Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kidnapped (aka Secuestrados) (2011)

Kidnapped (aka Secuestrados) is a brutal, nihilistic home invasion tale from Spain, directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas. Going in, I didn’t know much about the film and had only heard whisperings about its brutality and shock value. It certainly lived up to what little I had heard about it in regards to its violent atmosphere, but the story left a little to be desired as we’ve seen it all before.

A family consisting of father Jaime (Fernando Cayo), mother Marta (Ana Wagener) and teenage daughter Isa (Manuela Vellés) has just moved into their beautiful new home. Their first night there, three masked intruders burst in and take them all hostage. Jaime is taken by the leader of the group to withdraw cash from ATMs in the nearby city, while Marta and Isa are terrorized by the two remaining goons. The family soon decides to fight back, with dire consequences.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an extremely well-made movie that has oodles of tension, but for one reason or another I’m on the fence with this one. I didn’t hate it and I didn’t love it, I’m just kind of ambivalent towards it. If I had to just use one word to sum up my thoughts on the film, it would be “meh”.

Though the direction, cinematography and acting were all decent, the story is just lacking. It’s the same storyline I’ve seen so many times that I feel like I’ve become desensitized to it. Are horrific acts perpetrated on the victims? Yes. Is it brutal? Yes. Do the victims turn the tables and fight back? Yes. It was just all so familiar that I just zoned out a bit watching this. The only surprise came with the nihilist ending, which may be unsatisfying for some viewers. I, however, enjoyed the ending as it was pretty much the only thing that went against the grain of the standard “home invasion” horror film.

Besides the story that could have used a bit more creativity, sometimes the pacing was off as well. I enjoyed how the film kicked things off right away (after gratefully interrupting an annoying family squabble), but when the villain takes the father out to withdraw money from ATMs (really? all they wanted was money?) the action stagnates a bit. I heard a rumor that the film was filmed in just 12 shots. However, I cannot confirm or deny this since I learned of it after watching the film. This would explain some of the scenes that seem to drag on and on, as well as some very long shots that also draw out the pacing.

However, when the action does come on screen, it definitely delivers. Which ultimately led to another problem with the film…the pacing and tone are never consistent and while this jarring difference between quiet, intimate moments and loud, action sequences kept drawing me back into the film, it never felt like it quite clicked. Most of the time it felt like two different films – one is a drama about a dysfunctional family and the other is a hyperviolent look at a home invasion gone wrong. I guess this goes back to the pacing issues, but, again, the film didn’t seem to flow correctly.

Additionally, the film keeps getting more and more violent as it progresses, which may ultimately please some horror fans on just how brutal the action gets. The double-whammy of the ending actually made me mutter “whoa”, but I don’t think it made up for the film’s other issues. Still, I could go both ways on the film. I certainly don’t loathe it, but I probably won’t watch it again and after a few months I’ll probably forget I saw it. Again, meh.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Taking its inspiration from backwoods horror films where kids go into the woods, kids get killed by insane/cannibalistic/territorial and/or just plain vengeful hicks, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a horror comedy that’s a rip-roaring good time! To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting much with this spoof, but was pleasantly surprised by just how laugh-out-loud funny it was! And it wasn’t just me…the whole room kept erupting into laughter right along with me!

The film is about West Virginian hillbillies Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) who head to their vacation home, a dilapidated cabin deep in the woods. Heading to the same area is a group of college co-eds for a weekend of partying. However, things go askew for both groups after a series of accidents and miscommunications lead the kids to mistake Tucker and Dale for a pair of backwoods killers.

This was such a raucous comedy, I really can’t believe it hasn’t been picked up for distribution yet! I’m not usually one for dumbed-down spoofs, but this one had a certain charm, originality and tons of hilarious moments. Plus, it wasn’t dumbed-down at all, but actually funny and smart.

Writers Morgan Jurgenson and Eli Craig (who also directed) certainly did a fine job of writing a hilarious script that keeps its tongue firmly in cheek without pandering to the audience. One of my favorite scenes involved Tucker taking a chainsaw to an old log, only to hit an angry hornet’s nest inside. As he flails around with his chainsaw (looking very much like Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre), he spooks the college kids.

I don’t think the film could have been as great without the wonderful performances from Alan Tudyk (of Firefly fame) and Tyler Labine (from the awesome but short-lived Reaper series). They were absolutely hysterical as the clueless but well-meaning rednecks. The rest of the cast did a fine job as well, but Tudyk and Labine really stood out! Their timing and how they played off one another was just comedic perfection!

Besides the great story and acting, I was surprised at how bloody the overall film is – we get gruesome impalements, a body put through the wood-chipper, brains splattered over a windshield and more! The kills are so over-the-top they can become a little ridiculous, but again, the tone of the film saves this from ever becoming an issue.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a delightful gem of a movie which unfortunately hasn’t been released yet. This is really a pity, because this is one of the most fun films I’ve seen all year! If you get a chance to see Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, definitely do it as any self-respecting horror fan will no doubt have a grand ol’ time with this movie!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Boogeyman (2010)

The Boogeyman is an Irish short film adaptation of Stephen King’s tale. Directed by Gerard Lough, the film opens with bereaved father Andrew (Simon Fogarty) explaining his story to a psychiatrist and saying how he is responsible for his three children’s deaths at the hands of “the boogeyman”. As Andrew recounts his tale, we see what unfolded through flashbacks.

To be honest, I haven’t read King’s story, so I can’t account for how faithful Lough’s adaptation is. Unfortunately, I found this to be a fairly dull short that lacks action, likable characters and tension.

The first problem was with the character of Andrew. Though King’s characters are usually rough around the edges, they are ultimately likable in that “everyman” way. However, Andrew comes off as inherently unlikable, complaining about his wife and expressing how he never really wanted kids. This is quite a shaky way to start a story, especially since it takes a while for Andrew to (sort-of) redeem himself. By the time he actually does express some love for his family, it was already too late and I was already anti-Andrew and couldn’t care less what happened to him.

I also thought it odd he wasn’t suspected more by the police in his children’s deaths. Perhaps if more people suspected him it would have upped the ante and made him a more sympathetic character, but by his own admission he is only telling the story to the psychiatrist to get it off his chest. I think the intention of the filmmaker was to create tension in the viewer, making them wonder if Andrew had really killed his children instead of the boogeyman. However, this intention fell flat and I really never felt the tension or urgency to find out who the true murderer was.

The story unfolded at a languid pace as well, and I just didn’t feel any sort of suspense while watching it. It would have helped if more had been shown of the flashbacks, but instead the story focused more on showing Andrew talking to the psychiatrist. I did read that the production had issues finding child actors for the roles due to the subject matter, but I think the story could have been shot around those problems.

As for the direction, it was okay…nothing too special except for a lot of blue and grey muted colors on display. The direction and editing were fairly plain, and since the story was a bit slow it could have used a little more punch.

Another problem was the silly boogeyman costume design, which was anything but scary. Instead, it just looked like a dude wearing a cheap, plastic Halloween mask. I wish the boogeyman character had been shown less, because a shadow on a wall or eyes peering from a closet would have been much more effective and creepy rather than seeing that ridiculous costume.

The Boogeyman is a slow-paced short that unfortunately couldn’t keep my attention. It lacks tension, likable characters and any sort of scares.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Desdemona 6 (2011)

Rev your engines, kiddos, because this short film from director Johnny Priest will blow your lid off. I’m talking about the low-budget Desdemona 6, which takes its inspiration from 70s hot-rod flicks while throwing in some terrifying twists that land it squarely in horror territory. While the film’s gritty grindhouse look gives the film a dirty, scratched up look, it’s definitely the story of the mysterious driver and his pursuit of the couple that kept my eyes glued to the screen for its short 10 minute run-time.

