Sunday, 15 January 2012

Babycall [trailer]

Horror films can be categorized by geography for cultural convenience. American horror – which includes Canada – is Hollywood and the independents. J-Horror comprises the significant output from the Far East. Spanish horror includes the eponymous nation, Portugal and Latin America.

What’s left can be lumped together as ‘foreign horror’. There’s an argument for British horror but Hammer’s heyday was in the 70s1. The Italians have their own brand (Giallo) but that is indicative of their country and not the region. The French [Frontier(s) 2007, La Horde 2010, La Meute 2011] have wishful thinking.

This begs the question of Scandinavia. Let the Right One In 2008 is a great horror film but the region suffers the same blight as the UK; a lack of output resulting in irrelevance. Of the 60 plus films Ingmar Bergman2 directed only one of them was horror3 so his zombie can stay in its casket.

Norway’s Trollhunter 2010 toured the international festival circuit last year. It garnered great reviews and a UK theatrical release. The bad news is this low budget POV camcorder-cinema was the highest profile Scandinavian horror movie of 2011.

Babycall 2012 is a first: a Scandinavian horror film headlined by a movie star.
click to read full review
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (pub 2005) by Stieg Larsson is the first novel in the Millennium Series. By 2010 the series had been translated into English and was on sale in the United States4. It is a trilogy of worldwide bestsellers5. Each book has been adapted into (Swedish made) thrillers starring Noomi Rapace.

Hollywood may have shunned Rapace when she wasn’t cast in the American Tattoo remake but it was an astute decision. She was too old to play The Girl in the originals. Nevertheless her performances endeared her to the Millennium fanbase. Hollywood may not have shunned Rapace; she was cast in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 2011 and Prometheus 2012.

She is a movie star.

How long she remains one is open to precedent. Americans do not tolerate foreign accents. So where the English may get away with it the Australians don’t and the South Africans can’t. Rapace must americanise herself the way her Prometheus costar Charlize Theron has.

Once upon a time there was a European actress hot of a foreign hit that was later remade. Anne Parillaud was the star of Nikita 1990 but couldn’t shake her French accent. It took one (horror) film for Hollywood to get bored and deport her. Parillaud now works in French TV.

A movie star can kick-start a genre. Noomi Rapace is the only Swede who fits the job description. She could carry the weight of that nation or the whole of Scandinavia in her resume. It’s yet to be seen if her name alone can carry Babycall to success. If she does pull it off then the horrorfolk can look forward to output from the dark psyche of planet earth.
Babycall is released 30 March in the UK.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Black Swan
1 Hammer Films Wikipedia
2 Ingmar Bergman IMDb
3 Hour of the Wolf 1968 IMDb
4 The Afterlife of Stieg Larsson NYTimes
5 Stieg Larsson Sells a Million Books on Amazon's Kindle PC mag
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Tobe Hooper's Djinn [trailer]

In word association for me ‘genie’ evokes Christina Aguilera.

We’re all of a certain time and place and age.

When I was a kid the word meant receiving something for nothing – but be careful what you wish for (Manchester City fc1). Due to the informative quality of horror movies westerners now know ‘genie’ is another word for ‘djinn’.

After the downfall of Muammar Kaddafi last year one piece of dirty linen was found in Hollywood. The dictator’s son Al-Saadi had invested $100million in a LA production company Natural Selection2. All bets are now off including purported films involving Mickey Rourke and Susan Sarandon’s daughter.

Tobe Hooper is a Horrormeister. He directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 and Poltergeist 1982. His new film Djinn 2012 has been the subject of speculation3 over the last few days. It is funded by an Arab production company – Imagenation Abu Dhabi. The speculation revolves around the portrayal of Arabs in the film thus its rumoured subsequent burial.

See what happens when you take dirty oil money?

The good news for Hooper is the rumours are (apparently) false.
The film will be released later this year. The cautious take is Tobe Hooper hasn’t made good since television’s Masters of Horror. The most recent output from those other Masters of Horror Wes Craven, John Carpenter and George A Romero have been atrocious.

