Friday, September 28, 2007

Interview with Filmmaker Shannon Lark

Shannon Lark is a multi-talented director, writer, producer, performer, actress, dancer and manager in the horror business. She has written, directed and produced her own films, acted in many independent horror flicks, founded indie-filmmaker forum (where those in the horror film industry can mingle and mangle) and production company The Chainsaw Mafia, founded The Viscera Series and Film Festival that encourages women in the male-dominated horror industry to submit their own artwork and films, and is the gore wrangler and dancer for the zombie dance troupe, The Living Dead Girlz, among MANY other horror-related things! Currently, she is running for this year’s Miss Horrorfest.

She loves horror and isn’t afraid to show it!! And that’s what we love about her…

Lark is extremely passionate about what she does, and even though she has accomplished so much, she has no plans of stopping anytime soon! Fatally Yours recently got the chance to interview the lovely Ms. Lark, whom you should definitely go vote for in the Miss Horrorfest competition (go here and vote 5 stars on the video!). She definitely deserves it…if you read on, I’m sure you’ll see why!

Fatally Yours: Shannon, your love of horror is apparent. You’ve acted in, directed, written and edited numerous horror films, founded the production company and indie forum The Chainsaw Mafia, performed in splatter theater with the Living Dead Girlz and the Primitive Screwheads, written for horror sites including, created and run the Viscera Film Festival for women and now you are running for Miss Horrorfest. Horror definitely flows through your veins! How did your love of horror begin and what made you decide to pursue a career in the horror business?

Shannon Lark: It all started with an experience at the ballet when I saw a gruesome rendition of Romeo and Juliet when I was four. Ever since I have been hooked to the genre and every morbid image I could get a hold of. It was just a natural progression from obsessive viewing to obsessive creating. Being an artist in the horror genre is what fuels my imagination and that means everything to me.

FY: Most people take their whole lives to accomplish as much as you have. How have you accomplished so much in such a short amount of time?

SL: Oh wow. Thanks for the compliment! I would hope that people accomplish more than this though, since I feel I have done very little in the big scheme of things.

How I did accomplish what I have so far is by obsessiveness. If you want something bad enough, you don’t just stand around and talk about it or allow your fears to engulf you so you never do it.

I jumped in, head first. I harassed people, made them teach me what they knew when I was hired to act in films. I took independent classes, bought books, and created The Chainsaw Mafia, my horror production company and website.

I started directing films, even though I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I learned how to edit films, how to write them, how to direct and produce them (along with splatter theater productions).

Directing film festivals came just as naturally as making films. I knew a lot of horror filmmakers in the Bay Area whose films deserved to be shown. Festival Directing, The Chainsaw Mafia, and the Living Dead Girlz have sprung off from these platforms I set up.

It’s all about networking…which is more like beating people over the head with a bloody mallet until they comply.

FY: What was the first project you worked on in the horror genre?

SL: Haha. This is a fun one. I directed this film when I was a junior in high school about nuclear proliferation and the potential effects it could have on the world. I grew up where the US Government tested the first Atomic Bomb, so it was a pretty hot topic.

The film is called “Blood in the Sand,” and features a bunch of my classmates. It had a Marilyn Manson soundtrack and took place in the desert, after the world had been “blown” up. It was cute and we showed it to a panel of Los Alamos Scientists. They really didn’t know what to say….

They probably just said we were all Satanists. Hail Satan!

FY: How did you learn how to act, direct, write, etc.?

SL: My sister was a pretty popular director in our hometown by the time she was 13. She was always an influence in the acting field (she once did an 8 minute scene for a class where she had multiple personalities, it was brilliant!). She really helped me get into acting and dancing and putting on shows.

Directing and writing films came from reading books and talking to people. It takes a while to get down the formatting of writing scripts. It took a lot of crappy scripts to finally get it right!

FY: How did the Living Dead Girlz gig and the Primitive Screwheads opportunity come about?

SL: The LDG were created after I made this film called What Ever Happened to the Zombie Killers. It was one of my first short films and had a cute zombie dance sequence. Amber Steele designed and taught the choreography for the zombies (along with acting in the film). At one point she turned to me in a half joking manner that we should start a zombie dance troupe. That’s where it all started.

About 5 years ago I was cruising Craigslist, looking for horror productions to be involved with. I saw a post by the director, Sean, and contacted him for the role of Annie in Evil Dead: Live. I drove in the craziest rain to get to the audition and was in traffic for 3 hours, arriving over an hour late. I found parking, ran to the theater building at SFSU.

He waited for me, I couldn’t believe it. I auditioned and he gave me the part immediately.

FY: The Chainsaw Mafia and The Viscera Series and Film Fest are both great opportunities for independent filmmakers, especially women. Can you tell our readers more about these?

SL: The Chainsaw Mafia is a free networking forum on the web, so it helps to facilitate link ups with filmmakers and let people know what’s going on in the independent horror filmmaking community. TCM is about bringing a feeling of family and unity in the genre. Discounted equipment rentals and a one stop horror shop coming soon!

TCM also houses film festivals, for men and women, and helps other filmmakers work to be seen and honored.

Viscera is a Film Festival and Series featured on The films in the Series are made completely by women, in every aspect of production. Any woman can enter their film (as long as it falls within these guidelines) for the Series.

Along with the Series are Viscera Women, these women are particular females who are being honored on the site because of their roles in the horror genre. Ones who are making an impact and creating their own art are especially candidates.

The Film Festival features women directed/produced films, and has a monetary award for women-only films. Viscera is also sponsored by many horror organizations and Festivals that will review the winners on the DVD and potentially view their favorite Viscera films.

FY: The roles for women in horror, both in front and behind the camera, have been pretty limited in the past. How do you feel about the role of women in film today and do you think there has been an improvement?

SL: I think a lot has changed for women in horror, and its just picking up speed as time goes along. I think more women than ever are creating their own productions and taking projects into their own hands. I think the majority of women are still a bit timid, not just in horror, but in many other career choices. I think we have a way to go before we are considered equal in the work force, but it might be reachable in our lifetimes.

FY: It seems that men make up the majority of horror fans. Why do you think that there are fewer women as fans and how would you convince women that aren’t fans to give horror a chance?

SL: I agree with you, and I think it’s because men are what horror films are marketed to. There is such a flooded market of slasher films wherein the formula is so straightforward. Women are used as objects to be penetrated (with whatever phallic object used in the film), and the final girl is the one in which men can relate to. She takes on a male-like character (not sexy, usually a virgin) and overcomes all obstacles.

I think as more horror films come to light that aren’t your typical slasher film, we will see more an more women become spectators. I also believe that as more women become involved in the genre, we will see a huge rise of female interest. It’s like a message to other females that the waters fine, and nothing bad is going to happen to them if they like it.

FY: Your films contain a lot of social commentary. Do you believe it’s important for films to carry a message along with being entertaining?

SL: For many of my films, yes. I don’t think all horror films need to carry on an important message, intentionally.

