Crash Discussion: Interview with Master of Horror, Stuart Gordon

PodcastimageStuart Gordon talks with Billy Crash about RE-ANIMATOR, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Lance Henriksen, William H. Macy – and his upcoming feature NEVERMORE. To give to the NEVERMORE Kickstarter campaign, click here.
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Crash Discussions: A Chiller Theatre Convention Excursion

PodcastimageBilly Crash and Jonny Numb report on all the goings-on at this year’s Chiller Theatre in Parsippany, New Jersey. They even pass along stories from TARGETS’ Peter Bogdanovich, Tom Noonan and Duncan Regehr of THE MONSTER SQUAD, and James Rolfe, the Angry Video Game Nerd. We also provide a horror convention survival guide, and why advanced tickets are the way to go. And don’t miss the great stories about Traci Lords, Lee Meriwether, Dyanne Thorne, and more!

Don’t forget to check us out on iTunes — and stay tuned! We have a bonus podcast coming up this week, with director Stuart Gordon!

Crash Reports: Fangtastic! For the Love of Vampires…

I can’t begin to imagine how many vampire movies exist, but I know I’ve seen well over Let the Right One In movie poster100 on my own – though I’ll never watch that third-rate, poorly crafted TWILIGHT bullshit. (Stephanie Meyer should be so embarrassed by that pathetic drek she should hide under a rock for eternity.) Regardless, as Halloween quickly approaches, here’s a list of my fangtoothed favorites for those who might want to indulge in watching a traditional monster at home.

 

Vampyr (France/Germany, 1932)

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Writers: Christen Jul and Carl Theodor Dreyer

Based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel, this is one of the world’s last films of the silent era. Granted, some footage is missing, but there’s more than enough to keep one engaged in a creepy tale, with disturbing effects by Henri Armand. Follow Allan Grey (Julian West), a man obsessed with the supernatural, as he visits an inn where he discovers vampires out for blood. This is an excellent work of early cinema.

 

Lifeforce (UK/USA, 1985)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Writers: Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby

O’Bannon (of ALIEN fame) and Jakoby crafted a trippy tale from the talking head monotony of Colin Wilson’s boring novel. The story involves the space shuttle, Churchill, which discovers a ship of three vampires holed up in Haley’s Comet. Once those three are brought back to London, a nightmare ensues. O’Bannon hated what Hooper did with the script, but John Dykstra’s practical effects are a blast, and Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, and Frank Finlay deliver. It’s a fun adventure where Mathilda May will blow your mind as the Space Girl.

 

Vampire’s Kiss (1988)

Director: Robert Bierman

Writer: Joseph Minion

Nicholas Cage stars as Peter, an asshole of a New York editor who has a breakdown, and thinks he’s a vampire after coming in contact with Jennifer Beals. Sure, this falls into the same category as Romero’s MARTIN, but there’s a dark comedy element that runs through the storyline. Even so, the ending’s powerful and leaves one to wonder about the psyche and what makes us collapse within ourselves. And no, Cage didn’t eat a live cockroach for this one – he ate two.

 

Dracula (1992)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Writer: James V. Hart

Hardcore fans of Stoker’s celebrated novel hate this version, but I love the “comic book” atmosphere, the over-acting, and the old world special effects. If you want that fun horror romp, this is the one Dracula tale you don’t want to miss. Wojciech Kilar’s score is phenomenal (check out his music for THE NINTH GATE), and Gary Oldman delivers one of the most poignant, in your face performances of the Count you’re apt to see – a reptilian-like, frenzied edge to Christopher Lee’s top-of-the-food-chain self-assuredness. No scares, but a definite good time.

