Crash Discussions: The 100th Episode!

The Last KnockCome join us as we tackle some pretty hefty questions from fans in our 100th episode. Billy and Jonny talk about what scares them most, what they look for in a horror film, and what child friendly horrors might exist. We’ll even tell you about our favorite lines from HELLRAISER, and what movie we’ve both been dying to talk about. Oh, and there’s so much more – maybe too much!

Interested in more? Check us out on iTunes.

Crash Analysis Support Team: FOUND (2012) – Guest Post from Jonny Numb

c0957-found-poster[103 minutes. Unrated. Director: Scott Schirmer]

(Potential SPOILERS)

IN A GLASS CAGE remains one of the most potent films in an admittedly small subgenre pond: that of the psychological horror centering around child molestation and murder. Its status as an anomaly has only strengthened its reputation and effect over the years – like SALO, it lingers long after being viewed. Despite the potential tastelessness inherent in tackling such a taboo subject, writer-director Augusti Villaronga never steers the material into easy resolutions or tension-relieving humor (indeed, there’s no place for it). The tale of a symbiotic relationship between an iron-lung-confined Nazi and his male nurse, it seethes with queasy sexual tension and psychological darkness. CAGE shows less than it tells (and implies), and therein lies the difference between it and something like FOUND.

I will give director Scott Schirmer credit – his treatment of Todd Rigney’s source novel is something we haven’t really seen since CAGE. That being said, while FOUND gets points for its concept, it also falls victim to the technical, aesthetic, and thematic pitfalls that Villaronga’s film so carefully avoided.

In the eyes of the status quo, Marty (Gavin Brown) is your atypical fifth-grader: a social recluse obsessed with horror movies and comic books, with a normal-on-the-surface home life. Mom (Phyllis Munro) and Dad (Louie Lawless) are supportive, if distant. Perhaps this has something to do with Marty’s older brother, Steve (Ethan Philbeck), who wears a permanent scowl and disappears during the night. In the opening scene, Marty discovers a severed head in a bowling bag in Steve’s room, and rightly suspects his brother is a serial killer. The increasing body count and Steve’s unhinged, anti-social behavior begins to manifest in Marty, leading to a conclusion that represents its own sort of symbiosis and torch-passing.

As far as horror goes, this is an excellent premise, ripe with sociological and psychological potential. Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN cast light on Michael Myers’s childhood, showing his transformation from a troubled kid into a killer, but that only constituted a portion of the tale. Similarly, TV’s “Dexter” visited the main character in flashback, chronicling his need to satiate “the dark passenger.” While FOUND doesn’t venture into the pedophilic terrain of IN A GLASS CAGE, its depiction of the relationship between the brothers still possesses the same type of dueling psychological heft.

Like I said, there’s much potential for greatness. But FOUND is a painful example of a concept unmatched by its execution.

Per the IMDb, the movie was made on a shoestring budget of eight grand. While I don’t debate a film’s merits or shortcomings based on budget alone, here it casts an impossible-to-ignore glare over nearly every aspect of the production. The actors are unfamiliar, and the performances range from compelling (Philbeck almost single-handedly redeems the film…almost), decent (Brown), to caricatured (Munro, Lawless, and nearly every other adult). One of the challenges of incorporating children into an adult-content storyline is the potential that the underlying themes will go unarticulated, and such is the case with FOUND – the interactions between the child actors fluctuate between apathetic and exaggerated (almost every four-letter word is delivered with a self-consciousness that is, frankly, understandable).

Insofar as the film’s violence is concerned, there are effective moments that recall the “less is more” approach of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (particularly the opening), but the scenes of on-camera brutality are a mix of poor fight choreography, unnatural reactions, and inconsistent make-up FX. As FOUND lurches into its final act, it gets lost in its gory extremes, reducing the impact of the character piece that’s gone on before. (That being said, it would make an interesting addendum to Crash Palace’s “Home Is Where the Horror Is” study.) Furthermore, a sequence midway through – intended to show the blurring lines between Marty’s fantasy and reality – overstays its welcome, transforming into a gratuitous excuse to see some sicko fuck a severed head.

On the technical side, FOUND shows its low-budget faults in the sound recording: I found myself frequently adjusting the volume on my TV to make out what characters were saying, and noticed a fair amount of background noise on the soundtrack. At best, this disengages the viewer from the action; at worst, it diminishes the profundity of the subject. Additionally, Schirmer’s scene setups are unimaginative, attempting stylistic flourishes that run counter to the realistic tone the film is trying to capture (the “under-the-bed” scene is a prime example).

But there are affecting moments to be found: when a pastor (Andy Alphonse, who turns in the film’s best performance) questions Marty on his bad behavior, the words and delivery match the greater ambitions of the script, bringing notions of spirituality and redemption into the morally murky waters. Better still is a well-performed scene between Marty and Steve that culminates in a confession followed by an unexpected display of brotherly love. Amid the weaker aspects of FOUND, these are two examples of the greater movie trying to break through.

Unfortunately, this intersection of performance and aesthetic doesn’t occur often enough. It’s hard to deny the ambition of FOUND, but it lacks the proficiency in front of and behind the camera to sustain itself on ambition alone.

