Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Resurrected (1992)

Every once in a while, I discover a horror film that has flown under my radar. A film, despite its unique storyline and high production values, has gone unnoticed by not only me, but also most of the horror community. One such film is The Resurrected, a film by Return of the Living Dead director Dan O’Bannon and based on the H.P. Lovecraft story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Released in 1992, The Resurrected is a film I had heard nothing about until I watched it…and what I discovered what a very well-done, very frightening and faithful adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story.

Charles Dexter Ward’s (Chris Sarandon) wife Claire (Jane Sibbett) hires private detective John Marsh (John Terry) to find out just what kind of secret experiments Charles is conducting in an isolated farmhouse once owned by long-dead relative and occultist Joseph Curwen. As Charles becomes more secretive, his demeanor also changes and strange, noxious smells emanate from the farmhouse. Claire and John suspect the worse when victims of gruesome murders are discovered with their flesh stripped from the bone.

The Resurrected is an extremely well-made film, capturing the twists, turns and many colorful characters of the Lovecraft story while adding a few tweaks to carry the story over into modern times. The story is very unique and original and it is very refreshing to see something different in the horror genre. It also benefits from a multi-layered plot that unfolds at an engaging pace, drawing the viewer deeper and deeper into the mystery of Ward’s experiments.

The direction by Dan O’Bannon creates an atmosphere of mounting dread and tension, making every flickering shadow menacing and every dark shape a threat. There is a particular sequence in some dark catacombs under the farmhouse that is dripping with dread. The only light is a flickering flashlight, but that is quickly lost and then the characters must fumble around in the dark with nothing but a few matches to light some severely unpleasant creatures. The creatures themselves are well-made and frightening, though some of the special effects are a little dated. I did appreciate that they used stop-motion animation for some “transformation” and creature sequences instead of CGI, though.

The acting is extremely well-done also, with the standout performance coming from Chris Sarandon as Charles Ward. His transformation from loving husband to raving lunatic is impressive and scary. The other actors all do a fine job as well, with John Terry and Jane Sibbett having great chemistry together and the supporting actors all giving wonderful performances. The characters, even the supporting ones, are all very well developed and really add to the storyline instead of just being there for padding.

The Resurrected is a gem of a horror film that deserves a far wider audience than it has received. It is a genuinely horrifying film and one of the best Lovecraft adaptations. Its depth of plot, breadth of characters and height of terror makes it a must-see for horror fans who take their scares seriously.

Available from Amazon!

Book Review: The Absence by Bill Hussey

After Bill Hussey’s stunning debut novel, Through A Glass, Darkly, I proclaimed Hussey to be “a new master of horror”. So, when I found out he had a new novel, titled The Absence, I was ecstatic to check it out! Through A Glass, Darkly was such an amazing work, I wasn’t sure how Hussey could do better…but now that I’ve read The Absence, I see that his immense talent continues to grow!

The Nightingale family has been beset by tragedy as of late. Eldest son Joe is tormented by a horrific car accident that took his mother’s life and that he blames himself for. Father Richard is a closet alcoholic that doesn’t have a close relationship with his sons and believes his wife was claimed by what he called “the absence” far before her death. This “absence” has haunted him for years. Then there is younger son Bobby, who uses drug as an escape and blames himself for a former friend’s recent suicide.

When Richard discovers that they’ve inherited an old millhouse in the country from his late wife’s distant relative named Muriel Sutton, he decides to take his family there for summer holiday to restore the property and hopefully bring them all closer together.

Little do the Nightingales know that the old millhouse is swathed in dark shadows and has a long, tragic history of murder and death. Muriel Sutton herself murdered her young sister Alice in the millhouse and there has been a rash of disappearances in the vicinity of the house for years. Just what old evil hides in the house’s shadows and why has it lured the Nightingale family to it?

Bill Hussey yet again succeeds in creating a darkly gothic tale that features ghosts, guilt, and a god that hasn’t forgotten those that have forsaken him. Hussey’s prose carries a palatable, building dread that will send shivers down your spine and have you looking over your shoulder long after you’ve closed the book.

The story focuses mostly on the Nightingale family but also takes time to establish Muriel Sutton’s story, along with the millhouse’s dark history with missing persons and murder. The story moves from just-plain-creepy ghost story to a far deeper place of age-old evil. Make no mistake, this is no run-of-the-mill (pardon the pun) ghost story, but a book that offers so much more. If this book doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will!

I very much enjoyed the backstory of the Fens (land where old marshes have dried up due to humans diverting the marsh water elsewhere or building dams) in England and the old superstitions and beliefs of the marshland people. This really added much more depth to the story and made the “villain” that much more terrifying. Hussey’s descriptions of the once-lush marshland as well as the millhouse shrouded in shadow and secrets create an atmosphere of slowly building dread and carry that creepy tone throughout the novel.

The contrast between the hot summer and the cold interior of the millhouse was not lost on me, either. Despite the harshness of the exterior weather, Hussey still manages to create a menacing presence within the interior of the millhouse, a place where even the harshest sun cannot penetrate deep shadows. The unrelentingly bright exterior only manages to magnify the shadowy, unknown interior of the millhouse, making it even more frightening. Even with the hottest summer recorded in England as a backdrop for the story, Hussey still manages to send cold chills up the characters’ and readers’ spines.