I think horror films carry on more of a subconscious message than any other genre of film due to its extreme content. It’s hard to make a good horror film without critics analyzing it to death and creating reasons on why you did what you did to make it effective.

Sometimes I just want to make something fucked up, and people point out to me their conclusions on morality issues on my material. It’s just a natural thing for humans to look for the message. Even if there really isn’t a message there, we want answers.

FY: You are competing for Miss Horrorfest 2007. What was the driving factor that made you want to do this?

SL: Well, I entered last year with a really great film called Prom Queen. It was just a really disturbing film that many people thought was snuff. Youtube ended up kicking the film off the site, even though it contained absolutely no nudity and showed no penetration of any object.

Although Prom Queen was effective, I don’t think it was right for the contest. So I entered again this year, with more of an iconic image in mind. I think it’s time for a strong female character to become more apparent in the genre and I hope to help many women become involved as well.

If I win, in 2008, I plan to start a Scream Queen Camp for budding girls who are interested in getting into the business and expand The Chainsaw Mafia to helping filmmakers even more so.

FY: Who do you look up to in the horror industry?

SL: Peter Jackson, David Lynch, and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

People who I know and love are Heidi Martinuzzi, Michelle Fatale, and Amber Steele.

FY: What are your top 5 favorite horror films?

SL: Dead Alive (Brain Dead), Santa Sangre, Evil Dead, The Shining, Elephant Man

FY: Shannon, you’ve contributed so much to the genre and the horror community is lucky to have you. We at applaud all your efforts and you definitely have our vote for Miss Horrorfest 2007!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nailed (2007)

Have you ever experienced an especially vivid nightmare filled with bright lights, dark corners and ominous figures that you could swear was actually happening? When you wake up, you feel disoriented, spooked an uneasy?

If you have, then you’ll pretty much know how you’ll feel watching Nailed, a surprisingly effective horror film!

This under-the-radar film starts off like a crime drama, with two low-level thugs, Keller (Charles Porter) and Scott (Sam Sarpong), dropping off a drug delivery only to find out they are smack-dab in the middle of a huge bust. After a chase through inner-city streets, during which Scott gets shot in the arm, the two take refuge in a boarded-up house. They assume they are all alone, until they hear strange sounds coming from upstairs. When they investigate, they find a man, bandaged head to toe, lying in a bed begin cared for his “caregiver,” Adam (Wilson Jermaine Heredia). Relieved to find a doctor in the house, they force Adam to patch up Scott’s arm. Keller and Scott are forced to stay in hiding in the house because the cops are still looking for them outside. That’s when things begin to get a little strange…

I wasn’t expecting all that much from this movie…with a name like Nailed, I was half-expecting this movie to feature half the cast from Jackass, complete with copious amounts of unnecessary nudity and over-the-top gory deaths. Much to my surprise, it was completely different from what I expected. It actually had a tense atmosphere and had me on the edge of my seat, you know, genuinely frightened! Imagine a horror movie doing THAT!!

Director Adrian O’Connell utilizes the cramped space of the boarded-up house and capitalizes on the claustrophobic atmosphere. Sunlight streaming in between the slats on the windows forms a sharp contrast to the murky depths of the house, creating a disorienting feeling. The intensity of the situation is multiplied by the fact that Scott is slowly bleeding to death and Keller is freaking out over the moans and groans that the man upstairs is making.

The film is essentially carried by the performances of the three actors inside the house (I’m not counting the man in the bed, since he doesn’t do much but groan) – Porter as Keller, Sarpong as Scott and Heredia as Adam and all three manage to pull it off. Porter plays the secretive Keller as the strong, silent one until his sanity begins to slowly deteriorate. Things inside the house start getting to him and he turns from calm and collected to frantic and desperate. Sarpong plays the light-hearted but with-something-to-prove Scott with ease, and actually makes the audience care about him even though he has shot a cop and continually threatens Adam. Adam is played by Heredia in a very creepy, detached way. Adam acts calm and emotionless, even when a gun is waved in his face, which makes you think from the start that something is just not right with him.

The film builds slowly, first with a few strange things occurring, which the characters just brush off as due to stress, but soon the scares become more and more frequent. Keller discovers a doll house that looks exactly like the one they are in, complete with boarded up windows and little dolls that look like him, Scott, Adam and the man in the bed. Then he begins getting sores all over his body and starts seeing things a little more…ominous. The pacing of the film is excellent and even the beginning with the drug bust and ensuing chase fits in. Director Adrian O’Connell and writer Stephen McAnena have created quite a taut film with Nailed.

My only complaint was that the ending felt a bit generic and can be figured out when you actually get into the film. Other than that, Nailed is a solid horror film that focuses more on psychological terror and cramped spaces than grue or goo.

Check it out if you’re looking for a terrifying trip…or just go watch Jackass.

Available on Amazon!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Slime City (1988)

Are you a fan of oozy, gooey B-movies? If so, you will definitely be a fan of the underrated and little-known 1988 movie Slime City!! Filmed on the seedy and shady streets of New York in the 80’s, Slime City can best be compared to Street Trash with its putrescent and neon-colored gore. It revels in grossing you out, but also has an entertaining story.

You see, Alex (Robert C. Sabin) is looking for an apartment all his own…one where he can have a little privacy with his girlfriend, Lori (Mary Huner). He and Lori find a reasonably priced apartment that is close to both Lori’s house and Alex’s work. Alex decides to take it and soon meets the interesting tenants of the place. Across the hall is a Goth prostitute named Nicole (Mary Huner again) who likes to parade around in scant yards of chain, black leather, and fishnets and doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Downstairs is Roman (Dennis Embry), a punk poet who is quick to befriend Alex and invite him over for dinner. Dinner turns out to be blue and green glop that Roman calls “Himalayan yogurt” and a green alcohol that Roman tells Alex was created by the alchemist that used to live there.

After eating the green goop, Alex ends up giving in to Nicole’s wiles. Later, he wakes up covered in a slick, wet slime. Soon, his whole body is oozing and dripping with the stuff. He loses control and kills a homeless man on the street, whose spilled blood manages to turn Alex back to normal. Still, Alex cannot get enough of the green goop that Roman fed him, so he avoids his girlfriend Lori and chugs the stuff whenever he gets his hands on it. He also learns that the alchemist, named Zachary, was also a Satanist and committed suicide in the basement, along with his followers who also lived in the apartment complex. Alex keeps turning into a walking open sore, and takes to wrapping himself in bandages (a la The Invisible Man) before he relieves himself by killing someone.

Pretty soon, we learn that Nicole, Roman and the rest of the tenants just aren’t themselves…their bodies have actually been taken over by the spirits of Zachary’s followers. Zachary is also trying to come back…by invading Alex’s body!

Slime City is a fun and deliciously disgusting (and gut-busting) piece of splatter cinema! If you like your blood splatter mixed with gangrenous greens, lurid yellows and bloated blues, that is! The movie is like looking at a piece of splatter art, you know the kind you used to do when you were a kid? You spun the paper around and around and splattered all different kinds of colors on it? Imagine that and you’ve got Slime City!