The film is about a couple, Travis (Jason Mac) and Chrissie (Katie Bearden), on the road one night. Travis is driving Chrissie to work in his “baby”, a sleek hot-rod, when they encounter a menacing muscle car that taunts the hot-headed Travis into a drag race. After the young couple becomes stranded on a dark country road six miles outside the town of Desdemona, they find themselves in the fight of their lives while being relentlessly pursued by the demonic car and its mysterious driver (Bruce Rowland).

At different points in the film I was reminded of Christine, Jeepers Creepers and Death Proof, Tarantino’s homage to all grindhouse-era hot-rod flicks. However, the film never felt derivative and continued to keep things fresh and interesting throughout. It featured several surprises that made me jump in my seat and the direction by Johnny Priest was flawless.

I’ve already mentioned how Priest dirtied up the film stock to make it look grindhouse authentic, but he also managed to set the entire film at night. You might think nothing of this, but filmmakers on a limited budget usually don’t have the best track record with night shoots, as without the proper equipment most of the action is lost to the dark. I’ve seen plenty of low-budget films that were ruined just because you couldn’t SEE anything happening on screen if it was set at night. However, Priest overcame this obstacle and the entire short is crystal clear, with the dark night giving it just the right amount of menace without obscuring any of the real action.

The special FX were also very impressive, especially considering the film’s small budget. There is one startling scene (I’m saying as little as I can so I don’t give anything away) that comes out of nowhere and definitely gave me quite a start! It looks pretty dang perfect on-screen, too. And though the “mysterious driver” is (wisely) kept in the shadows, when we do see his scarred up face it is downright chilling! Plus, the driver’s car has quite a personality of its own and becomes like another character in the film.

Speaking of characters, I was also impressed by the performances in the film. Katie Bearden (Chrissie) and Jason Mac (Travis) easily convinced me they were a bickering couple and Bruce Rowland gave a menacing performance as the driver. And, of course, the beautiful hot-rods had personalities all their own, which you don’t need to be a gearhead to appreciate!

I never know what to expect when sitting down to watch an independent film, but I was absolutely stunned at how much fun I had watching Desdemona 6! Desdemona 6 is an impressive short that lovingly replicates the grindhouse feel while jolting the viewer with a terrifying ride down a highway to hell. For the thrill ride of your life, hop into Desdemona 6!

For more information, including upcoming screenings, check out the official site and Facebook page!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Music Review: God Module – Rituals EP

God Module is quickly becoming one of the most exciting bands in the EBM/industrial world, with their “spooky dance music” and commanding stage performances winning fans over world-wide. They’ve been around since 1999 and have subsequently released a total of eight albums and EP’s, but it seems that they are just getting bigger and better!

God Module is releasing their latest EP, Rituals, August 9th, 2011 and their next full-length album, Séance, in September 2011. I am a huge fan of God Module and have eagerly anticipated their new album since last year’s release, The Magic in My Heart is Dead.

Rituals is a sneak peek as to what fans have in store with Séance, and it doesn’t disappoint! It features the single “Rituals”, two additional new songs, “Remember” and “Devil’s Night” as well as remixes of the title track by Modulate, White Ring, iVardensphere and Mordacious.

As soon as the title track kicks in with a heavy beat and God Module’s recognizable dark lyrics, it was all I could do but get up and dance! “Rituals” is a solid track that shows the musical progression of the band and highlights their tight dance beats, harsh lyrics and clever horror-themed samples. This is one song that will get you up out of your grave for a cemetery danse macabre!

Their other two new songs, “Remember” and “Devil’s Night”, showcase their varied style. “Remember” is a more low-key affair featuring lyrics from new band member Clint Carney (System Syn) and crunching guitars from Adam Vex (Imperative Reaction). “Devil’s Night” will certainly become another God Module anthem with lyrics like “let’s dance like we’re dead” and features Courtney Bangert’s haunting backing vocals alongside Jasyn Bangert’s harsher ones.

Rituals is an infectious EP that will get your blood pumping and definitely has me excited for September’s Séance. Fans will no doubt revel in God Module’s morbidly decadent lyrics and harsh EBM beats.

Pre-order Rituals on Metropolis Records!


01. Rituals
02. Rituals (Distorted Memory Mix)
03. Devils Night (Modulate B-Ket Mix)
04. Rituals (White Ring Mix)
05. Rituals (God Mod Clubbed To Death Mix)
06. Remember (God Mod Vexed Mix)
07. Rituals (iVardensphere Mix)
08. Rituals (Mordacious Mix)

Check out our interview with God Module HERE!

Visit God Module's Official Site and Facebook page!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sole Survivor (1983)

Sole Survivor is a little-known and underappreciated horror film that had obvious influence on the Final Destination series. When I watched it a few days ago, I was surprised that I hadn’t given it a look sooner, as it was a solid, entertaining film.

Denise (Anita Skinner) is the sole survivor of a deadly plan crash. The crash and Denise’s survival was predicted by a washed-up actress named Karla (Caren Larkey) that Denise is working with on a commercial. After the crash, Karla seems to want to warn Denise of some other imminent threat and her doctor warns her of “survivor’s guilt”, where Denise may experience intense depression and guilt over her survival. Soon, strange things start to occur…Denise begins seeing menacing people and is involved in several near-death accidents. Turns out that Death is after Denise and is sending the recently deceased to try to finish her off…

Sole Survivor is a well-made film that manages to maintain a sense of tension throughout its entire running time. It also has some pretty haunting images, especially one where we see Karla’s vision of Denise after surviving the plane crash. The camera pans over the mangled, lifeless bodies of the crash victims and comes to rest on Denise, still strapped in her airplane seat with a shocked look on her face. I also thought the creepy people that come after Denise were very effective, with their slack, expressionless faces and zombie-like movements.

The story combines psychological terrors with real-life threats in a very effective manner. Its story’s twists kept my eyes glued to the screen for the entire running time and I loved the downbeat ending and creepy last scene. Sole Survivor is an intriguing and entertaining film that you should definitely check out!

Available on Amazon!

Book Review: DJ Zom-B and the Ungrateful Dead by Vinnie Penn

DJ Zom-B is a fast-paced debut zombie novel from author Vinnie Penn, who is the host of radio talk show The Vinnie Penn Project as well as an online contributing writer to MSN, Maxim and Cracked. As the book starts, our lead character, Luke Zombulli, better known to the world as abrasive radio personality DJ Zom-B, wakes up to the hellish world of a zombie apocalypse. After holing up in his apartment for a few days, he decides to venture out to the local radio station in hopes of broadcasting and searching for other survivors. Once there he meets other survivors but learns that humans are just as deadly, and much more twisted, than the zombies roaming the streets.

DJ Zom-B is a fun and thrilling book from Penn, though it is a little short in length at 171 pages. Penn, who has experience in the broadcasting industry, delivers quirky observations and quick witted comments through smart-ass (but inherently likable) DJ Zom-B. The zombie action isn’t half bad either, but the real terror doesn’t start until the villains of the book, some unlawful lawmen, arrive to round up both survivors and zombies. They plan on using the zombies, as well as the survivors, for their own personal, errrr, “entertainment”. Yup, it’s just as bad as it sounds!

The book also features a pop princess, her lovelorn deejay, a sound engineer that may or may not be turning into a zombie and several other characters that look to DJ Zom-B for leadership. Some of the characters are more developed than others (for good reason, since some characters quickly become zombie snacks), but we get a good feel for those in for the long haul.

I originally thought that the book would stick to a storyline like the film Pontypool (review) or even Dead Air (review), but the book doesn’t take place mainly in a DJ booth, but rather all over the state of Connecticut as the survivors try to escape the zombie hordes and unscrupulous lawmen. This was a relief for me, because I didn’t want to read a re-hash of these fine films. I also thought the despicable acts by the lawmen were far more horrifying than the gut-munching the zombies were doing, and was glad that Penn shifted his gaze a bit from the terror of the zombies to the callousness of humans.

While DJ Zom-B is a fun zombie novel, I thought it would have perhaps worked a bit better had it been condensed into a short story instead. There are several points in the book that just drag on a bit too much and I feel the story could have been more efficiently streamlined. Nonetheless, DJ Zom-B was an enjoyable read and is recommended for fans of zombie (and human) mayhem.

