29 June 2011

A Webseries With Heart

Ron Purtee, creator of The Social Media Massacre has teamed up with award winning UK horror writer Garry Charles to bring us a dark tale of love, obsession and body mutilation.

Purtee's idea is to create short films based within the confines of our online social world, a series of vignettes that are confined by the limitations of the single camera set up. So far we have been treated to murder, suicide and envy fueled revenge, a steady build up of creeping terror preparing us for this journey into the mind of twisted lovers, brought to life on the screen by talented newcomers Shaun McGregor and Nikki Farce.

Anyone familiar with Charles' writing will know he has no qualms with crossing the lines of good taste and he does so here with what seems to be a knowing smile on his face, penning a script that manages to rub taste's nose in the dark stench of Taboo's darkest areas.

Unnerving, unsettling and already quoted as being “Totally effed up”... Here is From the Heart:

Zombies, Drugs and Mobsters Oh My!

Take a look at the upcoming zombie flick: ZOMBIE DRUGS. The adventure/comedy is the newest venture of actor/writer/director (whew that's a lot of slashes) Alex Ballar and follows Vinny (Wolfgang Weber) and Sebastion (Beau Nelson), two burnouts, going nowhere in small town suburbia and still riding the high of their high-school days as they start a business doing the only thing they have ever excelled at...drugs. With the help of a jealous girlfriend and a rich goth chick, Vinny and Sebastion take on the mob, angry, geeky, frat-boys, and zombies in the search of the perfect high.

Check out the official site for news and updates. But until then, here is the official trailer along with some extra incentive *hint hint*

28 June 2011

Outtake Reel 2011 - REVIEW

Not every horror filmmaker is out to scare you with oodles and gobs of blood and guts. Not every horror filmmaker throws in a gratuitous tit shot around every corner. And not every horror filmmaker relies on countless jump scares to horrify you. That being said... I am the "Gore Whore" so blood and guts is something I like and the gratuitous tit shot never bothered me either. But there's a time and a place for it. Take all three of these and put them together in the best film in the world and it's not gonna work if the timing is off or if it's just thrown in for the sake of soaking some tits in blood. I know you guys are there are cursing my name right about now but let it marinate for a bit and you'll see I'm right.

A series of documentary footage, audition reels and video diaries are compiled together to tell the story of Ashley Swan (Ava Santana) who takes a role in director Tom Grayson’s (Scott Feinblatt) latest horror film and becomes the victim of a horrendous crime. All caught on film, the events unfold to reveal the decisions and actions that lead to not just one but two chilling and brutal murders. All this being presented to the viewer as evidence in a murder trial. Most of the footage was shot by Danny Wilson (Jeffry Chaffin) as he followed the cast and crew around behind the scenes of the film within the film "My Brother's Keeper".

The acting is pretty solid all around. They do really great jobs and for the most part make acting look easy. They're believable in their roles. Santana plays the innocent and naive actress well but half way through, she transforms into Super Bitch, a petty, unlikable character that cares more about being “discovered” than anything else in life. Feinblatt plays the indie horror filmmaker who slowly goes off his rocker (Hmmm, does film mimic real life? Kidding Scott, you know I dig ya!). Before it's over with, you feel sorry for Feinblatt’s character. All he wants to do is make a horror film his way and nobody, I mean nobody is cooperating and helping him do that. His character may come off as an uptight asshole in the beginning but his descent into madness leaves you feeling like you just wanna give him a big hug. He’s burning out faster than he's filming and at some point, something’s gonna give. You don't see too much of Chaffin as he's mostly behind the camera but he gives a slam dunk performance himself. It's pretty amazing to me that all of them started the film with one personality and finished it up with a completely different one and it's not like you see in some films where one minute a character is normal then BOOM, psycho. No, it's a slow, burning transition that is done with ease. Oh and did I mention there are also special appearances by horror icons Tiffany Shepis and Lloyd Kaufman?? No? Well there are and they give great performances as well.

The film benefits from good writing and it's paced so that you're not flooded with pointless chatter and sub-plots. Yes, it's shot in a documentary style but it doesn't have the shaky Blair Witch Project camera so you don't have to worry about losing your lunch or dinner or breakfast... mmmm, bacon... sorry, got side tracked. Bacon will do that to you ya know? What I like about this film is that Feinblatt and Chaffin had an idea that was different and unique. Yes, the "found footage/documentary" thing has been done before but not in this way. Comparing this to other documentary style films is like saying Friday the 13th is a romantic comedy. If you get the chance, definitely see this one. It's horrifying without slamming you with disturbing images and blood soaked tits, a rarity in this genre.

25 June 2011

White Noise 2: The Light 2007 - REVIEW

It still dumbfounds me why film makers release films as a "sequel" when one really has nothing to do with the other. I've had many discussions about this and I get that sometimes they just wanna take it in a different direction but why call it a sequel? Why not just make the film, give it a clever title and release it as an entity all it's own. That would make a lot more sense to me anyway.