For a low-budget film things work beautifully. Director and writer Greg Lamberson knew his limitations and worked within them to bring us this picture. I imagine the bulk of the budget was spent on paint and fake body parts!! Everything looks the way it should, and the grainy, low-budget look of the film only adds to the ambiance of the movie. There are some odd close-ups of characters speaking dialogue, but either I missed the director’s intentions or it is just an amateur’s mistake.

The acting is serviceable and the actors do their jobs quite well. Of course there are some scenes of over-acting, but for the most part everyone plays their characters well. Mary Huner does a wonderful job playing both Lori and Nicole. She gives such impressive performances that I didn’t even realize the same person was playing two different characters.

As for the “slime” in this City…oh, it definitely delivers!! The wet, oozing and sore-infested Alex is gross to look at and we get some impressive limb decapitation via Alex’s deformed body, along with copious amount of Technicolor bodily substances (blood, ooze, pus and so on). The end of the film is where the big payoff is, though, and I’m not giving any of it away.

If you are looking for a good time with some slime, I highly recommend the underrated, underappreciated Slime City.

Just don’t drink the green goop if it’s offered to you…and stay away from Himalayan yogurt!

Available from Amazon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Cleaner (2007)

I admit it…I’m a neat-freak. I cannot rest until every square inch of my humble abode is arranged just so and devoid of dust, dirt or debris. On the off-chance that I get busy and can’t clean up, I’ll devote an entire day to picking up the slack and cleaning EVERYTHING.

And while I’m taking out trash that includes DVD and In ‘N’ Out wrappers, energy drink cans, coffee grinds and dust bunnies, Grace, the lead character from The Cleaner, is taking out the trash of an entirely different sort in this short film.

Grace (Kristin Burke) is a pretty redhead who just happens to be obsessive about cleanliness. Everything must be clean and germ-free in her world. She carries disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizing gel wherever she goes to rid herself of that not-so-clean feeling she always gets. Her co-worker Paul (Chris Angelo) likes to harass her about her condition while her husband (Owen Thomas) feels like he can’t even touch her without her needing a shower. One day, Grace gets fired from her job and comes home early, only to find her husband in bed with another woman (Shannon Lark). Right away, Grace snaps into cleaning mode, snatching the filthy sheets from Vicki, the other woman, and throwing them in the washer. Her husband calls her a freak and tells her he is leaving her…she can have everything but he wants nothing to do with her anymore. Grace finally comes to the realization that she isn’t the dirty one, but everyone else is, and decides it is time for some heavy-duty spring cleaning…

The Cleaner may only be a 22-minute low budget film, but for how well it is made it ranks up there with any big budget film. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I actually know the filmmaker, a fact most reviewers would be loath to reveal because they may be more likely to skew their reviews towards the positive when they know the filmmaker. I am usually hesitant to review anything a friend has done due to the fact that I’m honest. And in being honest, sometimes you lose a few friends. Still, I was eager to see what Michelle Fatale had done with The Cleaner and I am pleased to say, friend or foe, no one can deny that The Cleaner is a very fine film.

Every detail, from the acting to each shot within a scene, is meticulous and clean. This is no sloppy, low-budget offering by a couple of frat dudes with a camera, gallons of fake blood and a few naked girls. The Cleaner is a polished, engaging and high-end tale of obsession and revenge. And it’s damn fun, too.

The script, penned by Michelle Fatale and Craig McGee, draws you into the story from the opening credits that show a perfectly put-together suburban home to the sly, winking-at-the-camera closing scene. Everything in the film is believable and there are no plot holes – two major things that most horror movies sadly seem to lack. The character development is done well and even though the film is only around 20 minutes long, it still gives us characters we care about.

In low-budget films, I’m usually used to bad acting, but not in this film. Like everything else the acting is top-notch. Grace is portrayed by Kristin Burke as isolated and kind of an ice queen, but we still empathize with her character. I couldn’t help but root for Grace when she seeks her revenge and starts “cleaning up” the neighborhood! Shannon Lark as Vicki also does a remarkable job, though her screen time is indefinitely shorter than Burke’s. She does not waste the time she has, though, giving it her all and really playing spectacularly against Burke’s character. The men of the short, Chris Angelo as co-worker Paul and Owen Thomas as Grace’s husband, play their sleazeball parts to a T. It was a pleasure seeing them both get their due at the end of the film.

Which brings me to the gore portion of the film: Grace uses industrial strength cleaning products on different areas of the human body, all with the same result…death! The revenge scene was pretty much my favorite within the film, with Grace getting nitty gritty on us and taking out the trash! The special FX are handled appropriately for a low budget film and look great!!

I don’t normally kiss ass and I’m usually hardest on my friends, but I was very impressed by Michelle Fatale’s The Cleaner. Despite the low budget the short film looks professional and has high production values. The acting, writing and direction are impressive for any film, not just good because it’s a low budget film. I highly recommend this film and look forward to its success in the future!

Clean freak or not, it looks like I “cleaned up” with The Cleaner!

The Dead One (2007)

Another day, another comic book adaptation to film, eh? Today it is Javier Hernandez’s El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie that has been remade into The Dead One (El Muerto).

As a young boy crossing illegally into the United States, Diego (Darien Dikeos) follows an old Indian (Billy Drago) who makes him give a blood sacrifice to the Aztec gods. Years later, Diego (Wilmer Valderrama) is all grown up and passionate about celebrating the Day of the Dead. He paints his face to look like a skull, puts on his best black mariachi-inspired suit, complete with bone tailoring, and begins driving to the festivities. Problem is, he never gets there. He crashes his car and dies. The Aztec gods have returned to claim their blood sacrifice.

Diego wakes on the Day of the Dead, in his now permanent costume, to find that he’s been dead a whole year. He sees his friends and girlfriend, Maria (Angie Cepeda), praying over his grave in the cemetery. After being lost and confused (for a little too long), he discovers that the Aztec gods have tapped him to help them reclaim power and kill those whose bloodline was responsible for wiping out the Aztec religion.

Through the love of his amor, Maria, and help from his best friend Zak (Joel David Moore), Diego is able to resist the evil and fight against it. Still, people close to Maria and the church where she works continue to die horrible deaths. Can Diego stop the old Aztec evil from bringing about the end of the world or will he succumb to it?

When I originally heard about this film and its mix of Aztec mythology and Mexican folklore, I was really intrigued. It sounded very original and one of the few horror movies that focused on the Latino community. Then I watched it…and while it has some pretty nifty ideas floating around there somewhere, it was all lost on the presentation.

