Sunday, 28 April 2013

The O'Briens Take Over TONIGHT

Again evoking the 'or whatever strikes' part of my banner header, here we are, finally the time has arrived; The PREMIERE of The O'Briens!

For those who are a little lost, The O'Briens is a romcom set in Galway, Ireland, and the official logline goes something like this: Two years after the death of his wife, an Irish father summons his daughter and two sons home, causing all to fear the worst . . . but he’s not the only one with a secret.

I directed (with Emma Gahen co-directing) and edited the film while Ally production managed and co-produced (along with tonnes of other people doing impeccable jobs, including Slaine Kelly, our Sodium Party alum, co-writing, producing and starring). It was a hell of an undertaking and hard work for everyone,, but right now, it feels like it is all about to pay off.

We premiere in the Irish Spotlight of the Newport Beach Film Festival tonight, and have SOLD OUT the Big Newport Theatre (quite a big screen, as far as we have been told). There is talk of a second screening being added (whether or not I'll be able to attend that one is to be seen), and people have been knocking down the door to try get in to tonight's screening. It's all a crazy experience, and the festival itself has been pretty intense and fun, so we can only imagine what tonight could bring!

So, as I prepare to search for some breakfast, I wanted to share my excitement about tonight, where something so many people worked so hard on will be let loose in to the world, and Slaine Kelly, Emmett Hughes, Ally Scarff, Amber Jean Rowan, Kellie Blaise, Nicky Royston and myself will be there, probably nervous as hell, but so damn excited.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

EVIL DEAD 2013: The Horrorface Verdict

The time is upon us, folks. Evil Dead 2013 is now with us! 

A remake of Sam Raimi's 1981 horror classic, Fede Alvarez takes a lot of cues from its source material, isolating a group of college-age kids in a cabin in the woods, this time under the guise of them trying to help one addict friend go cold turkey off drugs. Exploring a rancid odour in the cabin, they come across a book wrapped in barbed wire, bound in human flesh, and etched with warnings about reading the words from it. Of course, one of the people does read the words, unleashing an evil demon who possesses the most vulnerable of the group, and kicks off a chain of events that the book tells us will lead to the return of the demon, but not before inflicting many horrors, both psychological and immensely physical, on the people.

Let me clear this up from the outset, in my one word review, I stated the Evil Dead remake was 'average', and I have had a lot of people take issue with that with me. Average, though not spectacular or mind-blowing, is better than disappointing or shit. We all knew this film would have an uphill battle from the get go, and luckily it is no Nightmare on Elm Street remake, or Friday The 13th or whatever. It is a good film. It is well shot with an effective score, and Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci give great performances as the drug addict and cowardly teacher, respectively. Someone who has never seen an Evil Dead movie before will lap this up. Once it gets going, it keeps a pace, and has a wry humour in its proceedings. It is not a poorly done film by any stretch of the imagination, and it doesn't crap all over what has come before.

You may even experience the occasional deja vu.

However, it might be its reverence for what has come before that is its downfall. Watching the film, there was so many times I wondered if someone who hasn't seen Evil Dead before would get some of these gags, or what is going on. Everything felt disjointed. As a remake, they seemed to know there were certain beats they felt had to hit for fans of the original, but they went to hit them regardless of if it worked for the film or not. The infamous tree rape, for example (and I'm only going to briefly touch on it) is here, but in a castrated form, though granted it serves a bit more of a function here than the original. A lot of the scares were based on a familiarity with how things played out in the original, and again, if you hadn't seen it, you could be forgiven for being confused as to why everyone around you was getting giddy with anticipation. 

Speaking of scares, there are none. Well, there are a couple, but nothing in any way worthwhile of the films 'Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience' tagline. The only jump I had was from a cheap scare of someone looking up. That's it. I wrote just the other day about how the original caught me off guard with just how much it scared me, but this one had the exact opposite problem. Heck, I figured the scares might be dulled for me in my 'old' age, but I judged by the trailers and thought it might replace the actual terror with intensity, like how the first 15 minutes of Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salems plays out. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The film has some fantastic gore, and a lot of the effects are practical (not 100% practical, let's put that rumour to rest), but I am surprised so many people are bringing that up as the 'controversial' or selling point of the movie. Sure, it is well done, but it really doesn't feel like it is that intense or over-the-top. In fact, just by watching the red band trailer, I think I spoiled pretty much every good gore gag in the film for myself. Even if I hadn't, this film might as well be The Muppets Movie when compared to films like Evil Dead 2 and Brain Dead. In a post-Hostel world, you really have to do a lot more than what this film does to shock with its gore, and there is the old knowledge that good effects don't make a good story.


