Wednesday, 17 January 2018
I go more out of my way to try and avoid trailers nowadays, especially as they seem to have evolved to the stage where the entire film is shown in them. As such the release of the fourth Insidious film took me totally by surprise. I really enjoyed Insidious, it felt like a breath of fresh air at the time, however by the time 2013's Insidious: Chapter 2 came out the series was already starting to feel stagnant. My problem was that Lin Shaye's performance as Elise was the best thing about the series, and so to have her die straight away meant there wasn't really anywhere to go. That is except backwards with Insidious: Chapter 3 actually being a prequel, but one that again felt like it was towing the line and not really doing anything to stand out. Insidious: The Last Key is another prequel, this one is shoe horned directly before the very first film and features a lot of Lin Shaye which can only be a good thing.
Spirit medium Elise is contacted by a man who requests her help due to his house being haunted. This house turns out to be the childhood home she was raised in, and one in which as a child she was tricked into freeing a demonic force which proceeded to kill her mother. Returning to the place brings forth a lot of painful memories for Elise, but ones that will help her, and her lackeys: Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell who also wrote this) find a way to right the wrongs of the past.
Much like the previous entry I went into this with my expectations not raised very high. Initially my low expectations were met, mainly due to being very tired and not really being in the mood for a cinema visit (second day in a row!). However I came to appreciate The Last Key, mainly due to having so much Elise who still remains the most interesting character of the whole series. I liked the fact that this time around the story was very much about her, sure the plot has her responding to a request for help but it is her past that gets explored. This is done by a couple of flashbacks, one when she is a small child and first discovering her gift of seeing the dead, a second one set when she is a teenager. I liked how these flashbacks were revisited during the film shedding new light on events both in the present and in the past.
Tuesday, 16 January 2018
The award winning (has currently won 64 of them) Lion is the latest short film from Davide Melini (The Puzzle, The Sweet Hand of the White Rose) who both wrote and directed this ten minute horror piece. I mentioned this back in May of last year so it was a pleasure to finally get to see it. It does something a little different with respect to the horror, both in terms of the message it tells (even ending with a message from children's charity Unicef) and in the focus of the threat (of which the clue may very well be in the title).
This takes place at a remote woodland homestead where the abusive Jeff (Michael Segal - Anger of the Dead) drinks beer in the front room, watching TV, while his wife Amanda (Tania Mercader) is in the kitchen, and child Leon (Pedro Sanchez) complete with fresh bruises on his face lays in bed upstairs. The child wishes for help, and it seems his prayers are answered when the nature documentary Jeff is watching suddenly becomes a lot more realistic...
Lion has almost the feel of a fairy tale with the mellow soundtrack and the repeated images of a remote home in the middle of a snowstorm. It is a story of justice, though one tinged with an aspect of sadness, not just because there is an abused child at the forefront of the story, but because he is shown to be obsessed with lions and so the justice that occurs could well be all in his head. At ten minutes there is no room for padding out and so events move at a pace that is steady with everything having meaning.
To be honest I was a bit wary about how a lion would be shown, I really hoped there wouldn't be awful CGI to show a lion in a house, thankfully that is not the route gone for with the creature showing up in several shots close up or partially glimpsed, I liked the initial reveal of the horror in particular with a great face off between the lion approaching the front of the TV screen in a style similar to Sadako from Ringu and the increasingly furious Jeff who drunkenly shouts at the screen after the remote stops working. The effects in general were good, the setting and the snow on the window looked CGI, but helped with the fairy-tale feel, while there is a great looking severed appendage at one point.
Lion is a simple story but one that is filmed well and uses something not often seen in films in general. While a lot of what happens is left up to the viewers imagination this doesn't detract from the piece, or the message it is giving out. Worth a watch if you get the chance.
Monday, 15 January 2018
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Zombies Mode 'The Beast from Beyond' (2017) - Thoughts on the final Zombies map
It has been so long now that it hardly seems worth even mentioning the final map for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare 'Zombies' mode. However I do intend to do a blog post on the Call of Duty: World War II 'Nazi Zombies' mode and so I felt I needed to get some closure by wrapping up this games DLC. The Beast from Beyond is the fifth and final map, following on as it does from Zombies in Spaceland, Rave in the Redwoods, Shaolin Shuffle, and Attack of the Radioactive Thing.