The Dead One falls victim to a slooooowly-moving story line. I appreciate the fact that it dives headlong into the story at the beginning and doesn’t waste time explaining the Day of the Dead to the audience, but from the time Diego comes back, undead, it just halts and we see the same scenes played out a few too many times. Diego looking confused. A bad CGI storm signifying the arrival of the evil Aztec gods. A dewy-eyed Maria, remembering promises of undying love. Diego running and hiding from police, friends, etc. Over and over again, we get these same scenes. Not to mention the anticlimactic fight scene between Diego and an Aztec baddie (funny, Billy Drago doesn’t really look Aztec…).

For a slow moving, repetitive flick, it sure doesn’t explain much. Anyone not familiar with Latin culture, Aztec mythology, Catholicism or Mexican folklore may have a hard time following along. I wasn’t too sure what was going on most of the time. One minute, they are talking about the end of the world and the next the Aztec gods are just planning on reclaiming world dominance. I was a bit fuzzy on the whole Aztec mythology and Diego’s reason for coming back one year after his death. Was he called back because of the love between him and Maria or because the Aztec gods sent him back?

The movie wasn’t all bad, though. Despite its poorly paced and convoluted storyline, the acting was pretty decent. It was a kick to see Billy Drago both as an “old Indian” and in drag and Wilmer Valderrama did a fine job as someone other than “Fez” from That 70’s Show. It also has good performances from familiar faces Michael Parks (Kill Bill), Tony Plana (Ugly Betty), Maria Conchita Alonso and Tony Amendola. This film showcases a very talented Latino cast…if only they had had a better script to work with!

The direction by Brian Cox (no, not the actor) was pretty basic and pedestrian, but still above average for a low-budget film. Still, since this was a comic book adaptation, I expected more KAPOW! and WHAM! action and instead of just dreary interior scenes over and over again. The only real “showdown” scene is at the end and it really is a sad sight for a comic book movie. Cox also wrote the script and shows the same problem…no clue on pacing and he makes it more of a teenybopper love story than one it’s supposed to be, which is a action-packed horror film.

Besides lack of action, there is also a serious lack of horror in the movie. Instead of horror, it really should be classified as drama (or the previously mentioned love story). Besides all the supernatural happenings and the scenes of the laughable Aztec god, there really isn’t anything remotely scary about The Dead One. It’s mostly about the love between Diego and Maria, but, DAMMIT, I wanna be watching a horror movie, not an Oxygen Network flick!

No matter how much I wanted to enjoy The Dead One (El Muerto), it was pretty near impossible not to wish I was six feet under instead of watching this dreary excuse for a horror movie. Still, I did enjoy the acting and it is a great Latino cast. The real fault here is the direction and script, which is a real shame because of the rich foundation laid by Javier Hernandez in his comic book.

Available from Amazon!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hannibal Rising (2007)

After seriously dragging my feet, I finally got around to viewing Hannibal Rising, Peter Webber’s prequel that explains exactly why Hannibal Lecter loves the flesh of people so much. When I first heard about Rising, I was excited. The character of Hannibal Lecter has always fascinated me and I was anxious to see how a young Lecter progressed into a cannibalistic serial killer.

Of course, when it hit theaters and generated pretty bad reviews, I decided to wait until DVD. When it hit DVD, I just found myself continually putting off watching the flick. That is, until now…

The film certainly didn’t live up to my expectations of showcasing an intelligent and methodical killer honing his skills, but it sure was “purty” to look at!

A young Hannibal (Aaran Thomas) and his rich, castle-dwelling family are forced to flee their Lithuanian fortress when Nazi troops invade in WWII. The Lecter family hides out in a cabin in the woods with winter fast approaching. Hannibal and his younger sister Mischa (Helena Lia Tachovska) have an inseparable bond that only grows stronger when their parents are killed. They are left all alone as they continue hiding in the cabin as bitter winter sets in. A band of looters discovers the two children and take them hostage while they seek refuge from the Nazi troops. Pretty soon everyone is starving and young Hannibal is witness to some horrific things, including the death of his baby sister.

Years after escaping the Eastern Front, Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) is living with his uncle’s widow, the Lady Murasaki (Li Gong), in Paris. He has a determination to hunt down his sister’s killers and make them pay for the horrible atrocities they committed. He enrolls in medical school and begins to seek out those that have caused him so much pain. One by one the men are killed, and Hannibal has to avoid Inspector Popil (Dominic West) who is hot on his trail.

As I said before, this film’s visuals are absolutely stunning. The opening World War II scenes are spectacular to behold, and the snow-covered countryside is something else! We are treated to grandiose images of Eastern European forests, lakes, castles as well as the fashions and people of Paris in those days. The cinematography by Ben Davis and the direction of Peter Webber really give us some breath-taking scenes to look at.

It’s too bad the story doesn’t measure up.

The whole problem with Hannibal Rising is that it feels nothing like a Hannibal Lecter movie. Gaspard Ulliel may be adorable to look at, but that doesn’t do him much good if he’s supposed to be playing a cold, calculating serial killer. Lecter’s shrewd deducing skills and sharp intelligence just don’t shine through in Ulliel’s performance. Just like the rest of the movie, Ulliel is pretty to look at but don’t expect much else from him. As a Hannibal Lecter movie, Hannibal Rising doesn’t work at all. I mean, Lecter as a samurai-in-training?! C’mon! There are just too many silly instances and clichés to qualify this as a “good” movie.

The scenes of revenge were executed quite nicely, though the actually acts aren’t shown explicitly on screen. The most vicious scene involved a length of rope and a horse that results in decapitation. I enjoyed when Hannibal caught up with his prey, but everything seemed a little too perfect and he seemed a little too calm and suave for a first-timer. The big climactic ending was also a bit of a let down, and felt like more of a James Bond, rescue-the-damsel-in-distress flick than a horror, or even thriller movie.

Overall, Hannibal Rising is a very beautiful, almost epic film in regards to its imagery, but falls short when it comes to its story. Instead it devolves into silliness and clichés, without every giving a clear picture as to Hannibal the Cannibal’s real motivations.

Check out Hannibal Rising if you want to look at pretty scenery. Check out Manhunter or Silence of the Lambs if you are hankering for some good ol’ fashioned Lecter.

Available from Amazon!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Haunting of #24 (2007)

Forget the cheesy looking cover and settle in for a tense and terrifying story with the film The Haunting of #24 (aka Lie Still in it’s originating country, England).

An English man named John (Stuart Laing) moves into a decrepit flat. He has suffered through a hard breakup – his girlfriend Veronica (Nina Sosanya) left him for someone better and now he’s trying to get back on his feet and start fresh. Hell of a building he chose to start his new life!! Number 24 is dark, dank, has unfriendly tenants and just may have an unmarked grave in the backyard. Still, John has nowhere left to go and no money so he takes up residence. He only has contact with the jubilant landlord, Martin (Robert Blythe) and an old, crazy neighbor-lady (Susan Engel) next door. The other tenants, he’s told, pretty much keep to themselves.