Available on Amazon!

Magazine Review: Diabolique Issue 4

Do you remember the first time you picked up a horror magazine? Perhaps it was Famous Monsters in Filmland or Fangoria, but whatever magazine it was, you no doubt remember the exhilarating rush of flipping through the lurid pages and reading articles on your favorite horror icons.

I don’t know about you, but it has been a long time since I have felt that excitement about a horror magazine. Don’t get me wrong, I pretty much snap up any horror magazine I see on the newsstand, be it Rue Morgue or HorrorHound, but it has been a while since something has come around and really swept me off my feet.

Until, now, that is…

Diabolique is a gorgeous new full color magazine that takes a scholarly perspective of the genre of Gothic horror in film, literature and art from around the world. Diabolique is published bi-monthly and presents timely articles and reviews on both new and old classics. It stands apart from other horror magazines with its cerebral approach to our much-beloved genre and its retrospectives on classic horror.

I received Issue 4 for review, which contains articles on the late, great director Jean Rollin, Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, Hammer Films’ upcoming release Wakewood, the new wave of French horror, an insightful article on the new face of horror distribution and more. All the articles are thoughtfully written, and I especially enjoyed Nigel Wingrove’s “Dreams of Dead Girls & Blind Vampires”, a retrospective on visionary, but often underappreciated, French horror director Jean Rollin (who sadly passed away this past December) and “Black Sunday” by Robyn Talbot, an article on Mario Bava’s breakthrough classic of the same name (and one of my personal favorite films!).

The articles are complemented by beautiful photos, including many rare prints of stills and film posters. As an added bonus, many of these are available for purchase on Diabolique’s site,, which also features web exclusives to subscribers!

I was definitely impressed by the high quality of both the articles and overall aesthetic of this wonderful new magazine. When I first started flipping through its pages, a feeling of giddiness swept through me that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time when reading a horror publication. Diabolique definitely brings back the feeling of joy and awe you experienced when you cracked open your first horror magazine.

Issues of Diabolique are available in both print and digital editions on as well as in many fine bookstores (though we have been told these always sell out, so grab yours before it’s too late!). Issue 5 should be out soon, so keep your eyes peeled for this fabulous and highly recommended horror magazine that is truly the cream of the crop!

For more info and subscription information, visit Horror Unlimited!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Damn Your Eyes (2009)

Damn Your Eyes is a short film that emulates the gritty stylishness of spaghetti Westerns by faithfully recreating the feel of the classic Italian-lensed Westerns, complete with a mysterious desperado out for revenge, a distinct score, old-school shootouts and plenty of bloodshed.
Sam (Jakob Von Eichel), a mysterious stranger, arrives in town to exact revenge on the men who wronged him when he was only a child. He encounters Louisa (Marisa Costa), a prostitute who dreams of a better life. Meanwhile, Dennis (Ray Reynolds), the town’s lawman, is familiar with Sam’s past and makes it his personal duty to stop him before the violence escalates.

Writer/director David Guglielmo has created a stunning short film with Damn Your Eyes. While not strictly horror, Damn Your Eyes has that outlaw aesthetic and plenty of violence that will no doubt attract horror fans. The visuals are impressive, creating a faithful-looking Wild West even on the film’s tight budget (the short was supposedly filmed for just $5,000), and the direction is sharp and focused, really engaging the viewer. While the film has limited locations (mainly a saloon and two different houses), it never feels like this negatively impacts the film. Instead, it shows how the film overcame its budgetary limitations while still delivering a visually arresting story.

While the visuals used really capture the feel of a spaghetti Western, I also must mention the excellent use of music throughout that gave the film a haunting, lonesome quality so associated with Westerns. The score really gave the film that extra polish and feel of completion.

As for the acting, it was top-notch. I really loved Jakob Von Eichel as the mysterious sharp-shooter Sam. Equally impressive was Marisa Costa as saloon prostitute Louisa, exuding equal parts vulnerability and tough-as-nails attitude.

I loved the authentic feel of the film and the vivid world it created. With dashes of grindhouse grit, Western bravado, gallows humor and even a few gruesome bits sprinkled throughout, not to mention the engaging story that unfolds on-screen, Damn Your Eyes was an absolute joy to watch. My only complaint is that it wasn’t long enough. However, the short has been receiving rave reviews, and hopefully this will allow filmmaker Guglielmo to push forward with a sequel or perhaps even a full-length feature.

I certainly hope to see more of writer/director David Guglielmo, because this is one of the best (and one of my favorite) short films I've seen!!

For more info (and to watch this amazing short yourself), please visit the short film's official site!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Monomaniacal (2011)

Monomaniacal is a short film from writer/director Michael Sharpe. The description from the film’s Vimeo page (“A young woman flees for her life after escaping a killer's wrath”) didn’t tell me too much, so I just decided to click play and hope for the best.

The film starts with a typical scene of a girl being tortured by a faceless killer (Tim Ross) in a dark, dank basement. You can be certain that plenty of screaming and bloodletting ensues. Once the killer leaves his victim alone, she notices other victims strewn about the room and, surprisingly, one is still (barely) alive. The two scheme a way out and soon the victim’s newest victim, whose name is Sam (played by Katie Bearden), tries to help the injured victim Jess (Brittany Bass). However, the killer comes back and only Sam escapes. Then she is on a run for her life through the woods as the killer pursues her. Will Sam survive the horrors of the night and can she overcome the new terrors daylight reveals?

Monomaniacal doesn’t tread any new ground in the horror genre, but it is an enjoyable short with several strong performances. Katie Bearden gives a fierce performance as the victim who decides to fight back. Her spunk, strength and perseverance reminded me a lot of Eliza Dushku’s performances. Even though Brittany Bass didn’t have that big of a part, you could tell she put her all into the performance. Her portrayal of her character is so realistic you can nearly feel her pain and suffering! Lastly, Catherine Trail gives a shocking performance as a character called simply the “Woman”. While not completely unexpected, she spews some vitriol that is quite startling coming from her prim appearance.

While the short has a predictable story, at least Sharpe’s direction is, well, sharp. Scenes are well lit, the viewer is engaged by varied camera angles and he definitely knows how to capture the action. His story isn’t that original, but at least he knows how to tell a story in an interesting manner.

I didn’t expect much from this short after its torture porn-esque opening, but was pleasantly surprised by Michael Sharpe’s strong direction and the impressive performances from the cast. If you get a chance to check out Monomaniacal, do so!

For more information on the film, including upcoming screenings, check out its Facebook page!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

I’ll be honest with you; I had absolutely no interest in seeing this remake. While there is no doubt that the original is a very brutal and notorious affair (so notorious, in fact, that I had avoided watching it until late last year), I had no desire to see it hashed out in a slick, Hollywood version. I’m not a huge fan of the original to begin with (no matter what anyone says it still feels misogynistic to me and I hate they didn’t spend nearly as much time on the revenge as they did the rape), so I was in no rush whatsoever to check out this remake.

Wow, sometimes I love it when I’m wrong…

If you are not familiar, the film is about a young author named Jennifer who heads out to an isolated cabin in hopes that the peace and quiet will inspire her writing. On the way there she meets some odd characters at the local gas station. These good ol’ boys give her a hard time, but she drives away thinking nothing of it. As the next few days pass and she settles in to her new location, she begins hearing strange noises at night. She doesn’t think too much of them, but one night she gets a surprise visit from the three overgrown boys from the gas station and their mentally challenged friend. They degrade and humiliate her, all while video-taping, but she manages to escape and runs into the sheriff in the woods. She tells him her story and they head back to the cabin to investigate…but the worst is yet to come. Soon, Jennifer finds herself brutalized, violated and violently gang-raped. The men leave her for dead, but soon she seeks her righteous retribution…

As you can see, this film added several new touches to the revenge story. It focuses not just on the assault and the events leading up to it, but also on the aftermath as the rapists try to cover their tracks of the crime. I liked how the latter part of the film showed us what went on with the rapists after they assumed Jennifer was dead and how events eventually led up to Jennifer’s revenge.

