that song, so I find something that’s close to it, and in most cases it turns out even better than what I had in mind before. I’ve been lucky. Star*Rats gave me their music for Incest Death Squad 2, Britny Fox gave me “Girlschool” for Incest 1. And Madison’s music scene is second to fucking none. Helliphant, El Valiente, Vid Libert. For Mediatrix I have Lords of the Trident. Mommy Sez No is a great band that always gives me awesome stuff to use. I don’t score the movies, well, I should say I haven’t, the closest I had was Judge Hydrogen’s stuff for Incest 2. On Mediatrix I have some music from Jack Acid (Sewer Chewer director James Hawley) that is just way far out that he’s given me. And thank you for the compliment, I’d like to think I have a good ear for music. I love using some death metal bands and stuff, but you have to create a mood. I know some people thought my use of Vid Libert’s music in Incest 2 was probably boring, but to me, his music elevated that movie to places I didn’t even imagine. I wanted a folk, acoustic, stripped down soundtrack for a bunch of scenes in the movie and Vid’s stuff just nailed it. You can’t just have screaming ass death metal for every fucking scene, then it turns into a cartoon. El Valiente’s music, to me, made Incest 1 the movie it is. All of the instrumental stuff in the movie is El Valiente. They’re one of the greatest bands on earth, and yeah, all of the bands and artists who have given music to the movies were a huge component in making the movies what they are, and I thank each and every one of them.
RavMon: What have your experiences been like working with Ted V. Mikels and what can we expect from “Corpse Grinders 3”?
Cory: Ted is my muse. Ted lives, breathes, eats and sleeps making movies. Ted is in his mid 80’s, has had financial issues, health issues with his back and such, but never, and I mean never, will you hear Ted complain. Instead he’ll talk all day about making movies. And it’s always about his next movie. “What should we do next, Cory?” I have said it in just about every interview I’ve done, the proudest achievement in my professional life is writing movies for Ted V Mikels. If I never do another thing, I will always proudly say that I wrote for Ted V Mikels. It’s a hoot working with Ted. When I wrote “Demon Haunt” for him a few years back, I wrote it knowing his budgetary constraints. But what did Ted do? Once he had it, he blew it up into a massive CGI undertaking that took years to complete. I told someone once that I could write a gritty script, send it to Ted and he could decide it needed a dinosaur in it, and that’s what you’d see on screen. The first like 14 minutes of Demon Haunt, I didn’t write. I saw the movie and went “oh my God, he hated my script and totally re-wrote it!”. After the 14 minute mark it kicked into my script, but Ted didn’t like that the movie just started with no real backstory. But Ted and I will go back and forth when we’re in the middle of a story idea. It’s not uncommon for us to talk 3 or 4 times in one night on the phone. He has an idea, he calls me, I have one, I’ll call him. It’s such a treat, a dream come true. And Corpse Grinders 3 is one that I have been mulling over in my head for a long time. I wasn’t sure if Ted would be open to doing almost a re-boot of the series, or what I thought could be a remake, modern day. It’s a hybrid. It’s got all of the fun little things about 1, but with my spin on it. Once I’m done, then Ted will put his spin on it, and what comes out, I guarantee will be fun. Demon Haunt and Astro Zombies M3: Cloned, the two I wrote for Ted, have been heralded by reviewers for being “exploitation with a soul”, and I think that comes from both of us. Moreso Ted than me, but I think we’re a good pair. And I’m blessed that he’s allowed me into his world. It trips me out every single time I think about it.
RavMon: Tell us about your next feature, “Mediatrix” – a film that sounds like it will explore some of the same religious themes as “Incest Death Squad”, but with a completely different tone and perspective.
