Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Re-Cycle (2008)

The Pang Brothers have a mixed record with horror movies. On the one hand, they crafted the spine-tingling The Eye and its enjoyable sequel. However, they also helmed the dismal The Messengers, disappointing horror fans everywhere. Still, when I heard the Pang Brothers had a new film out called Re-cycle (the film was released on the international market in 2006, but it’s only recently been released on DVD here in the United States), I couldn’t help to hope that it would be a return to their visually impressive storytelling techniques.

A popular romance novelist, Tsui Ting-Yin (Lee Sinjie), decides to try her hand at crafting a supernatural story, but soon realizes that her ghostly, long-haired character has come to life. Hoping to write more, Ting-Yin follows the specter, but ends up in another ghostly world where anyone and everything that has ever been abandoned resides. Trying to escape the frightening ghouls that inhabit this plane of existence, she meets a young girl, whom she calls Ting-Yu (Yagi Zeng), who promises to take her to “The Transport,” a far-off place that will take Ting-Yin back to her own world. On the journey to “The Transport,” they encounter monsters, ghosts, zombies and other forgotten souls, as well as avoiding a whirl-wind phenomenon that sucks up everything in its path, essentially erasing it forever. Can Ting-Yin make it back to the real world or will she be stuck in this horrifying place forever?

Re-cycle completely blew me away with its original premise and execution. The visuals in this film are just stunning and there just aren’t enough words to describe just how awe-inspiring this film really is…but I’ll try!

During the first 30 or so minutes, the Pang Brothers play with the audience and open the film like any other Asian ghost story. There is the requisite shadowy, long-haired ghost and the frightened female protagonist. We also get quite a few good scares out of the first half hour, but it’s not until Ting-Yin takes a tumble down the proverbial rabbit hole that things really take off…

When Ting-Yin ends up in the other world, the Pang Brothers stop fooling around and get down to business. The colorful, vivid and creative scenes in Re-cycle are probably the best visuals the Pang Brothers have imagined and executed…EVER. First, we get a massive, derelict city that Ting-Yin becomes lost in, then we get an amazing abandoned amusement park, complete with a rotting Ferris wheel and swinging pirate ship. Other memorable scenes include a spooky scene when ghouls creep down trees in a haunted forest, a tense scene in which our two protagonists must cross a crumbling old bridge (populated by the shambling undead) that stretches across a rocky ravine, a hair-raising scene where Ting-Yin must traverse a space full of aborted fetuses and a scene where they must cross an old graveyard inhabited by hungry spirits whose ancestors have forgotten about them. Each scene is amazing and the sets are just incredibly beautiful and frightening, all at once!

The acting here is also top-notch, with the lead of Lee Sinjie as Tsui Ting-Yin conveying many complex emotions. She is a very believable character and right away you feel sympathetic towards her. Her character is both strong and vulnerable, and Sinjie portrays this effortlessly. The little girl who plays Ting-Yu, Yagi Zeng, is also incredible as well. She gives a very leveled, believable and endearing performance as the young but brave Ting-Yu. You can thank Zeng for giving the movie a lot of heart.

The end of the film is very touching and delves into pretty emotional territory when we learn more about a tragedy in Ting-Yin’s past, but this only adds to the depth and character of this fantastic film. The visuals at the ending are extremely impressive as well, especially when time stops for Ting-Yin and freezes the ghost and the horde of ghouls who have caught up to her. The special effects here are seamless, as they are for the rest of the film).

Now, this film is not your typical horror film or even your typical Asian horror film (though it starts out that way). I would say that this film is more fantasy-flavored than horror, but don’t let that deter you from seeing Re-cycle! It truly is an amazing film and the horror elements (there are many) will have you hooked! The horror elements that are there are pretty startling and scary, so there is no reason why horror fans shouldn’t check out the superior Re-cycle.

Re-cycle is definitely one of the best and most creative films I’ve seen this year!

Available from Amazon!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gory Gear: Akumu Ink

Akumu Ink is a new clothing company that launched in early 2008. Based in Montreal, Akumu’s bold t-shirts stand out because of the special care that owners Joey and Dora put into them. Shirts are printed only when an order is placed. Once each shirt is hand printed, Joey then touches up any areas by hand while Dora treats each one with heat to ensure a super-soft feel. Each shirt is tagged with its own hand-written toe tag for a morbidly delightful touch!

Not only that, but Akumu Ink’s t-shirt designs are original and impressive! Akumu Ink wears its influences on its stylish sleeves and is inspired by horror movies, anime, comics and Japanese culture. The name “Akumu” itself means “nightmare” in Japanese! Joey says, “We were playing around with the concept of letting our ideas flow from our dreams to a tangible state and came up with the name Akumu Ink.”
Akumu’s newest shirts are prime examples of this fusion of influences. “Toyko Massacre” features a design with a cute (but deadly) Japanese schoolgirl wearing a Jason-inspired hockey mask and wielding a mean-looking chainsaw that would give Leatherface a run for his money. The design is full of energy and I love how the design juxtaposes innocence and evil!

Their next new shirt design is called “Shukketsu,” which translates to “bleeding.” One of Akumu Ink’s more gory tees, “Shukketsu” will have people thinking you’ve had a run in with Hellraiser’s Pinhead! Bloody trails track across the t-shirt and the razorblade emblazoned with “Akumu Ink” at the bottom hemline guarantee you’ll stand out in the horror crowd!

Akumu’s dark “Of Horror I” tee shows a frightened victim surrounded by bright red splatters and drips of blood. This striking print is what every horror tee should be: shocking, disturbing and bold!

Other shirts feature grinning cats, crescent moons, grinning skulls, cute (but morbidly obsessed) Japanese girls, splatterpunk scissors, hearts and stars! Their tees come in many colors, among them bleakest black, putrescent pink and gangrene green. Most come in either men’s/women’s sizes and can be specially ordered to come with or with out the Akumu Ink logo.

Akumu Ink does everything with its customers and fans in mind. As co-owner Dora says, “A lot of time goes into our product but at the end of the day we are really proud with what we put out and I think people can see that.”

Akumu Ink’s gleefully ghoulish designs can be purchased at www.akumuink.com and on their Etsy store at www.akumuink.etsy.com. You can also find their t-shirts at Sin City Tattoo and Piercing in Montreal, Canada and their tees are coming soon to Lions Laier Boutique in Castlegar, British Colombia.

Visit them on their Myspace, Facebook and blog!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pathology (2008)

Pathology and forensics have always fascinated me. The science that’s behind discovering how, why and when someone died is inherently interesting to me, as is what happens to our bodies after we die. Which is why the film Pathology, finally seeing a release on DVD, had me pretty intrigued. I wasn’t expecting something as disturbing as the great Aftermath but I did expect something better than the horrible Unrest. Sadly, Pathology is DOA.

Dr. Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) has got it all going for him – a beautiful, wealthy fiancé named Gwen (Alyssa Milano), graduating at the top of his medical class in Harvard and now, a residency at one of the most prestigious pathology labs in the country. He moves across the country and away from his fiancé to attend, but is quickly greeted with disdain by most of his peers, lead by the cocky Dr. Jake Gallo (Michael Weston). Jake and Ted soon go head-to-head in trying to show off, but once Ted shows his dark side he is inducted into their little group. Problem is, the members of Jake’s group like to play a game where they kill “deserving” (wife beaters, child molesters, pimps, cheaters, etc.) victims in unique ways so that everyone else can have a grand old time trying to figure out just how they did it.

With a little coercing, Ted becomes entangled in the group, as well as with Juliette (Lauren Lee Smith), the fiery redhead of the group who also happens to have a kinky relationship with Jake and other members of the group. Do these residents know how to party or what?! Soon, our Dr. Grey is smoking crack, cheating on his fiancé and having sex on autopsy tables…oh yeah, and killing people in creative ways with his newfound buddies. He finally sobers up after a visit to his fiancé and realizes he wants out…but is it already too late?

Pathology is a slick little movie that tries to walk to line between mainstream and hardcore horror audiences, yet fails at both. This film will be too graphic for mainstream audiences (though I wouldn’t call it gory) but too tame for horror fans (it really is more of a thriller than a horror movie). The story of falling into deep void and having to find your way out again is nothing new, and the writers (Neveldine and Taylor, who also wrote Crank) don’t try to add any twists or anything that would elevate it past its been-there-done-that vibe.