Soon, strange things begin happening to John. After a long day of stalking his ex, he returns to his apartment and sacks out on his thin, lumpy mattress only to be woken up by someone (or something) scratching, then pounding, on his door. Over the next few days, he begins hearing strange noises and voices. His TV doesn’t get any reception, but one he sees a few ghostly people invade his TV screen. They are still there when he pulls the plug. A creepy photograph of the original owner (Granville Saxton) of the building seems to be changing every night. It appears that the man is getting closer and closer.

Soon, John isn’t sleeping and his exasperated ex-girlfriend thinks he’s having a nervous breakdown. John comes to believe that his landlord and crazy neighbor are in on whatever is going on. As John tries to decipher what is real and what isn’t, he falls deeper and deeper into despair and terror. Soon, he realizes that he can’t even leave the house. Can he find a way out of 24 before it is too late?

I am a sucker for ghost stories. If done well, they usually end up doing their job and scaring the ever-loving bejeesus outta me! If done wrong, they end up in the trashbin or sent back to Netflix with low, low ratings. Thankfully, The Haunting of #24 managed to do things right, saving itself from my wrath. It is a superbly done horror film, focusing on creepy images and amazing sound to send the appropriate shivers up my spine.

Now, this is a subtle film that takes its time getting under your skin and creeping you out. To all the fucktards that want their horror fast, furious and drenched and blood…gimme a break! There’s so much more out there than the typical gorefest. While I appreciate bloody and brainless fun, I still think that people who can’t appreciate an atmospheric, slower paced horror movie aren’t horror fans at all. All that said and done, The Haunting of #24 builds slowly, but once it reaches its apex the shocks and scares come at you at a steady pace. And we’re not just talking jump scares, here either. Writer/director Sean Hogan definitely knows how to build dread in a film, because that is exactly what he does here!

Though The Haunting of #24 is an independent film with a lower budget, it certainly hasn’t affected the effectiveness of the film. The movie looks appropriately dark and the forlorn #24 is certainly the perfect setting for the story. Though there are no “big-name” actors in the film, the acting is absolutely stellar. Stuart Laing as John does a remarkable job going from sad and rejected to absolutely terrifying and scared for his life. All his actions ring true in the film, which is a credit to Hogan’s script. The rest of the cast do a wonderful job as well, especially Robert Blythe as the landlord and Susan Engel as the old and creepy neighbor.

The sound design of the film and the accompanying score work wonders in this film. In one particularly scary scene, where, late at night, John is searching for his ex-girlfriend Veronica with only a flashlight to light up the creepy hallways and twisting stairs, the sound design used is extremely effective at creating a disorienting and frightening atmosphere.

There are many other impressive scenes that combine sounds, lighting and imagery that’ll spook you right outta your socks. Director Hogan has created a fine and frightening ghost story with The Haunting of #24, one that you shouldn’t miss. If you’re looking for a film that will send you diving under the covers, look no further than The Haunting of #24. Curl up all alone in a darkened room with this film and by the end you should be appropriately terrified.

Unless you are too busy watching Generic Gorefest #4,657, that is…

Available from Amazon!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Book Review: The Keeper by Sarah Langan

To me, summer means hanging out with friends, ridiculous amounts of barbecuing, long days, hot nights and lots of reading. I don’t know what it is, but summer is the time I catch up on my reading and re-read some old favorites. This summer is no different, but I had the pleasure of reading many authors that were new to me. One of those authors was Sarah Langan. I read her book The Keeper while sipping lemonade on my sun dappled porch and was stunned at how alone and cold her book made me feel.

If a horror novel can hit me that hard and affect me so much, it’s a very good thing.

The Keeper is a very frightening novel that gets under your skin. It’s hard not to relate to the characters’ darker nature and the town’s depressing state. The novel gets darker and darker as it progresses until its oppressive atmosphere begins to affect your very thoughts. Langan has crafted a very gloomy novel with The Keeper.

From the back of the book: Some believe Bedford, Maine, is cursed. Its bloody past, endless rain, and the decay of its downtown portend a hopeless future. With the death of its paper mill, Bedford’s unemployed residents soon find themselves with far too much time to dwell on thoughts of Susan Marley. Once the local beauty, she’s now the local whore. Silently prowling the muddy streets, she watches eerily from the shadows, waiting for . . . something. And haunting the sleep of everyone in town with monstrous visions of violence and horror.

Those who are able will leave Bedford before the darkness fully ascends. But those who are trapped here—from Susan Marley’s long-suffering mother and younger sister to her guilt-ridden, alcoholic ex-lover to the destitute and faithless with nowhere else to go — will soon know the fullest and most terrible meaning of nightmare.

I was extremely impressed with The Keeper, but even more so when I discovered that this was Sarah Langan’s first novel! The Keeper is a creepy, deeply unsettling work that is sure to mark the start of a very promising career.

Langan’s vivid descriptions bring the characters and the town to life. Her descriptions are so detailed that I felt like I was in Bedford, inhaling the putrid sulfuric air alongside the townsfolk. The dark, depressing town becomes a character all its own, slowly sucking the life out of its inhabitants. For such a life-like and well-described tome, I felt that the characters could have been developed a little more. Instead of identifying with them, I actually found myself liking and feeling sorry for Susan Marley more than most of the townies.

The novel has a slow, languorous pace for the first ¾ of it, but it kicks into high gear for the grand finale. Dead things start coming back to life, the old mill starts spewing its poison and Susan Marley and the ghosts of Bedford encroach on its last remaining citizens. The beginning book deals with the characters that live in town and their deep secrets and relationships to Susan Marley. I felt the pace was appropriate throughout the book and didn’t have issue with it. Langan’s poetic prose made me feel like I was in a waking nightmare, much of how the characters within the book must have felt.

The descriptions of horror are very effective. People die in very grisly ways and the dark, bad things that slowly seep into Bedford are very disturbing. In an early scene, a girl is chased through the cemetery by something, which sounds pretty cliché, but Langan manages to evoke fear out of the reader nonetheless.

The Keeper is Sarah Langan’s first full-length published novel, which is surprising considering what a wonderful writer she is. With this her first novel, she has already been compared to Stephen King. There is no doubt that this bright new talent has a great future ahead of her.

For a spine-tingling chill in the heat of summer, pick up Sarah Langan’s The Keeper.

Available from Amazon!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Book Review: The Cellar by Richard Laymon

Recently, I finished the very quick and disturbing read that was the late, great Richard Laymon’s The Cellar. I found it a superb book that was equal parts disturbing, gross-out and suspenseful.

It tells the tale of Donna and her young daughter Sandy who flee SoCal for the North when Donna’s abusive ex-husband Roy is released from prison after doing a stint for pedophilia and rape. After having car trouble, the two are forced to stay in Malcasa Point, a small town famous for its Beast House. A vicious beast is said to live in its depths and many murders and disappearances have occurred around the house. During the day, though, tours are given of the house and this is where Donna and Sandy meet Jud (short for Judgment) and Larry. Larry is the only survivor of a beast attack and has hired Jud to kill it. With Roy hot on Donna and Sandy’s trail, the two decide to join up with Jud and Larry. Can the four face up against the cunning and cruel Roy? Better yet, can they survive the beast of Beast House?