Cory: I don’t want this to come across wrong, but I don’t make horror movies. When I think or horror movies I think of the big gothic Hammer stuff, or the stalk-and-slash movies, or zombies or whatever. Incest 1 and 2, to me, were just exploitation movies. They had horror elements, but so does CSI on tv. That’s not a horror show. It’s got more gore and violence than either of my movies, but that doesn’t mean it’s horror. I only ever set out to make weird movies. That’s it. That’s all I ever said I wanted. I wanted Incest 1 to be weird on all levels, from the fucking frantic shitty camera work, to the humor, everything. Weird. Period. The script was an indictment on Bush’s politics and the religious right and their manipulation of people. Mediatrix, same ball game. Again, not horror. Not one bit of this movie is horror. Exploitation. It’ll be a slicker movie. On Incest 1 I just wanted to make the movie the way I thought it should be made. In the time between Incest 1 and Incest 2 I was giving way too much credence to reviewers and other filmmakers and their opinions, whatever. So I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to make a more streamlined movie in all the technical aspects, never losing sight on the story aspects. And Paula Waterman Duerksen, who wrote the story, has given me a script that I could have never have written. Either couldn’t write or just didn’t write, either way, the perspective is different because it’s someone else and that someone else is an incredibly strong woman. It’s really from her brain, through my eyes, to your screen. So yeah, the perspective is totally different. It’s going to be fucking amazing, though, I can promise you that.
RavMon: Are you religious?
Cory: No. I’m self aware. I’m probably spiritual in some way. I mean, there has to be more to the whole scheme of things than just fucking Lady Gaga, XBox and Facebook, right? I mean, your Kindle doesn’t broaden your third eye, does it? Unless you’re reading a digital book on how to broaden your third eye. I believe that there was a Jesus, and that he was fucking amazing. Do I buy into organized religion? Watch my movies. I think spirituality and a sense of your own mortality and your place in the world means more than just shuffling off to church for an hour a week so your neighbors can see you making your appearance there. People hide behind religion because they’re afraid to face themselves.
RavMon: Why do you think religion is featured so often as a source of antagonism, not only in horror, but in fiction at large?
Cory: Because people are afraid of it. They’re afraid of dying, they’re afraid of going to hell. Oddly enough, they’re not afraid of the consequences of their smallest actions on a daily basis. What are the two things they always say you are not to discuss with people? Politics and religion. Well guess what I’m going to talk about? And guess what I’m going to flank with boobs, cursing and blood?
RavMon: There’s a long list of “B-movie” mavericks that includes Ed Wood, Roger Corman, Lloyd Kaufman, as well as the aforementioned Charles Band, Ted V. Mikels and many, many more. You seem to be carrying the torch of this peculiar niche of filmmaking, employing a broadly similar aesthetic and approach to the form. Is that a fair assessment?
Cory: I certainly don’t belong anywhere near those names. The fact that Ted’s last 2 movies say “written by Cory J Udler and Ted V Mikels” is already weird enough. Like I said before, my influence is 25 years of watching Corpse Grinders and Troll and Surf Nazi’s Must Die and Polyester and the Warhol Dracula and Frankenstein movies. My movies aren’t for everyone. I don’t want to be Michael Bay. I want to be Ted V Mikels, in that 50 years from now you look at my movies and go “he made comedy, he made horror, he made sci fi, he made drama”, you know? I know there’s no money in this for me. I don’t want to sell my soul, I have no aspirations of making huge money doing this. I just want to be able to do it. I think a lot of people get into things needing to succeed to great heights. I already have. I wrote movies for one of my idols, I wrote a sidebar for Lloyd’s next book, I work for Charles, you know? You can’t put a fucking price tag on what I’ve been able to do and see, man. But as far as carrying on along the trail those guys blazed, a boy can dream, you know?
RavMon: These movies are incredible on so many levels and have rabidly devoted fan bases, yet they’re often over looked by the mainstream. Are these the types of movies you set out to make or is this niche where you find your opportunities most readily exist?