While this film does not skimp on the brutality of the rape, I felt it went a bit further than the original in making us feel for Jennifer. The scenes where they humiliate and belittle her in the cabin were just as hard to watch as the rape scenes were, and really got my blood boiling. By the time the guys had finished their nasty business (which is quite and endurance test), I was about ready to reach through the screen myself and attack them myself. Their characters are so vile that you just can’t help but wish the worst to befall them.

The rape scenes themselves will make your stomach churn and actress Sarah Butler, who played Jennifer, must be given mad props for so realistically portraying the victim. I also must commend the actors who played her attackers, because I doubt any of these fellas will be getting a date anytime soon!

By the time of the revenge scenes, I was just itchin’ for the villains to get their due (and hoping I wouldn’t be shortchanged like in the original). I was hoping for vast suffering for all of them, and boy, did the film deliver! I won’t give anything away, but the dudes definitely get their due!

Finally, a remake that gets it right! I Spit on Your Grave pays homage to the original while updating (hey studios, take a lesson: “updating” should not mean “dumbing down”!) and improving it. Thank you director Steven R. Monroe for giving us a fresh remake that exceeds the potential of its original source material!

If you’ve been wishy-washy on checking this one out (like I was), do yourself a favor and watch it! It is actually a great remake and also a great horror film all-around!

Order it on Amazon!

The House that Cried Murder (1973)

This 1970s obscurity somehow weaseled its way to the top of my Netflix queue and let me tell you, this House is one fixer-upper!

Wealthy daddy’s girl Barbara builds an ugly, modern monstrosity just cuz she is bored and wants to truly do something with her life. She plans on moving into the house with her boyfriend, the slimy David, who works at the same firm her father owns. Despite warnings from her father that David “stinks”, Barbara gets her way and ties the knot with David. Daddy’s little girl should have listened to her father, because David really does stink! The adulterous asshole sneaks off during their wedding reception with his ex-girlfriend. Sure enough, Barbara finds him pants down in the bedroom! Barbara takes a pair of scissors to David’s arm before storming off through the wedding guests with a bloodied wedding gown and burning rubber out of there. She disappears, and neither David nor her father hears from her for days or weeks. Despite the tumultuous events of the wedding day, Barbara’s father is overly chummy with David and tells him from now on will be treating David like a son. Meanwhile, David and his ex have re-connected after their lousy rendezvous and are apparently living together. Their bliss is short-lived when they are terrorized in their own home by ominous phone messages, severed chicken heads and expensive bridal gowns.

The House that Cried Murder is one stinker of a movie. First off, the transfer is so bad that the film is littered with scratch marks, weird jump cuts and switches between being too dark or too washed out. Now, I’ve seen plenty of old films in all different states, but this is one of the worst-looking ones I’ve ever seen. Furthermore, the actually lighting in the film is nonexistent, leaving actor’s faces perpetually drenched in shadows while the rest of the surroundings are washed out. I could have overlooked all this had the film actually been decent, but it just drags on and on with no real tension or scares to speak of. Barbara may be crazy, but at least she isn’t the annoying little twat that David’s ex is…good God, I just wanted her to meet a terrible demise but I was denied even that as she is scared off by the chicken head, phone calls and other shenanigans that start to plague her and David.

The film is packed full of more filler than your average hot dog, with pointless scenes of David and his ex strolling a street fair, Barbara and David walking through a field, and so on. This film really needed to get to the action already. Only, I guess there really wasn’t too much action to really get to, now was there? The climax and ending of the film feature a neat little twist, but getting there was absolute torture and the ending doesn’t make up for the boredom I suffered sitting through this dilapidated House. I just wanted this wretchedly boring movie to end…maybe they should call this The House that Cried Uncle instead.

If you are an absolute fiend for bad ‘70s movies (with bad music to match, natch) and this is one you haven’t seen before…well, I would say to skip it anyways. However, if you are a masochist, by all means check this film out; but in my opinion this House should be condemned!

Order it on Amazon!

Alucarda (1978)

Alucarda is an unheralded gem and even within the horror community I don’t think too many people are familiar with this Mexican film by Juan López Moctezuma. This is a pity, because the film boasts beautiful visuals, controversial themes and violent deaths.

Alucarda is about two teenage girls living in a Catholic convent that also serves as an orphanage. Justine arrives at the convent after her parents die, leaving no one to care for her. Taken in by the nuns (who wear weird, mummy-like wrappings) Justine is placed in a room with Alucarda and the two girls quickly become inseparable. On a walk in the forest one day, they happen on a band of gypsies selling charms and trinkets. After a gypsy tells Alucarda and Justine they have only darkness in their future, the girls run away and stumble upon an enormous old crypt in the middle of the woods. While they are exploring, they open an old coffin and unleash a demonic force that possesses them. Back at the convent, the demonic force is unleashed upon the kind nuns and other inhabitants.

The visuals of the film border on gothic, with misty forests, decrepit crypts and Catholic imagery. The convent itself is lit by flickering candles and its sparse, utilitarian rooms are only decorated with crosses. Its church has rows upon rows of crosses, each fitted with an agonizing Christ. The stone crypt that the girls explore is festooned with faded red banners, creepy statues and lots of vines growing over everything. The gothic feel is reminiscent of many old Hammer films, with the subject matter just being a bit more dark and controversial.

For its time, the film was controversial, as it dealt with lesbianism, Satanism, sacrilege, the occult and more. While these themes are considered “tame” today, don’t be mistaken – the film still packs a punch. From a kiss that turns into Alucarda licking the blood off a naked Justine, to a gypsy Satanist that can invoke the Devil, to bloody psychic nuns to midnight orgies, to reanimated corpses to a fiery, Carrie-esque conclusion, this film will definitely keep your attention.

However, I feel like the above paragraph also does a disservice to Alucarda, as it is as not as exploitative as it may seen. The arresting visuals, engaging storyline and multi-layered themes heighten the film and make it into something much more substantial than your standard exploitative occult flick. The themes of evil corrupting even the most innocent, but also of redemption and ultimate faith, will resonate with viewers, regardless on their view of religion.

Alucarda is an underrated gem, and one that more fans of classic horror should definitely seek out.

Buy it on Amazon!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Review: Crucified Dreams edited by Joe R. Lansdale

Like any self-respecting horror fan, I’m a huge fan of Joe R. Lansdale’s work. So, I was very excited to check out this collection of short stories Lansdale had hand-picked to appear in Crucified Dreams. In the introduction, Lansdale explains how he set out to capture stories that were similar to his maverick writing style, and I think he has done a fine job with the selections featured in Crucified Dreams. He has plucked unsettling, off-kilter stories from the very best horror authors out there (among them Stephen King, Harlan Ellison and Lansdale himself) that span nearly four decades.

From the back cover:

A naïve young woman witnesses a brutal murder and discovers the soul-deadening price of being a New Yorker. The family man quits smoking with the sinister assistance of a family-friendly corporation. A truck driver takes a simple shortcut, and lands in a living hell and a battle to the death. An aging Hollywood screenwriter’s career is on the wane until he reinvents himself as a less principled man.

Crucified Dreams reaches down through the gutters into the shadowy depths of the imagination. These are the savage tales that unite noir with horror and the ordinary with the unfathomable. Combing the urban, the paranormal, and the downright terrifying, these award-winning stories go where your deepest fears—and inner demons—are already realized.

