Jan 14, 2012

DELETED SCENE: THE EXORCIST

Contortionist Linda R. Hager was hired to perform the infamous "spider-walk scene" that was filmed on April 11, 1973. Friedkin deleted the scene just prior to the original December 26, 1973 release date because he felt it was ineffective technically. However, with advanced developments in digital media technology, Friedkin worked with CGI artists to make the scene look more convincing for the 2000 theatrically re-released version of The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen. Since the original release, myths and rumors still exist that a variety of spider-walk scenes were filmed despite Friedkin's insistence that no alternate version was ever shot.


More.

Jan 12, 2012

SHITTY FLICKS: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE

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.


NAKED TEENS, MR. CONTANT, FOUND
MASSACRED TO DEATH AT SLUMBER PARTY

LOS ANGELES, CaliforniaFour scantily-clad teen girls with substantially-sized breasts, three of their typically annoying boyfriends (including John Minor, the biggest man on campus), their high school basketball coach, and a pizza delivery man were found massacred to death in a suburban home yesterday morning owned by Trish, one of the young victims.

The victims that have so far been identified are Trish, Kimberly, Jackie, Diane, Neil, Jeff, John Minor, Coach, and Mr. Contant, the leering and purposely suspicious looking neighbor.

While considering breaking her own
"No Kiss on the First Date" rule,
she suddenly felt John Minor's
finger south of the equator.

The killer, Russ Thorn - who had easily escaped from the mental asylum where he had been committed - was also found dead in the pool. He was missing a hand, proper character development, a coherent motive, and wearing a denim jacket. It appears that Thorn had used some sort of pneumatic drill to take the lives of his victims, all the while barely getting any blood on himself.

Two other victims were found earlier that day: an unidentified and previously "hot" phone repair woman who was found drilled in the back of her van; and Linda, a student found murdered within her own school - a result of every single door being chained up after classes had let out only five minutes prior.

Janitors of the school are being held for questioning and may be forced to take classes on how to prevent inadvertently creating death traps out of traditionally safe environments.

For a prank, the girls killed
Mary as she slept.

Two survivors, Valerie Bates and her younger sister, Courtney (an avid fan of ashamed masturbation), took the life of the killer in self-defense and miraculously managed to keep their clothes on.

"I'm not sure how I managed to remain clothed throughout the night," says Valerie. "Us teen girls...it's almost effortless that our tops fall off. But I guess that's why I'm still sucking air! Had my top and bra fallen off, my head would probably be sitting in the next-door neighbor's garbage can."

While Valerie's breasts managed to avoid exposure - or the mouth of a very inexperienced teen boy - her ordeal was not without its detriments.

"This incident has made me go batshit insane," continues the eldest Bates girl. "I probably won't be around to save the day, should something like this ever happen again. Courtney will just have to deal with it, I guess."

Courtney was unavailable for comment, as she was playing the bass at a garage practice for her terrible rock band.

"This is one of the oddest crime scenes I have ever seen," says Officer Kruiger, a member of the LAPD. "If I had to take a guess, it would seem that one of the girls actually ate the pizza delivered to them by that delivery boy who had been tragically killed. That's just strange. Who does that? What a dick head. I just don't get these kids today."

Officer Vorhies, another police officer, adds: "It's such a tragedy, really. These were just your typical girls: eating junk food, having sporadic and shirtless pillow fights, all the while copulating with their obnoxious boyfriends who acted like they had never seen a single breast in their entire lives. It really is a shame - a shame that I wasn't invited. I would've brought Mall Madness."

"And it's weird that their coach ended up here, too," continues Office Kruiger. "I mean, what the fuck is that? Was she a lesbian? A hot, hot lesbian? Were all these girls lesbians together? Man, I hope so. I hope they were all hot lesbians. I hope they were having some kind of hot, sordid, lesbian affair. I mean, I've seen that team play...there wasn't too much practicing going on. Without being too obscene, maybe these dead girls were hot for the clam."