Cory: I said it earlier, I just wanted to make an honest and weird movie. That’s it. The exploitation movies, the weird shit, that stuff spoke to me. It meant more to me. You can’t watch Astro Zombies and not know that came from the heart, you know? But watch fucking The Last Airbender and you know that came from nowhere. That came from a conveyor belt in the Hollywood system. These movies will never have massive success, especially in today’s marketplace where we are void of grindhouse theatres and drive-in’s. Hell, even the home video market is a tough sell. But what these movies do have is a shelf life. It’s a slow burn. Instead of being a 20 trillion dollar 3D remake that comes out, hits number one, drops to number 7 the next week, hits DVD, huge for a week, then nobody cares, movies like Astro Zombies and Troll and Blood Feast, those last forever. Every few years it’s a new group of kids that discover them and breathe new life into them. That’s fucking awesome. Longevity, that’s what these movies have. In 20 years is The Social Network going to mean a fucking thing? It’s a Facebook movie! Is Facebook going to be around in 10 years? MySpace was the biggest thing since discount carpeting when it came out, now it’s basically nothing. Astro Zombies, that lives forever. But no, I didn’t set out to make anything except exactly what I wanted to make. Weird fucking movies. Period. I didn’t put the digital film wear and hairs on it. I just made what my heart told me to make. As fucked up as that may be.
RavMon: Do you ever worry about getting pigeonholed?
Cory: Nah. I did at one point, I was really freaking out about being the “Incest movie” guy forever. But you know what? If I am, fine. They were honest, they were mine. They were a snapshot of my mind at a certain point in my life. I have never aspired to do anything other than make a weird movie or two, so, no. Not worried. I love everything about the movies and all of the people who have supported the movies and bought the movies and made their friends watch the movies and to the cast and crew of the movies who made it all come to life. I love that. I’m lucky.
RavMon: Will we ever see a mainstream Cory Udler picture?
Cory: Only if I completely change my perspective on life, film, art and the world.
RavMon: When Aaron and Amber meet at the bar, “Incest Death Squad” becomes an entirely different film. The tone turns much bleaker and it morphs into a much more cerebral, almost melancholy movie. Later, we even feel some odd empathy for Amber, of all characters, as Aaron leaves the farm. I think that speaks volumes about your potential as a filmmaker – that you can leave “B Movie” territory any time you’d like to. Was that shift in tone planned in advance?
Cory: Yeah, for sure. Incest Death Squad 1 and 2 are both nothing more than character studies. Incest 1 is, and I hate to keep saying it, a super weird movie. It’s slapstick, it’s drama, it’s just fucking strange, it’s gross, it’s bizarre, it makes you laugh, makes you gag, makes you feel, makes you think. It’s not slick. But it’s all about the characters and their situations. Thank God I had the actors I had, dude, because without them, it could have been just fucking bollocks. When you see “B- movies” today, there’s nothing about them that makes you think, nothing you can hang on to. They’re just “4 friends camping, woods, boobs, blood, axe, lather, rinse, repeat”. That bores me. I want something fucking out there, man, something insane, something that I have never seen before. So basically, I try to make the movies, the genre movies, that I would want to see.
RavMon: What are some of the lessons you learned from making “Incest Death Squad” that prompted changes going into to making “Incest Death Squad 2”?
Cory: I’m constantly learning. That’s the fun. I don’t think there were any actual “lessons”. I just wanted to make a totally different movie, you know? I made part 1, why make it again? I wanted to fix the mistakes I had made, either technically or personally, from doing 1, and make 2 just better all around. I don’t know if I did that, but I know we made a better movie for sure.
RavMon: “Incest Death Squad 2” eschews much of the campy humor. Why?
Cory: Well, like I said, no sense in making the same movie twice. I wouldn’t have done a sequel to the movie if I didn’t think I had more to prove and say. Nobody was paying me to make the same movie, and I probably put more pressure on myself than anyone else ever could have. I actually shot a scene with Lloyd for the movie, but it was way too goofy and way too campy. On Incest 1, his scene was the first we shot. First thing for the movie was that scene. That set the tone. I wanted to set the tone myself on Incest 2, and I did by making the script super dark from the word “go”.
RavMon: Indie horror is often times made by people with lots of passion and imagination, and little “classic” technique and experience. The results bear innovative, outside-the-box methods of storytelling via film. As a result, indie horror has always blazed trails that mainstream movies eventually follow. The areas where the lack of experience and technique tend to negatively manifest are acting and writing. For example, my crazy uncle probably won’t win an Oscar for his role as “GUY WITH AXE”. Having said all that, your films have featured some relatively impressive acting chops. I think Greg Johnson, in particular, has done some interesting things as Jeb and Tom Lodewyck and Melissa Murphy both old up carrying the load with their experience. What’s your approach to casting and how much emphasis do you put on coaxing specific performances out of your actors when you’re directing?