 

Interview with the Vampire            (1994)

Director: Neil Jordan

Writer: Anne Rice

I loved Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and the movie would’ve been made in the 80s with Rutger Hauer as Lestat, but Rice seemed to be her own worst enemy and pissed off a lot of people from what I’ve heard. She was enraged that Tom Cruise had been chosen to play Lestat, but calmed down after she saw him in character. Yes, this is the book on screen, and the film introduced the world to Kirsten Dunst. Oddly, Brandon Lee was originally chosen to have played Louis, but he died on the set of THE CROW, and if River Phoenix hadn’t over-dosed, he would have portrayed Daniel Malloy. Regardless, it’s a strong tale of a reluctant vampire.

 

Habit (1995)

Director/Writer: Larry Fessenden

Fessenden is no stranger to horror as a writer, director, and even an actor, but this is my favorite of his work. This dramatic story takes place in New York City where Sam (Fessenden) meets Anna (Meredith Snaider in her only acting role). But it’s not just love, Sam thinks she may be a vamp, and we’re left to wonder along with him till the bitter end. The movie may be slow for some, but the atmosphere, grit, and character interaction is as fabulous as it is enthralling.

 

Blood: The Last Vampire (Japan, 2000)

Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo

Writers: Kenji Kamiyama and Katsuya Terada

Kitakubo was the key animator for the stellar film AKIRA, and he brought his skills to this kickass adventure as well. We watch Saya (voiced by Yuki Kudo) enter an American school in Japan during the Vietnam War to hunt down and assassinate some vamps. This is a short feature probably because the amazing animation just cost so damn much. Oh, and avoid the live action version like you would a zombie plague.

 

30 Days of Night (2007)

Director: David Slade

Writers: Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, and Brian Nelson.

Based on the celebrated comic by Niles and Ben Templesmith, Josh Hartnett plays Eben Olesen, a heartbroken sheriff who must work with his estranged wife (Melissa George) to save Barrow, Alaska from a vampiric raid during thirty days of darkness. The themes are big and riveting, and the action gripping, even though the writers and Slade made some serious errors in regard to geography, meteorology, and law enforcement. But if you want a vamp film with bite, this is it.

 

Let the Right One In            (Sweden, 2008)

Director: Thomas Alfredson

Writer: John Ajvid Lindqvist

The tale involves bullied Oskar (Kare Hederbrandt) who finds friendship with Eli (Lena Leanderson), the bizarro girl next door, from Lindqvist’s novel. Though low budget, this dramatic horror delivers on an intense scale thanks to a great story inhabited with great actors, as well as compelling cinematography. Beyond the obvious, the ending should leave you with dark questions.

 

Midnight Son            (2011)

Director/Writer: Scott Leberecht

Low budget and rock solid, this feature is the latest in the “Is this person a vampire?” category. The dramatic storyline and its themes are poignant, and the film serves as a great surprise for independent horror cinema. The mystery and suspense create an embracing journey for the audience because Leberecht doesn’t necessarily follow the expected formulaic trail. Zak Kilberg and Maya Parish deliver as blossoming lovers who face a very dark night.

 

I know, I know: No classic movies?! You’re a bastard! So I’ve been told. However, these are my favorites, and even with literature, as well as everything in my life, I’m not usually drawn to the tried and true. Granted, I greatly appreciate and respect Christopher Lee’s ten incarnations as Count Dracula, and love Bela Lugosi, but none of their films have blown my mind in some grand fashion.

However, here are some other vampirific films to engage your mind: BLACK SUNDAY (Italy, 1960), DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Belgium/France/West Germany, 1971), MARTIN (1976), THE HUNGER (UK, 1983), FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), VAMP (1986), THE LOST BOYS (1987), THE ADDICTION (1995), SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000), UNDERWORLD (UK/Germany/Hungary/USA, 2003), MAREBITO (Japan, 2004), THIRST (Korea, 2009), and STAKE LAND (2010).

(Photo from Collider.)