Probably the biggest problem with the story is the lack of sympathy we have for any of the characters. We hardly know anything about Ted Grey, yet we are expected to sympathize him when he falls into “the game” of Jake and his cohorts. If you ask me, he joins the game rather willingly and with little prodding from Jake. Ted is supposed to be this great, independent and highly intelligent individual, yet he caves into peer pressure at the whisper of a threat. Also, when he joins the group he throws away all his morals and willingly kills patients, cheats on his fiancé and starts taking drugs. None of this was very believable and made me not care what happened to Ted.

As for the other characters, they are also underdeveloped. Jake Gallo (and Michael Weston steals the show with his portrayal) is supposed to be the leader of their little group and one of the top residents, but he is so unstable I wonder how he didn’t get kicked out of medical school. It’s strange that none of his professors or superiors caught on to his craziness. Don’t doctors have to take psychological tests?? As for the other characters, we don’t even get to know them. Juliette is mainly there so both Ted and Jake can have violent sex with her, and the other members of the group just disappear after a while with no real point for them to be there in the first place. No attempt at all is made to develop them. I didn’t even know their names! As for Alyssa Milano, she is just wasted as Ted’s sugary sweet fiancé. She didn’t even seem to serve a purpose in the film except to spurn Ted into action at the end of the film.

Instead of constantly focusing on Ted’s minuscule guilt and scenes of partying and sex, it would have been a lot more interesting if some of the murders were actually shown (most happen offscreen and none are particularly violent). There aren’t even that many that happen!

One thing that this movie actually does right is the special FX by Tatopoulos Studios. The cadavers are incredibly realistic, both inside and out (of which we see plenty of both). I would have loved if the movie focused a bit more on pathology so we could have seen more of the corpses, but what I saw was very satisfying indeed. Keep in mind, hardcore horror fans will be disappointed by the lack of gore in regards to the “kills,” but these realistic-looking corpses try to make up for that fact (though they don’t quite make up for the crappiness of the movie).

Pathology is directed by Marc Schoelermann, whose previous efforts included music videos and commercials. The effect is a slick movie, but one that has no emotional depth. Pretty typical for a commercial director, but the weird thing is that the film carries a heavily somber tone throughout that makes you think some deep revelation is coming at the end, but when we get there, there’s absolutely no philosophical questions answered (not that they were asked in the first place). The abrupt ending, while it does tidily wrap up all loose ends, feels as empty as the rest of the film.

Like the autopsy rooms it takes place in, Pathology is a cold, clinical film. Though it’s not incompetently shot, it lacks emotion, a complex story line and believable characters so it ends up stiffer than a corpse.

Available from Amazon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Interview with Paranoia Fest Director Shane Russeck

Paranoia Fest is an exciting horror convention that will be taking place on the Queen Mary, the legendary and reportedly haunted ship, on the weekend of March 13th, 2009.

That date might be a long way off, but we are already so excited about the event that we had to get the goods directly from the festival organizer, Shane Russeck. A horror fan all his life, Shane is excited to bring a new horror event to Southern California.

From showcasing independent filmmakers to paying homage to George A. Romero, Paranoia Fest promises to be an exciting new destination for horror fans! Read all about Shane’s background and what spooky surprises he has in store for fans below!

Fatally Yours: What is your background in the horror genre and/or in planning festivals?

Shane Russeck: I have been a horror fan for as long as I can remember. It all started when I was five years old and I asked my mother to put the movie Buck Rogers in the VCR. Not paying attention to what she was doing, she put Halloween (which my older brother had rented), and I have been hooked ever since.

As far as planning events, we have the Gridlock Group, which puts on the biggest and coolest events in Hollywood, including Gridlock LA, LA’s biggest New Years event, which takes place on Paramount Studios lot.

Fatally Yours: Where did you get inspiration from to start a brand new horror festival? 

Shane Russeck: I was at Fangoria, and saw all the new filmmakers trying to get distribution for their films. I realized that there needed to be a horror “event,” more then just a film festival, where these people can get their films seen, by industry insiders.

Fatally Yours: What are your hopes and goals with Paranoia Fest?

Shane Russeck: We hope to be the horror industries answer to Comic Con.

Fatally Yours: The Queen Mary is a pretty spooky place and an absolutely perfect location for a horror fest. How did you get arrange to have a horror fest on the supposedly haunted ship?

Shane Russeck: My partner Mathew Gavin, is CEO of Hardball Productions, and was recently hired by the Queen Mary to bring his events to the ship. Once the Queen Mary was onboard, this just became the perfect storm.

Fatally Yours: Do you think festival-goers will spook up any ghosts while they’re there?

Shane Russeck: Absolutely! We will be planning the event around the Queen Mary Ghost Tours, and will be doing midnight movie screening in some of the most haunted rooms on the Queen Mary.

Fatally Yours: That definitely sounds spooky! Speaking of midnight “screamings,” what kind of film submissions are you considering for the festival?

Shane Russeck: Anything and Everything horror related. From full length features to music videos.

Fatally Yours: Have you decided any films that will be screened yet?

Shane Russeck: Not yet. We will be accepting submissions, starting Oct 1st.

Fatally Yours: Besides films being screened, what other kinds of events will attendees be treated to at Paranoia?

Shane Russeck: We will have midnight screening, of the classic horrors, that inspired us all. I am very big on paying homage to where we all came from, and why we are here.

If not for guys like Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and many more, we would not be having this conversation right now.

Our goal is to create an all out horror “event”, not just a film festival. There will be a vendors area, with everything from DVD’s, horror makeup, posters , etc. Every night, there will be post screening parties, hosted by Hardball Production. If you have never been to a Hardball event, you’ll be in for a party like you’ve never seen!

Fatally Yours: Do you have any guests that have confirmed for the event? Can you tell us who you are hoping to get? 

Shane Russeck: We do have exciting surprise guests, but you will have to check out the site closer to the event to find out.

Sat the 15th, will have the first annual “Dinner of the Dead,” in honor of George Romero, in which we do hope he will be attending.

Fatally Yours: Are you currently looking for sponsors for the event? 

Shane Russeck: Yes. We are looking for as many cross promotional opportunities as possible. When creating any “brand,” it is very important to do all you can, to get your name out there.

Fatally Yours: What are some of your favorite horror films? 

Shane Russeck: That is a very hard question to answer. Halloween, The Exorcist, The Omen, The original Nightmare on Elm Street, and all the classic Universal Horrors were my introduction to horror.
As my taste evolved, I became a HUGE Romero fan. I also love a lot of the B, creature-double feature Corman style movies.

I am also a big Dario Argento fan. I have not yet seen  La Terza Madre (Mother of Tears), and am really looking forward to it.

I like everything Rob Zombie does, I think he has a really unique cool style.

The last horror movie I saw that I really enjoyed was El Orfanato (The Orphanage).

Fatally Yours: How do you feel about the current horror climate?

Shane Russeck: I have a very open mind when it comes to horror movies. If it’s horror related, I’ll give it a chance.

Fatally Yours: If you could have anyone (horror celebrity, actor/actress, author, director, band, etc.) attend Paranoia Fest, who would you pick and why? 

Shane Russeck: Alfred Hitchock, that would be insane….huh??? You never know, on the Queen Mary, it could happen!

Visit Paranoia Fest’s Official Website for updates!

Gory Gear: Grim Threads

Horror fans are always hungry for new t-shirt companies that make one-of-a-kind horror tees. In a sea of black horror shirts adorned with horror movie logos/posters/etc., it’s hard to find something unique that stands out. That’s where new clothing company Grim Threads comes in! Their brightly colored, macabre shirts are the perfectly perky antidote to the ho-hum horror movie tees crowding the marketplace.

Taking inspiration from horror movies, street graffiti, art and anime, creator Schuyler Abrams infuses his tees with a vibrant energy most horror-inspired t-shirts lack. He is a horror fan who counts Suspiria, The Funhouse, Creepshow, Rosemary’s Baby and Donnie Darko among his cinematic influences for his art.

Abrams is a “one-man army,” running the whole Grim Threads empire himself. He says the only thing he doesn’t do is print the tees himself, leaving that to a print shop. He only just started Grim Threads in early 2008, and the company has been building a steady fan base ever since. The bold designs give fans much needed variety, coming in shades of rich purples, pumpkin-bright oranges, bubblegum pinks and deep blood reds.