Cory: This is going to sound wrong, but you need to start with a good script. You do that, the actors are going to work at least to the level of the story and the words. I was lucky enough that everyone you mentioned, and also Carmela Wiese, Matt Ukena and everyone else, acted way above the material. I think horror filmmakers and indie filmmakers put more stock into what they’re shooting it on, or how they can win a film fest award for sound design than they are about the actors on screen that an audience has to spend 90 minutes with. I’m a gut-instinct-guy with actors. So far, obviously, my instincts have been right. I haven’t had to coax anything out of the actors thus far, they are all amazing.
RavMon: What’s your take on the fact that a vast majority of studio backed horror movies are remakes? Does it affect your outlook on the future of the genre and your approach to it?
Cory: Not one bit. I don’t live in that world. I don’t want to. It seems disgusting to me. They are remakes, or uninteresting ghost stories, or sequels, prequels, threequels, whatever. Horror is always a guaranteed money maker. Regardless of any other trends. And horror fans are starving for horror. Anything horror. They’re amazing fans, the most dedicated. But someone who’s going to shell out $10 bucks to see Piranha 3D probably isn’t fucking dying to see Incest Death Squad, you know? So I don’t concern myself with that. Like I said before, nothing going on today in horror or exploitation influences me at all. Not that I don’t think there’s good stuff being made on a larger scale, there is. But it’s just not something that strikes a chord with me.
RavMon: What’s more terrifying to shoot, Lloyd Kaufman’s “Grandma Blowjob and dead, bloody vaginas” monologue, or Greg Johnson’s penis?
Cory: [laughs] Both are very erotic, in their own special way. Neither is terrifying to me. They’re both a pleasure to shoot, due to the fact that those are 2 of the most fearless, dedicated performers you could ever wish to work with, and I’m blessed that each of them gave so much to me and to the movies and to the fans of the movies with what they were willing to say and do.
RavMon: Following the success “Incest Death Squad” and its sequel and with “Corpse Grinders 3” and “Mediatrix” on the way, what else can Ravenous Monster readers expect from you in the future?
Cory: No idea! That’s all I have for now. I’m not one of those guys who has, like, 12 projects in various stages of never getting done on IMDb. I’m focused on Mediatrix and writing Corpse Grinders 3, that is it, that is all. I’ll talk to you in 6 months, and if I’m lucky enough, I’ll have my next project in pre production!
After much anticipation, ceaselessly whetted by ads and commercials that were themselves quite insidious, I was able to watch the film Insidious on its Friday, April 1st, 2011 date of release. When I first began seeing these teasers for it a couple of weeks ago, […]Movie Reviews Movies & TV
After much anticipation, ceaselessly whetted by ads and commercials that were themselves quite insidious, I was able to watch the film Insidious on its Friday, April 1st, 2011 date of release. When I first began seeing these teasers for it a couple of weeks ago, the imagery and the concept fascinated me, albeit a bit apprehensively. The film comes from the group of people behind the Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises, and although these have been relatively original and entertaining to varying degrees of success, the dread of disappointment did cross my mind; I wondered just how far this team could push their streak of theatrical victories. Ultimately, when I left the theater I felt that although I had indeed been entertained, the high hopes that I had secretly harbored were only partially fulfilled.
The film Insidious is directed by James Wan, co-writer and director of Saw and executive producer on all of the subsequent films within this franchise. Oren Peli of Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 fame produced the film and Saw franchise co-writer, producer, and actor Leigh Whannel acted as writer for this film as well as having a small role. Whannel and Wan seem to have been involved in two other films named Dead Silence and Death Sentence, both of which I have not seen, but, if the omniscient internet is to be believed, they aren’t all that good. You can’t win them all, I guess.