Aaaand speaking of story (man, I'm getting better at segueways), this one is all over the shop. I'm not sure if it is badly directed, but the actors always felt like they were reading from script, with awkward, unrealistic pauses in pretty much every scene. Then there are the massive leaps of faith we are asked to make, sure as the protagonists continuously separating  even though they know something spooky is happening (with a prime example being the blonde who has just had an unpleasant basement encounter being unceremoniously left to go to the kitchen while the men talk business in the bedroom). There is also an annoying procedure to the film, where the Book of the Dead describes events that have to happen to bring the demon to this plane, making it seems less and less likely that there is any actual threat. The personifications of the demon also made me cringe, trying to come off as vulgar, but instead being clones of Linda Blair in the Exorcist spoof, Repossessed.

People still find creepy girls with long black hair scary, right?

The biggest let down of the script was just how unimpressive it was. I spent most of the film waiting for it to really get into gear, and once it did, it ended minutes later. One of the most defining traits of the original Evil Dead films (and they cannot be discredited here, since the film relies on our knowledge of them, including part 2) is just how insane they are. The first film is 20 minutes of setup, and then an hour of intensity. Every time you think it is about to end, it doesn't. Just when you think there is about to be a quiet moment, it gets even louder. The 2013 film adheres more to traditional horror rules of peaks and valleys in its action. Maybe because of this, there is never any real threat in the film. In Raimi's film, there is a massive apprehension with the possessed person locked in the basement, and the demons are in control every step of the way, messing with the kids, like a cat with a mouse, but here, the basement locking-up seems to be throwaway, more in reference to the original than anything, and the demons roam around like incompetent zombies. This left me scratching my head all the way through wondering what the hell the big deal is? 

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to rant. I wanted to write a short, concise, and possibly positive rambling of Evil Dead 2013. And if you are a horror fan, I definitely think you should see it. However, it is not only open to, but invites, comparison to the original, and this ends up being its biggest letdown. The film feels neutered, not taking any risks, and actually playing it safer than it's 30+ year old source.

The hype around this film has been great for getting attention of the original Evil Dead, but otherwise, this film will fade from memory, being placed behind Drag Me To Hell in my list of favourite Evil Dead films (DMTH is Evil Dead 4 in my book, by the by). 

What say you? What do you think of my film word on the film; 'average'? 

PS. Stay till the end of the closing credits. You'll thank me.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Music Video: This Place Was A Shelter

Ally and myself decided, very close to the deadline, to make an entry for a competition to make an official music video for Olafur Arnalds' upcoming single, This Place Was A Shelter. An instrumental piece that is epically cinematic, we dug the song, and wanted to do something a bit more immediate after the last 9 months or so making the feature film, so we grabbed our talented actress friend Marian Rose (whom I continue to torture again and again...)

(... and again and again...)

... And set off to make the video. There was only a couple of weeks from conception, shooting and completion, and we are delighted with the results. It is on the Genero website along with 180 other entries, and there are some stunners, but there is a great satisfaction to having this video realised, and not a million miles off what was in my head. 

Oh, and I should mention, if you are a horror or gore fan, this MAY well be for you!

Please enjoy and share the link around. It's not judged on views or votes, I just want to share what Ally, Michael, Marian and myself created!


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Evil Dead 2013 One Word Review


Before The Remake: The Original EVIL DEAD

I am mere hours away from attending the Irish premiere of the Evil Dead remake, and in anticipation, I decided to rewatch Sam Raimi's original.

Courtesy of Living Dead Girl (complete with typos).

It was just over 11 years ago that I saw Raimi's balls-to-the-wall gore-fest Evil Dead, and even now, I still remember it well.  I've seen an awful lot of horror since then, but at the time, I was still well versed, having fallen head first into the zombie genre, but it was still a few years off its revival with Shaun of the Dead and the Dawn of the Dead remake. I was looking for another zombie movie to feed my addiction. I was not ready for what I was about to unleash.

It was an unusual experience, where I received the Anchor Bay DVD as a birthday present and sat back at 5pm with the curtains drawn, ready to watch it. Even then, very little really spooked or scared me, but once the DVD kicked off, with me in the seat, trying to hide the daylight, I was transported into a horrifying and terrible world. 