After witnessing the murder of his wife and young son at the hands of Henry Caine (Craig Fairbrass) who then turned the gun on himself, Abe Dale (Nathan Fillion) is so distressed that he attempts to take his own life. A near-death experience follows that leaves Abe with the ability to identify those who are about to die. He acts on these premonitions to save three people from death, among them a nurse met during his recovery, Sherry Clarke (Katee Sackhoff). Abe soon learns that Henry, before murdering Abe's wife and son, actually saved their lives. This leads Abe to believe that Henry also had the ability to see death. This makes Abe want to learn more about Henry, so he visits his house only to learn that Henry survived his suicide. Investigating further, Abe discovers that three days after cheating death, those whose lives he saved will be possessed and compelled to take the lives of others. Accepting this responsibility, Abe comes to terms with the horrible fact that he must consider killing to prevent further tragedy.

I'm one of probably millions of Fillion fans and I was intrigued to see him in such a serious role. There are a few times I've seen him "go serious" on the big screen or TV but he normally follows up with some off the wall goofball comment. Happily, he did a really great job at serious. He and Sackhoff were the best things about this film. Sackhoff is just as cute as can be and it took me forever to figure out where I'd seen her before... DUH, Halloween Resurrection. DUH, Battlestar Galactica. DUH, 24. What the hell is wrong with me?? What I didn't care for was Adrian Holmes character. I mean he did a fantastic job with what he was given but, to me, his character was insignificant. Like they wanted to move the story in a different direction but had no idea how to do it so they added in this character to help move the plot forward.

The film itself is nothing spectacular but leaps and bounds better than it's counterpart. Definitely don't go into it expecting to see the same content as the first because while there is some reference to it in the beginning, this film takes a whole different direction. And while we're on the subject of direction... I must be honest and say that I kinda zoned out when all the biblical stuff started coming up. Again, I felt it was insignificant. Yes, it propelled the story forward but I'm not convinced it was the right fit for this particular film. As for the ending... well, it was unimpressive to say the least. There are some decent effects and plenty of jump scares that are sure to get any rookie horror fan. If you're a Fillion fan, it's worth a watch just to see him excel at a different than usual performance. If not, I'd say find something more interesting to do... like water your lawn.

21 June 2011

Scott Glosserman Needs Your Help for Before the Mask: The Return of Leslie Vernon

For fans of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, the witty mockumentary that deconstructs the slasher film, this news may be a bit unbelievable. As greatly received as it was, distributors have slammed the door on this budding slasher. So what else can Scott Glosserman do? Turn to the fans of course.

“I had a very rude awakening when I called the distributor of the first film and said ‘We’re ready to go with the sequel.’ And they said not only forget about financing but that if I brought them a finished movie, if I handed a finished movie to them, they would not even distribute it for a fee. It just blew me away. I figured of anybody they must know how well Behind The Mask has been accepted. It did a great number on DVD,” says Glosserman. “We sold mid six figure units on the original DVD and if half of those people spend twenty bucks pre-ordering the second film then we’ve raised more than a million dollars. So, in theory, we could crowd fund the movie. I know that’s probably not a fully realistic possibility but, nonetheless, it’s fun to set a goal to be the first movie ever to crowd fund more than a million dollars. That’s our benchmark. At worst what we’re trying to do is demonstrate a groundswell of online community support and, in so doing, we want to demonstrate that there are several thousand people who have pre-ordered the DVD and we’ve got several thousand Facebook friends and if I can take that – with a fully baked script and a couple of cameos – to a Lionsgate, who are already making original two million dollar films, it just seems to me that it would be a no brainer that they would finance this film.”

So get out there and help this project. Glosserman has already proven that Leslie Vernon is the man but he can't bring him back without your help. I for one intend on helping where I can and I hope that my readers will do the same. Click here to find out more info and let's get this thing done!!

Source: Killerfilm

19 June 2011

The Hole 2001 - REVIEW

I really hate spending my time and wasting my breath by having to repeat myself but who the hell categorizes all these films? Who decides what is horror and what is something else all together? There should be some kind of false advertisement retribution for that shit. There is nothing worse than sitting down to watch a horror film in your jumbo sized adult diaper, waiting to get the piss scared out of you and in the end all you get is a rash. Huh? No one else does that? Awkward.

Liz Dunn (Thora Birch) is a student at an exclusive private school who is head over heels for Mike Steel (Desmond Harrington), a handsome classmate whose father is a well-known American rock star. Liz, however, is self-conscious about her looks and is convinced Mike would rather be with the prettier girls in her class. Liz is also unenthusiastic about an upcoming field trip, in which she and the other students will have to camp out for three days while studying local geography. Liz confesses her infatuation with Mike to Martin Taylor (Daniel Brocklebank), a science-minded geek and longtime friend who happens to be in love with Liz, though she prefers to ignore it. Martin proposes a solution to both of Liz's problems; he's found an underground bunker built during World War II near the school grounds, and he arranges a little party in which Liz and Mike will spend the three days of the field trip in the bunker, with class couple Geoff (Laurence Fox) and Frankie (Keira Knightley) going along, giving Liz a perfect chance to impress Mike with her charm. The students lay in a supply of food, water, and booze to last them for three days, but after 72 hours, they discover they've been locked in, and they're not sure if Martin intends to let them out.