Mr. Contant, the neighbor who was also killed by Thorn, says, "It sucks that I died because I was the best character in this movie. I was awesome, I would just pop up out of nowhere in the darkness wielding a cleaver, so of course everyone would think I was the killer. No sir! I was merely hunting snails in the darkness. That's right, I would be in another person's garage, holding a MEAT CLEAVER above their head. Oh, but I'm not the killer. I'm just killing snails. Hey, me, ever hear of salt? Or better yet, insecticide? But whatever, I can't complain; if I wasn't set up as a red herring every five minutes, I'd barely be in this movie."

Dick Weapon vs Vagina Weapon 2:
The Quickening

Pam, the carpenter known for suddenly drilling holes through front doors so as to provoke a shocking moment, only to sheepishly claim she is making a peephole, offered her own two cents: "This is just a tragedy. What happened here in this community will never be forgotten. A piece of this community's heart died today. We're really going to miss Mr. Contant."

A nameless friend of Diane remembers her friend as well: "She was so nice. She was a real giver, and she was always telling me when my tits were getting bigger. I'll miss her. Soaping up in the shower room as we talked about penises won't be the same without her."

Rumors that Spy Kids 3D and Assassins actor Sylvester Stallone was sighted at the scene of the crime could not be confirmed, but when his name was brought up during questioning of the younger Bates sister, Courtney, her cheeks grew red and she clenched her legs together.

Rita Mae Brown, author of several books she co-wrote with her stupid cat, Sneakie Pie, says, "Listen, the giant drill, the male killer...I knew what I was doing when I wrote this movie. I'm an angry lesbian, so of course the killer was going to hold the drill between his legs when he massacred the girls. God, that's clever, isn't it?" Brown then drove off in her stained panel van to continue working on her newest book, Men Built This Country But Women Are Better Anyway.

"Hey, look! Tanya's just...hangin' out?"
"OMG, shut up, Susan."

Mrs. Bates, mother of Valerie and Courtney, tearfully hugs her two daughters, thankful for their lives. "I'm just so glad my daughters are safe; they're all I have. I hope no other giggling teens ever have to endure what my daughters endured, especially Courtney, perhaps while at a friend's beach house when she is older. Or even maybe an unrelated girl who doesn't realize that the killer is her crush - that nice boy, Ken."

Jan 10, 2012

UNSUNG HORRORS: COPYCAT

Every once in a while, a genuinely great horror movie—one that would rightfully be considered a classic, had it gotten more exposure and love at the box office—makes an appearance. It comes, no one notices, and it goes. But movies like this are important. They need to be treasured and remembered. If intelligent, original horror is supported, then that's what we'll begin to receive, in droves. We need to make these movies a part of the legendary genre we hold so dear. Because these are the unsung horrors. These are the movies that should have been successful, but were instead ignored. They should be rightfully praised for the freshness and intelligence and craft that they have contributed to our genre.

So, better late than never, we’re going to celebrate them now… one at a time.

Dir. Jon Amiel
1995
Warner Bros.
United States

Copycat had the extreme misfortune of being released in theaters the same weekend as the-perhaps-you’ve-heard-of-it David Fincher-directed powerhouse Se7en. The two films are quite thematically similar, each featuring a serial killer with a gimmick: the former is repeating famous serial killings from years past, while the latter is using the seven deadly sins as his guide when taking lives. While Sigourney Weaver will always be a cinematic legend, she was sadly no match for Morgan Freeman and the up-and-coming Brad Pitt that weekend at the box office. Because the cast and crew of Se7en now currently enjoy a higher level of fame than those affiliated with Copycat (Fincher would go on to direct Fight Club and The Social Network; screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker would write Sleepy Hollow and The Wolfman), it’s easy to assume that one film is superior to the other – and you would be right…just in the wrong order. Copycat exceeds Se7en in every way possible—from the first frame to the last.

While Se7en begins with a gritty, artsy pastiche of trembling letters and icky gooey things, screaming to the audience, “Our movie is so fucked up, OMG, get ready,” Copycat, likewise, merely just begins…with a panning shot of college students lazing about on a beautiful sunny day. Layered over their laughter is the speech being given nearby in the school’s amphitheater by Weaver’s Helen Hudson—one detailing the 25 serial killers cruising for victims at that very moment. It’s a scary notion, and not much else comes from her speech to allay any fears.