Grim Threads newest design is called “Sunburn.” Coming in red (in men’s) and pink (in women’s), the tee features a cute anime-inspired vamp along the side. The bright colors and cartoonish look give the t-shirt a very playful and animated feel. It comes printed on soft cotton material that’s easy to cozy up to.

Another unique design (and the one that first caught my eye) is “Dosidicus Gigas (Giant Squid).” It’s a ghostly white tee with a fantastically designed giant squid stretching from shoulder to mid-stomach. The black squid contrasts nicely against the stark white shirt and I love the style that the squid was drawn in. When I was in high school, I was a bit of a geek and I was totally into cryptozoology. The infamous kraken (giant squid) was completely fascinating to me, so it’s no wonder why I love this shirt so much!

Grim Threads also has a few designs that are set to be released this fall and winter. The first is called “Sir Rottlsworth” and features a dapper ghoul (reminiscent of those from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion) haunting a grave. Though colors might be altered, I really dig the orange tee the design is currently printed on. This is set to be released in October 2008, so keep your eyes peeled and put it on your Halloween wish list like I’m going to!

For winter, Grim Threads has the “Nevermore” tee, a classic black tee imprinted with a design of a raven. It’s “perfect for sitting in front of a fire reading many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,” as Mr. Abrams says. The design of this t-shirt is simple, but the effect is still quite bold, as it is with all of Grim Threads tees.

Grim Threads makes limited edition pieces so, as Abrams puts it, “so that they feel unique. No one wants to wear something someone else has!” And unique is exactly what Grim Threads is…their clothes are original and morbidly fun! You can order the tees directly from Grim Threads on their website.

Interview with GoreZone Magazine Editor Christian Sellers

Christian Sellers is currently the deputy editor of the #1 magazine for horror in the UK, GoreZone. Recently, he interviewed our own owner, Sarah Jahier (aka Fatally Yours) for an article appearing in this month’s GoreZone Magazine, Issue 36. His questions were so in-depth and thorough that we really wanted to turn the tables and interview him to find out how he was drawn into the beautifully tangled web that is the horror genre.

Besides being deputy editor for GoreZone, Christian also runs a Friday the 13th page on Myspace, does public relations for Masterplan Film Productions and has several screenplays in the works! Find out what makes this busy horror journalist tick by reading our interview with him below!

Fatally Yours: How and when did your love of horror begin?

Christian Sellers: To be honest, my first experience of being scared was not technically from a horror film. I think I was about three-years-old when my mother took me to watch The Elephant Man. The scene when he walked into the doctor’s office with a bag over his head scared the Hell out of me; I screamed and cried and eventually I was taken home. To say I was so young it is such a vivid memory! I think it was the fear of what could be hiding behind the mask that made the greatest impression, an aspect of horror that still appeals to me to this day. I didn’t watch the movie again until I was nineteen and found it very emotional. I was disgusted with myself for reacting in the way that many of the characters had, by immediately seeing him as some kind of freak. I think The Elephant Man helped shape my interest in certain aspects of the horror genre, particularly the sympathetic monster.

I was lucky enough to have grown up in the ’80′s, which was such an amazing time for horror. With the introduction of the home video, kids were able to get their hands on all kinds of gory delights. My friend at the time had a Betamax, and I remember us watching a movie late one night called Massacre Mansion (aka Mansion of the Doomed), which had a deranged surgeon removing his victims’ eyes to help save the sight of his blind daughter. This was my first real introduction to horror and I found it so terrifying, particularly the scenes of the victims being held in a cage in the cellar, their empty eye sockets and cries of pain making my skin crawl. Despite the countless nightmares that film gave me I became obsessed and immediately watched every horror that I could get my hands on. My mother has always joked that when I was younger she would hear screams coming from my room, it would usually be some slasher movie and she would always walk passed my room just as some semi-naked teen was being hacked to pieces. Also, Alice Cooper was starting to make a comeback around this time, and I found his stage shows and music videos fascinating.  But I think the one thing that really appealed to me were special effects, particularly prosthetics, which had advanced so much with The Thing, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and The Fly.  The first time I saw Hellraiser, when Frank’s body regenerated itself from a drop of his brother’s blood, it blew my mind.  After that, I would watch the likes of The Evil Dead and Dawn of the Dead religiously, anything that featured dismembered body parts or buckets of blood.

Fatally Yours: What is the one horror film/book/etc. that has affected you the most and why? 

Christian Sellers: To me, the Friday the 13th franchise represented everything that was both good and bad about the ’80′s. They were excessive, tacky, gory, fun, shallow and entertaining, yet it was no secret that the first film had been designed to capitalize on the success of Halloween, and that each sequel stretched its credibility more and more in an effort to keep the business going. Despite killing Jason off after the fourth film (in fact, even the second movie struggled to justify its existence), Paramount didn’t lay the series to rest until they saw no more profit in it. Yet these movies were the perfect showcase for the advancing prosthetics, with decapitations, disembowelments and other grizzly FX. Jason Voorhees became a pop culture icon, appearing on lunchboxes, in comics and even on chat shows. They may have been of the lowest common denominator, yet for nine glorious years fans were treated to one film after another, each trying to outdo the last (that was until the MPAA got hold of them). Looking back on them twenty years later, they remind me of what’s fun about horror movies. You don’t always have to claim to like the classics (I find both The Exorcist and The Wicker Man extremely boring!), and you shouldn’t feel ashamed if your favourite film is considered by critics to be dumb and worthless. Friday the 13th is as dumb as it gets, but they never claimed to be anything more. They were designed as pure entertainment, and kept me glued to the screen for most of my childhood!

Fatally Yours: If you could only watch one horror movie for the rest of your life, which would you pick and why?

Christian Sellers: That’s a difficult question. I get very restless and constantly change my mind about things. My moods can be all over the place, and my taste in things like films and music change with it. I guess I would have to go with the one film that I find entertaining from start to finish, something that’s fun that I can watch over and over again. I’m not entirely sure, but I’d probably have to go with Re-animator! It’s fast-paced, eccentric; it has an amazing protagonist/antagonist with Herbert West, over-the-top gore, some great moments of slapstick and a wicked sense of humour.  I’m not sure I would want to be stuck with one movie for the rest of my life, but at least I know I’d enjoy that one.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel that the United States and UK horror scenes differ? If so, how and why are they different?

Christian Sellers: Oh, absolutely, there are some fundamental differences. Up until the release of 28 Days Later a few years ago, horror wasn’t seen as a safe sell in the UK. It had been thirty years since Hammer had last made a feature, and there had been very few genre films of interest since. We had become more known for our comedies and feel good movies (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Full Monty) and Cockney gangster flicks (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), as well as our period dramas like Sense and Sensibility and Howards End. Whilst Europe was producing unique and interesting horror movies, our industry had come to a standstill. But, thanks to such filmmakers as Danny Boyle, Neil Marshall and Christopher Smith, we slowly started to make horrors that were worth watching once again.

As for the difference in themes and style, American horror films often seem to centre on a group of teenagers. I am not sure whether this is because they are their target audience or that the younger the victim the more of an emotional impact their deaths will cause (anything younger than a teenager seems to make the viewer uncomfortable). The UK’s recent take on the zombie genre seemed a little more inspired than Hollywood’s, with 28 Days Later (a zombie movie at heart) going for the nihilistic Romero approach. It helped that the director was not known for his horror work, which meant that he could approach the material from a fresh angle. The other zombie movie worth noting is Shaun of the Dead, which was a homage, as apposed to a spoof like, say, Scary Movie. The key difference between the two is that Shaun took the horror elements seriously, whilst still managing to keep a sense of humour. As for American horror, when a director manages to keep full creative control over their work (as John Carpenter did during his heyday) then the results can be both exciting and terrifying. But, unfortunately, studio movies are constantly raped by overzealous producers who feel that they know more about making ‘good’ movies than the filmmakers. The independent scene in America is very exciting, but Hollywood seems content on dumbing down the genre.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give to aspiring horror journalists out there? 