Crash Discussions: “The Outsider” in Horror, Episode 23

PodcastimageBilly Crash and Jonny Numb take a look at the element of “the outsider” in horror. You know, the crazy person, or the geeky outcast, or the rebel with a cause. We touch on PSYCHO and PEEPING TOM, John Carpenter’s THE THING, as well as MAY, LOVE OBJECT and so much more. And learn how the Twisted Twins bring a whole new spin to “the Outsider” in AMERICAN MARY.

Don’t forget to check us out on iTunes!

 

Crash Analysis: RESOLUTION (2012)

Killer Concept

Most innovative premise since Canada’s PONTYPOOL

I didn’t expect much from RESOLUTION, then again, I watch each horror movie with theresolution_xlg hope I’ll fall in love with the film. Unfortunately, that rarely ever happens – thankfully, RESOLUTION is different.

Michael Danube (Peter Cilella) leaves his wife to rescue his drug addicted best friend, Chris Daniels (Vinny Curran). The problem is that Chris is holed up in a two-bit shack and doesn’t want to be saved. Mike presses on, and the two soon find themselves caught up in bizarre circumstances where their every move – past, present, and future – is recorded and played for them…

Justin Benson penned the tale and co-directed with Aaron Moorehead. The pair had met as interns at Ridley Scott’s RSA Films, and in short order, decided to work on a low budget project together. Soon after, RESOLUTION came to fruition.

The beauty about RESOLUTION is the fantastic dialogue between the characters, thanks to the fervent emotion of Curran as the sarcastic and wired drug addict, and deadpan, and maybe too relaxed friend, Michael (Cilella). Additionally, Moorehead executes the cinematography and he does a wonderful job here. For low budget, one doesn’t have that feeling of sterility and flatness often associated with third-rate features in the genre. Better still, his composition is rock solid.

But without Benson’s intelligent script, there wouldn’t be much to discuss. The best thing is that RESOLUTION’s listed as a horror/thriller/mystery. Sure, it’s loaded with comedy, but the kind of humor one enjoys everyday if your best friend’s a sarcastic smartass. Benson’s story builds, and we’re soon introduced to a group of characters who live on the other side of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.” All add color and intrigued to the tale, and actually keep the trappings of the horror genre at bay for quite some time. This does not mean RESOLUTION is slow and tedious. If anything, the movie’s engaging as the suspense and tension builds with kinetic resonance.

In the RESOLUTION DVD “Special Features,” Benson and Moorehead discuss how they wanted to avoid the cliché-ridden trappings of conventional horror. They did so on a grand scale. However, one can argue they did stick to one: When the uncanny makes itself known, instead of the characters fleeing their shelter, they choose to remain. Yet, in regard to the film and its ultimate revelation, it wouldn’t have mattered if Mike and Chris had bolted. Even if the filmmaker’s had a larger budget, keeping the tale to a few locations adds to the element of isolation and hopelessness that the best horrors rely upon to keep us chewing our nails.

The movie seems to be one of those that has people reviewing it as either amazing or a piece of trash to be avoided. Thus far, few seem to straddle the fence. It’s love or hate all the way (think CLOVERFIELD). What I have noticed is that those who despise RESOLUTION seem to have no idea of the concept. And yes, those who love the film “get it.” This doesn’t mean you need to have a degree in advanced mathematics, or any other field for that matter, to figure it out what’s happening, but pay attention, dammit. On that note, I’d love to discuss the ending and what it reveals, but that would ruin the whole damn thing for you. Therefore, check it out today. And when you’re through, post your comments here so we can discuss. Regardless, I hope you find it as pleasantly surprising as I did.

4 out of 5 stars

(Photo from Imp Awards.)

Crash Discussions: The Body and Horror, Episode 21

PodcastimageBilly Crash and Jonny Numb welcome special guest Randy Brzoska to discuss the body and horror: from Cronenberg’s films to parasitic aliens, and beyond. Our body is our last sanctuary, and these films don’t hesitate to remove the illusion of personal sanctity.

