The Day AfterThis week’s Cinema Fearité is going to be a little different.  With Donald Trump sending warships to North Korea and their leader, Kim Jung-un, constantly developing and testing his country’s nuclear capabilities, the world hasn’t been this close to nuclear war since the Reagan era more than thirty years ago.  It’s time to revisit the 1983 television movie The Day After.

Killer's KissThere’s little doubt that Stanley Kubrick is one of the most influential directors in modern cinema.  He revolutionized the science fiction genre with 2001: A Space Odyssey, the dystopian nightmare with A Clockwork Orange, the horror movie with The Shining, and the war film with Full Metal Jacket.  He even invented the political satire with Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.  But he wasn’t always so...Kubrickian.  Like most filmmakers (see David Cronenberg’s Stereo), Kubrick started his career making cheap and simple films.  His second feature, made way back in 1955, was the tidy little noir thriller Killer’s Kiss.

HobgoblinsFollowing the success of Gremlins in 1984, the film industry decided that the next big thing would be tiny creature movies.  The ghoulies in Ghoulies led to the troll in Cat’s Eye and the critters in Critters led to the demons in The Gate.  But all of that was just prepping the world for 1988’s Hobgoblins.

Sole SurvivorLast week, Cinema Fearité brought you Offerings, an eighties slasher that was just behind its time.  This week, we’re heading to the other end of the scale by featuring a movie that was years ahead of its time.  That movie is 1983’s Sole Survivor.

 

OfferingsThe eighties were called the “Golden Age of the Slasher” for a reason; slasher movies were a dime a dozen.  By the time the decade ended, audiences had pretty much seen it all.  That didn’t stop the movies from trying, though.  In 1989, a little-slasher-that-could recycled every trope into a movie that, well, seemed like a bunch of recycled tropes.  That movie is Offerings.

Chopping MallWhether it’s because of the innovative architecture or the retro nostalgia is anyone’s guess, but horror movies set in malls are fun.  Sometimes, they’re smart indictments of consumerism, like Dawn of the Dead.  Other times, they’re just silly creature features about college co-eds, such as Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.  And sometimes, they’re both, like the 1986 technological warning-meets-teenage party movie Chopping Mall.

RavenousLast month, Cinema Fearité paid tribute to female filmmakers for Women in Horror Month by diving into Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary, and Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-hiker.  Thanks to the untimely passing of Bill Paxton, we got a little sidetracked last week with our remembrance of Frailty.  Well, better late than never; we’re back on track to wrap up Women in Horror Month by taking a look at Antonia Bird’s 1999 cannibalism movie Ravenous.

FrailtyAnother blow was dealt to not only the horror scene, but to Hollywood in general this past weekend when versatile everyman actor Bill Paxton died from complications following heart surgery at the age of 61.  Paxton was first noticed by most fans as a punk in The Terminator (“Your clothes. Give them to me.”) and as bully older brother Chet in Weird Science (“How about a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?”).  He went on to play legendary roles in classic films like Aliens and Near Dark, and even had mainstream success in big studio movies such as Apollo 13 and Titanic.  In 2001, Paxton pulled double duty, starring in and directing Frailty, one of the most psychologically disturbing movies of the twenty-first century.

Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter TribeDocumentaries about subcultures are usually fun because they give the viewer a glimpse into a world that they might otherwise have never even known existed.  The new film from Jon Manning, Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe does just that, and does it in a way that is both informative and entertaining.

The Hitch-HikerFebruary is Women in Horror Month, and Cinema Fearité has been celebrating all month long.  First, we took a look at Mary Harron’s American Psycho, then we checked out Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary.  This week, we’re taking it all the way back to 1953 with Ida Lupino’s noir thriller The Hitch-Hiker.

Pet SemataryLast week, Cinema Fearité celebrated Women in Horror Month by taking a look at Mary Harron’s American Psycho.  We’re continuing the party this week by featuring another classic fright flick directed by a member of the fairer sex – Mary Lambert’s 1989 Stephen King adaptation of Pet Sematary.

I Am Not Your NegroAs both a black man and a homosexual, writer James Baldwin’s work usually dealt with social injustice and inequality on some level.  When he died in 1987, he left behind an unfinished manuscript for a book called Remember This House that detailed his own memories of the civil rights struggle of the sixties.  This manuscript is the framework for I Am Not Your Negro.

American PsychoIn case you haven’t heard, February is Women in Horror Month.  Although generally underrepresented, female filmmakers have made some of the most important (and most enjoyable) horror movies in history, from classics like Amy Holden Jones’ The Slumber Party Massacre and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark to more modern masterpieces such as Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation.  And then, there’s one of the greatest films, horror or not, of the 21st century – Mary Harron’s American Psycho.

1984Not to get overly political, but it’s all over the news that the events of the first week of the Trump administration reminded enough Americans of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four to rocket the 1949 book to the top of the bestsellers list again, almost seventy years after it was written.  For those who don’t like to read, the prophetic novel has been made into a movie not once, but twice.  The first time was in 1956, just a few years after its initial publication.  But, the definitive cinematic imagining of the story was the later one, both made in 1984 and entitled 1984.

The Night FlierJust last week we lamented the fact that Cinema Fearité was turning into a memorial column for legends who have recently passed away.  The bandwidth used to post that article had not even been calculated before another loss was suffered – Miguel Ferrer died of throat cancer at the age of 61.  Most recognizable to horror and cult movie fans from his supporting roles in “Twin Peaks” and Robocop, Ferrer was one of those actors whose face was more famous than his name.  In 1997, he took center stage as the lead in Stephen King’s The Night Flier.

2017 Oscar PreviewThe last few months have been packed with two-and-a-half hour epic movies loaded down with big stars, and you know what that means!  It’s Oscar season!  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released the list of nominees for the 89th Academy Awards, with the ceremony scheduled to take place on February 26, 2017.  If you follow other awards races, the 2017 Oscar nominees will hold few surprises, so the only drama of the night will be if there are a few upset wins.  Here’s a little look at the nominees, as well as some predictions for who might walk away with the statues.

 

The Ninth ConfigurationLately, it seems almost as if Cinema Fearité has been more of a memorandum column for horror icons who have passed away than a weekly tribute to cool horror movies.  Well, it happened again; William Peter Blatty died last week of plasma cell myeloma at the age of 89.  Blatty will far and away always be remembered as the man who wrote The Exorcist, both the novel and the screenplay, but he had a healthy little moviemaking career outside of that one film as well.  In 1980, seven years after The Exorcist, Blatty was given the chance to direct a movie himself with The Ninth Configuration.

House (1977)If you ask a horror fan about the movie House, you’ll most likely hear about the 1986 campy cult-classic haunted house comedy that was directed by Steve Miner of Friday the 13th fame.  But every once in a while, you might get an earful about a crazy Japanese movie from 1977.

What's the Matter with Helen?A mere day after the great Carrie Fisher died last week, her mother, the equally great Debbie Reynolds, passed away.  Like Fisher, Reynolds was mainly known for a single role, that of Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain.  But, also like Fisher, Reynolds had a long and versatile list of credits to her name.  Since this is Cinema Fearité, you have probably guessed that she appeared in some horror movies.  Yes, faithful reader, she did.  In 1971, Reynolds starred in the musical mystery What’s the Matter with Helen?

Top Ten 2016Another year has come and gone, and with that…here are my Ten Favorite movies of the year, from Hollywood musicals to revisionist westerns, from supernatural horror to very real horror.

The 'BurbsThe science fiction world suffered a huge blow this week when Carrie Fisher died of a heart attack at the age of 60.  Of course, Fisher’s career-defining role was her portrayal of Princess Leia Organa, the leader of the rebel forces in the Star Wars movies, but she had a pretty lengthy resume of other work, including appearances in The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally…, and Hannah and Her Sisters.  She even played around a bit in the horror world, playing parts in a 1984 Showtime production of Frankenstein as well as small-but-pivotal roles in the Sorority Row remake and Scream 3 (where, in pure meta-Scream style, she plays a jaded version of herself).  However, aside from Star Wars, her most loved performance may well be her turn in the 1989 horror/comedy The ‘Burbs.

Silent Night, Deadly NightWhen it comes to holiday horror movies, Christmas is second only to Halloween itself.  Since its humble inception five or so years ago, Cinema Fearité has covered Jack Frost, Don’t Open Till Christmas, Christmas Evil, To All a Good Night, and Black Christmas.  When most people think of Christmas horror movies, however, there’s one movie that comes to mind even before any of those – the 1984 Santa slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Savage StreetsRevenge movies had their heyday in the seventies with the release of high-profile innovators like The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave as well as more underground imitators such as Death Weekend and Poor Pretty Eddie.  The eighties had their punks-gone-wild movies like Class of 1984, Tuff Turf, and Bad Boys.  In 1984, a movie called Savage Streets mashed these two exploitation subgenres together in the most magnificent way.

Cat PeopleWhen people think about B-movie producers, the names that come to mind are usually Roger Corman, William Castle, maybe even Ed Wood.  A good decade before those guys, however, there was Val Lewton, who owned the 1940s with movies like I Walked with a Zombie and The Ghost Ship, as well as his trio of Boris Karloff collaborations that included The Body Snatcher, Isle of the Dead, and Bedlam.  Arguably his best movie is his first, the 1942 creepy classic Cat People.

Jaws of SatanThe hits just keep on coming for 2016.  Over the holiday weekend, the entertainment world lost yet another legend when Fritz Weaver passed away at the age of 90.  Even if his name isn’t immediately recognizable, his face certainly was; Weaver appeared on every type of television show, from “All My Children” to “Wonder Woman.”  He guest starred in just about every horror show imaginable, anchoring episodes of “The Twilight Zone” (both the sixties and eighties versions), “Tales From the Darkside,” “The Outer Limits,” and even “Monsters” (remember that one?).  On the big screen, he shined in big budget adventure movies like The Marathon Man and Black Sunday, but he always had time for horror movies like Creepshow, Demon Seed, and this week’s Cinema Fearité offering – the 1981 shocker Jaws of Satan.

Manos: The Hands of FateLast week, an actor named Tom Neyman passed away at the age of 80.  Calling him an actor might be a bit of a stretch, since he only made one movie way back in 1966, but that one movie is legendary…for being one of the worst films of all time.  Well, since it’s Thanksgiving anyway, let’s take a look at that famous turkey - a little movie called Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Shock CorridorAs cheap of a ploy as it sounds, setting a horror movie in a mental hospital is a highly effective way to raise the creep factor.  From Asylum to The Ward, and even in cult classics like Alone in the Dark and Bad Dreams, a loony bin is a great setting for scares.  Even fringe horror movies get spookier when they take place inside an insane asylum.  For an example, look no further than Samuel Fuller’s 1963 noir thriller Shock Corridor.

Cat's EyeTwo of this year’s most buzzworthy horror movies have had animals featured in prominent roles.  The Witch stars a freaky 210 pound goat named Charlie as the evil Black Phillip, and a charming seagull named Sully almost steals The Shallows away from Blake Lively with his performance as Steven Seagull, her rocky reef-mate for the movie.  All of the hype surrounding these two talented non-humans brings to mind another stirring performance by an animal – that of the titular character in the 1985 anthology Cat’s Eye.

Cry Baby LaneHorror on television has been around since the fifties and sixties, but it only reached out towards the children’s television market in the nineties with shows like “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and “Goosebumps.”  Before long, Nickelodeon, the “Kid’s Network” and home of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, even branched into scary TV movies aimed at the pre-teen demographic.  Around Halloween of 2000, Nick pulled no punches with its controversial television feature Cry Baby Lane.

Sonny BoyLet’s face it, some movies are just plain weird.  Some are shockingly weird, like The Baby or Pink Flamingos.  Some are surreally weird, like Eraserhead or any one of a number of films from Alejandro Jodorowsky.  Either way, there is an entire unofficial subgenre of cinema that takes strangeness to a whole new level.  Sonny Boy falls squarely into this category.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar ChildrenMoviegoers should be at the point where they are wondering what has happened to Tim Burton. The extremely talented director appears to have lost his way, churning out easily forgetful movies that are making any future projects he creates happily avoidable--his latest being the practically disastrous Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

The InfiltratorFor fans of "Breaking Bad" who are itching to see Walter White in action again, well, he isn't in The Infiltrator. There is hope though for fans of Bryan Cranston, whose superb acting made White an iconic character. Cranston is Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator, and he's got his hands dirty once again with drugs and money. This time, he's on the other side of the law, working undercover to bring down the Colombian cartel led by none other than Pablo Escobar.

Bridget Jones's BabyThe last time we saw Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) she was in her underwear, braving the cold London air as she and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) had a romantic moment. It was a fitting end to Jones' love story, which has always been more about the girl coming of age than it has the men whom she seeks out (or stumbles into). As with any story, the happy ending isn't always the end, and that brings us to Bridget Jones's Baby. This time around, Jones is older, wiser, successful, and managing just fine on her own -- she has finally realized that a man is not required to live a full life. As for Darcy, well, he was not the perfect match for Jones after all (or was he?).

The FlyHorror fans love to complain about remakes, but there are times when a re-imagining does actually surpass the original.  John Carpenter’s The Thing is a good example.  So is Chuck Russell’s The Blob.  Franck Khalfoun’s brutal interpretation of Maniac comes pretty close.  And, of course, David Cronenberg’s The Fly has to be in the conversation.  But hold up…because the original 1958 version of The Fly is pretty hard to beat.

Evil EyeItalian director Mario Bava is considered to be one of the pioneers of both the giallo and the slasher subgenres of horror movies.  With films like A Bay of Blood, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, and Kill Baby, Kill to his credit, Bava’s work is usually seen as bloody and gruesome, but there was another side to the filmmaker.  Bava could make movies that teemed with subtle suspense, such as his 1963 classic Evil Eye.

Command and ControlOn September 18, 1980, a technician at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, dropped a tool that punctured the side of a missile, spraying rocket fuel into the silo.  That may sound like a minor mishap, but the fact that the missile contained a nuclear warhead that was 600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima escalated the situation.  Long story short – the missile exploded, but the warhead did not, and although the incident was widely publicized, the full details were covered up.  Until now.

The GateMost people who are into horror movies consider themselves lifelong fans of the genre, but nobody’s first horror viewing experience was The Wizard of Gore or Cannibal Holocaust.  Most childhood fans started off with the more kid-tested, mother-approved gateway horror movies like Something Wicked This Way Comes, Paperhouse, or, if they were lucky enough to start watching in 1987, the appropriately titled The Gate.

The Hurt BusinessMixed Martial Arts, or MMA for short, is the fastest growing sport in the United States today.  Combining the flash of professional wrestling with the brutality of boxing, MMA draws thousands to live events and sells millions of pay-per-view orders.  MMA is also the subject of a new documentary from Vlad Yudin (who also made the bodybuilding doc Generation Iron) called The Hurt Business.

Deepwater HorizonThe first major explosion will make you gasp, and what comes next will enthrall you as each moment passes and the situation grows more and more intense. There's no escaping the horror; Berg has made a point to put you directly in the action. And that is what makes Deepwater Horizon a movie made for the big screen.

Blood FeastThe horror world lost one of its most influential figures earlier this week with the death of filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis at the age of 90.  Lewis earned the nickname “The Godfather of Gore” with his bloody schlock classics like The Wizard of Gore, The Gore-Gore Girls, and A Taste of Blood.  He got his start in the business by making so-called “nudie-cuties” in the early sixties, but in 1963, he found his true calling when he made his first splatter masterpiece Blood Feast.

The HauntingWith about forty feature films to his credit over a sixty year span, director Robert Wise was a fairly prolific filmmaker.  He also was extremely versatile, with a resume that includes everything from Hollywood musicals such as The Sound of Music and West Side Story to science fiction epics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  He also did more than merely dabble in the horror genre, with credits like The Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher, and Audrey Rose to his name.  His crown jewel, at least as far as fright flicks are concerned, is the 1963 spookfest The Haunting.

Author: The JT LeRoy StoryJT LeRoy was a real-life Cinderella: an androgynous boy with a truck stop prostitute for a mother who lived a life of drug addiction and sexual abuse before becoming a literary phenomenon when his first autobiographical book, Sarah, was published in 1999.  JT LeRoy was also a fraud: an identity manufactured by writer Laura Albert as a way for Albert to write about taboo subjects that she normally wouldn’t dare approach.  Albert’s deception was exposed in 2005, and the entire drama is documented in the fascinating film Author: The JT LeRoy Story.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial KillerIt would seem as if 4k restorations are all the rage in the horror world.  Last year, Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre got one, as did George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and there’s one for Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm on the books as well.  Well, not to be outdone, it has recently been announced that one of the most controversial horror films ever made, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, is also getting the 4k treatment for its thirtieth anniversary.  It’s as good a time as any for Cinema Fearité to take a look back at the 1986 shock film classic.

Night of TerrorIn retrospect, it would appear as if Universal Studios owned the American horror cinema market in the 1930s.  In actuality, however, nearly every studio in town was making horror films just as prolifically during that decade, with RKO Radio Pictures (King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Freaks, Mad Love), and Columbia Pictures (Black Moon, The Man They Could Not Hang, The Black Room) all releasing quality fright flicks.  Columbia was especially productive, even managing to convince some of Universal’s stars to moonlight on their movies.  That’s what they did in 1933 with the great Bela Lugosi, just two years after he became a household name in Dracula, with Night of Terror.

Poor Pretty EddieAlthough they’re not always considered horror films, there can be little doubt that rape-revenge movies are horrifying.  Some of them, like Wes Craven’s debut film The Last House on the Left, are well-crafted artsy experiences.  Others, like Meir Zarchi’s infamous shocker I Spit on Your Grave, are more exploitive in nature.  And some, like 1975’s Poor Pretty Eddie, are a crazy combination of both.

Night of the CometEver since George Romero turned the horror world on its ear with Night of the Living Dead, the words “Night Of The” have become staples of fright flick titles.  Whether it’s a creature feature B-movie such as Night of the Lepus or a tense crime drama like Night of the Juggler, those three words can really let the audience know what they’re in for.  Cinema Fearité has already sung the praises of a couple of these aptly-named movies - Night of the Creeps and Night of the Demons.  And now, we’re doing one more – the 1984 horror comedy Night of the Comet.

GothicIt’s common knowledge that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was the result of a friendly writing competition between herself, her future husband Percy Shelley, the poet Lord Byron, and author/physician John Polidori.  While stuck indoors during the unseasonably rainy summer of 1816, the four writers took turns trying to scare each other with stories of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins.  Only the four participants know for sure what happened over the course of those isolated and secluded days, but director Ken Russell (The Devils, Altered States) posits one theory in his 1986 movie Gothic.

Diary of a MadmanWhen most people think about classic horror writers, two names usually come immediately to mind: Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  But there is a third name that deserves to be there.  The prolific French writer Guy de Maupassant had every bit as much imagination and talent as Poe and Lovecraft.  There just haven’t been enough movie adaptations of Maupassant’s work for him to have gained household name status.  There have been some Maupassant movies, however - the best known being the 1963 chiller Diary of a Madman.

GleasonFormer New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason’s football career can be defined in a single play.  On September 25th, 2006, in the Saints’ first home game since their city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Gleason blocked a punt by the Atlanta Falcons that was returned for a touchdown, the first score of a game which the Saints would go on to win.  It was more than just a football play.  It was a symbol of resilience, a statement about the resurgence of a city that had been nearly destroyed.  Gleason provided a spark of hope which turned the city around.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2The biggest news coming out of last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was, arguably, the announcement that the upcoming Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett movie The Woods is, in fact, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project.  With all the hoopla and hub-bub, some fans seem to have forgotten (or perhaps have been trying to forget) that there already has been a Blair Witch sequel: 2000’s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.

Carnival of SoulsWhen people think of horror auteurs, the names that normally get thrown around are ones like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento.  One name that usually does not get brought up is Herk Harvey, an industrial film director who barely dipped his foot into the horror pool.  Harvey only made one feature length movie, but it’s a doozy.  In 1962, Harvey took a break from making educational documentaries to produce his contribution to horror history, Carnival of Souls.

The MutilatorIn the wake of John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween and Sean S. Cunningham’s equally legendary Friday the 13th, film studios everywhere in the early eighties rushed to get their own psycho killer movies into theaters.  The era that has come to be known as the Golden Age of the Slasher saw dozens, if not hundreds, of splatter flicks released, each bloodier than the last, and many with exploitative names like The Prowler, Madman, and Maniac.  Fitting right in with the most stereotypically titled of the Golden Age Slashers is the 1984 schlock flick The Mutilator.

The Ghost TrainFrom the very beginning of cinematic history, there have been movies about trains.  One of the first “Actualitiés” by the Lumiére Brothers in 1895 was Arrival of a Train at la Ciotat.  In 1903, filmmaker Edwin S. Porter introduced the world to composite editing and location shooting with The Great Train Robbery.  The horror world has given audiences Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and the seminal slasher Terror Train, as well as modern classics like Snowpiercer and Transsiberian.  And that’s just the tip of the symbolic iceberg – there have been plenty more, lesser-known train horror movies.  For example, in 1941, after Porter but before Hitchcock, a horrifying locomotive pulled into the station in the appropriately titled The Ghost Train.

Die, Monster, Die!For classic horror back in the day, there were basically two big studios; America had Universal Pictures and Great Britain had Hammer Film Productions.  But, there were also smaller companies that pumped out movies as well, one of which was American International Pictures, headed up by uber-producer Samuel Z. Arkoff.  AIP made and distributed B-movies, many of which fit squarely into the fright flick genre, from the mid-fifties right up until the company’s absorption in the early eighties.  In 1965, right at the apex of the company’s output, AIP distributed the classic British creepfest Die, Monster, Die!

Jack's BackNot only is Jack the Ripper one of the most famous and infamous killers of all time, he’s also a pretty good movie villain.  Whether the movie sticks relatively close to the true story, like Jack the Ripper, or takes things in a surreal mashup direction, such as in Edge of Sanity, Jack is always a fun antagonist.  A movie can even transport the slicey Brit into the future and still be effective.  Case in point: the eighties crime thriller Jack’s Back.

Theatrical one-sheet for TICKLED, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.A lot of weird stuff can be found on the internet.  The general rule is that just about anything – and I do mean anything – is just a Google search away.  For example: who would have thought that Competitive Endurance Tickling was a thing?  Well, if you believe the new documentary Tickled, apparently it is.

The ThingWhen it comes to horror remakes, there are two approaches that can be taken.  First is one of replication, where the filmmaker simply imitates the story and style of the original.  The recent remake of Carrie did this, as did the new rehash of Poltergeist (and don’t even get me started on Gus Van Sant’s Psycho).  The other way of thinking is to take the basic premise of the original and run with it until something new and different emerges.  These are the reboots that become legendary classics, movies such as David Cronenberg’s The Fly or Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac.  Horror icon John Carpenter’s 1982 reimagining of The Thing belongs squarely in this second category.

Don't Look in the BasementHorror movie titles can be so commanding, especially when they’re telling the viewer not to do something.  The word “Don’t” has appeared at the beginning of so many movie titles that silly director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block) spoofed the trend in his hilarious contribution to the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration Grindhouse.  The “Don’t” movies can be subliminally cautionary, like Don’t Look Now.  They can be sagely advisive, like Don’t Open Till Christmas.  They can even wide-eyed and optimistic, like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  But, most of the time, they’re exploitatively demanding, like Don’t Go Near the Park, Don’t Go in the House, or Don’t Answer the Phone!  Way back in 1973, one of the first movies to warn its viewers to “Don’t” do something was the proto-slasher Don’t Look in the Basement.

De PalmaWhether one considers him one of the freshest voices in modern cinema or just a hack Hitchcock imitator, there’s no doubt that Brian De Palma has made some of the most important movies of the last half century.  Now, fellow directors Noah Baumbach (Mistress America) and Jake Paltrow (“NYPD Blue”) turn the camera around on the iconic filmmaker in the simply titled documentary De Palma.

Warcraft PosterIn 1994, Blizzard Entertainment released the game "Warcraft: Orcs & Humans," which created a universe so popular the company created three more games in the series; the most widely known and arguably the most popular being "World of Warcraft (WOW)." The "WOW" phenomenon has had its ups and downs in popularity among gamers, but it continues to have a solid following. The most shocking part of the games' story is that it took over 20 years to have a movie based on them made. Warcraft has finally arrived, rolled up in an action-packed, CGI-filled fantasy spectacle that will surely have "WOW" devotees grinning from ear-to-ear.

 

Stephen King's ItWhether it’s a badge of honor or a sign of disrespect is up for debate, but it seems as if, for better or worse, every reasonably successful horror movie in history gets remade, some more than once.  Stephen King adaptations are no different; the superstar author’s first three books (Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, and The Shining) have all been made and remade (Carrie has gone through the reboot ringer twice).  Now, since the reimagining of It has finally gathered enough steam (and a director and cast) to go into production, it seems like as good a time as any for Cinema Fearité to take a look back at the scariest television miniseries of 1990: Stephen King’s It.

Dark HorseIn the sports world, the Green Bay Packers get a lot of attention for being fan-owned, as the NFL team has been possessed by shareholders for nearly an entire century.  The Packers may be the only community owned organization in American professional sports, but worldwide, the practice is fairly common, especially among football clubs (the type of football that Americans refer to as soccer).  A textbook example occurred in the early part of the twenty-first century when a group of British villagers pooled their money and bought a racehorse.  Their unlikely story is told in Dark Horse.

There's Nothing Out ThereIn 1996, the late, great Wes Craven re-energized the fledgling horror genre with his smart, self-referential classic Scream.  Craven found his inspiration two years earlier when, in 1994, he pulled back the curtain on filmmaking with the A Nightmare on Elm Street sequel/reboot Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.  Both of these movies recognized and reflected upon the workings of the horror movie genre as part of their overall makeup.  Well, when it comes to self-aware horror movies, the 1991 Troma-distributed, micro-budget horror comedy There’s Nothing Out There beat Craven to the punch by a few years.

Presenting Princess ShawIn New Orleans, an elder care worker named Samantha Montgomery writes songs, records them acapella, and uploads them to YouTube under the internet name Princess Shaw.  Half a world away in Israel, an eccentric musician named Ophir Kutiel, better known in the online world as Kutiman, scours the web for videos of musicians plying their craft and assembles them into “visual symphonies.”  Presenting Princess Shaw shows what happens when Kutiman discovers the raw talent of Princess Shaw and puts his unique musical polish on it.

Graduation DayIt’s graduation time, the point of the year where students switch the tassels over to the other side before tossing the whole cap into the air.  Cinema Fearité’s quest to remain timely is just as fervent as any recent grad's thirst for knowledge, so this week, we’ve got a movie that is both seminal and topical: the 1981 slasher Graduation Day.

First Man Into SpaceOn April 12, 1961, the Soviets put a man into space.  Twenty-three days later, the Americans repeated the feat.  Both events played a huge part in the so-called Space Race, but Hollywood beat them both to the punch, putting a human into space two years earlier in 1959 with the aptly-titled First Man Into Space.

Final ExamIn the world of slasher movies, there are two never-fail scenarios.  The first is the killer-in-the-woods, which Cinema Fearité has explored several times over the years with features about Madman, The Burning, The Final Terror, Sleepaway Camp, and Just Before Dawn.  The other is the university-kids-being-stalked motif, which we’ve covered with Terror Train and The Prowler.  Well, this week, we’re going back to college again with a buried gem from 1981 – Final Exam.

BarracudaThis past weekend saw the untimely death of Wayne Crawford at the comparatively young age of 69.  Crawford is probably best known for producing such cult classics as Valley Girl and Night of the Comet, but he was also a talented writer, director, and actor.  And sometimes, he did it all in the same movie.  The 1978 low-budget horror classic Barracuda was one of those times.

White ZombieBetween the success of “The Walking Dead” on television and the campiness of any number of the “X vs. Zombies” movies in theaters (or, more likely, on VOD), zombies are literally everywhere, having invaded every last fiber of popular culture.  George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead is usually credited with inventing the modern zombie, but the horror trope goes back farther than that.  Low-budget movie moguls the Halperin brothers (Ex-Flame) made what most people consider to be the first feature length zombie movie thirty-five years earlier in 1932 when they came up with White Zombie.

Simon, King of the WitchesWhen most people think about witches, they automatically envision women.  Movies are no different; from the old classic The Witches to the modern masterpiece The Witch, the title characters are usually female.  But there are male witches – or warlocks, as they are known – in movies, and 1971’s Simon, King of the Witches is as good of an example of a witch-man movie as one is bound to find.

Alice, Sweet AliceActors usually don’t just step into million-dollar roles, they most likely have had to work their way up.  Sometimes, they even have to start in horror movies.  Everyone knows how Johnny Depp began his career in A Nightmare on Elm Street and how Jennifer Aniston’s first movie was Leprechaun, but even the too-cute and equally talented Brooke Shields made her big screen debut in a horror movie way back in 1976 when she appeared in the cut-rate supernatural slasher Alice, Sweet Alice.

AngstAlthough it has a fairly rich cinematic history, most American filmgoers only know Austria as the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  With its close proximity to (and shared language with) Germany, what few Austrian films that find their way to America are often mistaken for German productions.  The country is not usually thought of as a hotbed of horror, but last year’s dark horse thriller Goodnight Mommy was Austrian, as was Michael Haneke’s 1997 home invasion nightmare Funny Games (which was remade in English ten years later by Haneke himself for American audiences).  In 1983, another legendary Austrian horror film was made, the proto-psycho-slasher with the name that means “Fear” in English, Angst.

Dead of NightIn the mid-sixties, writer/director Dan Curtis successfully injected vampires into a soap opera with “Dark Shadows,” a show that not only ran for over twelve hundred episodes, but also spawned a number of tie-in movies, a nineties television reboot, and even a 2012 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp big-budget reboot-of-the-reboot.  Curtis was more than just “Dark Shadows,” however; he owned horror on the small screen, with TV movie titles like Scream of the Wolf and Dracula on his resume.  He also made a couple of the greatest television horror anthology movies ever – one was the 1975 classic Trilogy of Terror, and the other, the focus of this week’s Cinema Fearité, is the criminally underrated 1977 effort Dead of Night.

Strange Septembers: The Hill Abduction & The Exeter EncounterOn September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were driving along a road in rural New Hampshire when they were reportedly abducted by extraterrestrials.  Four years later, on September 3, 1965, Norman Muscarello saw a UFO while hitchhiking near Exeter, NH, and reported it to police, which resulted in New Hampshire Police Officers Eugene Bertrand and David Hunt also observing the phenomenon.  These are two of the most compelling and controversial cases in the annals of UFO encounters, and they are examined in the new documentary Strange Septembers: The Hill Abduction & The Exeter Encounter.

The Earth Dies ScreamingThe horror and science fiction genres have always loved their end of the world movies.  From the original comet-crashing 1916 movie The End of the World to more modern dystopic films like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the end of mankind is a solid premise.  In 1964, the extinction of humanity by alien invasion was explored in the dramatically titled The Earth Dies Screaming.

InfernoOn March 10th, 2016, influential keyboardist/composer Keith Emerson died of an apparent suicide.  Emerson was best known as a founding member of the prog-rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer (or ELP for short), but the maestro also dabbled in film scoring.  Arguably, his most famous score was the soundtrack to legendary Italian filmmaker Dario Argento’s 1980 classic Inferno.