Christian Sellers: It’s funny you should ask that, as I’ve been approached a few times recently for advice on how to write for a magazine or website. To prepare for journalism, I spent about six months writing articles on everything from horror to the likes of Spielberg and the Coen Brothers, anything to keep me writing. I would gather about fifty pages of notes before I would actually write the piece, and I found it very important from the beginning to be brutally honest. If you suck up to filmmakers then your work really suffers. Don’t be afraid to be cynical, don’t be afraid to be harsh. As long as your work is well written and you have approached the subject in an intelligent and professional way, then you are pretty much free to say whatever you want. It’s a wonderful feeling when an interview runs smoothly and then the filmmaker contacts you after the article has been published and says how much they enjoyed it, it makes it all seem worthwhile, but you have to remember that, as a writer, you have a responsibility to your readers. They are the ones spending the money (if you write for a magazine), so you shouldn’t cheapen your interviews with generic questions. If, for instance, you interview a director, and their movie had caused some scandal (be it an on-set affair, a poor critical response or the studio refusing to release the film), don’t be afraid to ask them. Your readers expect you to tell them something about a movie or filmmaker that they haven’t read elsewhere, and if your questions are the same as every other magazine/website then it makes for a boring read. Being honest may rub certain people up the wrong way, this is an unfortunate downside, but if you write from the heart then it really shines through in your work.

As for taking your first steps into the industry, this is when stalking can sometimes be a good thing. Get a list of contact numbers or email addresses for every magazine and website that you can find, and send them an introductory letter, with perhaps a small sample of your work. Sound confident without being arrogant, but the most important thing is to show how passionate you are. Some editors may favour determination over experience, as there are always people who say they want to be a writer, are given a chance, and then quit as it’s too much work. If you want to be a good writer then it does involve a lot of work; it’s badly paid (if at all), you may spend days on an article and then never see it published and there will always be people who will criticize your work, though any publicity is good for you. Sites like MySpace are an invaluable tool as well, you can showcase your work through blogs, and it’s the perfect place to network and get your name out there. You will discover early on if this is the right job for you, as to become a successful writer you have to put in long hours and sacrifice your social life. I even made myself ill by developing insomnia from staying up night after night working on various projects. I wouldn’t recommend taking it to such extremes, but be prepared to spend long hours sat at your computer. But, if you have the determination, the rewards are worth it. I still have a framed copy of the first issue I was ever published in on my wall, and every time I am complimented on my work I am always extremely grateful.

Fatally Yours: As the deputy editor of GoreZone, what do your duties entail? How did you land this kick ass gig?

Christian Sellers: The role of deputy editor came from over a year of hard work. I was always writing or planning articles, and sometimes I would be asked to re-write other people’s. Almost every month just before the deadline I would be asked to write more, so it would sometimes be that I would have up to five articles or interviews in any given issue. I was even writing under a pseudonym, Sutter Cane (sometimes spelt as Sutton Kane), which was named after the fictitious writer in John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. Eventually, the work paid off, as I was offered the gig in June. The first thing I did was create a new MySpace page for the magazine. I had always been disappointed with the original one; it was never updated and contained very little news or info, so I set about making one where I could regularly post interviews, reviews, news and allow for our readers to interact with us and give suggestions. It has proved very popular and has allowed for filmmakers and other sites to contact us easier for interviews, many of which I post as blogs on the page. The feedback has been amazing! Since becoming editor, I have dealt more with filmmakers with regards to interviews and promoting their work, though I did try to do this as much as possible anyway, and I have used the new MySpace page to get our name out there as much as possible, by interacting with other sites. I just think that the magazine decided to make it official with a title.

Fatally Yours: What are your thoughts on the current horror climate?

Christian Sellers: I think it’s such a shame that there are so many promising independent filmmakers out there that don’t get the kind of support they deserve, from both studios and critics. Instead, we are subjected to one remake after another, pointless Saw sequels and PG-13 horrors. The movie industry is a business, and if a product sells then every studio and producer are quick to jump on the bandwagon. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is remade and makes a lot of money, so every classic is optioned for the so-called ‘update’ treatment. I find the concept of PG-13 horror quite insulting.  It seems that studios are trying to cater for the O.C. and Sex in the City crowd with dire teen movies like When a Stranger Calls and Prom Night. Horror is not supposed to be sugarcoated and watered down, so those that don’t like horror movies can tolerate them. It’s called ‘horror’ for a reason… it’s supposed to challenge you, disgust you, make you face your fears and feel alive. But when you dilute it with political correctness and target it towards non-horror fans you lose the essence of what a horror film really is. And besides, horror doesn’t have to be full of decapitations and T&A, family movies such as The Goonies and Monster House can be just as effective. The key is to treat the viewer as an adult, and let them decide what is scary and how much they can handle. If you are not a fan of horror films then that’s okay, there are plenty of other genres for you to enjoy.

Fatally Yours: After the so-called “torture porn” boom and the Asian horror invasion, not to mention the big-studio PG-13 remakes, where do you think horror is headed next?

Christian Sellers: In all honesty, I think the genre needed torture porn. Everything moves in cycles, and at the turn of the decade horror had become more subtle and suggestive. The likes of The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense had made horror popular again, after a brief run of slasher movies that were released in the wake of Scream. Films like The Sixth Sense appealed to those who had no real interest in scary movies, so slowly the genre was being populated by ‘safe’ films like The Others. I remember renting out Cabin Fever and not really having high hopes for it, but found it a really entertaining throwback to The Evil Dead. So, when I heard the director was making a movie about torture called Hostel I was intrigued. The first few films in the torture porn cycle were well made and felt fresh, I was impressed that the genre had grown balls once again and was not afraid to be brutal. I was blown away by Wolf Creek (despite several people walking out), the first Saw seemed quite inventive and The Devil’s Rejects had shown that Rob Zombie was progressing as a filmmaker after such a dire debut (it also had an amazing soundtrack). But pretty soon, like all trends, they became monotonous and audiences lost their interest. I would presume that, as many of the directors I have interviewed recently seem glad this cycle has come to an end, the genre may become suggestive once again. Whereas torture porn was quick to show ‘the money shot,’ it could be possible that, as with the likes of The Strangers, that atmosphere and the threat of violence may once again become more important than the violence itself. If you watch the original Halloween, there is very little on-screen violence, the entire film builds up this sense of dread, a fear that the killer could appear from anywhere. The scenes where he was stalking them were always more effective than the moments when he would strike. That’s the mistake that Zombie made with his remake. And I hope to God that this pointless remake trend comes to an end soon, it’s depressing.

Fatally Yours: What are some of your favorite current horror films and/or books? Do you have any promising new directors or authors that you’re keeping an eye on?

Christian Sellers: I wrote an article back in issue 27 of GoreZone called “Directors to Watch Out For in 2008″‘ and I think it was probably the most fun one to write. I interviewed countless directors, but unfortunately due to space I was only able to include a few in the finished article. But I was surprised by how many promising filmmakers there were, and most were a pleasure to interview. Both The Kentucky Fried Horror Show’s C. L. Gregory and Jessicka Rabid’s Matthew Reel seemed to have a clear vision of what they want from a horror film, so I’m intrigued to see what they do with that.  I love the promotional artwork for Gutterballs, especially the homage to Maniac, so I can’t wait to see that (which I will finally get the chance to do in October at the GoreZone event in London). Other films I’m curious about are Children of the Hunt, No Left Turn (not strictly a horror but it certainly looks atmospheric) and Netherbeast Incorporated. Again, I know very little about these movies, but from interviewing the directors I am curious to see what they are capable of. Other films I am looking forward to are Albino Farm and Pig Hunt (I know James Isaac isn’t technically a new director, but this could prove to be his breakthrough movie). And I can’t wait to see what Todd Lincoln does with Hack/Slash, I have very high hopes for that one!

Fatally Yours: Looking back on 2008, what has been your favorite horror film so far?

Christian Sellers: Almost every horror that I’ve written about and been enthusiastic over has yet to be released.  And all the films that I have seen this year were actually made a year or two ago. Studios seem to be mishandling horror movies of late, everything from Mother of Tears, Diary of the Dead and Midnight Meat Train seem to be hyped up by magazines and sites, only for their release to be delayed for sometimes up to eighteen months. This causes fans and critics to speculate that the reason for this is due to the film being poor, so by the time they are eventually released – usually straight onto DVD – the damage has been done. I am forever writing about movies that I’m really psyched about seeing, and then it seems to be at least a year until I finally do get to watch them. So while they’re not strictly 2008 movies, the ones I have enjoyed the most this year were probably Mother of Tears (a great return to form for Dario Argento), Cloverfield and Poultrygeist (a guilty pleasure). Unfortunately, every time I visit a horror site I hear about yet another pointless remake, so I feel less enthusiastic about new movies and tend to watch the classics at home.