Helen Hudson is a serial killer specialist and she knows her shit, having written books on the subject, and even having testified in a trial against serial killer Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick Jr., in a surprisingly effective performance rivaling Kevin Spacey’s own as John Doe.) Cullum isn’t all that happy about Helen’s testimony, and he lets her know that; after having escaped from prison, he stalks her to the college where she is giving her speech and attacks her with a metal zip line noose and scalpel. Helen survives the attack – the same can’t be said for an unfortunate cop – and months later, she is an agoraphobic, unable to set foot even three feet out her front door without suffering a panic attack. Having become a total recluse, she has sworn off the entire outside world, and the world of serial killers with it…until the headlines in the newspaper begin—headlines warning of a possible serial killer haunting the San Francisco area (a fitting place, being that San Fran was previous stalking ground for the Zodiac, a serial killer never caught).


Inspectors Monahan (Holly Hunter) and Goetz (Dermot Mulroney) are soon introduced as partners (and lovers?) in the homicide department of the San Francisco Police. The two achieve an instant level of believability thanks to their onscreen chemistry, and both give career-best performances. They soon become entangled with the psychologically damaged Helen Hudson, who after seeing the headlines in the papers, can’t help but call the homicide department with frustrated tips of the trade. While the two inspectors are stuck following up on Helen Hudson, their colleagues show their distaste for the woman in different ways: fellow officers make jokes at her expense, referring to her “lunar cycle” theory as the “moon bike,” while their superior, Lieutenant Quinn, refers to her as “the shrink who got the cop killed.” Clearly Helen Hudson’s relationship with San Francisco PD is not a stellar one.

Lastly, we have the titular serial killer Peter Foley (William McNamara), plumbing the depths of history for the perfect murders to recreate. McNamara has the hardest job in the film—to play not a “scary” serial killer, but a real one. And what do people always say about serial killers? “He seemed so nice and quiet; always kept to himself.” McNamara is a handsome, but plain looking fellow, and he works very hard to have a commanding presence onscreen. It comes dangerously close to not working at times, but he manages to pull it off. And going further with this idea of the guy next door being a serial killer, the movie cleverly shows you Peter several times during the movie—though never introduces him as a named character for that “Oh man, HE’S the killer!” shock ending. His unnoticed presence drives the point home: he’s been around since the first minute of the film and he was never noticed. He stood in the police station and watched as crackpots confessed to the murder HE committed, even smiling to himself…even saying hello to one of the detectives working the case. This is the point of the movie: Violence exists in our society and we like to think it wears a noticeable face and a sign on its back—that we know where it originates, what the causes are, and how to stop it. But the truth is, we don’t. The violence we live with every day doesn’t exist on the news or in the papers—it lives next door. It wears glasses and tends to a needy girlfriend and says hello when you pass by.


Helen Hudson is Weaver’s absolute best performance to date—she is a character truly damaged by her encounter with the very thing by which she was fascinated. And she did not bounce back like most horror/thriller movie heroines tend to do; instead she has been changed for the worst. While she, Monahan, and Goetz hunt for the serial killer plaguing the San Francisco streets, Helen Hudson is also hunting for the strength within herself to defeat the demons keeping her captive in her own home—she just doesn’t know it at the time.

Interestingly enough, the movie is also viewed as a pro-feministic one, being that the intelligence and the cunning come not from a generic male lead who lets his gun do the talking, but rather two women who have their own drama bubbling just under their surfaces. I say “interestingly” because earlier drafts of the script had Holly Hunter’s role written for a man, who was then supposed to go on to have a quasi-romance with Weaver’s character. The change was for the better, as it helped bring a fresh perspective to an overdone dynamic.

Copycat was written by Ann Biderman, who would go on to write the immensely twisted Primal Fear, as well as find great success in creating the cult hit police drama "Southland." Director Jon Amiel would later direct the crowd pleasers – if not box office/critical sensations – Entrapment and The Core. Composer Christopher Young turns in one of his best scores to date—an amalgamation of hushed chorus, dreamy, almost shallow pond water-like melodies, mixed with the harsh strings we’ve all come to expect from the horror/thriller genre. 