Much care is devoted to developing each of the Nightingales, so that the reader knows their hopes, dreams and nightmares. We feel we know them quite well from beginning to end and yet also know how the millhouse will distort and use their secrets and sins. The millhouse itself and its related characters are fascinatingly fearsome, each clouded in mystery and made extremely scary. Little ghostly Alice, sitting in her small rocking chair in the millhouse and dripping black water, is extremely menacing and will make your skin crawl! A few other frightening characters pop up, but I can’t say any more for fear of giving too much away!

I am afraid that no amount of words could ever adequately describe the masterpiece of horror that Hussey has created with The Absence. Once I picked the book up I loathed to put it down again! It wraps you in a shroud of dark dread that you will find hard to escape from. Yet, Hussey’s writing makes me a happy prisoner and I can’t wait to be a slave to his words with his third novel!

Available from Amazon!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paranoia Horror Film Festival Report - March 2009

On a cloudy Saturday I headed to Long Beach for the first ever Paranoia Horror Film Festival! As I reached the harbor, the massive Queen Mary loomed up in front of me, glinting in the sun that had started to break through the clouds.

After walking up the gigantic ship and having a little trouble finding the location of the film fest on the ship, I signed in, got my press pass and began exploring the festival. That day, the films were being shown in the cavernous Grand Salon. The screening room was cavernous, its tall ceiling held up by big columns with a massive movie screen set up on one wall.

First, I saw a block of short films. For the second time I got to see Richard Gale’s fantastic short Criticized, about a filmmaker that takes revenge on a film critic for giving his horror movie a bad review. The second time watching this was just as fun as the first, when I saw it at SiliCon, especially getting to see a new audiences’ reaction to the ocular horror scene involving a paperclip! The short was extremely well-written and directed. It even won best short at Paranoia! I definitely look forward to what Gale does next.


With few exceptions, all of the shorts were enjoyable but a few really stood out. I finally got to finally see Peter Podgursky’s Cheerbleeders and it was every bit as good as I’d hoped. After Criticized, this was my second favorite short. It tells the tale of two goth friends, Penny and Devon, who are outcasts in their jock and cheerleader infested high school. Penny brings a family heirloom to school for a presentation. It is an old, Greek urn depicting the Cult of Dionysus, but its black, goopy contents gets dumped on Devon’s head by one of the jocks. Suddenly, all of the popular girls are head-over-heels for Devon and he quickly becomes the most popular guy in school. Penny realizes that Devon’s newfound popularity has to do with the Cult of Dionysus…can she break the spell before Devon uses his cheerleaders to get revenge on the entire school? This short has amazing production values! Not only that, but the direction is crisp and professional, as is pretty much everything else in the film. The actors, especially Laurel Vail as Penny and Wyatt Fenner as Devon, were absolutely spectacular. I really hope to see them more in the future. I loved the characters and the dialogue was hilarious! The special FX were also pretty amazing, even featuring a decapitated head getting kicked through a field goal! Definitely track this film down and watch it!


Schattenkind, a film by Jesse Eisenhardt, was an excellent ghost story about three friends on a cross-country road trip who stop at a seemingly abandoned shack to spend the night…and discover they aren’t alone. Schattenkind features characters who were developed just enough, a great storyline, plenty of creepy moments and some nice special FX.


Reflections, directed by Barry L. Caldwell, is a more subtle short and deals with a woman who can see the future in the reflections of mirrors. She loathes her “gift,” even though she could help people if she chose to. It has a wonderfully shocking ending that is built up by the tension-filled scenes preceding it. The only thing I didn’t like in the short was the repetitive piano music used throughout. With the exception of that, this was a great film and what the god-awful Mirrors should have strived to be.


Anyone There?, a film by Holger Frick, is your basic psycho-stalking-a-gorgeous-girl story, but luckily shakes things up a bit when the victim decides to strike back at the psycho.


After the short film block, I needed to give my butt a rest so I headed off to explore the ship. It was fun and a little bit creepy exploring all the dark corridors of the Queen Mary! FYI – you can pretty much go anywhere on the Queen Mary for free! If you are ever near Long Beach you should definitely stop and explore the ship! As I wandered, I eventually found Paranoia’s small exhibitor hall, which featured Ken Foree, Tony Todd and Sybil Danning signing autographs as well as a few vendors. There weren’t too many people wandering around, but I think that was due to the fact that the exhibitor hall was so hard to find. Better and larger signage definitely would have helped.

After wandering the ship and grabbing a veggie sandwich at the onboard deli, I headed back to the Grand Salon to check out iMurders. iMurders, directed by Robbie Bryan, has been making the festival rounds but this was my first time seeing it. Many of the cast and crew were in attendance as well, including the director, composer Harry Manfredini and actors Tony Todd and Brooke Lewis . I have to say though, this movie was very disappointing. Though it featured the familiar faces of Tony Todd, William Forsythe and others, it was pretty much a confusing, convoluted mess. There were some good parts and good performances, but nothing could save the slow pace, glaring plot holes and overall boring storyline of the film.


Next, I got to see The Beacon, about a couple who recently lost their young son. They move to the Beacon Apartments where the wife is haunted by a little boy about the same age as her lost son. Is this apparition due to her feelings of guilt over her lost son and all in her head or is there something more sinister in the Beacon Apartments? This was a taut thriller with a really great ending! It reminded me a bit of a mix of 70′s cult film The Sentinel, Roman Polanski’s The Tenant as well as some J-Horror like Dark Water thrown in for good measure. It won the top prize at Paranoia with good reason!

