Jul 29, 2014

WHATEVER HAPPENS...


...don't scream.

Jul 28, 2014

REVIEW: KILLER LEGENDS


Co-writer/co-director Joshua Zeman took an interesting approach with his previous documentary, Cropsey. What is ultimately a true-crime examination of a series of child murderers that occurred in Staten Island, New York, actually began with a brief rumination on the idea of urban legends and how real-life monsters become mythical ones. This idea of investigating urban legends must've sat well with him, for he has returned with Killer Legends, a documentary that examines the origins of four of the most infamous urban legends in popular culture. Zeman posits that every urban legend is based on "some sort of truth," and our desire to believe these legends allows us to "pull back the curtain" on what scares us most: reality. This approach is taken as each popular legend is recounted and its real-life inspirations are analyzed.  

I have always been incredibly intrigued by urban legends – their origins, their power to spread from person to person like something contagious, as well as the stories themselves. I recall, when having watched the pretty terrible Urban Legend in my youth, wishing that the fancy leather-bound book one character looks through in the film, called simply "Urban Legends," both existed and sat on my shelf. There was something that seemed especially dangerous about those particular tales – they weren't just ghost or murder stories. They achieved a real power to them because many people who told them honestly believed they had happened to someone close to them. 


Though that fancy schmancy book of urban legends filled with classy pencil-sketch drawings may never exist, Killer Legends is a phenomenal substitute. Well realized and very well executed, urban legends of the "hook man," the "candy man," the "murdered babysitter," and motherfuckin' "killer clowns" are each explored as in-depth as the doc's running time would allow. Though certain legends have more time dedicated to them than others, the filmmakers deserve accolades for having put such effort into each investigation. We hear so often growing up, and see in films when one character tells a camp-fire story, some of which are featured in Killer Legends, only for the punchline to be a cheesy fake scare punctuated with proclamations that the storyteller's yarn never happened - that it was the stuff of fiction.

Not true. And that actually kind of surprised me. For so long we've been reassured by our parents and teachers that such stories we exchanged on the playground never happened, and we shouldn't worry. I suppose it was "okay" for them to lie to us at that age, in favor of letting us have a few more years' worth of peaceful nights before we found out that, yeah, this shit actually happened, and happens, and will happen.

The doc is propelled by onscreen hosts Zeman and Rachel Miller, but interviews with specialists, historians, and the real people who were local to the various crimes being examined also share their insights, some of them more surprising than others. Also bolstering the theme of life's infatuation with the dark are the assembly of movie clips from such titles as Halloween, Candyman, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and oh yeah, Stephen King's IT.

Killer Legends has a lot to offer, and to many kinds of viewers. Students of true crime, folklore, psychology, and the casual horror fan – the doc will ably provide a wealth of entertainment, information, and at times even poignancy, depending on what you want to get from it. I'd love for Joshua Zeman to consider this documentary as the first in a series in which he examines handfuls of urban legends at a time. This kind of attempt has been done before, in cheesy shows like "Fact of Fiction" or the recent series "Urban Legends," but not with this kind of serious, investigative, or philosophical approach.

It's now available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures.

Jul 24, 2014

COLD IN JULY


Remember the good old days when John Carpenter used to do this own music? And remember way back when, during the late '70s/early '80s, when all he used was a shitty Casio...and they sounded amazing?

We can kind of pretend those days are back, with the soundtrack to filmmaker Jim Mickle's latest romp in the darkness, Cold in July. Jeff Grace's soundtrack for the film is available now - you tell me if this doesn't sound like something that belongs in the third act of The Fog.

Click on Dexter to hear it.


https://soundcloud.com/milanrecords/father-and-son-by-jeff-grace-from-ost-cold-in-july

WATCH: NIGHTMARE FACTORY

 

If I may be frank, it's about fucking time that somebody honored Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, and the entire KNB FX group for the work they've been doing in the horror genre since the mid-1980s. I won't even name the films of which they've been a part because we'd be here forever.

I had the opportunity to meet Greg several years back and he was kind enough to field a couple questions and pose for a photo, which I still have (somewhere). I even walked away with a copy of the prop newspaper he'd created for Day of the Dead. (Actually, I accidentally walked away with three. Sorry, Greg...)


Perhaps best known for the current pop culture atomic bomb that is "The Walking Dead," for which Greg both provides the grisly effects and periodically jumps behind the camera to direct an episode, Nightmare Factory starts at the very beginning of Greg's life to show this is something he'd always wanted to do. Like similar FX maestro Tom Savini (who would end up mentoring Nicotero in his youth) or Jack Pierce and Lon Chaney before him, Greg was a horror junkie from the earliest part of his life. Like a lot of us, the first part of his young life was rife with confusion regarding what he wanted to do. As I'm sure is the case in many families, there was an unspoken understanding that Greg would follow in the footsteps of his father and pursue medical school to become a doctor, and that was his path for a couple years while he pursued his love of creature effects on the side. Then came the fateful day when he realized the latter was all he wanted to do. So he and his two buddies, Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman, headed out to LA, bought a smelly house, filled it with smelly bodies, and went after their dream. 

Three decades later, and following multiple awards (including an Oscar), a massive body of work, and the undying love of the horror community, Kurtzman-Nicotero-Berger's KNB is the leading special effects company in the industry. Working for all genres of the medium, and not just horror, KNB has provided effects for the very big (The Chronicles of Narnia), the very small (Splice), and the very art-house (Tree of Life).


Aided by fans, friends, and frequent clients John Carpenter, George Romero, and Frank Darabont (among others), the praises of KNB are rightfully sung in Nightmare Factory, and amusingly, a bit of fun is poked at the frustration that can sometimes occur on-set between impatient filmmakers and the gag that is failing to work the first time. (It's all part of showbiz, kids.)

We so often forget that folks like Greg Nicotero, or those aforementioned filmmakers whom we couldn't help but admire while growing up, were not always the cinema giants they would eventually become. Their place in cinema history didn't just come into being, nor were any of them spoon-fed the opportunities that afforded them the chance to claim that place. They struggled with choices, their fate, and life in general. If honor is having another filmmaker set out to create an examination of your professional and personal life, provided by your friends, colleagues, and peers, then nearly every one of our beloved horror figures has been honored. Nightmare Factory is the newest to honor a member of that crowd. One could say it was long-overdue, but another could argue it was perhaps premature, as KNB are just getting started.