This continues the story of four unfortunate actors finding themselves trapped in the films of director Willard White. This time around they find themselves trapped in a desolate military station on a far away ice planet. However in a move that reminded me a bit of Call of Duty: Black Ops III 'Revelations' you get to also go to quite a familiar place. You unlock a portal that allows you to travel to the cinema from which you were banished at the very start of the story, here you can fight around the cinema, as well as go to the 'real' version of the Afterlife Arcade. Initially I thought this extra area was from Shaolin Shuffle and so got excited to visit the other settings, but no, it just looks like that place.
Me and my best friend had a baptism by fire playing this. Rather than zombies you start the level fighting off alien creatures straight from Extinction (which was the Call of Duty: Ghosts sci-fi flavoured extra mode). These aliens were frustratingly tough to kill, even when this map starts you with an assault rifle rather than a pistol. We both detested the lack of zombies and were quite ready to give up on this for good. However after doing the equivalent of turning on the power the undead finally make their appearance, with the aliens coming back as special enemies. It was interesting that the special round zombies are made up from ones of a few different maps. You have the exploding clowns from Zombies in Spaceland, the aliens from this map, as well as the Kung-Fu zombies from Shaolin Shuffle.
What I like about this map is that there are some pretty open areas making it easy to manage the undead hordes. I also like the sci-fi setting that set itself apart from the other maps, though it never rivals Rave in the Redwoods that is one of my favourite Zombies maps from any of the games. What I didn't like, aside from the map starting with aliens is that there is no licensed music, but then it had been on a steady decline since Rave. Also I thought the costumes the characters wear were all a bit bland and samey looking. I didn't play enough of this map to get a good feel for what the Easter egg on it was, to be fair I still haven't had a decent amount of time spent here.
For those who don't go in Infinite Warfare 'Zombies' much there is actually a mode on there now where you get to fight the bosses from each of the maps. This includes the secret boss for The Beast from Beyond that has you fighting a gigantic Satan. Overall this map was a good end to what has been quite a decent spin on the Zombies formula. I really liked the more light hearted tone with these maps and if they ever decide to bring it back in a future instalment I will be on board.
Sunday, 14 January 2018
I first mentioned horror show Bible Black back in October last year (here) and have now had the opportunity to watch the first episode of this new anthology series. This was created in the tradition of Amazing Stories and Twilight Zone but has been done in quite the unique way. Rather than be live action this is actually like a graphic novel come to life with a voice over narration as the camera sweeps around pages of a book with mild paper craft style animation.
Over 22 minutes there are a huge variety of different short stories and written pieces melded together, some lasting for just a minute or so, others like the story about a lobster girl has much more screen time (that one is actually told in three parts). The stories are all very dark and deal with subjects that can't help but be controversial with some distasteful topics looked at. You have a piece about God committing suicide after giving up on mankind, you have a rape victims poor treatment at the hands of friends and family leading to her identifying with her rapist, even a piece about Jews questioning their belief in God due to the Holocaust. Others include a religious woman drowning her six children in a bathtub, and the rounding up of Jews to be sent to Auschwitz dressed up like a jovial circus advert.
The style of these are so dramatic and over the top that it is hard to take too much offence to them, more than anything this reminded me of the TV show you could find playing on televisions in the Max Payne series of video games, Address Unknown I think it was called. The gruff deep voice of the narrator, coupled with the still graphic novel style images couldn't help but remind me of that game. For that reason I quite enjoyed this, I do love anthologies anyway and this over the top camp and unsettling tone hit a nice median with the bleak, yet well drawn artwork on show.
The way this is presented makes this stand out, I can't think of anything similar out there, as a pilot it creates the right sense of where this show will go. My only concern really is that by grabbing at the low hanging fruit that is murder, rape, religion and Nazis I wonder how much variety there can be in future episodes; if it will keep following the same topics until there's nothing else to explore, or if it will find new and exciting avenues to explore. Episode One is now available to watch on Amazon Video.