As one of Laymon’s earlier (and slimmer) works, The Cellar works very well at creating a sense of dread and downright ickiness throughout the proceedings. The scenes of child abuse and rape are extremely hard to read, as are the scenes of “beast”-iality that pop up later in the book. Somehow, even though I wanted to put the book down or skip the particular parts in question, I just couldn’t tear my eyes away. The gore described within the book is nothing compared the disturbing sexual deviancy contained within its pages, but it is still pretty good.

Laymon has created a very tense book that made me want to keep reading. In fact, I finished the book in a very short time mainly because I wanted to see the bad guy get his just desserts and to find out exactly what the beast was. The reveal of the beast was pretty mundane, but the twist at the end was definitely a delight. Unfortunately, Roy’s demise is pretty quick and anticlimactic for a character that is so evil. I was really hoping he would be forced to suffer more.

Also, the Beast House isn’t quite described with the detail that I’d hoped and the characters just aren’t developed that fully. Sure, we feel sorry for Donna and Sandy, hope Jud succeeds at his task and even take a special liking to the eccentric Larry, but some of the characters actions just don’t ring true. If I had a sicko ex-husband running around who wanted to finish what he started with his daughter, I probably wouldn’t leave her alone for a second, much less leave her alone to go bang a studly new acquaintance.

Nonetheless, The Cellar was a disturbing read that kept me on the edge of my seat. I won’t be eager to read it again any time soon, but it is highly recommended by yours truly. It is also part one of a trilogy. The next book is The Beast House and the final one is The Midnight Tour. After The Cellar, I am eager to check out Laymon’s other two books in the trilogy.

Available on Amazon!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Arang (2007)

Arang is a beautifully shot Korean chiller about a detective (Yooh Ah) and her new rookie partner (Dong Wook) who are investigating a series of strange deaths. The victims, all who happen to be childhood friends, die from a poisonous gas that seems to originate from inside their own bodies. The deaths seem unexplainable, especially since all the victims had a very scared look on their face when they died. The detectives soon uncover deep buried secrets having to do with a supposedly haunted salt mill on the coast and a girl who’s been missing for ten years.

I put off watching Arang, mainly because I thought it was the same tired Asian ghost movie that featured a long-haired woman. While it does feature a long-haired ghost woman, Arang still manages to be suspenseful and immensely engaging. This is the first Asian horror flick that in quite some time that didn’t have me rolling my eyeballs at it in exasperation. It actually kept me glued to the screen, scared me and managed to have a twist I didn’t see coming at the end.

Arang has similarities to other Asian horror movies, but the story takes a very different approach. Instead of focusing those threatened by a curse or a ghost, Arang’s focus is on the two detectives on the case. While the victims are dispatched one-by-one, the detectives start piecing together the puzzle of the deaths and become aware of the supposedly haunted salt mill. The movie plays more like a mystery or thriller with some truly terrifying scenes that feature the long-haired ghost.

Besides being genuinely creepy, Arang has some very elegant shots. This is director Ah Sang Hoon’s first feature film, and he and cinematographer Sir Laosson Dara certainly infuse the film with a classy feel, at the same time scaring the pants off of viewers! I was genuinely creeped out at the wedding photo scene (even though it was very similar to Shutter) and the desk scene. While these scenes both felt slightly familiar, they still made me jump outta my seat! The scenes of the Korean coast were breathtaking, and the salt mill was appropriately creepy.

The only place Arang failed me were some confusing scenes that seemed a little too convenient for my liking. For example, one of the victims has a dog that either died alongside him or died before he did (I never did catch which). The detectives randomly decide to dig it up, then slice open its belly to find an incriminating film. Hmmmm, how handy! Also, things are never quite clear towards the end (why was the man with the scar on his hand a target?) and don’t quite add up.

Beside these plot holes and weak points, the film was still entertaining. The mix of the detective story and ghost story worked quite well and I found myself wholeheartedly enjoying Arang, even when I had expected the same old Asian horror clichés. I even enjoyed myself when the film did stoop to the tired clichés, which is saying a lot.

You won’t find many new ideas within Arang, but its fresh perspective on the typical Asian ghost story will keep you intrigued, scared and perhaps even surprised at the twist at the end.

Available on Amazon!

Interview with "Stupid Teenagers Must Die" Director Jeff C. Smith

Stupid Teenagers Must Die! is seriously one of the best independent horror comedies that Fatally Yours has seen in quite some time. It is a hilarious homage to all the cheesy horror films of the 80′s and features “excessive violence, gratuitous nudity and a zero budget” just as promised from the tagline.

Fatally Yours recently had the pleasure of interviewing STMD! director and co-writer Jeff C. Smith about making the film.

Stupid Teenagers Must Die! is officially being released on DVD September 25th, and we urge you to pick up this fantastic piece of independent cinema for your own viewing pleasure.

Fatally Yours: Welcome, Jeff, and thanks so much for doing this interview!

Jeff C. Smith: Thank you! I’m very happy to be here. Let’s get to this. I hope the first question isn’t about torture and making the audience uncomfortable…

FY: Well, actually…the focus in horror today seems to be more about torture and making the audience uncomfortable rather than having a good time. Can you tell us why you went against that trend with STMD!?

JS: If you had seen the first cut of Stupid Teenagers Must Die!, you would have agreed with our first audience that the movie was torture and uncomfortable. But as to why we set out to make a “good time” horror movie, those are just the type of flicks I enjoy. Especially the ones that were funny accidentally, which a lot of the 80’s horror movies are. So I decided to make an accidentally funny horror movie but on purpose.

FY: Why did you decide to make a horror movie as your first feature film?

JS: The horror movie idea was just one of many movie ideas that my movie geek friend, Drew, and I used to talk about when we’d hang out. And I’m pretty sure this is what all cool guys do when they hang out…come up with movie ideas in as many genres as possible, make notes, come up with a structure, and then never actually write the script. That was our method of screenwriting…no actual screenwriting. We had great super hero movie ideas, romantic comedy ideas, anti-romantic comedy ideas, but that was pretty much it. Curtis Andersen, who eventually became the co-writer and executive producer of STMD!, used to listen to us go on and on and decided it was time we made a movie for real. And he was also the one that thought if we were going to do this, it should be a horror movie because he thought we’d have a better chance of selling it. So already he was thinking in the typical “let’s make money” executive producer mentality. And when he heard that there was already an idea for a horror movie, which at the time was called Blood & Guts, he said “let’s make that one!” I was just happy to be making a movie. I’m glad it ended up being a horror movie because it was a lot of fun to shoot.

FY: What was the breaking point when you realized that you wanted to make a horror film that was fun and gory like back in the 80’s as opposed to another horror film that just focused on shocking the audience?

JS: The movie was always intended to be a fun, horror/comedy from the initial idea. And frankly, if I had tried to make a shocking horror movie, it would probably have come across as funny anyway.