Fatally Yours: Besides being the editor and writing for UK’s #1 horror magazine, GoreZone, how else are you involved with the horror genre?

Christian Sellers: I try to keep myself busy, I get really restless when I’m not working. About a year ago I was prepping an article on Steve Miner, who was set to release his Day of the Dead remake, so I went out and interviewed some of the cast members of Friday the 13th Part 2 and 3. I was surprised how pleasant and helpful they were, so I decided to set up somewhere that I could store my interviews. I created a MySpace page (www.myspace.com/fridaythe13thfranchise), not really giving it much thought that there would be others out there who would enjoy it. Pretty much straight away I was getting friend requests and messages off fans of the series saying how much they loved the page. So I started contacting more people that were involved in the movies, and most of them seemed really enthusiastic. All of a sudden, I had people offering to write for the page, offering suggestions and even a few who had been involved in Friday the 13th offering an interview. I was so overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm that I had to start taking the page seriously. I began focusing on interviewing everyone I could from the franchise, as well as getting as much news on the upcoming remake as I could. Some even said they considered my page their first stop when they wanted news on the movies, which made it all worthwhile. On the strength of that, I ended up contributing interviews and articles for the official Friday the 13th site. Around last New Year, I was offered the job of Public Relations for Masterplan Film Productions, a UK-based company that had several low budget movies in the works, including The Beautiful Outsiders with Tara Reid and a remake of The Driller Killer. I also have a screenplay in the early stages that we are hoping to make, but becoming deputy editor for GoreZone takes up a lot of time.

Fatally Yours: You are one busy man! What are your plans/projects for the future?

Christian Sellers: I have several different ideas that are being negotiated at the moment, so I’ll reveal more about them if and when they come to fruition. But I am starting to make contacts – that’s the great thing about getting to interview filmmakers – and I am determined to get my name out there as much as possible. It’s funny, I get told by friends how one-track minded I become when I’m working, how I manage to ignore everything else and just focus on my writing. I will finish my work and then suddenly realize I’ve been at my desk for ten hours without even taking a break. Surely that kind of dedication pays off eventually! I want to write for as many magazines and websites as possible, as we all have the same agenda here so we should be willing to help each other out more, and I definitely want to get involved with making films. That has always been my end goal. So if anyone is interested, you know where to find me!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Trick or Treat (1986)

To get in the Halloween spirit, I decided to watch the festively named Trick or Treat, the one that features Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons in cameo roles. Trick or Treat isn’t a great movie by any means, but it has a certain spellbinding charm that keeps it entertaining, and not just for metalheads.

Eddie (Marc Price, or “Skippy” from Family Ties as most people remember him) is a metalhead outcast at his high school. The jocks always pick on him and pull cruel pranks on him, like pushing him naked out into the school gym when the girl’s volleyball team is practicing. His outlet for all his anger and pent-up frustration is metal music, and his idol is rock star Sammi Curr (Tony Fields). When Sammi dies in a hotel fire, Eddie is devastated. A radio DJ (Gene Simmons) gives Eddie the studio master of Sammi’s unreleased record to cheer him up. After playing the record backwards, Eddie unwittingly unleashes the spirit of Sammi. At first, Eddie finds Sammi to be useful at getting revenge on the jocks, but soon realizes Sammi is evil. Sammi becomes more and more powerful until he materializes in the flesh on Halloween night to raise hell…

Trick or Treat was quite a surprise and I really found myself enjoying it. Though there aren’t any scares, its entertainment value alone makes it worth watching. The story is pretty original and I love how the filmmakers took a look at metal music and the big controversy that surrounded it in the ‘80s.

My one big gripe with the film was the poor pacing at the beginning. The first 30 – 45 minutes just crawl by and consist of scenes of Eddie being tormented at school, then getting home and blaring his metal music, then going back to school and being hassled again and returning home to listen to more metal in his gloomy room, rinse, repeat…you get the idea. I think just one scene of this would have elicited enough sympathy for Eddie at which point we could have gotten to the real action of the film.

The real action doesn’t start until somewhere around the one-hour mark, when Sammi is finally unleashed and starts strutting around, zapping people. My favorite part is when Sammi crashes the high school’s Halloween dance and puts on a killer performance – literally! He shoots electrical charges out of his guitar that basically pulverize his victims. He can also move through electrical currents and can get you pretty much anywhere there’s electricity.

The logistics, as well as the how’s and why’s of Sammi’s satanic, electrifying ways are never quite explained, but that niggling little problem is easily quieted by the overall fun you’ll have watching this flick. Besides a few unexplained, illogical plot points and a slow start, the film’s story (by Rhet Topham, with the screenplay written by Joel Soisson, Michael S. Murphey and Rhet Topham) is actually quite inventive. I mean, where else could you find an outcast metalhead conjuring up his dead rock star idol with a satanic ritual, causing irreparable harm to the neighborhood on Halloween? Not to mention all the killer ‘80s hair metal fashion – leather, chains, piercings, tattoos, and who can for get the big, frizzy, poofy hair!

The music, performed mainly by Fastway, is actually pretty good. It’ll put you in that metal state of mind! And, of course, the cameos by Ozzy Osbourne (as a conservative, religious/political pundit speaking out against metal music on TV) and Gene Simmons (as a radio DJ) are pretty enjoyable as well!

Surprisingly, the acting (even by Osbourne and Simmons) is well done. Marc Price plays a convincing teenager that’s fed up with the status quo and the mainstream. He is very relatable and I know many people (myself included) can relate to him and what he is going through in high school. I also loved Tony Fields’ portrayal of Sammi Curr…he completely nails it and had me checking on IMDB to see if he really was a rock star! He is just that good!

For a nostalgic kick, Trick or Treat is a fun movie that’ll take you back to hair metal’s heyday. Don’t expect any scares, but you’ll definitively be entertained by Trick or Treat’s music and unique story.

Metalhead or not, Trick or Treat is a definite horror movie treat!

Available from Amazon!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Midnight Movie (2008)

Cult or midnight movies are usually not known or recognized by mainstream audiences for good reason. They are usually the anti-thesis of the big, glossy Hollywood blockbusters. Midnight movies are usually gritty, subversive films catering to underground audiences who are looking for something different than the same old big-name flicks the studios peddle. Though most of the time these films have low budgets, they make up for that in heart and soul. Midnight movies let the audience experience something more than what studio films offer. They have that something extra that pushes the envelope, whether their aim is to disgust, titillate, awe or just plain have fun!

To put it plainly, midnight movies hold a special place in many a fan’s heart, no matter how cheap, cheesy or sleazy they are. So when I sat down to watch a film called “Midnight Movie” after our beloved cult flicks, I was a bit skeptical that it could deliver the goods. The synopsis did sound promising, though. From the box:
“At a run-down theater in a sleepy suburban town, a group of friends attend the midnight screening of a 1970’s cult horror film. These unsuspecting teenagers are unaware that the director and star of the movie made a bloody escape from a psych ward five years earlier and may still be on the loose.
As the midnight movie begins, the kids heckle the old black-and-white scenes. But they are jolted when the killer butchers one of their friends…on screen! They soon realize that the killing is not a prank. They are locked inside the theater and the killer from the movies is after them!
Caught between reality and the screen’s flickering shadows, are they becoming the unwilling stars of the very horror movie they are watching?”
If that doesn’t peak a horror fan’s interest, I don’t know what will! Much to my delight and utter fascination, Midnight Movie pays homage to the cult film while at the same time creating a completely original story. Along with the original plot, the film boasts likable characters, enough twists to keep things interesting and a very scary killer! I was blown away by how quickly I was sucked into the world of Midnight Movie and once there I didn’t want to leave!

First off, the film looks absolutely amazing! I’m not sure what the budget was, but the film is so clean, crisp and professional-looking that it could be put in theaters tomorrow and no one would bat an eyelash! The production values are extremely high, including the direction, cinematography and editing.

The direction, by Jack Messitt (who also wrote the script) is tight and shows us the story exactly how it was meant to be seen. I never felt like I was missing anything and everything was shown just enough to titillate without going overboard. I also loved how the film’s style switched from the colorful, modern day point-of-view to the film-within-a-film’s point of view of a gritty ‘70s, black and white horror flick.