Though I was only able to attend the film festival one day, there were many other fantastic horror films that were screened, including Midnight Movie, Dark Reel, Horror Business, Death in Charge, Viscera and many, many more, plus celebrity guests like Tiffany Shepis, Shannon Lark, Rena Riffel, Lance Henriksen and more!

Paranoia Horror Film Festival was a blast and its setting on the Queen Mary made it all that much more exciting! The only things I might suggest for future years would be better signage so that attendees can find their way around easier and maybe a list of locations on the ship where the film festival will take place on the Paranoia website so people know exactly where they are going. Other than that, Paranoia was a success and I look forward to attending it for many years to come!

Visit Paranoia Fest’s Official Site!

The Puzzle (2008)

The Puzzle is a short 5-minute film from writer/director Davide Melini and is an Italian/Spanish production. Though it is such a short film, it surprisingly accomplishes a lot.

The film begins with a mother (Cachito Noguera) receiving a call from her son (Alessandro Fornari), yet again asking for money. Exasperated and angry, the mother tells him no and hangs up. She then returns to one of her favorite pastimes – completing a puzzle. Yet, as the night progresses and she gets closer to finishing the puzzle, a disturbing image soon appears.

The Puzzle is stylishly shot and for being such a short, to-the-point film it is nonetheless enjoyable. You almost want the story dragged out a little longer just to see what writer/director Melini would do with it. The film utilizes colors and lighting very effectively, showing the mother’s home as very bright and cozy in the beginning of the film, but making it very dark and foreboding in the last few minutes.

The tension is further mounted by the help of a solid score as well as the knowledge that something terrible is going to happen. At the end, something shocking does happen and though you expect something, this doesn’t rob the effectiveness of the act when it actually does happen.

There’s not very much time for character development or a complex story, but the film still succeeds in creating suspense. In the first few moments we do get a feel for the mother’s character and that is all we need for the simple story. The story might be simple, but it nonetheless pulls the viewer in and creates a lot of tension.

Davide Melini has created a fine short film with The Puzzle. If this is any indication of the caliber of film he can make, I look forward to his feature-length projects!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Book Review: Monstrous - 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror edited by Ryan C. Thomas

Remember the golden years of giant monsters? When everything from giant insects, giant people, giant rodents, giant spiders, giant aliens and giant monsters rampaged across the cinematic landscape? While most of these films from the ’50s don’t hold up today (some didn’t even hold up back then!), I think that something ginormous overtaking Earth and usurping humans’ place at the top of the food chain is still a fear ingrained in all of us.

Which is why Permuted Press’ new anthology, Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror works so well! The 20 tales strike fear and awe into the reader and transport them back to a time of drive-in theaters that showed giant monster movies. The anthology recreates this feeling of nostalgia so well, in fact, that while reading your mind acts as a projector and the stories play out like flickering old black and white movies in your head.

Editor Ryan C. Thomas has done a fantastic job compiling the best and most diverse giant creature tales and never once does the book feel repetitive or boring. On the contrary, I could barely put Monstrous down once I started reading! I am also glad to see Permuted Press expanding beyond their tried and true zombie anthologies. It is quite a treat to get something so different from them!

All of the short stories are stellar, and while there aren’t any that I didn’t enjoy, there are a handful that really stood out to me. My favorite would probably have to be The Cove by Gregory L. Norris. It combined elements from crime capers, government conspiracies and cover-ups, treasure hunting and giant monsters into a nail-biting tale. In it, two thieves on the lam head to an isolated stretch of coast that isn’t on any maps…but for very good reason. For what comes out of the ocean is much more terrifying than the goons after them or the government operatives that try to stop their progress.

Other favorites include: A Plague From the Mud by Aaron Polson (editor of anthology Tainted) where giant beetles invade an Oregon logging town, Present Tense, Future Imperfect by D.L. Snell (author of Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines) that deals with time travel, giant insects and saving the world, Attack of the 500 Foot Porn Star by Steven L. Shrewsbury that is just as outrageous as it sounds, Keeping Watch by Nate Kenyon, a creepy story about something evil lurking in the dark depths of a lake, The Long Dark Submission by Paul Stuart about fishermen who remain submerged in the ocean for months looking for a specific fish but instead come face-to-face with a terrifyingly large monstrosity, Extinction by Evan Dicken, a tale set in Medieval times where dragons are pitted against each other and machines for sport, Gone Fishin’ by John R. Platt that finds a farmer damming a river to spite his neighbors but ends up trapping a bloodthirsty monster and Six-Legged Shadows by David Conyers and Brian M. Sammons where explorers return to Earth after living in space for many hundreds of years only to find that everything is giant-sized.

Monstrous is a delight to read, combining the nostalgia of ’50s giant creature movies with modern-day science, storytelling and twists! As you can see, the stories offer much variety and even though I can’t mention them all, every single one was is worthwhile to read. What horror fan can resist giant ants, towering porn stars, huge crabs, hulking felines, gigantic fish and other larger-than-life creepy crawlies?  Monstrous comes highly recommended!

Available from Amazon!

Death in Charge (2008)

In this 15 minute short film from Devi Snively, Death (Marina Benedict) comes calling on a preoccupied mother (Gillian Shure) and her precocious 9-year-old daughter, Whitney (Kylie Chalfa). Mistaking Death for the babysitter, the mother quickly dashes out the door for a night on the town and leaves Death to look after Whitney. The child thinks nothing of Death’s cloak (especially after Death takes of her hood to reveal her pretty face), only calling her “goth.” In the process of the evening, the little girl teaches Death about playing video games, making mac ‘n’ cheese and growing sea monkeys. While Death learns about life, Whitney in turn learns a little about death…but at the end of the evening Death must still perform her grim duty.

