Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear

Me and Brad Dourif

Being a fan of the horror genre for years and years, I was very excited to hear about Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear. Not only do I love horror but I'm also a fan of all things cinematic so the fact that entry to the Festival of Fear also gives you entry to the entire Hobbystar Fan Expo meant I would get to experience the sci-fi side of things too.

The whole weekend was really fun and informative so I thought I should give it some space on my blog.

First off, Friday evening I arrived at the convention and not only is the place full to the brim of crazy costumed nerds, but it's bleedin' massive! Seriously this place is enormous and full of nerd stalls where you buy nerd things and people going around in costumes and nerdy people duelling with light sabers and whatnot. That evening I just wandered and checked out which celebs were signing and took sneaky pictures of Fonzie who was charmingly doing his coin trick from Click with a little kid (anyone not familiar with Click, see my review). There were no screenings or Q&A's that day so it was basically wandering. I checked out this exhibit on Death Photography which was a really interesting phenomenon in the late 19th century where people would photograph their dead loved ones, propped up, pretending to be alive. This was because photography was just coming into its own around this time so people had no photos of their loved ones so in desperation they would do it after they died, as it was their last chance. Really interesting, if horribly morbid, stuff. The photographs are really REALLY weird. That evening, after the convention ended there was a screening of Faster Pussycat Kill Kill. John Waters says it's the greatest film ever made. I say it's up there. The screening was wonderful. Russ Meyer's beautiful (and not celebrated enough) black and white cinematography looked fantastic on the big screeen and watching that movie with the right audience really makes you appreciate the great comic lines and the richness of the delivery. There's definitely somehting special about it that sets it apart from other trash classics and it's certainly the jewel in Meyer's crown.

The lead actress and burlesque icon, Tura Satana was at the screening and gave a bit of a chat afterwards which was really nice. She was fascinating a spoke a lot about the background of making the movie. She's a tough girl and spoke a little about her rape-revenge gang days (I shit you not). It was pretty harrowing. She's certainly learned to deal with her anger though because the woman on that stage was a bubby, charming woman, not the scowlingly sumptuous villainess we know and love from the movies.

Next morning I had to get up bright and early for a screening of Black Christmas (the 1974 Canadian film, not the shit remake from last year). I had never seen it and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's actually brilliant, like seriously BRILLIANT and pre-dates Halloween by 4 years making it the king of the stalk n slash genre, also it predates Halloween's use of the killer POV camerawork. Hmmm, tell that to those history books. There was a panel discussion later that day with three of the films stars, its cameraman and composer. That was fascinating and it was nice to see John Saxon who you may know as Nancy's cop dad in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Art Hindle who was in one of my favourite Cronenberg movies, The Brood. So, that was a treat. Although the cast and crew have gone on to bigger and better things since the film was made 35 years ago, they all had lots to say about it and it ended up being a really interesting panel. Interestingly enough, there is one shot in the film of the killer, he is shrouded in shadow and difficult to recognise. It seems nobody knows who played him. Everyone seems to forget and peoples guesses are all conflicting. I kinda like that. Gives it a bit of mystery, oooooh!

After that was a Q&A with Wes Craven which I was very excited about but I was kinda disappointed in. I dunno, he was just a bit closed and not that interesting. He did tell a wonderful story about the man who inspired the creation of Freddy Krueger...a creepy man standing outside his bedroom window. When the man saw Wes looking at home, he caught his eye, gave a really horrible grin and walked into his building..little Wes freaked out and got his brother to go look outside the apartment with his baseball bat. Creepy imagery. He spoke a little about the folding of New Line into Warner Brothers and the implications of that regarding the remake. Basically that nobody has much of a say in the matter. He spoke highly of the remake of Last House on the Left. He said it was really well-recieved in the first screenings. I'll reserve my judgement until I see it but I'm wary to say the least.

