Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

A Swedish Vampire Christmas

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Reversing the roles of Twilight, that other teenage romance disguised as a vampire film, comes the dark and creepy-sweet Swedish film, Let the Right One In. I saw it on Christmas Day. The new girl in town enchants the lonely boy next door with her powers – namely, she flies, does a mean Rubik’s Cube, and does not mind the cold – and he cannot resist her awkward ice-cold intimacy. They want so much to be friends that she feigns eating human food though it makes her sick and he overlooks her necessary evil.

Like Claudia in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles our vamp Eli is frozen in the body of a pre-teen girl, her monstrousness disguised in big-eyed innocence. For a vampire, Eli seems very rough around the edges and filthy fingernails, but this isn’t Hollywood. The film has it’s share of blood, but the most graphically violent moments are not classically vampiric and only some involve the fanged exploits of our darling monster. Be prepared for a failed suicide by acid, clumsy bloodletting by an aging yet loyal companion, and a massive revenge fantasy that you smell coming without remotely sensing the magnitude of its enactment.

This is a tale of revenge and friendship, yet that icing barely covers an immoral taste of immortal pedophila.

The ice-encrusted trees and wintry landscapes are gorgeous and recall another vampire film, without the relentless horror. It’s good, and will leave you chilled.

Misty for Me

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I watched The Mist a few nights ago on fast forward. Even Marcia Gay Harden’s apocalypse-hungry character could not save this film. SPOILER ALERT: The acting was so poor that at the end when our “hero” shoots four survivors including his own wide-eyed child to spare them from a fate torn apart by massive mist-dwelling CGI-tentacled critters only minutes before tanks pour in to the rescue, his grief is so shallowly performed the viewer can’t possibly care.

Speaking of mist, the California version blotted out the sun, and the entire landscape yesterday (hint: in the white is a beach, a lagoon, and hills):

fog

This non-tentacled critter staggered out, but luckily didn’t see me, probably due to weather:

alan

Haunted Maritimes

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Beckley and I just returned from visiting my family on the East Coast of Newfoundland. We had a restful and fun vacation, but the landscapes are stark, harsh, and magical. Horror-film worthy to say the least.

shark
Don’t go in the Water!

moon
The Howling

ship
The Mist

house
The House that Sank into the Hill

rocks
Careful where you swim, my sweet

bighouse
The House of Horrors

yellowhouse
House on the Hill

fog
The Fog

danger
The Danger

blueship
I Know What You Did Last Summer

redhouse
The Cellar

clouds
The Rocks

road
Incident at the Old Pig Farm *

*Special Thanks to Cara Kansala and Pam Dorey of Cara’s Joy who happily told me about the abandoned Pig Farm and showed me their zombie cats paintings.

I’m already half-planning the next trip: the icebergs and grey skies of Winter may be muses calling my name.

Zombies in Condoland

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

zombies in condoland

The website for my upcoming performance in Toronto is officially launched here! You can participate!

What’s in a Mask?

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

strangers

With The Strangers, which I have not seen, still on the top summer horror charts, I can’t help but wonder what it is about masks, mannekins, and dolls that make for such terrifying figures? Scary dolls like Chucky are impossibly hokey but there is a long history of masked horrors from The Phantom of the Opera to Friday the 13th (now a veritable franchise), and even Hannibal. The mask hides not only identity but also the true nature and often gruesome reality of these characters.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth”. (Or murder you, or rob a bank).

The Strangers‘ trailers suggest a very long ride to a climactic undisclosed ending with an armed three against an innocent two. It smells like another torture horror film in the vein of Saw, Hostel, and The Chain Saw Massacre remake.

Stacie Ponder, whose Final Girl blog is rich with horror reviews and resources, wonders what’s with these masks in her article on AMCTV.

Scream Wilhelm Scream

Friday, June 20th, 2008

In Halifax last month, my friend David Clark showed me this video on Youtube. Having screamed my heart out for days while recording sound for my Screaming video, I find the story fascinating:

In a scene from the 1951 Warner Bros. film Distant Drums there is a scene where soldiers are wading through a swamp in the everglades. One of them is bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator! Six short screams for that scene were recorded later, and the sound effect was labelled “man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams.” One of those screams was used for the scene.

After Distant Drums, the recording was archived in Warner Brother’s sound effects library, and re-used in many of their productions. Up until the mid-70′s, the scream recording was used exclusively in Warner Bros. productions, including Them!, Land of the Pharaohs, The Sea Chase, Sergeant Rutledge, PT-109, and The Green Berets. In A Star is Born, the scream is heard twice – one of the times because a scene with the scream in Charge at Feather River is playing in a screening room.

