Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Innkeepers [trailer]

There was a time a Spike Lee film meant something. An Oliver Stone film meant something. A Martin Scorcese film meant something. Those times are gone. All three directors are still working but their recent output means nothing.

Ti West directed House of the Devil 2009 and Cabin Fever 2 2010. The Innkeepers 2011 could and should be his entry into horrormeister status. Yet for all his critical and fanboy accolades The Innkeepers is his second film in a row to bypass theatres. There is no doubt in my mind that this (young) director is on the ascent. All he needs is a stab at the mainstream alas The Innkeepers is not it.
Sight unseen it is potentially one of the best horror films of the year. This is because it is directed by Ti West. His films mean something.

The Innkeepers is released 30th Dec on VOD.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Coming Soon Horror Films 2011
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Monday, 24 October 2011

Hostel 3 trailer

Saw 2004 is great entertainment. It’s a puzzle film similar to the likes of Se7en 1995 and Cube 1997. The Saw impact was such that it spawned a franchise and popularised a subgenre.

The once popular subgenre torture porn is dead.

Hostel 2005 is a good film. The torture porn label is accurate but the criticism is unjustified. All a genre film has to do is hit those perfect beats and then add flavouring. Hostel achieves this thus making the film palatable to discerning genre fans. Hostel 2 starring Heather Matarazzo and Bijou Phillips was a cash grab piece of trash.

Where will Hostel 3 fit in this? Its subgenre is dead and a belated sequel always sounds like a belated cash grab. Creator Eli Roth has no input in this instalment for better or worse.

The Wrong Turn franchise has a life on Straight-to-DVD. The first the first two sequels were better than they ought to have been (Wrong Turn 4 2011 is worse than imaginable). As such there is hope for Hostel 3.

Hostel 3 is released on DVD 27th December in the US. Thrill Fiction would like to thank Bloody Disgusting for use of their exclusive content.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Attack the Block

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Woman in Black (full trailer)

As much as it irks me that the future of British horror is in the hands of a Dutch reality TV mogul I must concede that The Woman in Black 2012 ticks all the boxes for a great film.

This is the movie that will legitimise Daniel Radcliffe as a star. It’ll put Hammer back on the horror map. It’ll make director James Watkins a Master of Horror contender. It may well be film of the year. I predict box office bonanza.
To understand my enthusiasm you can buy the eponymous book and/or watch the television adaptation on Youtube.

The Woman in Black opens wide 3rd February in the US and 10th February in the UK.

Read more Thrill Fiction: John Carpenter’s TheThing
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Monday, 10 October 2011

American Horror Story

There is so much that cannot be shown on television. Sex, violence, profanity, blasphemy and racism are all staples of prime time entertainment for the ‘innocent’ masses. It is a malaise that is all pervasive and includes the all-pervasive reality genre. The Bad Girl’s Club instigates fist fights between skanks young women by subterfuge that includes race-baiting.
American debutantes

The decay is mainstream which begs the question is there a need for the horror genre on TV? Post 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the War on Terror, the banking crisis and the Tea Party can horror find its place in a TV schedule full of hate?

Horror has never played well inside the box. The Exorcist 1973 is the most successful horror feature made. It has grossed over $1 billion1 (inflation adjusted) at the worldwide box office. It is the template for the motion picture horror story: introduce the characters, introduce the evil then have the two sides collide.
Television is structured around commercials with a requisite cliffhanger. This is the antithesis of horror story telling. To circumvent the TV format producers smuggled horror into sci fi/mystery anthology shows; The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales of the Unexpected2. When there was no longer a need to smuggle the horror anthology show was created; Tales from the Crypt, Freddy’s Nightmares and Masters of Horror.

The paradox is the most artistically successful of these shows was the Nickelodeon show Are You afraid of the Dark? It lasted seven seasons and 91 episodes3.
The anthology is short story cinema/television and is hit or miss by numbers. It is never enough hence the TV series. Television is the bastion of cops, lawyers, doctors and nurses. The series format loves these occupations because it can weave a quasi-soap opera around characters who hop into bed with each other. A horror story has to have a point. The horror TV series fails because it too succumbs to soap opera – Buffy, True Blood, The Walking Dead.