Assault on Precinct 13The internet was in mourning a couple of weeks ago over the death of a talented-yet-underappreciated character actor named Tony Burton.  Burton was most recognizable for his role as Duke, Apollo Creed’s corner man who would become Rocky’s corner man, in all of the Rocky movies up until Rocky Balboa.  However, in 1976, the same year that the original Rocky was released, Burton had a small-but-pivotal role as a prisoner in an influential horror classic: Assault on Precinct 13.

Just Before DawnLast weekend, Hollywood icon George Kennedy passed away at the age of 91.  Kennedy won an Academy Award for his performance in Cool Hand Luke, but he was not above taking sillier, less distinguished roles in fun movies; he appeared in all of the Airport series of disaster movies as well as the entire The Naked Gun comedy franchise, and that’s not even mentioning his stint as a regular on the nighttime soap opera “Dallas.”  Of course, he also did horror movies, with performances in the noir thriller Strait-Jacket, the schlockfest Brain Dead, and the “Old Chief Wood’nhead” segment of the anthology Creepshow 2.  In 1981, Kennedy even appeared in the full-blown slasher movie Just Before Dawn.

NightmaresThe big difference between the classic horror anthologies of yesteryear and those that are made today is consistency.  Today’s anthologies, movies like those found in the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death franchises, have different directors and writers for each segment, so the quality and tone can vary greatly.  That’s not the case with the old-school classic anthologies.  From 1924’s Waxworks right up to the beloved Creepshow movies of the eighties, horror anthologies were the vision of a single director, one filmmaker who would bring several stories to life by putting his or her personal thumbprint on each one.  One of the most fun and forgotten of these classic anthologies is 1983’s Nightmares.

When a Stranger CallsNo matter how you slice it, babysitters make great Final Girls in horror movies.  The combination of being alone in a strange place and being forced to be responsible for someone else’s safety as well as their own makes a character a great victim…and a great heroine.  The babysitter motif has been explored in many movies, both classic (Halloween) and not-so-classic (Babysitter Massacre), but perhaps never as effectively as it was in the 1979 shocker When a Stranger Calls.

Hospital MassacreValentine’s Day is coming up, and love is in the air.  When most horror fans think of Valentine’s Day, the movies that come to mind are either My Bloody Valentine (if they’re over 40), Valentine (for the 31-39 crowd), or My Bloody Valentine again (for the reboot crowd who’s under 30).  But there are a few others.  For example, there’s the 1981 psycho-slasher Hospital Massacre.

Maniac (1980)In case you’ve missed it, Cinema Fearité has been on a “Maniac” binge for the past couple of weeks.  First, we examined Dwain Esper’s 1934 scaresploitation classic Maniac, then we explored the 1963 Hammer Pictures thriller Maniac.  This week, we conclude our trilogy with the movie that most horror fans think of instantly when they hear the word “maniac”; the 1980 psycho-slasher Maniac.

Maniac (1963)Last week, Cinema Fearité examined the Dwain Esper 1934 exploitation/educational film Maniac.  This week in our continuing Maniac series, we take a look at the 1963 Hammer Film Productions crime thriller called, of course, Maniac.

Maniac (1934)What’s in a name?  Well, when it comes to horror movies, quite a bit.  If you go too generic, you won’t pique peoples’ interest.  If you’re too specific, you risk giving away plot points or, worse, including inside jokes in your title.  But let’s face it; there are only so many good titles to go around, and some movies are going to end up with the same name, especially when that name is a very general term.  For instance, there have been at least three different movies called Maniac over the last eighty years or so, not counting short films and reboots.  Over the next few weeks, Cinema Fearité will take a look at the three most popular ones, starting with the earliest: a 1934 exploitation film called, of course, Maniac.

I was recently at dinner with a couple who had been told I write about movies. It came as no surprise when they asked me, "What were the best movies you saw this year?" I hate that question, just as much as I hate when someone asks what my favorite film is, or what movie is the greatest ever made. If you're thinking that's an easy question to answer, it's Citizen Kane, I hope we never meet. FilmFracture's James Jay Edwards did an excellent job at picking ten of the best films of 2015, and it got me thinking, "What could I contribute?" Well, I find myself unable to remember most of the films I watch, for various reasons. So what movies do I remember seeing in 2015, and why? I'm about to tell you.

2016 Oscar PreviewIt’s Oscar season again!  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released the list of nominees for the 88th Academy Awards, with the ceremony scheduled to take place on February 28, 2016.  For the most part, this year’s nominees are disappointingly safe, but there are a few good dark horses here and there that may keep Oscar Night interesting.  Here’s a little look at the nominees, as well as some predictions for who might walk away with the statues.

PhantasmThe horror community suffered yet another crushing blow this past weekend.  As if it wasn’t enough that Wes Craven and Gunnar Hansen passed away this last year, another icon was lost when Angus Scrimm died on Saturday, January 9th.  Over the years, Scrimm became a fixture in horror movies and television shows, appearing in dozens of productions of all sizes and budgets, but fans know and remember him from one role – he was The Tall Man in Phantasm.

The SadistOn New Year’s Day, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, the man who shot blockbusters like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Deliverance passed away at the age of 85.  During his long and prolific career, Zsigmond worked in just about every genre imaginable and photographed for everyone from Robert Altman to Brian De Palma, but he got his start in quickie westerns and low budget horror films.  His first feature-length movie was the 1963 exploitation flick The Sadist.

Scream for HelpThere’s little doubt that Tom Holland is one of the most prominent Masters of Horror working today.  He practically defined supernatural horror in the eighties as the director of movies like Fright Night and Child’s Play.  Before he sat in the director’s chair, however, he did his time at the typewriter, penning scripts for underground classics such as The Initiation of Sarah, The Beast Within, and Class of 1984.  With his impressive resume, there are bound to be some minor works of his that have flown under the radar.  Scream for Help is one of these underappreciated gems.

It FollowsIt’s been another wild and crazy year for horror.  As has been the trend lately, horror on the big screen has been pretty stale while VOD has shined, and even though the pickings have been fairly slim, there have still been some great movies.  Here are my top ten horror movies of 2015.

James Jay Edwards' Top Ten Movies of 2015Top ten time!  These are my, James Jay Edwards’, top ten favorite movies of the year.  I speak for no one else.

Point BreakSomewhere between timeless classics and forgettable throwaways, there exists a wide catalogue of movies that could benefit from a modern day reboot but would likely fall under the radar if not executed perfectly. Point Break is one such movie. While the original Point Break (1991) is by no means a masterpiece, it's still a decent action caper featuring some delightfully cheesy performances by Patrick Swayze (Roadhouse) and Keanu Reeves (John Wick). A reckless cop enlists with a group of surfers who turn out to be bank robbers, and his close connection with them clouds his judgment. It's pretty standard fare by now, informing future action movies such as Fast and the Furious. Point Break (2015) takes the loose threads of the original and repackages them in the world of extreme sports. Our hero is still a reckless novice named Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) and opposite him is a fearsome, death-defying thrill chaser named Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez from Deliver Us From Evil). But somewhere in between conception and execution, Point Break either lost focus or started coming apart at the seams, and the end result feels like a movie cobbled together by one poorly conceived plot point after the next.

Black ChristmasWhen people think of Christmas horror movies, it’s the killer Santa movies that come to mind, movies like Silent Night, Deadly Night (and its reboot Silent Night), Christmas Evil, and To All a Goodnight.  However, there are plenty more Christmas horrors, and not just silly ones like Jack Frost and The Gingerdead Man.  In 1974, the original Christmas slasher, Black Christmas, was born.

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'After over a decade of waiting, even longer if you’ve wiped the three prequel’s from your mind, Star Wars is back in a big way. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Episode 7 in the franchise, has arrived, and brought with it a new direction. Like the original films, The Force Awakens is all about myth building and discovery, creating a mystique that slowly unravels as the 2-hour plus space tale unfolds. We see and hear the familiar sights and sounds of the galaxy far, far away, but it isn’t long before it becomes clear that this is Star Wars for the modern age, thanks in part to the gender and race blind casting.

Anatomy of a PsychoIn the wake of the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho, filmmakers everywhere wanted to cash in on the lunatic movie craze.  Releases with the word “Psycho” in the title peppered the next decade, with movies like Russ Meyer’s Motorpsycho!, Al Adamson’s Psycho a Go-Go, and Freddie Francis’ The Psychopath all racing their way into theaters.  But one film beat them all there, following Psycho by just one year in 1961: Anatomy of a Psycho.

Hitchcock/TruffautIn 1962, burgeoning young filmmaker François Truffaut approached his idol, the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, about sitting down for an extended interview about his attitudes and methodologies towards cinema.  Truffaut, a critic as well as a filmmaker, asked all the right questions and Hitchcock affably gave all the right answers, and in 1966, the results were published in veritable bible of auteur film theory, a simply titled book called Hitchcock/Truffaut.  Now, “The Daily Show” writer Kent Jones has turned those conversations into a movie, the also simply titled Hitchcock/Truffaut.

The Lost MissileIn what seems like a weekly occurrence, Hollywood has once again been rocked by the death of one of its biggest stars.  This time, supreme character actor Robert Loggia has died at the age of 85 after battling Alzheimer’s disease for the past five years.  Loggia worked in just about every genre imaginable, taking on roles as diverse as Tom Hanks’ boss in Big and Al Pacino’s drug lord in Scarface.  Of course, he did horror films, too, with key parts in The Believers, Innocent Blood, and the underrated Psycho II.  Getting his start in the industry way back in the fifties, it’s no surprise that he made some fun sci-fi turkeys as well, one of the first being the 1958 classic The Lost Missile.

Motel HellHorror spoofs have been around almost as long as horror movies.  In 1925, a silent parody of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde called Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde was made, starring none other than Stan Laurel in the titles role(s).  The horror parody subgenre is still going strong, as evidenced by this year’s brilliant What We Do in the Shadows.  Along the way, there have been spoofs of every type of horror movie, from the paranormal (Saturday the 14th) to the slashers (Student Bodies) and everything in between (30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).  Horror parodies can even start successful franchises, as has been the case with Scary Movie and A Haunted House.  But, the best parodies are the ones that fool the viewer into actually being scared while they’re laughing.  That’s what the 1980 horror comedy Motel Hell does.

Janis: Little Girl BlueI’m a sucker for a good music documentary, and this year has had more than its share.  From The Wrecking Crew to Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, 2015 has kept my ears ringing and my toes tappin’.  Well, we can add one more to the list: Janis: Little Girl Blue.

Heart of a DogThe last few years have been rough ones for Laurie Anderson.  The musician and performance artist has suffered through the deaths of her husband (who happened to be legendary rocker Lou Reed), her mother, and her beloved rat terrier.  It is this last loss, that of her dog, Lolabelle, which is at the center of Heart of a Dog.

This Island EarthCharacter actor Rex Reason passed away last week at the age of 86.  Reason primarily worked in television, with appearances on several shows in the fifties and sixties such as “Man Without a Gun” and “The Roaring 20’s,” but he made movies, too, and his two most memorable roles happened to be in science fiction/horror movies.  One was in the final installment of Universal’s Creature from the Black Lagoon franchise, The Creature Walks Among Us.  The other, his most recognizable performance, was in This Island Earth.

StereoIt’s always fun to look back at an important and influential filmmaker’s early work.  Whether it’s revisiting the old films of Hollywood royalty, such as George Lucas’ THX 1138 or Steven Spielberg’s Duel, or checking out the initial projects of genre icons, like John Carpenter’s Dark Star or Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, seeing the visions of developing artists never disappoints.  One of these early pictures that set the stage for a successful film career is the first film by horror legend David Cronenberg, an artsy little science fiction shocker made in 1969 called Stereo.

Hollywood Chainsaw HookersThe horror world lost another one of its icons this past weekend when Gunnar Hansen passed away at the age of 68 from pancreatic cancer.  Hansen is, of course, best known for playing the cannibalistic killer Leatherface in Tobe Hooper’s original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974.  After that, he made one more movie, 1977’s The Demon Lover, then backed away from acting for about a decade.  His return to the screen came in 1988 when he took a role in the campily, yet appropriately, named Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.

Dressed to KillThere’s little doubt that Alfred Hitchcock is one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) influences in the world of cinema.  Many successful directors owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Master of Suspense, everyone from Robert Zemeckis (What Lies Beneath) to David Fincher (Se7en, Panic Room), from Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Duel) to David Lynch (just about every Lynch film).  The supreme Hitchcock worshipper, however, is Brian De Palma, whose entire early career, a resume which includes movies like The Fury, Body Double, and Blow Out, seems to pay tribute to the big guy.  Case in point; De Palma’s 1980 Psycho homage Dressed to Kill.

Peace OfficerIt seems as if hardly a week goes by when there isn’t a news story about some sort of alleged police misconduct.  Unfortunately, much of it ends up with civilians being killed.  That’s why Peace Officer is such a timely film.

The Midnight HourOne of the most fun parts of Halloween is seeing all the cool stuff that the holiday brings to television.  Annual Halloween programming floods the airwaves each year, from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” to “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.”  Regular series broadcast their own Halloween specials as well, from the “Treehouse of Terror” episodes of “The Simpsons” to reruns of the spooky “Roseanne” Halloween shows.  And then, there are the made-for-TV movies, awesomely fun and family friendly gems like Halloweentown and The Worst Witch.  One of these cool Halloween television movies is the 1985 musical horror comedy mashup The Midnight Hour.

 

Varan the UnbelievableA couple of years ago, Cinema Fearité made the observation that the monsters that were made famous by the Toho Co. Ltd. Kaiju movies were like The Avengers, even venturing so far as to say that the mighty Godzilla would be Toho’s Iron Man, and Rodan is like their Captain America.  If all of that is true, then the star of 1962’s Varan the Unbelievable would be one of the less appreciated heroes, someone like Hawkeye or Quicksilver.

Lisa and the DevilOften seen as the godfather of the Italian giallo movie and a pioneer of the modern slasher film, Mario Bava has made movies that deal with both the supernatural (Black Sunday, Kill Baby, Kill) and the evils of humanity (A Bay of Blood, Hatchet for the Honeymoon).  And sometimes, he mixed the two with horrifying results.  A perfect example of this kind of subgenre mashup is his surreal 1973 movie Lisa and the Devil.

RepulsionThe trials and tribulations of Roman Polanski’s personal life often overshadow his body of work; in the midst of having his wife killed by the Mason family and his underage sex scandal, it’s easy to forget that the man knows how to make movies.  From the cinematic classics of Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown to his later personal projects Carnage and Venus in Fur, Polanski’s filmic style is inimitable.  Although he could never be pinned down to one particular genre, his early movies were mostly horror, and in 1965, Polanski’s second feature Repulsion proved that he could scare with the best of them.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant DeadWhen most people think of National Lampoon, the first thing that comes to mind is movies, specifically Animal House and Vacation, but there's much more to it than that.  The entire sordid history is recounted in Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.

The ManitouDuring his woefully short six-year career, William Girdler made truly memorable films.  A renaissance man who wrote, directed, scored, and produced, Girdler made nine films in the seventies, including the schlock classics Asylum of Satan and Three on a Meathook, his The Exorcist ripoff Abby, and his beasts-gone-wild movies Grizzly and Day of the Animals.  His final film, released in 1978, was the strangest of them all: The Manitou.

Happy Birthday to MeIn 1978, John Carpenter’s Halloween ushered in the Golden Age of the Slasher Movie, spawning dozens (if not hundreds) of imitators.  In order to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, many golden age slashers would take pride in their ability to come up with new and inventive ways to kill kids.  It didn’t take long for this to become the formula, either; as early as 1981, one movie bragged about including “six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see” on its theatrical poster.  That movie was Happy Birthday to Me.

The Neanderthal ManThere’s something pleasantly simple about fifties science fiction horror films.  The early low-budget filmmakers would do things like stick a diving helmet on a gorilla suit (Robot Monster) or inject red dye into silicon jelly (The Blob), all in the name of creating memorable movie monsters.  This naiveté carried over into the mad scientist films of the fifties as well.  A perfect example of this innocence-in-filmmaking is the 1953 sci-fi camp-fest The Neanderthal Man.

DuelEveryone starts somewhere.  Before horror icon John Carpenter made Halloween, he did the low-budget sci-fi nerd-fest Dark Star.  Before George Lucas became a household name with the space opera Star Wars, he created the futuristic vision THX 1138.  Even the debatably biggest name in filmmaking, Steven Spielberg, had to pay his dues; before the sharks of Jaws, the aliens of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and the Oscars of Schindler’s List, the budding director made Duel.

Invitation to HellThis week, the horror world is once again reeling from the loss of one of its most influential figures; writer/director Wes Craven has passed away at the age of 76, a victim of brain cancer.  Craven was the mastermind behind not one, but two of the greatest horror franchises ever thanks to his work on the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream films.  Throughout his career, Craven did supernatural horror (Deadly Blessing), sci-fi horror (Deadly Friend), campy horror (The People Under the Stairs), even comic book horror (Swamp Thing), all with the same awe-inspiring results.  In addition to making movies, Craven also dabbled in television, working on both “The Twilight Zone” and “Freddy’s Nightmares,” as well as a handful of spooky TV movies.  One of these TV movies aired a few short months before the release of the first A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, a suburban fire-and-brimstone tale called Invitation to Hell.

Scream Bloody MurderNestled in between the low-budget horror days of the fifties and sixties and the golden age of the slasher in the eighties, there were some bloody good films made in the seventies.  Of course, most people point to legendary classics like Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as good examples, but a look at the underbelly of the genre exposes splattery flicks like Herschell Gordon Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore and Hawkes & Grinter’s Blood Freak.  Also in this category of seedy slasher cinema is a little 1973 movie called Scream Bloody Murder.

The Lost BoysIt’s no secret that the Twilight movies have given vampires a bad rap.  Edward Cullen has single-handedly turned the mysterious, sophisticated bloodsuckers of Dracula and Nosferatu into sparkling, romantic wusses.  But, in between the suave vampires of old and the compassionate wimps of today, there existed a meaner spirited, in-it-for-themselves creature of the night.  Cinema Fearité has already discussed the tribe of nocturnal bloodlusters in Near Dark, but that same year, in 1987, a more popular movie celebrated the evilness of the vampire, and did it with humor as well as horror.  That movie was The Lost Boys.

The Drums of JeopardyThe introduction of sound in motion pictures was a fairly gradual thing; it’s not like every movie suddenly had synchronized sound one weekend, the slow transformation occurred over several years in the late twenties and early thirties.  Over that time, many studios double-dipped, remaking silent movies with sound and releasing them as a whole new movie, and horror movies were not exempt from this trend.  Cinema Fearité has already covered how London After Midnight was turned into Mark of the Vampire, The Hands of Orlac was rechristened as Mad Love, and The Cat and the Canary became The Cat Creeps, but other classic horror tales like The Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame found themselves remade shortly after the innovation of sound cinema as well.  Amidst all of the legendary movies that were being “soundified,” there were also a bunch of lesser-known thrillers.  The Drums of Jeopardy is one of these underappreciated gems.

They LiveLast week, the world lost a bona-fide icon when professional wrestler/action star Roderick George Toombs, better known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, died of cardiac arrest at the age of 61.  Inside the ring, the fan-favorite Piper was primarily a villain in the WWF (later the WWE) and WCW, but on the screen, he was a hero.  By far, Roddy Piper’s biggest cinematic legacy is the 1988 John Carpenter science-fiction horror film They Live.

Listen to Me MarlonIn the early eighties, legendary actor Marlon Brando had the features of his head scanned and digitized by a special effects house, thinking that someday in the near future, actors would be replaced by computer generated images of themselves, therefore rendering themselves obsolete.  It is both fun and fitting that director Stevan Riley (Fire in Babylon, Blue Blood) uses these cleaned-up hologram-like Brando head images to narrate Listen to Me Marlon.

A LEGO BrickumentaryTo the uninitiated, it would seem as if the LEGO toy brand was thrust into the limelight by last year’s The LEGO Movie, but truthfully, the beloved construction toy was always there.  Now, A LEGO Brickumentary tells curious viewers everything they ever wanted to know about one of the world’s most popular toy companies.

The Look of SilenceA couple of years ago, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer made The Act of Killing, a disturbing look at the attitudes of former Indonesian death squad leaders towards their past crimes during their country’s genocidal communist cleansing of the mid-sixties.  Now, Oppenheimer tells the other side of the story in the companion piece The Look of Silence.

Bad RonaldIt’s said that everything old is new again, and of course, the sentiment is never more apparent than in the world of horror movies.  Even when a newer film is not considered a sequel or a remake (excuse me, a reboot), its concepts and themes can still usually be traced back to some earlier film that it rips off (excuse me, takes influence from).  For example, take last years’ Housebound, an ingenious tale about a haunted house that ends up simply having a crazy guy living within its walls.  That concept sounds suspiciously like Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs.  But, even Craven’s masterpiece was not a completely original idea; the influence for that frightfest can be found in the 1974 television movie Bad Ronald.

That Sugar FilmIt’s been over ten years since Morgan Spurlock’s eye-opening sensational documentary Super Size Me showed people the evils of dining on a diet consisting of McDonald’s food and nothing else.  That’s just enough time for a new generation of activists to latch onto That Sugar Film, a movie in which Australian actor Damon Gameau (“Raw”) does basically the same thing.

Savage WeekendThe roots of the modern slasher movie can be found as far back as the early sixties in films like Psycho and Peeping Tom, but the subgenre really hit its stride in the late seventies and early eighties.  The period that has come to be known as the Golden Age of the Slasher Film was spearheaded by the success of movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but there were dozens (if not hundreds) of other masked killer movies flooding their way into theaters at the same time.  The 1979 bloodfest Savage Weekend is one of these under-the-radar slashers.

Do I Sound Gay?One of the biggest stereotypes surrounding homosexual men involves their voices.  Who doesn’t know the sassy, high-pitched feminine lisp that is used to both instantly recognize and incessantly parody gay men?  In Do I Sound Gay?, journalist/filmmaker David Thorpe examines the “gay” voice, and makes a misguided attempt at ridding himself of it.

The BlobAlien invasions are a pretty common theme of sci-fi/horror movies, and most of them have the same thing in common; they all seem to have similar looking aliens.  The typical movie alien is a bipedal humanoid with an oversized, egg-shaped head and big eyes.  Even the variations of the theme still don’t stray too far from the look; whether it’s a campy b-movie like Without Warning or a horrifying vision like Xtro, the two-legged enlarged-cranial visitor from another planet reigns supreme.  In 1958, right in the middle of the classic period of the sci-fi movie, director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. (4D Man, Dinosaurus) got creative with his alien invaders, and the results turned into one of the most beloved science fiction movies of all time: The Blob.

Without WarningThe teenagers-in-the-woods theme has been a staple of the horror movie for years, gaining the height of its popularity in the early eighties.  Of course, when the stereotype is brought up, the first images that come to mind are those of the Friday the 13th movies, but the trope has been explored in many other fright flicks of the era such as Madman, The Burning, and The Final Terror.  In 1980, right at the onset of the trend, director Greydon Clark (Satan’s Cheerleaders, Dance Macabre) was already changing things up by injecting an alien killer into the camping-kids scenario in his sci-fi horror schlockfest Without Warning.

Mad LoveThings can get messy when emotions are involved, so love triangles make good backdrops for horror movies, even when two of the three parties don’t realize they’re in a trio.  Whether in 1932 with Tod Browning’s classic Freaks or just last year in Chan-wook Park’s masterpiece Stoker, one thing is perfectly clear; when it comes to horror movies, three’s a crowd.  In 1935, accomplished cinematographer/director Karl Freund (The Mummy) took a love triangle and tossed a mad scientist into the mix, giving the world the aptly titled Mad Love.

Humanoids from the DeepHollywood lost yet another star recently when composer James Horner was killed in a plane crash earlier this week.  Horner is best known by movie buffs as the creator of the scores to Oscar-bait movies such as Titanic, Avatar, and Bravehart, but horror fans remember him for his earlier work on classics like Deadly Blessing, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and, of course, Aliens.  In the early days of his career, Horner went through the “Roger Corman Film School,” and one of his first feature length soundtracks was that of the 1980 creature feature Humanoids from the Deep.

Fresh DressedAh, the good old days.  The birth of hip hop music.  Back when it was possible to judge a book by its cover – or, as the case may be, a person by his fat-laced Adidas sneakers, baggy sweatpants, and Kangol bucket hat.  This is the time period in popular culture that is explored by music journalist Sacha Jenkins’ new documentary Fresh Dressed.

'Index Zero'Italian Director/Screenwriter Lorenzo Sportiello has a very unique vision of the future, as seen in his debut feature film Index Zero. It is the year 2035, and gone are the European Countries we know so well; in their place is the United States of Europe. How this came to be we shall never know. It is accepted, as is the fact that the powers that be are not open and inviting to others. Nor is freedom an option any longer, or the ability to live your life as you wish. The new world order is bleak.

Richard Gere In 'Franny'If you have ever wanted to see Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) at his eccentric best, watch Franny. Gere stars as the title character Franny, a wealthy philanthropist who has always been a tad outlandish. His behavior becomes altogether erratic after he loses his best friends in a car crash and he is left ultimately alone. Five years later and a call from their daughter Olivia (Dakota Fanning from The Runaways), who Franny always referred to as Poodles, and he is suddenly drawn out of his reclusive state and hell-bent on helping her and her new husband build a life. The catch is of course that Franny has deep psychological wounds following the accident that claimed Olivia’s parents life but spared his and he does not exactly know how to acclimate himself into the young couple’s life.

Tim Roth as Hank Harris in '600 Millas'Simplicity. There a few films made today that act upon the word. They instead feel the need to fill space with the unnecessary, oftentimes to mask the problems that lie within the story being told. Mexican Director Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Millas (600 Miles) takes the simplistic route to produce a film worthy of the art form. 600 Miles makes simplicity look like the best choice for a filmmaker, and viewers are sure to agree.

Oliver Hirschbiegel's '13 Minutes'A mere 13 minutes would have changed the world forever, and one of the greatest atrocities in history could have been avoided. In German director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s (Downfall, Das Experiment) newest film, the WWII-centered thriller 13 Minutes (Elser), he tells the true story of how one man, working alone, tried to change the world in 1939 by assassinating Adolf Hitler. The film is by far one of the best tellings of real life heroics enacted during the time period, and it is done so as an homage to a man who went unrecognized for his valiant actions for decades.

The Wicker ManLast week, the horror world was rocked by the death of one of its most prolific actors, the iconic Sir Christopher Lee.  Throughout his long and storied career, Lee got to play key villains in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, the Star Wars prequels, and the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.  However, he was best known to horror fans as one of the faces of Hammer horror, appearing in classics like The Curse of Frankenstein, The Devil Rides Out, and Scream of Fear, as well as portraying the legendary Dracula several times for the studio.  Lee also made many horror movies away from Hammer, and one of the most memorable films in his catalog is the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.

The WolfpackWhen filmmaker Crystal Moselle first met the Angulo brothers in 2010, they were six wide-eyed teenagers running loose on the streets of the East Village in New York City.  It was literally one of the first times they had ever been outside of their family’s apartment.  Sensing a bigger story, and appealing to the brothers' interest in filmmaking, Moselle made friends with the boys and was granted access to their isolated world for the next five years.  The result is her compelling documentary The Wolfpack.

Robert Carlyle in 'The Legend of Barney Thomson'Barney Thomson is an unassuming Glasgow, Scotland, barber. That is, until a pair of scissors finds its way into the chest of his employer, and Barney is mildly to blame. So begets the story of how Barney Thomson became a legend in his small corner of a big city. As a barber who was on his way to being fired, he now finds himself tasked with covering up a murder, maybe two. In The Legend of Barney Thomson the happenstance of murder is carefully crafted in a dark comedic style, with the guidance of actor-turned-director Robert Carlyle (28 Weeks Later, Trainspotting) who also plays the starring role of Barney.

What Lies BeneathOver the years, some of the most memorable horror films have been made by directors who don’t usually work in the genre.  The Exorcist, a film which is arguably the greatest horror film ever produced, is William Friedkin’s only pure horror film.  After making Near Dark, Kathryn Bigelow turned her attentions to Oscar-bait war movies.  The terrifying Misery was made by Rob “Meathead” Reiner, who came from (and returned to) a comedy background as both an actor and a director.  In 2000, Robert Zemeckis, a filmmaker known for such family classics as Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump, dipped his foot into the horror pool with the spooky haunted house flick What Lies Beneath.

Madame BovaryThe classic novel “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert has been adapted for the stage and screen on numerous occasions, the latest for the screen being director Sophie Barthes’ with screenwriter Felipe Marino. Madame Bovary is the story of a young woman who marries a country doctor only to discover the life she has been given is far from what she desires. The simpleness of country life does not suit Madame Bovary, and in order to gain fulfillment she looks elsewhere—in the beds of multiple men and in the all too inviting local merchant who tempts her with the splendors of the wealthy, regardless of cost and future detriment.

Mark of the VampireTod Browning is known to most movie fans as the director of the classic Universal horror film Dracula.  The seminal Bram Stoker tale is not Browning’s only foray into the vampire mythos, however; four years earlier, in 1927, Browning made London After Midnight with Lon Chaney, and four years after, in 1935, Browning essentially remade the same movie with his Dracula star Bela Lugosi, calling it Mark of the Vampire.

Monkey ShinesThe modern incarnation of the zombie was practically invented by George A. Romero.  Even with the added speed and agility of the remake-era zombies, the blueprint of Romero’s mindless undead brain-eater is still readily apparent.  Because of all of his influential work within the zombie subgenre, it’s easy to forget that he made non-zombie movies as well, and great ones at that, movies like Martin and The Dark Half.  One of Romero’s greatest non-zombie movies is also one of his best overall films, the animal horror movie Monkey Shines.

Eyes Without a FaceThe year 1960 was a banner year for horror, even if no one knew it at the time.  In America, Alfred Hitchcock was defining the slasher genre with Psycho while Michael Powell was doing the same in England with Peeping Tom.  Roger Corman made two of his most memorable films, The Little Shop of Horrors and House of Usher, while Terence Fisher pounded out not one, not two, but three future Hammer classics in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Brides of Dracula, and The Stranglers of Bombay.  The year also saw the production of William Castle’s 13 Ghosts, Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, Bert I. Gordon’s Tormented, and Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses.  But, amidst all of these influential and inventive films, perhaps the most creative horror film from 1960 is the French classic Eyes Without a Face.

Dark Star: H.R. Giger's WorldVisual artist Hans Rudolf Giger is one of the most enigmatic of pop culture icons.  His distinct work is everywhere, from the production design for the sci-fi/horror movie Alien to his album covers for groups like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Dead Kennedys, but few fans know much about the man himself.  And, after seeing Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World, they still won’t know much about him.

RoarThere’s an old showbiz adage, often attributed to the great W.C. Fields, which offers the advice to “never work with children or animals.”  It’s believed that the reasoning behind this is that children and animals are not only unpredictable, but they also steal any scene in which they appear.  In the case of animals, it can go one further; the unpredictability can be downright dangerous, and one only needs to look as far as the 1981 exploitation film Roar for evidence.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of HeckFor as iconic of a figure as Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain is, fans of the musician really haven’t gotten the documentary about the man that they have always wanted.  There was Kurt & Courtney, Nick Broomfield’s totally unsanctioned 1998 film that focused more on the suspicious circumstances that surrounded the death of the rock star than on his life itself.  Then, there was About a Son, the 2006 snorefest that paired up author Michael Azerrad’s interview tapes with Cobain with a bunch of boring cinematography in an attempt to capture the desolation and despair of the singer’s old Washington state stomping grounds.  But audiences have never gotten an honest depiction of the man behind the music.  Until now.