2 out of 5 stars

Jonny Numb is a proud prole in service to that Orwellian nightmare known as State Government. He writes movie reviews at: Also find him on Twitter at @JonnyNumb and Letterboxd – username Jonny Numb. And, of course, he is the co-host of THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes.

(Photo from Hell Horror.)

Crash Discussion: Interview with the Keeper of the Crimson Quill

The Last Knock

Billy Crash sits down with the grand master of the horror film review as well as the short story, known as the Keeper of the Crimson Quill. In a sincere discussion, we explore his work, what drives him, and what may be next for him in film. This is one candid conversation with a truly devoted craftsman you won’t want to miss.

If you have a moment, please leave us a review on iTunes!

Crash Discussions: Interview with Donna Swensen

1404738834_37795279001_3662535362001_video-still-for-video-3662506531001In the Jacob Ennis horror, KILL, GRANNY, KILL! Abby Daniels (Alicia M. Clark) leaves her family and rents a secluded farmhouse in the country. But there are rules to follow, and once she breaks them, Grandmother Mildred Mays (Donna Swensen) unleashes the horror.

Now, the star of the film, the wonderful Donna Swensen, takes time out from her current film projects to introduce herself and answer a few questions.

KILL, GRANNY KILL! will be released soon…


Tell us a little about yourself.

My family roots are Utah Mormon although I am not a Mormon. I grew up in St. Paul Minnesota where my father was a commercial illustrator. My mother was also an artist. We moved back to the Salt Lake area and I majored in art (painting) at the U and eventually worked as a commercial artist. This went on as I moved to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and finally to New York with twists and turns along the way. Around 2007/2008 any art career I had was very diminished and I thought perhaps I could do some background work for film. I found that frustrating and started acting classes. The main teacher I had for more than four years was Roger Hendricks Simon. I managed to get some principle jobs for TV, the Internet and short films in a fairly short time.


In KILL, GRANNY, KILL you play grandmother Mildred Mays who harbors a disturbing secret in her home. What drew you to the role?

I was invited to audition for this role and I sent them a couple of videos. They contacted me through my Backstage resume, I think, because of my age and non-union status. They needed a grandma type. I was never drawn to horror especially, but the Mildred character had some complexity and the fact that it was a lead role drew me in. You might say I just stumbled into this horror film.


How did you prepare for the performance?

Practicing going over lines repeatedly. I also was going to another theater class and practiced some of the scenes with others as a performance.


What was the set like on KILL, GRANNY, KILL, and how did it differ from your other films?

I was flown out to Kentucky and driven from the Louisville airport to a small town. I stayed in the director’s mother’s home. The area around the town was readymade for horror. Decrepit barns, broken down houses, weird artifacts, etc. Kentucky is famous for ghosts. It was difficult in that it was so low budget the hours could extend more than comfortable to get the work done. The director, Jacob Ennis, did an amazing job in directing, doing the camera work, and improvising in a limited time frame. The whole experience was unlike anything else I have done as an actor and was more interesting.


Do you enjoy horror films? Do you have any favorites?

I do not seek them out. I watched a lot of “True Blood” on HBO but got tired of it eventually. I like some of the old classic horror films. The current horror films I have not seen.


In 2015, your other horror, DEATH: A LOVE STORY will be released. Have you developed a taste for performing in horror Films?

I like strange, offbeat characters, horror or not. In that movie I am in a story called “Flip.” I am a creepy, slightly demented lady next door to a haunted house.


How did you get involved with television’s “Celebrity Ghost Stories”?

It was on one of the actor sites and I submitted. Also, I had a ghostly experience myself.


How does television differ from feature films, and which do you prefer?

If I had to choose, I think film, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down television. One may have more preparation time for film.


You have been involved with film since 2009, what brought you to acting and when did your career actually begin?

The last thing I ever thought I would do is act. I am an introvert. I did like to playact as a child with my friends and wanted to be in a Cinderella play as an ugly stepsister. My family left the summer resort area where it was to be, so that was the end of my childhood acting ambition. I thought I was going to be a visual artist and did a lot of drawing and school art projects. With acting, I started getting parts as soon as I started classes. At first they were student films and other unpaid jobs. I started getting paid local commercial work around 2009.


Besides acting, what do you enjoy doing?

Seeing live music performances. Mainly classical but I like many types of music. I would like to see more theater than I do. Films of course and good TV series. I like nature walks. Conversation. Food. Reading.


What is something you’d love horror fans to know about you?

I am speechless here.

(Photo from Movie Pilot.)

Crash Discussion: Thespians of Terror: Dee Wallace

The Last Knock

We take a look at one of horror cinema’s favorites, the amazing Dee Wallace. She brings a special strength to her characters – even when they seem most vulnerable. We’ll take a close look at her work in THE HILLS HAVE EYES, CUJO, the HALLOWEEN remake, THE LORDS OF SALEM, and more! Don’t miss this salute to one of the genre’s best performers!
When you have a moment, review us on iTunes!