If you enjoy Randy’s contributions to the show, check out his posts on Crash Palace Productions:

Kid in Play, Part I

Kid in Play, Part II

Don’t forget to check us out on iTunes and leave a review if you enjoy the show!

Crash Reports: My 1,600th Horror

Okay, this one actually happened about two weeks ago when I watched Stuart Gordon’s WikipedPitTHE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1991), starring Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs, and Oliver Reed. I appreciated the story, Henriksen’s imploding character in one hardcore performance, Combs’s understated yet poignant delivery of someone following orders, and the truths surrounding witch burning in Europe (paying off Executioners to be strangled before dying in fire, or being burned because a woman was a midwife).

Otherwise, the best in that last one hundred turned out to be Brandon Cronenberg’s atmospheric and intriguing ANTIVIRAL (Canada, 2012). A definite must see for those horror fans who prefer fine wine over unfiltered wood alcohol. Sadly, once again, I had to slosh through a lot of damn garbage to find that one grand elixir.

But there is hope. David Paul Baker is filming a horror right now. The director’s commitment to a quality production never ceases to amaze (you can find out more at http://www.cityofsinworld.com/). Oklahoma Ward will soon release CRAWL BITCH CRAWL to the world, and I have no doubt it will live up to its amazing trailer. Hell, the trailer alone is worth salivating over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SORghlKYoAw. It’s clear, just like Baker, that Ward knows what the hell he’s doing in regard to cinematography, as well as creating atmosphere and suspense as he gets the best from his actors. And though it will take a while, you can follow the campaign for Z*CON, by another great filmmaker, Michael Dougherty, at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/z-con-a-zombie-film-set-in-a-comic-con – where your donation to the movie making cause actually benefits charity.

I salute every independent filmmaker busting their ass to make a movie, but please do your damnedest to deliver something of quality. Take pride in your work. We have enough drek to contend with. Thankfully, people like Baker, Ward, Dougherty, and others, are out there taking their time to do it right.

I hope you follow those who raise the bar.

Crash Analysis: WOULD YOU RATHER (2012)

Yes, I would

New twist on an old theme is definitely a good thing…  would-you-rather

We’ve seen films like WOULD YOU RATHER before: People trapped in a house of horror and doing everything possible to get out. So why watch it again? Because screenwriter Steffen Schlachtenhaufen and director David Guy Levy brought us atmosphere, tension, and suspense on a grand scale, and because Jeffrey Comb’s character Shepard Lambrick is one of the best bastards to come to the screen in a long damn time.

Our woman to watch in WOULD YOU RATHER is Iris, played wonderfully by Brittney Snow, a young blonde who forgoes college to come back home and take care of her ailing brother after the death of her parents. The problem is that mom and dad left little to no money behind, and her brother is in need of a costly bone marrow transplant. But there’s hope, Dr. Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) introduces her to wealthy Mr. Lambrick – and all Iris needs to do is attend a dinner with the man, and other guests, where one person will walk away with all they could possibly need to sustain them. After all, Dr. Barden knows this first hand since he was a former participant. Though skeptical, Iris has no job prospects, and no way out. The old beggars can’t be choosers saying looms large, and she agrees. Soon, she finds herself trapped at a dinner table with other desperate guests.

What happens next is what sets WOULD YOU RATHER apart from its thematic kin. First and foremost is Lambrick. He’s the equivalent of a wealthy used car salesman. He knows how to act in public, but only to a degree, and his sense of decorum revolves around serving his own end. For instance, when Iris first meets him in Dr. Barden’s office, he’s in the shadows eating nuts and spitting the shells on a couch. He sports a smartass, “I’m better than you” sideways smile due to his bank account, but wears a suit of questionable quality. This doesn’t matter because his arrogance seems to be all that sustain him. The stellar acting of Jeffrey Combs brings Lambrick to us as a human bastard you love to hate. Yet, Lambrick is far from a caricature. One can see a wealthy person embracing their own self worth to feel they’re entitled to control the poor personas below them. Think the fascist scum in Pasolini’s SALO (Italy, 1975) or the real life horrors perpetuated upon captured women by the serial rape, torture, and kill duo of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. The false notion of privilege had ravaged all of them.