Copycat is a masterful thriller, and though it’s not a bloody show like some of its genre colleagues, not everyone makes it out of the film alive—especially those whose deaths you won’t see coming. It doesn’t need a head in a box to be memorable, and it doesn’t need horrific set pieces filled with mutilated people. It only needs to be, because as it stands right now, it’s perfect.

Jan 8, 2012

THE THIRD TWIN

 
I won't be bringing this up terribly often, but I was a huge fan of 2010's TRON: Legacy. I loved everything about it, including the amazing visuals and the awesome soundtrack by Daft Punk. Yes, I recognize the film's story itself is weak. I really don't care. I will, however, freely admit that, had I not fallen so deeply in love with the film's score prior to my having seen the film, my reaction to the film might have been lukewarm at best. But that's not important. Bottom line: I love it now.

When the soundtrack was released, an interesting—almost conspiratorial—rumor began circulating; that there was something not on-the-level with the final product of the film's score. Unfounded, unconfirmed, and even downright denied rumors that Disney were unhappy with the famed duo's first musical submission, which was more along the lines of their signature style of crunchy beats and inordinate melodies, exploded across blogs and forums. Allegedly, Disney, expecting something more traditional and orchestral, tossed the music into the trash and told the French robots to start from scratch. (I personally don't believe any of this to be true—any musician who makes the rare foray into film composition ultimately creates something completely unlike anything they previously created under their more famous monikers: ie, Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood; Damon Albarn for Ravenous; John Cale for American Psycho.)

A collection of music silently appeared on the Internets, full of crunchy beats and inordinate melodies, as well as looped vocals and found audio. The music was credited to The Third Twin, a band no one had heard of up to that point. And then the conspiracy became widely known: The Third Twin was actually Daft Punk, who were decidedly unhappy with Disney's treatment of their original compositions for TRON: Legacy, and so were leaking the music they had created. The Third Twin was used as their alias so as to avoid legal ramifications from such an act. This, of course, has been vehemently denied by Disney, as well as by Daft Punk and their representatives. The following statement was actually released after a Spanish newspaper called El Periódico Mediterráneo reported the French duo were scheduled to perform at the Arenal Sound Festival as their new alter ego The Third Twin:
"It has been brought to the attention of Daft Punk's management that the promoters for the Arenal Sound Festival in Spain have recently issued a press release in which they claim that a band called The Third Twin is 'directly connected' to Daft Punk. This is completely untrue. Recent press reports are based on rumors instead of facts. Daft Punk is in no way associated with The Third Twin and the promoters for the Arenal Sound Festival are promoting the show under false pretenses."
Further:
"We never threw out any of their material, ever," says Mitchell Leib, [President of Music and Soundtracks for Walt Disney Pictures and Disney Music Group].  "I want to dispel any of the rumors about that material by that alias group being any derivative of our TRON music, because it's not at all. There's nothing about that music that has anything to do with TRON or any of the original conceptual music that was done."
The conspiracy became quite specific, leading to the claim that one of TTT's songs, Give Us Your Energy, was actually an early test version of Outlands, a track featured on the official TRON: Legacy soundtrack.*

But the rumors don't end there. According to the latest rumor (which is already a year old in what appears to be the now-dead conspiracy), the members of The Third Twin are actually nephews of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, one half of Daft Punk.

Tracking all the rumors can get exhausting after a while, so feel free to Wiki this and see all the additional rumors that have subsisted since TTT first breached American shores two years ago. After that, check this out, because it just keeps going.

The point is this: music released online by The Third Twin remains free, and quite good. Fans of early Daft Punk should dig it, as well as new listeners.

Tracklists for both releases are as follows. You can snag both albums in one handy zip file below.

Homemade (2010)

1. Technolers
2. Evil Minds
3. Chicago Soul
4. Justice Free
5. Ra Men Kepher
6. Americ Family
7. Empty Fire
8. Worm Earth
9. The Time Is Over
10. Arecibo's Song
11. This Is Love

 Direkttt (EP) (2011)

1. Give Us Your Energy*

2. Euphoria

3. The Nightmare

4. Posioned

5. Impulse



GET

Note: This music is being posted here under the assumption that it is to be considered promotional material, as direct links on the band's official website lead to free downloads off LastFM. If this is no longer the case, please contact the blog and it will be immediately removed.