It can be done. One series that worked was Ultraviolet; a British production that aired on Channel 4 for one season of six episodes. Fox acquired the rights to remake it for the US market but screwed up the pilot – by shifting the focus from the horror to soap opera. The pilot was not aired and the series not picked up.
Horror movies have a huge fan base so it is adroit TV producers will try to exploit that. They will try and try again. The latest opportunists are Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Their pedigree is Nip/Tuck and Glee. Two shows aimed at women and homosexuals. Welcome to camp horror.
Dylan McDermott is the lead which is puzzling as that slice of white bread couldn’t open an envelope. The biggest name on the title card is Jessica Lange. She used to be a somebody. In American Horror Story she’s a parody of her aged beauty. Her character is caricature. She plays the southern gothic snow white queen because Hollywood has an age restriction.

She also refers to her screen daughter as a ‘mongoloid’. Said daughter is a Down Syndrome actor played by one Jamie Brewer. Her inclusion in the cast is not bravery on the part of the producers nor is it affirmative action. It is freak show casting and reminiscent of reality TV shows such as Body Shock4. It’s exploitative. It’s outrageous.

American Horror Story is less offensive in its shock value. This is an artistic retarded rendition of Grand Guignol. The attempts at shock start with child murder and run through a gynaecological examination, self harm and a PVC sex scene. Note to the producers: a PVC sex scene in missionary position defeats its own purpose.

As to be expected from this type of twaddle there’s a magpie effect. The pilot has recurring twins à la The Shining 1980 and a covered mural swiped from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark 1973. They use the score from Vertigo 1958. The editing is spastic and makes no sense. There’s also the pathetic male (good casting) whining about his feelings. ‘Man up’, ‘grin and bear it’, ‘stiff upper lip’, ‘take it like a man’ et cetera.

Horror is subversive. It is dangerous. It is disturbing. What it is not is politically correct or female friendly or PG13. American Horror Story is typical and there’s so much that cannot be shown on television.

Read more Thrill Fiction: The Last House on theLeft
1 The Exorcist The Numbers
2 Tales of the Unexpected Youtube
3 Are You Afraid of the Dark Youtube
4 Body Shock Youtube
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Monday, 3 October 2011

The Caller

Man fears ghost – and always have. Religious beliefs aside the ghost serves as warning that action taken in this life provokes a response from the afterlife; the dead wreck revenge. Men should fear ghosts.

The first ghost story was so long ago it is undocumented but there are new ones written every day1. Every culture throughout history has its ghosts. The advent of print put them on the page2. The invention of cinema put them in the movies3.

The 100 years of cinema has witnessed the rise and demise of various genres: the western, the musical, film noir. The ghost story has been filmed as drama (Ghost 1990) and comedy (Ghostbusters 1982) but it is nothing if not horror. This genre never dies and the ghost subgenre is a 100 year staple4.
from print to television to radio to cinema
Hollywood opportunism mirrors the bandwagon effect. When a studio scores a hit the competition rushes into production their copycat versions. The industry will hammer that genre into submission until the public begs “Enough!”

It’s a business model that’s worked so far.

This model produces trends and cycles. The independent Friday the 13th 1980 was distributed by Paramount (domestic) and Warner Bros (international). It grossed a worldwide $170.8 million5 (all figures adjusted for inflation) and kick-started the slasher 80s. The Silence of the Lambs 1991 earned $451.7m6 worldwide and birthed the serial killer 90s. The Ring 2002 had worldwide revenue of $307.9m7 and began the J-horror remake 2000s.

The Ring is boxed in the ‘remake’ category but its subject matter is the ghost. This is true of most J-horror remakes be they sourced from Japan (The Grudge 2004), South Korea (The Uninvited 2009), Thailand (Shutter 2008) or Hong Kong (The Eye 2008).

The latest Hollywood trend is the Found Footage Film. The success of Paranormal Activity 2007 is to blame for this glut but ghosts appear in this genre (La Casa Muda 2011) too. Outside of Hollywood many a Spanish horror film (The Devil’s Backbone 2001, Fragile 2005, The Orphanage 2007) have a spectre as their premise.

The ghost story is ancient and evergreen – be it told verbally, in print or onscreen. The durability of the subgenre can be compared to that of the nascent teen comedy. There will always be adolescents and they will always laugh at their own high jinks. There will always be stories of the dead who return to wreck revenge.