Sound effects fan Ben Burtt noticed the same distinctive scream reoccurring in a lot of movies. He made a film with friends, called The Scarlet Blade, borrowing the scream from another film’s sound track and including it on his own. Years later Ben Burtt was hired to create sound effects for Star Wars, and had access to the sound effects from several movie studios. While at Warner Bros. he found the original Distant Drums scream – which he called “Wilhelm” after the character that let out the scream in Charge at Feather River.

Ben adopted the scream as a personal sound signature, including it in all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, among others. Richard Anderson, another sound editor, also continued the tradition, including the scream in the films Poltergeist, and Planet of the Apes. Other editors have used it in Toy Story, Hercules, Pirates of the Caribbean, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Fifth Element, and Tears of the Sun. It became an easter egg for film junkies.

Although it has never been available in any commercial sound effects library, the recording has made it around the sound community through editors who appreciate its history. Only a few studios have the master of the Wilhelm, but because the clear scream can be found in a few films – such as the Judy Garland version of A Star as Born, it has been borrowed for projects by other studios. It also has been used in TV shows – including The X-Files, animations including Family Guy, commercials for Dell and Comcast, video games, and theme park attractions.

The Wilhelm Scream – listen for it in films near you!

You can see a massive list of films featuring the Wilhelm Scream here.

4 Horsemen of the Serial Slasher, and 1 Real Deal

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

freddyleatherface
jasonmyers

Clockwise from top left: Freddy Krueger, LeatherFace, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees

I am looking at these masks for an upcoming performance video featuring the horror genre monster men with faces obscured by heavy scars or masks. Since they are masked, they could be anyone, and in fact the identity of Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th is used in the original by his mother and in one sequel by a local man inspired by his methods. Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and Hallowe’en – all iconic slashers – have lots in common besides the monstrous freaks that terrorize their protagonists. All feature hapless teenagers lopped off one by one, a triumphant female scream queen who outsmarts or at least outruns the badguy, and a behind the scenes mega sequel generator.

Though all are fictional stories, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was originally presented as a true story. Some horror theorists suggest the story, or at least the family butcher compound, was based on police findings at the home of Ed Gein, a serial killer from America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin. So gruesome were Gein’s heinous acts that they inspired not only the Leatherface butcher character but also Psycho‘s Norman Bates and Silence of the Lamb‘s Buffalo Bill. A few nights ago on The Chiller Channel I watched a made-for-TV style film, Ed Gein The Butcher of Plainfield, which is not for the feint of heart. The acting is flat, classifying this as a horror film is truly tasteless, and the director Hollywoodizes the physically unremarkable Gein – reinventing him as the towering husky Leatherface character. From Youtube, a real documentary:

Title This

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

better living through reality tv

The title Better Living Through Reality TV, by Laurie Ouellette and James Hay, drips of sarcasm in the ears of those like myself who inherently harbour suspicion of the media, especially TV and advertising.

I am not a fan of Reality TV programming, but I am interested in the enormous fan base and the genre as an example of expanded (though controlled) participatory viewing – the new model of media entertainment. I am also fascinated by the compulsion to participate in the game of voting, and the more complex game of contestant-hood, where the stakes are high and the 4th wall increasingly thin. The variety and discomfiture is enormous in Beauty and the Geek, Joe Millionaire, Tila Tequila, The Biggest Loser, and The Swan – to name just a fraction of Reality TV’s offerings, each upping the ante on the next.

Beyond voyeuristic impulses, viewers have long desired to participate, to be the star of TV drama – however tawdry and brief. Talk shows like Oprah and Phil Donahue in the 80s and 90s aired a nation’s laundry, never wanting for guests with dirty secrets and viewers with eager appetites. Artist Bjorn Melhus’s operatic installation, Primetime from 2001 dissects this drama brilliantly and with uneasy humour.

melhus

The book, which I have only just begun, delves head first into the political, educational (yes educational), economic, social, and ideological affects of the phenomenon that is Reality TV. TV as a privatized and homogenizing body now purports to speak to the public good. The TV shows and their agendas essentially become a replacement for the government’s interest in social programming, providing entertainment and a resource for self-improvement, albeit with the hefty price of commercial endorsements. In the introduction the authors write, “It is a sign of the times that, in the absence of public welfare programs, hundreds of thousands of people now apply directly to reality TV programs for housing, affordable health care, and other forms of assistance”. Sign of the times? Sounds like high time to petition the government and vote in a candidate who truly stands for public good before the poor are washed away in the next natural disaster -slash- act of god. I’m not sure that a designer wardrobe, liposuction, jaw implants, and dental veneers (a modest example of The Swan contestants’ prizes) are going to help the public good.

House makeovers, the perfect mate, and extreme elective surgery are not beyond the reach of the disenfranchised, but only the precious few are awarded a chance at the prizes. American Idol was for a time America’s #1 TV show in the ratings – the prize there a recording contract awarded for the performance of unoriginal music. Anyone can do it!