Truly one of those experiences, where something far surpasses your expectations, Evil Dead had me on edge, struggling to watch, but unable to look away, praying the chaos was about to end and the film was just about to wrap up. When the end credits rolled, I sat, dumbfounded. The film has the purposely over-the-top advertisements of being the ultimate experience in gruelling terror, but you know what? I think it almost lives up to those bold claims. From the slow journey into isolation, to the exploration of the basement, to the insanity and demons and bizarre stopmotion ending, the film just will not let you go. Immediately, I set out to see the sequels (Evil Dead 2 is a genuine masterpiece itself), and eat-breath-sleep Raimi and anything Evil Dead (including it's pseudo sequel Drag Me To Hell, and all the unofficial Italian tie-ins). I'm not the only one to do this, and by far I am not the most extreme.

Everyone has their experience of the film, and I know there are some haters out there, but for me, Evil Dead exists right up along with The Shining, The Exorcist, Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as examples of archetypal horror. Bad acting and cheap effects don't diminish the film, they enhance it. Many have tried to emulate the film since, and many have failed. Whatever was in the water, Raimi, Campbell et all just did it right.

It is a hell of a film, and even though it is certainly a film of its time, it is still as powerful today as it was then. I have been trying to steer clear of reviews, but I am aware of the general consensus of the Evil Dead remake. In a few hours, please join me for my one word review of ED2013, and in a few days, I will fully bash out my thoughts on the update to the cult classic. Actually, the original cannot be called a cult classic. FAR too many people know and love it. Regardless of if the remake is good or not, it has done one fantastic thing; raised the profile of the original.

Evil Dead is a classic. Viva Evil Dead.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Secret Origins of V/H/S (AKA The Film That Stole an Original Concept from Youtube)

Found footage anthology film V/H/S made waves last year, with a massive marketing push by Bloody Disgusting assuring us that, though they owned a stake in it, it was still a legitimately great film. The truth showed this to be complete hogwash, with the film being very average and very forgettable, but it had its high points too. One of those high points was the final segment, where some young men go to a house party but find no one there, and stumble across... well, something. I don't wanna spoil it for those who haven't seen it. My point is it was one of the better parts of the entire film, but while watching it, I was also pretty shocked at what I was seeing. Not because it was scary. Not because it was captivating. No, it was because it was identical to a fantastic little video I'd seen on Youtube YEARS before. 

For those who have seen V/H/S and want to know what I mean, and for those who are reading this in the dark at 2am and would like something to give them the willies, have a look at this:

That video (purporting to be REAL DEMONS caught on tape) was uploaded in 2009, 3 years before V/H/S was released (and assumedly a good year or 2 before the segment in question was made). I have looked to see if anyone else has been annoyed by the 'homage' in question, but so far, nothing. If the maker of that video was involved in V/H/S (which I don't think they were) or the film gave it acknowledgement, things would be a different story, but as it stands, in my eyes, V/H/S takes its best moment from an original source and is hoping no one has noticed.

Here's some grabs from V/H/S itself, for the curious. I rest my case.

I'm going to go scour Youtube to find what videos they will be copying for V/H/S 2.

Capturing Your Attention: The Collection Hits Home Video

Because I am shamefully slow at doing any sort of write up, I missed the theatrical window on this one, but just in time for home video, here is my two cents on Marcus Dunstan's blood-drenched horror/thriller sequel, The Collection.

Following on from 2009's pleasant surprise, The Collector, The Collection follows a masked serial killer who puts people through elaborate traps that kill the victims in all manner of gore-soaked ways, and keeps one victim alive and stuffed in a box (his 'collection'). Our protagonist from the first film, Arkin, returns, and is blackmailed to take on a quest to rescue a girl from the trap-laden lair of The Collector.

Good to see the gimp from Pulp Fiction working again.

There is a bit more to the film than that, such as the big first act sequence in a nightclub where everyone is slaughtered (er... spoiler-ish?), but essentially, the film is the standard infiltrate the villain's hideout to save the girl. Coming from the writers of several Saw films, you know to expect the typical Rube Goldberg-style traps and over-the-top gore, and they deliver these in solid doses. Unfortunately, this is pretty much all they deliver.

This film's predecessor, The Collector, was a small scale but high concept idea executed fantastically. Taking a violent premise of a burglar getting caught up in a serial killer's trap, but injecting it with claustrophobia and tension, the film exceeded my expectations and has earned a decent reputation with most folk. Sadly, all the good things about the first film, like its intimacy, its straightforwardness, and even the realism of the villain, all get lost in the sequel's attempts to be bigger and bloodier. Not to mention the moments that seem just bat-shit insane (one word: zombies).

Not badly acted, not badly shot, not badly most things, the film just kind of coasts along, hitting all the story points beat by beat, with disposable characters dispatched predictably. It's a good thing the Collector films are marketed as 'from the makers of Saw', because, really, if that is what draws you to the film, it is what will hook you in. For your average movie goer, or those who want more than just an over-abundance of SFX (I'm purposely avoiding the 'torture porn' phrase, because though it sticks to the original intention of the phrase, it doesn't fit the mutation that those words now conjure), the film is just by the numbers.