Men fear ghosts but in the movies it is women who are protagonist. They have the more reason to fear them.
Mary Kee has to move into a new apartment because she’s in the middle of a divorce. She begins to receive nuisance calls – from the year 1979.

The caller, Rose, becomes more and more agitated. She becomes violent – and what the enraged Rose does in 1979 could affect Mary in 2011.

The best way to tell a ghost story is slow burn. This original script by Sergio Casci builds the opening scenes with the first telephone call. A 92 minute running time notwithstanding the film takes the time to establish character, setting and plot.

Mary Kee is learning how to live alone again. She’s lonely but not pathetic. She talks to the ‘nutcase’ on the other line because there’s no harm in it. They female bond over bad husbands and abusive lovers. Rose confides she’s murdered her Bobby. Mary tells her never to call again.

This enrages Rose who sets out to punish Mary. These are the classic behaviours of a demon or evil spirit; first they befriend the living then they turn on them and torment them. Having wrote the foundation Casci infuses intricacy and intrigue. The result is woman-in-peril eerie.
Rachelle Lefevre: performance perfect
Rachelle Lefevre is pretty enough to warrant a second look but sexuality is downplayed in this movie. Her Mary Kee is trying to calibrate her new single life. She approves of women’s lib but is devoid of male bashing. Her tone is naturalistic. Her needs are human.

Luis Guzman co-stars. Like Ron Pearlman his place in cinema seems to be the Joe Pesci of the 21st century. He is the support who outshines the lead. His presence induces anticipation from the viewer – something is going to happen.

One of the stars of The Exorcist 1973 didn’t appear in the film. Mercedes McCambridge voiced the demon that possessed Regan McNeil. Despite her Academy Award® for All the Kings Men 1949 and her role in Johnny Guitar 1954 she will always be remembered as Linda Blair’s vocal avatar.
Mercedes McCambridge in Johnny Guitar: watch the full film on Youtube

Lorna Raver is the caller. It is her voice that has to carry her scenes with Lefevre otherwise the viewer is left with a shot of Mary with a phone stuck to her head. Raver carries the scenes with aplomb. The first sound of her voice is that of an old woman; frail and somewhat meek. Her cadence and tone and rhythm and flow change. She becomes insistent, strident, knowing, taunting, mocking, spiteful, gleeful, evil. Lorna Raver is an actress. She can be seen in Drag Me to Hell 2009.
Lorna Raver: her Mercedes moment
The Caller has faults. Its low budget shows; this is a city with no crowds and Mary lives in an apartment with no passing neighbours. The musical cues are signposts befitting a TV movie. There are minor lapses in plot logic concerning both Mary and Rose in both 2011 and 1979. There’s a plot device lifted from the teen horror Forget Me Not 2009. There’s a visual motif stolen from Ju-on: The Grudge 2003.

Be that as it may the strengths of this flick outshine its weaknesses. The equation is of a capable actress with rock solid support from two veterans, an eerie premise and an involving plot. The net is a horror film of sheer entertainment. That’s not to be sniffed at. This is the year of big budget buffoonery the likes of Scream 4, Final Destination 5 and The Thing.

Thank goodness some people still make films for the audience.
The Caller is released on DVD in the US 4th October.

Read more Thrill Fiction: John Carpenter’s The Thing
3 The history of the motion picture
4 Partial list of ghost movies Wikipedia
5 Friday the 13th The Numbers
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Saturday, 1 October 2011

New clip from The Thing 2011

Russian one-sheet
Prior to the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 the great debate amongst the fanboys was the shifting of Freddy Kruger from child killer to child molester. Some supported it. Some apologised for it. Some of us hated it.

This year the online yakking concerns Universal’s marketing. They’re calling The Thing 2011 a prequel. The simple minded believe them just like the simple minded believed Hitler when he called them a ‘master race’.

Here’s a new clip from Bloody Disgusting.
Here’s an old clip from John Carpenter.
Anyone who doesn’t think this is a remake should contact me via the Fraud Squad. I’ve got a bridge to sell in Brooklyn.

The Thing is released 14th Oct in the US and 2nd Dec in the UK.

Read more Thrill Fiction: A Nightmare on Elm Street  2 remake
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