Aug 31, 2013

HOLY SHIT!


Aug 30, 2013

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SUICIDE

Though suicide is a common element in tales of lost love and heartbreak, the subject usually ends it all because of a lover’s death or betrayal. However, there are exceptions. A tortured young woman said to haunt New York City’s Empire State Building took her life for an entirely different reason.

On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt from the top of the Empire State Building. Her body landed on a United Nations limousine over a thousand feet below, obliterating the roof of the car and horrifying pedestrians passing by the iconic landmark.

The commotion drew photography student Robert Wiles who snapped a photo of McHale just minutes after her death. Though Evelyn plummeted 86 stories, or 1,050 feet, Wiles’ photo reveals a calm, beautiful corpse, eyes closed, fingers still clutching a pearl necklace. Though McHale looks as if she could be sleeping, the limousine’s mangled roof and shattered glass tell a different story.

Wiles’ shocking photo ran in the May 12 issue of Life magazine with a caption that read “At the bottom of the Empire State Building, the body of Evelyn McHale reposes calmly in grotesque bier, her falling body punched into the top of a car.” Evelyn’s desperate act came to be known as “the most beautiful suicide” and newspapers around the world published the haunting image. The photo even inspired Andy Warhol’s Suicide (Fallen Body) serigraph, part of his Death and Disaster series.

So why did McHale leap to her death? She apparently didn’t think she was fit to be a wife. “He is much better off without me,” Evelyn wrote in a suicide note discovered at the scene. “I don’t think I would make a good wife for anybody. The “he” in the note was Barry Rhodes, an ex-GI studying in Lafayette, PA. McHale and Rhodes had planned to marry the following month and the two had just celebrated Rhodes’ 24th birthday.

Though one might think Barry would have noticed something off about his young bride-to-be, he was as shocked as anyone, telling reporters “when I kissed her goodbye she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be married.” It seems McHale’s motives will forever remain a mystery.



Story and image source.

Aug 29, 2013

REVIEW: WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

 

A package awaited me on the porch as I approached my front door. The return address didn't look immediately familiar, and inside the package was nothing but a single VHS tape.

No typical accompanying press release. No pre-sale ad. No tear sheet. Just that lone, ominous VHS tape with the hand-scrawled label:

WNUF Halloween Special.

Naturally I was intrigued. Who wouldn't be?

I was hesitant to pop in the tape, halfway expecting to see shaky, nightime footage of myself asleep in my bed, unaware of my image being captured by my phantom visitor. Also, Bill Pullman might be playing fusion jazz saxophone right behind me. (Lost Highway reference, for the win!)


After a bit of research, I found this:
Recently discovered VHS videocassettes of the infamous and terrifying Local-TV Halloween Show broadcast-gone-bad. Only 300 in existence!

Taped off of WNUF TV-28 on Halloween Night, 1987, this strange broadcast follows local news personality Frank Stewart and a team of paranormal researchers as they set out to prove that the abandoned Webber House – the site of ghastly murders – is actually haunted, through a fascinating live on-air program featuring shocking EVP recordings and one-of-a-kind Call-In seance.
Thoughts of the BBC's Ghostwatch popped into my brain and my excitement grew. Needless to say, my Halloween-loving fires were stoked. I popped in the VHS and awaited my adventure in live TV gone wrong.


The Weber house: Twenty years earlier the scene of a double-murder, where a young son named Donald decapitated both of his parents with an axe. The legend states that young Donald was found sitting on the curb in front of his house, mumbling "demons made me do it." He was later executed for his crimes. And it is this very same house where local television station WNUF will be filming their Halloween special, featuring anchorman Frank Stewart, husband-and-wife paranormal investigators Louis and Claire Berger, and Father Joseph Matheson. Frank will lead his team into the Weber house for the first time since it was sealed following the murders in an effort to put to bed the rumors that the house is haunted including the rumor concerning the headless specter that was often spotted in the house and on the grounds. Almost immediately upon entering they hear noises in far off rooms. Then some unseen force destroys their equipment. Are the legends true? Is the Weber house haunted? Or was young Donny framed and the real killer still stalks the grounds?

Frank et al. will find out...whether they want to or not.

Can I just say flat-out that I fucking loved the WNUF Halloween Special? As I hit play on my VCR (which I literally had to dig out of storage strictly for this occasion), I'll admit to expecting something other than what I got. What I found, however, was something I adored not five minutes in. 

I don't think I am ruining anything when I say this is not "recently discovered" video of "an actual television broadcast." Sure, it's a fun way to promote a film, I get that, but I'd like to think that the distributors know that we know better. And I bring this up not because I want to spoil the fun, but I kind of have to if I am going to successfully applaud co-writer/director Chris LaMartina for his flawless recreation of an extremely realistic 1980s television program. This may not sound like a big deal to some, but these some have certainly not seen the film for themselves. To a tee, LaMartina and his crew have created an uncanny homage to this gone-but-not-forgotten decade, not just of television, but of pop culture, fashion, and even the political landscape. 

The WNUF Halloween Special (which is the film's actual title) is a painstaking recreation of the following: a news broadcast, broken up by commercial breaks, which then leads into the actual "live" special, which is also broken up by commercial breaks. It looks as if someone literally hit "record" midway through a news broadcast and let the tape capture everything that followed. From the actors playing the news anchors to those taking part in the special, everyone (for the most part, anyway) comes across as perfectly genuine. The news anchors, after highlighting a typical schmaltzy human interest story about a local dentist instituting a "Halloween candy buy-back program" to lower the risk of cavities, even spit out insufferable cornball exchanges because that's just what they did in the '80s.

I like to think that LaMartina is a super-fan of the genre, because that would mean all the easter eggs I grinned at like a schmoe weren't coincidental. I think it's safe to assume that the "Weber murders" actually refer to the DeFeo murders, which took place in Amityville, New York, and inspired an infamous book and film series. And I think it's safe to assume that Louis and Claire Berger are based on Ed and Lorraine Warren (of recent dramatized fame in James Wan's The Conjuring) who investigated the Amityville house. But when it comes to Louis' on-screen look, am I going out on a limb when I see a purposeful recreation of legendary writer (and Halloween enthusiast) Ray Bradbury?

  

And what about the name of the priest, Father Matheson (as in Richard)? And am I really reaching when I recognize a reference to Shadowbrook Road, aka the location of the mansion in which Dracula and his monsters dwelled in The Monster Squad, a Halloween-set adventure? (And also made in 1987...the same year in which this film takes place.)

I'm not sure what makes me a bigger geek either recognizing the references before me, or seeing connections that are strictly happy accidents. Either way, I don't really care, because this thing was a hell of a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, that's actually something I should emphasize. Despite the film's marketing campaign, the WNUF Halloween Special is actually pretty hilarious. And it's supposed to be. If you've seen any of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries (Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman), then you're familiar with his dry style and his ensemble of oddball characters. LaMartina takes this style and weaves it through a fairly typical (at least at first) television special, including interviews with slack-jawed gawkers who shouldn't be anywhere near a microphone. Not every gag is knocked out of the park, but it's a safe bet that at least all of them will have you smiling.

My personal favorite aspect of the film is probably the bleakest, and might also very well be the most under-the-surface and easily missed and this would be the world of 1987 versus the world of today. LaMartina isn't content with simply pointing his finger and laughing at bad '80s culture. He's quick to remind you that the world and our country, specifically has changed. This comes across in the commercial that depicts an airline offering wide and comfortable seats and gourmet meals, which ends with a stock shot of the New York skyline pre-9/11. Because this is a thing of the past. With soaring gas prices and a suffering airline industry, all the old airline perks have been tossed; seats were condensed, and forget gourmet meals if you want a cold tuna sandwich and an apple, it's gonna cost you big time. And this goes with the oil company commercial, too, which pledges to do its best to contend with "unavoidable and accidental" spills. And don't even get me started on the commercial for the shooting range, stressing "fun for the whole family" and the importance of exercising your "second amendment rights." It's not my intention to bring down the mood, but it's clear the world was incredibly different 25 years ago, and while the film makes this obvious in the lighter and more comedic moments, it also wants to state the same thing in a more somber yet less confrontational way. It's in no way political, but present all the same. I think it's safe to say it's the last thing I expected in what is essentially a low budget horror film majorly assembled by stock footage.