Saturday, 13 January 2018
I have one last item left to deal with from before Christmas and then I am up to date with 2017 requests. The penultimate goal of mine was to watch One of Us that was directed and co-written by Blake Reigle. This horror was well made, in fact more so than I had expected, yet I found it was missing that certain spark to make it a great film.
Christa B. Allen (Detention of the Dead) stars as Melanie; an investigative reporter who isn't adverse to taking risks. After getting a worrying message on her phone from an old friend who then disappeared she decides this shall be her next big story. She heads to the last known location of her friend, this happens to be a mountain commune ran by a charismatic man named Brent (Derek Smith). There she infiltrates the group but soon discovers the commune has more the trappings of a cult, and that she may have gotten in over her head...
This both reminded me of found footage The Faith Community as well as Tricia Lee's Silent Retreat in that an unsuspecting innocent ends up trapped in a strange cult. Here the main protagonist is already pretty clued in that things are probably not right here, something that is shown to the viewer in the prologue when Brent gives a brainwashed cult member a gun and tells them to shoot themselves. This introduction by the way features a great scene in which the visuals match up to the music playing over the scene. Drugs play a big part here with Melanie (going under the name Mary) constantly getting drugged when she sleeps, suffering amnesia and becoming pliable to the leaders whims. However her goal was to go undercover and it never becomes crystal clear if she is actually just pretending to be getting ingrained into the group or if she actually is. With no other characters to speak to who know who she really is this aspect is always a bit misty. Near the films start she has her phone confiscated and so it is up to her sister and editor back in the city she came from to explore just what exactly is going on. The subplot of this exploration though never felt smooth, at one point it takes place just as a voice over, another part this sub plot starts with a far away shot of a city, as if to remind people these other characters actually existed. I felt if Melanie herself had discovered this it might have added to the tension a bit.
Friday, 12 January 2018
First of all can you tell us a little bit about yourself. Why did you decide to make films, what is it about the horror genre that brought you to it?
Filmmaking, for me, is an infusion of all my artistic passions.I decided to make films after my life with the arts evolved towards film. Ever since kindergarten, I always thought I was going to be a Disney cartoonist which evolved into comic book illustration. I'd produce comic strips for my high school classmates that were an amalgamation of everything I loved at the time - Star Wars meets Spawn - where I'd invite classmates to create characters into my superhero universe. Soon after, the family got their first computer and I discovered Newgrounds; an animation community fostering indie creators. This led me to teach myself Macromedia Flash 5 so I could animate cartoons onto Newgrounds. There were viewers able to look past my works' initial crude craft because my strong suit was writing comedy/horror content. As the technical side caught up to the content, I received nine daily Top 5 awards, as far as 2nd place for an episode of mine called 'Brunch of the Dead'.
As my teens continued, I found myself shooting dozens of short films on our family DV tape camcorder with a rag-tag cast made of my sister and friends - skits, faux commercials, and comedy/horror - whether they were for school or outside of. After graduation, I was enrolled to a General Arts College program, however, I dropped out two weeks in after soon discovering that I wanted to be a filmmaker.
In retrospect, drawing and animation were pre-requisite. With filmmaking, I'm able to adopt and explore all of my passions for film whether it's photographic shot composition, storyboarding films, in-camera art direction, VFX post, or conceptually collaborating with FX artists to create horrors. From 2011 and on, my portfolio established myself predominantly as a horror filmmaker. Horror is cinema's Swiss army knife that can draw comedy and drama from. What's tension without moments of levity? What's action without emotional stakes? And how can joy be felt without its struggle against horror? I find the most effective horror movies are a symphony of emotions whereas by the end of it, you could leave the movie with a euphoric feeling along the lines of leaving a fun amusement park ride. That's what draws me to filmmaking and the horror genre - the opportunity to give someone that experience as other filmmakers have for me.
You put out a lot of short horrors, do you have a whole host of ideas waiting to be turned into films, or do you come up with them one at a time?