Thora Birch + American Beauty = Greatness. Here, not so much. What was suppose to be an English accent, faded in and out so much that it was distracting. Some scenes, she dropped it all together which leads me to question why they didn't A) cast an actual English person or B) just make her character American. Why bother insulting your audience with a sub par performance? Not only that but she was suppose to be the lead and she was totally out shined by the rest of the cast. Knightley (in a pre-Pirates role) is effective in her role but given that she's suppose to be a snotty mean girl, her character wasn't explored nearly enough to have that come across on film. In fact, none of the characters were really explored at all. It was like pretty face, pretty face, pretty face, pretty face... now let's dump 'em all in a hole and get 'em really dirty. Fox works it out as the goof ball jock dude but again... exploration. And Harrington? Well he made some facial expressions so that was a nice change. BUT, can we say it all together this time..... "EXPLORATION". I had no idea who these people were really suppose to be so why do I care if they're locked in a freaking hole?

The good news? It's over in 102 minutes. The bad news? It's over in 102 minutes. There are so many things wrong with this film it would take two pages and a lot of spoilers to tell you so I'm just going to say this... the title is a good description of the plot. It's sloppily done. There are shots where camera equipment is clearly visible. How do you not catch that shit in post? There is also some very poorly done prosthetic work. OMG, the list of inconsistencies goes on and on. If this film has you on the edge of your seat, it's probably because you're about to get up and walk out. I'd say watch it for yourself but I'm trying to avoid having you guys torture yourselves. You know that stuff that comes out of your mouth if you pour Pop Rocks in there and swish them around with soda? That's what this was. What could've been a great adaptation of Guy Burt's novel 'After the Hole' fizzled into a bubbly mess with no substance.

Plot Synopsis via Mark Deming, Rovi

18 June 2011

Aaah! Zombies! (AKA Wasting Away) 2007 - REVIEW

The ZomCom has quickly developed into a subgenre that's wildly over used. Let's face it folks, it's getting old. With so many zombie comedies coming out, it's hard to tell what to watch and what to stay far, far away from. Usually there's no in between, they're either really good: Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland or really bad: Redneck Zombies, Zombie Strippers. So how do you tell? Fuck, I dunno. It seems like any and everybody with a camera, some slight makeup skill and too much time on their hands is putting something out these days. Half the time I'm not even sure who the hell fronts the cash from some of the shit that's out there but I just do what anybody else does... watch and listen then form my own opinion.

So, here we have the usual setup, the military is trying to bury a failed project when everything goes awry. A container of goopy green stuff ends up contaminating some ice cream and bing bang boom, you've got zombies. Problem is, these zombies don't actually realize they're zombies. They know something isn't right but have no idea what it is or how it happened. Enter the under appreciated Army dude (Colby French) with tons of useless knowledge and they're off to search for answers encountering the usual pitfalls along the way.

This film has a lot going for it, one of the best things being it's strong cast. Matthew Davis is consistently funny and the most likable brain eater (literally) of the bunch. Michael Grant Terry and the amazingly cute Betsy Beutler carry their weight well as the couple who after 10 years of friendship finally "hook up". In the beginning, Julianna Robinson's character seems like it was thrown in simply to give Davis someone to banter back and forth with. As the film goes on, she is given a lot more to do and she does it very well. French meshes well with the rest of the cast and helps carry the film in a big way.

The other thing going for it is director Matthew Kohnen and co-writer Sean Kohnen. Together they crafted quite a unique tale of life as a zombie. There is some clever and very witty dialogue throughout the entire film. The plot races along pretty fast but just fast enough to keep the audience from getting bored. It's well paced and gives you plenty of time to get to know the characters. Throughout most of the film the characters have no idea they are zombies which leads to some genuine comedic moments. You're given two different perspectives, theirs (in color) and ours (in black and white). I'll admit, I started watching it then walked away (sigh... real life) for a couple minutes and had no clue what the hell was going on. It wasn't until my second viewing that I understood the transition and why "humans" were walking and talking at a very rapid pace. But, nevertheless, my brain finally caught up with my eyes and I figured it out (yes, I'm a little slow sometimes).