As a film in and of itself, the WNUF Halloween Special is mostly successful. For the most part, the acting never feels forced or disingenuous. The humor works like gangbusters, but the horrific aspects are slightly less successful. Earlier I mentioned Ghostwatch, a legitimately frightening scripted narrative also masquerading as a live on-air special. The WNUF Halloween Special comes nowhere close to matching that film's level of intensity, but it doesn't want to, either. That's not its goal. What it wants to do is recall a time in our not-so-historic history where things seemed purer when people bought heavy metal compilation CDs or took in-store lessons on how to use "floppy discs" and this forgotten time also includes Halloween, as our society simply doesn't seem to care as much about October 31st as it once did. And this super legitimate approach to maintaining the "recorded off television during the actual 1987 events" vibe might turn off some viewers who want an uninterrupted experience; the commercial breaks, especially, may start to annoy some. But I purposely left this point last because what I really want to stress is this: whatever level of success the WNUF Halloween Special attains as a film, it is a flawless and impressive recreation of 90 television minutes from 1987. The VHS tape on which this special was recorded is appropriately degraded and fuzzy, as if it were a copy of a copy of a copy something shared amongst the curious like so many bootleg films from another era without proper distribution. And from the corny news broadcast to the commercials to the live broadcast, it captures late-'80s television in its essence and during a time in which people were hopeful about the future, and who only had a haunted house in their neighborhood to worry about. In that regard, the WNUF Halloween Special is perfect.

WNUF Halloween Special is now available for purchase on extremely limited edition VHS. I cannot encourage you enough to grab yourself a copy.


Aug 27, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: PRETERNATURAL

Goat Manʼs Hill to Launch Crowd Funding Campaign for Creature Feature PRETERNATURAL

On August 26 Goat Manʼs Hill will launch an IndieGoGo crowd funding campaign for an ambitious horror feature entitled PRETERNATURAL. The team behind the 2012 indie thriller SICK BOY describes the new project as an unreliable documentary about fairies.

“Itʼs not a found footage film,” says writer and director Tim T. Cunningham. “Nothing against them, but this will be something more in the ballpark of TROLL HUNTER, but without any of the comedic trappings. Itʼs going to be a straight up horror film.”

The film is designed to start like a true crime documentary investigating the mysterious disappearance of an accused murderer, but quickly turns into a tale of monsters when questions are raised as to whether the person the accused allegedly murdered is actually dead. Promising to take full advantage of their visual effects backgrounds and boasting the creature design talents of Chris Grun whose credits include LAND OF THE LOST, CABIN IN THE WOODS, and R.I.P.D., the Cunningham brothers aim to create an experience that feels as real as possible.

“Itʼs not like weʼre going to be marketing this as a true story or anything,” explains cinematographer / visual effects supervisor Sean C. Cunningham. “But if we can make the documentary sections feel absolutely authentic it should really add an extra layer of threat to the horror elements.”

With several features in development, Goat Manʼs Hill is turning to crowd funding for this particular project because it is the most outside the box.

“Weʼre actively developing five features right now and of the five, PRETERNATURAL is the most difficult to pitch to traditional financing outlets,” says Tim. “It really needs to feel low budget to actually work. Well done low-budget, but low-budget. Except for the VFX, but thatʼs where our sweat equity comes into play.”

If the crowd funding campaign is successful in raising the tiny $35K production budget, Goat Manʼs Hill intends to roll cameras late 2013. Based on the strength of their preproduction and production efforts, the filmmakers will raise the larger post-production funds through more traditional methods.

The 30 day campaign runs through September 24, 2013.
I really enjoyed these guys' Sick Boy, so I'm excited. Check out the campaign here and donate, if you're feeling generous...

Also: Preternatural's Facebook and Twitter

Aug 26, 2013

SHITTY FLICKS: MOTEL HELL

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis. 

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up. 


There’s been no better friend to modern horror than a simple dead man named Ed Gein. Yes, Ed Gein, farmer from Wisconsin, was a leading frontiersman in early horror cinema, inventing the aspect of the “jump scare,” coining the phrase “a horror movie is a roller coaster ride,” and even giving Alfred Hitchcock some pointers on how he should shoot his now-infamous shower scene from Psycho.

Now, is any of that true?

Heavens, no.

But it doesn’t mean Ed Gein didn’t have a profound effect on the horror genre. It's just that he did it by digging up dead girls and eating them while sitting in chairs made of human bones, wearing human face masks, and cooking livers.

He also had mommy issues.

Any horror fan worth their weight in shit can name at least three movies this man directly inspired. For the uninitiated, those films are the aforementioned Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs (I'll even give you American Psycho). Keep in mind I am only naming the good ones. There are many, many more, such as the just-OK Roberts Blossom-starring Deranged, Three on a Meat Hook, two movies called Ed Gein, and lastly, this masterpiece of depravity, 1980’s Motel Hell.

Farmer Vincent, played with zest and appeal by the always standing and walking Rory Calhoun, rocks outside his prime piece of real estate, Motel Hello. Vincent leans against the chair, enjoying the sounds of the night air, staring at the stars. Then he grabs a shotgun off the wall and leaves his tiny business to randomly shoot a motorcycling couple in the dead of night.

But uh oh, before he even has the chance to take aim, the motorcycle sputters and then shits, spilling the people messily on the ground. Vincent gathers up the girl, takes her home to his monster of a sister, and lays her in bed. Vincent, believing she was spared her death by God, decides that he will nurse her back to health. Her lover ends up…elsewhere.

Despite this recent turn of events, Farmer Vincent has a business to run - that of hickory-smoking his collection of divine meats and selling them at barely a profit. This is a business he has shared with his fat, monstrous sister Ida for apparently a long time and his reputation is pretty well-known.

While selling off his meats to a man and woman, their stupid daughters wander into Vincent’s smoke house where they are assaulted by some swinging pigs. Sure, it’s creepy, but to be expected from a meat smoker (that’s filthy!); however, something then happens that’s not so normal: someone wearing a giant bloody pig head pops up and screams, sending the little girls pissing and running from the shack.

Stacy and Macy were all out of hash,
and Farmer Vincent had the best shit in town.

Sheriff Smith comes to the farm to see about the girl, Terri, who had crashed. Ida, the fat monster sister, attacks him for no reason, making the audience think that this cop has already met his maker. We think that for about six seconds before Vincent calls her off, and she obligingly releases the man from her meaty arms. The sheriff looks barely annoyed, and this is never mentioned again.

Thanks, Motel Hell.

Later, we meet a new character: Bald Bob. Called just Bob by his friends and Bald Bob by no one but me, Bald Bob, the town veterinarian, does a quick look-see to see if Vincent’s swine are up to slaughtering standards. Bald Bob looks at pigs, falls in mud, and then leaves, and the audience is happy to have met him.

Meanwhile, Terri looks absolutely destroyed over losing her motorcycle crashing lover and being all alone in the world, but once Vincent convinces her it was God’s plan, she looks instantly better and goes to bed.

I wish Farmer Vincent was my caregiver.

Bald Bob returns to the farm later that night under the cover of darkness to do some sneaking around, intent on visiting that smoke house that he was denied entry to earlier in the film, when he, again, falls in mud. Then he discovers a patch of Vincent’s garden filled with quivering and gurgling sacks. Curiously, Bald Bob lifts a sack and is greeted with a man’s head - his body buried beneath the ground - and making intensely disturbing wet noises with his throat. Bald Bob experiences a moment of horror before a nice, satisfying BONK takes him out of the frame and reveals Vincent behind him, apparently pleased with this new turn of events.

Vincent then places a bear trap in the road, removing a bus of annoying punk rockers almost immediately. To make room for this new batch, Vincent and Monster Ida start uprooting all of his previous victims, so weak from their lack of food and water that they can’t do anything except wait to be smoked and eaten by dumb white crackers.