I never come up with one idea at a time, and could not even if I tried. That's not to say that I cannot focus on the purpose of a singular story. It's very important to be able to reign in all of your ideas, whether it's scenes, subplots, or characters under an umbrella of themes. When it comes to coming up with ideas, I'll indiscriminately write them down. Some begin small and grow, some appear larger that they're meant to be, but all of them have the potential to bring new meaning when I puzzle them together and see what new ideas comes together. Many of my feature-length ideas originally came from experimenting with crossing over ideas into the other.
You appear to have a small stable of actors that appear in quite a few of your films. Do you write parts for particular actors, or is it good fortune that the people you use are able to fit a variety of roles?
I've been fortunate to find actors who have that enigmatic ability to assume characters that are polar opposite from the other. Naturally it comes with practical perks, but more-so I gravitate towards building a working rapport with actors that only time and experience grants. It inspires me to write different shades for staple actors because not only is it thrilling for the actors and myself to see our collaborative process grow new creative dynamics, but myself as a fan of movies I love to see when actors have the opportunity to showcase other sides to them like painters producing new portraits.
Often with a lot of your films a lot of the horror comes from dialogue suggesting events rather than any on screen visuals; such as the radio announcer in A Walk Home Alone, or the phone call in Sightings, these were both pretty effective methods that not a lot of films seem to do. How did you come up with this idea of suggestive terror?
I found myself becoming a student of horror just from sheer passion for the genre growing up. The principles of "less is more" and "the filmmaker cannot create something worse than the audience can for themselves" began to be tools of the trade for me more-so towards my late-twenties. Suggestive terror is not without information; it's information that the filmmaker provides the audience that creates tension. It's certainly worth paraphrasing Hitchcock's bomb theory from his masterclass on suspense:
Imagine two people sitting at a table talking for five minutes, and then suddenly a bomb goes off. The audience is shocked for five seconds. Now, imagine the same two people sitting at a table talking, and the filmmaker shows the audience there's a bomb underneath the table that's going to blow up in five minutes. Now as the scene plays out for the next five minutes, their conversation about baseball or their chicken dinner brings new context as the audience hollers "Stop talking about whatever! Look under the table!" You've now managed to re-engineer the same scene to have five minutes of suspense instead of five seconds of shock.
I find those elements fascinating to play with and my long-hand films will explore that. When done right, it can make for a fun time at the movies!
From beginning to end what is the average amount of time it takes to craft your films from idea to finished product? What is your personal favourite one you have made?
The length of time to craft a film differentiates depending on its needs, but a principle is that I never put a deadline on pre-production when I'm the sole producer. Some films, from ideas to production, can happen in a flash whereas others may wrestle to sync schedules. Once pre-production is complete, I try my hardest to win principal photography as soon as possible because you never know how schedules, over a length of time, may change and conflict. Everyone I work with does not 'do this full time' - we all orchestrate around our day jobs.
My personal favourite would be a 2016 production I had to axe called "The Watcher". The making of the film over the course of summer nights, starred Maura Stephens (A Walk Home Alone) and Aileigh Karson (Something Scary). It's my favourite because of what came out of it: what didn't come out of it was a finished product presentable for the public due on my behalf because I hit a glass ceiling to my DSLR filmmaking know-how - I naively embarked on a low-lit thriller without ever having grasped aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure, and in-camera settings. I was shooting it as I would do with a camcorder. I was very happy with the cuts, staging, choreography, and for Maura and I's craft. Initially, when I looked at the noisy blotchy footage in post, it was devastating, however I bounced back to go to YouTube film school and learning low-lighting.
You either succeed or you learn.
After reigning in on the technical side, I realized the sins of my ways haha. For you filmmakers out there, get ready to cringe: imagine shooting a low-lit scene with an f/stop of 22 with your kit lens zoomed in for most shots while your exposure is cranked up on blast. It was a personal achievement with my 2017 shorts to avenge my loss - "Placebo" and "Sightings" in particular were rematches to low-light filmmaking and they proved my YouTube film school in practice. "The Watcher" is my personal favourite because it was both the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
Do you watch much horror at all? and what is your favourite scary movie? Going off that who would you cite as your biggest influence on the way you build your films?