Crash Discussions: That’s Not a Horror Movie!

The Last Knock

Or is it? We take a look at those films horror fans love, but aren’t listed as official horror entries, such as: SEVEN, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE TENANT, SALO, and much more. Find out why these films didn’t make the horror cut – and why it might not even matter…

Don’t forget to check us out on iTunes!

2012: The Four Best Horrors from the Last Five Years

After watching far too many weak horrors, I’ve begun to notice a sort of turn around from the formulaic and poorly crafted fair fans of the genre have had to endure. I hope this represents a new horror renaissance of sorts where more innovative and independent horror comes to blows our minds. No, films like the ho-hum THE CONJURING don’t cut it. We’ve seen that all before. But what follows are four amazing films that deliver in grand fashion. Oddly enough, all are independent features from 2012, and I have no doubt they’ve inspired many a conscientious and quality-minded young filmmaker:

Antiviral (Canada, 2012) – 4.5 stars
Story: Infatuation of celebrities at the cellular level.
Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg is following in his father’s body-based horror fascinations. In this art-house sci-fi film, the phenomenal Caleb Landry Jones absconds with ailments from celebrities, and infects fans for a hefty price. Bizarre, disturbing, and intimate, the film’s intrigue rests squarely on the shoulders of solid acting, the original music of EC Woodley, Karim Hussain’s cinematography, and wonderful directing from Cronenberg. This is one of the most mind-blowingly new stories to come out of horror in many years.

Excision (2012) – 4.5 stars
Story: Coming of age for an outcast with a downward spiraling mind.
The fabulous AnnaLynne McCord steals the show and brings us one of the most alluring lead characters since Angela Bettis’ May and Sarah Lassez’s Therese from Mad Cowgirl. Don’t miss Richard Bates Jr.’s storytelling craftsmanship in regard to theme because this is one of the most literary image laden horror stories of all time. A stellar cast, including Traci Lords and John Waters, helps bring this bizarro and quirky tale to life, along with Itay Gross’s exceptional use of color to tell one insightful yet unsettling tale.

You can find my full-length review of Excision right here:

The Lords of Salem (USA/UK/Canada, 2012) – 4.5 stars
Story: The anti-virgin is chosen to bring Satan’s offspring to the world.
This much maligned film from Rob Zombie is his first outing into dramatic fair with cool twists, great imagery, and relatable characters, unlike his exploitation movies or visceral yet unsatisfying remakes. Here, we watch wife Sheri Moon Zombie unknowingly navigate her way through witches, unearthly music, and demonic hallucinations. The story grabs hold of our realm right before an Apocalypse no one can see coming. Watch out for Meg Foster, Bruce Davison, Ken Foree, Dee Wallace and more, as they bring a trippy and captivating horror to the screen. Arguably, Zombie’s best work to date.

Resolution (2012) – 4.5 stars
Story: Trying to save a friend from drug addiction unleashes something strange.
Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead took some excellent and innovative chances with narrative to bring us a unique horror that’s hard to categorize, and leaves some fans scratching their heads. Therefore, do not take this film lightly and stay focused. The mystery writer Benson created is one of the best to come along in years, and actors Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran bring the story to life in ways the audience can understand – until the weirdness begins. This one’s a great feast for the mind.

Fabulous 4-star Films: A Serbian Film (Serbia, 2010), Black Death (Germany, 2010), Tucker and Dale vs Evil (USA/Canada, 2010), The Caller (UK/Puerto Rico, 2011), Comforting Skin (Canada, 2011), The Day (2011), Little Deaths (UK, 2011), Midnight Son (2011), The Skin I Live In (Spain, 2011), Wake Wood (Ireland/UK, 2011), The Woman (2011), The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (Canada, 2008), Mortal Remains (2012), Afflicted (Canada/USA, 2013), Banshee Chapter (Germany/USA, 2013), Dark Skies (2013), Jug Face (2013), Nurse (2013), The Returned (Spain/Canada, 2013), Crawl or Die (2014) and Deliver Us from Evil (2014).

(Excision photo from Battle Royale with Cheese.)

Crash Discussion: Post-Halloween Predilections

The Last KnockHalloween 2014 has come and gone – but the spirit lives on! We take a creepy walk through MONSTER SQUAD, TRICK ‘R TREAT, THE MAD MONSTER PARTY, the history of the holiday, and John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN franchise, including HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. Don’t miss this candy coated costume infused land of Jack O’Lantern chaos!

Don’t forget to leave us a review on iTunes!

Want to be part of THE LAST KNOCK’s 100th Episode?

Hey, Horror fans!

Jonny and I are about two shows away from our 100th episode of THE LAST KNOCK. And we can’t thank all of our thousands of listeners enough for making that happen.

For this centennial show, we’d love to field your questions about Jonny, me, or horror in general. We’ll answer as many as possible, and give you full credit, of course.

All you need to do is leave your questions for us in the comments section to this post. The deadline is midnight, Eastern Time, on November 11.

Thank you so much for making THE LAST KNOCK a success!

Yours in horror,

Billy Crash

(Photo from Fan Pop.)