By no means is it perfect. There are some pretty significant plot holes and no doubt the horrible title will scare people away from watching it. But this is one ZomCom that delivered much more than I thought it would. The uniqueness of this concept really made this film worthwhile. It doesn't rely on flashy lighting or over the top blood and guts, it's purely a character driven film that will have you seeing zombies in a whole new way. If you're a zombie fan and you like comedies, and/or a mixture of the two then you should definitely give this one a chance. "KITTY GO BOOM"

17 June 2011

Deadgirl 2008 - REVIEW

Without a doubt, times are a changing. Things that weren't acceptable before are becoming more and more tolerable. Film makers are taking more liberties and pushing the limits of the ratings system. It was just a matter of time before a film like Deadgirl came about.

Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) skip class one day to explore a crumbling mental hospital. What seemed to be business as usual becomes anything but when the two boys break through a rusted door leading to a boiler room and discover a naked woman tied to a gurney and covered in plastic. When the body shows signs of life JT immediately suggests that he and his pal should have a little fun with their helpless captive. But while Rickie may be somewhat reckless, his moral compass still points in the right direction and he wants nothing to do with such sordid affairs. Later, when word of Rickie and JT's discovery gets out, tensions flare as events take a darkly disturbing turn.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best performance of the film came from Jenny Spain who spent 95% of her time naked and strapped to a gurney being poked and prodded but never speaks a line of dialogue. The acting from the largely unknown cast is really good. Segan transforms effortlessly from likable geek dude to perverse sociopath, while Fernandez's vulnerability helps sell his flawed character. It's really hard not to see him as a young, sane Joaquin Phoenix. Blast me if you will but it's my opinion. However, even a strong cast can't save the clumsiness of the dialogue. There's so much useless rhetoric and repetitive dialogue that it bogs it down. I get that some things need to be explained but with a film of this nature simply implying certain things would've been a better route.

The problem I have with this one is that I'm not quite sure if I liked it or not. Some points I liked... the story line was different and it's always refreshing to see something that's not just the "same ole shit". I had a lot of problems with the dialogue. The writers tried to throw in one liners and things that were suppose to be funny but it missed, heavily. It's a film that tries to be a teen drama with divided loyalties, peer pressure, bad parenting, girl trouble and wanting what you can't have all worked into one and it just gets to be too much. Most of it takes place in an abandoned mental hospital and I thought cinematography wise, it looked good. What I could see of it at least, it was so damn dark I had to adjust the brightness on my TV just to see what was going on. The effects are done well. There's some blood splatter, a chopped off hand and someone gets their lip bitten off. Too many questions were left unanswered and I would imagine most people will be pissed that they sat through it waiting for a payoff that never really comes. I would recommend solely on the fact that it's different and a bit disturbing but it's definitely not a horror so don't go into it looking to be scared.

15 June 2011

Update on Chance Encounters The Timeslip

The Timeslip is the latest short film from Chance Encounters latest pics / poster art can be found here but I'm sure first and foremost a trailer is Here.


A business man crosses a busy city street ... and awakes trapped in another time. London is gone along with the buildings, cars and people; it has been replaced by a never-ending forest. The man wanders the wilderness alone, without food or shelter.

Days pass and the man discovers he is not alone and that the forest holds dangers far worse than
wolves ...

It's premiere will be at (Festival favorite) the International Action On Film Festival held in Pasadena, CA in Late July - visit website for latest on times etc. As it will be constantly updated! For any Sci-Fi / Horror fans out there looking for something new and innovative this is what we create with our films. Our slogan is; for innovation not imitation. If anyone is interested in putting 'The Timeslip' into their festival or even finance / help produce our nominated 'Best Horror Screenplay' next feature film with us to get in contact on twitter @carryonjohn and chance-encounters.org.

Chance Brothers Biography

Richard Chance is a Colchester, England based British Writer / Director, Actor and one half of Chance Encounters Productions.

Jonathan Chance is a Southern California-based British Writer / Director, Actor and Editor, Voice Over Artist and the other-half of Chance Encounters Productions.

Richard Chance is the Writer / Director of six films. He and his brother Jonathan co-wrote and directed the micro budget acclaimed feature film The Veil, the nominated short film Chainmail, and the 2008 Action On Film Festival special jury prize winning short The Day I Tried to Live. In 2009, a feature script The Waiting Room, was nominated for Best Horror Screenplay at the same festival.

Currently in 2011, with two new short films produced and a brand new cut of their debut feature currently looking for distribution this looks to be their most productive year yet. Apt. Directed by Jonathan Chance premiered back to back with The Veil US Cut in 2010 and the Chance Brothers The Timeslip will premiere at the festival favorite the AOF in July and continue a worldwide festival run.

14 June 2011

INTERVIEW - Founders of Horrorphile Entertainment

What's better than great beer and great BBQ? Great company! That's what I got a couple of weeks ago when Burton Bailey, Brandy Eastman and Matthew Ash, the founders of Horrorphile Entertainment, came out to my mad house for a sit down interview. I'm not sure how much interviewing we got done but we definitely did plenty of bullshitting. I learned a lot by listening to them, the most important thing being that they are probably the nicest people you will ever meet. The next thing would be that there is no possible way to interview them. I got so wrapped up in the conversation that questions just led to more talking. So, point of fact, this will be more of an article with the interview mixed in.