Jan 3, 2012

REVIEW: THE TUNNEL


I have one eye keenly focused on Australian horror. And while Wolf Creek came out to great acclaim several years back, and that same director’s Rogue was a fun splash of giant alligatorism, found footage movies are a whole horse of a different color (as is always the case with me). To date, I have seen two Australian found footage movies: Lake Mungo, and now, The Tunnel. To date, both have rocked.

I really can’t get into the actual mechanics of The Tunnel without first shedding light on something important: its marketing campaign. The Tunnel prides itself on being almost entirely fan-funded—an honorary (and sole) member of the self-proclaimed “$135K Project.” A pledge was made to send each person who donated money to the production at least an individual frame of the movie; and the higher the pledge, the bigger the reward/accolade. A goal of a $135,000 production budget was set in place…and it was matched. But why is this important enough to mention? Because upon the film’s completion, it was uploaded to the web for a limited time…by the filmmakers…for free consumption. It was downloaded over a million times. For a major studio, this would be a crushing blow. For a small, grassroots campaign, this is a victory.


I don’t know about you, but if I read somewhere that I could download someone’s movie for free—with no legal ramifications whatsoever—I would be a little hesitant. Thoughts of shoddy movies sold in those cheap slim line cases spilling off dollar store shelves and Target end caps come to mind. I mean, have you seen some of the awful dreck some studios actually paid for, and want YOU to pay for? So if the filmmakers of The Tunnel were just giving this thing away for free, how good could it be?

Pretty good. Great, actually.

Its setup won’t exactly knock your socks off with its originality—every movie of this ilk owes its existence to The Blair Witch Project, which will always be the watermark in the found footage sub-genre—but The Tunnel is told in a not-so-traditional manner. Much like Lake Mungo, The Tunnel is not just 90 minutes of characters wandering around in the dark and being terrorized by an off-screen monstrosity. Sure, that happens, but layered through the movie are sit-down interviews with our characters discussing their harrowing ordeal. As the movie draws out, and we take mental attendance of each character giving an epilogue-ish interview, we already know who will survive the events down in the tunnel…and who won’t. Some might see this as a detractor; others not. In the case of Lake Mungo, which depended on an entirely different story, I did not find this technique to be a detractor—in fact, it was a strength. It allowed the characters more time to convey just how the events of the film affected them on an emotional level. With The Tunnel, which is supposed to be a more visceral, in-your-face experience, I’m not so sure the technique works in its favor…


Investigative journalist Natasha Warner leads a three-man film crew down into an unused tunnel system beneath the streets of Sydney to follow up on plans suspiciously abandoned by the government to utilize an untouched water source in order to combat an ongoing drought plaguing the city. The death knell for these plans seemed to immediately follow the city's process in locating and removing the many homeless who had made the underground tunnels their homes, and the suspicious nature in which the plans were scrapped set Natasha’s journalistic mind reeling. In the movie she states: “When something goes unspoken, I have to ask why. That’s my job as a journalist.” And so her investigation begins.

Upon interviewing a homeless man named Trevor, whom she deduced was living in the tunnels, the crew is startled by his extreme emotional outburst that sends him running from his chair and into far corners of the room, crying and ripping at the walls with his fingernails...all in response to the question, “Has something bad happened to you down there?” It’s a great moment that lets both the audience and our characters know that there’s something under those streets the government does not want to deal with, nor even acknowledge.

With her production crew behind her (Pete, producer; Steven, cameraman; “Tangles,” soundman), she leads the descent into the darkness…and to the unimaginable thing that begins to stalk them one by one.

Our story-chasing news crew feels genuine, and we learn about each character in a very organic manner. It’s important for this kind of movie that each of them are likable, and that the actors playing them are believable. The Tunnel nails this with ease, introducing each character and detailing the relationships they all share with each other—which is to say, complicated. Natasha’s desire to descend into the tunnels is fueled by the notion she needs to prove herself as a journalist, and this impulse to do so may very well be clouding her judgment. Steve considers her to be a flavor of the week, never considering her to be a “real journalist.” He also alludes to Natasha having had a sexual relationship with both Pete as well as their boss, and while this is never verified, Steven is all too willing to believe it with a cocksure smile on his face.