WitchboardThere is no horror movie prop that strikes fear into the hearts of viewers quite like the Ouija board.  Some say it’s a portal to another dimension, others say it’s a silly game by Parker Brothers, but no one quite understands how or why the device behaves the way it does.  One thing is for sure; whether appearing in classic films like The Uninvited and The Exorcist, or in more modern movies like Paranormal Activity and What Lies Beneath, the Ouija board (also known as a talking board or a spirit board) has carved itself out a seemingly permanent place in horror movie culture.  The debatable king of the Ouija board horror movies is the 1986 spook-fest Witchboard.

Avengers: Age of UltronMovies that take place in the Marvel universe are hit-or-miss for the majority of filmgoers--uber fans of the characters/mythology tend to have a blind eye to a respective films misgivings. Every so often a Marvel movie gets its right, as with Iron Man and Thor. The Avengers was not so lucky, if luck really has anything to do with it in Hollywood. The pairing of a great many of the favorite Marvel universe characters has been redeemed in the follow-up sequel: Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The Man They Could Not HangIn 1931, Boris Karloff became a horror icon playing a character who was reanimated by a mad scientist in Frankenstein.  But his star-making performance as the monster in James Whale’s classic Universal fright flick is not the only time that the talented Karloff has been brought back from the dead.  In 1939, he once again cheated the reaper in The Man They Could Not Hang.

SecondsWhen it comes to movies, sometimes the lines between genres are not entirely black and white.  This fact is never as clear as it is when discussing the horror world.  Sure, there are obvious horror movies, like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but there are also grey-area films that straddle the genre line like Deliverance, Taxi Driver, and last year’s amazing Nightcrawler.  Another of these “fringe horror” classics is 1966’s Seconds.

Lambert & StampEvery good rock and roll act has been backed up by a good manager.  Elvis Presley had Colonel Tom Parker.  The Beatles had Brian Epstein.  And The Who had Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, who are the subjects of a conveniently titled documentary called Lambert & Stamp.

Blue SunshineHorror movies are so simple when there’s a clear-cut antagonist, someone like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, or Michael Myers to play the villain role.  Sometimes, things aren’t quite so obvious, such as when zombies look like regular people in movies like Dead & Buried or when aliens take the form of other organisms such as in The Thing.  And things get really complicated when the threat is completely ambiguous, as is the case with the newest sensation horror film It Follows.  Way back in 1978, however, underdog horror writer/director Jeff Lieberman pondered what would happen if something that someone experienced in their past could affect their present state, using drugs as its example, and brought us Blue Sunshine.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsFor more than forty years, Sabastião Salgado has been one of the premier social documentary photographers in the world.  He’s worked for newspapers and magazines, photo agencies and photographers’ cooperatives, and has even been a UNiCef Goodwill Ambassador.  Now, Sebastião’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, has teamed up with narrative and documentary filmmaker Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club, Pina) to make a movie called The Salt of the Earth about his father’s life, work, and most importantly, his photographs.

Maniac CopHollywood is still reeling from last week’s passing of actor Robert Z’Dar at the age of 64.  Born Robert James Zdarsky, Z’Dar carved himself a niche in the film industry by becoming the quintessential villain, and had roles in such big-budget movies as Tango & Cash and Mobsters.  Z’Dar’s most famous role, however, was that of the title character in the 1988 cult classic slasher movie Maniac Cop.

Wild CardLas Vegas. The mere mention of its name provokes Hollywood movie memories from all genres. It is an eternal movie city that can feature any sort of hijinks, madness, mayhem, murder, sin, romance, and anything else a Hollywood screenwriter can dream up to place on the page. The time has come for Las Vegas to meet Jason Statham in Simon West's Wild Card. The meeting of the pair, a city and an actor who both play the same character whenever they appear on screen, is an exciting idea that has come at a price. That price being a loss of wonder for both as Wild Card is without a doubt a disordered attempt at merging two of the movie world's best "characters" on screen.

An Honest LiarRandall James Hamilton Zwinge, better known as The Amazing Randi, is one of the greatest and most renowned magicians in the world.  In his day, he would amaze and confound audiences with his Houdini-like escapes and tricks.  Later on in his life, also like Harry Houdini, Randi would serve the same masses that he used to deceive by routinely exposing fraudulent clairvoyants and debunking phony psychics.  Because of this, he was known as one of the “good” magicians, an illusionist on the people’s side.  The perfect name for a documentary about him is An Honest Liar.

Phantom ShipThe phrase “based on a true story” has been used to sell and promote horror movies for decades.  Just the thought that the horrific events that are unfolding onscreen may have actually happened is enough to grab the attention of viewers.  Whether in the form of faux-documentaries, like The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Blair Witch Project, or as dramatizations, such as The Amityville Horror or The Town that Dreaded Sundown, true stories make fascinating movies.  Sometimes, a tiny kernel of truth can sprout an entire exploitative tale as it did with Eaten Alive, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile.  Other times, however, the real stories are unknown, so the films have to rely on complete speculation like they do with Open Water and The Strangers.  Such is the case with the 1935 movie Phantom Ship and its account of the final journey of the Mary Celeste.

Jacob's LadderSome of the most horrifying movies ever made have been war movies.  No one can argue that the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and the Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter are as scary as any traditional horror film.  When horror movies mix with war movies, things get really frightening   Case in point: Jacob’s Ladder.

The Hunting GroundA couple of years ago, writer/director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering broke the silence on the issue of sexual assault in the military with their gripping documentary The Invisible War.  Now, they have tackled the same problem on college campuses with their newest film The Hunting Ground.

Night TerrorDriving can be such a repetitive and menial chore – unless the driver happens to be in a horror film.  Because of the loneliness and isolation, long stretches of roadway make great settings for movies, whether the action takes place during the day or night.  From Steven Spielberg’s Duel to Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers, drivers are never safe as long as they’re on the road.  This message was delivered loud and clear in a 1977 television movie called Night Terror.

Merchants of DoubtWhenever there’s a controversial subject, each side of the debate has its experts that provide scientific and credible evidence of their argument’s superiority to the opposition.  The practice of spin doctoring has been around for decades without a whole lot of change.  But who are these “experts,” and what makes them so knowledgeable?  That’s the question at the heart of Merchants of Doubt.

The Wrecking CrewGuitar Player magazine once described guitarist Tommy Tedesco as the most recorded guitarist in history.  The funny thing is that most listeners would never even know it was him playing.  The twangy galloping acoustic guitar on the “Bonanza” theme?  The fuzzy, distorted intro riff to “Green Acres?”  The silly wah-wah solo that signaled the beginning of “Three’s Company?”  All Tommy Tedesco.  It turns out, Tedesco was only one of the unsung studio musicians of the Los Angeles scene.  There was a group of about twenty or so seasoned professionals who seemingly played on every record made on the west coast in the sixties and seventies.  This group, and the documentary film that is named after them, is known as The Wrecking Crew.

GrotesqueIn a way, Linda Blair had it easy; her breakout role as Regan, the possessed child in The Exorcist, came very early in her career when she was barely into her teens.  The down side to this is that Blair has never been able to duplicate the success of her signature performance.  Since The Exorcist, Blair has worked fairly steadily in the mainstream, making guest appearances on television shows such as “The Love Boat” and “Supernatural,” but has also never stopped making cult horror movies like Hell Night and The Chilling.  One of her lesser-known horror outings was a movie that she produced as well as starred in, a 1988 gore-fest called, appropriately enough, Grotesque.

Suspended AnimationWhen people think of horror movie villains, the first names that usually come to mind are Jason, Freddy, and Michael – a real boy’s club.  Likewise, the last survivors tend to be women – Final Girls.  When a skillful and innovative director flips the script and reverses the roles, the results can be especially creepy, as evidenced by films such as Misery and Fatal Attraction.  And when a movie doubles down and uses not one, but two female antagonists to torment its male victim, those results can be extremely effective.  Suspended Animation is just such a film.

RagewarIn the horror world, low-budget movies are just as much (if not more) fun than their big Hollywood brethren.  Amongst the modern B-Movie pioneers are a number of influential auteurs who have paved the way for those who have come later.  Guys like Roger Corman (A Bucket of Blood, Bloody Mama) and Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger) have proven that anyone with a little creativity and a lot of perseverance can make movies.  Another one of these guys is Charles Band, whose production company Empire Pictures, and later Full Moon Pictures, has been behind great movies like Crawlspace and Tourist Trap.  As a director, one of Band’s more ambitious ideas involved getting together with six other directors to make a not-really-an-anthology anthology movie called Ragewar.

Red ArmyWhen sports fans think about dynasties, there are certain names that come to mind.  The New York Yankees have dominated Major League Baseball for nearly a hundred years.  The Chicago Bulls of the nineties ruled the basketball courts.  The National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls in the eighties and early nineties.  But perhaps the most successful dynasty of all time worked its magic on the ice, and we’re not talking about the Montreal Canadiens.  For a long time, the most feared hockey team on the planet was the USSR Men’s National Ice Hockey Team, and they are the subject of a fascinating new documentary called Red Army.

Swamp ThingHollywood lost another one of its shining stars this last weekend when Louis Jourdan, the debonair French character actor, passed away at the age of 93.  Throughout his long and storied career, Jourdan worked with Hitchcock, played Count Dracula, and lent his voice talents to Scooby-Doo cartoons.  He is best known to movie fans as the suave leading man in the musical Gigi and the villain in the Bond film Octopussy, but the horror community remembers him for another role; in 1982, Jourdan played the antagonistic Dr. Arcane in Swamp Thing.

Wetlands PosterMeet Wetlands' Helen (Carla Juri). She is in her post-teen years, still lives at home, is quite pretty with her tomboy haircut that is juxtaposed with her liking for very short shirts. She is a tiny bit insecure, and extremely precocious; exhibiting a child-like sense in her very much young adult body. Helen is also extremely vulgar in everything that she does. Obsessed with sex, sexuality, and pushing the boundaries of appropriateness there is no end to what Helen will do. Or what those around her will be compelled to do by her influence. Helen is, in a word, amazing. Solely for the fact that she exhibits everything that is wrong for a girl of her age, and you instantly fall in love with her because of this fact.

eXistenZDavid Cronenberg successfully transitioned from low-budget sci-fi horror to “legitimate” filmmaking with A History of Violence in 2005.  Although Cronenberg is now known as a big Hollywood moviemaker with reputable films like Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method on his resume, horror fans will always remember the man for his early films, slimy science fiction body-horror movies like The Brood and Scanners.  The last really weird movie he made, in 1999, was eXistenZ.

The UninvitedThere’s nothing better than an old fashioned haunted house story.  Whether they’re sublime, as in The Haunting and The Innocents, or completely visceral, like The Amityville Horror and The Legend of Hell House, movies about haunted houses are always enjoyable, as long as they’re done right.  In 1944, an unusual kind of hybrid ghost-house movie was made, a kind of comedy-romance-noir thriller called The Uninvited.

Strange BehaviorEdgar Froese died last week.  Movie fans might not immediately recognize the name, but they most certainly know his work.  As the founder and only continuous member of the electronic musical group Tangerine Dream, Froese helped dozens of films, from the Tom Cruise vehicle Risky Business to, well, the other Tom Cruise vehicle Legend.  Tangerine Dream’s music worked especially well within the context of science fiction and horror films, with the group providing the soundtracks to such movies as Near Dark, Firestarter, The Keep, and Spasms.  In 1981, Tangerine Dream contributed its inimitable sonic stylings to a budding little Ozploitation flick called Strange Behavior.

Body PartsThey say that there are only so many story ideas to go around, and that everything is influenced by something else.  This theory is never more true than when it is applied to horror films, where even the best slasher or haunted house movie is indicative of an earlier movie; let’s face it – Devil’s Due is basically Rosemary’s Baby and Ouija is essentially Witchboard.  Some are pretty obvious (basically, all vampire movies can be traced back to Nosferatu), but many are subtle.  In 1931, Universal Studios made the definitive version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, turning Boris Karloff into a horror legend.  Sixty years later, in 1991, one of the more clever variations of the Frankenstein tale was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public when Body Parts was released.

Fangs of the Living DeadThe cinematic universe lost another star this weekend with the passing of the stunning Anita Ekberg at the age of 83.  Born in Sweden, Ekberg did some modeling and light acting in America before being “re-discovered” by Federico Fellini in Italy when the director cast her in La Dolce Vita.  Ekberg quickly became a commodity in Europe, making movies in just about every genre imaginable.  In 1969, the beautiful bombshell dabbled in the horror world by starring in the vampire tale Fangs of the Living Dead.

The Dark HalfThere are few novelists who have had as much success getting their works turned into films as Stephen King.  Seemingly every page that has come out of the writer’s prolific imagination has been made into a movie, mini-series, or anthology television episode.  Big-name filmmakers line up to work with him, too; the movies made from his first six books alone were directed by Brian De Palma (Carrie), Tobe Hooper (Salem’s Lot), Stanley Kubrick (The Shining), Lewis Teague (Cujo), David Cronenberg (The Dead Zone), and John Carpenter (Christine).  In 1993, another horror heavyweight took a crack at adapting one of King’s books when the legendary George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Martin) made The Dark Half.

The NestOne of the most effective things that a horror movie can do is take a seemingly innocuous presence and turn it into something frightening.  A popular subject for this treatment is insects; everyone sees them every day without much thought, but when a movie makes them go haywire, it’s terrifying.  Whether it is ants, like in Phase IV, or bees, such as in The Deadly Bees, insects can be effective movie antagonists.  In 1988, The Nest brought another insect into the spotlight, one that already had a bad reputation as a creepy-crawly: the cockroach.

To All a GoodnightKiller Santa Claus movies have been the go-to Christmas horror films ever since the slasher movie came into prominence in the early eighties.  The 1984 bloodfest Silent Night, Deadly Night is the film that comes to most people’s minds when they think of killer Santas, but it wasn’t the first.  Cinema Fearité has already discussed Christmas Evil, a similar themed film that came out in November of 1980.  However, one movie beat even that one to the punch; in January of 1980, a psychopath in a Saint Nick suit was killing kids in To All a Goodnight.

Top Ten Horror Movies of 2014What a confusing year 2014 has been for the horror world.  Home video and VOD releases dominated the scene, and those fans who did leave the comfort of their own couch ended up at the local art house theater instead of the multiplex.  While the big studios disappointed, the indies really picked up the slack.  Here are one fan’s opinions as to the top-ten horror movies of 2014.

Event HorizonEver since George Méliès’ groundbreaking 1902 film A Trip to the Moon, science fiction has been one of the campier genres in movie history.  The silliness ran rampant throughout the fifties, with alien invasion movies like Robot Monster and The Man from Planet X inspiring more amusement than terror.  In the late seventies, Ridley Scott’s Alien flipped the script on the sci-fi label, stripping the corniness away and turning it into a genre that could really scare people.  In 1997, another pivotal movie in the sci-fi horror world was released, the absolutely horrifying Event Horizon.

The Deadly BeesReal-life legendary monsters make great fodder for horror films.  Whether it’s the mythical Abominable Snowman in Shriek of the Mutilated or the Bigfoot-like Fouke Monster in The Legend of Boggy Creek, nothing scares people like something that can actually get them, even if that fear is fueled by paranoid speculation.  When a few groups of the more aggressive Africanized honey bees escaped from their South American hives and were rumored to be heading for America in the fifties, movies about swarming killer bees were bound to follow.  The first of these was, surprisingly, a British film, made in 1966, called The Deadly Bees.

Moon of the WolfBack in the days before cable television and home video, there were basically two ways to see a movie; one could go to the theater and see the movie as it was intended, or one could wait a few months (or years) until the movie hit T.V., where it would be shown edited for time and content.  To compete with theaters, broadcast networks took to producing their own made-for-T.V. movies, and these television movie-of-the-week offerings included a handful of films that went on to become horror classics, movies like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and even the first adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.  Sometimes, the T.V. movies were less-than-classic, but still ended up being a lot of fun.  Such is the case with 1972’s Moon of the Wolf.

Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake CountyThanksgiving horror movies are hard to come by; Turkey Day fright flicks just aren’t as plentiful as those set on Christmas or Halloween, and those that are out there are, well, turkeys.  In past years, Cinema Fearité has featured Home Sweet Home, Blood Freak, and Blood Rage.  Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your dinner table, we’ve dug up another hidden holiday horror.  This year’s Thanksgiving offering is a science fiction/horror T.V. movie from 1998 called Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

Dead CalmOver the last few decades, Australia has emerged as a powerful force in horror movie production.  Between the classic Ozploitation movies of the seventies and eighties, such as Patrick and Razorback, to the new wave of Aussie horror that includes films like the Wolf Creek franchise and The Babadook, the land Down Under has put out some consistently terrifying movies.  They’re not all B-movie schlock, either.  In 1989, Australian director Phillip Noyce (Sliver, The Bone Collector) took a tiny-yet-talented cast and turned out a suspenseful thriller called Dead Calm.

Phase IVEven those who are unfamiliar with the name Saul Bass know his work.  An iconic visual artist with an instantly recognizable style, Bass is responsible for the promotional posters for films like The Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder, and The Shining.  In addition to print work, Bass also designed title sequences, crafting the memorable opening credit scenes to Alfred Hitchcock movies such as Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo.  For all of his Hollywood clout, Bass only got to direct one feature length film, but it was a doozy: 1973’s insect sci-fi/horror movie Phase IV.

Donovan's BrainScience Fiction movies from the fifties have a reputation for being simple creature features, films with names like Beast from Haunted Cave, The Mole People, and It Came from Beneath the Sea.  Not as plentiful, but still just as popular, are the movies from the era where man is the monster, films such as A Bucket of Blood and The Black Sleep.  Sometimes, however, the villain is a combination of both.  In 1953, one of the most creative sci-fi movies of the sixties was made, a clever little movie called Donovan’s Brain.

Hack-O-LanternThere is no scarier night on which to set a horror movie than Halloween.  John Carpenter’s Halloween revolutionized the entire genre, and Cinema Fearité has already discussed that particular date’s impact on movies like Trick or Treat, Trick or Treats, and Night of the Demons.  No matter how many Halloween movies that one is able to see, it seems like there will always be more.  In 1988, a straight-to-video low-budget job was made that has been silently gliding under the radar of many fans, the ingeniously titled Hack-O-Lantern.

ShockVincent Price was one of the most recognizable personalities in the horror world.  The late actor had enough talent to work with greats like Alfred Hitchcock and Cecil B. DeMille while still keeping enough of a sense of humor to lend that talent to movies by the likes of Roger Corman and William Castle.  Price made truly disturbing movies like Witchfinder General, yet still found time to twist his moustache as a guest star on “The Brady Bunch.”  In the midst of all of his gimmicky villainy, people sometimes forget that the man could act.  One only needs to look as far as his 1946 thriller Shock for proof.

Cannibal HolocaustThe reason that The Blair Witch Project was so effective is that audiences thought that it was real; the movie had a genius viral internet marketing campaign that helped fool the public into believing that the three filmmakers were really missing and presumed dead.  Unfortunately, now that the hoax has been exposed and every aspiring director with a camera has made a found footage movie, there will never be another movie like The Blair Witch Project; today’s viewers are too astute to be fooled twice.  That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a movie like The Blair Witch Project in the past, however; in 1980, another film convinced the public that its subjects had met with horrible fates.  This film, sometimes called “the most controversial movie ever made,” is Cannibal Holocaust.

A Bay of BloodThe roots of the modern slasher movie can generally be traced back to 1960 and the release of Psycho and Peeping Tom.  Between then and the late seventies, when the golden age of the slasher began with the release of films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, a handful of modest films kept the blood flowing, movies like Fright and Black Christmas.  However, in 1971, the Italian giallo master Mario Bava made a film that seemed to lay down the blueprint for the modern slasher, a movie called A Bay of Blood.

Sleepaway CampThere is nothing more satisfying for a horror fan than a surprise ending.  From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Saw, twist endings have been keeping horror audiences guessing for decades.  Whether it’s a simple last second jump scare or a jaw-dropping revelation, the shock of the unexpected is something that makes a movie really memorable.  In 1983, a movie was released that had the mother of all shock endings.  That movie is Sleepaway Camp.

EvilspeakAnytime a new technology is introduced into the popular culture, a horror movie will come along to exploit it and make people afraid.  Cinema Fearité has already covered this phenomenon with TerrorVision’s treatment of cable television and Videodrome’s take on home video.  Modern movies have explored the darker side of personal computers in films like Cry_Wolf and Smiley.  Computers were a target of horror movies well before the 21st century, however; in 1981, when home computers will still relatively new, Evilspeak was there to make them scary.

Take Me to the RiverAround the same time that Motown Records was doing its thing in the big city of Detroit, Stax records was recording and releasing music down south in Memphis.  The output from these two labels represented the best of what American music had to offer, and continued well into the days of the British Invasion of the mid-sixties.  Although Motown had more chart success and record sales, Stax had the attitude; the cool mix of blues, gospel, funk, and jazz that became a recognizable sound all its own.  Director Martin Shore tells the Stax story, but not in the traditional way, in his new documentary Take Me to the River.

Kirsten Dunst in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.Adapted from the best-selling novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith (who also wrote "Strangers on a Train," the basis for Hitchcock's classic), The Two Faces of January is a brightly painted portrait drenched in noirish tendencies.

Sound CityWhat does Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors have in common with Nirvana’s Nevermind?  They were both recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California.  Since its opening in 1969, Sound City has recorded an extremely diverse range of artists, everyone from Barry Manilow to Rage Against the Machine.  It would have been difficult for anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock to get away from Sound City’s aural output – Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl,” Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” as well as countless other smash hits, were all recorded there. For over forty years, Sound City has toiled diligently behind the music.  Now, thanks to Nirvana drummer/Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Sound City gets to take the spotlight in a new documentary, appropriately called Sound City.

The Beast Must DieWith roots that stem from various mythologies as opposed to any single source, the werewolf has been depicted in many different ways over the history of cinema.  From the silent classic Wolf Blood to the teen romance Twilight series, werewolves have been brought to the screen by both costumed actors and CGI artists.  Seemingly every studio and director has had their own individual take on lycanthropy.  Even Amicus Productions, the British studio that was mainly known for its anthology films, got into the werewolf act in 1974 with The Beast Must Die.

The Living GhostMost people think of zombies as, depending on their age, either the slow moving walkers of George Romero’s movies or the athletic sprinters of films like 28 Days Later.  The original cinematic zombies, however, were the voodoo zombies of films like White Zombie, Revolt of the Zombies, and I Walked with a Zombie, real people who were turned into the walking dead by witch doctors or Haitian priests.  In 1942, a film that introduced traditional zombies into the murder mystery genre was made called The Living Ghost.

Night Train to TerrorThe horror anthology movie has been a staple of the genre for as long as there has been a genre, finding its beginnings with films like Waxworks in the silent era.  The trend continues to this day, with successful franchises such as V/H/S and The ABCs of Death carrying the torch.  Anthology films may have hit their heyday in the seventies with classics like Asylum, Tales from the Crypt, and Vault of Horror, but their popularity carried over well into the eighties with movies such as Creepshow, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and countless others.  One of those countless others was 1985’s Night Train to Terror.

FrankIf you have not seen Frank, stop at the end of this paragraph and go see it.  Do not check IMDB, watch a trailer, or read any reviews or publicity materials for the film, just go see it.  The rest of this article will deal with a spoiler that is not really a spoiler, because just about all promotional materials for the film make it common knowledge.  But, Frank is the kind of movie where the surprise reveal of the identity of the title character is a key aspect of the effectiveness of the film.  So do not pass go, do not collect $200, just go watch Frank.  We’ll be right here.

The Wizard of GoreThe term “splatter cinema” was first coined by George Romero, but his films rarely fit the pure definition of the term.  Although there is plenty of gore in some of his films, Romero’s movies tend to have more substance than the average splatter flicks, movies which exist purely for blood and guts’ sake.  The true king of the splatter film is the Godfather of Gore himself, director Herschell Gordon Lewis.  Lewis’ filmography consists of dozens of films with titles like Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!, and The Gore Gore Girls, each one bloodier and more exploitive than the last.  The real crowning achievement of Lewis’ entrail-encrusted career, however, came in 1970 with his masterpiece The Wizard of Gore.

Student BodiesSlasher movies have always been based, at least a little, in comedy.  While early films like Halloween and Friday the 13th horrified audiences, the later entries into both franchises flirted with humor, recognizing the silliness of their premises.  Freddy Krueger, the antagonist of the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, is as quick with a witty remark as he is with his razor glove.  In 1981, released just a few months before the legendary horror comedy Saturday the 14th, another comedy was made that satirized the slasher genre before the golden age had even gotten rolling, the aptly titled Student Bodies.

Rich HillRich Hill, Missouri, is a small town of less than 1400 located about 90 minutes south of Kansas City.  The town’s citizens are a mixture of the working class and the poverty stricken, but they hold on to hope.  A new documentary, simply called Rich Hill, paints a picture of the town as seen through the eyes of three of its residents, all teenaged boys.

One Hour PhotoAs everyone has heard by now, Robin Williams died earlier this week at the age of 63.  A comedian first and foremost, the actor broke into Hollywood playing humorous roles in movies like Popeye and Mrs. Doubtfire, but quickly proved his meddle by taking on dramatic parts in such films as Dead Poets Society and What Dreams May Come, even winning an Oscar for his performance in Good Will Hunting.  Williams showed time and again that he was a versatile and talented actor, and he even got to prove his chops in the horror genre with a truly creepy performance in One Hour Photo.

ScannersHollywood lost yet another legend last week when special effects makeup guru Dick Smith passed away at the age of 92.  Smith was behind the effects makeup of some of the most important films in cinematic history, including The Godfather (and The Godfather: Part II), The Exorcist, and Taxi Driver.  Unlike many unsung makeup artists, Smith was highly recognized for his talent, winning an Academy Award for his work on Amadeus as well as receiving a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2011.  In spite of all of his big-name credits, Smith still did plenty of small budget movies; he was behind the effects on horror classics like Ghost Story, Spasms, and The Sentinel.  While balancing his time between Oscar bait films and schlock b-movies, Smith contributed one of the most jaw-dropping moments in horror history with his work on David Cronenberg’s influential 1981 sci-fi thriller Scanners.

The Amazing Transparent ManIn the late nineteenth century, influential science fiction writer H.G. Wells gathered a group of serialized chapters together into what would become his novel The Invisible Man.  The story’s idea has been filmed dozens of times throughout cinematic history, beginning with James Whale’s legendary 1933 Universal classic The Invisible Man and continuing into the 2000s with the Paul Verhoeven/Kevin Bacon film Hollow Man.  The vanishing person concept became a staple of the sci-fi genre, with the premise finding its way into alien invasion movies like Edward L. Cahn’s Invisible Invaders as well as comedic sendups like John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man.  In 1960, at the height of the cold war, the invisible man idea was combined with the menace of looming nuclear threat in the quickie low-budget sci-fi film The Amazing Transparent Man.

Rock n Roll NightmareThis past weekend, the horror world lost yet another one of its icons when writer/producer/director John Fasano passed away at the relatively young age of 52.  Fasano’s most famous work was done outside of horror, having written the screenplays for Another 48 Hrs. and Universal Soldier: The Return, but he also did solid work within the genre with his script for the modern classic Darkness Falls and the creation of the horror-comedy web show “Woke Up Dead.”  He broke into the horror scene as a director in 1987 with his first film, now a cult favorite, called Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.

Robot MonsterThere are bad movies, and then there are Bad Movies.  The first category includes movies that in some way are just inferior films, with little or no entertainment value.  The second category, capital B and M Bad Movies, are movies that have substantial flaws and are universally loved in spite, or maybe even because, of them.  Filmmakers like Ed Wood and Roger Corman have built entire careers out of making schlocky films, and the trend continues with modern movies like Showgirls and The Room.  Although the title of Worst of the Worst is highly debatable, a film that is definitely in the running for the honor of the King of the Bad Movies is 1953’s alien invasion disaster Robot Monster.

The Boys Next DoorFollowing the success of pioneering films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, the eighties became so flooded with psycho killers that it is widely referred to as the Golden Age of the Slasher Movie.  Movies like The Burning and The Prowler followed the formula closely, mixing violence with the sort of tongue-in-cheek comedy that would define the slasher subgenre.  However, by the middle of the decade, darker films like Scream for Help and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer had begun to downplay the humor, raising the brutality level in the process.  A good example of this type of film is the 1985 killer-on-the-road movie The Boys Next Door.

Caterpillar, Koji WakamatsuOne of the most satisfying things about film festivals can be the sidebar of retrospectives or, in the case of the LA Film Festival, the intermittent "Films That Got Away". There was only one such this year, but it was a good one – Wakamatsu Kōji's follow-up to United Red Army (2007), and his penultimate completed feature before his accidental passing in 2012. Caterpillar played at Berlin and various other festivals – to generally favourable notices – and this did indeed disappear (from these shores at least) almost without trace, so it was a treat to have a chance to see it on the big screen.

Death ValleyMost people recognize actor Peter Billingsley from his greatest contribution to popular culture – he played Ralphie in the yuletide classic A Christmas Story.  After appearing in the traditional 24-hours-marathonable holiday tale, Billingsley’s lovable geek look got him more work, mostly on television in sitcoms like “Who’s the Boss” and “Punky Brewster.”  However, the youngster had made movies before landing his signature role.  He even made a horror movie in 1982, the year before A Christmas Story, called Death Valley.

Jimi: All Is By My SideJimi: All Is By My Side is a film with multiple problems serious enough that the couple of very good things it has going for it stand little chance of compensating. As written and directed by 12 Years A Slave scribe John Ridley, the narrative sets off down familiar musical biopic lane: musician discovered; gains success; deals with distractions and behaves badly; and that's it.. Perhaps because the production was denied the use of Hendrix's music by his estate (holding out for full control of the production), the story ends in mid-1967, with Jimi and his Experience trooping off to Monterey and international fame.

The Four Skulls of Jonathan DrakeThe curse is a classic trope of the horror movie, and it has been exploited thoroughly over the years.  Whether it’s a voodoo curse, like in Black Moon or Revolt of the Zombies, or a more vengeful curse, such as in Drag Me to Hell or Thinner, curses are powerful and mysterious, making them absolutely horrifying to the uninitiated masses.  In 1959, an interesting curse movie was released that has flown curiously under the radar, a little film called The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake.

 

Under the Electric Sky (2014)Every year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Electric Daisy Carnival, an electronic dance music festival held in several different locations all over the world during the summer months.  The festival brings fans together into a musical circus-like atmosphere for three days of non-stop partying.  The largest of these gatherings is the one that takes place in Las Vegas, NV, and that is the one that is at the center of Under the Electric Sky.