Horrorphile Entertainment is the brain child of Burt. After being on several sets as an extra it became pretty clear that this was what he wanted to do. He met Matt 9 years ago and Brandy 5 years ago while they were both extras in Slaughterhouse in which he had to cut out her tongue and kill Loyd Cryer... yes, the Loyd Cryer of Texas Frightmare Weekend. Together, in 2008 they created the company that has so far spawned four films. Sway was the first in 2009, a bizarre and disturbing tale of a night gone horribly wrong for a group of degenerate flesh peddlers when they target a young man who proves to be more than a slight inconvenience. That one was written and directed by Josh Vargas who has also done some music videos with Matt. They have two in production now including Tony Brownrigg's Archaic Redemption. Whose Dad BTW was the director of the original Don't Look in the Basment AKA The Forgotten. They've since started another production company called Angry Scottsman and from what I hear, we have a lot to look forward to from that *wink wink*!

I asked them about creative differences and how they handle it when issues like that come up. Brandy was the first to speak up saying that of course it happens but they've made an agreement to get it out right up front so that it doesn't just loom over them. They all kind of see it as an us against them type thing (my interpretation, not theirs) and if they're not gelling with each other then things can get out of control pretty quickly.

They referenced the filming of Possum Walk several times saying it was their first "real" full feature film. They talked about how the cast and crew bonded during that time. They had an agreement with the owner of house they filmed (and slept) in that allowed them to use it as long as they cleaned and painted afterward. Being in such close quarters gave them the chance to really get to know each other. I can only imagine what a paint party that was!! Matt spoke quite a bit about his first full on effects job with PW. He says he's learned a lot since then and is looking forward to doing much more. Burton recalled a scene in PW when Parrish Randall and Maggie Conwell are arguing outside the house saying that powerful scene was his favorite because it seemed so real. Brandy's favorite scene takes place a little closer to the beginning when the killer pops up on Kristen Hall.

I asked each of them if they wanted to continue doing independent films or if they had plans of one day going bigger. The answer was a unanimous, go bigger and I can totally see them succeeding at it. Matt would like to one day reach the heights of his inspiration Robert Rodriguez and Burt expressed his hopes of one day directing. He talked briefly about his favorite director Martin Scorsese. Brandy however is pretty content at her role. She (and everyone else) kind of considers herself the Mom of the pack. Making sure that everyone on set eats and drinks plenty of fluids during the summer and stays warm during the winter. Not to mention she's cool as hell. Who wouldn't want to claim her?

Just for fun, I asked them to tell me what their favorite films were: Burt said Johnny Got His Gun and The Hustler but as far as horror goes, it's Friday the 13th Part 4. Matt quickly responded with Monster Squad because he is apparently super Monster Squad geek boy by night :) Brandy laughed as she told me her favorites were Legend and The Muppet Movie. BUT, if you wanna really creep her out... just drive her into some fog or just make her watch it (the original not the remake). She also has a thing for The Thing.

Be sure to check out American Independent Filmworks that they are involved in. It's a 2 week boot camp style actors workshop featuring talents like Dee Wallace, Kelli Maroney, Brooke Lewis, Parrish Randall, Anthony Brownrigg and Mel House. Between them all they have a combined 90+ years experience in film! How can you go wrong with that?? For more information you can email aifilmworks@gmail.com.

Say what you will about them but they take the good with the bad more gracefully than any other film makers I know. They know that not everyone is going to like what they do and they're ok with that. They welcome criticism because, as Burt and Matt said, "how are we going to know what we need to fix?" I'll admit, I was very intimidated and nervous about meeting them after my not so great review of PW but they quickly put my mind at ease and actually thanked me for my review. So, if I wore a hat, I would definitely take it off to these three. I look forward to many more meetings and many more great BBQ's in the future. I don't call many people friends but I'm more than happy to add them to the small list that I have :)

INTERVIEW - Director Brett Simmons

I contacted Husk director Brett Simmons via Twitter and asked if he would be interested in chatting a bit about his career and recently released film and he was gracious enough to agree. So, below is a little insight into the man behind the scarecrows plus some exclusive news.
Just a side note.... this interview may contain spoilers. I will mark them ahead of time so you know when they're coming.

TC: I'd first like to thank you for the opportunity to interview you. I'm a big fan of Husk and think that you did a great job on that.
BS: No prob, love interviews like this, and thanks!

TC: I've been to your Vimeo page and watched pretty much every short on there. How long have you been into film making?
BS: That is awesome! Thanks for checking out the shorts. I love short films. The challenges of the length and format are really exciting to me. I haven't gotten a lot of people to check those out, so thanks for watching those. As far as film making, I've been into it for as long as I can remember. I got the bug when I was really young. The camera hit my hands around 10 years old, but I was articulating stories before that in drawings and writing. I come from a family of artists, so film making made a lot of sense even as a kid because it combined all the different art forms I was surrounded by. So, goofing around with friends and a camera through out my youth led to going to a arts High School, which led to a college film school, and so on. It's always been a bit of a constant.