FY: Your film really lets the audience have fun again at a horror flick. What horror films inspired STMD!?

JS: Well, the spirit of the “generic” 80’s horror movie was the main inspiration. The one-dimensional characters, the random nudity, all that good stuff. The “look” of the movie is more modern because we had no money so we shot on video, shot handheld and then went in and drained a lot of the color and added some more grain. We figured if the movie’s going to look bad, let’s go all the way and make it look really bad! One review said the only way our movie could be more low-tech was if it were a cave painting. That’s awesome. Anyway, back to inspiration. As far as the story goes, there’s certainly some Night of the Demons in there, some April Fool’s Day, The Lost Boys, Friday the 13th part VI which is the one where Jason comes back to life via lightning and a piece of iron fence. A big influence, actually, is the original Psycho, cause that’s the granddaddy of them all. And the whole “trapped in a house while characters are getting killed off one by one” is definitely inspired by And Then There Were None…or Ten Little Indians, depending on which version you’re watching. When I was in high school, my English teacher let me shoot a Hi-8 version of And Then There Were None for extra credit. So I got all the kids from the high school marching band to play the parts. Dr. Armstrong was now a 15-year-old kid with acne, Judge Wargrave was a 17-year-old drum major, I was the British butler. It was pretty terrible but, boy, did I need that extra credit. What was I talking about? Oh, inspirations. Yeah, that’s pretty much all I can think of right now.

FY: The script is absolutely hilarious. I’m curious as to what you and co-writer Curtis Andersen had to leave out of the finished film?

JS: Anything left out was due to budget. I had some big ideas for the deaths and especially for the finale. But I’m holding on to those ideas in case we get to do a sequel. Or two. Expect a prom.

FY: Did you or Curtis have any screenwriting experience before writing this film? Had you had any directing experience?

JS: Apart from the high school And Then There Were None masterpiece? I did three videos in high school so I could earn enough extra credit to graduate. I then attended Chapman University’s film school where I did a couple of shorts. I worked at a theme park in Anaheim where we’d have a banquet every summer and we’d make videos featuring the world famous theme park characters in big action movies with lasers and love scenes. Those were fun but the theme park lawyers will make sure the public never sees them! And then my friend, Drew, and I actually finished a script about a party called The Happening…not to be confused with M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming flick…and shot that on video with a cast made up of fellow theme park employees. Curtis was one of the actors in that and Curtis has been a working actor since he was a kid. He was one of the many voices of Schroeder on Charlie Brown, he was on the Teenage Witch show, I think he was on Saved By The Bell: The New Class a couple of times. So in a way, he’s been doing “horror” projects for a long time. Cause what’s scarier than Screech? But STMD! was his first screenwriting experience.

FY: STMD! wouldn’t be as much fun without the strength of the cast, who are all very impressive. How did you find the actors and what was the auditioning process like?

JS: Well, Jovan [Meredith] was always intended to play the part of Kane. I met Jovan and Curtis and our producer, Sara Parrell, all while working at the theme park. There are some twisted people working at theme parks! So that’s where Jovan was found, I guess. Other than Jovan, we didn’t have anyone in mind for the other “teenagers” so we had an open audition in Hollywood and the turnout was amazing. We had something around 1,400 submissions the first week we put the breakdown online. Since Curtis is an actor, he knew how to put together an audition and he never let on that we were making a very low budget movie with a crew of three. We auditioned for a couple of weeks, we chose the best actors and all of our first choices agreed to be in the movie. It was always important to us to have strong actors in the movie because bad acting is what makes a low budget movie look even worse. So we were very lucky to have Ashley [Schneider], Devin [Marble], Lindsay [Gareth], Renee [Dorian], Cory [Assink], Jonathan [Brett], Will [Deutsch], Christina [DeRosa], Jamie [Carson], Matt [Blashaw], Anna-Marie [Wayne] and Jovan.

FY: Did the cast and crew become pretty close after working on this project?

JS: Oh, yes. Some more than others – but I’ve been sworn to secrecy on the more lurid details. Since we were so zero budget, we didn’t have things like trailers or individual dressing rooms so all of us were hanging around a pretty small house for two months. When we did escape the house, we’d usually go to a bar a couple of blocks down the street called Cha-Cha’s. Nothing brings a cast and crew together like heavy, heavy drinking (the cast members that were over 21, of course). We all had a good time and got along great. We had a sleep-over in the house, the cast played a lot of Uno between shots and Lindsay, who plays Tiffany, used to show up after she “died” just to hang out.

FY: Where was it filmed? Did you have to build your own set or did you use an existing house?

JS: We filmed the movie in a real house in the middle of an interesting part of Long Beach, California. This is the type of neighborhood where our actors would hang out on the front porch with fake blood all over their clothes, Ashley would be screaming her head off for a scene we were shooting at midnight and I would walk from my car to the house with machetes and shot guns and the Long Beach residents never looked twice. I’m very curious as to what was going on in the houses surrounding us that the Stupid Teenagers crew didn’t stand out at all. The process of finding a house for the movie wasn’t easy but we ended up in pretty cool looking location.

FY: As an independent filmmaker with a limited budget, what was the most frustrating aspect of making this film?

JS: The most frustrating thing has been and continues to be the lack of money to pay for help! When you don’t pay people a lot, it’s hard to get them to commit to working on your movie. Our special effects guy decided to quit the day before a big, blood effect. That kinda sucked. We went through four different music composers before we got to John Draisey because the other dudes just couldn’t give us the time. And now, the entire thing is pretty much run by Sara and me. Even Curtis, the guy that said “we should make this movie” has moved on to other things. We do have help from folks like Matt Worley who helps with technical things I don’t understand, Randy Catiller who does, Dean Ethington who did our logo and poster art, and our cast is good about promoting our news to their family and friends, but all of the marketing, finding distribution, entering festivals, selling this DVD- that has been the two of us and it can get overwhelming. Of course, it’s all worth it because I got to make a movie which is something I’ve always wanted to do! But on the next movie, we will have a crew! Even if we have to pay them in Triscuits! People love Triscuits.

FY: Mmmmm…Triscuits…What was the most rewarding aspect of making STMD!?

JS: The most rewarding aspect has been the people that have seen the movie and have enjoyed it. It’s a scary thing putting something you’ve created out into the world for people to judge. So far, the sites like have been very receptive and that’s a great feeling. After the DVD is released on September 25th, I’m totally prepared for the kids on the internet to rip our movie apart and say it looks like crap and the camera work sucks and all of that. I’m sure the comments on Netflix will be particularly brutal but as long as we get the occasional “good review,” I’m fine with that.

FY: From pre-production to post-production, how long did the film take to complete?