Classic tales from horror masters reside within the near 400 page collection, and while I enjoyed all of the stories, I did have a few favorites. Harlan Ellison’s “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” left me breathless and paints quite a gloomy picture for apathetic city-dwellers. “The Mojave Two-Step” by Norman Partridge and “Front Man” by David Morrell show the danger of following fortune and glory, one from the view of a stolen ice cream truck barreling through the desert toward Vegas and the other through the eyes of an award-winning but aging screenwriter looking for work in shallow Hollywood. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the characterization of the two leads in Jeffrey Ford’s “Coffins on the River”, about two old artists who take quite a trip that results in a terrifying ghostly encounter. “Copping Squid” by Michael Shea is an excellent Cthulhu-inspired tale set in the ‘hood, and Ellen Klages gives us an eerie look into an alternate universe through the perspective of a little girl in “Singing on a Star”. “Nightbeat” by Neal Barrett, Jr. offers up another alternate (or future) world filled with made-up words that conjure up a beautiful yet sinister landscape.

These are but a few of the 19 tales featured in Crucified Dreams, and while those mentioned were my favorites I must say that all the short stories in the collection were well worth reading and left an indelible imprint upon my psyche. The collection is a mix of the gritty and graphic with the subtle and psychological and will be a welcome addition to any horror fan’s book collection.

Buy yours today on Amazon!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scream 4 (2011)

When I first heard they were making another Scream film, I was full of trepidation. I loved the original Scream, and while the sequels weren’t as good, I enjoyed them nonetheless. The Scream trilogy was a big part of my high school experience and I still remember catching them in theaters and watching them again and again at home. Scream 3 came out in 2000, though, and I really wondered if the large time span between films would be detrimental to the series.

Luckily, the film itself takes place a decade after the events of Scream 3. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the infamous Woodsboro Massacre to kick off a book tour for her new self-help autobiography. However, Ghostface has also returned to settle the score and starts picking off the locals and seems to have Sidney’s niece Jill (Emma Roberts) in his sights. Partnering again with the now-married Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), can Sidney stop the new Ghostface, who seems to be playing by new, updated movie rules?

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from Scream 4 (gah, I refuse to use it’s lame Scre4m moniker), but I was excited to see what director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson had done with the series. The film has a clever opening (though it got a bit tired pretty fast) that was quite gory before introducing us to our new cast of high schoolers and re-introducing the familiar faces. I actually liked the self-aware cast of new characters, most who either become red herrings or dead meat. I also enjoyed how the returning characters were crafted to show their development and growth as people. Despite the fact that the Scream films are considered slashers, I have always appreciated the development that has gone into the films’ characters.

I also appreciated that the film has changed with the times and adapted the “new rules” of the post-slasher era (all the while having a bit of fun with “the rules” and poking fun at several other franchises, namely the Saw series). However, I was disappointed to find that the film still relied on the tired cliché of female victims being hacked to bits while most of the male victims were dispatched quickly (or stupidly – a knife to the middle of the forehead, really?). With all the “rules” being mixed up, you’d think either Craven or Williamson would switch up this most tiresome trope of slashers (or the horror genre in general), but no such luck.

I also thought that while the first two acts were strong and suspenseful, the third act pretty much lags until the climax. The “Stab-a-thon” party scene and the after-party scenes would have probably worked better if they were both condensed down a bit. However, once we get past that small pacing speedbump the film delivers with a great climax and conclusion.

I may have pointed out several negatives I found with the film, but the truth is I really enjoyed Scream 4. I love the characters, both new and old, the “new rules” introduced, the witty dialogue and of course, the death scenes (errr, besides the unbelievable knife through the skull previously mentioned). I really find it a pity that more horror fans aren’t checking this film out. Scream 4 may not be perfect, but it’s a hell of a fun time and well worth the admission price. I highly encourage you to check out this horror sequel that actually delivers!

Buy it on Amazon!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation (2011)

A little disclaimer here: I loathe bowling. Maybe it’s cuz I suck at it, maybe because I hate lugging around heavy balls (*snicker*) and the funky foot-odor smell of most bowling alleys, or maybe it’s because I find bowling so boring, but for these reasons and many more it is just not my thing. However, perhaps if bowling was a little more interesting, say, with a few evil demons involved, bowling would certainly appeal to me a little more.

Lucky for me, Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation features a cast of sexy demons who own bowling alley Coventry Lanes and who are intent on devouring their customers. However, there is a catch…the demons must wait to satiate their appetites until someone asks them for a wish. That someone happens to be waitress Lisa (Nikki McCrea), who is fed up with a group of sorority sisters who have made her life a living hell. To get her crush Johnny (Aaron Bernard) to notice her and to give the sorority sisters what they deserve, she asks Coventry Lanes owners (played by Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon, Amy Lynn Best, Lilith Stabs and Robyn Griggs) to help her get payback. However, the hellfire and bloodthirsty demons she brings down on the bowling alley isn’t quite what she expected…

Inspired by ‘80s horror-comedies like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation is a fun, low-budget film from Happy Cloud Pictures. It takes a lot of cues from Sorority Babes, including plot points (i.e. demons and wishes) and naming its characters after ones from the ‘80s cult classic. It even features Brinke Stevens, who actually starred in Sorority Babes.

The majority of the film takes place in the bowling alley, which limits its story a bit, however filmmaker Mike Watt does an excellent job of keeping the action moving and doesn’t allow the audience to really get bored. The character development is adequate, with several quirky characters nearly stealing the show! I thought Nikki McCrea as the beleaguered Lisa did an excellent job as the lead, and found Sofiya Smirnova, who played her friend Taffy, to be absolutely darling! I just wish a bit more attention had been focused on the demon characters; I would have loved to see Debbie Rochon and Brinke Stevens have a bit more to do.

All in all, Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation is a fun horror-comedy for fans of independent cinema. It certainly doesn’t reinvent the horror genre, but it is a pleasant enough way to spend a breezy hour and some change.

Buy it on Amazon!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter from Trick 'r' Treat's Sam!

Response to Michael Dougherty’s new FEARnet video “Half Way to Halloween” has been so overwhelmingly positive, that the director and his team have been kind enough to send seven hi-res desktop images from the video. It’s the perfect Easter decoration to freak out your family!

Go download the images from our fiends at FEARnet!

Check out “Half Way to Halloween” below: 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

Egads, I thought when I first started Rhiannon Frater’s novel The First Days, another zombie book?? I adore zombies as much as any of my fellow horror loving freaks, but it seems that every other horror fiction I pick up nowadays is zombie-themed. However, I was excited to check out Frater’s first “officially” published novel. Frater has built up a lot of buzz over the past few years by self-publishing her novels online; in fact, The First Days actually started as a serial and garnered quite a devoted following! I am always stoked to find new authors who offer up new visions of horror, and I was ecstatic to discover that The First Days wasn’t any old, run-of-the-mill zombie novel, but instead offered a fresh take on the popular genre.

The First Days starts with a bang…and the rending and tearing of flesh as one bright morning the dead start coming back to life and devouring the living. Two strangers, Katie and Jenni, must band together to escape the suburbs and the horror of their zombified families and flee to the Texan countryside. The horror doesn’t end there, as they must battle the hordes of fast-moving undead to seek safety and shelter with other survivors in a small fortified town.

The First Days offers zombie fans several new aspects to the genre. First, it is set in the wide-open landscape of the hot Texan countryside. The isolated location seems ideal for this apocalyptic tale and despite the sparsely populated towns dotting the landscape, there are plenty of zombies to overwhelm our heroines. Frater also re-tools the zombie characters a bit as well, giving us the frightful notion of fast-moving, highly aggressive (and sometimes cognizant and intelligent) zombies. While this certainly isn’t a new perspective, it’s still nice to see something slightly tweaked that makes for an all-the-more terrifying read.

The most unique aspect of the novel is that it features two female leads (yay!). They are flawed, have their moments of weakness and sometimes even act a little silly (like crushing on a guy during a zombie siege), but they are also strong women who will do anything to protect each other and when zombies (or people who’ve been bitten and therefore infected) need to be put down, they get the job done. I definitely appreciated seeing strong female characters who were developed so well and who I truly came to admire and cheer on. The rest of the characters were also well-developed, and I especially took a special shine to Juan, a cowboy and resident zombie expert who kept bemoaning the fact that the zombies were fast instead of slow like in Romero’s films.