TC: Have you always been (for lack of a better term) a horror junkie?
BS: You know, I haven't. I didn't sit through my first horror movie until I was 13 years old...which seems like an appropriate age. It definitely wasn't for lack of effort, I just was too freaked out by them to stay in the room before then. Truth is, I still am. I'm a big wimp with horror movies. "Halloween" was my first horror movie I stomached staying through entirely, and it horrified me, but also inspired me. I loved the experience of it, and still today, even though I'm forced to watch through my fingers, I love the unique experience that good horror movies provide, and I've become a junkie for the experience. The audience experience. Any good movie should take an audience on a ride, but horror movies take it to another level. I love being in a theatre and jumping alongside a room full of other startled people. Nothing like it.

TC: The feature Husk was based on your short film of the same title. What was your inspiration for the short?
BS: I wanted to make a straight up horror movie. At that time, I was really disappointed by the horror movies I had been seeing, and I really wanted to respond to that disappointment with a contribution of some kind. It was all while I was still in film school where my mandate was short films, so I tried to conceive something for the format, but since my mind was already on features, my ambition became to make a traditional, feature length horror movie...squished down into less than thirty minutes. So that's how the "short" part happened, as for the "Husk" part, I was always drawn toward scarecrows. Without throwing any particular movie under the bus, the scarecrow subgenre was a specific one where I had endured the most disappointment. Aside from having an opinion about horror movies in general, I noticed that I had a specific expectation for scarecrows that I hadn't seen yet...so I wanted to take a crack at it. The hardest part about horror movies is justifying your villain and environment in a way that makes sense enough to move on and enjoy the ride. Scarecrows and cornfields come pre-packaged together as an iconic threat in a creepy environment, so I've always gravitated toward that. Hence, "Husk".

TC: How hard was it to take the concept of the short and build it into a full length feature?
BS: It was actually a lot of fun. First off, in making the short, I knew we didn't have much time to hit all the traditional horror beats, so I deliberately avoided spelling out the backstory and mythology of the farm and scarecrows. I knew there wasn't time, and that I could save that to explore in an actual feature. The challenge was that, after the short went to Sundance, there had grown a pretty big interest and expectation for the backstory, so when it came time for me to address it all, I felt a lot of pressure. While the idea had always generally been there, the specifics of it all become daunting for me, because I wanted it to be satisfying. My mind was also trapped in the limitations of the short. I hadn't yet regained my objectivity, and that was ultimately the biggest hurdle for me, spinning out of the short, and thinking bigger. I always came within degrees of what I felt was "right", but never really felt like I found it until I stepped away, worked on some other projects, and came back with the objectivity I needed. But as a writer, it was a very gratifying and educational experience.

TC: I know there was quite a time lapse between when the short was done and the release of the feature. Can you talk a little about that journey?
BS: It was a long journey full of valuable lessons, so I always really appreciate this question, because this is the stuff you don't learn in film school. To put it in perspective, the short was shot in 2003, went to Sundance in 2005, the feature was shot in 2009, and premiered early 2011. After Sundance came the process of many meetings to make the feature, which was full of a lot of "no"'s and "maybe"'s. I was young, ambitious, and meeting a lot of great people within the genre, which was very educational in and of itself, but regardless of everyone's interest, I wasn't finding any commitments. What I learned in that process was that all you need is one "yes", but there are a ton more "no"'s you have to deal with first to find it. I also learned that "no" is as good as a "yes" because it's definitive, where the "maybe"'s can string you along. Those were always the most difficult. So after a while of that, I finally got a few "yes"'s! Before After Dark, "Husk" was actually set up at a couple other production companies, where it obviously didn't pan out. Those were major let downs at the time, but in hindsight I can recognize the blessing each time was because those were the periods that ultimately taught me what the movie was I wanted to make. I was so excited to make a feature that I was listening to every criticism and note I received, which began turning the story into a messy patchwork, not unlike the scarecrows' faces themselves. It helped me gain the definition I needed both as writer and director, which is why I finally walked away and took time off to figure all that out. So I walked away from the production deal I was in to go and re-write "Husk" from page one, by myself, with no influences but my own. So essentially, the journey was all education, growth, and definition.