“It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters!” they exclaim together, staring at their garden of sacked heads.

Mmm, I’ll have skull, please!

The next day, Vincent, Beast Ida, Sheriff Smith, and Terri go on a picnic, where they all discuss the history of Farmer Vincent’s business. When Vincent regales the group with tales of having smoked and killed his mother’s dog, Terri looks momentarily horrified before quickly letting it go, realizing that in this backwoods area of fuck-heads, that’s a normal occurrence, and,well, she better get used to it if she’s just going to live here. Fat Ida almost lets slip just what secret ingredient Vincent uses in his meats, but a quick punch to her massive stomach quickly shuts her up, and Sheriff Smith and Terri leave out of sheer discomfort.

That night, Vincent and Ida walk around their garden of heads, who have funnels shoved in their mouths to receive whatever divine goo is in Vincent’s bucket.

“Do you think, in years to, come people will appreciate what we have done here?” asks Ida the monster. Assuming she means the movie, I answer before Vincent can:

“No.”

People plants are hard to cultivate, but if you
know what you're doing, they're quite satisfying.

Two miscellaneous ski instructors traveling the road late at night encounter a herd of fake cows blocking the road (oh, Vincent). One of the girls agrees to remove the cows, having taken a gun with her for protection, for she was once sexually assaulted by a fake cow. A lot of good that gun did as Vincent grabs the girl, causing the other one to take off.

Vincent, in hot pursuit, catches up to the blonde and takes to ramming the girl from behind with his big…truck (perverts) as the girl freaks out and calls for help on her convenient CB radio. She’s eventually taken care of.

Later, a swinger couple shows up at the motel, thinking it’s a different motel that hosts swinger parties, as Vincent and Ida disgustingly play along.

The couple grows extremely aroused at seeing Vincent and Ida enter the room with rope, assuming it’s all apart of their impending sex romp. They quickly realize that Vincent and Ida are here for reasons other than sex and grow quickly horrified, although they rightfully should have been horrified much earlier at the prospect of committing any kind of sex act with the very unpleasing body and face of Ida the Terrible.

Terri, rescued from the nearby lake after Ida tries to drown her out of fat jealously, tries to kiss Vincent, but he refuses, saying they should be married first, which really oddly leads to marriage.

After their marriage ceremony, the three of them toast with champagne and wear party hats (haha) as Ida’s fat, monstrous jealousy leads to murderous behavior. She slips a Mickey into Terri’s glass and it works unrealistically quick, knocking her out instantly.

And just when you think Farmer Vincent is going to show some humanity - plot twist!! - it turns out he was in on it.

At his head garden, he turns on a bunch of spinning, colored, psychedelic gizmos and it eventually stuns his heads so he can do…something. At this point in the movie, I’d grown to hate it so much that I stopped paying attention and attempted to chase down a virus in my computer.

Oh look, during my cursing and clicking, it looks like Vincent’s head garden managed to escape. They did what I would have done and immediately murdered Ida.

Sheriff Smith shows up, having heard of Vincent and Terri’s wedding, deciding that it’s time to kill a farmer or two. He and Vincent, now sporting his stupid pig mask, take part in a poorly-choreographed fight inside his smoke house. Vincent, wielding his chainsaw, is overpowered by Sheriff Smith and has his own weapon shoved into his cut.

Vincent gives a weepy monologue that’s supposed to also be tongue-in-cheek, gurgles, and dies.

Sheriff Smith and Terri leave Motel Hell for good, and so do I, as I eject the disc, place it back in the case, and see what I can get for it on Amazon.


Aug 24, 2013

THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS

Even The End of Summer melts at the sight of adorable animals...
Finnish photographer Kai Fagerström presents unique photo series, where he captures wild animals making themselves comfortable in abandoned houses in the woods of Finland. Titled "The House in the Woods," the photo series is set in cottages near Kai’s summer house, which were abandoned by their tenants after the owner of the place died in a fire.




See the rest.

Aug 23, 2013

GHOSTER

Oh the things you can find (on Twitter). 

I recently connected with The Ghoster Project, who was kind enough to share with me the below concept trailer for a possible feature film version. 

Needless to say, I want this to exist in feature format. Immediately.

 
Visit The Ghoster Project for further information on the story, concept images and more.

Aug 22, 2013

DVD REVIEW: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY


If you read my previous review, you saw I was a fan of Derek Cole's An American Ghost Story. It was an exercise in extremely low budget shooting with an effort on emphasizing suspense and subtlety over shocks and bloodletting. I won't get too in-depth here, as I pretty much covered it in my favorable review. 

An American Ghost Story hit DVD this week via Breaking Glass Pictures, and those of you willing to take a chance on this do-it-yourself effort might be pleasantly surprised - especially those of you currently studying filmmaking. Director Cole and co-writer/lead actor Stephen Twardokus, in a Behind-the-Scenes featurette, provide a point-by-point breakdown of the production (the film was essentially a two-man operation) and how they improvised some technical creations to aid the shooting. Not only do they show off one of the devices they literally built to aid their lighting scheme, but they break down some notable sequences from the film and explain how they essentially tricked you into thinking you were seeing a visual effect. The duo are very self-deprecating in their recollections and freely admit to some of their cheapest tricks.


Next up is an audio commentary track with Cole, Twardokus, and fellow producer Jon Gale. The filmmakers continue to reveal their tricks, and the track mixes together admissions of certain weak areas with comments of self-congratulation (though less in arrogance and more in awe that they were able to create something of which they are proud - as they should be). Not everything discussed will be of interest to audiences, but much of it is. They discuss scenes written but not shot, and scenes shot, but excised from the final. Aince they're obviously friends, they're not afraid to rib on each other, which makes the track that much more entertaining. 

The special features conclude with a trailer to the film as well as other releases from Breaking Glass Pictures, deleted scenes, and a photo gallery.

Regardless of the features, the DVD is literally selling on Amazon right now for less than $8. If you'd like to take an entertaining 90-minute course on DIY filmmaking, buy it. But if you're also looking for an earnest effort made by some spirited individuals who honestly just wanted to make a classy haunted house film, you should buy it for that reason, too.


Aug 20, 2013

THE ZAPATA LETTERS

The Zapata Letters are a series of short, handwritten correspondence from an unknown “benefactor” to one Richard Zapata, a relatively unknown photographer living in Greenwich Village, New York. Zapata’s photographs were never particularly famous, or even popular among the “indie” crowd, with one clear exception. A great deal of photography is, unsurprisingly, luck; one must be in the right place at the right time. Zapata had one photo that was published in a small subsection of the New York Times, and it was this photo that served as the catalyst from his unknown “benefactor.”The photograph was total happenstance. Zapata had been out late one night, walking home from a party, and he was slightly inebriated. It was around 5 am, and light, but before sunrise, and Zapata happened to catch an unremarkable street corner just as the streetlights went out and just before the sun rose, creating a play with the fog and lighting just pretty enough to earn filler space.

Within one week of its publication, Zapata received the first letter, and every letter afterward was received exactly one week in succession, without fail.
The First Letter (Dated July 31st, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

There is captured magic in your photograph. Stolen Beauty.

Benefactor.“
No return address was given, and the letter, as were all of the following letters, was signed simply as “Benefactor.”
The Second Letter (Dated August 7th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

Perhaps you do not understand. Beauty is not a renewable resource.

Benefactor.”

The Third Letter (Dated August 14th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

You continue to take photographs. Not that it matters; what you have stolen from me can never be returned. Benefactor.”

The Fourth Letter (Dated August 21st, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

There is no more beauty. Not for me.

Benefactor.”
The Fifth Letter (Dated August 28th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

I must take something from you, then.

Benefactor.”
Five weeks from the initial correspondence, and therefore, five weeks later, Zapata presented the letters to the New York City Police Department for assistance, believing the Fifth Letter to be a threat. While the police did not take Mr. Zapata’s concerns too seriously, the postage stamps were traced to a Greenwich Village Post Office, which services over 10,000 people. The chances of tracing them were absurd, and after two days of police surveillance, Mr. Zapata was left on his own.
The Sixth Letter (Dated September 4th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

I am made Death, Destroyer of Worlds.