Death in Charge is a remarkable short that really shows writer/director Devi Snively’s immense talent and potential. Snively wrote the screenplay in reaction to the Columbine High School shootings to try to find out what motivates kids to kill. The film is produced through The American Film Institute (AFI). Snively was just one of eight chosen to participate in AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women. Seeing Death in Charge makes it easy to see why she was selected!

Snively immediately immerses you in the story, creating a tone that is both comedic and dark. She employs this dark humor throughout the short, but also takes the time to develop the characters, more so than most feature-length films do. As each character is introduced, we get a real sense of who they are and what they stand for. The mother is self-involved, uncaring and doesn’t pay much attention to anyone but herself. Death, of course, is a bit morbid, but also reveals her softer, more innocent side as she wonders at the human world around her. Whitney is a bright, cheeky child that loves violent video games and has a skewed, flippant view towards death. Each character is also written in such a way that all of their interactions with each other feel natural. In the short running time Snively manages to establish a real connection between all the characters as well as having them connect to the audience.

Of course, without such amazing actors the characters would not have been able to establish such strong connections. All of the actors are phenomenal in Death in Charge! Gillian Shure is great in her role as the bitchy mother. Even though she doesn’t get much screen time, she lets us know exactly who her character is in that short time. Kylie Chalfa is not only adorable as 9-year-old Whitney, but also brings a wide range of emotions to her role and makes these believable! The real star is Marina Benedict as Death. She shines as her character wondrously discovers everyday things like mac ‘n’ cheese. Her wide saucer eyes just make her discoveries all that much more sweet and really re-emphasize the innocence and naiveness she brings to Death. Her connection to Whitney is also very touching and cute.

As for the direction, Snively again succeeds. She keeps things interesting with different camera angles and a quickly paced story. She also creates intimacy between Whitney and Death by using close-ups of the two, giving them and the audience more of a feeling of connection. The colors used in the film are bright and eye-catching. The production values are high, and except for a few instances of iffy special FX (just a quick scene with some fire in a wastebasket), everything is amazing.

Death in Charge is a complex, delightful tale that packs a wallop in its short running time. I took a lot away from it, including that everyone can learn a little something about both life AND death. This entertaining and touching film really makes me look forward to what Devi Snively does next!

Visit Death in Charge’s Official Site!

Vist Devi Snively’s Official Site!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror (2009)

Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror is a Canadian documentary that brings together some of the most articulate, intelligent and passionate women in horror to discuss their careers, experiences, hardships and views within the male-dominated horror industry.

Directed by Donna Davies and produced by Kimberlee McTaggart, Pretty Bloody recently aired on Canadian horror/sci-fi channel Space this past February. Davies and McTaggart interviewed many notable female horror figures including actresses Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon and Cerina Vincent, directors Katt Shea (The Rage: Carrie 2) and Mary Lambert (Pet Semetary), screenwriter Karen Walton (Ginger Snaps), journalist and filmmaker Heidi Martinuzzi (Pretty-Scary.net and Wretched), editor Jovanka Vuckovic (Rue Morgue Magazine), authors Tanya Huff (The Blood Books) and Nancy Kilpatrick (Mondo Zombie), academic Isabel Pinedo (Recreational Terror), critic Maitland McDonagh and many, many more involved within the horror business.

Seeing a fresh female perspective on horror and hearing other women’s experiences within the genre was interesting and inspirational. As a woman, it is hard to find like-minded females who love horror as much as I do. To see so many respected and knowledgeable women within one documentary really confirmed that, yes, there are women out there who love horror as much as I do. It also shows that more and more women are getting into the horror genre, whether it is purely from a fan standpoint or pursuing a career in horror.

Also, the scope of careers within the horror genre that were covered, from actors to directors to screenwriters to authors to critics to special FX artists, was expansive and showed just how involved women are within the horror genre. It’s not just a boy’s club! To see so many talented women in all aspects of the genre really made me proud to not only be a woman, but to be part of the horror community!

Don’t get the wrong idea, though…even though I am basically singing this film’s feminist praises, there is enough in this documentary to engage all! Director Donna Davies crafted an entertaining horror documentary that will appeal to many different types of horror fans. Female horror fans will feel a kinship with the women featured in the film, while males will enjoy a new perspective on horror and everyone will like getting a behind-the-scenes sneak peak at what actors, writers, directors, critics and special FX people do on a daily basis.

Sorcery Films really did a wonderful job in releasing this documentary and I sincerely hope they pursue submitting Pretty Bloody to film festivals and conventions so more horror fans can enjoy it! I also hope it is eventually released on DVD because Pretty Bloody is one of the best, most superior horror documentaries and it deserves to be seen by all horror fans!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wicked Business (2009)

The biggest problem indie filmmakers have? They don’t know how to construct a horror film! Sure, they’ve seen enough films to know the main components of a film, but they don’t know how to put those pieces together. When I received Wicked Business, it promised “a mix between The Office, Final Destination and 24.” Problem is, filmmaker Michael Evanichko just doesn’t know how to tell a story and the end result is that Wicked Business is a dull film that bears little to no resemblance to the three titles mentioned above.