After that (actually during that, I had to leave early) was a Q&A with Brad Dourif. This was the event of the weekend for me. It's so amazing hearing him talk cos he's got That Voice He's a man with some interesting stories indeed, not least a great story about Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski (they're always good stories) and a wonderful one about Christopher Lee but they're too long to go into here, and I couldn't tell them nearly as well as he could, so what's the point? What's great is that when he's telling a story and gets all excited he starts to sound like Chucky. Little bit of back story on me; I've been in love with Chucky movies since I was about 7 years old and was OBSESSED with Child's Play 1 and 2 well before Jamie Bulger happened. Then I wasn't allowed anymore. That just made Chucky even cooler. Anyhoo, he spoke a little about what it was like working on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Lord of the Rings and Deadwood. It was very exciting and he speaks really well about his craft. He loves his work (not so much the Chucky movies, but he's damned territorial about him).

On Sunday, the final day. Again, I up early for a Q&A with Italian horror director Ruggero Deodata. I'm sure you've all heard of the notorious video nasty Cannibal Holocaust, well this was his film. A very very sick and controversial film, with a lot to say about the dishonest nature of the media and misrepresentation of the truth. It's a tough one to watch, but ultimately very worthwhile. He spoke very little English so that was kind of annoying because there was a translator. But he was interesting and it was great to hear about the film's release and notorious court case. This involved an actress who had been impaled on a stick in the film. She disappeared after the film wrapped and the scene was so convincing that the filmmakers were arrested on suspicion of actually killing her on set. They eventually found her and all was well. It's a great effect though. I can see why the judges were so convinced of its authenticity. He then talked a little about The Blair Witch Project, which is very similar in presmise (and in my opinion, in premise alone) to Cannibal Holocaust. As soon as he heard about it he got on the phone to his lawyers and tried to sue them for $2million. Seems a little harsh if you ask me. It feel through in the end though, at least there's some justice in the world.

After Ruggero Deodata I wandered around the shopping stalls and I went and got my Brad Dourif autograph and that would have been nice if I wasn't such an awkward eejit and vomited nonsensical words at the poor man. But anyway, he was nice and he signed my Chucky photo. After that I watched a documentary about Ted V. Mikaels who is a trash (oooh, he doesn't like that word!) filmmaker who I'd never heard of but am now very interested in. He made films such as The Corpse Grinders and Astro Zombies...yes, he's THAT kitschy It was interesting but I left early to go see Sean Astin, Samwise Gamgee himself. He didn't have a moderator and actually just stood in front of a room of thousands and nattered for an hour. Seriously, this guy can talk. When we were outside waiting to go in, he happened to be standing beside me. He looked at the long queue and said to the guy next to him "Are all these people here to see me? Awww". Aww, indeed, Sean. Anyway, he had a lot to say about Lord of the Rings and The Goonies and working with Adam Sandler. He's an interesting guy. Then last but not least I went to a Q&A with Sid Haig who I pretty much only knew as Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses. I'm not a fan of the Rob Zombie films but I do like that guy. He's a great character actor. Anyway, he was really cool and told some great stories about life as an indie actor and passing up on the MArcellus Wallace role in Pulp Fiction. He cried too, telling stories about his grandparents. Not a guy you'd expect to see shedding tears so that was interesting.

Sunday night then was the big event. The screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Tobe Hooper. We got to see it on this great mucky print on a big screen. And Tobe Hooper talked for over an hour afterwards which was cool. Like Wes Craven, I didn't find him all that interesting. He answered questions in circles and didn't really say much of anything despie talking for ages. But it's always a treat to hear a filmmaker talk about their art. He did mention that his next project is an adaptation of Stephen King's non-horror From a Buick 8. That's exciting given the wonderful job he did on Salem's Lot.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I'm suffering from something very similar to music festival fatigue at the moment but I had SUCH a great time, I'm thinking of flying back for it next year.

Nerds are funny...seriously.

- Charlene Lydon 24/08/08

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tropic Thunder

"I don't read the script, the script reads me"

Written By: Ben Stiller, Etan Cohen, Justin Theroux

Directed By: Ben Stiller

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Matthew McConaghey, Tom Cruise

My rating 8/10

As far as stupid blockbuster comedies go, the only thing this film is missing is Will Ferrell. As close to perfect as big dumb summer movies get, Tropic Thunder is refreshingly disrespectful, delightfully satirical and a wonderful load of fun! With it's stupidly talented cast, I have to admit, my expectations for this film were sky high from about 6 months ago when I first saw the trailer. I wasn't disappointed, except perhaps with Tom Cruise's much-lauded role a s foul-mouthed movie producer Les Grossman.