Reality TV is presided over by moderators, consultants, and experts – the authors argue that they are patronizing yes but empowering too. These roles champion an active, self-possessed, and entrepreneurial citizenry – “at a time when privatization, personal responsibility, and consumer choice are promoted as the best way to govern liberal capitalist democracies, reality TV shows us how to conduct and “empower” ourselves as enterprising citizens”. TV has become “the quintessential technology of advanced or “neo” liberal citizenship” (17). The authors weave In Foucault’s view of government and the self-governing model. TV takes governance into the home through a hard-hitting educational stance – but there is no place in this model for individuals who wish to reject femininity or masculinity as presented on screen, or who prefer a subcultural lifestyle (p 116).

Some shows speak to the political process – your vote counts. Polled by Pursuant Research, Inc, 35% of American Idol voters in 2006 believed their vote counted as much or more than their vote for the president (p 215), and an Idol moderator claimed that the 2006 winner received more votes than any president in history. Maybe the government should take notes – this is what the people want – voting at home, popular (generic) music, and big self-improvement prizes. The media pays attention – fans are the customers.

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Another TV genre that lets contestants dream big, financially if not cosmetically, is the game show. In related news, Mark Kostabi’s latest vanity project, Title This. For those unfamiliar with Mark Kostabi, he is a New York artist whose Kostabi World factory workers churn out endless dime-a-dozen paintings. He’s infamous for this factory approach to art making (not unlike artstar giants Jeff Koons or Damian Hirst), lack of originality, selling works on eBay, and his media persona.

kostabi

Said Kostabi, “My paintings are actually more interesting than the conceptual hijinks [which he is famous for], but you’d have to be a painter to understand that. It’s much easier to be entertained by anti-establishment intellectual slapstick than it is to understand what’s going on in a painting.” Unfashionable championing of painters as the pinnacle of fine artists aside, Kostabi’s Public Access variety TV show, Title This, is in my opinion, the most interesting thing he does.

To the tune of his own piano playing, he invites celebrity and artworld friends to title his paintings, rewarding them with $25 for successful titles. I have some ideas for the (untitled) image above.

Vampire Posers

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

vampires

How are we to believe these vampires in vogue, sans fangs and the token blood drop at the edge of the mouth? Fashionable vampire beauties seem so 1990. Zombies are the monsters of the day.

Which brings me to Another New Horror Review (sight unseen):

twilight

Twilight
In Twilight, which I have not seen since it is yet-to-be-released in December 2008, the story of Romeo and Juliet meets the magic of Peter Pan. Love Never Dies (à la Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Never Never Land beckons, and the teen dream vampire posers don’t have any good lines, not even in the trailer.

See for yourself, below. I suggest skipping this one.

In related news, Twilight Creations will release a new game in August, called Humans, in which you the player are the zombie, chasing humans! Not sure how this will look any different than standard First Person Shooter games, except you the player will be chomping, not shooting, and conceptualizing yourself as an undead corpse in some stage of decay. That spells “fun”!

New Horror Review (sight unseen)

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

happening

The Happening
In the grand tradition of -ing titles for Horror Flicks, after The Haunting, The Shining, The Howling, and The Reaping – I will stop there – comes The Happening. According to my beloved dictionary widget: “when things happen, they come to pass either for a reason or by chance”. That’s a little murkier than your average dictionary definition. Hence a brilliant title for a horror film: horror abhors logic.

Opening June 13 (that’s Friday the 13th for those not following – nu nu nu nu), The Happening stars Mark Wahlberg, former Calvin Klein underwear model and front man for The Funky Bunch, and features crowds of people caught in a typical nightmarish scenario: can’t scream (or talk), can’t move (or run); and ultimately can’t help but propel themselves off the roofs of buildings and flat onto the pavement (perhaps a case of vertigo, or loss of balance). I haven’t seen it, as my blog title proves, but what could be more frightening than a horror film with no monster at all but the paralysis of fear? After all “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” quoth FDR.

happening

The Quiet Earth meets 28 Days Later?
On the other hand Marky Mark may be staging a good old fashioned piece of performance art, which I am all for, having entirely missed Allan Kaprow in the late 50s and 60s. According to Wikipedia, and straight from art education 101, “A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered as art. Happenings take place anywhere, are often multi-disciplinary, often lack a narrative and frequently seek to involve the audience in some way. Key elements of happenings are planned, but artists sometimes retain room for improvisation.”

Either way, this one looks scar-y.

Update June 14, 2008:
Richard Corliss trashed the film in his (sight seen) Time review, calling it “this ill wind, this feeble gust of an environmental horror story.”