The film is about a group of employees at a debt collection agency who all receive a mysterious death curse in the mail. One-by-one, they begin to die in ways that appear accidental. Can the remaining few figure out who put the curse on them and how to break it before it is too late?

First off, the filmmakers’ claim that Wicked Business is similar to The Office, but there is little to no humor within the film. The only resemblance is that the characters work crappy cubicle jobs. And I don’t understand the claimed resemblance to 24 at all except for the unnecessary use of split-screens. The most accurate comparison would be to Final Destination, but even that doesn’t quite add up because unlike in Final Destination, the deaths in Wicked Business aren’t all that memorable or gruesome.

Now that I’ve kvetched about the claims about the film, I want to address the main problem with it…the storyline and how it is told on film. From the drawn-out introduction that does nothing to pique your interest in the story to the repetitive conversations between underdeveloped characters to the lackluster ending, the film is just a snoozefest and could have benefited from some heavy-handed editing. There definitely wasn’t enough of a story here to make a feature-length film and I think it could have been much more effective had it been a short film.

Writer Michael Evanichko, who also directed, failed to create any suspense and the pacing was excruciatingly slow. The characters kept talking about the same things over and over (like asking, “should we go to the police?” about a million times – and even when they should have gone they didn’t) as well as discussing inane things that had nothing to do with moving the story along. Worse still, the film felt more of like a drama and lacked horror and suspense. There were only a few kills (with none of them being especially memorable, though the gore was decent) and the most interesting aspect of the film, the death curse, was only vaguely discussed at the very end of the film.

The direction by Evanichko was pretty much point-and-shoot and its lack of pizazz only added to the dullness of the film. Keep in mind, the direction is competent, but it just lacks charisma that should draw you into the movie. Something interesting that was done in the film was to add split/multi-screens, but I found these unnecessary in the context and even distracting. The split-screens only showed characters doing mundane things instead of using them to create tension or suspense, so they were pretty much wasted.

Speaking of the characters, they lacked definition and weren’t even properly introduced to the audience. In the beginning I could hardly distinguish who the main protagonists were or who I was supposed to be rooting for. As the film progressed, I never really felt a connection with the characters and so I didn’t care what happened to them. The actors all did a competent job with what they had to work with, but they all lacked a spark and none of them really grabbed my attention.

Wicked Business sounded like a cool concept, but without proper storytelling technique it just fails to deliver and instead put me to sleep. The death curse aspect of the film, which I believe was its most interesting idea, is pushed aside until the very end in favor of showing boring characters yakking away. There is no suspense, no tension, no scares and no sympathy for any of the characters. The story just feels like it was constructed sloppily and because of this the 90 minute film feels like it goes on and on and on, something you never want to experience while watching a film.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Devil's Ground (2009)

The Devil’s Ground opens with a blood-splattered college student, Amy (Leah Gibson), running through the woods and trying to get away from a hulking psycho trying to kill her. From there we cut to Carrie (Daryl Hannah), who is driving late at night and following the cross-country route her now-missing boyfriend took to get to Maine. After having an odd encounter with a gas station attendant (who eerily resembles the man that was chasing Amy, played by Twan Holliday) when she stops at a run-down gas station, Carrie gets back on the back roads of Pennsylvania. Suddenly, a traumatized-looking Amy steps out onto the road and begs for Carrie’s help. As Carrie drives them to get help, she asks Amy exactly what happened. In flashbacks we see that Amy was part of a college archeological dig that hoped to find Native American remains in order to stop a gold mining operation. She and four other classmates had come out to the middle of nowhere at the direction of their environmental studies professor and to secure passing grades. Before heading to the dig site they stopped for gas and met a handless gas station attendant named Billy. He tries to warn the group not to go to “the devil’s playground,” but they just brush him off.

After experienced a strong earthquake (or the locals rocking their Winnebago) in the middle of the night, the five students begin their work early the next morning and discover many Native American skeletons. Unfortunately they also find some much more recent remains…and discover they’ve stumbled upon a killer’s dumping ground for bodies. Soon the killer is after them and begins systemically killing them.

Amy got lucky and escaped, but can she and Carrie find help before the killer tracks them down?

Obviously this movie treads some very familiar ground, but for the most part it was engaging and entertaining. With that said, it does have some major flaws that hampered my ability to completely enjoy it and it is no where near perfect. Nonetheless, let’s start with what I did like about The Devil’s Ground.

First of all, I liked how the characters were intelligent and actually had a purpose for being out in the middle of nowhere that didn’t involve sex or drugs. The fact that they were there for scientific study made me respect them much more than if they had just been there to party. Though not all the characters were likable (yes, we get the token asshole, but at least he wasn’t some stupid misogynist), it was much easier to cheer for them because they weren’t the stereotypical young partiers looking for a weekend of debauchery. Also, all of the acting was great and there wasn’t a bad apple in the bunch!

Secondly, the production values and direction were both top notch. Despite a relatively low budget, the film looks amazing. There were some inventive camera angles used and lots of different point of view shots kept things interesting. Director Michael Bafaro really knows how to keep your attention and keep the pace moving along with some great camera tricks. These tricks gave the film a slick, professional feel that is usually sorely lacking in independent productions. The stylish look of the film is reason enough to watch it!