Tropic Thunder is not only a brilliantly written, brilliantly acted film. It is also a fun action flick with plenty of explosions and gore. The film follows a bunch of vacuous Hollywood stereotypes (and one unpretentious up-and-comer, nicely played by Jay Baruchel) as they trek through a real-life drug war, unaware that the gunfire and explosions are anything more than guerilla filmmaking. Tugg Speedman (Stiller) is trying to come to terms with a flailing career, Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.) is a blonde Australian Oscar-winner taking "the method" too far, playing a black sargeant and in the process driving the actually black rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) crazy with his refusal to come out of character. Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy whose fart-filled movies are losing him the respect of his peers. He has also just lost his heroin stash to a rogue bat and is going through serious withdrawal when they come across the heroin processing plant. All of these characters, and all of the supporting characters are wonderfully simple and therfore easy to just sit back and enjoy.

Similarly to Stiller's earlier genius comedy, Zoolander, this movie hits all the scathing marks it aims for. Matthew McConaghey is brilliant as Cruise's agent who is desperately trying negotiate Tugg's TIVO, as stipulated in his contract, meanwhile being blissfully unaware of how far beyond contract things have actually gotten. His encounters with corporate slimeball Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) are funny and at times Cruise's performance is wonderful, let's not forget, he's still one of the greatest actors of our generation no matter how nuts and possibly evil he is. However, the performance takes a downturn into desperation as he moves into Goldmember territory with hip hop dance routines. It's a extremely cringe-worthy and it's a bit too clear how much Cruise is banking on this cameo to ensure his return to "hip with the kids" status. Hmmmm...didn't do it for me.

Anyway, as the story progresses, knocking down retards, blacks and fat folks as it goes, it becomes an action-packed extravaganza, but never forgets it's comedic responsibilities. I loved it! I loved it's irreverence for everything, it's sharply observed characters and it's brilliant, brilliant performances. Forget the Joker, my vote's for Kirk Lazarus "the dude playing a dude disguised as another dude".

Go see this movie, it's just simply a good movie. You'll enjoy it. And don't be a sap and get offended. It plays the South Park card and offends so many types of people that it therefore offends no-one.

- Charlene Lydon 14/08/08

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Orphanage

Directed By: Juan Antonia Bayona

Written By: Sergio G. Sanchez

Starring: Belen Rueda, Fernando Caya, Geraldine Chaplin

My Rating: 8/10

When a famous director "presents" a movie it generally means it's a bad b-movie. Wes Craven, Quentin Tarantino and Tobe Hooper deserve a good finger-wagging for the crimes against audiences that they have endorsed. Guillermo Del Toro, however, has proven himself to be a somewhat more trustworthy advocate. The Orphange is a wonderfully eerie and tragic tale about a woman who buys her old orphanage to turn into a home for sick children. After her son goes missing mysteriously, she tries to find him with the help of the ghosts from her past.

As the film starts it has the air of a tragic tale from the outset. Laura's adopted son is very ill, suffering from HIV. Not the start of you typical horror movie. The orphange itself holds many secrets and there is a creepy old lady pretending to be a social worker lurking around. The film is unsettling from the start, if a little standard. As it progresses however, it becomes more apparent that there is a thin line between ghosts and hallucinations. However, the film never really confirms either reality.

Much like Del Toro's Pan's Layrinth and The Devil's Backbone (to which this film owes a tremendous debt), the filmmaker never takes the side of supernatural or craziness. This makes for a nice comfort zone of believability and adds layers to interpretation to every incident in the film. There are a lot of questions left unanswered, but the film has a satisfying, if tragic denoument that really sets it apart from other creepy haunted house movies.

Definitely check this out. It is creepy, but ultimately a delicate human tragedy of madness and guilt.

- Charlene Lydon 11/08/08

The Lost Boys: The Tribe

"Who ordered the stake?"

Directed By: PJ Pesce

Written By: Hans Rodionoff

My rating: 3/10

Ok, Buffy can say "Who ordered the stake" and get away with it...Corey Feldman cannot!