Lazy exposition is a detriment to a film, and that is never a fault in The Tunnel. Through the aforementioned sit-down interviews, the POV footage, as well as news broadcasts, we learn the ins and outs of the story—all of it is presented in a very believable manner.


Now that our conflict is firmly established, we now ask ourselves: do our characters have a valid reason for doing what they are doing? Have they provided enough reasoning for going down into the icky, gooey sewer that makes homeless men cry? Well, being that they are journalists and they see the chance to blow the lid off a government conspiracy (and what journalists out there don’t want to be the next Woodward and Bernstein?) then yes, they have perfectly suitable reasons for going down into the dark. Steven states in the movie: “As a film crew, it’s our job to film and get coverage. It’s not our job to [question orders].” So in this case, we don’t need to be force-fed the reasoning behind their descent into the dark. What we’re given is more than suitable.

Once down in the tunnels, the action respectfully and believably escalates. The noises begin, as do the blurry “what the fuck was that?” sightings of something whisking past a corner. The characters become unfocused, lost, and pissed off. Tensions begin to rise. And then the creature makes its appearance. Here we come to the biggest complaint about found footage movies: Why, when the movie's antagonist makes its appearance, does the cameraman keep filming? Why don't they just drop the camera and run screaming from their adversary? Why do they still hold the camera even when they are trying to help a friend who is being violently attacked by their stalker? Well, as Steven explains earlier in the film, the act of going down into the tunnel never jibed with him—especially after Natasha attempted to bribe the security guard to allow them access, leading them to have to basically break in—so he decided then and there to film everything that happened, making Natasha liable for any legalities they may have occurred. Whether you like and accept that argument or not, at least the filmmakers thought far enough ahead to acknowledge it—something most found footage movies leave undisturbed.

Speaking of the creature, here is where my second and last real complaint of the film comes into play: The Tunnel is inconvenienced by not having more shots of the slimy thing slithering around in the dark. And I don’t mean the film needed a well-lit shot of the creature in all its glory—so clear and focused that I could count its testicles. I didn’t need to SEE the thing clearly. I just needed to see it more often. When the cameras capture brief glimpses of the creature in the dark—and its eyes glow green in the camera’s night vision—it’s creepy. The creature’s visage is captured just enough for you to get a basic idea—something almost human, yet not—but not enough so that it destroys the image your imagination has created after filling in the gaps. For me personally, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up during these scenes…and I wanted just a bit more. And while this may not be entirely accurate, when I think back, it seems as if the creature isn’t featured all that much. And when that feeling becomes more and more insistent, it feels as if the movie missed a huge opportunity to be more memorable. Despite this, and for such a low budget, the movie is remarkably well made, well acted, and creepy at times.


As previously mentioned, once you can see what kind of technique the movie is employing, the presence of the majority of our main characters during their sit-down interviews ruins some of the tension created in the tunnels. “Oh, so-and-so lives,” etc. Lake Mungo gets away with this technique because 90-95% of that movie is created with sit down interviews; The Tunnel depends on more traditional POV thrills to tell its story, and so it becomes a different monster altogether.

The filmmakers have openly stated they chose this technique in order to differentiate it from other films in the sub-genre, and I can truly respect that. However, I think it’s okay for your movie to be a little more familiar, so long as you're not sacrificing tension and scares. A strong story and strong characters can make even the most tired of premises come alive in a fresh new way, and The Tunnel accomplishes this handily.

While I can honestly say I look forward to the future endeavors of these filmmakers, part of me selfishly wishes they would make another found footage flick. They are clearly capable of creating something really god damn good, and while The Tunnel doesn’t quite reach that level, it comes pretty close.

The Tunnel has been available for some time in a hard-copy 2-disc format (for the more ardent supporters of the film), and comes with a bevy of special features (which can be bought here). Also available is a single-disc release, featuring audio commentary by the director and producer, which can be nabbed here.

GRADE: A-