JS: We started writing the script in shifts in December 2005. The movie finished rendering in the computer for the last time in March 2007. But somehow in the middle of all of that we had a “premiere” in July 2006. That was one of the biggest mistakes we made on the movie. We finished shooting at the end of May 2006 and that gave me something like six weeks to edit the movie so it could premiere on July 13th. Once the 13th came along, the movie was nowhere near ready but invitations had been sent out, the venue had been paid for, the whole deal. That was a bad screening. Someone told Jovan that night that he was lucky no one would ever see the movie. I kept working on it for months and we had another screening at the same venue in June of 2007. It was a much better night. We even recorded the audience as a special audio feature for the DVD so you will get to hear what the audience sounded like that night for the REAL premiere!

FY: Can you tell us what your five favorite horror movies are?

JS: Psycho, Evil Dead 2, Jaws, Halloween…I should probably add Poltergeist because that was the first movie that ever did psychological damage to me. I was at my first slumber party and all the kids wanted to watch Poltergeist. Once they got to the part where the dude rips his face off in front of the mirror, I was outta there. My parents had to come pick me up. And I remember being in the theatre when the Poltergeist II trailer played and Carol Ann said “They’re back!” I wasn’t too happy that they were back. I guess those are my top five. I really liked Grindhouse this year and I’m kinda annoyed that they’re splitting the movies up for DVD.

FY: What are your plans in the future? Are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

JS: I’ve been working on two scripts for the past couple of months. One comedy, one horror/comedy. Hopefully I’ll get to shoot one of those. And it would be great to get the cast from Stupid Teenagers Must Die! in there, too. And a crew. I did mention that I’d like to have a crew, right?

FY: Thank you so much for chatting with us, Jeff and we wish you and STMD! all the best in the future!

JS: Thank you! Fatally-Yours was our first REALLY good review and we’re forever grateful. And please, Fatally-Yours readers, pick up the Stupid Teenagers Must Die! DVD! It comes out on September 25th! For more info, check out and!

Buy Stupid Teenagers Must Die!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hatchet (2007)

“Old School American Horror.” This was the tagline as well as the promise of Hatchet, the little indie horror film that could. When rejected by a major studio for not being “a remake, a sequel or a Japanese one,” director Adam Green took that rejection and turned it into the movie’s selling point. After the glut of PG-13, remakes and sequels that clogged the movie market, horror fans were hungry for a return to their 80’s roots. They wanted an original, brutal slasher film that wasn’t a remake or a sequel and that was fun, complete with copious amount of blood and boobs.

In answer to those fans’ prayers comes Hatchet, a film that has been completed for two years but has only now been picked up by Anchor Bay and given a theatrical run. Director Adam Green himself says that he has been on the road promoting the film for a straight 17 months. It’s obvious that the film is a labor of love for all involved and it is inspiring to see how much dedication and hard work went into getting this movie made and released.

I had the pleasure of seeing it opening night, September 7th, in Hollywood along with most of the cast and crew and I’m pleased to report that Hatchet is exactly what it promised, “Old School American Horror,” and buckets of fun (along with buckets of blood ‘n’ boobs!).

To get over a recent breakup, Ben (Joel David Moore) is dragged to Mardi Gras by his buddy Marcus (Deon Richmond). Not being interested in all the boobs and booze, Ben convinces Marcus to go on a haunted swamp tour instead of partying. They are joined by two questionable “actresses” Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioreavanti) and questionable “producer,” Shapiro (Joel Murray), an older couple (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo) and a mysterious local named Marybeth (Tamara Feldman). When their lingually-challenged guide (Parry Shen) crashes their boat onto a rock, they must abandon ship and head into the Lousiana swamp. Marybeth tells them how she is there to search for her missing father (Robert Englund) and brother (Joshua Leonard) and the legend of Victor Crowley. The specific area they are in belongs to Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a horribly disfigured monster of a man who cannot rest after what happened to him years ago. Can the group survive the hatchet-wielding madman and make it out of the swamp alive?

Hatchet was great fun to watch in a sold-out theater with the cast and crew present. The crowd went absolutely wild at many parts of the movie, clapping, screaming and laughing together. THIS is how a fun, slasher movie should be seen. This is how I imagine watching Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street in theaters must have been in the 80’s. Not only are we treated to some amazing deaths (courtesy of special FX maestro John Carl Buechler) and impressive arterial sprays, but the script is peppered with jokes (both funny and corny) that keep the film firmly planted in “fun” territory, where nothing should be taken too seriously.

The death scenes are the most impressive thing about the film, featuring lots of blood and grue. The MPAA came down hard on this independent film, so it has been trimmed, but the full, over-the-top brutality will be on display for the DVD release of the film. Still, even with some scenes being trimmed, the film’s gore will not disappoint. Director Adam Green and director of photography Will Barratt did a wonderful job with each scene, especially the death scenes that feature no cut-aways and gruesome sprays of blood. Some of my favorite gore scenes include a guy getting repeatedly chopped at with a hatchet, a woman getting her face ripped in half when Victor Crowley pulls apart her jaws, a woman getting her lower jaw cut off with a power saw (correction: it was a belt sander; sorry, my knowledge of tools is limited at best!) and the many dismemberments. If gore is what you’re looking for, you’ll most certainly find it here.

Guys will be delighted to find that the film is saturated (especially in the first half hour or so) with boobs. It feels more like Porky’s or Girls Gone Wild (or Bayou Beavers as producer Shapiro calls the softcore film he’s making) than horror, but once the blood starts flowing (which does take a while) it doesn’t stop. I’m not a big fan of mixing sex and scares (I’ve got my own pair of boobs, thank you very much), but here it’s just sticking to the well-defined slasher formula.

It sticks so well to the formula, in fact, that it brings along all the problems and baggage that 70′s and 80′s slashers have. I don’t believe it was ever Adam Green’s (who also wrote the script) intention to fix the flaws, instead his focus was on faithfully recreating the feel of our much-beloved but seriously flawed slasher flicks. Hatchet has annoying characters (why are all the girls written as annoying, stupid, hysterical and/or slutty?), silly dialogue (some of it is truly insipid and Green should stick to directing) and ludicrous plot holes (ah, yes, I understand they want to make a sequel, hence the convenient plot holes,…but weren’t they against that in the first place?). Hatchet has ALL these flaws and more, but that, my friends, is the POINT of the movie, and kind of its endearment. In its homage to the fun and brainless horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, it has decided to poke a little fun at what inspired it. Which is why, it really DOES deserve to be called “Old School American Horror.” It plays it straight and features both the flaws and the strengths of the genre.

Hatchet is a step forward for the horror genre and will hopefully open the door for more independent horror films. It may not be original and there are far better independent horror films out there, but it stays faithful and true to its claims of “Old School American Horror,” flaws and all.

Hatchet is a fun film, one that’ll make you reminisce about all the crappy movies that came out in the 80’s and make you love it for doing so. It is a straightforward slasher film whose focus is building up the body count as opposed to building up the suspense, but for horror geeks like myself that love a brainless, FUN horror movie that ISN’T a remake or a sequel once in a while, it’s a treat.

Available from Amazon!
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