Benefactor.”
Exactly one week later, two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, killing thousands and ultimately engaging the United States into series of seemingly-endless conflicts in the Middle East. Records indicate 3 people named Zapata were killed in the terrorist attacks, though it is unclear whether any of them were directly related to Richard Zapata. Though he did not receive the letter until the next day, it was dated the same as the attacks.
The Seventh Letter (Dated September 11th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

Do not doubt that this was my handiwork, but that your hands bear blood.

Benefactor.”
It is unclear why, at this moment in time, that Mr. Zapata did not bring the Seventh Letter to the Police, as it certainly would have been taken much more seriously, and a full-scale investigation may have been launched. Perhaps the contents of the letter, and its implications, were too heavy to share.
The Eighth Letter (Dated September 18th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

There is nothing left for you to steal.

Benefactor.”
ATM receipts and records indicate that, in the week following the Eighth Letter, Mr. Zapata purchased 4 cameras, 36 rolls of film, and an excessive amount of developing equipment, all from different locations.
The Ninth Letter (Dated September 25, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

I have no more pretty words or empty threats for you. You stole a piece of private beauty that can never be returned, and for that I have responded by stealing all of the beauty from your world. I have left you a world of war, bereft of foggy street corners and slow sunrises. The future to come is bleak at best, hell at worst, and it will have no semblance of a soul. This I have done because of your theft, and yet you continue to steal. Steal things of no value.

Benefactor.”
Investigators of the incidents surrounding the Zapata Letters have lingered heavily on the Ninth Letter, mainly because of its length. In it, we see a personal side of Mr. Zapata’s “Benefactor,” and the previous accusations lose their sense of ideological anger for an almost selfish, petty tone. While the accepted standpoint is that Zapata wrote the letters to himself, those few that disagree cite the Ninth Letter’s description of the future. When Zapata’s apartment was finally investigated, 2 weeks after the date of the Ninth Letter, thousands of developed photographs were found all over the small studio, photographs of everything from pencils to skyrises, ranging from out of focus to breathtakingly beautiful. That tireless production does not reflect the psyche of one who sees no future.
The Tenth Letter (Dated October 2nd, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

No more.

Benefactor.”
When Richard Zapata’s apartment was investigated one week later (at the behest of a neighbor’s phone call to the police), the Tenth Letter was found just beneath the mail slot of the apartment, unopened and unread. The walls were lined with thousands of photographs, recently developed. Zapata was found later, in a makeshift darkroom at the back of the apartment.

He had, presumably, clawed out his own eyes and drank copious amounts of acetic acid (used to develop photographs,) resulting in his death. The most common conclusion is that Zapata believed he had achieved some perfection in that first photograph of a street corner, and that, unable to match it, he had vented his frustration in a series of bizarre letters and, finally, a horrendous suicide. The conclusion is all well and good, except that one detail seems to challenge it. There were no traces of blood or flesh under Zapata’s fingernails, and no scratch marks around the eye sockets; it was as if they were removed, with surgical precision, from a position above the photographer. Of course, this is just as unlikely, as all three locks on the door into the apartment were locked, from the inside.

Story source.

Aug 18, 2013

TEOS RECOMMENDS: FATHER'S DAY

 
Father’s Day
is now my second immersing in the world of Astron-6, a small Canadian film production company responsible for some legitimately fun creations. After first watching Manborg, I knew I’d found something special. But now after watching Father’s Day, I think I found a new group of filmmakers to closely follow, as whatever these fellows create, I need.

Honestly, I think I’m in love.

Though Father’s Day was released by Troma Studios, please don’t let that be a deterrent, and please don’t think it has anything to do with Troma’s other infamous film Mother’s Day.

Father’s Day is so much more insane.  It is the blackest of absurd comedies masquerading as a grindhouse offering masquerading as a satanic 1970s thriller masquerading as an I don’t even know. It is incredibly graphic, incredibly sexualized, and incredibly hilarious.

The plot? Well, someone out there is raping fathers. That’s kind of fucked up, but there’s something about the phrase “raping fathers” that becomes inherently funny. Is it supposed to be? I honestly don’t know, but during the opening credit sequence awash in newspaper headlines that scream “MORE FATHERS RAPED,” I laughed.  Intentional or not, Father’s Day can bank it.


If you’re already familiar with Troma, you should know there’s not much they’re not willing to do to shock their audience. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Troma fan; except for their one perennial hit, The Toxic Avenger, I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed any of their films (although a few non-originals they have licensed over the years have brought me unintentional enjoyment). This seems to be one of those non-Troma originals they are lucky to have distributed. Sure, Lloyd Kauffman man appear in the film as God, but this production reeks of something much more original and genuinely entertaining than anything that’s come down from the Troma offices in quite a while.

Father’s Day contains the aforementioned scenes of father rape, along with bodily dismemberment, incest, necrophilia, and not one, not two, but three scenes of penis mutilation.

You know, for kids!

This is not something I normally enjoy. Not because I am squeamish (though I think I can say without shame I don’t enjoy seeing penises destroyed), but because I just think humor like that is cheap. Anyone can build a fake penis out of plastic and cut it in half with a knife, but unless the film wrapped around this gag is worth a damn, then it’s just empty shock. But Father’s Day earns the right to destroy penises. Three times, in fact. This kind of over-the-top sight gag can sometimes seem out of place when juxtaposed against the film’s other far more innocent jokes (toxic berries vs. tasty berries; a man who hyperbolically compares life to the process of fermenting tree sap into maple syrup), but because the Troma brand is stamped on the case, we just kind of accept all the penis biting and move on.

Written and directed by the final onscreen credit of Astron-6, our cast consists of the usual mainstays: Adam Brooks plays Ahab, the eye-patched vigilante out for revenge; Matthew Kennedy plays Father Sullivan, the very gay priest whose job it is to find Ahab’s shack out in the middle of nowhere, and Connor Sweeney is Twink, another very gay young man whose father is murdered by the "Father’s Day Killer" and is out to clear his name.

Oh, and the killer’s name is Fuchman. Chris Fuchman. The first time you hear it, you may ask yourself, “Did I really just hear that?’

Yes, you did.

Played by the very brave Mackenzie Murdock, Fuchman bares all more than once and has no problem doing some naked grinding on top of other middle aged men.


Father’s Day
takes a little bit to get going. It starts off with a nice grindhouse feel, but soon gives off the wrong impression that it’s yet another Troma production with little reason to exist. The humor doesn’t kick in right away, and the film is very quick to show off some Troma-esque scenes of shock.

I implore you to keep with it.

Odds are you’re more familiar with Troma than you are with Astron-6. Based on this production, I think it’s safe to say preexisting fans of Troma will find a lot to love about Father’s Day. And Astron-6 once again proves they can play a little bit outside their wheelhouse and come up with something fresh, shocking, and legitimately hilarious.  The best thing that can come out of their association with Troma is more exposure to a broader fan base. They absolutely more than deserve it.

(I also wish we were friends. Because they must be the most fun men alive.)

Aug 17, 2013

30 WAYS TO DIE BY ELECTROCUTION

From Elektroschutz in 132 Bildern (Electrical Protection in 132 Pictures) by Viennese physician Stefan Jellinek (1878-1968). The Electro-Pathological Museum was founded by Dr. Stefan Jellinek in 1936.




See the other 27.
(Thanks, Laura.)

Aug 15, 2013

BREAD HEADS

Imagine running up to the bakery around the corner and coming across bread shaped like body parts. Sound yummy? Artist Kittiwat Unarrom creates just that; gruesome works of art out of bread.

Kittiwat Unarrom has a master's degree in fine arts and creates bruised and battered heads, feet and other internal organs at a bread shop in Thailand.

He started using his skills and made sculptures out of bread. This came naturally to him because his family runs a bakery. The bread is made out of dough, raisins, cashews and chocolate. He just adds his own touch to the finished product.
 

 

Story and image source.