As the modern-day world and the horror-film world begin to collide, we the audience understand that this is no standard slasher, but a highly original script, penned by Jack Messitt. Messitt weaves supernatural elements into the story that tie everything together and make the story very unique. There are echoes of other films, like Demons (being stuck in a theater with no way out), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the ‘70s style midnight movie is very reminiscent of the seminal TCM), Ringu (with the idea that a supernatural force is able to get you even through a television/movie screen) as well as being influenced by many slasher films. These familiar styles are reconfigured in a new, unique way and combined with an original story had me glued to the screen for the entire running time!

The characters are also developed adequately enough (without sacrificing the quick clip of the pacing) that the audience can sympathize with them. I did feel that the girls were a bit stereotypical (why is it always the girls in movies who don’t like scary movies?), but that’s a small quibble compared with the overall achievement of the film. Messitt even managed to create a new icon of horror with his spooky, skull-mask wearing psycho killer. It just doesn’t get any better than this!

Even the acting, which I can usually find some fault in, especially in independent productions, was top-notch, with every single one of the actors delivering big time. Even the actors who didn’t get that much screen time did a commendable job with their characters. Let’s put it this way, if I began mentioning names, I would have to go down the entire cast list to credit every single actor for a brilliant performance.

Now, I know you are all wondering about the blood and guts in the film, but first I must mention the iconic tool of terror that the killer does his dirty deeds with. It’s a razor sharp hand drill that must be seen to be believed! With this device of destruction the killer leaves some nicely bloody and gaping holes in his victims. Despite the killer weapon, don’t expect loads of gore in this film…it is restrained, but with good reason. The audience is teased with the kills in the beginning and much is left to the imagination (which is the preferred method, if you ask me). As the body count mounts, though, things begin to escalate and get bloodier and bloodier. There is a very rich scene featuring a human slaughterhouse of sorts where the killer stores all his victims. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

I gotta say, Midnight Movie blew me away with its smart, engaging script and the iconic horror movie villain we’ve all been waiting for! It certainly lives up to its moniker and is certain to make midnight cult movie fans very happy! For me, Midnight Movie is definitely one of the best films I’ve seen all year!

Available from Amazon!

Interview with Journalist/Actress/Author Axelle Carolyn

Axelle Carolyn is a multi-talented horror journalist, author, actress, model and all around horror fan! She’s written for publications like Fangoria, IGN.com, L’Ecran Fantastique and SFX Magazine, appeared in numerous horror films (Doomsday, the upcoming The Descent 2, short films The Neon Killer and I Love You) and is now having her highly anticipated first book, It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium, published!

I was lucky enough to interview the very gracious Axelle about her upcoming book, her career in the horror genre and about her love of horror!

Fatally Yours: First off, how and when did your love of horror begin? Were you exposed to a lot of horror films growing up in your native Belgium or did your love of horror develop later in life?

Axelle Carolyn: I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been attracted to the horror elements in all the cartoons I watched and all the stories I read as a kid. I remember being very impressed by the skeleton army in The Black Cauldron, and skeletons, ghosts and brains were the most fascinating things to me as a little girl. Around 8 or 9, I started reading my dad’s collection of Jean Ray short stories. And around 11-12, I discovered Stephen King…

Fatally Yours: What horror movie has affected you the most and why?

Axelle Carolyn: The Fly was one of the first that I remember getting obsessed with. My parents didn’t want me to watch horror films, but I’d seen stills from the movie and I had a teenage crush on Jeff Goldblum, so I couldn’t stop looking for ways to see that film behind my parents’ backs. When I turned 16 or 17, they gave me a lot more freedom to watch what I wanted, and I finally got to see The Fly. It exceeded all my expectations! I should also credit Re-Animator; I discovered it around the same time and loved it. And my crush shifted from Goldblum to Jeffrey Combs… J This being said, I started writing fiction recently, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s really horror literature that shaped my love for the genre. Stephen King and Jean Ray of course, but also Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, Theophile Gauthier, Guy de Maupassant…

Fatally Yours: When did you start writing about horror? How did you get involved with and start writing for different horror publications?

Axelle Carolyn: I conducted my first interview in 2004. I’d been going to the Brussels Fantastic Film Festival for years, and I asked Johnny Butane (now on Dreadcentral) and Ryan Rotten (now on Shocktilyoudrop), who at the time ran Creature-Corner, if they’d like a festival report. Ryan got me a press card, and I got to do a few interview, including my first interviewee ever, Stuart Gordon. Later that year I met Brian Yuzna, and he invited me to visit the set of his film in Madrid. When I left the set, he asked me if I wanted to cover the film for Fangoria, since I’d done some work for Creature-Corner. I said yes, wrote it, sent it to Fango; they liked it and next thing I knew, I was visiting Hostel in Prague.

Fatally Yours: Your first book, It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium will be published soon! Congrats on that enormous accomplishment! Can you tell us what the book is about and what your goals were in writing it?

Axelle Carolyn: Thanks! The book covers the huge wave of horror films we’ve seen recently, from blockbusters to independents, Hollywood to Asia, looking at the main trends, the failures and successes, and whenever possible, the reasons behind these successes. There’s been so many good films this decade, and I’ve been privileged enough to meet a lot of these new filmmakers and count several amongst my close friends, so I thought it’d be good to collect quotes and interviews and give horror fans a complete panorama of what’s been made in the past 8 years. My inspiration originally came from a book I’d read a couple of years ago called The Monster Show, A Cultural History of Horror, by David J. Skal. It’s brilliantly written, and the parallel it establishes between the various trends in the genre and world events was fascinating. I tried to take the same approach in my book, and cover the one decade the book doesn’t cover.

Fatally Yours: What was the most exciting/gratifying aspect about writing a book?

Axelle Carolyn: The most exciting I’d say was the freedom the format gave me. When you write for a magazine, you have to follow a pre-established structure and conform to a certain style. Here, as long as I was coherent in my choices, I could do anything I wanted. I also loved being able to give an opinion rather than just compiling cold facts; I never liked writing reviews, but in the book, the thing I liked the most was to try to look for trends and common traits between movies, or links between socio-political events and box-office hits. Few people know this, but I actually graduated in law and specialized for several years in international law and politics, so I have a good understanding of current affairs. It was brilliant to be able to use that background, for once, and incorporate it into something horror-related.

Fatally Yours: Of all the “new” horror films that your book covers, which film is your favorite and why?

Axelle Carolyn: That’s a tough question! I thought about that when the time came to choose a cover… and I think my favorite is The Devil’s Backbone. I love ghosts, and this one has just the right blend of atmosphere and scares, with so many different layers. It’s touching, spooky and incredibly smart at the same time. And don’t even get me started on the photography… I couldn’t find the perfect still from the film though, but The Orphanage has largely the same qualities, so that picture of the little ghost was perfect. Horror fans talk a lot about France these days, but personally, it’s really Spain that impresses me the most. The evolution the genre has gone through there is amazing. Rec is another great example…

Fatally Yours: How would you try and explain to people outside of the genre, who don’t realize horror’s merits or positive aspects, that it truly is a worthwhile genre and not merely an exploitative one?

Axelle Carolyn: I’d show them The Devil’s Backbone. Better show something than argue for hours! I showed it to a couple of people who thought horror was all blood and guts with nothing behind it, and they loved it. Come to think of it, I guess The Fly would work well too, to show them how special effects and gore can be used to convey emotions.

Fatally Yours: What do you think horror films reveal about a society’s culture, values, etc.?

Axelle Carolyn: I think horror films reflect the concerns and fears of their time, whether the filmmakers intended it or not. It’s actually better when it’s an unconscious process, otherwise it often feels like the director is preaching or forcing a message down our throats.

Fatally Yours: As a woman in the male-dominated genre of horror, either as a journalist, author or actress, what are your thoughts on how women are portrayed in the genre?

Axelle Carolyn: I’m often asked gender-related questions, and to be honest, it’s not something I’ve ever given much thought to. I’ve never felt like I was treated differently as a horror fan because I’m a woman – or if I have, it probably mostly worked in my favor – so I haven’t really thought about those issues… I know there’s a general feeling that horror films depict women as victims and stereotypes, but when you look at it, there have been many, many wonderful roles for women, even lately. Look at May, High Tension, The Descent; or further in the past, Halloween, Geena Davis in The Fly, or my personal favorite, Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? There’s a lot of female characters out there that broke the stereotypes.

Fatally Yours: Though there have always been women horror fans, do you think that lately we’ve seen more women going to horror fans? Why?