Thrill Fiction recommends Attack the Block
1 Sheik who bought Manchester City The Guardian
2 Kaddafi’s Son Hollywood Mogul The Hollywood Reporter
3 Rumours about Djinn Famous Monsters of Filmland

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Silent House trailer

The worst remake ever made is Psycho 1998. The film was directed by Gus Vant Sant and starred Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche and Julianne Moore. Van Sant was a respected director at the time and his cast remain active 14 years later. What killed the remake was the now infamous direction. Van Sant copied Hitchcock shot-for-shot. It begged the question by definition; why remake?

La Casa Muda 2011 is a Uruguayan found footage horror flick with more gimmicks than William Castle. This rush-to-production cash-in-cow American remake replicates the dishonesty. ‘Real terror in real time’ is an allusion to the purported one-shot-cinema – which is a blatant lie. ‘Inspired by True Events’ is a fabrication that could apply to The Muppets Take Manhattan 1984 (à la Kourtney and Kim).

One of the Osmonds Olsens plays the lead. Elizabeth made a lot of noise for her role in Martha Marcy May Marlene 2011. That film is American independent cinema at its most torpid. If Elizabeth Olsen is the new indie it-bit the good news is she will gravitate away from horror. The bad news is Silent House 2012.
Silent House is released March 9 in the US.

The original La Casa Muda is available on DVD in the US and UK. It is the Uruguayan select for the Academy Awards 2012.

As opposed to what?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Meteletsa aka Winter of the Dead

Last year there were zombies in West Africa (The Dead 2011) and Germany (Rammbock 2011). This year there could be zombies in Cuba (Juan de los Muertos) as well as Russia.

The spread of the infection in the mainstream remains surprising because as a metaphor zombies are the antithesis of the mainstream. Nevertheless Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ was anti-mainstream but that didn’t stop the Republicans2.

When the object of criticism celebrates the critique then art has been successful.

Meteletsa 2012 is set Mother Russia where the people are hard because they have to be. Quite frankly those zombies have no chance.

Release dates to be announced in the US and UK.

Read more Thrill Fiction: The 10 Best Horror Films of 2011
1 Cinetic takes Juan of the Dead to US Variety 
2 Ronald Reagan Rock Roadside America
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Monday, 2 January 2012

The Top 10 Coming Soon Horror Movies of 2012

A man can do plenty in 12 months. He can propose to his girlfriend; he can marry his fiancée; he can impregnate the slut down the street. He can start a new business, finish a screenplay and publish a novel.

He can watch a ton of horror films.

Last year I clocked an estimated 50. The good thing about that number was I didn’t get to watch much of anything else – when I did Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2011 sucked. The bad thing about that number was around 40.

It’s a new year so let’s do it all over again.

The following 10 films cannot be ignored. They are the biggest in budget, hype and critical appraisal. These are the big ones of 2012.

All releases are wide unless otherwise stated.

Kill List January 4th VOD US
This film was released last September in the UK to universal acclaim. IMDb rates it 6.5, Metacritic 68.2%, MRQE 79% Rotten Tomatoes 82%.

I’m not sold on the trailer and I particularly don’t like camcorder cinema.

IMDb rates it 6.5…

The Devil Inside January 6th US March 2nd UK
What began with Paranormal Activity 2009 continues into 2012. Paramount Studios created Insurge Pictures to develop micro-budget movies. The Devil Inside is a found-footage POV demonic-possession film with a lot of advertising behind it.

All you need to make one of these is a girl on her period and a dog collar.
Underworld: Awakening January 20th US & UK
Is this reboot or sequel as usual? Is this vampire versus werewolf franchise made to order for the Buffy fans while they raise their children on Twilight?
In 2006 Elizabeth Hurley did the decent thing and retired from acting – but we’ve still got Kate Beckinsale.
The Woman in Black February 3rd US Feb 10th UK

Rabies February 28th US DVD Premiere
This is being promoted as Israel’s first slasher film. What’s not mentioned is how much the American taxpayer subsidised it. Reports that the movie’s disclaimer reads ‘no more Palestinians than usual were killed in the making of this film’ have not yet been verified.

However blogs that criticise this movie will be put on a watchlist.
The House at the End of the Street April 20th US & UK
One of the films I’m looking most forward to. Hush 2009 was set on the motorway approach to my hometown of Manchester and starred people who spoke like me. It was also a cracking good film. It was directed by Mark Tonderai. This is his second feature.

