Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Another Hiatus

Apologies to all for the lack of editorials since September. I’ve been trying to finish the opus that is A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. It’s all fingers on keys as I intend to finish the (spec) script by year end. Normal services will resume on Boxing Day when I’ll begin to publish the year ends list. This interruption in blog posts has been made easier by the absolute dearth in quality horror.

I look forward to 2013
Faith in fiction.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Remade in the USA: Silent House

The lazy journalist will cite Psycho 1960 as a horror film. His inept colleague will describe it as ‘the first slasher’1. Psycho is not a horror film. It can be touted as a psychological thriller à la The Silence of the Lambs 1991 but it is best described as a psychological drama à la Blue Velvet 1985. The best definition for the movie is ‘an Alfred Hitchcock film’2 however the best subtitle for the movie is ‘the harbinger of modern horror’.

2 Hitchcock directed 54 features3. That qualifies as a subgenre. So too do the respective films of Spike Lee, Martin Scorcese and Oliver Stone, amongst others. This can be called the ‘auteur clause’.
Modern horror began with George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead 1968. It was the first film to place horror in a contemporary setting and have an impact at the box office[4][5]. It put an end to the prevalence of gothic and inspired the horror bastards6 of the 70s. Those horror bastards were soon to become horror meisters.
Meisters at work: John Carpenter and Wes Craven
5 There were contemporary-set horror films before Night of the Living Dead – such as Village of the Damned 1960. None of them had the immediate cultural significance the former had. Ironically Village of the Damned was remade by John Carpenter in 1995.
6 Thrill Fiction uses the term ‘bastards’ as an affectionate counter to the celebrated movie brats7 who were nascent at the same time. Whereas a brat is tolerable and ultimately controllable a bastard is shameful and lives in the ghetto with his whore mother. Horror remains the bastard child of Hollywood. It lives in the ghettos of DVD and VOD.
Psycho inspired the horror meisters with its plot, suspense, thrills and reveal (as well as themes and imagery). Its influence can be seen in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974; the deserted, gothic, haunted house inhabited by a lunatic family. Wes Craven used this motif in The Hills Have Eyes 1977. He would later revive the Janet Leigh prototype in Scream 1996. John Carpenter stripped Psycho of its story and exacerbated its plot; he took the Psycho paradigm and created the Halloween 1978 template. To cement the connection between the two films he cast Janet Leigh’s daughter. Psycho had a knife wielding killer, it enhanced the woman-in-peril, it hinted at the ‘final girl’. Halloween perfected these tropes. It is the first slasher film. Psycho is its progenitor.
This is where the misconception arose. The horror meisters worship Psycho in interviews1. They talk of its significance and cite it as a horror film.  As well they should as this is how they see it but it is the lazy and inept journalist who then takes that citation and repeats it as fact. Prior to the 1970s no one described Psycho as a horror film[8][9].

The Psycho inspired Halloween template remains the horror standard 35 years later. That standard was challenged by La Casa Muda 2011. If Psycho was flesh and Halloween bone then La Casa Muda is bone with its marrow eviscerated. What remains is an empty shell; a concept – and 86 minutes of filler.

In order to market this naked emperor the filmmakers employed gimmick. The Blair Witch Project 1999 gimmicked the audience. La Casa Muda gimmicked the festivals and it worked. The American remake Silent House 2012 wrapped before the original Uruguayan film was released Stateside.
The American production hired a husband and wife already versed in torpor. Writer Laura Lau and director Chris Kentis made Open Water 2003, a film with a concept with no story to tell. So it is with Silent House. Nothing was lost in translation because nothing was said in Spanish. The attempt to pad this non-event with narrative is akin to a toddler with a colouring book.

The American filmmakers didn’t have the gimmicks of the original. What they had was the rising starlet Elizabeth Olsen. This is an interesting personality to become a movie star. In America she has famous twin sisters. The press have long boasted about the twins being billionaires10 which inadvertently questions the credibility of younger sibling Elizabeth.