Axelle Carolyn: More horror fans, I don’t know. I couldn’t say, really. But what is certain is that producers have been trying to target women specifically these past few years, and that’s a pretty unique phenomenon. All these Asian remakes are largely aimed at women, and it makes sense, because in Japan, there’s a huge amount of women amongst horror fans. Their ghost stories almost always have a woman in the lead and deal with themes related to the place of women in society; the clearest example is the single mother of Dark Water

Fatally Yours: Do you think that if more women begin to support horror that this will result in more women directing, writing, producing and so on?

Axelle Carolyn: I don’t think so. You know, if I noticed that a lot more – or a lot less – women were suddenly interested in horror, it wouldn’t change a single thing to my passion for the genre. And when you look at it, even outside horror, women rarely direct, write or produce; it’s mostly a male-dominated industry. Whatever the cause may be… Even chick flicks are more often than not made by guys.

Fatally Yours: You’ve been appearing in many horror films recently, with your cameos in Doomsday and small role in The Descent 2 to your roles in other short films like The Neon Killer and I Love You. Can you tell us how you got bit by the acting bug?

Axelle Carolyn: It’s a funny thing. I never thought I’d be interested in acting. But somehow, when I’d visit sets or met people, they’d often try to get me in front of the camera, and I’d almost always say no. But then I had this little cameo in Doomsday, mostly because I was working on SFX and I wanted to try the makeup on, and I loved it. After the shoot, I realized that writing alone wasn’t enough for me, and that because my husband travels a lot and I wanted to be able to go with him, I’d need to find something that would allow me to take time off easily to travel and write. I remembered the Doomsday experience and thought I could look into acting. A friend of mine, Leslie Simpson, had agreed around the same time to appear in a short film directed by SFX artist Tristan Versluis, and he suggested me to Tristan for the female lead. I got the part, loved it, and decided it’d be worth giving acting a serious shot. Now I’ve got an agent, I’m auditioning like crazy, and I’m learning little by little…

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us a little about your role in The Descent 2? How did filming for that go?

Axelle Carolyn: I play a character called Nurse Lambert. Originally I’d auditioned for that one because she had a gruesome death, but that scene was rewritten just before shooting started… so now sadly, not only do I not die, but my part is pretty small. But it was an awesome experience because I got to say my first lines on camera in a relaxed atmosphere, with friends and people I knew around me. It was great.

Fatally Yours: What projects do you have planned in the future? Will you be collaborating on more films with your husband, Neil Marshall? Do you have any planned books, screenplays, films or other projects?

Axelle Carolyn: From now on, I’d like to put journalism on the side (although I do keep a monthly column on IGN, and I have an article coming in the next issue of Fango), and concentrate on acting and writing fiction. I’ve auditioned for a couple of pretty big films and I’m anxiously awaiting a reply. This month I’ll also be working on Forest of the Damned 2; it’s a little cameo and the film has a tiny budget, but it should be good fun, because it’s a good team of people. As for working with Neil, it’s definitely part of the plan. He wrote a role for me in what should hopefully be his next film. But of course until I’ve auditioned for it and received the producers’ approval, I won’t know for sure if I can do it…

Fatally Yours: For those aspiring to be part of the horror genre, what advice would you give them to fulfill their dreams?

Axelle Carolyn: Grasp any opportunity. It doesn’t matter if it’s not exactly what you had in mind; the smallest thing can lead to the most unexpected places. Four years ago I was desperate to find a job on set, as a runner. I never found one, but journalism found me instead, and now it’s given me the opportunity to experiment and branch out into other things. So far, so good!

Buy It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium on Amazon!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Interview with Artist/Curator Mike Schneider of NOTLD: Reanimated

Mike Schneider is hard at work staging a collaborative effort between artists from all over the world to recreate, through different artistic mediums, The Night of the Living Dead. Every medium, from painting to stop motion to computer animation is being used to create a highly inventive version of Night of the Living Dead, called Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated.

Here at Fatally-Yours we were lucky enough to get a chance to interview the extremely busy and talented Schneider and ask him about this tremendously exciting undertaking.

Fatally Yours: Mike, why did you choose Night of the Living Dead as your subject for this project?

Mike Schneider: Well, reanimation is actually an animation process from way back in the days of film reels and magic chalkboards. It is, basically, the process of casting a new version of a clip to film after making some alteration to it. Being a horror fan, there was the obvious association between the word reanimation and the undead and so it was decided that the ‘dead process’ of reanimation should be resurrected through the subject of a zombie film.

Because traditional and experimental art processes are very slow, an individual artist would rarely even consider employing them towards a feature film. A page was taken from the zombies themselves and the film is being approached as a hoard of creative people ripping the film into pieces and infecting it with their own processes and aesthetics. (They don’t have to be fast… if there are enough of them.)

Night of the Living Dead seemed the perfect fit for this approach with an iconography strong enough to carry the viewers through various styles and approaches, scenes which cater to a wide array of aesthetics and a public domain status which grants the artists free use of the film as a source material.

Fatally Yours: Have you attempted other projects like this before? If so, tell us about them or any other previous experience you’ve had.

Mike Schneider: I’ve done other mass collaborative animations in the past by employing tools such as generic templates or prescribing specific criteria for each submission. Though I loved the visual that comes from a clip being made through so many hands, the results were all strictly visual.

The ‘Story Teller’ approach was considered, however this process would restrict the project to 1 artist working on a clip at a time and with some animation processes being quite time consuming, by the time the film went through the first few hands, the other artists who were initially interested would likely have moved on to other things.

Discovering the reanimation process satisfied the drive to have a film develop through numerous independent hands but still offers the narrative structure by simply building on top of a pre-existing film’s narrative.
[Story Teller: a literary game where a sheet of paper is passed around and each person it's passed to adds 1-3 sentences to the story before passing it along]

Fatally Yours: How many different artists have committed to the project? Are you still accepting submissions?

Mike Schneider: I avoid the term committed when working on mass collaborative projects because realistically only a small percent of people follow through on their commitments.

I instead use the terms ‘involved’, ‘interested’ and ‘considered’.

‘Involved’ means that they have already submitted work towards the project. [As of this point, there are a few dozen people who are 'involved'.]

‘Interested’ means that they have contacted me with questions and for information on how to become involved but have not yet submitted any completed materials. [As of this point, there are a few hundred people who are 'interested'.]

‘Considered’ means that they have looked at the site, discussed it on forums, but have not contacted me for information or to express their interest. I Google projects which I’m working on so I can see what chatter it is receiving on various forums and blogs. Armed with the opinions of the potential fan base, I can either cater to their suggestions (if I agree with them) or prepare a defense to justify my choices. Artists and film makers who do not embrace the 24/7 sounding board that is the internet are cutting themselves off of a valuable resource in the rough. [As of this point, there are a few thousand people who are 'considered'.]

As far as people getting involved, the film is being approached in rounds of submissions. The next round goes until Monday December 15th, 2008. Anyone who may be interested in becoming involved is encouraged to contact me (shenlon@hotmail.com) for more details. Even if you are not a visual artist, feel free to propose an alternative role for yourself that better suites your skills… if it’s something in line with the project that will either improve or facilitate the film then I likely will welcome the assistance.

Fatally Yours: Going back to discussing Night of the Living Dead, what is your favorite scene in the film and why?

Mike Schneider: As a fan of horror, one of the creepiest devices is ‘the perversion of innocence’. This is where something which seems safe later shows us that images can be deceiving. The film has a number of scenes which play with this story telling device but none as iconic as Karen attacking her mother. The ‘enhanced’ scream adds the surreal quality which grants the scene real staying power. Beyond that any use of children in a horror film plays to fears of our own nature. Children often just act and react so given the right circumstances they are capable of anything without even realizing that they are doing wrong. Wrong done without question, questions the society, in which even our most innocent are deadly.

When it came time to animate, my own aesthetic led me to Barbara freaking out because in a relatively short clip, the character goes through nearly every human expression and I had been recently playing with ideas in portraiture.

Fatally Yours: Have you tried contacting George A. Romero about the project? Do you have any hopes that he will get involved?

Mike Schneider: Romero has little net-presence outside of fan created content. Since his own website and chats were bombarded with obscene numbers of side conversations and off topics rants, he seems to have largely removed himself from that aspect of the contemporary culture. The effect of this can be inferred through Diary’s light pollution view of the internet though it is even clearer presented in the bonus features talk of faxed texts and phone recorded sound bites (processes which most net-minded people would transfer digitally).