I watch a lot of horror. Especially growing up, I'd watch every new movie that came out. Nowadays, I'm more conservative with watching the next new wave of films, because I'm more occupied hunting down titles that have always been on my to-watch queue.
My favourite scary movie would be tough to choose one, and they've changed as I've changed - from Hellraiser, Black Christmas, to Suspiria - but one that's really spoken to me during the past few years now is an Australian mockumentary called "Lake Mungo" that chronicles a family dealing with the grieving loss of their family member. It's a slow-burn that begins to blur the lines between drama and the fantastical, until it coalesces into a fever pitch.
Filmmakers such as Carpenter, Rodriguez, and Corman speak to me with how to build a production - fix it in prep, have a Plan B, get as much as you can on the screen, shoot only what you need, be open to trying new things in post production while always keeping the edit and the audience in mind. Guillermo Del Toro, speaking on Pan's Labyrinth, fought against studio pressures 'to reach a wider audience' by telling the people upstairs that he didn't want a wider audience, he wanted the audience for the movie.
Speaking to Maura she mentioned a film you're working on called Dispatch. Is there any additional details you can give on that one, and do you have any additional films you are thinking about making at the moment?
"Dispatch" is an emergency distress call told solely from the point of view of a dispatcher (Maura Stephens) dealing with a caller (Erin Kiniry) who is experiencing a home invasion. It will be the last stop before completely embarking on our debut feature-film "Shadow People" - a script that I've been carving out for years. For the past year, it's been winning significant strides amidst the many bad drafts I had to get out of me haha but where it's at now, I'm happy that this wasn't a film that I had jumped in too early before honing my craft towards. The plot follows an ensemble of grieving characters investigating the sudden disappearances of loved ones.
Wednesday, 10 January 2018
I am finally just about back on track after far too much time off from doing film review requests over the festive period. I like to go into films without any prior knowledge, it turns out English horror Paranormal Farm is quite a literal title as it is set on a farm where ghostly things have been going on. This is a found footage horror, but thankfully comes from the more recent trend of having legitimate believable performances. While this is not without its faults the indie nature of how this was created is really quite impressive.
Writer and director Carl Medland (The Spiritualist) stars as Carl; a paranormal investigator who has responded to an ad in a paper to explore the spooky goings on at the farm of Lucy (Lucy French) and her husband Darren (Darren Earl Williams). His aim is to spend the night alone in the farmhouse of the couple in order to find out if the paranormal activities reported are real, and if they are connected to the couple's daughter; Jessica, who went missing some years previously in the area. Carl discovers not everything is as it should be...
I love the indie sensibilities of this movie, IMDB reports this has a budget of just £200, apparently the entire film was shot over just one weekend, and it was all filmed on an iPhone, to my knowledge only the second film I have seen that was recorded on a phone (found footage The Break-In being the other one). Despite following the current trend of awesome main lead performances (more on that later) this goes right back to The Blair Witch Project in how it was planned, with real Carl having a rough outline of what was going to happen, but then pretty much ad-libbing all his lines, and having crew create scares around him that he wasn't aware of, in order to get real responses.
Tuesday, 9 January 2018
Author Drew Stepek released Knuckle Balled around November last year which was the follow up to his 2010 novel Knuckle Supper. He contacted me to give his new book a review, however he made the mistake of also including a copy of the first book in the series. I say mistake as I am notoriously slow at reading books and so it has taken me until today to read the first one, let alone his sequel (that I shall start reading this evening!). However it has come to my attention that I was actually provided with a newly edited version of the first book, the 'ultimate gutter fix edition' and this actually was also newly released last November. This is a vampire story with quite a difference (and one where 10% of the book's revenues goes to a charity dedicated to helping save child prostitutes).