The average income of an actor in the UK is £6k-£60k11. Needless to say it is bottom heavy. Most actors struggle to earn a living. It is the same in America. In Los Angeles they famously wait on tables. Elizabeth Olsen comes from money. She is taking the spot of a working class kid who needs the gig. She is taking the spot of a Fairuza Balk, Demi Moore or a Sarah Michelle Gellar and she’s doing it in the indies; the job centre of the starving actor. Olsen is being primed for stardom because lazy journalists are bewitched by her last name and physical resemblance to her sitcom star sisters. If Olsen wants to be an actor she should fund her own movies. Her typical insipid performance in this one is reminiscent of Bridget – not Jane – Fonda.
Hollywood royalty: Elizabeth Olsen
Silent House was not made to entertain. It was made to exploit on the back of La Casa Muda. The former has a reputed production budget12 of $1million and it took $13m13 in its theatrical run. Internet scams target the proletariat. Bernie Madoff targeted the rich. Silent House targeted the art house and Elizabeth Olsen was the Trojan horse. This is what Psycho looks like in the hands of the inept. The lazy journalist will cite Silent House as a horror film. It is so far removed from horror that the best definition for the movie is ‘a film starring Elizabeth Olsen’

Read more Thrill Fiction: The Dead
 1 Ground breaking horror films DreadCentral
3 Alfred Hitchcock filmography IMDb
4 Night of the Living Dead The Numbers
8 Psycho review New York Times 1960
9 Psycho review San Francisco Chronicle 1960
10 Olsen twins billionaires Forbes
11 UK actors pay scale
12 Silent House production budget
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Friday, 7 September 2012

The Top 10 Coming Soon Horror Films of (Sep-Dec) 2012

fall's final girls: Scout Taylor-Compton and Caitlin Gerard
Here comes the fall with Christmas to follow. It’s the beginnings of the nine month football season here in the UK and the Americans have a presidential election to look forward to – or to dread. UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones will fight and defeat Vitor Belfort1. Welterweight champion GSP will do the same to Carlos Condit2. Middleweight champion Anderson Silva can then pick and choose which of the two he will destroy in a super fight.

It’s good times for sport fans. Not so good for horror. There’s a third of the year left but nothing much happens after Halloween. The studios dump their Oscar® cringe worthy fare for senior citizens and atheists celebrate Christmas. January 1st – October 31st is the Horror calener and at this point there hasn’t been a Scream 1996, The Exorcist 1973 or even a Candyman 1991.

This fall will see television bring the genre into disrepute with the third season of TheWalking Dead and second season – egad – of American Horror Story. Mitt Romney will concede defeat and Kim Kardashian will announce her new reality show starring the fast losing credibility Kanye West.

In the meantime here are ten films to watch to keep out the white noise.

Films mentioned in The Top 10 Coming Soon Horror Movies of 2012 are not repeated. All release dates are American and wide unless otherwise stated. Each date is subject to change at an executive’s whim.
When the Lights Went Out  Sep 14 UK (Limited)
The reason Spanish and J-Horror are successful outside of their countries is that they offer foreigners a look at their cultures as story. British horror used to do this in the 60s and 70s. Today British horror offers The Woman in Black 2012 and The Awakening 2012 as picture postcard propaganda.

Along comes When the Lights Went Out. It is set in the 70s but is cultural specific. This is northern working class terrain. It was a hardscrabble life then and it isn’t that different now. If this film is successful then ‘kitchen-sink horror’ could be the next big export.

Jack and Diane  Sep 27 US (Video-on-Demand)
Those over 40 may remember this title as a John Cougar Mellencamp song.

John Cougar what?
Rob Zombie directs horror films. Dr Dre is producing a horror film3. John Cougar Mellencamp belongs in an 80s nostalgia barn musical off off Broadway.

Broadway in Seymour, Indiana.

The 80s musical connection doesn’t end there. Kylie Minouge, a onetime Britney Spears without the sex appeal and scandal, co-stars. The subject matter of this film would be daring if it had been released in the 80s. It’s a lesbian film – with werewolves.

Sounds like the LGBT are jumping on the horror bandwagon. Next stop; the Tea Party hires Taylor Swift to star as a minuteman fighting off an invading horde of Latino zombies.