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep GordonIn Yiddish, the word “mensch” refers to “a person of integrity and honor.”  One would not think that it would be a term that could apply a showbiz manager, but it is the best description for Shep Gordon.  Even those who have never heard of Shep Gordon are probably familiar with his clients.  He’s one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful players, having represented musical heavyweights like Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, and Teddy Pendergrass.  His list of A-list friends is exponentially longer than his artist stable, and the guest lists to his famous parties read like a who’s-who of Hollywood.  And every one of these friends and acquaintances has nothing but good things to say about him.  He’s more than a mensch, he’s a Supermensch, hence the title of the intriguing documentary about his life and times, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.

The Horror ShowIn the modern horror world, few actors have been as prolific as Lance Henriksen.  After getting his start with small roles in big films like Dog Day Afternoon and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Henriksen transitioned into bigger roles in fright films like Damien: Omen II and The Visitor.  By the mid-eighties, he had found his niche, having scored bona-fide starring roles in classic films like Aliens, Near Dark, and Pumpkinhead.  In 1989, Henriksen closed out the eighties with the lesser known but completely enjoyable thriller The Horror Show.

LA Film Festival: 'Frank' (d. Lenny Abrahamson)A provincial young man dreams of writing songs. He is not very good at it. A chance encounter with a touring American band with an unpronounceable name leads to his stepping in for their sectioned keyboard player, travelling to Ireland to spend a year of musical experiments and recording and, through slightly underhand methods, getting the band booked at a big-time US festival. But at what cost? Is he a weasely manipulator, or just blindly self-serving? Is art compatible with commerce? Is genius born from mental distress? Is it in fact essentially unfathomable? And why does the band's leader/singer/guru Frank never take off that large cartoon head?

LA Film Festival: 'The Great Museum' ('Das groβe Museum') (d. Johannes Holzhausen)Behind the scenes of the great Künsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, as a close pan up Breughal's Tower of Babel at the end of Das groβe Museum suggests, there are a lot of people doing a lot of work. This is in fact the only moment akin to commentary in this hands-off documentary – without talking heads, voiceover, or music – unless one counts also the gentle puncturing of the traditional sanctity of such grand repositories of fine art scattered through the opening sections: an employee gliding through the narrow passageways of the office/library on a scooter to pick up a photocopy; a workman violating the parquet floor and echoing silence of an empty gallery with a pickaxe; the dusting of the groin of some giant marble Greek dude (it's Theseus).

The Incredible Melting ManLong before he hit the horror big time with his groundbreaking effects on 1981’s An American Werewolf in London, makeup artist Rick Baker was making Hollywood bleed, ooze, and gush.  He started his career in the early seventies, creating nightmares in films like It’s Alive, Squirm, and the attempted reboot of King Kong.  His big break came in 1977 when he created aliens and creatures for a little film called Star Wars, but that same year he contributed to another classic of the sci-fi/horror genre, The Incredible Melting Man.

William Eubank“I don’t know if they’re here, or have ever been here, but I definitely do believe in them.”  William Eubank, director of The Signal ponders the existence of aliens and UFOs.  It’s a fair question; The Signal is all about the possibility of extraterrestrial life on Earth, and Eubank’s first film, Love, was produced and scored by the rock band Angels & Airwaves, whose famous frontman, Tom Delonge, is an outspoken alien conspiracist.  Eubank speaks fondly of Delonge - “I’ve sat in his backyard many a time with night vision goggles, looking at the sky.  He’s a good dude.”

The People Under the StairsDespite the amount of respect that he has in the horror community, Wes Craven is really only known for two franchises: A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.  His other films have been hit-and-miss, but fans of the genre still flock to his work.  Cinema Fearité has already covered his two “deadly” movies, Deadly Blessing and Deadly Friend, but in the years between A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, Craven also made classics like The Serpent and the Rainbow in 1988, Shocker in 1989, and, in 1991, a little ode to the house that every kid in the neighborhood avoided called The People Under the Stairs.

Audrey RoseBefore becoming a household name as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins toiled away for 25 years in Britain, playing roles in both movies and television.  The classically trained actor cut his teeth performing in adaptations of works by Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Tolstoy, and portraying characters as diverse as Charles Dickens and Adolf Hitler.  His first real foray into American Horror was in 1977, when he took on an ambiguous role in director Robert Wise’s 1977 film Audrey Rose.

Witchfinder GeneralThe horror world is full of legends.  In Hollywood, Universal Studios had Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney, Jr.  Across the pond in England, the Hammer Horror pictures had Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  The biggest of these icons of fright, however, was Vincent Price.  Price’s cultural impact transcended the horror world; he appeared everywhere from “The Muppet Show” to “The Love Boat,” and contributed to recordings by musicians as varied as Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper.  He gained fame and fortune with his campy sense of humor, but he was first and foremost a horror personality.  Any doubts of this fact can be put to rest with one viewing of his 1968 film Witchfinder General.

DisconnectedThe fun thing about the horror genre is that just about anyone with the ambition to follow through can make a movie.  Sometimes, as is the case with Halloween or The Blair Witch Project, the simple movies can become classics.  All that stands between a filmmaker and the next big thing is having a creative mind and coming up with a good idea.  Sometimes, one doesn’t even need that to make a cool movie; they just need to put their mind to it, and get out there and do it.  An example of one of these “happy accidents” is the 1983 low-budget slasher Disconnected.

Strait-JacketBefore the days of the scream queen, it was not uncommon for big-name actresses to work within the horror genre.  Whether it was in their prime or in the twilight of their careers, women like Audrey Hepburn (Wait Until Dark), Bette Davis (Burnt Offerings, Dead Ringer), Mia Farrow (The Haunting of Julia, See No Evil), and Joan Fontaine (The Witches) would appear in horror movies if the project was right for them.  After nearly forty years in Hollywood, the iconic Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce) starred in a handful of horror movies in the sixties, the most high-profile being her team-up with Bette Davis, the 1962 camp classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.  A couple of years later, in 1964, Crawford made her most off-the-wall film, a low budget exploitation flick called Strait-Jacket.

Bloody MamaIn horror movies, killing can sometimes be a family affair.  Whether it’s the mutant backwoods kinfolk in Wrong Turn, the infamous Sawyer family from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, or the murderous Firefly clan of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, groups of villains just make more sense when they are related by blood.  It doesn’t even have to be ancestral blood, as Kathryn Bigelow showed in her vampire classic Near Dark.  In 1970, the legendary B-movie mogul Roger Corman (A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors) got in on the family act, making a film based on the prohibition era Barker Brothers Gang called Bloody Mama.

976-EVILIn the nineteen eighties, every new cultural fad or trend seemed to inspire a horror movie.  Cinema Fearité has already pointed out the horror world’s reactions to cable television (TerrorVision) and the home video revolution (The Video Dead), but it hardly stopped there.  In the pre-internet days, people could call pay-telephone numbers that began with the prefix 976 in order to be connected with party lines or to be read their horoscopes.  Of course, a movie was made about the growing-yet-doomed premium-rate phone craze in 1988, and it was predictably called 976-EVIL.

Watermark - Courtesy Entertainment OneWater is something we all take for granted.  We couldn’t exist without it, yet we only think about it when it’s running scarce.  We use it to cook, clean, work, and play, and we do it all on a daily basis.  Renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky has teamed up with filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (Payback) to pay tribute to the most overlooked and underappreciated of the Classical Elements in the documentary Watermark.

Finding Vivian Maier - Courtesy Sundance SelectsIn 2007, a young realtor named John Maloof was looking for pictures of different areas of Chicago for a book that he was compiling.  He bought a storage unit for $380 that contained thousands of negatives and a bunch of undeveloped rolls of film.  When he examined the negatives, he saw some of the most captivating street photography that had ever been taken.  He knew that he was onto something, so he snooped around the locker a bit more and found pieces of mail addressed to a woman named Vivian Maier.  Seeing that there was a story developing, he enlisted producer Charlie Siskel (“Tosh.0”) to help him tell it, and the resulting documentary is Finding Vivian Maier.

Friday the 13th: The OrphanSean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th is inarguably one of the most successful horror franchises, and for good reason.  Not only did the series practically invent the campers-in-the-woods stereotype, but its villain, the hockey-mask wearing, machete-wielding Jason Voorhees, is so iconic that his image has become synonymous with the horror genre in the minds of fans and non-fans alike.  However, Friday the 13th was not the first movie to use the name; the year before the first Camp Crystal Lake movie, in 1979, another film had the genius idea of exploiting the most superstitious day on the calendar, the completely unrelated Friday the 13th: The Orphan.

Bad DreamsIt’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  In 1984, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street revolutionized the slasher movie.  Because of this, the film spawned not only several sequels, but a number of rip-offs as well.  There was the rock and roll film Dreamaniac.  There were not one, but two Bollywood A Nightmare on Elm Street clones: Mahakaal (The Monster) and Khooni Murdaa (Deadly Corpse).  Craven himself has been accused of cinematic cannibalism with his own My Soul to Take.  Even the sequels had imitators; Inception and The Matrix can both be viewed as derivative of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.  Although not all good, some of these imitations were not half bad, either.  An example of one of the good clones is 1988’s Bad Dreams.

The Vampire LoversThe horror world lost another one of its stars this weekend when Kate O’Mara passed away at the age of 74.  O’Mara was most well known to American audiences from her work on “Dynasty,” and British fans remember her best from her stint on “Doctor Who,” but horror nerds know her as a Hammer girl.  Even though she only made two pictures for the legendary studio, she shined bright enough in them for fans to consider her an icon.  She made both of her Hammer films in 1970, and while The Horror of Frankenstein may have the bigger name, O’Mara is at her beautiful best in The Vampire Lovers.

Jodorowsky's Dune (courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)Frank Herbert’s Dune is generally thought of as essential reading in science fiction literature.  In 1984, the epic novel was adapted by director David Lynch (Blue Velvet) into a lumbering, disastrous movie.  Ten years earlier in 1975, however, another movie adaptation of Dune was in the works, one that had been meticulously planned and prepared by Chilean cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky (Holy Mountain), only to have funding fall apart before a single shot could be filmed.  This unrealized version of Dune is explored in great detail by documentarian Frank Pavich (N.Y.H.C.) in his new film, the appropriately titled Jodorowsky’s Dune.

Spider BabyThere’s a reason that spiders are essential to any Halloween party decor; they’re scary.  That goes for movies, too.  Whether in classic sci-fi films like Earth vs. the Spider or modern monster movies such as Big-Assed Spider, eight legged creepy crawlies have snuck their way into movies for as long as there have been movies.  Hollywood heroes have done battle with single mutant spiders, as in Tarantula, and whole groups of them, like in Arachnophobia.  Sometimes, spiders can play a small role in a film, only to end up having their scene be the most memorable in the picture, as is the case with The Fly.  And, sometimes, spiders just have to show up as eerie set dressing and let the humans do the scary stuff, like they do in 1968’s Spider Baby.

LifeforceIn 1974, director Tobe Hooper made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a film that would change the landscape of horror forever.  After following it up with the less-successful but still respected Eaten Alive, Hooper had a run of bad luck.  He was fired from two movies, The Dark and Venom, in the middle of production.  He was brought on to direct the Steven Spielberg-produced Poltergeist in 1982, only to have Spielberg direct most of that film himself (allegedly, depending on which story you believe, of course).  Three years later, Hooper finally got himself a break; he made Lifeforce.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in 'Only Lovers Left Alive'It seems to be of little concern to Jim Jarmusch, the common journalistic shorthand that labels him as some "high priest of hip." He seems actively to be courting the title in fact, with Only Lovers Left Alive, the most languorously cool movie of his career (amidst stiff competition). It is a love story, intrinsic to which is the fact that Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) are vampires (their third wedding was 1868) whose relationship has strengthened and deepened to a near-mystical level over the years; as has their knowledge and appreciation of science, nature, and cultural figures and artifacts, allowing for the fetishisation of all kinds of musical instruments and equipment, books and literary figures: an impossible level of hipness attainable only via several times a normal human lifespan. And of course they dress to kill, and wear sunglasses at night.

Edge of SanityIf an actor is lucky, he or she will take on a role that will define their entire career.  Sean Connery was James Bond.  Robert Englund was Freddy Krueger.  And Anthony Perkins was Norman Bates.  The trademark role can be both a blessing and a curse; the actor is usually remembered forever in pop culture history, but it is often difficult come out from the shadow of that one character.  Anthony Perkins was specifically tied to Norman Bates in the years after Psycho, so much so that he portrayed the unstable man-boy in three sequels, even directing one of them.  Although Perkins made dozens of other movies during his career, he will always be Norman Bates to audiences.  Perkins didn’t do himself any favors with role selection, either; he played mentally unstable characters several more times in his career, but the most memorable came in 1989’s Edge of Sanity

Visitors (Courtesy of Cinedigm 2014)In 1982, director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass collaborated on the masterful documentary Koyaanisqatsi, an art film that combined Reggio’s beautiful visions with Glass’ haunting music.  The pair would team up again in 1988’s Powaqqatsi and in2002’s Naqoyqatsi.  Now, in 2014, Reggio and Glass have once again created a stunning marriage of sound and picture with the much more pronounceable Visitors.

The Innocents

The works of certain horror writers just beg to be turned into motion pictures.  The classic works of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft make great movies, as do the books of more modern scribes like Richard Matheson and Stephen King.  And then there’s Henry James.  Often thought of as the father of the psychological ghost story, James didn’t allow himself to be pigeonholed into writing strictly horror.  Because of this, he is not generally thought of as being an icon of the genre, but his The Turn of the Screw is inarguably one of the most frightening tales ever committed to paper.  The novella has been filmed numerous times since its 1898 publication, but the most memorable adaptation is the 1961 version directed by Jack Clayton (Something Wicked This Way Comes), simply called The Innocents

See No EvilHorror movies are built on the fear of the unknown, and a big part of that unknown is the “thing that lurks in the dark.”  However, some horror films can be just as effective in the harsh light of day.  The first half of John Carpenter’s Halloween takes place in broad daylight, just as much of Jaws does, and those two films are considered two of the scariest classics ever made.  In 1971, before both Jaws and Halloween, sci-fi/fantasy director Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green, Fantastic Voyage) made a bright film with a dark side called See No Evil that featured a protagonist who was blind, living in darkness even in the daylight.

The MaskNowadays, the big gimmick at the cinema is 3D.  From silly monster movies like I, Frankenstein and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to Oscar-bait films such as Gravity and Avatar, seemingly every modern big-budget movie gets a 3D release.  Hollywood even trips over itself to re-release hits like Titanic and Jurassic Park in 3D in an effort to squeeze additional revenue out of existing titles.  Classic 3D horror films may not have been as slick as modern ones, but they were just as much fun for audiences.  As early as the 1950s, 3D could be found wowing theatergoers in films like House of Wax and Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Released in 1961, a little Canadian film called The Mask added an interactive element to the technology, simultaneously amazing and horrifying viewers in the process.

The PhantomThe word phantom can mean several things.  It can be another name for a ghost.  It can represent anything that is imaginary.  It can also denote something that is difficult to attain.  Cinematically, the term has been used in movie titles about both superheroes and submarines, and that’s not even including variations on the name such as The Phantom of the Opera, Phantom of the Paradise, or Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.  In 1931, before all of these (okay, well not before the original silent The Phantom of the Opera), another film used the name The Phantom, and it’s easy to see why it has been lost in the shuffle.

Little Joe in TrashAn unprecedented event took place a couple of weekends ago in the Masonic Lodge of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It was a celebration not of specific timing, yet long-overdue, coming about for no particular reason, other than acquaintance and willingness on the part of all those involved. Nonetheless, it is hard to believe that no-one before now has invited or managed to persuade Warhol Superstar "Little Joe" Dallesandro to attend a retrospective tribute to the trilogy of roles he played for Paul Morrissey in Flesh (1968), Trash (1970) and Heat (1972).

Deadly BlessingAlthough he wouldn’t become a household name until A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, Wes Craven spent the seventies building up his legacy with low budget shockers like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes.  In retrospect, these films are highly revered, but they were seen as little more than grindhouse schlock in their day.  Just before he dabbled with the mainstream with Swamp Thing, Craven eased out of exploitation cinema in 1981 with a spooky film that combined slasher gore with occult creepiness called Deadly Blessing.

The DevilsThe X rating is a double edged sword.  For adult films, the X is a badge of honor; it’s the rating for which they strive.  For a mainstream film, it can be the kiss of death.  There have been several mainstream films that have gone on to great success, both critical and commercial, despite being initially given an X rating.  Classics like Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead began their cinematic lives with X ratings.  John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy even won the best picture Oscar in 1969 with an X.  But not all mainstream X films are so lucky; in 1971, writer/director Ken Russell (Tommy, Altered States) made The Devils, a film which many consider to be the best picture of the director’s career.  Despite heavy editing, it was slapped with an X rating and, therefore, Russell’s original vision of The Devils has never been properly released.

The Face At The WindowIn the nineteen thirties, Universal Pictures was busy making legendary monster movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy that would turn stars such as Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff into household names.  However, across the pond in England, a director by the name of George King was making a horror star out of another actor: the aptly named Tod Slaughter.  In 1939, after making a handful of pictures together, King and Slaughter closed out the decade with the creepy The Face at the Window.





PaperhouseWith all of the gratuitous sex and violence that come with modern horror movies, they are generally thought of as fare for mature audiences.  However, there exists a category of cinema that bridges the gap between the scary animated films of Disney such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the controversial X-rated schlock films like Cannibal Holocaust.  Rated G or PG, this group of films, which includes classics like Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Watcher in the Woods, has served as a gateway for kids to enter into the world of horror without alarming their parents too badly.  In 1988, a film called Paperhouse was released that walked the line between childhood innocence and nightmarish terror very well, inspiring fear in youngsters everywhere.

The Man From Planet XAlien invasion movies have always been incredibly fun to watch.  Whether they involve Roland Emmerich-style destruction, as in Independence Day, or subliminal political allegory, like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, aliens always strike a chord with audiences.  Interplanetary takeovers are hardly a new phenomenon, though – in the forties and fifties, years before manned space travel became a reality, filmmakers consistently landed alien intruders on Earth in films like The War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Playing upon the public’s fear of the unknown, the space invader theme quickly became a popular one, and one of the best examples of the genre was an under-the-radar, low-budget classic called The Man from Planet X.

The ConjuringHere they are, the top ten horror movies of 2013...and a few honorable mentions too.

Christmas EvilAh, Christmas.  There’s something about the yuletide holiday that lends itself well to horror movies.  When it comes to movies about psychotic killers, Christmas is right up there with Halloween.  Since the central Christmas figure in the capitalistic world is Santa Claus, it figures that many slasher movies would feature madmen dressed as Jolly Old Saint Nick.  When people think of killer Santas, the film that comes immediately to mind is 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night.  However, four years earlier, writer/director Lewis Jackson traveled that route with his now-classic Christmas Evil.

Tourst TrapPlaces like amusement parks and circuses have been captivating settings for horror movies for years.  From Tod Browning’s 1932 circus creepfest Freaks, through Tobe Hooper’s carnival slasher The Funhouse, right up to guerilla filmmaker Randy Moore’s surreal Disney freakout Escape from Tomorrow, fun places seem to get spooky when the light hits them just right.  The effect is amplified when the roadside attraction is deserted and decrepit, as seen in 1979’s aptly named Tourist Trap.

The BabyThere are a handful of ways that a horror movie can get a reaction.  The most obvious way is for it to be absolutely horrifying, as is the case with films like The Exorcist and The Omen.  Another way is to make the film as gory as possible, as with Hostel and Saw.  Other films, like The Evil Dead and House, will inject a little humor into the fold.  And finally, there are the films that are just weird.  In 1973, one of those head-scratchers came along; a crazy movie called The Baby.

Blood RageWhen it comes to holiday themed horror movies, Thanksgiving really gets the short end of the stick.  Of course, Halloween has all of the really good movies, and rightfully so, seeing as how John Carpenter’s Halloween essentially kickstarted the modern slasher genre.  Christmas has a pretty long list of entertaining films about it as well, including classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas.  Even April Fool’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve have legendary slasher movies that revolve around them.  Between Home Sweet Home and ThanksKilling, the few fright flicks about Thanksgiving have been, excuse the pun, turkeys.  In 1987, director John Grissmer (False Face) came up with another attempt at Thanksgiving horror with a twisted tale of twins called Blood Rage.

ExhibitionA title at the end reveals that Joanna Hogg's third feature, Exhibition, is dedicated to the recently-late architect James Melvin, which should come as no surprise since the film is as much a portrait of the sleek, modernist Kensington townhouse in which it is almost exclusively set, as of the mildly dysfunctional marriage that resides therein.

When Evening Falls On Bucharest Or MetabolismChistian Porumboiu ups the formal rigour of his last, Police, Adjective (2009), with a film composed of 17 shots, most capturing conversations for a full reel's 11 minutes, and filmed with an almost entirely static camera. His subjects are film director Paul and his actor and new bedmate Alina, rehearsing, eating, discussing the restraints (those 11-minute reels) of film versus digital, or how national cuisines developed according to the utensils used. They contrast in his shlubby demeanor and her careful, dancer-like movements; they misunderstand one another over dinner; and he wearily humors her working over the fine details of a scene, in order to achieve his aim of getting her naked onscreen.

The PastLike Asghar Farhadi's previous film, A Separation (2011), Le passé (The Past) is a superb feat of narrative construction and mise en scène, keeping three to four characters at the centre of attention, and balancing their motives and desires with careful equanimity. The problem is that there's little more to recommend the film than this cleverness, since none of the characters are especially interesting or likable, and the third act develops into a twist-too-far detective story, before ending on a note that, albeit presumably not deliberate, is a thudding sequel set-up, and for a far more lively film to boot.

Class of 1984For a time in the nineteen eighties, the big pop culture threat in the world was punk music.  Studded leather jackets and Mohawk hairstyles became symbols of danger and aggression, and antagonists clad in these fashions populated violent movies like Tuff Turf and Savage Streets.  Television shows like “Quincy” and “Silver Spoons” even had punk episodes.  Filmmakers turned something that they didn’t understand into a menace to society, a trend which was illustrated perfectly in the Canadian horror film Class of 1984.

A Spell to Ward off DarknessOne wouldn’t necessarily guess it, but A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness, a collaborative effort by two of the leading lights of international experimental film, Ben Rivers (UK) and Ben Russell (US), is an enquiry as to where utopia(s) may exist (as noted in interviews and screening introductions). Possible locations, it is suggested, are in the present and in cinema (an art-form, the film-makers posit, which is permanently and exclusively located in the present). The film itself is nothing like as explicit.

Stranger by the LakeIt’s understandable that Alain Guiraudie won the best director of Un certain regard at Cannes this year, since for the most part L’inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake) is a very tight piece of work, effectively exploring the time and place of a single location and milieu, charting the uncertainties that blossom as a new relationship deepens, unfussily depicting the mores of a gay lakeside cruising ground, and building with a skillful slow-burn to a long final shot of excellent tension.

Tom at the FarmWunderkind Xavier Dolan never seems to make it to the AFI festival because he's always off shooting his next movie (four movies by the age of 24 and Cannes prizes galore). He was in production on this one when last year's Laurence Anyways screened, a continuation and expansion of the high-pitched emotional drama of his first two films. Whether these were conceived as a triptych or not, Dolan switches tack for his fourth, adapting a play by Michel Marc Bouchard, and serves up a high-pitched psychological thriller that frequently borders on Grand Guignol.

Vic + Flo Saw A BearVic + Flo Saw A Bear is something like an expansion on Denis Côté's last, the strictly observational non-documentary Bestiaire (2012), although that in turn was a distillation of his favoured practice of looking at slightly odd characters shut away from the world. In Curling (2010) and Carcasses (2009), for example, it was by their own volition, as distinct from the animals of Bestiaire, and in Vic + Flo Saw A Bear the same is true, although rather weighted since both women are not-long released from prison.

DocumenteurAgnès Varda has cited Documenteur as her favourite of her own films, presumably because even more than The Beaches of Agnes (2008), it is her most personal and most emotional. She was apart from her husband Demy on her second trip to Los Angeles, at the start of the ‘80s, to develop a script (turned down), deciding instead to make her documentary Mur Murs (1981) on the city's mural art. During this time she was inspired both by her sadness of separation and by the sense of disenchantment and exile she found in Venice, to make a film that fully justifies its subtitle of an “emotion picture.”

R100The title R100 is a joke on the ratings system because director Matsumoto (Big Man Japan, 1997) claims that no-one who has not lived a century will understand this film. Such a pronouncement is in keeping with the striving absurdity of the movie, which is frequently funny, but overall a slightly laboured litany of craziness.

Lone SurvivorThe sound of bones crunching against a tree, as a man's body tumbles down an unforgiving hill; not once, but twice. This is the sound that haunts you after watching Lone Survivor, superseding the gunfire, explosions, helicopter propellers, and painful screams of four men being ambushed in Afghanistan by Taliban forces.  It could easily go unnoticed, this sound, if it were not blatantly on display, or if the scene was anything less than horrific.  The success of displaying the carnage, the way in which each man's body was pummeled, bruised, battered, and riddled with gunfire, is to show the perseverance they displayed, the outward courage of these Navy SEALs, that takes on an entirely new level of empathy from the viewer.

Closed CurtainJafar Panahi continues to defy the 20-year ban on film-making imposed on him by the Iranian government with a new feature, co-directed and starring his colleague and frequent collaborator Kambozia Partovi, and it is an intriguing magnification of his last illicit achievement, This Is Not A Film (2011). That title was wittily, bitterly disingenuous, whereas Closed Curtain specifically evokes the shut-in existence both of the writer protagonist of the film’s first half, and that of the film-maker himself. There is an opposite sense as well, however, since more even than the previous experiment, this film both opens itself to what kind of cinema can be made under such straitened circumstances, and opens the consciousness of its writer-director; and, despite his palpable anguish, the curtain of possibility remains open at the end.

Strangler of the SwampIn modern Hollywood, swamps have emerged as effective go-to settings for horror movies.  Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing is easily the most recognizable example, but the locale was also featured in Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive.  Even more recently, the revisionist slasher Hatchet trilogy explored the trend, as did the throwback monster movie disaster Creature.  The use of swamps as a backdrop for terror is hardly new, however, as the aptly titled Strangler Of The Swamp illustrated as far back as 1946.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Thor: The Dark WorldWhile the first Thor – released in 2011 – was a suitable introduction to the Marvel Comics character Thor, it was also a fairly tepid approach to what is one of the more cosmic members of the Avengers team. Up until that point, moviegoers had been treated to a Marvel world that existed in a realm where most of the superheroes seemed plausible, if not completely believable. Iron Man was a guy rich enough to build himself a super suit, the Hulk a man who was caught on the wrong end of Gamma radiation, Captain America a super soldier, and so on. Thor, on the other hand, is the God of thunder, and literally occupies a completely different realm from those previously mentioned characters.

Lance Armstrong in The Armstrong Lie. 2013 Frank Marshall / Sony Pictures ClassicsIn the sporting world, there are a handful of elite athletes who were able to rise head and shoulders above their competition.  In the NFL, Jerry Rice not only still holds just about every major receiving record worth holding, but holds them all by such a huge margin that many will most likely never be broken.  In the NHL, Wayne Gretsky was so dominant that the entire league, not just the teams for which he played, retired his number 99 jersey.  The NBA’s Michael Jordan was a player who, every time he touched the ball, seemingly held the defense at the mercy of whatever it was that he wanted to do with it.  These athletes had something special, something for which they have each been memorialized forever within their respective sports. Lance Armstrong had it, too.  At least, that’s what everyone thought.

Scream of FearIn order for an audience to really be able to root for a horror movie protagonist, said protagonist has to have some kind of weakness or flaw, making them vulnerable.  This concept is the reason why many horror heroes are teenage babysitters or young schoolboys; these are the archetypes that are at a serious and definite disadvantage to the monster or killer who may be stalking them.  When traditional stereotypes won’t do, the director can raise the stakes even further by giving the hero an even bigger disadvantage, like putting them in a wheelchair, as in Rear Window, or by making them deaf, as in Wait Until Dark.  In 1961, Hammer Horror gave the heroine-in-a-wheelchair theme a shot in the creepy ghost-mystery Scream of Fear.

Night Of The DemonsHalloween parties are great settings for horror films.  What else but mischief and mayhem can be expected when a group of people, all dressed in their scariest costumes, gathers on the spookiest night of the year?  Add the inevitable Ouija board and séance, and the results are usually sheer terror, and that is what viewers get in the 1988 cult classic Night of the Demons.

Trick 'r TreatWhen it gets to be late October, John Carpenter’s Halloween and its many sequels are the go-to movies for both big parties and late-night loners.  And it’s no surprise; as a pioneer of the slasher genre, the film is not only a masterpiece in its own right, but one of the most influential horror movies of all time.  But, as the most famous film of the holiday, it’s also been shown and reshown, to the point of oversaturation.  For those who want something new this Halloween, here are a handful of alternatives to Michael Myers that are bound to impress...

Les DiaboliquesAlfred Hitchcock may be the most recognizable name in suspense, but there is one man who certainly gave Hitchcock a run for his money. Henri-Georges Clouzot was a master of suspense in his own right, and as a contemporary of Hitchcock, became a great rival and influence. His most frequent themes dealt with the moral corruption of individuals and communities. Films such as Le corbeau and Quai des Orfèvres depict a very cynical assessment of humanity while showcasing Clouzot’s immense talent for suspenseful filmmaking. His best film – and the one he is best known for – is undoubtedly Les Diaboliques, a noir adaptation of a Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac novel. Hailed by some as "the French film noir to end all French film noirs," Les Diaboliques turned noir convention on its head and provided one of the best examples of a noir thriller with horror overtones.

Shriek of the MutilatedIn the groovy seventies, true-life monsters became pop culture fads.  The big three – Bigfoot (or Sasquatch), The Loch Ness Monster, and the Abominable Snowman (or Yeti) – found their ways into exploitative documentaries, sensationalistic television shows, even children’s toys.  Low budget filmmakers jumped on board with fictionalizations of the creatures, making classic films like The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Crater Lake Monster, and Snowbeast.  In 1974, husband and wife sexploitation filmmakers Michael and Roberta Findlay (The Slaughter) tried their hand at a Yeti movie with Shriek of the Mutilated.

Jean Renoir is often cited as one of the best filmmakers of all time. His most memorable films provided erudite commentary on modern society and influenced generations of filmmakers. His least well-known sound film is quite possibly La Nuit du carrefour, an adaptation of one of Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret novels. Maigret, like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, investigated numerous murder cases, but La Nuit du carrefour provides Renoir with the perfect opportunity to create a haunting atmosphere that visually traps his characters at a dark and foreboding crossroads. While the plot is convoluted and, at times, hard to follow, this overwhelming tone is utterly captivating and makes up for plot holes rumored to be the result of either a diminished budget or missing reels of film. Godard described La Nuit du carrefour as Renoir’s “most mysterious film,” and it is easy to see the strands of influence that connect this early Renoir mystery to the poetic realism of the 1930s and, ultimately, film noir.

The Final TerrorThe woods has always been a great setting for a horror movie.  Whether the heroes are running from a mutant monster (Prophecy), battling one of God’s creatures (Grizzly), or fleeing from a masked madman (Friday the 13th), the disorientation and secluded surroundings are just as frightening as the antagonist itself in most of these movies.  In 1983, at the height of the golden age of the slasher film, a film was released that seemed like just another killer-in-the-woods movie, but was destined to become a cult classic.  That movie was The Final Terror.