RJ Reynolds is a heroin addict who also happens to be the leader of a gang of vampires known as The Knucklers. One day he takes the fateful decision to take pity on a child prostitute named Bait who ends up a prisoner at his hideout, rather than kill her he decides to take her under his care. This causes friction between him and his second in command; a young arrogant vampire named Dez who thinks there is no point keeping her alive. While this is going on The Knucklers hatch a plan to steal a large amount of heroin from another vampire gang called The Battlesnakes, one that is run by King Cobra who is the self appointed leader of all the vampires in the city. These two events begin the downward spiral of RJ...
Knuckle Supper is Tank Girl meets Twilight as directed by Rob Zombie. I loved this book it was so fresh and so captivating in the scum ridden world it portrays. Main anti-hero RJ is barely much better than anyone else, regarding humans with very little respect, foul mouthed and homophobic he exists only to get high and feed, wallowing in his own filth (sometimes literally). He lives out his life in decrepit trashy surroundings with no care for anyone. He serves as such a fantastic character though as he is a change from typical leads, he brought to mind more of someone from a Charles Bukowski or John Fante novel, an anti-hero who is given a purpose and a chance to make something of his life, but staying pretty despicable as he goes. It's telling that such a character is the main light, his journey finds himself going against cultish hypocrites, traitorous rapists and even neo-Nazi's. I struggled to understand just how someone like RJ would decide to take a human child under his wing. At first it makes no real sense as it isn't like Bait is a sweet person, she is just as corrupted and ruined as anyone else in this messed up world. However backstory of a similar thing occurring in the past kind of smoothed that out.
Monday, 8 January 2018
I was intrigued from the moment I first heard about Ninja Theory's latest game Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. At its heart it is a psychological horror, but the fascinating part comes that it is a deep exploration of psychosis. The main character; Senua suffers visual and auditory hallucinations that the game does a damn fine job of showing to you, this was apparently made with help from neuroscientists, mental health specialists, and people who suffer from the condition.
Set in the late 8th century we follow Senua (a Pict warrior) who has gone on a journey to Hellheim in order to rescue the soul of her lover Dillon (whose head she carries in a sack on her belt). Along the way she is forced to confront the darkest memories and secrets of her mind.
If I were to review Hellblade based purely on its sound design this would get a solid 10/10, the sound in this game is simply phenomenal. You are advised to wear headphones while playing and I would say that is pretty much essential as the voices in Senua's head are done in such a way as to feel like they are right by you whispering or shouting into your ears. Everywhere you go these voices persist giving you both useful information, but also mocking you and threatening you. I was so impressed with the voice work throughout, there is not a bad voice actor to be found with the cast all giving fantastic performances. This is helped by the use of sound effects that are all spot on, from wind chimes and crackling fires to the sound of dripping water, it all sounds so authentic and natural.
Sunday, 7 January 2018
Stirring is the second film to come from new director Troy Escamilla, after last years Party Night. In the interest of disclosure I should mention that I contributed towards the Kickstarter campaign for this film, and that I know Troy through the Fright Meter Awards committee. As such I won't be putting a score at the end of this review. So Stirring is a Christmas themed horror, following in the great tradition of such classics as Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas.
A new member of a Sorority house snaps after bullying from one of her new sisters, she brutally murders her bully before taking her own life. Fast forward ten years and Amber (Kaylee Williams); the sister of the murdered girl has joined the same Sorority as a means of dealing with the tragic event. However someone is not happy about this, a new killer wearing the disguise of Mrs Claus has arrived to try and kill her and her friends...
It was only once I sat down to watch this that I realised just how much I had been looking forward to seeing it, the entire film for me was a joy fest. Party Night (that gets a nice reference here) was a decent first effort from Troy, but it seems he has learnt a lot from that one with Stirring feeling tighter and with a more focused script, as well as overall better direction for the cast. It was cool to see quite a few returning actors from Party Night, both Billy Brannigan, Ryan Poole, Drew Shotwell and Lawrence McKinney reappear. Much like the first film it was Shotwell who became my favourite actor, his performance as the stoner Jake was well played, leading to the films most tender scene between him and his female best friend. Elsewhere Poole's turn as jock Grant got the biggest laugh from me when lame Christmas music started playing at a party he was at, he exclaims something like "what the f*ck!?" which is exactly what I had been thinking myself! The star attractions here are Helene Udy (The Dead Zone, My Bloody Valentine) and Brinke Stevens (The Slumber Party Massacre), with Stevens as the campus security officer being the best acted role. This time around the performances felt more consistent, the acting isn't outstanding, but it is satisfying and certainly fits the trashy 80's slasher vibe down to the bone. It was also to good to see another strong female lead with Williams's Amber. I really liked her, she had far more to her than the normal one dimensional character you would expect.