Aug 14, 2013

AN OPEN LETTER TO UNIVERSAL RE: THIS ALLEGED JAWS REBOOT

Dear Universal Studios,

Fuck you.

It was with great—

No, shut the fuck up. Shut up for a fucking second. Let me say this.

It was with great displeasure I first read the news about a so-called 2015 start-date of set builds for your planned reboot of Jaws, which I can only assume (if this is indeed a thing) will be invading theaters in the summer of 2016.

Production Jobs > USA California - South > View Job Details     
Vacancy: All Positions for Jaws reboot.
Employer: flickfolks
Location: Hollywood
Duration: 5 months, starts Jan. 2015
    
We are seeking all crew positions for the upcoming Jaws reboot. We will need to build sets quite early therefore we will be hiring partially prior to the official pre-production. Please submit all job queries via flickfolks.com in the US Film Crew Section. Please leave a message there directly with the studio PM (production manager)
Source.

I ask with all due respect and sincerity: Are you ALL out of your fucking stupid minds? What in the god damned fucking hell are you thinking? Can I please know the rationale? Do you not have enough money yet? Couldn’t you just release a fourth Jaws blu-ray or something that comes with a shark’s fin and a pair of shark’s teeth that shoot out of the packaging and grabs my wallet?

I mean, Jesus fuck! Are you completely—

No, shut the fuck up. Look up top. See that banner? You're in my world now, Grandma. And you’re going to hear this.

Foolishly I thought we were all above this. I (mostly) held my tongue when Halloween was remade. And when Nightmare on Elm Street was next, I was only slightly irritated. By the time Evil Dead was announced, I just kinda threw my hands up and said "whatever; we're almost done, I guess."

The Exorcist and Jaws: two films I was cocksure-confident would never be touched by the remake turd. 

You may now freely call me naive.

Jaws today, just like it was in 1975, is an imperfect film that is still somehow perfect. We all know the story. The shark never worked. The actors were drunk sometimes. Universal had very little faith in the beginning of the shoot. Dick Dreyfuss doubted you could pull off the more fantastic scenes of the book.

And then the following happened: Spielberg et al. changed the face of the summer movie season forever. No, let’s backtrack. They did not change it. They CREATED it.

And after that happened, ya’ll did a pretty good job of ruining that franchise pretty quickly. I mean, Jaws 2 was not the Caddyshack 2 of sequels, but it could very well have been. So you should have left well enough alone. But then you had to go make that awful 3D one at Sea World, and that even more awful one with that guy from The Last Starfighter.

Listen, I get it – that’s one thing that still remains today. If a movie makes money, you sequelize it until it becomes so bad there’s nothing you can do except release 30 different home video versions of the original to remind everyone that before you made all those bad sequels, you were, after all, the ones who released the groundbreaking original.

How many home video releases of Jaws have there been? Something like 17?

Fuck you. You haven’t made your Jaws money yet? Well maybe you shouldn’t have ripped out the Jaws ride from your park to make room for Harry Fucking Potter, the kid with the lighting bolt tramp-stamped on his back.

Ever think of that?

I sincerely hope you’re not looking at the recent “success” of Sharknado and thinking, “Wait a minute – WE made the ultimate shark movie! Let’s show them who’s the tops!”

Please don’t take your page from a movie about sharks in a twister. It will just make you look really, really stupid.

And please please please don't tell me, “We’re not remaking Jaws! We’re going back to the book!”

Let’s be honest, the book kind of sucked. No one wants to see Matt Hooper fuck Ellen Brody. No one wants to see Quint throwing unborn dolphin fetuses into the water to attract sharks. And I can assure you: No one wants to see a finale in which the shark literally dies of exhaustion and floats – dead – into Martin Brody’s chest.  (Oh, spoiler.)

“We’re going back to the book!” is something a lot of studios and directors like to say, but it’s hardly ever true. The new Carrie allegedly went back to the book…until you saw the trailer, and recognized an awful lot from Brian De Palma’s original take. Matt Reeves is currently attached to a remake of They Live, but claims he’s going back to the original short story on which it was based, “Eight O’Clock in the Morning.” How much you wanna bet the finished product will be called They Live? Kinda like how the recent “prequel” to The Thing was definitely a prequel and not a remake even though it was called The Thing and it was the same fucking movie as The Thing, only less good?

Eat it, studios. I hate you and your posturing bullshit. Have the balls to cop to what you’re doing.

Look, I’m sorry R.I.P.D. was a miserable failure, but…that IS kind of your fault. It looked terrible. Here’s the rule: you can make a bad film, and you can release a film which does poor box office, but you can’t do both at the same time and then get all sad and mopey because of it.  And you can’t pillage a classic title because you’ve decided you need a guaranteed hit to make up for it.

Listen, this could all be extremely premature. This could all just be some unsubstantiated rumor some nerd on a message board got going simply because he was bored and had nothing to do during the commercial breaks of "Arrow."

Maybe this is actually a reboot of Jaws, the character from that James Bond movie with the metal teeth. Maybe he’s getting his own film!

You know! This guy!

If that’s the case, I apologize. Feel free to release a new blu-ray of Jaws that plays Quint’s rendition of “Spanish Ladies” whenever you open the case. I’ll buy it.

I suppose if you’re really going ahead with this, let’s really put it all out on the table. You need to think about what lies ahead of you.

Who is going to direct it? Honestly, who remakes Spielberg? The Spielberg of today couldn’t even do it.  A CGI shark washed out in Janusz Kaminski’s bleached film stock?

No thanks.

Better get Zack Snyder. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a really good shark film involving speed ramping and slow motion.

Better make it 3D, too, and get David Goyer to write the screenplay. I mean, he’s not a total waste of breath if he’s not working alongside the Nolan brothers, right?

Isn’t this how studios think today? To chase after filmmakers and writers who aren’t necessarily good, but whose output makes money?

Gee, how about Adam Sandler? People flock to his shit, after all. Him and Eddie Murphy can play every part. It can be called YA’LL JAWS!

And who will you tap to play Quint, who will then be saddled with reinterpreting probably the absolute greatest monologue in film history – the U.S.S. Indianapolis?  

Because you have to have that, right? You do realize that’s one of the strongest sequences from the original film, right? The ENTIRE motivation behind Quint’s savage hatred for sharks?

You fucking understand that, right?

I look forward to the new version where instead Quint’s wife or son or dog gets eaten by a shark in the prologue and we flash forward thirty years and gee he really hates sharks now.

Idiots. You’re all fucking stupid.

I guess I’m all out of things to say. All of the above doesn’t mean anything, and we all know it. It’s just a single drop in the ocean of water we were once afraid to go back into. And I haven’t been this afraid of a movie since seeing the glorious original – one which I still proudly label as my favorite all-time film – when I was a wee one, huddled on the couch next to my father.

Once more, fuck you.

I’m sorry for all the cursing.

Please don’t do this.

Regards,

The End of Summer


P.S. To anyone even considering telling me, "but the original film will always exist; a remake can't ruin the original," go fuck yourself. How about I punch your mother in the mouth? I mean, she'll still exist afterward, right?

Idiot.

You're the reason we can't have nice things.

Aug 13, 2013

SCHRECK

"Time is an abyss, profound as a thousand nights. Centuries come and go. To be unable to grow old is terrible. Death is not the worst. Can you imagine enduring centuries, experiencing each day the same futilities...?"

Aug 10, 2013

REVIEW: BATTLE OF THE DAMNED


Something you may not know about me: Though my main love will always be the horror genre, my second love is old-school action. To me, guys like Arnold, Sly, and Chuck Norris will always be gods. It was through Stallone's recent creation of The Expendables franchise that I grew to rediscover my love for the second string guys, and this more than includes Dolph Lundgren. Between the aforementioned Expendables films (dripping with "male-pattern badness") and the newer Universal Soldier entries (Regeneration and Day of Reckoning), well...I just love Dolph. He always seems to be having more fun than any of his action hero counterparts. Though no one will ever refer to him as a strong thespian, there's no denying his larger-than-life on screen presence. So when I one day read of this film coming soon that involved the words "robots," "zombies," and "Dolph Lundgren," well...my proverbial ticket was already bought. (It was "robots" that clinched it.) A film in which Dolph and a bunch of broken down robots take on a horde of zombies? Who the hell doesn't want to see that immediately?