The Naked CityJules Dassin (Night and the City, Rififi) has the odd distinction of being a director best known for films that were atypical of his particular aesthetic, which tended toward dramatic showmanship rather than gritty realism. While most of his films fall into the noir category, they are all surprisingly different in their approach. The Naked City was an early success for Dassin and predated his blacklisting and subsequent career in Europe. Like post-blacklist noir Night and the City, The Naked City is set in a vibrant city that becomes very much a character within the film, yet instead of London, the city is New York. What makes this film stand out, however, is the influence of Italian neorealism. In this overtly realist vein, the workaday world of New York becomes a literal asphalt jungle whose corrupt and restless nature is apparent in each shot. Presented as a quasi-documentary complete with a narrator and extensive on-location shooting, The Naked City was unlike anything a Hollywood studio had made before.

Dario Argento's Dracula 3DAs the years go by it seems ever more likely that Dario Argento will never rescale the inspired heights of his '70s output, the hysterical horror and steely set-pieces that more than make up for wooden acting, distracting dubbing, and leaden exposition. Mother of Tears had its moments and gave one cautious hope in 2007; Giallo (2009) was familiar enough to be comforting; but while Dracula 3D feels reassuringly like an Argento film on plenty of occasions, it fails to play to his strengths, hamstrung by half-hearted literary faithfulness, strangely perfunctory in its murders, and unbalanced by far too much downtime.

Kill Baby, KillBecause of the overwhelming volume of Hollywood films that are made and the success of the horror genre, the modern horror movie is a fairly American phenomenon.  However, the influence of European filmmakers on these films cannot be understated, whether those roots fall within the surrealism of German Expressionism or the eerie Gothicism of Britain’s Hammer pictures.  Of course, Italian filmmakers have made their mark on the horror world as well, with the striking visuals of Dario Argento and the shocking gore of Lucio Fulci leading the way.  But, before Argento or Fulci hit their stride, Mario Bava was making movies in Italy, influencing both of those directors.  Nestled in between Bava’s masterpieces Black Sunday and A Bay of Blood sits an amazing yet unsung example of his work from 1966 called Kill Baby, Kill.

A trip to Romania is not complete without a visit to the famed Bran Castle, located on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia.  A magical place, full of tourists and iconography dealing with vampires, it came as no surprise that Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula was one of many films deserving of a mention during the castle tour.  It was a great surprise, though, to find a couple props used in the film on display, complete with letters of authenticity. 

Night and the CityA title can make a film, and Night and the City is the perfect title for a film noir. It is a distillation of two of the most iconic elements of film noir, a genre that flourishes in the encroaching darkness and the unfeeling industrialism of cityscapes. Those four words conjure the immoral horrors of a corrupt city with a life of its own. In the case of Jules Dassin’s Night and the City, the city is London, and it’s overrun with hustlers and conmen. The first film Dassin made after being exiled from America for alleged communist sympathies, Night and the City is an amalgamation of film noir and its origins. Directed by an American, starring American and British actors, shot by German cinematographer Max Greene, and borrowing from both the American studio system and British pulp-thrillers, the film serves as a unique hybrid of film noir’s cinematic roots.

Sidney Lumet's Child's PlayThere is a treachery that comes with making a movie with a generic name.  The trouble is that another film will invariably come along with the same title, causing confusion for fans and followers of both movies.  For example, many do not realize that, before it was an Uwe Boll videogame adaptation in 2005, Alone in the Dark was an awesome Jack Sholder slasher movie in 1982.  Creature was an eerie Klaus Kinski science fiction vehicle twenty-five years before it was a forgettable modern-day monster movie.  And, in the early seventies, a decade and a half before the name would be co-opted by a terrifying talking Good Guy doll named Chucky, Child’s Play was a bona-fide psychological thriller directed by the late, great Sidney Lumet.

Le jour se lèveIn some regards, film noir was a genre that came full circle, from the darkly brooding French films that inspired American tales of ill-fated, morally corrupt characters and back again to the French who coined the very term “film noir” and celebrated its impact as a genre. Late 1930s French cinema saw an influx of films whose pessimistic themes earned them the name “poetic realism.” From directors such as Jean Vigo, Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné, and Jean Renoir came films that sought to depict life in all its gritty realism and characters who lived on the margins of society – the working class and even criminals. One of the most celebrated films of the poetic realism movement is Marcel Carné’s Le jour se lève (1939). The third in a trilogy of fatalistic dramas, Le jour se lève is less a story about crime and more of the doomed love triangle that ruins a humble working man’s life. A deeply claustrophobic film, its emphasis on disillusionment and imprisonment within society are clear precursors to classic film noir.

Night Of The CreepsWith the advent of the B-movie and the coming of innovative, low-budget filmmakers like Roger Corman and Ed Wood, horror movies began to develop more creative and interesting monsters.  Soon, viewers were treated to hybrid monsters, beasts that combined typical tropes into different (if not completely new) archetypes.  Examples of this include the serial killing vampires in Near Dark and the alien werewolf in The Dark.  In 1986, audiences were treated to the granddaddy of all hybrid monster movies, Night of the Creeps.

The Big HeatThe dangers that threaten everyday people and society differ from film noir to film noir, but what unifies them is their insidious nature. Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953) is undeniably a film noir of the 1950s. Its protagonist, Det. Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford), lives the suburban American dream with a good job, a beautiful, doting wife, a princess of a daughter, and a comfortable home. Bannion is as happy as a man can be, but even he knows that there is evil at work in his small city, deftly controlling everything, even the police chief. He takes it upon himself to bring down these controlling criminals but at the high cost of life, happiness, and morality. One of Lang’s best American noirs, The Big Heat presents the familiar story of a city corrupted by crime and uses the cliché as a jumping off point for a story of vengeance and the corruption of a good man. What makes Lang’s film all the more important in the film noir canon, however, is the question it poses the audience. Bannion embarks on a mission to restore justice but is sidetracked by his own thirst for revenge – and for understandable reasons – but The Big Heat asks whether this vigilante vengeance is right or as immoral as the criminals Bannion sought to capture.

SchizoWhen it comes to slasher movies, there are two generally accepted truths.  First, it was films like Psycho and Peeping Tom that pioneered the genre in the early sixties.  Second, the golden age of the slasher movie was ushered in by such highly influential films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th in the late seventies.  Released just two short years before Halloween, in 1976, an obscure British film called Schizo predates the golden age, and therefore can lay claim to being the missing link between Psycho and Halloween.

The Killer ShrewsMonster movies are fun.  Whether they play on serious fears, such as films like Jaws and Alligator, or take a more tongue-in-cheek approach, with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Slugs: The Movie, monster movies make for great horror films.  The classic science fiction era of the fifties had no shortage of cool monster movies, and filmmakers were tripping over themselves to find the most outlandish and improbable animals that they could mutate into killer beasts.  In 1959, special effects man-turned-director Ray Kellogg (The Green Berets) thought of the cutest animal he could, gave it poisonous teeth, and came away with The Killer Shrews

The Black SleepAs one of the staple characters of the classic horror film, the mad scientist has been subjected to more than his share of stereotyping.  When one thinks of the mad scientist, the image of Colin Clive in Frankenstein instantly comes to mind, the man screaming “it’s alive” excitedly over and over again while collapsing onto the ground.  As colorful as the picture of Clive’s Henry Frankenstein is, there are many other crazed doctors in the horror world.  In 1956, director Reginald Le Borg (Diary of a Madman, The Mummy’s Ghost) brought his entry to the mad scientist genre to the table with The Black Sleep.

The Cat And The CanaryThere are few doubts that Universal Studios is one of the biggest influences on the horror movie genre, having had a hand in the production of fright films since the earliest days of the silent era.  The name Universal is synonymous with monster movies, earning their reputation with classic films like Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf Man, but not all of their horror films dealt with mythological creatures and sympathetic beasts.  In 1927, with Hollywood’s silent era quickly coming to a close, Universal made a highly influential haunted house movie called The Cat and the Canary.

The Wrong ManThroughout his career, Hitchcock returned again and again to stories of wrongfully accused men desperately trying to prove their innocence. From The Lodger to The 39 Steps and even Strangers on a Train, this theme is a specialty of Hitchcock’s. In The Wrong Man, Hitchcock would once again return to this theme, but what sets the story apart from previous incarnations is the fact that the events of the film are true. With this key change, Hitchcock adjusts his approach away from incorporating tempering whimsy in favor of depicting the gravity of this very real situation. Hitchcock creates a sense of danger so convincing as to mimic the realism of the darkest film noirs. The story of Manny Balestrero, a man mistaken for a robber and tried for his alleged crimes, is therefore told as a stark tragedy to reflect the seriousness of the actual events. This approach solidifies The Wrong Man as one of Hitchcock’s bleakest films and a brilliant foray into film noir territory.

David Cronenberg's VideodromeIn the early nineteen eighties, with the slasher movie craze in full effect, a handful of directors were already trying to break the horror movie mold.  John Carpenter, the man who ushered in the golden age of the slasher movie with Halloween, was remaking Howard Hawks’ The Thing.  Tobe Hooper was trading in serial killers for supernatural terror with Poltergeist.  And then, there was David Cronenberg.  Always a purveyor of an artful mix of both science fiction and horror, Cronenberg followed up his breakthrough film, Scanners, with the equally strange Videodrome in 1983.

The World's End PosterThe World's End is a film that cannot be summed up succinctly or without meandering off into a tangent or two. A face value it's a story about reuniting with old friends and squashing, or rehashing, decades-old squabbles, but just underneath the surface is an homage to the body-swapping flicks of the '50s. Buried even deeper, almost as a meta film, The World's End is the final piece of "The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy," a loosely connected series of films that started with Shaun of the Dead (2004) and continued with Hot Fuzz (2007).

Strangers On A TrainIn his second film with Warner Bros., Alfred Hitchcock created what is arguably his best contribution to film noir. Dense and dark, Strangers on a Train (1951) was his most expressionistic and germanic picture in years, thanks to the moody, atmospheric cinematography of Robert Burks. Building on his success with psychopath Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock delivers one of his most disturbing villains in Bruno Anthony, a grown man doted on by his mother and intent on having his father murdered. What could have been a simpler film about a murderous madman takes on much more humanity and evokes real foreboding with the inclusion of the unassuming Guy Haines. In contrasting these two men and their rationalization of murder, Hitchcock presents an unforgettable story of good versus evil, authority versus anarchy, and bright futures versus sinful oblivion.

Burnt OfferingsThe horror world lost another legend last week as Hollywood mourned the passing of Karen Black.  Black was well known to fright film fans for her tour-de-force quadruple performance in the seminal television movie "Trilogy of Terror," but the actress was far more than a genre actress, appearing in such influential films as Robert Altman’s Nashville, Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot.  She will be remembered primarily for her work in suspense and horror, however, having worked with everyone from Tobe Hooper in Invaders from Mars to Rob Zombie in House of 1000 Corpses.  As the horror it-girl of the seventies, she found herself starring in the understated yet creepy 1976 haunted house film Burnt Offerings.

NotoriousAs Alfred Hitchcock explored film noir further into his career, a distinct darkness would overtake his film's outwardly wholesome Americana, and shadow would engulf his ill-fated characters. Breaking with the idealistic characters of Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock weaves a tale of deeply troubled people in Notorious. The film blends elements of melodrama, romance, spy thriller, and film noir, allowing it to fit loosely into many genres. Its central story of the relationship between American agent, Devlin, and the “notorious” Alicia Huberman may appear at first to be a simple spy melodrama, but the larger film explores the pain that results from the conflict between love and duty. The espionage activities in the film act as Hitchcock’s “MacGuffin,” his characteristic plot device and pretext for examining more serious issues. In Notorious, Nazi plots and uranium merely provide a means to observe the possibility of love and trust redeeming two lives overwhelmed by fear and guilt.

The Witches 1966With a television and film career that spans over seven decades, Joan Fontaine has always been one of the more versatile actresses in Hollywood.  Her big break came in the early forties, when she became one of Alfred Hitchcock’s girls.  For Hitch, she made Rebecca in 1940 (which won the Oscar for best picture as well as earning Fontaine a best actress nomination) and Suspicion in 1941 (for which she won the best actress Oscar).  Since her time with the Master of Suspense, Fontaine has done everything from classic cinema, with roles in films like Ivanhoe and Jane Eyre, to campy science fiction, with a turn in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  In 1966, Fontaine gave her last big-screen performance as the lead in the Hammer Horror film The Witches.

Shadow Of A DoubtAlfred Hitchcock, renowned for his thrillers, has never been prominently associated with film noir. Certainly, he was never linked to noir as directors such as Fritz Lang and Otto Preminger were, yet his style is preeminently, demonstrably noir. Hitchcock's first film noir, and fifth film made in the United States since his arrival in 1939, Shadow of a Doubt, marks Hitchcock’s transition from his earlier English modes to the pessimism of his noir-tinged American work. Shadow of a Doubt encapsulates Hitchcock’s particular twisted vision of Americana, turning the quaint Saturday Evening Post–esque small town into a grim setting of the hunt for the Merry Widow murderer.

OrcaIn 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws opened a lot of doors for the man-versus-nature horror film.  In the years that followed, theaters saw heroes fighting different kinds of fish (Piranha), other aquatic animals (Alligator), and even landlocked beasts (Grizzly), all in imitation of the big shark blockbuster.  In 1977, the film that seemed to be the closest thing to a blatant Jaws rip-off was released when mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis brought Orca to the screen.

Tommy Udo, Kiss Of DeathFilm noir is not all anti-heroes and femme fatales. There is a great tradition of noir villains, the ruthless schemers who populate the dark city streets and make life that much worse for the protagonists. Far from being caricaturish crooks easily brought down by the noble hero, these criminals elude capture time and again, and some never receive punishment for their crimes. Noir villains run the gamut from wealthy aristocrats in three piece suits to insane hit men, or even villainous women orchestrating elaborate intrigues. To show just how dark noir can be, here is a list of ten noir villains that truly terrify.

Tilikum in a scene from BLACKFISH, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit Suzanne Allee. Blackfish is documentary filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s disturbing look into the capture and treatment of orcas, or killer whales, in aquariums and marine theme parks.  Specifically, the film deals with those whales that snap, attacking their trainers.  Even more specifically, the film centers mostly around one particular animal: Tilikum, a male orca who has been involved in the deaths of no fewer than three people (two of his trainers and one knucklehead who snuck into the park after hours and decided to go for a swim).  Blackfish chronicles Tilikum’s entire life as an exhibition animal, from his capture, to his training at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada and his transfer to Sea World in Florida and, ultimately, the detailed accounts of the incidents that resulted in the deaths of his trainers.

Invisible InvadersOne of the biggest challenges in making an alien invasion movie is giving the audience something new and different.  Should the aliens be bobble-headed egg-brains like the campy classics in This Island Earth and Mars Attacks!, or should they be the sleek and swift, genuinely terrifying beings from Alien or Independence Day?  In 1959, screenwriter Sam Newman (The Giant Claw) and director Edward L. Cahn (It! The Terror from Beyond Space) found a way to approach aliens in a way that no one had ever seen...literally...in Invisible Invaders.

Humphrey Bogart in In A Lonely PlaceNo actor is more associated with the genre of film noir or better suited to interpret its tropes than Humphrey Bogart. His filmography covers a wide range from comedy to westerns, but noir was his specialty. Playing shrewd, playful characters with strict moral codes inhabiting a corrupt world, Bogart appeared in more than twenty noir and noirish tales, from The Petrified Forest (1936) to The Harder They Fall (1956). The actor who famed director Howard Hawks once called “the most insolent man on the screen” is undeniably emblematic of film noir.

Valley of the ZombiesOver the course of film history, zombies have evolved from the reanimated Haitian voodoo corpses in White Zombie to the swarming disease infected victims in World War Z.  They have rambled aimlessly in Night of the Living Dead and sprinted purposefully in 28 Days Later.  In 1946, Republic Pictures showed the world a zombie that had never been seen before and hasn’t been replicated since in their Valley of the Zombies.

Ryan Gosling in DriveAhead of next week’s release of Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film Only God Forgives, which reunites him with Drive star Ryan Gosling, it is only fitting to explore the deep film noir roots of the intensely stylish, highly acclaimed Drive. It’s not surprising that Refn won the prize for Best Director at Cannes with this film because, even though the subject matter may be familiar –the film has been compared to the likes of The Driver (1978) and the works of Michael Mann – Refn’s direction breaks with Hollywood banality to create a positively captivating film. Drive seamlessly blends minimalism and visually striking style into a film that manages to perfectly situate ‘40s film noir characters in a modern Los Angeles.

Fruitvale StationReconstructing the last day in a man's life was the difficult task put to director Ryan Coogler with Fruitvale Station.  The events leading up to Oscar Grant's untimely death on New Year's Day 2009 is the basis for the story, the sensationalized media frenzy that came afterwards is left out of Fruitvale Station, giving the viewer an opportunity to know Oscar as the man he once was, and was trying to be for his family.  His death caused a media uproar, shook the San Francisco Bay Area, and continues to influence the politics of how police officers act, and react, in situations.  Oscar was unjustly killed by a Bart Officer coming home on New Year's Eve; a death that could have been avoided, as was seen by millions thanks to cell phone videos taken at the scene. 

Wolf BloodJust about every modern horror movie archetype has roots that can be traced back to the silent film era.  Nosferatu the vampire chilled audiences a full decade before Bela Lugosi made Dracula into a household word.  Frankenstein hit the silent screens in 1910, twenty years before Boris Karloff’s iconic performance.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the blueprint for the modern day slasher film.  And in 1925, fifteen years before Universal’s The Wolf Man, audiences were terrified by the original werewolf movie, a film called Wolf Blood.

Europa ReportFound footage has a secure home in horror movies, and with Europa Report the science fiction genre gets its best found footage film to date.  From director Sebastián Cordero, his first English-language film Europa Report tells the story of a privately funded space mission to one of Jupiter's Moons.  The hope of the crew, and the company behind them, is to find signs of life--albeit at the molecular level in the ice or water; or nothing at all.  Europa Report takes place far in the future, where technology makes it possible to send astronauts into space for years at a time without the use of the sleeping pods the genre is so fond of, a la Alien

Slaughter HighRevenge has been a theme of slasher movies since before they were actually called slasher movies.  Early revenge horror films such as I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left were graphic and brutal affairs, but the vengeance motif transitioned well into the tongue-in-cheek campy world of the slasher film when the craze hit its stride in the early eighties.  Films like Prom Night and Terror Train took the time honored desire to get even and injected it with the clever and imaginative killing power of the slasher genre.  In 1986, with the golden age of the slasher at its peak, horror fans were treated to another great story of bloody high school revenge with the release of Slaughter High.

Scarlet StreetFilm noir was born from the evocative shadow play of German Expressionism. As one of the greats of Expressionist cinema, it is only fitting that after fleeing the Nazis Fritz Lang would reinvent himself by making highly stylized noir films in Hollywood. Fritz Lang is best remembered for his classics Metropolis and M, but Lang’s American career peaked with the two noirs The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945). Both starring the same central cast of Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, these films have frequently been characterized as Lang’s pair of middle-class nightmares. Following the misadventures of Robinson’s middle class characters under the influence of Bennett’s femme fatales, Lang’s noirs serve as cautionary tales against lust and temptation.

The ConjuringThere are scary movies, and then there are SCARY movies.  The Conjuring fits into the latter category as it will undoubtedly frighten you to the point of laughter, make you squirm in your seat, cover your eyes, and wish you had left the lights on in the house because you will be afraid of the dark when you get home.  The Conjuring is the horror movie we dream of, because its a hark back to an older style of horror filmmaking, before torture, excessive blood and guts, and the like took over cinema screens, and found-footage too. 

The Strange Possession Of Mrs. OliverHollywood lost another icon this week as influential writer Richard Matheson passed away at his home in Calabasas, California at the age of 87.  Even if his name is not immediately recognizable, his stories certainly are.  He wrote the most instantly recognizable episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel.”  His work has been produced by dozens of important directors, including everyone from Roger Corman to Steven Spielberg.  His novel "I Am Legend" was made into at least three different films in three different decades with three different legendary lead actors: Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth), Charlton Heston (The Omega Man), and Will Smith (I Am Legend).  Matheson could work in any medium, be it short stories, novels, movie scripts, or teleplays, all with the same inspired results.  Illustrating his supernatural side in 1977, he provided the screenplay to one of his more understated works, a T.V. movie called The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver.

Who Framed Roger RabbitFor all the seriousness of film noir, its easily identifiable visual and narrative conventions lend themselves to parody. The genre’s distinctive voice-over narration and recognizable archetypes become humorous caricatures on film, TV, and radio, providing predictable storylines that all viewers are familiar with. These parodies range anywhere from downright silly mockeries of film noir and crime mysteries to great neo-noirs in their own right that merely indulge in slight self-parody. It is even conceivable that many people were first introduced to film noir conventions through such parodies. To show the lighter side of film noir, here is a list of five of the best film noir parodies.

ConcussionThe unhappy, bored housewife dilemma is no longer confined to narrative storytelling about heterosexual couples thanks to Concussion, a movie that gets a great deal of things right with representation, but falters when it comes to the scandalous underbelly of its story. 

DeliveryThe blessed event of pregnancy, made unforgettably horrifying in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, has found yet another outlet to promote birth control with first-time Director Brian Netto's Delivery.  Written by Netto and Adam Schindler, Delivery uses the found-footage motif to tell the story of Kyle and Rachel Massy's road to parenthood, as the stars of a new reality show, "Delivery." 

RodanAmerican studios such as Universal and RKO discovered in the twenties and thirties that monster movies sold tickets, and it didn’t take long for the trend to travel overseas.  While Britain’s Hammer Horror was busy rehashing their own versions of gothic Universal monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula, Japan’s Toho Company found influence in the science fiction monsters of RKO, striking gold with Godzilla in 1954.  Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Toho kept pumping out mutant reptile movies, and they found success again in 1956 with Rodan.

Le SamouraïBorn out of Jean-Pierre Melville’s love of 1930s Hollywood crime dramas, Le Samouraï (1967) is unquestionably one of the best homages to film noir. The film itself is a cross between classic film noir and Japanese yakuza samurai films, melding the principled noir anti-hero and the honor-bound, wandering warrior samurai figure into a rumination on the loneliness of the drifter. Le Samouraï achieves a minimalist noir style and, in embracing the utter fatalism of film noir, gives audiences one of the bleakest depictions of a doomed noir anti-hero. By incorporating these elements of film noir and the narrative conventions of the samurai, Melville’s film is a brilliant depiction of film noir as contemporary tragedy.

The SentinelPerhaps the oldest good versus evil story is that of God and Satan, and the struggle between the two powers has made for some memorable cinema.  The seventies alone saw the making of two classics of the horror genre, The Exorcist and The Omen, both of which deal with the fight between the Church and the Devil.  In 1977, the year after the release of The Omen, action film director Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Mechanic) tried his hand at the age-old tale when he made The Sentinel.

Dead RingerAfter a string of highly successful films that started way back in 1931, the legendary Bette Davis made a seamless transition to television in the early fifties.  When she returned to film about a decade later in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the actress found that she had become a bit of a horror movie icon.  Never one to disappoint her fans, Davis followed up with another spooky film in 1964 when she played a pair of twins in Dead Ringer.

The KillingStanley Kubrick is best known for his films 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Lolita (1962), The Shining (1980) and A Clockwork Orange (1971), but he always considered his first mature feature film to be the elaborate film noir heist The Killing (1956). Clearly overshadowed by his later works, The Killing is generally viewed as a minor work in Kubrick’s oeuvre, but it has served as the blueprint for heist films ever since, greatly influencing contemporary films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). Kubrick brought a fresh twist to film noir with the film’s non-linear structure overlapping each heist member’s perspective of the robbery. The result is a puzzle of a film, full of suspense and an overwhelming sense of doom. As with most elaborate cons, something, if not everything, will go wrong.

Night ShadowThe golden age of slasher films saw Hollywood struggling to find new and different horror movie killers. By the time the late eighties rolled around, mad murderer movies had become stale and passé, and studios were willing to do seemingly anything to find a way to refresh the genre. In 1989, the generically titled Night Shadow was released, a film which tried to combine the suspense of the slasher film with the sheer terror of the werewolf movie.

Rosario Dawson as Elizabeth in TranceDanny Boyle is no stranger to stylish thrillers. From Shallow Grave (1994) to 28 Days Later (2002), Boyle is a master of mystery and suspense. His latest film Trance (2013) takes many cues from film noir, incorporating a conflicted anti-hero, Simon, whose principles are rattled all the more by his memory loss. The psychological neo-noir thriller deftly juggles issues of memory, dreams, and the repeated reconstruction of identity. As Simon’s memories are progressively unraveled, one plot twist after another sees the lines between truth and manipulation begin to blur. With so many questions, the biggest unknown in the film is its femme fatale, Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson). Trance is the first time Boyle has put a woman at the heart of one of his films, and here, Elizabeth holds all of the film’s secrets. With every new twist, Elizabeth becomes more and more the classic, vicious femme fatale but with a surprising backstory of emotional damage and victimization.

World War Z PosterAfter a series of production delays, that have included extensive re-writes of the script, re-shoots of principal photography, and release date changes, World War Z will finally be released in theatres June 21, 2013.  An adaptation of the novel "World War Z" by Max Brooks, son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, fans of the book are eager to know how screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard (Cabin In The Woods), and Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) re-imagined the story for movie screens; and if it will be anything like the book.

The Haunting Of JuliaIn 1968, after a successful run on television’s “Peyton Place,” actress Mia Farrow finally broke through to big-screen audiences in Roman Polanski’s influential horror film Rosemary’s Baby.  Although Farrow would go on to play straight roles in works such as The Great Gatsby and a television production of “Peter Pan,” she never failed to keep her horror fans happy with films like See No Evil and Secret Ceremony.  In 1977, she made her most frightening film since Rosemary’s Baby when she starred in The Haunting of Julia.

The Man Who Wasn't ThereThere is no better film to finish our discussion of the noir loser in the Coen brothers’ films than The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001). With the film’s protagonist, Ed Crane, the Coens take the noir loser archetype to its extreme. Whereas previous Coen losers were anxious, unsure men who let people walk all over them, Ed is effectively a cipher.

William H. Macy as Jerry Lundehaard in FargoThe Coen brother’s films frequently share film noir’s basic philosophical assumptions: power corrupts all, evil is pervasive, and fate cannot be controlled or avoided. Their films illustrate this philosophy through stories of simple people with complex problems. These characters are tempted by greed and corruption and ultimately begin a downward spiral that can only result in disaster in this fate-driven world. The characters most susceptible to this greed are ill-fated noir losers. Continuing the discussion of the noir loser archetype in the Coens’ films, Fargo’s Jerry Lundegaard is the best example of a man utterly incapable of stopping the onslaught of destruction resulting from his own corrupt decisions. 

Try And Get MeFritz Lang’s Fury is based on the same small-town California news story, but this is the real deal. Instead of an innocent man threatened by a lynch mob, Try and Get Me has returning GI (never saw combat) Frank Lovejoy struggling to make ends meet for his wife and child, falling in with startling sociopath Lloyd Bridges, and them going to jail for the callous murder of a local rich boy. The lynch mob still gathers, but infinitely more frightening than Lang’s, storming the jail in an unstoppable onslaught, rather than burning it down, captured with occasionally startlingly verité camerawork by Guy Roe.

Soko as Augustine in AUGUSTINE. Courtesy of Music Box FilmsAugustine is one of the harder sorts of films to write about, being handsomely mounted, with appealing leads and an interesting story, a minimum of pandering or condescension towards the audience, and fully aware of the ramifications of its subject matter. The problem is, it’s just not very interesting.

Wait Until DarkAs strange as it may seem, horror movies and stage plays have enjoyed an incestuous relationship over the years.  Starting as far back as the musical adaptation of the Roger Corman classic The Little Shop of Horrors, iconic horror films such as Evil Dead, Carrie, Night of the Living Dead, and The Brain that Wouldn’t Die have all been turned into theatrical productions.  The big screen/small stage connection is a two-way street, however, with dozens of movies having been adapted from stage plays as well.  One of the most frightening films of the sixties was born out of this trend when director Terance Young reworked playwright Frederick’s Knott’s Wait Until Dark.

Assault On Wall StreetAssault On Wall Street is one of the most confounding movies you could ever watch; although I am not necessarily suggesting you watch it.  Set amidst the most recent financial crisis in the United States, it tells the story of a man who has every possible negative outcome occur in his life stemming from the crisis.  He loses his life savings due to a shady investment in commercial real estate, has a lien placed upon him because of the investment, loses his job, his home, and to make matters even worse his health insurance cap is reached, amongst other things.  The loss of health insurance is an important part of the story as his wife needs post brain tumor therapy and without the insurance coverage they must resort to using their credit cards.  The credit card debt soon piles up, the interest rates rise, and suddenly yet another problem is added to the list for the couple.  The onslaught of negativity Assault On Wall Street delivers is far too much for a casual viewer, made worse by what the film does as the solution to Jim's (Dominic Purcell) problems--he becomes a domestic terrorist.

It Came From Beneath The SeaThis week, the motion picture industry lost one of its most influential figures.  Special effects artist Ray Harryhausen passed away in London at the age of 92.  Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation techniques are the stuff of legends, from the ape in Mighty Joe Young (which won an Oscar for best visual effects) to the medusa in Clash of the Titans.  Although he is mainly known for his contributions to adventure films like Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, his creations lent themselves equally well to science fiction and monster movies, and 1955’s It Came from Beneath the Sea is a classic example of his unmistakable work.

ScarecrowScarecrow would have been a very different film had it starred, as originally intended, Bill Cosby and Jack Lemmon. As it is, it allowed up and coming Al Pacino and Gene Hackman to give two of the best performances of their careers, and it remains a mystery why the film has remained so long under the radar (the answer is partly that, despite winning the Palme d’Or, it was cold-shouldered by Warner’s a week into its theatrical release, in favor of pushing The Exorcist). Perhaps too, because it is about a pair of bums, with no real story aside from the picaresque of meanderings and passing encounters; but it also charts the growth of a male friendship, in a fashion extremely well-judged and genuinely moving.

The SwimmerThe films of husband-and-wife team Frank and Eleanor Perry are amongst the most undervalued of the wave of semi-independent American films of the 70s. In titles like Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970) and Play It As It Lays (1972) they tackled a specifically contemporary sense of malaise and neurosis, on both coasts, in a way comparable really only to some of Woody Allen, with a slightly gauche self-seriousness in place of the comedy.

Beloved in France but little known elsewhere, La traversée de Paris holds the distinction of being the one film by Claude Autant-Lara deemed acceptable by the young François Truffaut, in his campaign against the prevailing cinèma du qualité in 1950s France.

The Narrow MarginCheap, tough, and drenched in shadows, The Narrow Margin was the sort of thing that the RKO technicians could knock out in a couple of weeks with no trouble at all, but is raised by particularly tight direction from Richard Fleischer, including terrific use of confined spaces, windows, and yes, lots of shadows (but also, some nice harsh sunlight); and by lived-in performances from never-quite-made-it players, Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor.