Thirdly, while the basic backwoods slasher story has been done to death, there are several touches to the story that make The Devil’s Ground unique. One is that the killer used not only a machete, but also a gun. This may have taken some fun out of the kills, but it also made the killer much more menacing and much more of a threat. Also, I loved the interplay between the students, Billy and the killer. The dialogue was believable and the characters even discussed any bad decisions they made (like why one of them left his girlfriend to die instead of facing the killer). It just felt so much more well-made than the usual brainless backwoods slasher flicks.

Now, on to the negative aspects of the film, The Devil’s Ground really needed a bit more oomph to set it apart from standard backwoods slashers. I know I just said it was much more intelligent and believable than most horror films (which is true), but nonetheless it still lacked that special something to make it stand out. The ending tries to be different from most slashers, even delving into the supernatural, but it just didn’t work.

The “twist” is predictable and the ending is confusing and unsatisfying, pretty much ruining any momentum and suspense the previous hour and a half had established. After the abrupt ending I was left wondering what could have been had the climax not been botched so badly. Also, the gore was nonexistent. I’m not asking for buckets of blood, but something more than a severed hand and body engulfed in flames was desperately needed. Some cool, cringe-worthy deaths really would have made this film much more memorable.

I’m pretty evenly split on The Devil’s Ground. On the one hand, I was well entertained for most of the film, but on the other hand, the ending was a real let-down and overall the film wasn’t that memorable. If you’ve got about 90 minutes to kill, The Devil’s Ground is good for a rental, but go ahead and stop it at the 65 – 70 minute mark to avoid the abrupt ending!

Available from Amazon!

Book Review: Tainted - Tales of Terror and the Supernatural edited by Aaron Polson

In Tainted: Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, editor Aaron Polson presents a macabre tableau of bone-chilling tales from masters of horror Edgar Allan Poe, E.F. Benson, Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood and H.G. Wells as well as tales from more modern authors who surprisingly hold their own against such literary heavyweights.

In fact, Polson wanted these modern authors to base their spook stories on five classic tales from the authors listed above. Contributors were asked to write a tale inspired by the masters’ classic tales. The only caveat being was that their new stories were to be set in modern times. The result is a timeless tome that is tainted with immense talent.

Instead of just basing their stories on the five classics contained in the anthology, the authors went above and beyond in creating original, unique and spine-tingling tales that stand well on their own. The inspiration is no doubt there, but the originality and deftness of each author’s story is jaw-dropping.

While all of the stories were excellent, I do have a few personal favorites (excluding the five classics in the anthology, of course). My number one favorite would have to be Natalie L. Sin’s “Fish Balls and Mushrooms.” Set in Hong Kong, it tells the tale of two friends who are roommates. One becomes successful and owns several fish ball food carts, while the other one is wallowing in unemployment. The unemployed friend becomes horribly messy, leaving dishes, food, etc. all over his room. One day, the other friend notices some mushrooms growing in the friend’s room…and they soon spread from room to body. This was an exciting read that packed a lot of description and character development into 13 short pages.

Other favorites included “Station 13,” by Camille Alexa, which put a decidedly sci-fi twist on a haunted house-type story, “The Lion Roared,” by Jodi Lee, a creepy, unnerving story about child ghosts and “The Tethering,” by W.D. Prescott, about the search for life-eternal from the pendant of an occultist.

The only tale that I didn’t care too much for was R.S. Pyne’s “Carmine Skeptic,” which I felt didn’t differ enough from its inspiration, H.G. Wells’ “The Red Room.” Other than that, all of the tales contained in this anthology were excellent!

I dare you to read the Tainted alone on a dark night and not get scared out of your wits!

Available from Amazon!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gory Gear: The Brothers Ink

The Brothers Ink is a unique t-shirt company. Not only are their dark, morbid designs wicked cool, but the company is run by the artists and designers themselves! They strive to be the most creator-friendly t-shirt company around, so if an artist’s designs are accepted, the t-shirt is advertised as the artist’s own! Plus, the artists receive royalties on every sale of their shirts!

The Brothers Ink debuted at the San Diego Comic Con with three lines of designs, but they are working on expanding their line as more and more artists contribute their designs. Since the artists are working for more than just a one-time fee, they work harder to create their best work to ensure its success and we get some bad-ass t-shirts outta this deal!

Now, The Brothers Ink was kind enough to send us four of their shirts for review. First is the “Skull Badge” shirt designed by Drunken Apostles. This black tee with a shaded skull surrounded by filigree will make you feel like a true hard-ass. The skull design on this tee makes it really stand out from other skull t-shirts. “Skull Badge” has a very sinister, dark, don’t-mess-with-me vibe that just begs to be worn while riding a Harley or hanging out in a dive bar.

Next is “Undead Boy” by DeadBoy, a stark white stick figure set against a black t-shirt. This stick-figure zombie has come back from death with a taste for flesh…that flesh being his little pet dog. The design is nicely juxtaposed on the left side of the tee, giving it a stylish twist.

DeadBoy also designed the “Drowning” tee, where another stick figure is dying a grisly death underwater. This t-shirt comes in white, with the sketched design in black positioned on the right side of the shirt.

My favorite t-shirt would have to be “Skull Balloon,” as designed by artist Jason Shawn Alexander from his Skull Saw line of clothing! It shows a dark figure of a little boy holding a bleeding balloon that features a leering skull. The effect is unsettling and creeptastic! Also unique to this t-shirt is that it is printed on a tan tee instead of the usual black or white, which makes it stand out even more!

Currently, The Brothers Ink is working on other designs as well as searching for other artists that are interested in contributing designs! If you are an artist interested in working with The Brothers Ink, please visit their website to learn how to submit your designs!