Dolph plays Major Max Gatling, and besides having a ridiculous/bad ass name, he is also the leader of a team of mercenaries charged with traversing a zombie-infested landscape on a rescue mission for a girl named Jude (Melanie Zanetti, the tiniest version of Mary Louise Parker you'll ever see). While doing so, nearly all of his men become ghoul poop. Realizing this was a mission they weren't meant to survive, Dolph puts his sole remaining survivor on the rescue chopper but opts to remain behind to complete the mission. Completely stupid decision, I know (and so does he: "Gatling, you're a stupid son-of-a-bitch), but...if he got on the chopper, there'd be no movie – no zombies, and no robots – so, eat it you filthy cynic.


What we have here in Battle of the Damned is essentially Escape from New York: Replace Snake Plissken with Max Gatling, replace the prisoners with zombies, and replace Adrienne Barbeau and Ernest Borgnine with robots. Oh, and there is a rag tag group of survivors holed out in this zombie landscape, led by a man named Duke.

Lundgren portrays Gatling as a dry-humored nonconformist who would rather crack wise than play nice (that is if he's not treated with all due respect), but this is all simple set dressing because you know he's bound to step up and be the hero that gains him the giant head shot on the poster.

Battle of the Damned dabbles joyfully in familiar territory – and not just Carpenter's Escape template, but also in Romero's post-apocalyptic "let's-live-opulently-and-ignore-the-problem" environment that he perfected in Dawn of the Dead. And in those films, there is an attempt to eventually strip away war zone New York and Monroeville Mall and spend time with our characters, observing them in their environment and getting to know them. And Battle does that, too. It is pleasing to see this kind of attempt at development in what is essentially a DTV movie with robots, zombies, and that guy from Rocky IV who said, "I must break you." One might argue that it was because the filmmakers were forced to halt the zombie carnage due to budget constraints that they filled all the in-between stuff with human conflict. Byproduct of a low budget or not, it's there, it works, and that's all that matters.

The tone is played mostly straight; though it every so often takes a time-out to make a joke, or nod to Dolph's career ("Where did you even find that guy? A super-soldier factory?"), this admittedly stupid concept for a film is taken pretty seriously. That's not to say the film isn't at times unintentionally funny. When our characters see a swath of robots marching down the street and one of them, nearly nonplussed, asks, "Robots? Where'd they come from?", you have to laugh. But it more than adds to the experience that I, at least, am looking for from a film of this type. Plus I'll admit, I have kind of a stupid sense of humor, and I found myself chuckling every time someone in the film even just said the word "robots." ("You brought back robots?" "Killer robots?" "The robots!" )

Melanie Zanetti as Jude does as she is directed, and though she does it mostly fine, the whole angst-ridden, bitter teen who answers every question with some kind of angry, sarcastic response starts to wear thin after a while. Pretty bad considering she's the one you're supposed to care second-most about – plus she's preggers! Her performance can sometimes be irritating in that Ellen-Page-from-Juno kind of way, but if that threatens to happen, just keep telling yourself, " 'It's only a movie...about robots...It's only a movie...about robots...' "

The make-up effects are pretty well done; the visual effects (re: robots in motion) are less so, though I would describe them as inconsistent rather than across-the-board poor. Normally I am quick to call out a film for implanting story elements dependent on CGI even though their low budgets simply do not allow for it, but, once again, Dolph 'N' Bots vs. Ghouls gets a pass from me.


To appreciate Battle of the Damned is to appreciate B-movie productions, aging action heroes whose hey-day you might argue is behind them, and films with gonzo log lines. I doubt anyone who opts to watch the film based solely on its plot will be disappointed; though the zombie element isn't constant, and the robots don't make their appearance until the last act, there is still plenty of skull-crushing action and violence to please those looking for a bloody 90 minutes. 

I have seen a lot of Dolph's post-Universal Soldier DTV filmography and I can say this with confidence: Battle of the Damned is certainly one of the better ones – if not the best. Obviously once you've suffered through something like The Minion or Bridge of Dragons, that's certainly not saying much, but hell, give it a watch. I have a feeling the majority that do will be pleasantly surprised and ultimately entertained.

Besides, there's literally a scene where Dolph asks his robot army, "What do we do with zombies?" and the robots respond, "We fuck them up."

I mean, come on...on what planet is that not the greatest of all times?


Aug 9, 2013

THE BITTERROOT FOOTAGE

My name is Chad. I'm a student at a university in New York. I just moved to a studio apartment and needed some furniture. I found a guy on Craigslist that wanted to desperately get rid of his things at super cheap prices so I went to check it out. He sold things in bulk to get rid of as many things as possible. I bought a small table and it came with a bunch of other random things. Some of it I gave away and some I kept.

An old wooden box caught my attention. It was locked, and out of curiosity I kept it. I had to force open the lid with a screw-driver and inside I found some old pictures.
The word 'bitterroot' was handwritten on the backs of all of them. There was also a tin can that contained a reel of film that I later learned from my friend Dario (a film student), was 8mm film.

The film was pretty damaged so I just kept it on my bookshelf as decoration, but I couldn't get the images of the pictures out of my head. I had to figure out a way to watch that film.

With help from Dario, we got an old 8mm projector in good working condition on Ebay. The film skipped in several spots so we put it together with a special tape and then watched it again. What we found was disturbing.


Visit the website for more.

Aug 6, 2013

NOW AVAILABLE: DRINKING GAMES


Ryan Gielen’s Drinking Games
Coming to DVD this August
New York, NY – Believe Limited is excited to announce the August 20th DVD release of Drinking Games, the new psychological thriller from director Ryan Gielen (The Graduates, Turtle Hill Brooklyn). Written by Gielen and star Blake Merriman, Drinking Games is based on the off-Broadway play "Dorm," also written by Merriman.

It's the last night of the fall semester, and all over campus parties are raging.  While alcohol flows, Richard and Shawn argue over what to do with Noopie, the mysterious upperclassman passed out on their floor. After a blizzard seals them in the dorm with a handful of hapless friends, Noopie awakes and uses a mix of drugs, booze and sex to manipulate the group to their physical and emotional breaking points over the longest, most dangerous night of their young lives. Will it be their last?

The DVD release will include a commentary with Gielen and selected cast members, interviews with the cast and crew, a music video from cast member Michael Pennacchio and "Drunk Sports," a comedic web series. 

Official site.
Watch it now on Amazon!

REVIEW: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY


"Are you ready for your first night in a haunted house?"

And so begins An American Ghost Story. Like Sinister and The Amityville Horror before it, our characters knowingly move into a house allegedly haunted and previously the scene of a family murdered. Paul, much like Elliott Oswalt in Sinister, has decided to write a book about the infamous house to which he and his girlfriend have moved, his rationale being the explosion in popularity of the supernatural, as well as his own desire to "finally finish something" he has started. And he has a plan to make the so-called haunted house more interesting for his potential book. "Supposably [sic] recreating a room's look can make spirits more active," he explains. "I'm going to make this house look as much like it used to as I can." Well, he doesn't even get that far when all kinds of spooky goings-on begin to occur: a phantom ball following him around a la The Changeling; moving kitchen chairs and teleporting dolls a la Poltergeist; a ghost actually wearing a bed sheet a la Paranormal Activity 3; and spontaneously opening drawers and cabinets a la The Sixth Sense. It's not long before Stella peaces-out of the house immediately following her first brush with signs of the haunting, leaving Paul to be alone with his ghostly company.


Ghost movies are getting hard to do and harder to appreciate it. Because it's all been done. All of it. We've seen the twist endings involving dead main characters, we've heard the disembodied whispering in the dark corner, and dear god, we've seen the jocular and obnoxious friend/comic relief purposely scare our lead(s) because, you know, why not? And too often we see low budget "filmmakers" who crap out a rough outline for a film in order to ride the coat-tails of another more popular and high profile one. (The Asylum has been known to do this when they're not tossing sharks in tornadoes.) What can trump these hurdles are two simple things: a well-told story and filmmakers with honor and taste.