The First Days is the first book in a trilogy that will be released by Tor Books. The second and third installments, Fighting to Survive and Siege, will follow quickly on the heels of First Days’ July 2011 release. However, they cannot be released quickly enough for me, as I am eagerly anticipating Frater’s next two books in the series!

Available on Amazon!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interview with Filmmaker Adam Barnick

If you’re not familiar with the name Adam Barnick, you soon will be! Adam is the director and writer behind the short film Mainstream, which was released via Fangoria’s Blood Drive II: America’s Best Short Horror Films DVD as well as producing, directing and editing the behind-the-scenes documentaries and featurettes for the films Frozen and Grace.

Adam is a long-time fan of the horror genre, and has contributed to many horror websites, including Icons of Fright and Dread Central. He is currently working on the exciting experimental horror documentary entitled What is Scary?

Sarah Jahier: Hi Adam and thanks for joining us today! Tell us a little about your background and how you first fell in love with the horror genre. 

Adam Barnick: I grew up in a wooded, spooky area in central New Jersey that gave me a deep appreciation for mood and atmosphere, both in its isolation and in the textures of Fall and Wintertime. Being forced through years of Catholic School as a kid definitely brought room to daydream and become familiar with talks of damnation and fear. And Halloween was always a big deal in our house. But I was introduced to the fantastic through a book on classic science fiction films that my Aunt gave me when I was 5 or 6. And my diet was primarily sci-fi for the next few years, whether through books or films. But I always enjoyed scary movies, I think we’re either wired to love this stuff or we’re not. My mother is a big horror fan so while I wasn’t, say, watching The Exorcist at 7, I was definitely seeing what I could on TV growing up and nobody minded within reason.

I think I was 12 or 13 when I got to see A Nightmare on Elm Street on cable one night, which scarred me good…but then I found out there was a part 3 coming out and managed to coerce my folks into taking me to see it. That’s really when the full-on obsession kicked in. Soon after that I had the Fangoria subscription and was diving in head first to catch up on any and all forms of horror.  That’s the best time in life as a horror fan, when you first jump in and discover classic after classic.

Sarah Jahier: After falling in love with the genre, what made you want to actually get involved in the horror industry and how did you go about accomplishing this goal? 

Adam Barnick: Well what Dream Warriors did was kick off an obsessive love for horror but also for practical makeup effects. Both the execution/artistry of them as well as the surrealistic ideas they depicted. That really got my brain cooking with all sorts of bizarre distortions of reality, human and inhuman form, etc. Originally I was thinking that as a career path. I absorbed everything I could that had to do with special makeup effects; started mold making and learning…And of course I began “attempting” films with neighborhood friends. But the preparing for filmmaking, brainstorming story ideas and capturing ideas on film/video really took over. It felt right and correct, and by the time I was 16 I knew it was filmmaking, not FX, that had really become my passion. But I’m obsessed with all genres of film…horror just happens to be the favorite.

I was always a fan, went to film school and worked on sets…and began doing genre interviews on my own website and for a site named Entertainment Insiders in an effort to meet more people in that area and learn from them. But it was my short film Mainstream getting picked up for worldwide DVD distribution that creaked open the doors a bit.

Sarah Jahier: How did you come up with the idea for your short film, Mainstream

Adam Barnick: The idea for Mainstream (the short) came about at a time when I was working in a video store, at the start of college; because that’s a requirement if you’re going to be a filmmaker, right?  While the film did deal with a lot of the themes that obsess me as a person that has shown up in other work (conformity, individual vs. a group, artists vs. non-artists), it was the clientele from the job that inspired it. I think maybe two percent of the people who I dealt with in the store were the types who were open to anything different or out of the mainstream, or who had a good attitude towards themselves and their lives. Two percent who didn’t have an angry/powerless/victim mentality. 98% seemed like whatever had made them unique at some point had been literally drained or burned out of them, that they’d given up. Anything creative or different, they’d snap at.

One day while at home I was contemplating this and the entire short film hit me all at once. Every image, sequence, beginning to end. I think only 2-3 times in life have I had “visions” like that for a project I wanted to do where it showed up fully formed. And I became obsessed with that surgical sequence that could be interpreted as symbol, or literal. As time went by I was able to articulate/understand every image in it as it pertained to the things I was haunted by as a creative person. And it still took like seven years from when I had the idea before we actually got to shoot it.

Sarah Jahier: As Mainstream was your first short film, how did you go about getting it from page to screen? What challenges did you face? 

Adam Barnick:  It wasn’t my first short, but it was the first to get out there and do well or be distributed. I’d prefer my older student films never get out there.

We never got the budget or resources to do it anywhere near the level I’d imagined, but for next to no money we were able to shoot something on film that affected people and got them thinking. While it’s “small” for a short film, it was the most ambitious project I’d done at the time; I was barely in the film business then, didn’t really know anybody well. Going about producing something like that without the resources/aid of a school, and trying to get talented people involved for next to nothing was the big challenge. Instead of waiting several more years, can we possibly do this on what we have now? As cheap as that short is, it took years to get to where we could afford to do it. Biggest challenge was just raising the meager funds. Getting people who don’t know you excited about what you’re doing was certainly a new and vital area a director needs to cultivate.

I don’t think we had many production-related snags once we got going though, once I’d accepted it had to be done at this scale or not at all. A few props malfunctioning, a few shots that had to be cut or combined, some minor personality conflicts on crew…but other than that, there weren’t many troubles we didn’t push through. I’m happy we accomplished it after so long, but I’d make it totally differently now, even if we were stuck with the same budget again. You almost make a film to figure out the way to properly make it!

Sarah Jahier: You’ve worked on the horror journalism side of the industry with several online publications. Do you have a favorite article or interview you’ve done? 

Adam Barnick: Interviewing Guillermo Del Toro for Pan’s Labyrinth was a highlight.  That was a brief but a seriously joyous moment. I saw him the following year again at the premiere of The Orphanage; we ended up nerding out over DVDs with some friends near the coat-check room when he should have been on the main floor doing press photos! He’s the world’s greatest geek.

I’m particularly happy I was able to interview Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni (Opera, The Third Mother), who’s since become a good friend. You learn a lot working on sets, but I’ve learned a lot as well with every interview I’ve done. Particularly from the interviews I did on the sets of Frozen and Grace…that’s one thing I think really helps those behind-the-scenes featurettes stand out. We didn’t settle for less when really getting into detailed questions on craft. And by then I’d worked enough in film to be able to interview actors/crew on their level instead of just asking for random anecdotes. And that was really the impetus behind getting into doing interviews in general…to get to know people and pick their brains while helping promote them.

Sarah Jahier: As mentioned, you’ve worked on the amazing special features for Grace and Frozen. How did you become involved with filming the special features for these films?

Adam Barnick: Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed them. That started when I met Paul Solet. Fangoria and Koch Vision both picked our short films to go on their Blood Drive II: America’s Best Short Horror Films DVD. That was a big break for us both, and he and I really went to town promoting that. I read and did coverage on a bunch of his scripts, so I knew about Grace. And he was gearing up to do the short-film version of it to pitch the feature. He’d asked if I wanted to work on it and suggested doing a behind the scenes doc for the disc. I hadn’t done one before, but figured between my thorough interviews and having been a DVD geek I could stumble my way through it.

It’s really rough compared to ones I’ve done recently, but it did what they’d hoped it would do. While the short-form Grace showed Paul could direct a high profile project, the BTS showed who he was, what he was about and how he could pull it off. I know it helped in Adam Green wanting to meet him in the first place about producing this. Obviously he wanted to because the script was great but at least he knew Paul was a good, smart guy from seeing him work. That BTS also helped Paul get his world premiere of the short at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in LA, since I’d already given it to the heads of Fango and they were excited to see what was coming…but we’d hoped if the feature got going that I’d come on board to do more of the same.