Thursday, 4 January 2018
My latest interview has been with Jacob Perrett who is a 20 year old filmmaker from Meadville that is part of a group known as Fame Cinema. This group do a lot of varied projects, including horror shorts such as Planet of the Dead, Night of the Sitter, and latest film The Initiation. They can be found on YouTube at JacobSpeaks, and I will include one of their films after the interview.
Can you tell us a bit about your team; what was the genesis for deciding to make films?
The current Fame Cinema lineup we have now was acquired over the span of 2017. It is composed of Taylor Rhoades, who is my main collaborator, producer and acts in a majority of the projects. Along with Taylor is his wife, Danielle Rhoades, who does a great deal of behind the scenes work, she is like my "go-to" type of person on set. Another member is Matt Nale who had began working with us when he was 14. He attends the school I graduated from, and had expressed an interest in filmmaking, so I sort of took him under my wing. To finish off the group, Mackenzie Anthony and Christian Styborski both play pivotal roles in behind the scenes work.
I began making short film when I was around 10 years old. Growing up, I tried a multitude of different activities, basketball, baseball, even taekwondo. I could never really find any joy or fulfillment in any of these things, not to mention, I was terrible at being an athlete. My dad had eventually introduced me to YouTube, where I realised that making content was what intrigued me more than anything in the world. I began making stop-motion shorts with my legos and clay. This world would soon spiral into a YouTube channel titled Jacob Speaks, and then eventually into a more "professional" Fame Cinema.
Your films all look very professional which I admit I wasn't expecting, each film seems to be an improvement over the last in terms of quality. Where did you learn to do this, and do you think with technology these days it is a lot easier for people to be able to realise their vision if they have the right group of like minded people?
Thank you! I'm self taught. When I was first introduced to YouTube, I would find videos I really liked, and I would try my best to replicate them. Over the years I just got better I suppose. With each film I try and focus on one particular aspect of the filmmaking process, and try and perfect that aspect. For example, Pumpkin Eyes I focussed on sound design, Night of the Sitter I focused on cinematography, etc.
Like minded people certainly help. Prior to the short film Two Good Things, I was working with people who took advantage of the opportunities I was giving them. I won't go into detail because it's a personal matter, but my creativity excelled greatly after meeting Taylor Rhoades. It's just great having someone who understands your goals and supports them.
What is your ambition, do you see film making as your future, and if so what lessons do you think you still need to learn?
I've never wanted anything more than to be a film director. I'm currently a sophomore in film school trying to expand my knowledge and hopefully make connections that will benefit me in the long run. I believe I have what it takes, I just need to meet the right people.
As of late, the biggest influences have come from 80's horror and television shows like Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? We're currently putting together an anthology feature film about an old television show and four recovered episodes. It's my love letter to Goosebumps essentially, which played such a big role in my childhood, for better or for worse.
With some of your films the young cast compliments the story, such as latest short The Initiation (set during a strange frat party), in other films such as the impressive Planet of the Dead it sometimes felt like older actors would have better suited some of the roles. Do you think it matters about the age of the actors if their acting is a high enough standard to play the part believably?
I absolutely think age matters. Planet of the Dead was my first REAL stab at making a movie. I was 17 at the time and only knew people of my age who would want to help me make the film. Adults in the area are so lame when it comes to this type of thing. Nobody wants to get behind or follow direction from someone who is younger than them, so I make do with what I have.
A lot of your films have been horror based, or at least associated with the horror genre. What do you find attractive about this genre, and what would you say is your favourite horror film of all time?
That's a good question. It's just something I'm attracted to. In particular I love old horror. For example, I didn't have the privilege of growing up in the 1980's but whenever I watch a film from that time period there is just a sort of nostalgic sensation I feel for that time.