An American Ghost Story is not the most original haunted house movie ever made, nor is it the best, but it is well-made and at times effective. You will see an awful lot of familiar gags taken from other well-known genre films, but our filmmakers are smart enough to know that it's precisely because you have seen these other well-known films that you are watching their film in the first place. And so in that regard An American Ghost Story instead becomes a charming, if at times familiar experience.

Stephen Twardokus as Paul (and also our script writer) makes for an effective lead. He's boyish and innocent, perhaps at times a bit too saucer-eyed, but it's hard not to like him. After a rocky beginning, in which he grins as he tells Stella about the bloody killings that took place in their house and makes tasteless jokes about brain matter, he soon sobers up and becomes a much more respectful character. In keeping with the previous (and unavoidable) comparison to Sinister, Paul is far more sympathetic than Ethan Hawke's Ellison. While he was driven by a desire to prove something to everyone and rediscover his fame by writing "his In Cold Blood," Paul's goal is not a selfish one. He's not particularly interested in the paranormal; he instead just wants to prove something to himself, and he's willing to ride a current fad to do it. This isn't necessarily a problem, but it does make his reasoning seem like a cheat. "Ghosts are in, so I'll write about ghosts," etc. And it's not even like he starts off as a skeptic and soon learns to believe - from minute one he's already trying to communicate with the ghosts via tape recorder. Because of this, the character of Paul is limited, emotionally, and gives us less to invest in.

The acting itself is just fine, and that goes for the entire ensemble. Wendy Haines as Sue does the best job out of everyone, playing a former tormented tenant of Paul's new house. Liesel Kopp and Cain Clifton as Stella and Sam, respectively, do well in their limited roles; they only seem to make an appearance when the plot calls for it (or we need a humor break).

Oh, and I love this ending - both on a thematic level as well as a technical one. And that's as far as I'll go in describing it.


Director Derek Cole knows the less-is-more approach. Likely this was a result of the low budget, but who cares? It's still effective, and forces he and Twardokus to rely on mood and traditional scares. This decision makes for a solid backbone of tension, and is only periodically ruined by unnecessary jarring musical stings. A purposeful slow-burn pace and extreme lack of special effects may turn off some viewers used to breakneck speed and ghastly set-pieces, but I doubt this film was made for them, anyway. Think The Haunting. Not, you know... that other The Haunting.

An American Ghost Story hits video August 20.



Aug 5, 2013

PATTON ON BLADE

 

I've only just now discovered The A.V. Club's late-2012 interview with comedian/actor Patton Oswalt, in which he touches on many different aspects of his professional career. Among these are his hilarious recollections of the train wreck that was Blade: Trinity. (I bet you completely forgot he was in that, didn't you?) I've always found Oswalt to be refreshingly candid, but not in any way where he comes across as offensive or arrogant. Below are a few selections from his pretty wonderful interview where he shares a few B:T anecdotes: 
Wesley [Snipes] was just fucking crazy in a hilarious way. He wouldn’t come out of his trailer, and he would smoke weed all day. Which is fine with me, because I had all these DVDs that I wanted to catch up on. We were in Vancouver, and it was always raining. I kept the door to my trailer open to smell the evening rain while I was watching a movie. Then I remember one day on the set—they let everyone pick their own clothes—there was one black actor who was also kind of a club kid. And he wore this shirt with the word “Garbage” on it in big stylish letters. It was his shirt. And Wesley came down to the set, which he only did for close-ups. Everything else was done by his stand-in. I only did one scene with him. But he comes on and goes, “There’s only one other black guy in the movie, and you make him wear a shirt that says ‘Garbage?’ You racist motherfucker!” And he tried to strangle the director, David Goyer.
...
So we went out that night to some strip club, and we were all drinking. And there were a bunch of bikers there, so David says to them, “I’ll pay for all your drinks if you show up to set tomorrow and pretend to be my security.” Wesley freaked out and went back to his trailer. [Laughs.] And the next day, Wesley sat down with David and was like, “I think you need to quit. You’re detrimental to this movie.” And David was like, “Why don’t you quit? We’ve got all your close-ups, and we could shoot the rest with your stand-in.” And that freaked Wesley out so much that, for the rest of the production, he would only communicate with the director through Post-it notes. And he would sign each Post-it note “From Blade.”
...
A lot of the lines that Ryan Reynolds has were just a result of Wesley not being there. We would all just think of things for him to say and then cut to Wesley’s face not doing anything because that’s all we could get from him. It was kind of funny. We were like, “What are the worst jokes and puns that we can say to this guy?” And then it would just be his face going, “Mmm.” “Smiles are contagious.” It’s so, so dumb. [Laughs.] That was an example of a very troubled shoot that we made fun. You have to find a way to make it fun.
Read the whole thing.

Aug 4, 2013

ONLY THE PILLS

The following are the final excerpts from the journal of Dr. Arnold Richards, who, at sixty-seven years old and in perfect health, was found dead in his bedroom, lying in a pool of his own blood, a single sleeping pill in his hand. The incidents surrounding the events reported in his diary were investigated thoroughly, but the case was never solved.
April 1, 1996
She was a frail old woman, gaunt and thin, with sparse, feathery, white hair and baggy, sunken eyes. The faded, loose shirts and pants she wore made her seem even more skeletal than she probably was. I never heard her speak, and every time she came in Dr. Yates would quietly usher her into a check-up room without saying a word to her or anyone else. While this was strange, it didn’t affect my work directly and so I did my best to ignore it.

May 13, 1996
On this bright Wednesday I arrived at the hospital to the news that Dr. Yates had died peacefully in his sleep the night before. I was surprised. The man and I had never gotten particularly close, but we were friendly, and while old, he seemed to have been in perfect health. I was informed that his heart had simply failed in his sleep and he had died quietly and gracefully. I, along with the other clinicians and a few town members attended his funeral that Saturday.

May 19, 1996
Today one of our secretaries told me that a new regular was to be added to my patient list, a woman who went solely by the name of Sybil. The next day, at 12:00 noon Sybil shuffled her way through the door, and I went up to introduce myself. I said hello and offered my condolences for Dr. Yates’ death as obviously the two had become somewhat close. Sybil only looked at me with a hollow, empty gaze, and turned mechanically towards the hallway that lead to her check-up room. As we entered the room she sat down softly in a chair and watched me, unblinking. I smiled awkwardly at her and opened up a folder containing her charts and medical records. Sybil was an impressive 96 years old, and seemed to have been in perfect health all her life, considering her name and age were the only things written on the record. She had no listed place of residence, exact date of birth, references or birth certificate. The only thing on her official record was a case of chronic insomnia, which explained her tired appearance. Groping inside the folder for any extra information, my hand touched a small notecard. In hastily scrawled capital letters, all it read was “ONLY THE PILLS.”

Reaching into the folder again, I pulled out a small plastic bag with a few powder capsules, which I quickly recognized as soporific drugs; sleeping pills. I glanced at Sybil whose gaze had not left me. I felt uneasy. Something didn’t seem quite right about the mysterious situation, but trusting the late Dr. Yates’ judgment I smiled and joked, “well, at least you make my job easy,” offering the baggie to Sybil. The woman retained the exact expression she’d kept for the past fifteen minutes, and, with a swiftness unexpected at her age, snatched the pills from my fingers with a silent yet stern, “thank you, Dr. Richards.”

I walked her to the door and watched her leave. As I returned home I felt strangely exhausted, and went to bed early. Falling asleep I remembered something that struck me uneasily. I had never told my name to Sybil. Dr. Yates must have mentioned me in passing at some point to her. I brushed the thought aside and nodded off.