TC: How did you become you become affiliated with After Dark Films?
BS: I saved the conclusion of my last response for this question, because it's the happy ending. I left everything I had going to lock myself away and re-write "Husk" into what I had determined I wanted it to be. When I was done, that basically restarted the whole cycle I had been in for all the years prior: shopping a script around town to make a feature. Right away, the response to the script was much much stronger. Before the response was always to the short film, not the script (they were always sent out together). This time, all the response was to the new script, so that was very gratifying considering the risk I had taken. After Dark Films was the first company to respond with interest in making it. I came in to their offices for a meeting, and as soon as we all met, I knew they were the company "Husk" had been waiting for. They understood the project and my intentions, and they supported them rather than try to change them. After Dark deserves a lot of credit, because "Husk" takes a few risks that other companies were intimidated by, but After Dark jumped at them, particularly the treatment of the only female lead. So we met in a very traditional sense, and became affiliated out of our genuine excitement to make "Husk". I love After Dark.

TC: Has there been any talk of a sequel?
BS: All the sequel talk took place before and during production. There hasn't been a lot of room to discuss the sequel since for many reasons, but I can say that whenever/if-ever the conversation comes up, I have one. I'm such a nerd, and get so deep into the stories I involve myself with, I can hardly ever help myself from considering where the story would continue. I feel like it only benefits to go there because the best sequels are the ones that feel pre-conceived. So no, there hasn't been talk...but I can talk a little here. First, just like the feature allowed room to explore mythology beyond the short, I feel like a sequel allows room to explore even more mythology beyond the first feature. There's a lot there that would have been boring to cram into "Husk", plus I prefer to suggest and open up discussion than to spell things out. That's always been my own preference, but a sequel could begin to answer more and suggest a LOT more. As for Scott (Devon Graye), I never imagined anyone actually surviving an encounter in the cornfield. Yes, the ending is open to leave an audience to decide whether or not Scott dies or not, BUT if no one ever has before, and Scott does...that could mean something significant...naturally and supernaturally. My favorite horror movie sequel is "Halloween 2" (the original), not H2. It and Back To The Future 2 (my favorite movie ever) both directly continue where the first story left off. I've always loved that. I have a pretty cool idea how to directly continue in a surprising way. That's more than I've ever publicly talked about it, so there's your exclusive "Husk" news. Haha.

TC: I know there are some differing opinions on Husk, of course not everyone is going to like it, how do handle the criticism vs. the praise?
BS: Honestly, I'm thankful for all the responses. My love is for the audience experience, like I said, and what the audience says is important. Horror fans I think are the hardest to please, and I say that as one myself, so I came into it all aware of that and prepared for that. So, I've been handling it all by preparing for it, and just trying to observe and learn from it all. So far, the most interesting thing I've noticed is that "Husk" is pretty polarizing among fans. People either love it a lot, or hate it. That's been fun to see. I've long recognized that I have a very particular taste, especially with horror, and "Husk" very much reflects my taste. I prefer things to be suggested or open to interpretation and speculation because I like having something to think or talk about afterward. The people that criticize "Husk" generally don't share that opinion, and the people that praise it generally do. It's almost like I'm learning who I should be watching movies with. Haha. It's definitely not a movie for people to watch casually while they fall asleep on the couch, because the subtle things are crucial. My favorite example has been listening to everyone that noticed and read into the "Gen 4:11" verse on the sign, because they've really gotten the movie, and I've loved seeing that. All the answers are there if you pursue them, and listening to the people that have found them has been the most fun of the whole experience. Also, I knew early on that I was asking for tons of negative criticism by making the first twenty minutes look so typical, but it was the only way I could successfully accomplish what I wanted to later, creating tropes to spin them, so I just accepted that beforehand. And when people talk about how much they're surprised by the different spins and directions "Husk" takes, those are pretty gratifying. The praise has meant a lot. I'm a fan first, so the entire fan response is valuable, which is why I'm really trying to handle everything everyone's saying, good and bad. To the point that I even try to respond to as many comments as possible. I love inviting the discussion. Seriously. Twitter: @brett_simmons. Do it.

TC: I would be remiss if I didn't mention Frank (@FearChat)... he and I have talked quite a bit about how creepy the scarecrows were. How much thought went into the costumes and is the way they came out, they way you had envisioned them?
BS: I love talking about the scarecrows. We've grown very close, me and them. Yes, they turned out exactly the way I wanted. I attached a couple pictures of my concept art (also on the dvd) so you can see them. I had been sketching those ideas for a while, and when Gary Tunnicliffe came on board, I basically handed over my drawings and he went to town. He turned out burlap masks that looked closer to my concepts than I ever expected, which was really exciting, seeing the artwork realized. And the costume department worked pretty hard to get the clothing right which was crucial too. Essentially, wardrobe-wise, each scarecrow was once a victim of the field, so their clothes had to deliberately be pedestrian in nature, but "scarecrow" looking in execution, which the wardrobe team handled in a great way. Rope, cornstalks, mud, and blood. That was the method. Back to what I said earlier about the short film, one of my biggest disappointments with scarecrow movies was the look of the scarecrows. I felt like they were always overtly "scary" as opposed to simple and actually scary. Michael Myers is scary because he's simple and evil and mysterious. The scarecrows needed to be simple in my mind, and that's what I was going for. Scarecrows that were simply scarecrows...but with something underneath.