There are however plans for him to be contacted by artists involved in NOTLD:R at upcoming events on October. With these artists acting as messagers, I am sending a package of printed images, information about the project and a letter of invitation. Hopefully approaching him on his terms (analog) will open up a line of dialog.

Efforts have also been made to contact other members of the original crew about the project. Judith O’Dea (Barbara; http://www.odeacommunications.com/ ) and Kyra Schon (Karen; http://www.ghoulnextdoor.com/) being emailed.

So far, Kyra responded that ‘it looks really interesting’ and since she is an artist herself, she has been sent the information about how to become involved and is being kept updated as the film progresses.

Any involvement from original staff is still in the air, however, they will all be accredited as without their work this project couldn’t exist, and hopefully they will be brought in the loop shortly if they haven’t already heard about it already.

Fatally Yours: What are some of the different mediums of art that will be used?

Mike Schneider: Puppets, Sock Puppets, Shadow Puppets, Finger Puppets, Oil Paint, Water Color, Acrylic Paint, Ink, Markers, Conte, Charcoal, Pastels, Pencils, Cels, Sand, Cut Outs, Comic Panels, Machinma, In-Game, Flash, Power Point, After Effects, 3D Models, Step Motion, Stop Motion, Photography, Silhouettes, Dolls, Clay, Metal, Wood,… Basically any art, animation or film process you can think of likely has someone who is working it into their approach. It’s a chance to do something small which is part of something big. That breeds experimentation and variety.

Fatally Yours: Do you have any early favorite art pieces from the project?

Mike Schneider: Yes, though none which I like more then seeing them all coming together.

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us about the process you go through to pick the art featured in the project? What criteria are you looking for?

Mike Schneider: I set as few criteria as needed for the film to be assembled (original black and white work which can be synced to the ’68 film’s audio track). Besides that, the scene should cover any key points from the original scene but that can either be done by working from the on-screen visual or rethinking the scene to provide a new visual.

As far as selecting work, all works are accepted which meet those basic criteria. If an alternative version of a scene is submitted, both versions are posted on forums such as Zombie Nation and All Things Zombie to let the fans vote on their preferred version of the scene. The favorite version goes into the film and the other versions goes onto the DVD as the Bonus Feature “Alternative Footage” (All artists will be accredited and all work will have a place on the DVD either way). This approach allows for fan involvement and opens the opportunity for anyone to participate (no matter their process, aesthetic, training etc) while still having a safeguard (alternative versions of the scene can be submitted to challenge any scene/ put it to a vote) which will act to keep the overall quality of the film high.

Fatally Yours: After the project is finished, what are your plans on distributing it? Will people be able to see it at festivals and/or purchase it on DVD?

Mike Schneider: The film will actually have its first ‘Draft Screenings’ next month. Venues such as Agni Gallery in Manhattan and Tampa Museum of Art in Florida along with numerous smaller spaces around the world have expressed interest in showing the film in-progress. This will give the audience a chance to see the film while there is still time for them to also get involved in completing it.

After the next round of submissions, the film will have a more formal screening held at Bellwether Gallery in Chelsea with full press releases and the typical fan faire.

There will be additional challenging/review before the master DVD is set into production. Along with the DVD release, there will also be an extremely limited theater releasing. The film has also been invited to numerous film festivals, including Revenant Film Festival, numerous punk festivals, art shows, and screening venues… so there will be numerous places to attend a screening of the film.

As far as release, Wild Eye Releasing (wildeyereleasing.com) has signed on to give the film an in-store DVD release. The terms set with them are no profit over the production costs and overhead so that the DVD is available as cheap as possible to the fans of the genre. This contract is non-exclusive so a number of artists are also working out logistics of releases in other languages and regional codes around the world.

The non-exclusive contract also allows for additional releasing formats and venues. We are happy to announce that Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated will be the first film to ever be released in affiliation with Demonoid (demonoid.com). With their heavy traffic and seeding community, the film will also be freely available through them as Digital Copy.

Because the film is creative commons licensing, artists retain all rights to their work as it exists outside of the movie. However using on-depend production, many have taken their art and reformatted it into T-Shirt and Product Designs. It should be noted that all prices are set by the artists themselves and they receive any profit from sales of items with their work featured on it. (http://www.neoflux-animator.com/notldr/merch.html ).
There are also gallery/ art space curators who are involved with the project and are currently shipping around prospectus to various gallery spaces in hopes of them hosting shows featuring the film along with works which went into the making of it.

So the release is being approached from many fronts and there will be numerous varied opportunities to see the film once completed.

Fatally Yours: After this, do you have any future projects lined up?

Mike Schneider: Skot of Lost Zombie (lostzombies.com), Pat and Mike of Nation Undead (nationundead.com) and myself have forged a fellowship of sorts (which Geoff of Revenant Magazine (revenantmagazine.com) has dubbed the ‘Axis of the Undead’) to cross facilitate each others projects as all projects are mass collaborative films within the genre (though taking very different approaches.)  Since NOTLD:R will be the first completed, I will also be working with them to facilitate their films.

The next project I will be heading is a similar process of mass collaborative animation/illustration only it will be granting a visual track to old time horror radio shows. Though these classics of yester-year are well written and voiced, they lack the visual stimulation which would help to bring their appeal to a wider audience. Again the audio will be unaltered to remain true to the original however they will also be able to see different artistic interpretations of that radio show presented as animated visual materials.

Unlike the barrage of Hollywood remakes, I don’t want to corrupt or even challenge the original media because it has earned its respect. My goal is simply to use the processes available to extend that media to new audiences. Anyone who would be interested in working with me in this process is encouraged to email me at shenlon@hotmail.com.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Book Review: The Black Garden edited by Christopher Allan Death

The Black Garden , edited by Christopher Allan Death, is a darkly sinister collection of short stories that will surely help cultivate your black thumb! Filled with eight eerie and terrifying tales, The Black Garden will find a way to crawl under your skin with its creeping tendrils of terror!

Roots take hold with The Black Garden’s first spooky story, “The Kennel” by Evan J. Peterson. The reader is led through a menagerie of genetically manipulated specimens by a mad doctor. It’s the future, and people have taken to tinkering with different species’ DNA to create bizarre conglomerations of creatures. This garden of grotesqueries sets the malicious mood for the rest of the anthology…

Next, we have “The Indigenous Flora and Fauna of a Small Tropical Island” by Sam W. Anderson. The reader is quickly ensnared by the engrossing tale, much like the lead character is snared by a rather hungry plant. Though images of Little Shop of Horrors may come to mind, “The Indigenous Flora and Fauna…” manages to stand on its own with its brisk pacing and to-the-point characterization.

Third comes the deliciously heebie-jeebie inducing “Teardrop” by David Dunwoody. This is probably the goriest of the bunch, and features a old and mysterious teardrop-shaped anomaly that’s been worshiped for as long as it’s been around…until a crack forms in its surface and something rather unpleasant begins to spill out…

“The Legless Ones” by Jodi Lee takes the old story of how snakes were created from the Bible and bends it using its own mythology and Old World pagan gods. The atmosphere conjured by the film recalls the misty moors of Ireland and the haunted mounds that dot its landscape.

“To Feed the Little Children” by Sharon M. White is probably my favorite tale of the bunch, showing us that looks can be deceiving and that the seemingly weak and innocent aren’t at all what they appear.

An old evil inhabits Old Flat Mile Road, an evil that won’t stop until blood has been shed on its pot-hole-riddled black top in “Care and Feeding of the Old Flat Mile” by Aaron A. Polson.

A spurned spouse gets revenge on her cheating husband with the help of a technologically advanced GPS system in “Aria” by Allison M. Dickson. “Aria” is probably my second favorite of all the stories. The cheating husband starts off sympathetic, but in the end you really start to think he got what was coming to him. I also loved the whole “technology run amuck” angle the story took and the pacing is excellent, with an acceleration toward a smashing climax!

Finally, the book finishes with the decidedly weird but no less satisfying “Ill Conceived” by Felicity Dowker. A couple in their 40’s have given up all hope of ever having a child of their own, but suddenly discover that they have conceived something…in the strangest of places.

The Black Garden is a wickedly fun collection of macabre mayhem that would make a great addition to any horror fan’s library. It’s a very quick read and clocks in at about 120 pages, but the tales contained within the pages make it all worthwhile.

Order via Corpulent Insanity Press by visiting HERE!
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