I'll be honest and admit that I only rented this movie out of divilment and never thought for a second it would be anything more than something to make fun of. Unfortunately for me, it didn't fall into the category of "so bad it's at least entertaining". It took itself quite seriously and was just so heart-wrenchingly standard it was almost upsetting. However, if you're one of those people who just like horror movies and you'll enjoy nearly anything, then this will satisfy. It's got some nice gore and it has some nice vampire ladies for the boys! For fans of the original, this film will disappoint. The first movie was cheesy, yes. But it was delightfully innocently cheesy and it also had a genuinely clever script. This film is just medicority embodied.

The plot follows newcomers Chris (Stifler's Brother from American Pie: Band Camp, hmmm) and Nicole (replacement Mischa Barton from The O.C.), brother and sister who have more sexual chemistry than acting skills, which is disturbing. Apparently, according to interviews with the crew, these kids are supposed to be Michal and Star's children. This is never referenced and is just silly. Anyway, they come to town and are seduced by vamps. Chris must save his sister from a life of goth-hood. That's about it. Oh and the head vampire is played by Kiefer Sutherland's half-brother. I guess that could be called a nod to the original.

The Frog Bothers are now the Frog Brother, Edgar (Corey Feldman). The other Frog Brother is not referenced (until briefly at the end, we'll get back to that). Edgar is pretty much the same character as he was in the first one. To be honest, you hardly even notice that he's a grown-up now. He's still as deep-voiced and vicious as always and this character works, for the most part, but as per my first remark he really should lay off the cheesy slayer-speak. The end of the movie is a brief, pointless reference to the other Frog brother, and Sam, our teenage hero from the first movie which suggests some sort of mythology the audience is not aware of. Why? I dunno! Makes little sense! Why not just make a movie about what happened to Sam and the other Frog brother? Be sure to check out the alternative endings on the DVD, they make waaaaay more sense than the endings they used.

This is a silly little horror film, and all references to the original genius Lost Boys movie are purely cosmetic. Nothing sets this apart from any other straight to video horror flick...but curiosity killed the cat as they say, so if you must rent it (like me), don't get your hopes up too high.

- Charlene Lydon 11/08/08

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


"You're a big, fat, curly-headed fuck!"

Written By: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Directed By: Adam McKay

Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins.

My rating: 6/10

The set-up for Step-Brothers involves Nancy (Mary Steenburgen)and Robert (Richard Jenkins) an older couple who fall in love, get married and try to prepare to spend their retirement days living on their boat. Trouble is, both have brought a 40 year-old son who refuses to grow up into the marriage. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play these new step-brothers and "play" is the operative word here, as they let totally loose and have an enormous amount of fun with these characters. Although both are well capable of playing serious roles, they have both made goofy over-acting into a lovable art-form.

The set-up for Step-Brothers is definitely one of the most tantalising I'd heard in ages and ages. The second I heard about the general idea I thought to myself that all is forgiven for Talladega Nights and this pairing of Ferrell and Reilly as infantile brothers was the greatest stroke of genius ever. As predicted, this pair are great together and they bounce off each other really well. Although they play really similar characters, they both have their own personality that they bring to the film.

However, it's hard not to be a bit disappointed with how the film turned out. Similarly to Talladega Nights, the creative team seem to get a bit caught up in having fun with improv and it all gets a little lost in the mayhem. I like dick and fart jokes as much as the next guy...but certainly not as much as THESE guys. Not to be a prude or anything, but there's just too much of it here. They start to get unfunny after a whole. And who wants to see Will Ferrell's ball sack rubbed all over a drum set. No-one!

Step-brothers is by no means more disappointing than Talladega Nights which was downright retarded, but it's slightly too over-the-top for it's own good. However, I dare you not to howl laughing at certain points in the film. It's difficult not to join in with the enthusiasm shown by the actors involved. Kudos must be given to Adam Scott who plays Will Ferrell's brilliantly awful brother who is, I guess, the villain of the piece. He's a smug, horrible guy who we just loooove to hate. His performance was great and I seriously felt like punching him throughout the movie...a sign of a job well done.

So, to sum up, this movie is good, way better than Talladega Nights, but suffers a little from "coulda been" syndrome. It let itself go a little too wild, not grounding itself in reality, which lessens the impact of two such crazy lead characters. It's fun, you'll laugh, but it's a pretty standard film from what could've been a classic.

- Charlene Lydon 11/08/08