The Great GatsbyOh, the green light.  If you have read the novel "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you are well aware of the green light, and everything it stood for in the story.  It exists in the most recent film adaptation by director Baz Lurhmann, The Great Gatsby, coupled with an exaggerated quality of decadence and style like only Lurhmann can create on screen.

Barton FinkThe films of the Coen brothers present strangely familiar yet bizarre and inexplicable characters. Just as their films subvert conventions, their protagonists are average people driven to extremes, and frequently exaggerated and surreal extremes. Although the Coens’ films typically defy genre, this characterization is clearly influenced by the classic noir loser – an ordinary man who sees an opportunity to advance his life, often immorally, only to find himself the victim of fate. The noir loser is, fundamentally, the common man out of his element, losing control. This common man loser may be seen in Coen characters Barton Fink, Jerry Lundegaard, Ed Crane, H.I. McDunnough, and more; the difference in these characters being how they handle their escalating, unfamiliar situations.

RushlightsRushlights is a twisted tale of lies and deceit, with a host of characters that get more shady by the minute.  This is, of course, the extreme fun in watching Rushlights' story play out on screen.  The twists keep coming, the momentum never slows down, and the near-pulpiness of the movie only helps matters.

Attack Of The Puppet PeopleSamuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures made a habit of capitalizing on the successes of Universal Pictures movies in the 1950s.  The production and distribution company pumped out modernizations of the classic monster films, including I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein.  In 1958, hot on the heels of Universal’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, AIP rushed a film with the working title of I Was a Teenage Doll into production, a film that would be quickly released as Attack of the Puppet People.

In Lieu Of Flowers. Courtesy of Patina Pictures. 2013Director William Savage creates a touching story of love, loss, and mourning with his first feature-length film In Lieu Of Flowers.  Premiering at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival, audiences are sure to applaud the heartfelt sentiment found in the film.  As well as the never faltering feeling of hope for life after heartbreak that permeates the narrative.

The Town That Dreaded SundownMasked killers are always scary, but the words “based on a true story” seem to magnify the effect.  From The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to The Strangers, the claim that a horror movie is based on actual events gives it an air of authenticity that can be terrifying.  In 1976, during the infancy of the true crime horror phase, the gimmick was exploited by a classic film called The Town that Dreaded Sundown.

DetourMovie budgets of the 1940s pale in comparison to those of today. It’s the question of maybe a few million versus an average $40 million, but just as independent films are produced today, there were independent films with minuscule budgets released in the ‘40s. Most of these low budget films were genre B movies produced by the so called “poverty row” studios. One such film to receive critical praise was Edgar G. Ulmer’s film noir Detour (1945), produced by the lower tier PRC studio. Ulmer made a reputation for himself as the master of the “stylish cheapie,” able to expertly disguise his threadbare production values, and Detour is no exception. Considered by some as the grandfather of the independent film, Detour is a stunningly impressive feat of technical creativity over budgetary limitations.

Bloody BirthdayOne sure way for a horror movie to shock the public is to make the main villain a child, or a group of children.  Some of the more frightening movies in horror history have employed this technique, ranging from a single kid in The Bad Seed and The Good Son to entire tribes in Children of the Damned and Children of the Corn.  In 1981, a trio of horrible kids wreaked havoc on their hometown in Bloody Birthday.

Errors Of The Human Body posterThe subject of genetic mutations is enough to evoke fear in anyone.  The lack of control humans have over their genetic material, and what horrors may exist in its intricately woven thread, is a subject science fiction and horror cinema happily investigates.  In his feature-length film debut, director/co-writer Eron Sheean ventures into the territory of genetic research, that of bio-engineering, to deliver a fascinating and horrifying tale in Errors Of The Human Body.

Guy Pierce and Carrie Anne Moss in Christopher Nolan's MementoContinuing last week’s exploration of Christopher Nolan’s neo-noir Following (1998), it is only appropriate to venture into a discussion of his more widely known noir throwback, Memento (2000). As in Following, Memento builds upon the sinister, paranoid tone of noir by employing a non-chronological timeline. The film goes one step further, however, by incorporating two alternating timelines: a black and white timeline told in chronological order and a color timeline told in reverse. This structure certainly makes Memento a unique and fascinatingly confusing neo-noir, yet the most interesting aspect of Nolan’s screenplay is its portrayal of the femme fatale, Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss). Arguably the most complex character in Memento, Natalie is at once the quintessentially coercive femme fatale and the character most sympathetic to anti-hero Leonard’s condition and vendetta.

Silent Scream 1980With the dawn of the eighties, slasher movies saturated the horror genre; spawned by the 1978 success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, scores of imitators made their way into theaters during what would become known as the Golden Age of the slasher film.  Some of these films, like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, became timeless classics.  Others toiled away in obscurity, only seen and remembered by hardcore fans of the subgenre.  Released in 1980, Silent Scream is one of the underappreciated.

Christopher Nolan's Neo-Noir 'Following'Fans of director Christopher Nolan will note his eight feature films prevailing noir tones. From Memento (2000) to the The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception (2010), Nolan is constantly imbibing his films with sheer mystery and suspense. As Nolan continues to cleverly deceive audiences, his ardent fans return to his first features and the start of his career to see the vision of a fledgling director who would become one of the most commercially successful filmmakers of his generation. It is these fans along with a small cult of admirers who would be familiar with Nolan’s debut feature Following (1998). The film has many trademark Nolan elements: a less than reliable narrator, an unstable sense of identity, and a non-linear chronology. Following, however, is an ingenious neo-noir worthy of more notoriety, a stunning throwback to the low to no-budget film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s.

The Black RoomBy the middle of the thirties, Boris Karloff had already played the monster in Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein as well as the title role in The Mummy, all for Universal.  Taking a vacation from monster roles, Karloff turned to Columbia Pictures for a chance to show off his acting chops, and the film that they gave him was a tour-de-force for the thespian: The Black Room.

A Bucket Of BloodAs one of the pioneers of low-budget, can-do filmmaking, Roger Corman has a reputation as one of the most prolific producers and directors of all time.  His films usually revolve around some campy gimmick, whether it is the rubber suited monster in Creature from the Haunted Sea or the killer plant in The Little Shop of Horrors.  In 1959, Corman was approached by American International Pictures to make a movie for less than $50,000, and the resulting film was the cult classic A Bucket of Blood, a picture without any monsters except for an emotionally damaged artist.

Rian Johnson's BrickThe classical film noir period may only have stretched from the early 1940s to the late 1950s, but the tone, themes, and style of film noir continue to inspire a host of modern films, or neo-noirs. One of the most stylistically successful neo-noirs of the past decade is Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005). Unlike contemporary neo-noirs such as Chinatown (1974) or L.A. Confidential (1997), which lovingly recreate the 1930s-1950s, Brick applies the style and even the dialogue of classic film noir to a modern-day high school setting. A modern high school is a self-contained world teeming with moral strife and a perfect stand-in for the seedy underground of the classical noir city. This melding of noir and adolescence intuitively recognizes the pervasive sense of gravity shared by both and makes Johnson’s effort unique among neo-noirs.

Cathy's CurseOh, Canada.  The relatively low production costs coupled with extremely film-friendly government tax incentives see many horror films heading north of the border to the land of hockey, mounted police and Bryan Adams to shoot.  Sometimes, these films end up as classics of the genre, as is the case with Prom Night and Terror Train.  Other times, they end up like 1977’s Cathy’s Curse.

Daniel Lutz in My Amityville HorrorWhen I was in elementary school way back in the seventies, there was a rumor floating around the playground that Christopher Lutz, the middle child from the family that was immortalized in The Amityville Horror, went to our school.  He would have been in the same grade as my older sister but, of course, he wasn’t in her class.  In fact, no one knew what class he was in.  I never met him, and I’m not even sure that he ever attended the school, but the rumor itself is evidence of how big of a pop culture phenomenon that The Amityville Horror had become.

Jim Sturgess as “Adam” and Kirsten Dunst as “Eden” in UPSIDE DOWN. Photo Courtesy of Millennium Entertainment.There is a great deal that can be inferred by writer-director Juan Solaris' Upside Down, depending on the context in which you view the film.  At the simplest level it is a love story about two people from different stations in life who desperately want to be together even though it is forbidden--a tale as old as time.  Another possibility is to see Upside Down as commentary on social politics, the have's and the have-nots constantly at odds with one another and the sole individual willing to risk it all to bring about equality.  There is one more route you can take, that of a historical recalling and a fantastical glimpse into post-war worlds--as the two worlds created in the movie resemble greatly historical photos of post-WWII Germany or Poland versus the untarnished industrialized and thriving West.  With so many possibilities Upside Down can easily please a variety of viewers, what it cannot do is uplift the viewer as it fails to delve deeply enough into any one theme, one idea, or one clear vision to warrant greatness, just mild amusement and a deep want for greater meaning that never comes.

BlancanievesAfter ten years of working on Blancanieves, writer-director Pablo Berger must have had mixed feelings about the appearance of The Artist last year. That film’s runaway success was undeniably a useful ice-breaker, however, for they are similar beasts, modern silent films made (largely) according to the conventions and constraints of the 1920s. Berger even gives Uggie a run for his money, with a perky rooster named Pepe.

Orson Welles in Touch of EvilContinuing the exploration of the outer limits of film noir I will now discuss one of the last examples of the genre with Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). In the seventeen year period between 1941 and 1958, film noir had come to dominate Hollywood. Loosely based on the novel "Badge of Evil" by Whit Masterson, Touch of Evil offers an intriguing new take on the noir detective hero and the femme fatale and a much darker world view than that expressed even in The Maltese Falcon.

TerrorVisionOne of the biggest and most important advances in entertainment technology to come out of the 1980s is the advent of cable television and satellite reception.  No longer were people limited to movies at a theater and a mere thirteen channels of programming.  As with any new technology, however, there was a learning curve, and the features ended up confusing and frightening some customers.  Someone was bound to make a movie about it and, in 1986, B-movie producers Albert and Charles Band did.  That movie, equally hysterical and horrifying, was called TerrorVision.

EmperorWhen the second World War is discussed the conversation usually turns to Germany and Adolf Hitler.  The same can be said for movies about WWII; more often than not, and particularly in recent film history, it is the story of the Nazi's rise to power and the holocaust that feeds screenwriter's imaginations and research. But what of Japan?  For Americans the impact Japan had on WWII is a constant reminder of how our country is not impenetrable to war on our own soil in the modern age; made even more evident on September 11, 2001. Director Peter Webber's Emperor  is a rarity among WWII-themed pictures, as it tells the story of the aftermath of the war.  

The Maltese FalconThere are two films most often cited as the bookends, the outer limits of film noir: The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Touch of Evil (1958). By near consensus, John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon marks the beginning of the genre, and it will be the topic of Part I of this look at the boundaries of noir. Part II will cover Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil and the end of film noir. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon introduced the elements that would become the hallmarks of the genre – the amoral private detective, the femme fatale, and the dark city surrounding them. Huston’s directorial debut truly put a new spin on the traditional detective film. The film’s most important contribution to the film noir genre is its depiction of the flawed private eye as a noir hero, characterized by his unscrupulous behavior.

Tentacles 1977When Jaws ushered in the modern monster movie era in 1975, moviegoers everywhere became terrified to go into the water.  Jaws was so effective that it spawned a bevy of aquatic imitators, each more strange that the last.  For several years after Jaws, audiences were treated to thinly veiled rip-offs like Orca in 1977, Piranha in 1978, and Alligator in 1980.  Perhaps the most far-fetched, and therefore the most fun, of these water-logged creature-features is the Samuel Z. Arkoff 1977 killer octopus presentation known as Tentacles.

Double IndemnityFilm noir is a term coined by French critics writing in the Cahiers du cinéma to describe the distinctly dark films coming out of America during World War II; they noticed decidedly different shifts in tone from American Studio films of the 1930’s. Film noirs were characterized by their pessimistic and cynical portrayal of people and society and their sombre style. Unlike the usual happy endings in American movies, these noirs often ended in defeat, with ordinary protagonists drawn astray by temptation and violence.

As an introduction to film noir, here is a list of five must-see films emblematic of the genre.

WaxworksBecause the horror genre has always embraced short film, the horror anthology has always been hugely popular.  Whether it’s a simple excuse to stick a bunch of shorts together into a feature length film or a purely organic set of episodic storylines, horror anthologies provide frightening entertainment for the attention-deficit crowd.  Although it hit its peak in the seventies with Tales from the Crypt, Asylum, and The Vault of Horror, the fad is actually much older; it dates back to the silent movie era with 1924’s Waxworks.

Daniel Craig in SkyfallIn a perfect world, where politics and a heavy amount of bullshit do not decide who wins the Academy Award each year in the biggest categories, like Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and so on, the following films, actors, and moviemaking professionals would be the Academy Award Winners, 2013.  This is of course my personal opinion, but I am right. 

The BurningJust like any successful horror film, the first Friday the 13th brought about a slew of imitators.  Not only did the film spawn more than a half dozen sequels in the years that followed, but the early eighties also saw films like Sleepaway Camp and Madman hop on the bandwagon and provide their own spin to the summer camp killer motif.  The first of these films, releasing just a week after Friday the 13th Part 2 in 1981, was a bloody thriller that was destined to become a classic called The Burning.

SssssssBy the nineteen seventies, every filmmaker in the horror world was looking for something new to scare audiences, and the scurry led to some very original films.  For every influential blockbuster frightfest like The Exorcist, Jaws, or Halloween, there were several lesser known but just as creative movies.  One of these films that slipped through the cracks was the 1973 low budget monster thriller Sssssss.

The Soul of a MonsterAs frightening as male characters can be, the role of the villain in horror movies has not always belonged strictly to guys; women can be every bit as terrifying, if not more so.  Whether she comes in the form of an unstable woman, like Annie Wilkes in Misery, or a supernatural banshee, like the title character in Mama, a lady is just as adept at inducing fear in an audience as a man.  Although the trend has seen a boost since the seventies, the female horror antagonist is hardly a new concept; audiences were treated to it as early as 1944 in The Soul of a Monster.

The Crater Lake MonsterEver since the original King Kong amazed audiences with its cutting edge animation, stop-motion photography has been a viable alternative to costumed creatures in horror and science fiction movies.  The nineteen seventies saw a nice little resurgence in stop-motion/live action monster movies, with the technique being used seemingly everywhere from Roger Corman’s Piranha to the Star Wars movies.  At the forefront of the stop-motion movement was visual animator David Allen, and his work on 1977’s The Crater Lake Monster serves as a textbook example of the trend.

Near DarkMany of the most successful and admired Hollywood directors cut their teeth making horror films.  The legendary Steven Spielberg’s early career includes the classic fright films Duel and JawsThe Godfather’s Francis Ford Coppola got his humble start working on the Roger Corman productions The Terror and Dementia 13.  Peter Jackson could never have brought The Lord of the Rings trilogy to life if he hadn’t made his directorial debut with Bad Taste and Dead Alive.  The recent critical darling Kathryn Bigelow is no exception; in 1987, years before The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, she made the revisionist vampire classic Near Dark.

The Brotherhood of SatanIn the world of horror movies, witches and the devil seem to go hand in hand; it’s always the Dark Lord himself that is behind the witchery.  When children get dragged into the fold, things start getting really scary.  A film made in 1971, right between Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, called The Brotherhood of Satan effectively pulls off the horror trifecta of creepy kids, a witch’s coven, and Satan himself.

The She-CreatureAs frequently misunderstood concepts, reincarnation and hypnotism are pretty good subjects around which to base a horror movie.  While one would think that a movie about past lives and mind control would lend itself to be a psychological thriller, 1956’s The She-Creature takes the concepts in another direction and becomes a full-fledged monster movie.

Zero Dark ThirtyHere they are, the best films of 2012--a personal list.

Fay Wray In the 1930s, Fay Wray was as close to a female horror icon as Hollywood had; after carving out her niche in 1932’s Doctor X and The Most Dangerous Game, the actress found herself in the movie that would make her a career monster victim, 1933’s King Kong.  Taking advantage of a studio system that shared resources like sets and crews, she appeared in an astonishing 21 films between 1933 and 1934.  In between classics like The Vampire Bat and The Countess of Monte Cristo, Wray found time to star in a creepy little film in 1934 about voodoo called Black Moon.

Kim Kold as Dennis in Teddy BearAnother year has gone by at FilmFracture and it has been full of great movies, mediocre trips to the cinema, and some downright awful wastes of time.  With that said, here are the best and worst movies of 2012, based solely on their Production ratings (how they faired in other categories may have been better, or the same, click out on the titles to see for yourself).  I must warn you, our choices for the best movies may come as quite a shock--who would have thought a Troma picture would make a best of list? 

Terror TrainBy the time the golden age of the slasher movie was in full swing, Jamie Lee Curtis was already a bona-fide scream queen.  Her role as the archetypical final girl, Laurie Strode, in 1978’s Halloween put her on the map, and she had parts in no fewer than three horror classics released in 1980.  Given that she made the box office successes The Fog and Prom Night in the same year, it’s no surprise that her other 1980 slasher film, a Canadian schlockfest about a group of med-school students on a train for a New Year’s Eve party called Terror Train, has flown under the radar.

Father's DayHere they are, the top ten horror movies of 2012 as compiled by FilmFracture's own horror aficionado, James Jay Edwards.

Don't Open Till ChristmasIn 1984, the movie world was up in arms about Silent Night, Deadly Night and the fact that its central figure was a serial killer who dressed as Santa Claus.  Although killer Santas were nothing new, the controversy surrounding Silent Night, Deadly Night took publicity away from another 1984 Christmas slasher film, one in which the men in Santa suits were the victims, called Don’t Open Till Christmas.

The Guilt Trip PosterOn December 19, 2012 Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand are heading out on the open road in the comedy The Guilt Trip.  I had the pleasure to attend the press conference for The Guilt Trip with Barbra and Seth in attendance, as well as director Anne Fletcher and screenwriter Dan Fogelman.  The questions posed to all four made for a stimulating and often times hilarious afternoon.  Even if everyone wanted a piece of Barbra--but you can't blame them, it is a rare occasion to have the opportunity to ask Barbra Streisand a question.  Here are some of my favorite moments...with commentary thrown in for good measure here and there.

How To Make A MonsterOnce a horror franchise gains momentum and finds an audience, it’s only a matter of time before sequels are no longer enough to satisfy its audience – the next step is a crossover.  From Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and King Kong vs. Godzilla to Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, monster crossovers have a proven track record at the box office, attracting fans from both original franchise camps as well as new viewers who are curious to the trend.  In 1958, American International Pictures took advantage of the teenage monster film craze and released a different kind of crossover film called How to Make a Monster.

Deadfall PosterEric Bana once played the Hulk, in the forgettable 2003 film Hulk, directed by Life Of Pi's Ang Lee.   Charlie Hunnam currently stars as Jax Teller on the hugely popular television show "Sons of Anarchy," and Olivia Wilde is on her way to becoming box office poison with the lack of success her last starring role films have had, namely Tron: Legacy, The Words, and The Change-Up.  Kate Mara (10 Years), well, she is someone you always wished had a better agent, but she never seems to get one.  Throw in Sissy Spacek, Treat Williams, and Kris Kristofferson for good measure, or because you can given their schedules are quite free these days, and you have the surprisingly talented cast of Deadfall.

OctamanMonster movies are some of the oldest, most beloved horror movies.  As such, monster movies have also used every sort of cinematic technology to bring their beasts to life.  The mother of all monster movies itself, King Kong, has been made and remade three times in three different ways: in 1933 with stop-motion animation, in 1976 using the simple but classic man-in-a-gorilla suit, and in 2005 utilizing the latest in green-screen CG technology.  Horror and sci-fi fans are especially fond of the second method, the rubber suit monster, due to the varying degrees of camp and quality and because of the sheer fun of the creature feature.  In 1971, Octaman was released, updating the classic creature feature for the nineteen seventies.

The Black Cat, starring Boris Karloff and Bela LugosiBela Lugosi and Boris Karloff both had successful and prolific acting careers before the 1930s, but the pair became horror icons when they were cast in their signature roles, Lugosi as the title role in Dracula and Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein, by Universal Pictures.  As two of the crown jewels in Universal’s horror stable, Lugosi and Karloff were bound to be teamed up, and the first film in which the two actors took the screen together was 1934’s The Black Cat.

Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren in The GirlIn the wake of the release of Fox Searchlight’s long anticipated Alfred Hitchcock biopic, appropriately called Hitchcock, a different production about the master of suspense has flown under the radar.  Home Box Office, in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Corporation, has made their own Hitchcock film, The Girl, which focuses on a darker side of the influential director.

Brad Pitt as Jackie Cogan in KILLING THEM SOFTLY  Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon © 2011 Cogan’s ProductionsHappy Holidays, everyone.  This year the FilmFracture team brings you the most anticipated, and must see movies, of the 2012 Holiday Movie Season.  Some may be obvious--The Hobbit--others not so much--Silent Night--but they are coming to theatres to make your holiday a little more bright, while being spent in the dark.   

Blood FreakThe horrors of drug abuse have had the pleasure of being documented on film for nearly a hundred years.  While most of these films are thinly veiled social commentary, others mask their message in a true artistic expression of cinema.  Somewhere in between Reefer Madness and Requiem for a Dream sits a weird little horror film from 1972 called Blood Freak which tries to do both – yet accomplishes neither.

Sandman in Rise of the GuardiansDreamworks Animation has given moviegoers some of the most treasured animated franchises; from the Shrek and Madagascar series of films to Kung Fu Panda's, as well as How To Train Your Dragon and the highly anticipated upcoming sequel coming 2014.  Their newest film, Rise of the Guardians is based on a series of books by William Joyce called "The Guardians of Childhood" that brings to life a world where Santa Klaus (voice of Alex Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (voice of Hugh Jackman), Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy (voice of Isla Fisher) exist to keep the world safe; they are The Guardians and it is with the belief of children around the world as to their existence that their powers remain in tact.  There is one other fabled character who has never been given much attention in the modern age, or any age for that matter, Jack Frost (voice of Chris Pine). Rise of the Guardians is Jack Frost's story as to how he becomes one of the Guardians, while assisting the others in saving the world from the evil Boogeyman (voice of Jude Law).

The Brain EatersAs long as there have been actors, there have been actors wanting to be directors.  Whether they would handle it all from the beginning of their careers, like Orson Welles or Woody Allen, or transitioned into directing after years of acting, like George Clooney or Ben Affleck, the desire to move from in front of the camera to behind it is a common one in Hollywood.  This “I-can-do-that” mentality has even hit the low budget horror world and, in 1958, famed B-movie character actor Bruno VeSota (Attack of the Giant Leeches) tried his hand at directing in American International Pictures’ sci-fi horror gem The Brain Eaters.

TOM HOLLAND stars in THE IMPOSSIBLE  Photo: Jose Haro  © 2012 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.Natural disasters are easy prey for filmmakers wherein the melodrama is grown organically out of the true story the film portrays.  This is usually their downfall, as the events and performances are so over-the-top and seeping with mushiness that they get thrown onto a Cable Network and forgotten--all for the best.  Then there is one that goes against the odds stacked up against it, a melodrama based on true events that takes place during a harrowing experience that is the entire film-worthy package, meant to be seen on a big screen.  The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona of The Orphanage (2007), is that movie.

Post Tenebras LuxCarlos Reygadas burst on the scene as an unapologetically pretentious arthouse director with Japón [2002], and gained instant renown/notoriety in the circles that care. This was cemented with Battle In Heaven [2005], but the calmed down Silent Light [2007] won over many of the off-put. For Post Tenebras Lux, however, he returns to his first inclinations with a vengeance.

BarbaraBarbara’s elliptical beginning delivers the eponymous heroine, a doctor, to a provincial hospital in a seaside town. She is just released from some unspecified incarceration, and still under surveillance from the implacable secret police. Only gradually do we realize that this is East Germany in the early 80s, and only gradually do we warm to Barbara’s sour trout face and hard, defiant, watchful eyes.

Laurence AnywaysXavier Dolan stretches out with his third feature, not just in budget and length, but in matching his emotionally high-pitched material with an equally bravura style, and in tackling a subject less frequently seen on screen even than the tortured mother-son relationship of his début éclatant, I Killed My Mother [2009], or the MMF love triangle of Heartbeats [2010]. He remains for the first time behind the camera, ceding the demanding lead role to veteran French actor Melvil Poupard – he started aged 9 with Raúl Ruiz – who gives a subtly restrained and highly appealing performance in Laurence Anyways.

TabuThe rather lovely tone of Miguel Gomes’ Tabu is set from the beginning, in a poetic voiceover prologue about a widowed huntsman in Africa, accompanied by a beautiful, simple piano piece, and dripping in that peculiarly Portuguese saudade.

Caesar Must DieCaesar Must Die is apparently a small, simple film, with one straightforward aim: to remind the viewer that lifers in a maximum security prison in Rome, no matter their crimes, remain emotionally valid and susceptible human beings. Yet to achieve this, the veteran Taviani brothers take on one of the most nebulous issues of them all, the power of art, via that most enduring of artists, in the prison production of Julius Caesar.

PietaThis is really quite a silly film, Piéta, albeit played totally deadpan, from the portentous and only-just-relevant title on down, as a punky young loan enforcer goes around crippling the poor machinist clients who cannot pay their exorbitant interest. The appearance of a silent, nicely-dressed middle-aged lady amidst the fantastic detritus of the industrial tenement setting forces him out of his lonely, cold-blooded routine, and awakens suppressed mother issues that will leave him unable to do his job, and wide open for revenge.

Death WeekendWith its origins in the early seventies, the revenge film has consistently been one of the most controversial genres in the horror world.  Not only do these films feature extreme graphic violence, but they often include misogynistic scenes of rape and dismemberment that are not intended for the faint of heart.  Revenge films are frightening in a different way than typical horror films; they don’t include supernatural creatures or mythical monsters, instead opting to use human antagonists that are every bit as evil, but bring a sense of realism to the story.  In 1976, Ivan Reitman (yes, that Ivan Reitman, the man who also brought the world Ghostbusters and Animal House) produced a nasty little Canadian film called Death Weekend that remains one of the forgotten gems of the revenge film subgenre.

LeviathanLeviathan is a fantastic audio-visual experiment, presented as by the Sensory Ethnography Lab. The emphasis is on the sensory, so to get the other out of the way, it is filmed entirely on and around a commercial fishing vessel and yes, it’s a hard life for these fishermen, with much of their work machinelike in its mindless repetition, and mostly at night (happily the fish-gutting is filmed with some discretion; the removal of ray wings less so).

WrongEven if one’s not seen Quentin Dupieux’s loopy telekinetic tire movie Rubber [2010] it’s quite clear from the start of Wrong – the wrong “A Film By” credit, followed by a nice if obvious gag on the hackneyed alarm clock shot – that this is going to be another surreal oddity.

Berberian Sound StudioThis is unashamedly unconventional, but in a fan rather than snooty way. Using (mostly) just diegetic sound from the post-production of a fictional mid-70s Italian horror movie, Peter Strickland has followed his superb debut, Katalin Varga [2009], with a largely non-narrative nightmare hymn both to the electronic soundtrack experiments of that time, and to the gorgeous analogue gear that made such arcane chantries of the era’s recording studios, with Berberian Sound Studio.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SKYFALL. PHOTO BY: Francois Duhamel COPYRIGHT: Skyfall ©2011 Danjaq, LLC, United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.Thus far Daniel Craig's James Bond films – Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace – have been a mixed bag. While the former was a successful reinvention of agent 007 the latter threw most of those intriguing concepts away in favor of a humdrum story about water being our most precious resource. However, despite the inferior quality of Quantum of Solace there was a belief that Craig's Bond was still a viable hero, one that could be redeemed. And thankfully MGM too saw fit to keep the property alive with Craig, and will this week deliver the third Bond adventure for Craig (23rd for Bond), Skyfall.

The Angel's ShareThere are pockets of whimsy in the Ken Loach filmography, but following 2009’s Looking for Eric, he seems more fully than ever to be embracing an Ealing-inflected lightheartedness. The Angel's Share starts off in reasonably familiar territory, as a succession of poor, unemployed Scots have their petty crimes recounted in court, and the community service sentences passed down. All crew cuts, tracksuits, and impenetrable Glasgow accents, the stage is set for some grubby grim-up-northness, but Loach’s film turns out to be anything but.

A Highjacking (Kapringen)Director Tobias Lindholm's first feature film R was a gritty prison drama that upheaved the generic genre conventions that came before.  His second feature takes a drastic look at a very topical subject, and one very much ignored in detail in the media--except for the sensationalizing of pirates sailing the open sea.  A Highjacking is the story of a group of crew members aboard a Danish ship headed to Mumbai, sailing in waters that are not common territory for water-bound highjacking.  Never say never is the shocking truth that A Highjacking brings to life, with as much intensity and claustrophobia possible.  

AntiviralIf nothing else, Brandon Cronenberg has been quite unafraid to make a film that could pass for an earlier one of his father’s. Antiviral boasts a fertile premise that ties biological interference to celebrity obsession, is very handsomely mounted, and features a fine, committed performance from Caleb Landry Jones in the lead. But the title rings hollow as an antidote to the modern woes depicted on screen, or as representative of any of the characters’ actions or motivations – like the film itself, catchy, but little more than superficially thought-provoking.

Something In The AirIt should be noted that the original title of Olivier Assayas’ well-received Something In The Air is Après Mai. For a film set in France in 1970, that inevitably means “after [the extensive riots of ] May 1968”. Let it be clear, however, that this is neither a political film, nor a film about politics. The Assayas surrogate takes part in high school revolutionary activity, and the context is being heavily used to sell the film of course, along with the implications of autobiography. But that title also means “after school got out in May”, because it’s basically Assayas’ “What I did in my summer vacation 1970” and it goes something like this:

Like Someone I LoveAbbas Kiarostami has gone to Japan, and why not? Like Someone In Love is less obviously tricksy than his last, and his first outside of Iran, Certified Copy [2010]; and it reveals a little more of what was obvious all along – that Kiarostami’s interests lie in people, identity, and communication (between characters, and with the audience), rather than in cultural specificity. This is no more a film about Japan than the last was a film about Tuscany, or the others – really – are about Iran.

Trick ot TreatsOf all the holidays that have had horror movies made in their honor over the years, there is still only one undisputed champion of the genre: the spookiest holiday of them all, Halloween.  In 1978, John Carpenter’s genre defining classic Halloween paved the way for several imitators, the most obvious being a film made by adult film director Gary Graver a few short years later in 1982 called Trick or Treats.

Nairobi Half LifeIf you go to the AFI FEST website, and select Film Guide from the navigation menu, you will find all of the festival's sections laid out before you, with an image from one film highlighting each.  It should come as no surprise that Nairobi Half Life has been selected to represent the 'Breakthrough' section of the guide.  Not to discount the greatness of the other five films in the section but after viewing Nairobi Half Life it is hard to imagine any other film being as remarkable--although I am sure they all have their respective merits, and I will discover those when the festival runs November 1-8, much to my excitement.  For now I will share with you the fascinating and brilliant accomplishment in filmmaking that is Nairobi Half Life.