The Brothers Ink is a wonderful t-shirt company that rewards the artists for their creative designs and clothes its fans in fantastically unique tees. They are a t-shirt company everyone should be supporting, especially considering their amazing prices for such high-quality shirts!

Check out all the above-mentioned designs plus more at The Brothers Ink Official Site!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Interview with Filmmaker Maureen "Mo" Whelan

Maureen “Mo” Whelan is a multi-talented and gorgeous woman working in the entertainment industry. She started in animation before moving on to producing, acting and modeling. Right now she is working as a producer for Probell Films and also acted in their new thriller film, Client 14.

We had the opportunity to talk to Mo about her multi-faceted career, her beginnings in the entertainment industry and her love of the horror genre.

Fatally Yours: Tell us about growing up. What drew you to the entertainment industry and when did you decide you wanted to make it your career?

Mo Whelan: My father was Irish (from Ireland) and in the British Army. He was always telling me Irish folk tales and ghost stories. He would tell me about his paranormal experiences while guarding castles in Britain and living in Clonmel, Ireland. In Clonmel, on a small street, there were tales of a headless horseman that rode up and down the street in the midst of the night. He always spoke about The Tower of London where he swore he saw a ghostly women floating over a bridge. He told me about his Army experiences, he served in small conflict wars in Cyprus and Aden. He saw terrible things happen to many of his now deceased friends and counterparts. This inspired me to get into storytelling and one day write a script based around his life.

In addition to this, I’ve always been a creative person. I’ve been drawing, and writing stories since I was a child. As a kid I use to set up scenes with toys, cardboard boxes and act out events. I just kind of lived in my own little world. I loved watching cartoons and the idea that a person could create an extravagant idea on paper and transfer it to a television set for everyone to view was fascinating to me. As a teenager my interests were drawn towards Sci-Fi, horror and war movies. Now you could take extravagant ideas and mix them with live action. I just found the concept exciting and somehow understood how animation /visual effects were created and the basics of story development. It wasn’t until I reached my teenage years that I really wanted to take my creativity to a next level and make it my career. I took my first 3D computer animation class at the age of 17 and started working at a game studio soon after.

Fatally Yours: How did you get your start in the entertainment industry? When and why did you decide you wanted to try many different occupations within the industry? 

Mo Whelan: I moved to Los Angeles as a teenager with a couple of friends, to pursue my dreams of working in animation and the film industry. My family was not wealthy, so I had no financial support or career guidance. I was determined to accomplish my goals, so I began educating myself on film production. At the time I was working at Chief Auto Parts and meet a guy that worked at a game studio. I told him of my interest in animation and he introduced me to the owner of the studio. I ended up interning at the company for a couple of years. During that time, I also came across a catalogue for UCLA Extensions and registered for computer effects course. There I meet my good friend Jody who is a visual effects expert. He also mentored me and eventually introduced me to a person at South Park and I ended up working on South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The industry is always changing, especially the technology. So, a person has to keep up to date on everything that happens in the production process of a film. This is why my skill set is so diverse. I’ve had to learn many areas of production to survive in the entertainment industry. Producing just seemed like the natural next step to my career after years of working in animation, visual effects, DVD replication, marketing, production and post-production. Producing gives me the opportunity to utilize the skill set, along with all my industry contacts and create a film of my interest.

Fatally Yours: You’re a multi-faceted professional that works in producing, acting, writing, modeling and more! Which of these did you find yourself drawn to the most? How did your interest in pursuing other careers develop?

Mo Whelan: I’m actually drawn to story-telling/writing and traditional art. Again, this goes back to my childhood experiences and I think its part of my Irish heritage. Irish people like to talk and tell stories, especially to scare people. Plus, stories help people escape from their everyday life and experience something different that they would come across in a daily routine.

I find all areas of production interesting and am constantly trying to keep educated on the latest technology and media trends. I am fortunate that I am able to grasp the technology side of media production and can adapt in a work environment. Others notice my ability to do so and I am often asked to help out on various types of projects in all areas of production which includes animation, internet, DVD, public relations, and other types of media development. I will work on a project if I find it interesting and my knowledge can be utilized efficiently. My friends find me photogenic and like shooting me, so if they ask me to model for them I will.

Fatally Yours: Out of all the different facets of your career, do you have a favorite? 

Mo Whelan: My favorite time in my career was 2000-2003. I was an operations manager for a visual effects and animation training center called DHIMA, Digital Hollywood Institute of Media Arts. The entertainment industry was still striving during my first year there. Plus, not too many schools were training the profession. We had a lot of students come through the school, and many of them went onto successful careers. It was fun to watch the students complete their first student film with excitement and have a drive to succeed. I enjoy watching and helping others achieve their goals. Hearing from one and knowing that you personally helped them achieve their dreams is far more valuable than money or a media spotlight.

Fatally Yours: What has been your favorite/most memorable assignment/role/article/shoot/etc. that you’ve done in your career? 

Mo Whelan: The last scene my crew and I at Probell Films shot for Client 14 was the most memorable shoot. I cast my niece Kathy Carty, to be in the film. I guess you can say she’s a Scream Queen in training. We shot the scene at her high school, The High Desert Academy of Applied Arts and Sciences.  Patrick O’Bell, the writer/director of Client 14, Joseph Garcia, a co-producer, and I also gave a short lecture to the film class. It was a small class but the kids really appreciated it and enjoyed the knowledge we shared with them. The staff also appreciated our time and use of the facility. We gave the school an opportunity to experience a real production.