Lambrick, however, justifies why he offers his dinner guests a horrific twist on the old “Would You Rather” game, such as, would you rather be electrocuted or electrocute your neighbor? After all, these people need money to solve their own nightmares. They are beggars. And he treats them like geeks (a performer who does disgusting or degrading feats for money). At times, even Lambrick’s surprised by what the invitees do as if he’s conducting a bizarre social experiment. Regardless, if you want his money, you have to perform because there is no such thing as money for nothing.

What many people seem to dislike about the movie is the lack of character development. We follow Iris, our eye to all events. We know she’s duty bound and loves her brother, and is willing to put her life on hold to give him what he needs. She’s what her parents may have called a “good girl,” and she holds no ill will towards others. We also know Lambrick, the man with the cash who will give you what you need if you dance for him.

When Iris finally makes it to Lambrick’s house, she’s the last guest to arrive. She meets Cal (Eddie Steeples) and Lucas (Enver Gjokaj), but learns little of them. There’s an older woman in a wheelchair, a pseudo-Goth girl with “bitch” written all over her, a bad gambler, a young war vet with PTSD, and a business exec. Like Iris, we know what she knows, which is very little. And once dinner begins, we have to pick out what we can about the others. But we don’t need to know a damn thing. After all, if you were sitting at that table, would you want to know about them? Each person is down on their luck and needs cash. Maybe they’re trying to save themselves or someone else, but they’re the competition for Lambrick’s grand prize of “you won’t have to worry about a damn thing” if you win his little game. Imagine each person telling their sad story – and how that would mess with your head from wanting to play. And the best thing is that no one comprehends, until it’s too last, of course, that Lambrick’s game is deadly to the point of “and then there was one.”

Schlachtenhaufen’s tale certainly makes one question what he or she would or wouldn’t do in this situation, though the bigger question is this: Is life so bad that one would succumb to having dinner with a stranger and compete for cash? Like any great piece of fiction, moral questions rise, which should keep the audience thinking long after the movie’s over, and WOULD YOU RATHER is certainly haunting.

Where the reliable Combs delivers a knock-out performance, along with the emotional adept Gjokaj, Robb Wells falters on occasion, and Sasha Grey can’t seem to play a natural predator. I only wish we had a chance to see more from Steeples along with veteran great, John Heard. Story-wise, some deaths may seem to come a bit rapidly, though fans can jump in with a character or two bled out due to the compromise of a major artery. But that’s it. Even the ending is as solid as it is satisfactory. Yes, you can see it coming, but for me, it was more of a pleading, “you have to end it this way” mantra until it actually happened. I even sighed in relief when it was all over.

WOULD YOU RATHER racks up the tension and will keep you glued to the action. After all, Levy makes certain we have a seat at the table, and cinematographer Steven Capitano Calitri makes certain we don’t move with a camera that never quits and keeps us engaged.

Now, WOULD YOU RATHER watch this wonderful low-budget surprise, or waste your money on the usual horror garbage that brings nothing new to the table? You have fifteen seconds to decide…

Others in this horror subgenre to watch: THE COLLECTOR (UK, 1965), MY LITTLE EYE (2002), HOUSE OF 9 (2005), MARTYRS (France/Canada, 2008), THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (Netherlands, 2009), and THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Spain, 2011).

4 out of 5 stars

(Photo from Obnoxious and Anonymous.)

Director of the Damned: John Carpenter

Podcastimage

Billy Crash and Jonny Numb not only look at one of horror’s best directors, writers, and composers, but at his themes and contributions to story. From HALLOWEEN to THE WARD, John Carpenter and his iconic work are explored and discussed.

Check us out on iTunes and leave us a review.