It has some lovely imagery and set pieces, it picks up towards the final act, Charlie Clouser again provides a brilliant score, and I did find myself rooting for certain characters towards the end, but all in all, it has a massive been-there-done-that vibe to it. All the while I was viewing it, I just couldn't shake how much it reminded me of Saw II, with a similar setting of an ensemble cast trapped in a death house, trying to escape the madman and his whacky implements. It really does seem like they are trying to take over the Saw mantle with these films, and oddly enough, this film will only be stronger if they do. As an individual film, The Collection is very A-typical, but if presented as part of a (minimum) three film series, it becomes an intricate part of a bigger picture.

I know the filmmakers have plans for a sequel, but this installment fell flat at the box office, so we will have to wait and see if the story will be furthered. As it stands now, this film really only serves to satisfy those who want more of the Saw type evisceration. For anyone else, I'd recommend going back to the first film.

What do you make of this?

Friday, 5 April 2013

Prying Open My Third Eye: From Beyond Invades Your Home

I've written before about the mostly unknown Stuart Gordon film, From Beyond, and found it to be a bit underwhelming, but overall fun film. Well, recently, Second Sight Films released the film in a brand new sparkly Blu-Ray, and I went and spent the full sticker price, because if someone takes a risk of releasing a more obscure gem, they deserve it. How did it go down with me?

Pretty well.

The entire film lives in the shadow of Gordon's debut, Re-animator, which it can be argued he has never topped, and by using the same stable of actors (Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton), it invites comparison. Sticking with schlokmeister producer Charles Band, Gordon shot a load of low budget flicks in Italy (From Beyond was shot almost back to back with Dolls), and there is a definite vibe of diminishing returns as his catalogue was produced, but From Beyond remains one of Stuart Gordon's finest films, not quite living up to its big brother, Re-animator, but certainly earning an A for effort.

Second Sight's Blu-Ray release appropriately also invites comparison to the special edition of Re-animator (which, if you don't have, what the hell do you even have a DVD player for? That shit is gold). This release is packed to the rafters with extras, leaving every penny of the cost worth it. A lot of the features are recycled from the region 1 MGM DVD, but hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

If it ain't broke, don't fix it...

The film comes uncut, restoring footage removed to achieve an appropriate rating. The footage was thought destroyed, but ended up being painstakingly restored from a workprint, and using modern grading, was almost seamlessly integrated into the film (the Editing Room - Lost and Found featurette details this process). We have a lively commentary from Gordon, Combs, Crampton and Brian Yuzna, with Combs getting a bit diva every now and again about his Re-animator co-star Bruce Abbott, Crampton being quite a refreshing voice for a female in exploitation (having a laugh about friends putting on THAT scene during dinner parties), and Yuzna doing his best to actually discuss the production, the poor bugger. Very conversational, very honest, and worth a watch. If you have never watched a commentary before, this is a fine example of a good one.

In conjunction with the commentary, several featurettes paint the full picture on the film, these being Stuart Gordon on From Beyond (which seems quite recent and filmed after a special screening), Director's Perspective, and The Doctor Is In - An Interview With Barbara Crampton (where the woman again gives a candid and charming insight into her experience on the film and her career). In contrast, Gothic Adaptation - An Interview With Writer Dennis Paoli shows a slightly bitter taste in the co-writer's mouth, though he doesn't come off in a bad light. There is a documentary on the impressive special effects (which Yuzna and Gordon slight in the commentary, somewhat justly), a nice interview with composer Richard Band, a photo montage and short storyboard to film comparison.

It just seems to be a film filled with many two-sided stories, and the Blu-Ray doesn't shy away from this. Drama behind the scenes always makes for the best home edition releases, regardless of the actual film.

The region A release contains a lot of this content, with some different featurettes and a commentary by writer Paoli, but unfortunately I don't have the release so can't comment much upon it. Sources tell me both releases are strong and have their own pros and cons, so all things considered, we're doing well. I did find the newer featurettes to be a bit rushed feeling, which is an issue I have with a lot of featurettes on certain popular cult retailers releases, but I do try hold my tongue, since the content is great, and much better than none at all. It's just a bit sloppy in it's presentation.

If you were a Re-animator fan, or Return of the Living Dead fan, or want proper B-movies, this is where to look. This film is what most people mean when they say B-movie. Schlocky fun with blood and nudity, never to be taken seriously. My overall impression is the release is a lot like the film, a strong effort well worth your time, but still in the shadow of Gordon's splatter classic.