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us more about Client 14 and about your role in it? 

Mo Whelan: Client 14 is a 1980′s style slasher film, with a psychological twist. The actual plot is about a group of beautiful escorts who brutally murdered in a local city. Detectives are baffled by the lack of physical evidence or motive of the unseen Killer. The events soon traumatize a Private Investigator as he is unable to protect the escorts he befriends.

I’m a co-star in the film. My characters name is “Crystal” and I play a free spirited, kind of flighty escort whose friends are killed off.

Fatally Yours: Does Probell Films have any other horror/thriller movies in the works after Client 14

Mo Whelan: Yes, we have two films slated for release at the end of 2010 and more to follow in the next few years.  We also have two horror webisodes in development and are planning to release them by mid 2009. Our 5 year business plan also branches in other areas of media development.

The next feature film lineup is as follows:

Forgotten Souls – Based in New Orleans, an ex convict finds an old friend working in the cotton fields.  The only problem is that his friend died several years ago.

The Drifter – A crooked undercover narcotics cop almost loses his life in a drug bust gone wrong.  The world becomes a dark unrelenting nightmare as he struggles to find who set him up and his place in the world.

Fatally Yours: You’ve also worked for Girls and Corpses Magazine. What kind of articles have you written there and which was your favorite? 

Mo Whelan: I love Girls and Corpses Magazine. Robert Rhine, the founder and publisher, has been very supportive of my writing skills. He discovered my writing through my blogs and likes my writing technique. I am very appreciative of Robert giving me the opportunity to write for his magazine.

I’ve written a couple of articles for the magazine.  The first is “I’m Going to Get My Samosex! Hot 3D Sex in the Cyber World.”  It was a risky review of the website Samosex.com. The recent article I wrote is “Trannywood.”  It was about some of the local transsexuals that wonder the streets in my Hollywood neighborhood. This was my favorite article because I stayed up on Saturday night and hung out with a pimp and a transsexual prostitute and listened to their stories and watched the girls worked the streets.

I’m planning on writing more articles for the magazine; I just haven’t had the time to recently.  When I do it will be something that’s a little different from the daily newspaper article.

Fatally Yours: What drew you to the horror-side of the entertainment business? Have you always been a horror fan? 

Mo Whelan: Yes, I have always been a horror fan. Again this goes back to my memories of my father telling me folk tales, ghost stories, and war stories. He was also a fan of horror movies, sci-fi movies and war movies. I use to stay up at night with my sister and him watching them. My mother would fall asleep. I was always fascinated by how the effects were created, loved being scared and scaring people. Now I can scare a large audience on the big screen instead of just sneaking up behind one person and jumping at them just to scare them.

Fatally Yours: Is there any other career you find yourself drawn to or at least want to try? Like directing, perhaps?

Mo Whelan: I’ve been fortunate enough that I have been able to accomplish all my dreams and goals I’ve had since I was a child. I’m pretty content with my life and career.  I could maybe co-direct one day. I wouldn’t mind traveling and filming in less fortunate areas, to allow people who are curious about the art of filmmaking to experience it in person.

Fatally Yours: Having had experience both in front of and behind the camera, what are some of the pressures that you and other women in the entertainment industry face?

Mo Whelan: As a woman, working in the technology side of production for years, I’ve had to always keep up to par on the latest technology and trends in the film business.  I’ve always had to prove my knowledge and speak intelligently towards my male counter parts to gain their respect as a female techy. I’ve had many supportive film industry people in my life and wonderful mentors. So, luckily I haven’t run into too many bad seeds during my career history.

Most female actresses and models have the pressure of appearance on film. Today’s media has focused mainly on super-skinny, over-processed women as being beautiful.  When in reality these women are just characters created to draw attention to them. The classic icon never was super skinny, sporting an orange tan and over-process yellow blond hair with extensions. They were just natural beauties. I’m comfortable with who I am, and how I look. Everyone has their own ideal person they’re attracted to and I know not everyone is going to be attracted to me. Honestly, I’d rather be remembered for my knowledge, talent and personality rather than if I have tight abs and big boobs.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give those that want to enter into the entertainment business? 

Mo Whelan: My advice to others is to keep following your dreams, don’t give up and don’t get distracted. Never feel like you’re stuck in a situation. You can always get out of a situation you don’t want to be in. Don’t listen to others negativity. You must take responsibility for your own life and take action to achieve your goals. I’ve had to work hard to accomplish my career goals; 13 years later I’m producing my first film and answering interview questions for the media. Stay focused on what you want and you will also achieve your goals.

Fatally Yours: What projects do you have lined up next?

Mo Whelan: My next projects are to focus on the webisodes, the next two Probell feature films, to finish writing my own feature length script, do some curriculum advising for a school, shoot with a few more photographers and I’m having my first traditional art exhibit at a local underground Goth club in March 2009.

I will also still be acquiring short animated films for AWNtv.com. I also am currently in charge of Film Licensing and Acquisitions for AWNtv.com. So, for my animation filmmaker clients, I haven’t forgotten you. I will still be at AWNtv to help you out with your needs.

Fatally Yours: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Mo! Best of luck to you in the future! 

Mo Whelan: Thank you and the Fatally Yours staff for this amazing opportunity to share my life with you and your readers. I really appreciate your time and your interest.  Have a wonderful day.

Visit Probell Films’ Official Site!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...