Lead actor Jennifer Lawrence will be E! hot after The Hunger Games 2012 opens in March. The House at the End of the Street could find itself a hit.

Prometheus June 1st UK June 8th US
When I first started writing this blog I regarded Alien 1979 as scifi and no more. After two years plus of internet journalism my view has changed. My visceral responses may remain the same but I hereby acknowledge Alien to be a horror film (as well as scifi thriller)

The Dark Knight Rises 2012 is PG-13 fodder for kids. Prometheus is the fanboy event of the year. The Alien legacy is for Ridley Scott to grasp or lose.

Actually it’s Sir Ridley and as a knight of the realm he’s trying to placate the natives. This is why we get the movie a full week ahead of the yanks.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter June 22nd US August 2nd UK
According to the History Channel Abraham Lincoln was an American President who got shot on a night out at the theatre. Not having read the eponymous novel on which this movie is based I have no idea how this film ends. It could be with Lincoln’s death (as seen on TV) or he could live on for a sequel.
My message to the other 6.5 billion earthlings – it’s America. Leave ‘em to it.

Resident Evil: Retribution September 14th US & UK
Unlike Underworld the Resident Evil franchise started well. It’s because of this Milla Jovovich has credibility amongst fanboys. Make no mistake that credibility ran thin two movies ago. This is a franchise that will not go away but has no reason to stay.

World War Z December 21st US January 4th 2013 UK
The circus has come to town. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie along with their handpicked children are in third world Britain (aka Scotland). Hubbie Brad is making a movie.

It could be film of the year. How long the Battle of Yonkers?
I Am Legend 2007 managed to muck up a perfectly told story. Methinks producer Brad Pitt will have learnt from his peer’s mistake.

We’ll see.

At this time last year The 10 Best Films of 2011 were so far under the radar I didn’t know half of them existed. The great thing about this genre is the influx from the indies, the foreign and the festivals. Hope springs eternal.

It’ll be another year of discovery. 365 days left. Follow Thrill Fiction.

This will be a good year.

Read more Thrill Fiction: The 10 Worst Horror Films of 2011
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Sunday, 1 January 2012

The 10 Best Horror Films of 2011

Insidious is the second highest grossing horror movie of the year. It is also the most profitable film of the year1. With a production budget of $1.5million2 it has made $97m worldwide3. Although Insidious is an indie its success is why the studios invest in horror.

With 100 years of history and hundreds of millions of American dollars at their disposal Hollywood should be getting it right exponentially more than they get it wrong. The market does not change. Human beings want to be told good stories. Unfortunately for horror film fans there were not that many good stories told in 2011.

When horror films are made right they become folklore. The Exorcist 1973 is before my time but I heard the stories in my childhood; people fainting at screenings, priests sprinkling holy water on patrons, congregations returning to church4. The Exorcist is also the highest grossing horror film ever made: it has tallied over $1billion (inflation adjusted) at the worldwide box office5.

Every year the Horror Fanboy waits for another The Exorcist. Regardless of its box office success Insidious is not it. The best horror films this year were independents with small budgets. While that is horror’s modus operandi (by default) studio successes like Scream 1996 serve to reinvigorate the genre.

It is easier to list a top 50 worst horror films of the year than it is to list a top 10 best. The output is artistically bankrupt from Hollywood, the independents and the rest of the world. The bar has been dropped so low that mediocre nonsense like Insidious is the most successful film of the year in any genre.

The criteria for the following 10 films are horror films only – not thrillers or other genres that borrow horror tropes. Thus Season of the Witch starring Nicolas Cage doesn’t qualify; but if it was horror it would have qualified for the 10 Worst Horror Films of 2011. Other criteria are release dates 1st January – 31st December in the UK/US. Releases include all formats from theatrical to VOD to Straight-to-DVD.

Everyone has the opportunity to see these films.

One of these films is a flawed story with its broken heart bleeding onscreen. Three are entertaining. Two are honest attempts at storytelling. Four are worthy entries into the horror cannon. They will be considered for Top Horror Films of the decade.