TC: Scott is a seemingly normal guy who suddenly starts having "visions"
of the violence that grips this family. I noticed that any time he has
one that crow is always there. Is the crow kind of initiating these
visions or am I just over thinking it?
BS: Oh there's never any over thinking here. That's the fun stuff. The crow is definitely involved, so I'm glad you noticed that. Crows have always traditionally been associated with dark spirits, like the harbingers of demonic activity or things like that. There's something clearly supernatural and evil on the property, and the crow was my visual indicator that something was brewing in the "unseen". He intentionally prefaces or accents the supernatural activity and is heavily associated with the evil spirit lingering around there. And you know, as far as Scott, there was a lot of complaint that there was no reason for his seeing visions, but the crow, for me, WAS the reason. The way I intended it, the crow indicated something evil and supernatural lurking around, and Scott was the only one paying attention enough to notice, and therefore see these visions. Brian was too concerned with Natalie, Chris was too concerned with his own survival, but Scott was trying to figure things out and understand. Like when Brian and Scott are in the barn and the first vision happens, I always saw it as, if Brian were in the same mental place as Scott, he would have seen the same things as Scott. But he wasn't. He was too focused elsewhere. Even on the porch, when the crow arrives, Scott actually notices and comes for a closer look...causing him to GET a closer look. That's how I saw it. I'm glad you read into the crow.


TC: Will we be seeing more horror films from you in the future?
BS: I'm sure you will. I got a few more tricks up my sleeve. I'm excited to play in other genres, but horror will always be appealing because of how unique the experience is. I'm working again with After Dark which I'm excited about, and I have a few screenplays I'm spinning simultaneously. One of the vimeo short films is screaming for a feature adaptation...which I may or may not be working on. You'd have to visit the page to guess which one. We'll just have to stay in touch.

10 June 2011

Doghouse 2009 - REVIEW

There is a lot of conflict surrounding the differences between zombie films and virus outbreak films. I've seen people get down right pissy about it during conversations. I've also had people ask me what the difference is. Some would argue that the craving of human flesh alone is all that's needed to classify it as a zombie film. To me, a "zombie" film is about reanimated people that hunger for human flesh. A "virus" film is about people who have somehow contracted a virus that causes severe aggression and in turn makes them (in a way) hunger for human flesh. There are some cases where a film actually contains both scenarios (Return of the Living Dead) but for the most part they tend to stick to one or the other. Want my opinion... Zombie film: Night of the Living Dead... Outbreak film: 28 Days Later.

Vince (Stephen Graham) is having a hard time adjusting to the single life. He is a shadow of his former self. In a bid to lift his spirits, Neil (Danny Dyer) rallies the old gang together (who all seem to be in the doghouse with their partners for one reason or another) for a weekend away in Moodley, an isolated country village where the women are said to significantly outnumber the men. The plan is simple: to drink to the point of alcohol poisoning, and chase the local skirt. However, they soon find to their great surprise that the skirt will in fact be chasing them, as Moodley is in the grip of some mysterious plague that only affects females and it’s turned them all into bloodthirsty homicidal maniacs.

I've only seen Dyer in this and one other film and he basically plays the same character in both. But that's not a bad thing I guess. I think he has some issues in his personal life that might push people away from his films but there's really no arguing that he is talented at what he does.
I'm not really familiar with the rest of the cast but they all seemed to fit the roles they were given quite well. My favorite was Matt (Lee Ingleby) the comic book geek guy who could never seem to get that cowlick to stay down. He was funny and engaging and played his role to a tee. As for the rest of the cast, Noel Clark, Emil Marwa, Keith-Lee Castle, and Neil Maskell they all brought their characters to life and made them likeable in a way that is becoming fairly well known for dark British comedies and the horror genre in general. The rules are changing and things aren't always as predictable as they seem.

From what I've gathered, director Jake West is pretty well known for his shorts and low budget horror films. I've read that this was his first big budget film with a big name cast. Going over his resume it's obvious that he was up for the task and his experience showed. First time writer Dan Schaffer delivers a script full of funny one-liners and plenty of sarcasm. Watching this film, I never would've guessed that it was his first. Being that he was able to take a "wild bunch" of guys and turn them into likable characters is a pretty big feat. If he keeps it up, I see him having quite a long career.

Doghouse may not be the epic ZomCom of that of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's Shaun of the Dead but it holds it's own IMO. It's full of some great effects and pretty cool kills. Gore hounds will no doubt enjoy it. All in all it's a pretty well rounded film. Don't go into it expecting something technically great, it does have it's inconsistencies but without a doubt, it's entertaining. Dudes: if you want a film that you can sit around with your buddies and watch with pizza and beer, this is definitely one of those. Chicks: if your a feminist of any kind and despise the objectifying of women in horror films, I'd suggest you pick up High Tension or some other female empowerment film because this one is not for you.