Sinister  Oct 5 US & UK
In 2005 Ethan Hawke said “Training Day (2001) was my best experience in Hollywood”4. It won Denzel Washington an Academy Award®. Since then Hawke has divorced Uma Thurman and disappeared from the multiplexes. He’s now headlining a horror film. Once upon a time people in his position used to headline TV shows. This could be a case of movie-star-go-home or – judging from the trailer – movie-star-elevates-genre.

Welcome back Hawke.

#Holdyourbreath  Oct 5 US (limited)
A gimmick can circumvent a saturated market. The hashtag before the unpunctuated title means #Holdyourbreath will appear as number one on every horror list – as long as that list is in alphabetical order.

The premise is of an urban legend no one has ever heard of – because it is bespoke to the film. This is acknowledged in the trailer thus the filmmakers are sending a pre-meta message; this is the type of story where the audience goes on discovery with the characters. It’s a slasher in 80s tradition.

Disclaimer: in the 21st century women in peril don’t show their tits.

The Arrival of Wang  Oct 8 UK (DVD Premiere)
Every so often there comes a film with promise and intrigue. Such a film is validation for the fans - for the horror genre touches and provokes core emotion, curiosity and intellect beyond all others.

The Arrival of Wang is validation.

Bedevilled  Oct 9 US (DVD Premiere)
J-Horror, in this case by way of South Korea, is an acquired taste. One has to accept subtitles. One has to accept cultural idiosyncrasies in the art of storytelling.  One of those idiosyncrasies can be called ‘torture porn’.

Debutant director Chul-soo Jang is a former assistant director to Kim Ki-duk. The latter directed The Isle 2000 and whilst not torture porn The Isle had its moments.

There are moments in the trailer when Bedevilled looks like The Isle.

That’s high praise..

Smiley  Oct 11 US (ltd)
Keith David dominates the start of this well executed trailer the way he dominates in John Carpenter’s The Thing 1982. The score inflates the tension of the interrogation scene and the soundtrack punctuates the enthusiasm of the filmmakers. 

This trailer promises a lot – but as good as it is it fails to cover the flaws: the movie is shot on DV, the premise sounds like Candyman 1992, Keith’s role looks suspiciously like a cameo, the monster is revealed in the trailer – to limp effect.

However, when the final girl looks like Caitlin Gerard everything else might fall into place. Flaws and all.

247ºF  Oct 23 US (DVD Prem)
Scout Taylor-Compton is most famous for her role in Rob Zombie’s contribution to the Halloween franchise. It is with that notoriety that 247ºF arrives all the way from Georgia (the country not the state). Perhaps Taylor-Compton is a competent actress who was smothered by Rob Zombie’s ‘vision’. Her performance in this by-the-numbers looking genre piece is yet to be seen.

All things considered the premise actually looks good.

Wrong Turn 5  Oct 23 US (DVD Prem)
The gap between Wrong Turn 4 2011 and the designated release of Wrong Turn 5 is 53 weeks. It is unofficial: Wrong Turn is the new Saw.
It wasn’t always like this. Wrong Turn 2003 was a vehicle for then rising star Eliza Dushku (10 years later that star is now a guest on television shows).  The first two sequels were good enough to exceed expectations for a Straight-to-Dvd franchise. Last year’s entry was a crash landing in a video nasty cesspit.

Wrong Turn 5 is a last chance to rescue the series. The franchise can broaden its scope and flourish or it can flutter to extinction – like Eliza Dushku’s career.

The Collection  Nov 30 US
To describe The Collector 2009 as torture porn is to repeat the same mistake of describing Saw 2004 as such. The two films have more in common than misconception; they are puzzle movies in the vein of Cube 1997 and to a lesser extent Se7en 1995.
This sequel has gestated a perfect three years (it takes 18 months to write a screenplay, three months to shoot a feature, and 12 months in post production including editing). This should succeed where the Saw sequels failed.

October is top heavy but it is the September release When the Lights Went Out that holds most promise. However, with capitalism teetering on the brink of the abyss, the coming horror may well surpass anything imaginable.

I’d watch that movie.

Read more Thrill Fiction: [REC]
1 UFC 152
3 Dr Dre to produce Thaw Variety
4 Ethan Hawke interview The Guardian
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