May 28, 1996
At noon sharp Sybil walked through the clinic doors once more. I greeted her and walked her to her familiar room, where she sat once again in the chair and stared at me. Remembering my uneasy thoughts from last week, out of curiosity I mentioned how I’d never introduced myself and asked her how she’d known my name. Without turning her gaze she simply lifted her wrist and pointed towards the desk in the room as a response. I followed her finger to the folder I’d left there from last week, with the notecard laying on top. Only the pills. I turned to Sybil and told her childishly that I had no pills. I didn’t know her dosage, nothing was written on her chart. She only continued to point at the folder. A foolish thought struck me. I picked up the folder and, with a furrowed brow reached inside. I pulled out her papers, and as they emerged they brought a baggie of pills identical to the first along with them. I was positive there had only been one bag of pills in the folder the week before, and the folder had been left in the exact same place; no one had touched it. I stared at Sybil cautiously and she stared back as always, extending her hand. I gave her the pills, and she responded, “thank you, Dr. Richards,” in the exact same fashion as the previous week.

Suspicious, I took the folder home to make sure no one was doing any tampering. Tonight I felt not only exhausted, but very weak. I had no motivation to do anything. All I wanted to do, all I felt like I could do was sleep. I’m to bed at 6 PM.

June 4, 1996
Before I went to the clinic today, I checked the folder. All it had inside was the notecard, which I left on my nightstand, and Sybil’s papers. No pills. Sybil’s visit went exactly as usual, and as we entered the check-up room I told her that I was concerned she was abusing the medication and told her to try a week without the pills. She only stared at me and pointed again to the folder I had been holding in my hand the whole time. I peered inside and, like a sickly apparition, the bag of yellow pills was resting neatly on the bottom, atop a square piece of white paper. I angrily removed the pills and read, horrified, the notecard they revealed. Only the pills. I turned to Sybil and thrust the bag toward her, yelling, “fine! Take your damn pills.” She only returned her usual “thank you, Dr. Richards,” and left me standing in the room, frightened and angry.

Tonight I got violently ill. After an hour of intense vomiting I crawled into bed, nearly unable to move. As I reached to turn out the light on my nightstand my eyes strayed to a square, white piece of paper. I didn’t have to read it to know what it said. I was confused and terrified. Mustering all my strength I tore the paper into pieces and flushed them down the toilet. Exhausted, I fell into a deep sleep.

June 11, 1996
My sickness left me unable to work for exactly a week. This morning I woke up with the realization that I had only felt strangely on the days after I’d taken care of Sybil. I was frightened to return to work. Perhaps if I was late, she would get tired of waiting and leave. I waited until two o’clock, and nervously went to the clinic. My hand paused on the doorknob, and as I slowly entered, I breathed a sigh of relief. Sybil was not in the waiting room. When I asked, the secretary told me that Sybil had not arrived. This day, I decided, I would find out who the woman really was. I walked to the check-up room to retrieve her papers, and opened the door to find Sybil staring directly at me, as if she had been waiting. I was frozen. No longer did the woman’s gaze seem empty and passive. Now it was devilish, laughing, taunting me, daring me. I didn’t want to look at her, and tried to ignore her, but her presence permeated the white room. I felt her gaze like a hand perpetually on my shoulder. Walking towards the desk, I picked up the folder and noticed there was a wet spot in the lower right corner. I opened it up to find the pills and the notecard once again. The pills were the same sick yellow, in the same suffocating bag. The notecard was torn into pieces and soaking. It had dampened the corner of the envelope and the papers inside. I screamed at Sybil. “Who the hell are you? What do you want with me?” She pointed only at the folder. “**** you.” I responded. “**** your pills!” I threw the envelope on the floor, feeling the capsules crush beneath my shoes. “Looks like you’ll be awake for a while now,” I said spitefully. Sybil stared with her hollow eyes for what seemed like years. Finally she spoke, with a voice that was not of a 96 year old lady. “Goodbye, Dr. Richards.” She got up, and left.

I was fuming, and terrified. Why had she told me “goodbye?” What’s more, how did Dr. Yates put up with this woman for two years, when I had been pushed to the edge in under a month? Suddenly I remembered. Dr. Yates was dead. He had died in his sleep. I raced into the secretary’s office and demanded Dr. Yates’ medical records. The secretary looked startled and handed them to me, and I promptly drove as fast as I could home. I dumped the contents of Yates’ folder onto my kitchen table and, rifling hastily through the papers I found another, smaller envelope labeled with the words CORONER’S REPORT. Inside the envelope my horror was embodied. Pictures of Yates on his deathbead revealed a terrifying truth. Dr. Yates had not died peacefully. His body was contorted from seizing, his face twisted into an expression of horror and pain, blood leaking from his mouth and nostrils. I had to cover my mouth and hold back cries. His expressions were horrific, eyes rolled back, joints turned backwards. In all my years practicing, I had never seen someone frozen in such pain. On his certificate, the coroner had listed his cause of death as undetermined. That failed to satisfy me. I needed to know. I examined the pictures long into the night, and in one photograph of his mangled face I noticed a square, white corner poking out from underneath his pillow.

June 12, 1996
Mustering up all my courage, I grabbed a flashlight, got in my car and drove to Dr. Yates’ house. It was about four miles away and isolated. I knew it would be empty. The night was strangely cold and damp. I walked up to the front door and, turning the knob with shaking hands, opened it and stepped inside. Only moonlight filtered in through the windows. Light switches failed, the power had already been cut off. Assuming I knew where his bedroom was, I stumbled up the staircase to the second floor. Adrenaline pumping in my veins, I reached toward the first doorknob my flashlight reflected off of. Hesitating only for a second, and before I could change my mind, I twisted and pulled. It was a small bathroom, and smelled sickly of vomit. The mirror/drug cabinet above the sink was flung hastily open, revealing a mess of capsules spilling off the shelves. The same capsules I had been giving to Sybil for the past three weeks. The cause of my terror. I slammed the door closed and looked around the landing with my flashlight. There was only one other door at the end of the hallway. I could hear the blood flowing past my ears as I walked toward what I knew was the bedroom. Again, my hand stood still over the doorknob for only a second before I hastily turned it and swung the door open. The bedroom frighteningly resembled my own, with a queen sized bed and two nightstands on either side. The pale moonlight desaturated the colors of the room into stark black and white; I could clearly see the bloodstains from Yates body, vivid on the pale sheets of his mattress. Remembering the picture, I gathered myself and walked towards the pillow, which was a bloody mess. Sure enough, the white corner was jutting out, daring me to grab it. I lifted the pillow to reveal a familiar looking folder. I shined my flashlight to reveal one word scribbled on the front. Sybil.

Suddenly, I heard a creak and a door open, the sound of a hundred pills falling to the floor. The noise shocked me out of my reverie and I snatched the folder, ran out of the house, and got into my car as fast as I possibly could. There was much more inside this folder than I had in my measly papers at the clinic. I scoured Sybil’s records. She had hundreds of different charts from hundreds of different doctors, and each said the same thing. Sybil was a victim of hyperinsomnia. She never slept. I rifled through the records as quickly as I could. Hyperinsomnia. Sleeping pills. Hyperinsomnia. Sleeping pills. The oldest chart was from 1912. Diagnosis: hyperinsomnia. Prescription, sleeping pills. I set the paper down, my forehead dripping in cold sweat. If Sybil’s charts were correct, the woman had been awake for 84 years.

Suddenly I was emboldened. The woman no longer frightened me. I had figured her out. I would confront her. I would maybe even try to help her. If she never slept, I could even go to her house now. It was one thirty in the morning. Finding Sybil’s address in her records, I wrote it down on a slip of paper and got into my car a third time. I drove for about two miles, and then realized things were starting to seem familiar. As I turned onto her street my confidence shattered like a bone. I realized in utter horror where the address I had written down had brought me. Bringing my car to a slow halt, I stepped out and made the now terrifyingly familiar walk up to the clinic doors. In a last ditch effort to resolve the mind I was sure I was slowly losing, I checked the paper I had written the address down on once more. Three words showed themselves to me. Only the pills.

I can’t bring myself to reveal what happened when I entered the clinic that night. All I can tell you is that it is the last time I will leave its doors. It is the last time I will see Sybil, and that I am about to go to sleep for what will be the last time in my life. I hold a small yellow capsule in my hand that could save me. But I can’t. I refuse end up like her. I would rather die than stay awake.


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