StarletThe 'Young Americans' section of the AFI FEST program is a place where emerging U.S. filmmakers showcase their recent works to the festival audience in the hopes that they will win the coveted audience award prize.  There are eleven films in the section for the 2012 festival, three of which have made an incredible impression on me during my pre-festival coverage--I have not seen all of the eleven, and I look forward to watching the rest during AFI FEST 2012 (November 1-8).  But for now, a preview of three sure contenders for the audience award, and they are undoubtedly going to please every festival goer who takes the time to see them--and I highly recommend you add them to your schedule--The International Sign For Choking, Somebody Up There Likes Me, and Starlet.

Jack The RipperAs frightening as fictional serial killers can be, they are no match for the real-life bad guys.  Movies have been made about the most famous of mass murderers, including both exploitation films like Ted Bundy and big Hollywood productions such as Zodiac.  Back in 1959, the earliest of the household name serial killers also got the first movie of the bunch when Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman unleashed Jack the Ripper.

The New KidsEver since the resurgence of the slasher film in the early eighties, teenagers have been the staple victims in horror movies.  Whether it’s a lone babysitter trapped in a dark house or a group of camp counselors stranded in the woods, the relative innocence and inexperience of adolescents make them ripe for the picking.  In 1985, Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham went one better by making kids both the heroes and the villains, an effort that resulted in the teenage horror film The New Kids.

Édith Scob as In Leos Carax’s rather wonderful and fantastic new film Holy Motors, there are several points at which one may wonder what is real. The answer is none of it, and all of it. It begins explicitly as a dream, after all, in a cinema, with Carax the dreamer himself; but it is a dream of life, of possible lives, and a dream of the very process of cinema.

3,2,1...Frankie Go BoomSpending time with Charlie Hunnam and Lizzy Caplan together in an interview setting was anything but structured, cohesive, or lacking in humor.  Promoting their new film 3,2,1...Frankie Go Boom, it was a refreshing interview as the two actors had a great rapport with one another; they were constantly laughing, telling jokes, sparring with sarcasm, and for the most part making it extremely difficult to get a straight answer about anything.  It was one of the best times at an interview I have ever experienced, because it was unpredictable.  Here is a highlight reel of their best commentary.  Warning, it does not make much sense as a whole, and that is kind of the point, but please be aware that everything was said in jest, and should not be construed in any other way when/if possible.

Hatchet For The HoneymoonSerial Killer as anti-hero has been a popular motif in slasher films for as long as there have been slasher films.  From the seminal Peeping Tom through the influential Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to the over-the-top American Psycho, cold blooded murderers have always made a fun and different type of protagonist, one that can be rooted for as well as against.  In 1970, legendary Italian giallo director Mario Bava (Twitch of the Death Nerve, Black Sunday) introduced the world to his own psycho killer John Harrington in an under-the-radar film called Hatchet for the Honeymoon.

Don't Look NowThree things that have always made good fodder for horror films are ghosts, psychics and serial killers.  In 1973, director Nicolas Roeg (The Witches) combined these elements in his film Don’t Look Now and, in the process, created one of the most frightening British films ever made.

Boris Karloff in The GhoulAlthough Boris Karloff had been making movies for years before he became the monster in Frankenstein, this signature roll opened the gates to offers for more monster roles and cemented his legacy as an icon in the horror genre.  Tucked neatly within Karloff’s filmography between The Mummy and The Black Cat is a lost little classic from 1933 called The Ghoul which ranks as one of his creepiest films.

The Video DeadThere are two kinds of bad movies.  There are bad movies that are just unwatchable, and then there are bad movies that strike a chord with certain audiences and are sought out and viewed because of the very fact that they are bad.  In 1987, The Video Dead was made, becoming an instant cult classic and inspiring horror fans for decades.

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The MasterWhen Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival the immediate reaction from critics in attendance was that of high praise.  The festival jury agreed, bestowing best actor awards to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix and best director to Paul Thomas Anderson; and, as is expected at the Venice Film Festival, a scandal erupted over whether the best picture Golden Lion went to The Master or Kim Ki-duk's Pieta [NY Times Artsbeat].  The admiration for filming on 65mm (to be seen on 70mm in theatres) also gave The Master an immediate boost is likability because in a dying world of film usage in lieu of the cheaper digital format a movie made on 65mm is rare beyond measure.  The usage pays off as The Master is breathtakingly beautiful with its expansive extreme wide shots and uncomfortable close-ups that last far too long and cause one to stir in his seat from the intrusive nature of the shot.  The trance inducing score with its methodical rhythm only further creates an almost ominous feeling surrounding the entire film, creating a place in time that is haunted by the ghosts of the characters.  The technical aspects of The Master are not what will have people talking after seeing it, and the scandal in Venice has since been forgotten, as the praise for The Master continues--but the worthiness of such praise is complicated, as The Master's success or failure resides in a viewer's own perception of the material, and the material presented is difficult to process.

The Legend of Hell HouseLegendary writer Richard Matheson has had his hand in dozens of Hollywood productions, whether it has been as the imagination behind many of the more memorable episodes of “The Twilight Zone” or as the creator of screenplays for movies like I Am Legend or Duel.  In 1973, Matheson’s most frightening book was brought to the big screen, and The Legend of Hell House turned the haunted house genre on its ear.

David (Michael Fassbender) in PrometheusRidley Scott's newest film Prometheus (2012) has raised a great many questions, and provided few direct answers for moviegoers.  This piece seeks to uncover some of the mystery surrounded the unanswered questions in Prometheus while analyzing the information provided in the film.  It contains spoilers, and ideas that are solely those of the author and is not intended to be considered factual in its basis.  Unless you completely agree that is, and then of course, it holds truth; more truth than you could ever imagine.  Now, let's have some fun figuring out Prometheus.

The WordsA writer's words can project their soul onto the page, for the world to embrace, admonish, or when such words reveal a love story beyond measure to provoke a wealth of emotion.  Passing off another's work as your own is the cruelest act a writer can commit; in The Words, Bradley Cooper's character Rory Jansen does just that.  But the truth behind the motivation of Rory to use another man's story in order to become a published writer is not simple.  The complexity of Rory's tale tests morality, as it also reveals the truths behind the fact that having told a story may be more important than who actually wrote the story.  The Words is a complicated dialogue on morals, on truth, and most of all a love story that makes the aforementioned inconsequential.

Blood and RosesVampires have always been the most sexy and loved movie monsters.  Starting with Dracula himself, following through The Lost Boys and continuing into Twilight, bloodsuckers have gained a reputation as the hip, romantic undead beings.  It’s not just the male vampires that can be fashionable, either, as director Roger Vadim (Barbarella) showed the world in his 1960 film Blood and Roses.

The AmabassadorPolitically charged documentaries are a dime a dozen.  Documentaries of a satirical nature, that also say a great deal about world politics in an informative, engaging, and humorous way are less common.  Danish Director Mads Brugger  ventures into the territory of political documentary satire, or a political farce, with The Ambassador.  Mads opens The Ambassador by stating, "Here ends my life as a Danish journalist."  His new life venture is to become an African Diplomat, for bags of diamonds he claims he can smuggle out of his new found country as a Diplomat.  His country of choice, thanks to the ease of achieving Diplomat status with the right amount of money, is Liberia.  His target is the Central African Republic (CAR), a little known country to the rest of the world but a place full of what Mads wants most: blood diamonds.  Mads Brugger uses his style of documentary storytelling that he calls "performative journalism" to share his experience.  In performative journalism he creates an "absurd caricature of a corrupt diplomat, with hidden cameras, black-market credentials, and razor-sharp wit."  The experiment is a success, to say the least.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The LaneNineteen Seventy-six was a banner year for Jodie Foster.  Already a bona-fide television child star, the fourteen-year-old made the jump to the silver screen in a big way, with not only her Oscar-nominated turn in Taxi Driver, but with starring roles in the family films Bugsy Malone and Freaky Friday.  Those projects alone probably made her the hardest working kid in Hollywood, but she also showed off her versatility in a creepy little horror mystery called The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.

The Iran JobIn director Till Schauder's documentary, The Iran Job, American basketball player Kevin Sheppard travels to Iran in 2008 and joins the Iranian Super League, Iran's equivalent to America's National Basketball Association.  Although Kevin's professional career has been spent overseas playing in countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, China and Israel, living in Iran initially makes him very nervous.  His worry, shared by his parents and his girlfriend back home, is warranted considering Iran's reputation of being one of the world's most feared countries, a safe-haven for Islamic terrorists, and suspect of being in constant development of nuclear weapons.  From the very beginning of the film director Till Schauder establishes America's rocky relationship with the foreign country via old press conference footage of former President George W. Bush and Senator Hilary Clinton condemning president Ahmadinejad's calling for the destruction of Israel.  Schauder also films various Iranian neighborhoods with huge anti-American street art displayed upon their walls.  As if living in an "enemy" state isn't nerve-wracking enough, Kevin is being paid more than any other player to ensure the first year team, A.S. Shiraz, makes it to the playoffs.

We Women WarriorsThe country of Colombia has always been a place of violence, political unrest, and consistently under scrutiny.  Famously known for its Drug Cartel, and former cartel leader Pablo Escobar, Colombia continues to supply 90% of the cocaine to US drug traffickers.  A rarely told viewpoint is that of the women in Colombia, from the rural villages that are caught in the crossfire between the government and guerillas.  Director Nicole Karsin ventures into this unchartered feminist viewpoint with the documentary We Women Warriors.  Told from the perspective of three native women, Doris an Awa from Southern Colombia, Ludis a Kankuamo of Northern Colombia, and Flor Ilva, a Nasa woman in Southern Colombia, Karsin weaves an intricate story about perseverance in a place where violence has overrun the desire for peace, but three women seek to make change with non-violent actions.

Greed, blackmail, sex, and...butter.  These are the four components that make-up Director Jim Field Smith's quirky movie aptly titled Butter.  Set in the oh-so-americana State of Iowa, where State Fairs do indeed still exist, there is the royal family of butter carvers, the Picklers. Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) has been the Iowa State champion of butter carvers for the past fifteen years, his crowning achievement's include 'The Last Supper' and 'T-Rex Eating Girl', plus the impressive 'Shindler's List'.  It is his wife Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) who has been by his side the entire time, making sure Bob achieves greatness, and doing her part to maintain the utmost of poise as the First Lady of butter carvers. 

The Mole PeopleScience fiction films, particularly those creature features from the 1950s, usually dealt with aliens from another world traveling through space in an attempt to invade or colonize Earth.  But what about the beings who have always been here, hiding just out of sight?  Prolific television Western director Virgil W. Vogel (“Wagon Train” and “The Big Valley”) asked that same question in 1956 when he made The Mole People, creating one of the most unique sci-fi monster movies ever made.

Robert Pattinson (left) stars as “Eric Packer” and Sarah Gadon stars as “Elise Shifrin” in the upcoming release of Entertainment One’s COSMOPOLISRobert Pattinson smells like sex...that is what director David Cronenberg makes clear in Cosmopolis, his new film starring Robert Pattinson as the paranoid corporate tycoon Eric Packer who is destined to fall prey to his own created schizoid demise.  Adapted from the highly acclaimed novel "Cosmopolis" by Paulo Branco, Cronenberg's screen adaptation pits Pattinson against his own known screen persona, the vampire, baiting him to come forth and prove he is more than a cool and distant undead male desperately seeking affection and empathy for his cruel deeds.  But Pattinson's Eric is exactly the same typographical character in Cosmopolis; the only difference being his thirst is not for blood but for money, security, and power.

Eaten Alive (Tobe Hooper 1977)In 1974, director Tobe Hooper put himself on the horror map with his seminal fright flick The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  So, how does the next big thing in horror follow up one of the most influential films in the history of cinema?  By making a movie about a serial killer who feeds his victims to his pet crocodile, which is exactly what Hooper did in 1977 with Eaten Alive.

Pharaoh's CurseMummies are some of the more unsung movie monsters, not getting as much attention as vampires or werewolves despite being a consistent fixture of horror cinema.  Legendary studios like Universal and Hammer have always cranked out their numerous mummy movies and sequels, and in 1957 United Artists got into the picture when they distributed a different kind of mummy movie, a film called Pharaoh’s Curse.

DeathdreamW.W. Jacobs’ short story about wishes-gone-bad, “The Monkey’s Paw,” has been adapted into several effective films, but most of them stop when the story ends, when the mother has wished her dead son back to life and he knocks on the door. Although it draws inspiration from the same place, director Bob Clark’s 1974 film Deathdream starts at the end of the classic story, showing what would happen if the door was opened.

TraumaWhen a film has a bit of success, it’s inevitable that other films will try to ride the coattails and cash in on the windfall.  The best example is John Carpenter’s Halloween and its ushering in of the golden age of the slasher film.  Years before, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho inspired scores of filmmakers to pump out quick and cheap movies in an attempt to exploit the new psychopathic killer fad.  One of the more interesting of these films is Robert M. Young’s 1962 horror mystery Trauma.

Patrick PosterAs a horror movie device, the power of telekinesis has always been popular.  Brian De Palma made two films about it, Carrie and The Fury, before he even grew out of his Hitchcock phase.  As overused as it is, the ability to move things with one’s mind is still an understated and misunderstood skill, and that combination opens doors to frightening situations.  In 1978 (The same year that De Palma released The Fury), Australian director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) put an interesting spin on the subject by having his psychokinetic antagonist be a comatose young man named Patrick.

The ImposterBritish filmmaker Bart Layton came across a story that appeared more fiction than truth.  A 23-year-old French-Algerian man had stolen the identity of a missing Texan boy, some three-and-a-half years after his disappearance.  A master con-man, Frédéric Bourdin was in need of a new identity, being wanted by Interpol for his crimes and finding himself without any options left in Linares, Spain.  A master manipulator, he posed as a missing teenager and was taken in by the Linares police after tourists phoned in their finding a scared and troubled boy.  The events that occurred afterwards are outwardly shocking, and the story Bart Layton creates on screen of this real-life happening is absolutely intoxicating to watch.

Saturday the 14thIn the late nineties, Wes Craven’s Scream franchise had become so popular that it inspired its own comic horror send-up, the aptly title Scary Movie, that has spawned just as many sequels as its muse (so far, three).  While no one will ever be able to accuse Scary Movie of being overly original, even the idea of a horror movie spoof was done twenty years earlier when Julie Corman (Roger Corman’s wife and B-movie producer extraordinaire) brought Saturday the 14th to the table.

Uncle SamHoliday themed films have been all the rage, beginning back in the late seventies with Halloween and continuing through the modern era with Valentine.  When it comes to the Fourth of July, the choices slim out a little bit; of course, Jaws takes place on the holiday, and there’s the obviously named Independence Day.  But those are big budget no-brainers.  If one really wants to see an under-the-radar July 4th movie, the real American Hero is Uncle Sam.

About FaceModels.  The word alone can send women into a panic of self-doubt and conjure body image issues galore.  What is it about models that makes women intensely insecure?  It is not the models, the women to be exact, that perpetuate this reaction in women but the manner in which cultures substantiate that a model is the ideal, the embodiment of perfection. To be beautiful one must look like a model.  This is of course an impossible feat for a woman as we cannot all look the same way, nor should we want to--and we do not all have access to make-up artists, personal trainers, nutritionists, and all of the other necessities that go along with a life in front of the camera.  The societal pressures to be perfect, to be model-like, is a constant sociological problem that has been addressed in numerous documentaries.  Have you ever wondered what the aging model thinks about the entire situation?  How they handle growing older in a profession that glorifies youthfulness and admonishes aging?  Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders has assembled some of the biggest fashion models from the past 60-years to discuss these questions, and more, about their life as part of the modeling world in About Face.

Neil Young Photo by Declan Quinn, Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsYou may want to bring some ear plugs for this, because Neil Young Journeys is a concert film shot in a style so loud and yet intimate that you may be taken with the fear of getting hit by some of the legendary rocker’s sweat and spittle. Filmed in May 2011 at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall, Young is in peak form, playing his classics and new material with passion and verve.

Visiting HoursThe setting in which a horror movie takes place is integral to the effectiveness of the scares; haunted houses, insane asylums and dark forests are much more threatening than bright, sunny suburban neighborhoods.  Yet, when an innocent place becomes the scene of terror, it can be doubly frightening.  In 1982, a Canadian film from the golden age of slashers showed that not even a hospital, a place of healing and curing, is exempt from evil in Visiting Hours.

BestiaireDenis Côté, DP Vincent Biron, and producer Sylvain Corbeil have created a singular (beast of a) movie with Bestiaire. Offered the chance to shoot at a rather tired safari park in rural Quebec, Côté decided to make an experiment, to find new ways of making images of animals.

 

Phase IVAce title designer Saul Bass (and ace designer of all sorts of other things) directed only one feature, Phase IV (1974). Notoriously hard to see, it was tracked down by the TCM Classic Film Festival in a rare, original release print, scratched and kind of pink, but a real oddball treasure.

Neighboring SoundsThe sounds are heard around a burgeoning middle-class street in Brazil’s Recife, half of which used to be owned by silver-bearded patriarch Francisco, but which is now mostly tower blocks. First-time feature director Kleber Mendonça Filho reworks some of his shorts material to lay out a mosaic of life on this particular, present-day street, both aurally and visually, centered largely on the extended family who have always lived there. The camera wanders through a playground of kids, or spies on a kissing couple near a rooftop below. Other extras and kids pop up from time to time – the kissing girl even gets to answer to her called-out name later on – but the film concentrates on a relatively small handful of characters, following them through the inconsequential mundanities of everyday life.

Kim Kold as Dennis in Teddy BearAt every film festival there always seems to be one movie that strikes you as a viewer more so than any other.  For the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival the honor goes to Director Mads Matthiesen's Teddy Bear.  The promotional image for Teddy Bear displays a hulking figure of a man, bodybuilder Dennis (real-life super-heavyweight bodybuilder Kim Kold), curling his biceps in front of a mirror with a barbell weighted far more than most people could carry with both hands.  Dennis is covered in tattoos, rippling with muscles, and looks nothing like the gentile man you come to know in Teddy Bear--a juxtaposition of a title if there ever was one to the striking figure of the man it refers.  But Dennis is all heart, a sweet-natured man who yearns for love but is painfully shy.

The Dunwich HorrorAside from Edgar Allan Poe (and possibly Richard Matheson), no writer has had their short stories adapted into horror films more often than H.P. Lovecraft.  Lovecraft has been so influential to the genre that even films which are not direct retellings of his stories, like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead series, are based around one of his inventions, the Necronomicon, or the Book of the Dead.  One of the first appearances of the Necronomicon on the big screen was director Daniel Haller’s 1970 creep-fest The Dunwich Horror.

Matthew McConaughey as Joe and Emile Hirsch as Chris in Killer JoePresented by the Director himself, William Friedkin, Killer Joe played to a full house on the second night of the Los Angeles Film Festival 2012 and the entire room was laughing out loud, enjoying every minute of this dark and twisted tale.  As Friedkin puts it, "It's a comedy by the way, you must not freak out."

Quvenzhane Wallis as The advent of cinema created a world where artists could create moving portraits, an artistic medium not bound my any form of limitations.  Rarely a film is created that holds a transgressive quality, the ability to move you completely out of your comfort zone and violate the standard laws of filmmaking.  Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin, who co-wrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar, has done just that, and more.  Beasts of the Southern Wild may be classified as a magical realist film, wherein the real and the fantastic exist in the same place, simultaneously, and without pure distinction.

Larry Cohen's The StuffIn the world of horror movies, death can come from many places.  Danger is all around, whether it comes from the axe of a masked serial killer, the claws of a rabid monster or the mouth of a mysterious alien.  But what happens when the harm comes from something as seemingly innocent as desert?  That was the question posed in 1985 by the horror/comedy film The Stuff.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Veronika VossWhat a pleasure it has been to wallow in the 16-film Fassbinder retrospective this past two weeks. For various reasons it’s not been easy to see his films in the theater, but now that distributers Janus hold this selection of (very nice) subtitled prints, one can hope that they’ll resurface more frequently.

A Band Called DeathWhen Drag City announced a couple of years ago that they were releasing a long-lost early ‘70s album by a band you never heard of, named Death, comprising three black brothers from Detroit who made punk rock years before anyone else, the knee-jerk reaction was to assume this was just hipster bait. But your (my) knees should know better, for Drag City can be trusted by and large, and the band and their story are truly worthy of their unusual, if belated, place in the pantheon.

Wallander: The RevengeIt has taken over two years for Charlotte Brandstrom's Wallander: The Revenge to gain theatrical distribution in the U.S., and it has been worth the wait.  The film is a continuation of the highly successful novels written by Henning Mankell that feature the main character Kurt Wallander, a Swedish police detective.  Instead of merely adapting one of the published novels, a fete that has been done to nearly all of them, Mankell created thirteen new stories featuring Wallander, starting with The Revenge being released theatrically and the following twelve episodes will be released on VOD and DVD, all with a running time of 90 minutes. 

The Beast of Yucca FlatsAlthough no one doubts their physical prowess, it’s no secret that today’s professional wrestlers are as much actors as they are athletes.  When a movie needs a certain type of personality, the filmmaker can usually turn to a grappler who wants to make a name for himself in Hollywood, whether as a hero, like Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s They Live, or as a villain, such as Tyler Mane in Rob Zombie’s Halloween.  Starting in the 1930’s, 400 pound Swedish sensation Tor Johnson blazed the acting wrestler trail, becoming one of B-movie legend Ed Wood’s favorite oddities in the process.  He had recurring roles in Wood films like Bride of the Monster and the classic Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it was a film that wasn’t directed by Wood, 1961’s The Beast of Yucca Flats, which would go down as Johnson’s last credited film.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder We’re halfway through the American Cinematheque’s wonderful Fassbinder retrospective, and if it’s demonstrated one thing, it’s that a Fassbinder double bill is a hell of a lot of cinema. His work rate was so prolific that one would assume a film here and there to have been merely tossed off. Some of them were, but his remarkable sense of how drama plays, and what can be done with the camera to enhance that drama, repeatedly finding variations on obsessive themes – the self-perpetuating hierarchy of power and control, in socio-economic or love-relationship terms, and the impossibility of freedom – is so sure that every single one is an immersive viewing experience, rich in text and subtext. It is as though Fassbinder had an innate, instinctive film-making ability, which works even when it shouldn’t: asked by Peter Chatel, his envoy to present Despair (1977) at Cannes, why there’s lots of Nazis at the start but almost none later on, Fassbinder confessed he’d forgotten to film them. Chatel protested that he couldn’t tell that to people; of course not, replied Fassbinder, just tell them that in 1933 the Nazis were a new thing, but that later on people had become insidiously inured to them. It works.

Hide AwayHide Away is the simple story of a man who buys an old ship and fixes it.  Even the main characters are simply named the Young Mariner (Josh Lucas), The Ancient Mariner (James Cromwell), and The Waitress (Ayelet Zuerer).  The movie is not so much concerned with complicated plot lines as it is with the straightforward metaphor of man as a broken down vessel.  The film relies on performance and mood to bring the myth to life, which unfortunately is not altogether successful.  The actors give their all in an attempt to salvage the shipwreck and Director of Photography, Elliot Davis, is able to find sadness in nature throughout all four seasons of the year, but none of it is enough to compensate for the bare-bones script.  Dialogue is replaced with silence, which would be fine if the rare conversations that did take place weren’t so wooden.  The actor who sells the boat to the Young Mariner could’ve been easily substituted with a robot.  The film also dwells too long in the territory of the vague.  The audience’s patience wears thin as we await any hint of the Young Mariner’s back-story.  When finally revealed it then turns out that the secrets should have stayed hidden as the scene is melodramatic and underwhelming.  Major turning points in the plot also feel overly convenient and unearned.

HysteriaTanya Wexler's Hysteria makes its point as a lighthearted comedy about the invention of the vibrator once a woman breaks out into an aria from “La Traviata" after receiving hands-on stimulation from her doctor.  Hysteria is not the average romantic comedy, nor is it a biographical account of how the vibrator was invented in London, circa 1880.  The Victorian prudeness is front and center in Hysteria; you will never hear the word orgasm spoken by any character, especially the prim and proper Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), who believes his method of curing hysteria in women is to "relieve tensions in the womb" by manual stimulation of the clitoris, another word unspoken of in the film.  It would be inappropriate to consider that women suffering from hysteria, a condition affecting the majority of women during the era that has them depressed, suffering nymphomania, anxious, or generally feeling malaise, is to in fact pleasure them sexually.  Their husbands would be mortified to think they were not pleasing their wives, or that they should.

The Fury, Brian De Palma 1978In 1976, Stephen King’s first novel, a memorable tale about a high school girl with telekinetic powers, was turned into the terrifying and successful movie Carrie by director Brian De Palma.  Less than two short years later, apparently not finished with the extrasensory perception motif, De Palma’s next movie dealt with a pair of young people with psychic gifts when he made The Fury in 1978.

The Monolith MonstersOnce the vampire and werewolf movies of the 1930s had run their courses, Hollywood producers turned to science fiction to get their monsters into theaters, pumping out alien invasion and radioactive creature movies by the dozens in the 1950s.  In 1957, the studio whose name is synonymous with monster movies, Universal, made a film called The Monolith Monsters that turned seemingly ordinary rocks into world-threatening invaders.

Lovely MollyA hand-held camcorder accepts the task of portraying the first-person account of an event.  It records the action, and by doing so records to memory what happened on a specific day, at a specific time.  Lovely Molly's director Eduardo Sanchez pioneered the use of the first-person camera, commonly called found-footage, in his debut film alongside Daniel Myrick, The Blair Witch Project.  The found-footage technique is grossly overused in cinema today, and nearly every horror movie employs it now--the low-budget aesthetic is just that, made on the cheap and eaten up by audiences.  Sanchez uses his pioneering technique in Lovely Molly, taking the audience on a journey through Molly's lens over the course of a year.  The opening scene of the film starts at the beginning with newcomer Gretchen Lodge as Molly, distressed and shaken speaking into the camera on 10.16.11 stating "it wasn't me" and that she is "not in control anymore."  The initial performance by Lodge in this brief scene relates the fact that she is going to be the defining core of Lovely Molly, and you are immediately hooked.

Something Wicked This Way ComesAlthough it may seem that making horror movies geared towards children is a waste of time, it has been proven time and again that a film does not need to rely on blood and violence to be frightening.  A tight thriller that can invoke fear in an audience without resorting to cheap standby methods of shock can be even more effective than any gory slasher, causing a young viewer to remember their fright well into adulthood.  In 1983, Walt Disney Studios took a stab at children’s horror with Something Wicked This Way Comes and, in the process, made kids everywhere afraid to go to carnivals.

Romeo and Juliet In YiddishAccording to Wikipedia, mumblecore is a term used to describe American independent films produced in the 2000s characterized by low budget production values and amateur actors.  Those looking for an example of the genre need not look any further as "amateur" can certainly be used to describe this particular interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.  Everything from the cheesy kung-fu fight scenes to the cheap special effects to the Yiddish rip-off of Eminem’s "The Real Slim Shady" makes watching Romeo And Juliet in Yiddish almost unbearable.  It’s a fact that director Eve Annenberg employed non-professional actors and so credit must be given to her for molding her cast into acceptable performers.  It's thus a shame when sound difficulties often muffle the dialogue, an unwelcome distraction even when subtitles are present.  The film does sport a variety of excellent exterior shots, whether it be outside of JFK International Airport, walking the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or hanging out at Coney Island.  Interior sets however, such as a scene set inside an airport security office scream for an art direction makeover.  With its obvious budgetary restraints, it’s safe to say that technical excellence is not the movie’s drawing point.

The Face of MarbleProlific Hollywood director William Beaudine is known mostly for his work on family-oriented television shows like “Lassie,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” and “The Mickey Mouse Club.”  However, he made scores of films, many of them crazy mash-ups of characters, such as Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter.  In 1946 he made another mix-up film, combining mad scientists, ghosts and voodoo witchcraft in a creepy ode to Frankenstein called The Face of Marble.

Luke Treadaway as Adam and Natalia Tena as Morello on the set of The rock music festival, a staple event in every culture, country, and a right of passage for many a youth yearning for days on end of unadulterated partying, live-music, and the possibility to connect with like-minded attendees.  There are a few such festivals that take place every year, made iconic over time for the spectacle they create.  One of the largest resides in Scotland, "T in The Park", over the course of 3-days during the Summer.  It was there, in the Summer of 2010, that Director David Mackenzie shot the film Tonight You're Mine; completely on location and with the full cooperation of festival director Geoff Ellis.

Kevin Costner In WaterworldIn a new exclusive series, FilmFracture will take you behind the scenes of Hollywood's inner sanctum. Like a fly on the wall, we will hear the actual conversations between directors and the movie producers after first screening a film. Ever wonder what the studio thought after seeing Casablanca? Star Wars? or Ishtar? Me too! And now we can learn together.

How did we get these transcripts and recordings, you ask? That's not important, and I'll thank you to stay out of my affairs.

The first installment of the series features Waterworld, Titanic, and No Country For Old Man.

The CarThe modern world can be such an impersonal place.  Take, for example, automobiles.  People tend to forget that there are other people in them so that, instead of living, breathing organisms with thoughts and emotions, they are considered just faceless metal objects standing between a driver and their intended destination.  But what happens when the object in the way is a bloodthirsty killing machine that doesn’t want to yield?  In 1977, a movie was released that let the world know what evil drives: The Car.



WombWomb
is utterly fascinating to watch, ponder, dissect, and try to understand the myriad of ideas it creates.  Fliegauf has definitely created something that stands apart from everything else and proves that his inclusion in the "Emerging Master" program is well deserved.

Sound Of My VoiceFox Searchlight Pictures is releasing Sound Of My Voice in select cities beginning April 27, 2012.  Co-writers, plus star and director, respectively, Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij sat down to answer questions about the film in a roundtable interview setting.  For a film such as Sound Of My Voice it was a welcome opportunity as the perplexing nature of the story breeds analysis from the viewer, and for a science fiction fan (like me!) all sorts of questions dying to be answered.

Bloody Pit Of HorrorThe Marquis de Sade’s writings are violent, sadistic and blasphemous.  It only makes sense that someone would make a horror movie based on them.  In 1965, Italian director Massimo Pupillo (under the name of Max Hunter) gave it his best shot on Bloody Pit of Horror.

The TCM Festival does a great job of getting old stars out to be fêted along with their classic films. Rhonda Fleming, Marsha Hunt and others turned up this year, but the highlight was undoubtedly the appearance by Peggy Cummins, wonderful star of Gun Crazy (1950).

Ms Cummins’s conversation with noir expert Eddie Mueller can be watched in almost its entirety here. Very unstarry, a discreetly composed and charming lady, she described a little of her journey to Hollywood, and of the production of this film.

Cry DangerOne of the more unlikely career moves of old Hollywood was Dick Powell’s evolution from nice-guy hoofer to tough-guy lowlife. Between Murder, My Sweet (1944) and Cry Danger (1951), both his image and his position within the industry were transformed. The TCM Classic Film Festival had expert Eddie Mueller to introduce each of their noir screenings, and he filled us in on how Powell struck out on his own, found investment in the mid-west, and set up Olympia Productions, whose only picture was Cry Danger.

La Grande IllusionOne of the big draws of the TCM Classic Film Festival is the presence of all kinds of luminaries, both of the silver screen and of the channel itself (swoon, Ben Mankiewicz). Another draw is the presentation of freshly restored old classics, and this year the festival hosted the US premiere of a brand new 4K scrubbing-up of Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937). This was introduced by Le Mank in conversation with veteran actor Norman Lloyd, not especially well known himself, despite being an original member of Welles’s Mercury Theater, and turning up in Limelight, Dead Poets Society, Losey’s M and Saboteur and Spellbound for Hitchcock. More to the point, he played support in Renoir’s The Southerner (1945), and he and his wife became very close friends with Jean and Dido during their stay in Hollywood.