Before then – this is what 2011 looked like:

10 Dream House US
Director Jim Sheridan and actors Rachel Weisz, Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Elias Koteas is a producer’s wet dream. It turned out to be a nightmare for Sheridan who tried to have his name removed from the credits6.The public will never know what happened to screw this project up but what remains onscreen is poignant.

Talent rises. Dream House is a flawed project but is better than most 2011 horror films on their best day.
9 Husk US
Click poster for review.
8 Rammbock GER
Click poster for review.
7 Quarantine 2: Terminal US
[REC] 2007 spawned a franchise. To date there has been a sequel and a remake. 2012 sees the (Spanish) release of the trilogy film [REC]3. 2011 saw the sequel to the American remake Quarantine 2008.
Some zombie films have no agenda except for make up, special effects and stunts – Flight of the Living Dead 2007, Day of the Dead 2008 and Quarantine 2. That mode of storytelling is more astute than the laborious The Walking Dead.

6 Stake Land US
Camcorder cinema announced itself to the world in1999 via The Blair Witch Project. It wasn’t until Cloverfield 2008 that it became a subgenre unto itself. It is mainly used for the Found Footage (Apollo 18 2011) and POV film(La Casa Muda 2011). Stake Land uses it in place of 35mm.

I believe cinema is scope ergo the camcorder is anti-cinema. These student project-types films can be shown as Syfy exclusives. Stake Land breaks the mould but it hasn’t changes my mind. Stake Land is a one-off. You can literally see the effort put into each shot and setup. The story isn’t bad either.

Film co stars Danielle Harris. A Final Girl doing her bit to support the genre on the apocalypse front.
5 The Woman US
The Woman is a thematic sequel to Offspring 2009. The more important connection is that both films are based on novels by Jack Ketchum. Stephen King describes Ketchum as the ‘scariest guy in America’7. That’s a compliment – if you’re a Stephen King fan.

If you’re not a King fan then take my word for it. Buy Ketchum’s back catalogue. Watch his films. Start with Offspring. Then The Woman. Then the rest. You’ll thank me.

He’s different.
4 The Caller US
Click poster for review.
3 Attack the Block UK
Click poster for review.
2 The Dead UK
This is a film made by white English and set in West Africa yet is bereft of racism. This film is a miracle.
The closest thing to compare it to is Night of the Living Dead 1968. Like the latter The Dead’s budget constraints can be seen onscreen. The Dead can also be favourably compared to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead 1978 in its ambition and scope.

An American mercenary crash lands off Africa’s Gold Coast. Once washed ashore he is surrounded by zombies. He makes his way inland and teams up with an army deserter. Together they must find an airfield before the whole continent is overrun.
The Dead is beautiful, haunting, tragic, defiant, hopeful, human and horrific. It will première 14th February in America on DVD.

I envy the yanks this much: they’ve got great cinema to experience in 2012.

1 Cropsey US
This documentary had a limited release of four screens in 2010. In 2011 it found life on DVD. To wit for those who do not live in the Staten Island vicinity Cropsey8 was a 2011 DVD premiere. That qualifies it for inclusion on this list.

Two New York filmmakers retreat back to Staten Island to investigate the urban legend of their childhood. What they discover and uncover is the horror – child abuse, kidnap and murder. What’s more horrifying is the complicity of the community of Staten Island in creating the conditions for Cropsey.

This documentary illuminates the helplessness a community has in the face of a predator. That helplessness does not come about by conspiracy – it is the result of neglect. This is one of the few horror films that is accurately based on a true story.
Three in this list are foreign. One of them is a Hollywood production. There are two sequels, two ghost stories, one vampire and three zombies. I wish I could expand the list to a top 20 but that would mean dumbing down like the mainstream audience.

We’re in 2012 already and it’s another chance for the industry to screw things up. This year sees the publication of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Return on this very site. Will it change the face of horror? Night of the Living Dead 1968 did.

Happy New Year. It’s 2012 already. The year of Thrill Fiction.

Read more Thrill Fiction: The 10 Best Horror Films of 2010
1 Insidious Hollywood Reporter
4 The Exorcist BBC
5 The Exorcist box office The Numbers
6 Sheridan wanted his name off Dream House LA Times
8 Cropsey homepage
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