It was a bit of a fight to get me on board for the feature because of the Canadian tax credit issues, limiting the amount of Americans you can hire…and we had almost no resources at all to make those special features. I didn’t care. I’d been involved since the start of that project on some level, and needed to make sure I was involved at its end. They weren’t as technically proficient as I’d desired but they had the smarts/visual finesse I was hoping to have. Green gave me a great compliment after seeing them, that you could tell a film director did them and not just an EPK guy brought on the job as a random hire, and that he was dying to see what shorts/features I would do in the feature. He and ArieScope brought me on board for Frozen soon after that, and I tried to kick it up a notch even higher than Grace. The response to the Frozen DVD/Blu-Ray has been overwhelming!

Sarah Jahier: Do you have any funny stories from behind-the-scenes of Grace and Frozen that you can share? 

Adam Barnick: We had fun on set even while busting our asses, but the strangest thing I can think of from working on Grace was the one night we went out, when I was there.  (Adam Green tells part of this story on the Grace DVD commentary). On our night off, several of the crew, Paul, Green and I went to a tavern in the middle of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. We walked into this place, and quickly realized we were right in the middle of Cerebral Palsy Karaoke Night. None of that statement is a joke. But it made for a unique backdrop for the rest of the night’s quirks.

The rest of the night’s events remained offbeat to say the least. This older, Wilfred Brimley-esque guy came over to Green and asked if he was interested in fighting. Keep in mind he says it in the most kindly way…I was sitting next to him when this happened and I thought he meant it like “do you like boxing?” But no, he clarified that he wanted to know if Green was interested in going outside to fight, just for the hell of it. Green politely turned him down. Then he asked if anyone else at the table was interested in fighting…We respectfully declined. But then at the next table, he found another older man who was like, “sure, I’ll come outside and fight!” And they went outside and fought.

So we decided to try out a different bar after that, and this one was supposed to be the one where the younger folks hung out. We get to that one, there’s a dozen flat-out hammered people falling down in the parking lot, and one girl trying to open a pocketknife to attack some other guy’s girlfriend. We sidestep this and go inside and it was just a whirlwind of strange Canadian drunkenness. And a lot of people beating each other up. Set to a drum and bass beat. People are really nice up there, but they let their hair down in a very unique way on the weekends it seems.

We told this story to other crew members on Monday and one of them explained the ‘Moose Jaw handshake’ to me. You break a bottle on your bar table, stick out the jagged end and go ‘pleased to meet you.’

Sarah Jahier: That sounds like quite the experience! You are currently working on What is Scary?, an experimental documentary. Can you tell our readers about this project and where you got the idea for it? 

Adam Barnick: After Mainstream I was trying to get several other projects going while working on other people’s films and developing my own work. As you probably know, everything’s built on sand and projects often take forever to come together…What is Scary? came about from being frustrated at a lack of resources to pull off bigger ideas I was developing. And after a few lean years where even getting a camera and lights was out of the question for any no-budget ideas I was trying to think of something that didn’t need anyone else but myself, really.

I’d participated in a similar project in which I was asked to call a voicemail and answer the question “What is sexy?” which right there can generate a ton of varied, thoughtful answers. I thought about taking a similar approach and asking people to answer ‘What is scary?’ however they saw fit, and it was an idea I could begin with just an answering machine. The answers are being edited into a visual tapestry of stills and possibly animations, akin to a Ken Burns documentary but with its own offbeat approach.  I invited people in and out of the horror world to call in with the answers to their questions.

So it became a project I could do on my own but I do have photographers including Paula Burr (Killer Eye Photography, Dread) involved; she’s been featured on your site a few times. It’s still a done-for-nothing passion project but it will be a bit more polished and involved than what’s been seen. I imagine it on the wall in a multimedia art gallery with a pair of headphones where you can drop in on this little world. There’s been a terrific response, both in the answers I got and in the film community/fans who’ve seen the teaser. I think it’s unique enough to grab people in and out of horror fandom who are open to something different. It’s become a smart dialogue between myself and the callers, though I only ask one question. I was concerned at the start that it might get too repetitive, but it’s the distinctive takes on what “scary” means to people that has made it fascinating to me.

Sarah Jahier:  I know the horror community, myself included, is extremely eager to check out this project! When can we expect to see What is Scary?
Adam Barnick: I only recently started postproduction and I’ll know what it’s truly going to take to wrap it up by this Spring/Summer…I’m kind of letting it tell me what it needs and it could keep changing- but I hope to wrap it up by the end of the year. I’ll be making more announcements about it at that time.

Sarah Jahier: The horror landscape is always changing, but right now mainstream Hollywood seems stuck in the remake rut with the only original ideas coming out of the independent scene. What’s your take on the current horror climate? 

Adam Barnick:  I think the past decade or so of horror’s been a complete 50/50.  Which is still better than the completely stale, sterile ‘90s in which I can only think of maybe four worthwhile horror films.

I can’t shit on remakes just because they’re remakes though…we all know some that surpass the originals and will remain classics. I recently read a script for an upcoming remake that was one of the best scripts I’d read in years. Scripts in general, not just remake scripts. You can’t really scream at Hollywood for playing safer bets, it’s completely rational from a business standpoint. But the fact is, if you look at what’s making money, they’re not seeing the support financially for a lot of original genre films.

A film on 50 screens isn’t going to make a huge dent, but it can make an impact and a decent per-screen average, which counts. And there’s ways to support original films, financially or promotionally even if you’re not fortunate to live close enough to see one you’re interested in. Sure, the Elm Street redo is going to have 30 million in marketing behind it; and a smaller film can’t compete…but it’s not hard to find what’s out there these days if you’re a serious horror fan. But every horror fan/filmmaker I know went to see Elm Street opening night last year, knowing they wouldn’t like it but they went because “they had to see it.” And then they went online to complain they didn’t like it.  Why bother if you’re certain it’s terrible?  And many of them just sit and wait for DVD when something unique comes out. So Elm Street made a ton of dough and people continue to be angry because they can’t get their scripts made and they don’t see enough variety at the theater. Every once in a while we get a gem, and overseas filmmaking continues to take chances, but I still believe people can vote with their wallets. Good horror may wax and wane but it doesn’t die.

Sarah Jahier: Who are your favorite horror filmmakers that really excite you today?

Adam Barnick: Not counting friends/people I’ve been fortunate to work with that I’m fans of…well obviously Del Toro is at the top. I wouldn’t call Neil Marshall strictly a horror filmmaker, but I’m up for whatever he’s interested in. Christopher Smith is another one who’s impressed me from the start who I’ll continue to watch. I will follow Tom Shankland around for life after he kicked me in the face with his film The Children. And I’m still down to see anything that the old-school masters of horror come up with.

Sarah Jahier: What are your picks for the 5 scariest horror movies?

Adam Barnick: This changes often since there’s usually a list of 20 from various eras that rotates…so I will pick 5 that are on my mind right now…not necessarily my favorites, but ones that continually freak me out.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – Probably where I got my fear of “a group vs. an individual” in films…you can read so much into this film regardless of the period of history you’re from. A big unconscious influence on Mainstream.  The ‘70s follow-up is equally amazing but my heart remains in the original.

Don’t Look Now (1973) – A waking nightmare. This film made me nervous from the start and didn’t really ever let up. Literally two minutes in, it was unsafe.

The Shining (1980) – No explanation needed.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) – I grew up surrounded by woods and understand the primal scariness of them, all too well. The perfect film to me to utilize your imagination to scare the crap out of you. Plus, my friends and I were obsessed with exploring abandoned houses in high school…that film’s ending is like watching us get what we deserved back then. One of the few films that truly made it tough for me to sleep at night.

The Mothman Prophecies (2002) – I don’t know how much of a following it has, maybe people avoid it because it seems like a giant glossy star-driven horror film? But it’s seriously smart, has a visual approach unlike any other studio picture, has probably the most overt yet absorbing sound design I’ve heard, and it’s conceptually daring and quite subtly subversive for a big-ticket movie. It’s seriously eerie to see this film flirt with its spiritual concepts and ideas of the bigger picture behind the curtain that no human ever sees ‘til they die.  And then it doesn’t resolve much of the questions it poses about them.