When the film starts off the viewer gets the impression what will follow will be a standard haunted house story. Father Josh (Patrick Wilson) and mother Renai (Rose Byrne) have recently moved into a house with their young trio of children, including Dalton (Ty Simpkins), the mostly-indirect protagonist of the film. With the majority of their belongings yet unpacked at the commencement of the film, the young family is attempting to settle into their new environment. Josh is a teacher and Renai apparently makes trite and maudlin songs on her piano, songs that would fit right into any hipster’s iPod playlist for those days when their vintage single-speed fixie has a flat, their venti soy doppio macchiato spills onto their eco-friendly messenger bag, and they’ve been reading too much of The Bell Jar. Requiring more suspension of disbelief than the paranormal events that occur is how they are able to afford such a house and the subsequent pecuniary-draining actions on the salaries of what seems to be a high school teacher and a liberal arts school graduate who hasn’t made it big yet – Housing bubble, indeed.
I’m still not exactly sure what happens next, but, somehow Dalton goes into a coma after a fall from a ladder in the attic –after being led up there through the spooky, supernatural coercion of an automated creaky door– which resulted in a bump on his head but said injury doesn’t actually have anything to do with the coma. After an ominous visit to the hospital where the parents are informed that medical science is at a loss to explain the pseudo-coma, three months pass suddenly when he is brought back to be taken care of at home. During the previous three months which were spent in the hospital it seems as if nothing paranormal happens, or else it’s simply ignored. Perhaps ghosts suffer from White Coat Syndrome, too.
Thenceforth the film develops in the typical fashion of most haunted house fare until the activity becomes too much for Renai and she pleads to an emotionally distant and withdrawn Josh to move away to a new, less haunted home. What seems like a new beginning at a new home is good for a few more jump scares until the revelation –which ends up being one of the creepiest scenes in the film– from Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) that she had recently traveled to the house during a dream and encountered a demon in Dalton’s room; it then informs her that what it wants is Dalton himself. This is itself not much of a spoiler because the commercials already did the spoiling with their frequent use of the scene where the psychic Elise (Lin Shaye) is heard decreeing that it isn’t the house that’s haunted, it’s their son.
After Lorraine persuades the couple to bring in Elise the medium, it is actually her two assistants that show up, one of whom is Leigh Whannel in a cameo role as Specs in his best John Hodgman imitation. Humor is never lacking in the film and it is especially prevalent with the interactions between this duo. While Tucker (Angus Sampson) inspects the house with the ghost hunting machines of his own creation, he encounters a set of what seem to be badly made-up girls with large grins and empty eyes in what seemed like an attempt to brandish yet another ineffective stereotype. Tucker decides this is quite enough and that it is time to bring in Elise. At this point, things become a little more interesting.
In spite of the occasionally effective jump scares, most of the film seems as incorporeal as the entities on screen because of a lack of real plot development. What appears in the film is mostly a regurgitation of past efforts in haunted house films. Additionally, the movie feels like it is actually two films in one when it seems to change tone and direction partway through, never really living up to the expectations of either one of its halves.
Most of the specters haunting the young Dalton aren’t all that scary or creepy. Apart from the awesome demon thing, every other haunter just seems like a tired old stereotype of a creepy movie ghost. In Insidious the viewer comes across the gothy badman, the vapid but eerily cheerful baby doll dress girls, the ugly crone, among many others. This film also uses a nostalgic golden oldie in that tired horror movie device of making saccharine and bucolic things from a simpler time scary when juxtaposed with a ghost. The demon thing was pretty bad ass, though. Like, for reals, it rocked!
There are a few odd portents sprung upon the viewer right at the beginning which unfortunately, aren’t wholly carried through to the ending. Most of the first part of the film hints at aging, a theme that seems to have been aborted without any further mention. It’s like the creators had a bunch of ideas that they started with but didn’t know where to take them, so they kept them in the film as vestigial plotlines.
In the end, even though the film isn’t anything new and amazing, the experience was itself entertaining. There were even a few moments when I jumped in my seat! Sure, it seems like it’s just a rehash of Paranormal Activity and Poltergeist, but, truly, most things are themselves unoriginal in plot; the execution is what’s important to a fun experience, and this film does just that. My recommendation is to see this film in a large, loud, dark theater with good friends and a big bag of popcorn and just enjoy the thing. You’ll jump a few times and you won’t have to think too much.