As far as my favourite horror film goes, I'd say A Nightmare on Elm Street or James Whale's Frankenstein. A Nightmare on Elm Street was the film that got me into the genre. Frankenstein, in my opinion, is one of the greatest stories ever told. I've always felt some sort of weird connection to the monster.
Which of your films would you say has been your favourite to make, and do you have any regrets how any of your films have turned out?
Night of the Sitter is my favorite. For Her is a short film that is most personal to me, and I get a lot of joy when I look back on it, but it's not the best. The Black Ribbon is probably the film I have with the most regret. I just think we were trying to take ourselves too seriously in that film. I don't regret the experience as a whole at all, however. It's just not who I am as a filmmaker.
So over Christmas you released The Initiation on YouTube (loved the POV camera work on that btw), what is next in the pipeline for you and your team?
Well, Incubus and Night of the Sitter have been taken down from YouTube, for a very big reason. The next film we will be working on is called Goodnight, Daddy, and is my version of a slasher film. It will have the same aesthetic and feel that Night of the Sitter did. It will be the third entry into the anthology. The final segment will be called Cosmic Terror, and will play on some of the science fiction tropes of 80's horror. That will be shot in the spring. The feature all these films make up is called Weird Fiction, and has an estimated release date of October 2018.
Tuesday, 2 January 2018
Gerald's Game was directed by Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush), if I had known this before hand I might have been quicker to watch this as Hush is a darn good movie. The other day I reviewed 1922 which was based on a novella Stephen King wrote, Gerald's Game is another adaptation of one of his stories.
Jessie (Carla Gugino - Sin City, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) and her older husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) have gone away to a remote house in the woods for a weekend of fun which they hope will save their dissolving marriage. Gerald has brought some handcuffs with which he cuffs his wife to an ornate bed as part of a sex game, finding she doesn't feel comfortable she asks him to release her and they get in a row. Unluckily for her Gerald has a fatal heart attack and dies, leaving her trapped. The stress of the situation, coupled with the fact a stray dog has started to eat her husband causes her to have a mental breakdown of sorts and she starts to hallucinate, discovering repressed childhood memories as she does so...
I had heard this was a good film but for the first third of this I really wasn't impressed. I found the whole situation to be pretty awkward and hard to watch, and found the whole hallucination angle to be pretty darn silly. It was the hallucinations themselves which saved the film though as it led to some beautifully framed flashback sequences to show sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father as a girl during a solar eclipse. I also thought the supernatural elements were a decent touch at well. Each night a being who Jessie identifies as the 'moonlight man' visits her leading to some creepy moments when he appears deep in shadow.
Monday, 1 January 2018
On paper Beyond the Gates sounded awesome, basically it sounded like the plot of Jumanji but applied to horror rather than adventure. This has been made as a homage to 80's straight to video horrors and in that respect it hits quite a lot of the marks, however for me I felt it took slightly too long to get going and that not enough was explored with the core idea.
Seven months after their father goes missing two estranged brothers; Gordon (Graham Skipper - Dementia) and John (Chase Williamson - John Dies at the End) meet up in order to liquidate his video rental shop. While exploring the place they discover a mysterious VHS board game titled 'Beyond the Gates' locked away in his office. The brothers, and Gordon's girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant - Halloween II) decide to play the game but are surprised to see the host on the VHS (played by Barbara Crampton - Re-Animator) directly talking to them, and that it seems that should they win they will be able to save their father. However playing the game has deadly real world consequences...
I love Jumanji and so was excited for this, but the game only really features in half the movie, the trio don't even start playing it until 45 minutes has passed. Before this point there is plenty of character building, albeit in a cheesy 80's style. I liked the character development between the two brothers who are polar opposites of each other. Gordon is serious and smartly dressed, while John has become a bit of a rebel character. With the horror though there really isn't much at all until after the halfway mark. I thought Crampton was great as the host and created some surreal moments, but aside from her all the horror that occurs in the first half is a few nightmare sequences, and a few items moving of their own accord.