Sarah Jahier: What horror movies (besides your own!) are you excited for in 2011 and beyond? 

Adam Barnick: I was beyond over the moon for At the Mountains of Madness and will remain hopeful the stars align someday and that film happens. Aside from projects directors I know or have worked with have brewing, I’m seriously excited for Insidious.  Any kind of supernatural tale always wins over real-life psychos with me. I’ll probably have seen Chris Smith’s Black Death by the time this interview surfaces. I know I’m not alone in thinking he’s consistently underrated. Bereavement is a seriously disturbing film just coming out now, though I saw that last year. Other than that, I’m definitely down for Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark’s redo even though I love the original…and there’s a film in prep called American Mary by the Soska sisters that won’t be out till 2012 but has already got me seriously intrigued from what little I’ve heard about it.

Sarah Jahier: How do you get inspired for ideas for your films? 

Adam Barnick: Music is a big help. And just trying to remain active and interested in people and life around me. Catching bits of conversations and imagining what came before and after. Spending too much time thinking about themes and ideas that obsess me. Traveling. As for developing scripts, and adding to the ideas I start with, I generate inspiration and ideas just through the process of working. And music helps a lot at that time. I used to wait till I was fired up and inspired before doing anything or working on any random ideas, but that resulted in basically losing ten years of being productive. It wasn’t until Summer 2009 that I kind of figured my own creativity out, and how to get the most out of it and demand of myself that I put the time in daily. The more digging I do, the more I find…but I rarely, if ever, find something before I’ve started digging. I’m still not at “full strength” yet, but I’m working out all the time now, if you get what I mean.

Sarah Jahier: What are your favorite things about the horror genre? 

Adam Barnick: It has no limitations. In terms of visuals, atmosphere, sound, subject matter, depth of intelligence. You can go anywhere and there’s an audience that can roll with it.  From the nastiest slasher to gorgeous, poetic films like Eyes Without a Face, there’s so many shades to horror and how you can approach it or what you can say with it.

Sarah Jahier: Besides horror, what makes Adam Barnick tick? 

Adam Barnick: Nature, Twin Peaks, French Onion soup, being around and having smart conversations with artists of any type, kickboxing/fitness, friends, reading, learning, New York City, London, pumpkin carving and dachshunds.

Sarah Jahier: What projects are you working on next? 

Adam Barnick: Besides what I’ve mentioned, I’ve got half a dozen scripts in various stages of development, in different genres. Though the main focus has been the feature-length version of Mainstream. It’s much more story/character based than the short was but still has a layered, smart and experimental vibe. I didn’t have an idea for a feature when I did the short, but came up with a take on it last year that has obsessed me, so I’m shaping that. I’ve got two music videos I’m in various stages of planning right now, and have written two other shorts I’m hoping to get funds for so we can shoot them this year. There are a few other behind-the-scenes docs I’m supposed to begin soon, but the films they’re for still need to get started, so I’m waiting at the starting line for the trigger to go off. And there’s a few other “maybes”, in and out of horror films, that are circling. I’m just trying to make up for lost time and continually improve myself, as a filmmaker and a person.

For more info, visit!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Deadcore - Four Hardcore Zombie Novellas

Deadcore is a collection of four zombie novellas edited by Cheryl Mullenax and published by Comet Press. The book contains zombie stories from authors Randy Chandler, David James Keaton, Edward M. Erdelac and Ben Cheetham.

The collection kicks off with “Dead Juju” by Randy Chandler, a novella that immediately sucked me in with its fast pace and gruesome action. It follows a mysterious figure that seems to bring death and destruction wherever he goes while all hell breaks out when the dead won’t stay dead. Chandler weaves different characters’ stories together to create a terrifying tapestry about the end of the world. I loved the many different characters that were featured in this story and the mysterious “eye in the sky” phenomenon that occurs prior to the zombie outbreaks. This was my favorite story in the collection.

“Zee Bee and Bee (aka Propeller Hats for the Dead)” is the next short story in the book. This tale by David James Keaton tells about the cast of colorful characters that work at a zombie-themed bed and breakfast where guests pay to basically role play in their own personal Night of the Living Dead. This story had an interesting concept, but unfortunately I just couldn’t get into the writing style. There is some pretty clever dialogue that horror fans will appreciate, though.

The third novella is “Night of the Jikininki”, a story set in a prison in feudal Japan. When a murdered inmate rises from the dead and starts infecting everyone within the prison walls, a mad monk, a petty thief and a renowned samurai must band together to try to escape the fortified walls. I enjoyed Edward M. Erdelac’s historical accuracy, brutal carnage and interesting characters with this tale.

Ben Cheetham’s “Zombie Safari” is about a hunting trip to kill a new kind of wild game – zombies. However, things start to go wrong for the humans when the zombies become the hunters. “Safari” was a very tense, character-driven story that I enjoyed a great deal. The bleak, isolated setting along with the weary characters reminded me of an old Western where men relied on the guns and tracking to survive.

Deadcore’s four novellas are gruesome, funny, tense, bloody and entertaining as hell. Each of the stories is distinctive and unique, so you never feel you are reading stale material. If you love extreme zombie fiction, you’ll definitely want to check out Deadcore!

Available on Amazon!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Weeping Woman (2011)

The Weeping Woman is a short film adapted from a short story by Paul Kane. It is about a man (Stephen Geoffreys) taking a short cut home to his family one snowy afternoon. After nearly running into a woman (Melissa Bostaph) standing in the middle of the road, he gets out to see if she is okay. She begs him to help “her children” and so he follows her into the isolated woods that border the side of the road. There in the snow-bound stillness he makes a shocking discovery…

I’ve been a big fan of Mark Steensland’s work, from his horror anthology Beyond the Pale, kick-ass graphic-novel adaptation Dead@17 (he should IMMEDIATELY be hired to helm the feature, hear me big studios?!) to his more recent short films Peekers and The Ugly File. This is a man who actually got me into critiquing horror films when I was lucky enough to take his horror movie film class back in college, so I have a huge amount of respect for Steensland. I think he has improved with every single one of his short films and The Weeping Woman is no different!

Firstly, I enjoyed how Steensland decided to set the film in winter instead of the summertime setting of Kane’s original story. I loved the desolate atmosphere the wintery setting gave the film.  Adding to the eerie feeling is Fabio Frizzi’s effective score. The Weeping Woman is the first short film Frizzi, who most well-known for collaborating on the horror films of Lucio Fulci, agreed to score. His distinctive sound fits very well in the film.

The film is also heightened by Steensland direction, which is polished and high quality. Many people think of short films as a filmmaker’s gateway to feature-length movies, but Steensland has shown time and time again that short films can be an art form in themselves and can be every bit as high quality and effective as full-length films. Besides boasting a professional look, The Weeping Woman also has a variety of camera angles that keep things visually interesting.

Equally deserving of praise is Stephen Geoffreys’ and Melissa Bostaph’s performances. Geoffreys’ is most known for his memorable side-kick acts in films like Fright Night, and while some of his goofiness is on-screen in The Weeping Woman (gotta love one of the first scenes that features him singing along to “Turn Up the Radio”), he delivers a wonderful “everyman” performance that makes you genuinely like, and root for, his character. Melissa Bostaph is also wonderful as the titular character “the weeping woman”. At first she displays such a sense of dismay and sorrow that, were you in Geoffreys’ character’s shoes, you also couldn’t help following her into the woods. When her true nature is revealed, you gotta admire her chutzpah in taking care of her nasty little monsters…errrr, I mean children. I gather this is her first film, but she really pulled off an amazing performance.

Hopefully The Weeping Woman will be making appearances at film festivals or otherwise be available for people to see soon, because this is one you do not want to miss and shows that Mark Steensland will soon become an even more well-known and respected name. Right now Steensland is horror’s best-kept secret, but I’m sure his talents will soon be discovered and appreciated by a far larger audience!

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