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-RamaThe best thing for an aspiring motion picture director to do to hone his skills is to study at the heels of a master of the craft.  Low budget movie mogul David DeCoteau has had the fortune to work with two such mentors; In 1980, he got his start in the movie business from the legendary Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), and in 1986 he went to work for the inimitable Charles Band (Puppet Master, Re-Animator).  After working with these two B-movie giants, it’s no surprise that, in 1988, DeCoteau would make a movie with the over-the top, memorable name Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

Rosemary's BabyThe modern strand in this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival was a celebration of Robert Evans’ tenure at Paramount, and part of the ongoing 100th birthday celebrations of the studio. The too-late punters for the first Raw Deal screening couldn’t be tempted by the empty seats in Love Story, but it doesn’t take much persuading to get a film buff to sit through Chinatown or Rosemary’s Baby again. Except that after a gap of many years from my first viewing, it’d take quite a lot for me to sit through the latter a third time.

Clara Bow in Call Her SavageOne of my favorite screenings at last year’s TCM Classic Film Festival was Clara Bow in Hoop-La (1933), restored by MOMA at the urging of Bow biographer David Stenn. Stenn was on hand again this year to present Bow in Call Her Savage (1932), and to explain a bit about its background. The irrepressible Bow had fled Hollywood in disgrace a year before; the year before that she had been the No.1 box office star. She still had some clout, and decided she’d show ’em, with the sort of antics that had luminaries calling for a Production Code. Apparently her vigorous wrestling with a Great Dane (taller than she is) was a direct thumb of the nose to a published rumor that she’d enjoyed carnal relations with her own beloved dog.

KirikiThe jewel of Sunday morning’s program was the recently restored, original hand-colored version of Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la lune (1902). The colored version had long been presumed lost; it turned up in 1993, but fused into basically a solid disc in the canister. A certain amount was done to try and rescue it chemically, but Bromberg had to wait until 2010 for the digital technology to evolve that would allow for an actual restoration. 95% of the original coloring was saved, the rest seamlessly filled in (13,375 frames in total), and a splendid accompaniment commissioned from Air. Even in black and white, it is a film that never ceases to astonish; the pristine, vivid colors take it to a whole new level.

Mae West in I'm No AngelMae West...the feisty screen siren who defied the dictated societal norms placed upon women and was brash, to-the-point, and oh-so sexualized in every movie she made.  Teaming up with Cary Grant for the second time, Mae wrote the screenplay for I'm No Angel, a movie about a woman working in the circus who has a non-stop parade of boyfriends who keep her in nice things that are far above her social status.  With one-liners to die for rolling off Mae's lips and a story that is sweet if not audacious in its execution of sexual innuendos, I'm No Angel is a romantic comedy featuring the undeniably sexy West and enough men to keep her occupied.  The movie is hilarious, sweet natured, and evokes many a temptation in the viewer.  To call I'm No Angel sinful is the greatest of compliments.

Georges Méliès The Infernal CauldronHead honcho of Lobster Films, Serge Bromberg is an avid collector and preserver of film, and happily for the rest of us, he is also an enthusiastic exhibitor. He came to the TCM Classic Film Festival this year with a fascinating program of short experiments and showcases for various stereoscopic filming techniques, dating all the way back to some fantastic 10-second snippets made on paper strips in 1900. Bromberg excused their slightly naughty nature by explaining that they were French; he himself is charmingly so.

The Five-Year EngagementThe romantic comedy genre doesn’t leave room for too many surprises. We know that at some point a boy will meet a girl, the boy will do something foolish and lose the girl, and then the boy will eventually get the girl back with a heartfelt speech, or a symbolic gesture of some sort. And vice-versa for every Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl movie, of course. As viewers we know this going in, and all we ask is to be entertained along the way with characters that ring true, humor that’s original and acting that is believable (ahem, Ms. Heigl). Luckily, the writing team of Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel seem to be well aware of the potential pitfalls of the rom-com. Just as they did with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Stoller and Segel have crafted another original, witty, and charming story with The Five-Year Engagement.

Cover GirlThe TCM Classic Film Festival presentation of Cover Girl (1944) was special because, as festival godhead Robert Osborne declared in his typically informed and engaging introduction, it was the one screening for which he had allowed time in his busy schedule to watch in its entirety (it was some pressing matter, no doubt, that demanded his departure three quarters of the way through).

As Osborne reminded us, Cover Girl is special for a number of other reasons: the package put together by talent producer Arthur Schwartz included the first teaming of Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin; Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly producing choreography that would convince MGM to give them a freer rein; and a fantastic costume team headed by Travis Banton. Rudolph Maté handles the cinematography with the expected elegance, and presumably not making much of an impact on the finished product, but a tidbit for the geek, assistant direction was provided by one Oscar (“Budd”) Boetticher.

Raw DealThe popularity of Raw Deal is down to its status as the pinnacle of Anthony Mann and John Alton’s über-noir collaboration. T-Men the year before was a stone triumph of drenching B-budget sets and actors in shadows both evocative and eerily abstracting, and banging out a cops-and-robbers procedural that doesn’t let up for a moment across its taut 92-minute running time. For Raw Deal, Mann and Alton push the abstraction yet further.

The Macomber AffairThe collected works of Ernest Hemingway are popular for cinematic adaptation.  One of the lesser known, and only adapted once for the screen, is Hemingway's novel "The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber".  In 1947, Director Zoltan Korda, of the famous Korda family, brought The Macomber Affair to the big screen with the legendary Gregory Peck, Joan Bennett, and the soon-to-be star of Broadway Robert Preston.  The story revolves around the Macomber's (Bennett and Preston) vacationing in Africa where they hire a hunting guide (Peck) to take them on a hunting exhibition. Things go terribly awry and Mr. Macomber ends us being shot in the back while on the hunt.  The event is considered an accident but the truth over what really happened is shrouded in secrets until the pieces are slowly revealed in flashback.

The Slumber Party MassacreSlasher filmmakers were poking fun at the sub-genre way before Wes Craven did it with Scream.  Even in its infant stage, filmmakers who saw the familiarity in the gratuitous sex and violence would exploit it, usually without apology.  After the success of killer-stalking-kids films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, any location with a group of young women gathered together was considered a ripe scenario for a horror film.  In 1982, producer/director Amy Jones sent a killer into a dream hunting ground - a teenage girl’s sleepover - in The Slumber Party Massacre.

DomainIt all sounds pretty French: teenage boy falls in love with his older aunt, attractive, smart, and been around the block a few times, as incarnated to perfection by Béatrice Dalle. The expected dynamic is subverted, however, even obliquely in the opening scene, and the well-worn elements of such a relationship are treated as though anew, with little interest in misplaced teenage priapism.

Willen Dafoe as Christ in The Last Temptation of ChristOn April 8th millions of people worldwide will be celebrating one thing, and it is not the soon-to-be-released films Lockout and The Cabin In The Woods (yes, we are excited for them both).  Nope, April 8th is none other than the Easter Holiday for Catholics, Christians, and any other religion who follows the New Testament.  It is also, and maybe for some more importantly, the day the Easter Bunny visits, bringing chocolates and goodies for children everywhere--and maybe even a fun-filled Easter egg hunt too.  Just because it is a family-oriented holiday does not mean there will not be movie-watching going on; and for those who do not celebrate Easter you need to find something to do with yourself because Costco is closed on Easter Sunday.  Thus I bring you the Easter Movie Survival Guide, a list of films that will appeal to the family, the religious, the heathens, and more importantly, the person who wants to watch movies all day on Easter Sunday because they can, and will.

The Screaming SkullOne of the earliest tricks that filmmakers would use to forecast fear into their audience is the use of a “warning,” a bit of fourth-wall breaking narration in the movie that would let the viewer know that they were in for some pure terror.  From Edward van Sloan’s “it will thrill you, it may shock you” speech at the beginning of Frankenstein to William Castle’s offering of patrons’ money back if they were too scared to stay until the end of Homicidal, these warnings were great fun, but rarely taken seriously.  In 1958, director Alex Nicol went above and beyond with his introduction to The Screaming Skull; he offered to pay for the burial costs of anyone who died of fright during his movie.

Terrified One-SheetFear can be a powerful motivator.  It’s common knowledge that it can save a person’s life when their fight-or-flight response kicks in, but can fear ever take a person’s life?  Can someone ever be so scared that their body just shuts down, involuntarily, and they die?  This is the concept that was explored in 1963 in director Lew Landers' (The Raven) last film, the generically titled Terrified.

The Changeling PosterFor all the monsters and murderers that populate horror films, nothing is quite as scary as a good haunted house movie.  The best ghost stories usually double as mysteries, with the victimized person having to research and solve the problem of the spirits’ unrest.  Of all of the ghostly haunt films, few come even close to being as scary as the 1980 Canadian spook-fest The Changeling.

DerangedIn all the annals of the horror movie archives, perhaps no real person has inspired more films than the serial killer Ed Gein.  Gein’s life has provided the basis for such legendary villains as Norman Bates in Psycho, Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.  Not nearly as iconic as any of those films, but following Gein’s case much more closely, is another forgotten Canadian splatter film from 1974 called Deranged.

Everyone has survived the holidays, and the time has now come for the movie industry to slow down a bit.  Take a deep breath and sigh as the winter movie season has officially begin.  Say hello to horror movies, romances, and the odd-ball comedy or dramatic piece that did not seem to be award worthy.  This is also the time where the limited release award films expand--so all is not lost on what we call "the season where movies go to die."  I am only (partly) kidding of course, there are always great movies to be found regardless of the season and everyone at FilmFracture is excited to see what the New Year brings. 

Mr. Sardonicus PosterWhile William Castle may not be a household name outside of the horror genre, his films most certainly are.  The director has been behind some of the most gimmicky and fun horror movies ever made, including House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts and The Tingler.  Castle has often said that his personal favorite film of his own was the ghoulish 1961 tale Mr. Sardonicus, about a man with a strange affliction and the doctor who tries to help him.

In the fifties and sixties, The United States of America was not the only country to delve into making low budget sci-fi horror movies.  In 1960, with the world still reeling from the use of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an Italian producer named Mario Fava (who may or may not be an alter-ego of the Italian master of macabre himself Mario Bava) made a quick and easy fright film called Seddok, l’erede di Satana, released in America three years later as Atom Age Vampire.

The time has come for The Academy Awards 2012!  Who will win, who will lose, and what extra long speeches will we have to endure. We are live from Colton, CA watching The Academy Awards. Please excuse the blunt and possibly offensive commentary.  The Oscars are all about having fun, and good fun, we mean no offense--we're just sarcastic.

Nightmares One-SheetAfter the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, scores of slasher movies flooded theaters with hopes of being the next big scare.  It was only a matter of time before the Australian low-budget “Ozploitation” filmmakers would get on board.  In 1980, director John D. Lamond (Felicity) made his only horror film, a psychological thriller called Nightmares that had all of the elements of its American counterparts.

Since founding the COUM Transmissions collective in the late sixties, via Throbbing Gristle’s invention of industrial music, and numerous highly provocative music and art shows (sex, gender, physical alteration, domination and extremity being constant themes, with a smattering of black magic), Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has dedicated herself to exploring the (off-)limits and possibilities defined and denied by societal taboos.

One of the more sensationalistic aspects of horror and science fiction films over the years has been the phenomena of 3-D.  Long before James Cameron’s Avatar reintroduced the world to the fad that enjoyed a resurgence in the horror world in the 80’s, when it seemed that every franchise’s third film was in 3-D (Friday the 13th Part 3D, Jaws 3D, Amityville 3D), the kids of the fifties enjoyed the golden age of 3-D movies.  In 1953, hidden between Vincent Price’s House of Wax and Universal’s It Came from Outer Space sat a neat little thriller called The Maze that has been all but forgotten among its contemporaries.

The most stressful time of the year is said to be that of the holidays, beginning around Thanksgiving in the States and leading up to New Year's Eve.  In January everyone takes a breath, heads to the gym to work off the holiday weight and eases into the cold winter months.  Then February hits and the stress of the holidays seems like a welcome vacation over the dreaded day of love--Valentine's Day.  Men go into panic mode trying to decide what they should buy for their sweetheart; they then panic even more when they realize how much it is going to cost them to buy a dozen roses, or take their girl out to dinner with the deluge of pre-planned Valentine's Day menus (restaurants take full advantage on this day).  For the single people of the world Valentine's Day feels like a slap in the face; a cruel joke being played out for weeks ahead of time as every store is laden with themed decorations and all of the commercials on television advertise all the things you should buy for the one you love.  Being alone on New Year's Eve is a cakewalk compared to surviving a day at the office on February 14th; where the smell of roses and the sounds of giggling girls in their cubicles in nauseating.

The Legacy PosterA good horror movie needs a frightening antagonist to keep the action coming.  Whether it’s a faceless killer or a wild animal, a good villain is the driving force behind any film, not just horror films.  Sometimes, however, an unseen force is a much scarier foe, a phenomenon that has been dealt with over and over again like in the Final Destination series.  Producer David Foster’s The Legacy has one of these deadly entities, and is one of the freakiest movies of the seventies.

Each year Russell Espinosa watches every film released in theatres; and each year he takes the time to write up an epic "best of" list.  Here it is for the year 2011, and while some of his choices may seem typical, others are an interesting surprise.  Enjoy!! - Kathryn Schroeder

Monster Dog One SheetIn the late 60’s, the Alice Cooper band invented the musical genre of “shock-rock,” with their in-your-face music and horror-themed stage antics.  It seemed like a logical progression that, once his musical career cooled off, Cooper would go into acting, and the natural place for him was in a horror film.  In 1984, after a string of unsuccessful experimental albums, Alice found himself cast as the lead in a cool little werewolf movie called Monster Dog.

There are few events more horrific than war.  Of course, when something is fear-inducing, there will always be filmmakers ready to make a movie out of it, and horror films have been effectively using the backdrop of war for years, from the classic Isle of the Dead to the more recent Dead Snow.  Master British director Henry Cass (Blood of the Vampire, Last Holiday) made a film about a group of World War II soldiers in 1960 called The Hand that explored the physical and psychological scars of battle while scaring the heck out of its audience.

The nominations are in for the 2012 Academy Awards.  Here are all of the nominees for awards that will be telecast at the ceremony.  For a complete list, including the technical categories, go to www.oscars.org.  The asterisk next to a film/person(s) is the best guess at who will take Oscar home--but more on that later because it does not mean we agree.

Steven Soderbergh has made a variety of films, in all of the different genres.  He is even credited with propelling the independent film movement of the 1990s with his Sundance Film Festival hit, Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989).  He has also said he was retiring from moviemaking more than once, only to announce later that he was misquoted or "[insert other excuse here]."  Soderbergh marks his long-career with his 25th film, Haywire, being released on January 20, 2012--starring real-life MMA fighter Gina Carano as, you guessed it, a special ops agent who does what she does best, fight.

For the past five years or so, the horror genre has been saturated with a new subset of films that critics have dubbed “torture porn,” meaning that the films pay more attention to sickening gore than a cohesive plot.  While films like Saw and Hostel seem fresh and new, one only needs to look back about twenty years to find the prototype for today’s torture porn, 1986’s Crawlspace.

A film that has been somewhat under the radar over the past few months is Red Tails.  Only lately have materials been released for it, and only in the past two weeks has anyone been talking about it--mostly because of Executive Producer George Lucas.  The time has come to see what Red Tails is all about when it releases on Friday, January 20th.  Sure, the hopes for the film are not all that high because:

1.  It has been hidden from audiences, and not much marketing put into it by 20th Century Fox.
2.  With a release date in January it is always a gamble on whether a film will be worth anyone's time (lucky for all of you we help you with that decision).

The AFI FEST presented by Audi is fast approaching (3-10 November, 2011), and with much of the program already announced, a healthy number of interesting titles are already trailing good word of mouth from other North American and European fests. One such is Alex Ross Perry’s second feature The Color Wheel, winner of the Narrative Award in Chicago: following the oddball backwoods Pynchon riff Impolex (2009), he this time ditches surrealism and heads straight for mumblecore land.

There are a huge amount of must-see movies in 2012.  The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and The Avengers top most must-see lists, and to no surprise. There is also The Expendables 2, a film that will bring together all of the favorite action heroes from time past once again, and a few more recent faces looking to become epitomized in movie history for having rock hard abs and one-liners people will be quoting for years to come. 

One of the action hero relics everyone knows is Sylvester Stallone, the man who will head up The Expendables 2.  In case you were unaware he has another action film releasing this year with Warner Bros. Pictures.  The first official image has been released from the film and Stallone is looking like his old self, kind of (we all know his marbled chest and tightened skin can be credited to someone other than Stallone himself).  Regardless, everyone loves a good action trip with Sylvester Stallone, and Bullet To The Head looks to be something out of 80s action movie heaven.

After well-received stops at Cannes, Toronto and New York, the fourth feature from I’m Gonna Explode director Gerardo Naranjo is set to represent Mexico in fine style at AFI Fest presented by Audi, starting November 3, 2011.

Torn from the headlines, Miss Bala pitches beauty queen aspirant Laura into the murky world of the Tijuana drug cartels – it’s the title of Miss Baja California she’s going for, but bala means “bullet”, plenty of which are expended before the end of the film. The real-life Miss Sinaloa (also named Laura) was indeed arrested for her association with the Mexican drug gangs, but this is no docudrama. Laura here is an innocent, drawn into the underworld through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and buffeted from dangerous situation to dangerous situation by the twin expediencies of self-preservation and having no other choice.

**Winners being updated, as the show airs, LIVE now!**

The Award Season has officially begun with The Golden Globes airing on Sunday, January 15, 2012.   The list of nominees is included below and come Sunday all of the winners updated as they are announced. 

The Golden Globes began awarding their Best Animated Feature category in 2007, and have continued each year to nominate three to five films (not the standard five as in other categories).  Every year, beginning in 2007 (for the year 2006), a Pixar (or Disney-Pixar) film has been nominated; and every year wins the award.  It began with Cars in 2007 (up against Monster House and Happy Feet), then  Ratatouille in 2008 (up against The Simpsons Movie and Bee Movie); in 2009 WALL-E took home the prize and not Bolt or Kung Fu Panda.  The year 2009 marked the first time five films were nominated, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, and Up.  Even with two more films competing against them, Pixar was victorious with Up.  Now, 2010 was a tough year for Pixar at The Golden Globes competition wise and the winner was not clear going into the award show.  Dreamworks Animation had finally produced an equally good product as Pixar with How To Train Your Dragon and it was anyone's guess whether Toy Story 3 would reign victorious (the other films nominated were Tangled, The Illusionist, and Despicable Me although none had a chance).  Dreamworks may have been hopeful but Pixar reigned King once again as Toy Story 3 won--I myself think it had to do with the instantaneous weeping the film caused a viewer, beginning with the incinerator scene.

Director/producer Athina Rachel Tsangari’s reluctance to be lumped in with some nebulous Greek New Wave is as understandable as the categorization is inevitable. She has been producing the work of Giorgos Lanthimos, and her second film as director shares with his Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2011) not only strong tonal and thematic similarities, and an interest in linguistic distortion, but also the cool white light of Thimios Bakatakis’ camerawork on the former; Lanthimos even takes the supporting role of in cast’s quartet.

Disney is a company synonymous with the art of American animation. From their Golden Age fairy-tale adaptations such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Peter Pan to their innovative computer animated hits such as Toy Story and The Incredibles, it seems impossible to think of Disney as anything but a giant in the industry. There was however a time when Disney’s dominant standing was in question. Throughout most of the 80s, a series of unsuccessful feature length films along with the competition of independent animators such as Don Bluth caused Disney to fall on rocky times. In 1989 however, Disney reclaimed their title as the top animation company with their groundbreaking work The Little Mermaid. This would lead into Disney’s Silver Age, cementing the companies place as the dominant force of 90's American animation. Now, more than a decade later since these films were released, Disney has made plans to re-release their Silver Age classics in theaters, remastered and in 3D. Their second offering of this series is the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast, the first animated movie in history to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best picture and the second classic of the Silver Age.

The psycho killer has long been one of the obvious staples of the horror genre.  What could be more frightening than an unstoppable madman preying on innocent and unsuspecting victims?  How about an unstoppable madman who has mastered the art of invisibility?  In 1976, television director John Florea (who directed episodes of both “CHiPs” and “Sea Hunt”) asked the question in a feature-length sci-fi cop show called The Astral Factor.

Relativity Media continues to promote the film Haywire, directed by Steven Sodebergh and releasing in theatres January 20, 2012, by providing viewers the opprtunity to watch the first five minutes from the film.  I have seen Haywire and these first five minutes feature one hell of a fight scene between MMA superstar Gina Carano and Channing Tatum.  Tatum has seen better days, and Gina proves she is one tough woman.  

On January 6, 2012, a live Q&A will stream following a screening at the Wadsworth Theatre of The Artist featuring director Michel Hazanavicius, stars Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle and producer Thomas Langmann. 

The Q&A will be moderated by KCRW's Matt Holzman and at www.theartistmovie.net and www.facebook.com/theartist.twc fans across the country can submit questions and participate in the discussion. 

Of all of the mythical beasts that have been immortalized over the centuries, the lycanthrope, or werewolf, has arguably made the smoothest transition into motion pictures.  Aside from the vampire, no other creature has been done and redone over the years, from Lon Chaney’s definitive performance in 1941’s The Wolf Man to the Team Jacob shirtless heartthrobs in the Twilight films.  In 1956, the incomparable sci-fi producer Sam Katzman (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came From Beneath the Sea) took a shot at revising the werewolf mythos with the appropriately titled The Werewolf, and set forth some new theories and ideas about lycanthropy.

Emerging from the recent trend of independent horror in British cinema, Ben Wheatley’s small-scale gangster massacre Down Terrace made a bit of a splash last year. His latest, Kill List, ups the horror ante and finds a natural home in the AFI FEST’s Midnight Movies strand this week (festival runs November 3-10).

December 2011 brought a great deal of new trailers for films releasing as soon as January 2012 all the way into Summer 2012.  Welcome back Kate Beckinsale and your spandex/pleather wearing self in Underworld: Awakening!  Three of the most anticipated films trailers finally arrived, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, causing a flurry of excitement for moviegoers everywhere.  Then there were some less than exciting additions to the trailer universe, including Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and The Three Stooges (what looks to be the first train wreck of the new year). [Continued]

Tucked in amidst all of the action hero and martial arts films made by Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus (the producers who brought the world the American Ninja series, the Delta Force films and the Death Wish sequels, among many others) can be found a neat little horror film called New Year’s Evil.  Made in 1980, during the golden age of the slasher film, it is more than just an entry into the holiday-themed horror craze that ran rampant during the early eighties; it is an inventive twist on the serial killer movie.

Christmas horror movies are usually thinly-veiled slasher flicks where the killer is some maladjusted grownup who was scared into insanity by a freaky Santa when he was a kid.  In 1996, screenwriter Michael Cooney (Identity) flipped the script with Jack Frost, an original story about a murderous snowman, and the Christmas horror movie genre hasn’t been the same since.

The holiday season is upon moviegoers once again, and that means a new season of movie-watching has begun.  This season is always filled with Award contenders, big name Directors making big serious pictures, and the opportunity for actors and actresses to show their best skills on screen--all in the hopes that they will take home one of the many possible awards available to them for the year's best work.  There is also always the underdog independent film that will take everyone by surprise.  Lest us not forget the plethora of family movies that will keep everyone occupied during those big family gatherings at the holiday's.  After a lackluster (and that is putting it mildly) year of movies, this holiday season holds high hopes for moviegoers, and moviemakers alike. 

When a movie script calls for a set of twins but only one lead actor is available, what does the director do? Ask the lead actor or actress to play both parts, that’s what. Brian De Palma had Margot Kidder do it in Sisters, just like David Cronenberg asked Jeremy Irons to double dip in Dead Ringers. In 1943, B-movie legend Sam Newfield (The Terror of Tiny Town) got horror character actor George Zucco (The Black Raven, Scared to Death) to give the playing of twins a try, resulting in the creepy vampire/witchcraft film Dead Men Walk.

Legend has it that in the early eighties, respected horror director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) looked up at the Chrysler Building in New York City and said “that would be the coolest place for a nest.”  The legend goes on to say that Cohen, fired from the directing job on another film and not wanting his New York stay to go to waste, quickly wrote, cast and shot Q, one of the greatest monster movies of the decade.

Earlier this year I received an email from an independent filmmaker, Joe McClean, asking if I would take a look at his short film How To Make A David Lynch Film before it premiered at the Dances With Films film festival in June 2011.  I do not usually watch short films, or review them for that matter.  I do always try and make time to watch as many non-distributed, festival bound (hopefully), independent feature length films I am asked to when approached by the filmmakers.  The title of Joe McClean's short intrigued me--how could I resist watching something called How To Make A David Lynch Film?  I watched Joe's short, and ended up writing a review of it because I absolutely loved it.  How To Make A David Lynch received an honorable mention award at the festival and to my happy surprise the success, and positive reviews, have led to Joe McClean's production company, Red & Tan Productions, to secure the financing for a feature-length film. 

Shakespearian plays have been adapted for the screen time and time again.   "Othello", "Hamlet", "Romeo and Juliet", "The Tempest", the list goes on an on and the familiarity for a viewer with these stories is established before they ever enter the theatre.  "Coriolanus" is a lesser know, and lesser adapted, play Shakespeare wrote.  Well-known actor Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort in Harry Potter) in his first directorial effort has adapted "Coriolanus", with a screenplay by John Logan into a modern-day political film, while maintaining the original shakespearian dialogue.

Laure's family has recently moved to a new suburb in France.  With her short blonde hair and ambiguous features it is unclear on first meeting Laure on screen if she is indeed a boy or a girl.  This of course begs the question, "what makes a person look like a boy or a girl?"  Laure prefers the walls of her bedroom to be blue, and her parent't happily oblige.  She wears long shorts and t-shirts, never a dress.  Her short cropped hair is typical for a boy of her age, as is her lack of girly attributes like barrettes.  When she speaks her voice does not carry high or low, with no indicative speech markers of either gender.  But Laure is a girl by birth, she just happens to not outwardly portray feminine characteristics and in turn her first meeting with a local girl, Lisa, results in the misunderstanding that Laure is indeed a boy; and she does nothing to correct the situation. 

Whether they’re on film or in real life, cults are scary things.  A group of people brainwashed to worship a deity and commit heinous acts in its name is a frightening thing, whether it’s the devil worshipping coven in Rosemary’s Baby or the murderous teenagers who pay tribute to He Who Walks Behind the Rows in Children of the Corn.  In 1962, television director William J. Hole, Jr. (who worked on both “The Bionic Woman” and “Peyton Place”) teamed up with screenwriter Jo Heims (Play Misty for Me) and legendary B-movie producer Rex Carlton (Nightmare in Wax, Blood of Dracula’s Castle) to unleash The Devil's Hand on an unsuspecting world, and subsequently gave another meaning to the term “cult movie.”

The 2012 Spirit Award Nominations are in, celebrating the best in Independent Film for the year 2011.  We have seen most of the films and could not agree more with the selections; some we must disagree with but that is the nature of the beast.  Here are all of the nominees; we can't wait to see who wins in February at the Awards Show.

It is a little alarming to hear people describe Takeshi Kitano’s latest, Outrage (Autoreiji), as a return to form, since it comes off the back of his masterpiece, Achilles and the Tortoise. What they means is that it’s a return to the straight Yakuza genre with which Kitano started his career, and into which he has injected some interesting elements at various subsequent points. Not so much here, which from anyone else would be fine, but from him is a disappointment. Nonetheless, it is a perfectly efficient gangster film, told at the usual slow-steady pace, laced with black humour, and boasting some particularly unpleasant moments of violence.

There seems to be a slasher film about every holiday imaginable – Halloween, Christmas, Birthdays, even April Fools’ Day, they all have their own movies.  The holiday of Thanksgiving is ruefully underrepresented in the catalog of horror.  In 1981, director Nettie Peña tried to exploit the thus-far unexploited with Home Sweet Home, and the resulting film is the best kind of bad.

In the world of the modern horror movie, audiences get bored quickly with standard slice-and-dice killings and filmmakers are constantly trying to think of new ways to dispatch their characters.  There seems to have always been a competition to come up with the most creative and inspired deaths, from the early slashers like Friday the 13th and Happy Birthday to Me to the modern Final Destination and Saw series of films.  Imaginative murders combined with ingenious special effects have helped filmmakers recycle the same plot over and over again, yet still turn out interesting and entertaining movies.  In 1978, a British film called Terror introduced audiences to several new ways to die on celluloid, and horror movies have been trying to keep up the pace ever since.

A rather appealing if throwaway cat and mouse thriller, Headhunters introduces us immediately to the forcefully charming persona and slick art-thievery methods of its protagonist, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). His criminal activities subsidize a career as über-successful corporate headhunter, but he makes no bones about having overextended himself for the sake of his Nordic model-beautiful wife, ostentatiously luxurious lifestyle, and 1m 68 height (5’6”).

An exquisite salmagundi of moral grey shades, A Separation explicitly hands off judgment to the audience in the opening scene, as Simin and Nader sit before a judge and address directly to camera their cases for and against divorce. She wants to emigrate, to raise their daughter, Temeh, away from the difficulties and repressions of Iran, whilst he does not want to leave his Alzheimer’s suffering father, but must provide consent for the daughter to travel. They agree to a temporary separation whilst this is worked out.

It’d be best to be prepared before going into this, for a long slow evening. Amongst the various aims of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new film is the conjuring of the strange all-night atmosphere experienced by a group of officials in search for a dead body, based on the experiences of his co-screenwriter, Ercan Kesel, a doctor who partook in a similar investigation when serving in the same remote village region as depicted in the film. Another of Ceylan’s aims is an explicitly Chekhovian tapestry of apparent banalities, everyday concerns, and the passing of time, that will bring various of the characters unhurriedly to life, and add up incrementally to a portrait of something like life itself.

This is really a one idea movie, but it’s a very good idea (taken from a short story by Tom Bissell). Nica and Alex are young travelers in Georgia, engaged to be married, who depart on a trek with mountain guide Dato. And then Something Happens. To explain the Something would be to spoil the impact of the film, but one of its major problems is that to create that impact, for the first half of the film virtually nothing happens at all. The second problem is that virtually nothing happens afterwards either.

Sokurov concludes his Moloch trilogy, on evil and power, with a loose adaptation of Faust. So loose, in fact that one would be hard-pressed to recognize anything of the original save the name of the protagonist. He’s still a doctor, but poor, neurotic, and, after a while, fixated with a very young girl named Margarete. It is for a night with her, rather than for unlimited knowledge, that he finally signs the Mephistophelean pact late on in the film, and rather than the smooth persuader who will inevitably triumph, this Mephistopheles is a vile, goatish moneylender named Mauricius who ends up buried beneath boulders in a place suggestively described as “far away and very high up”.

Giorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth caused quite a splash last year, so many were eager to see what queasy weirdness his latest would offer. Alps is barely less weird, somewhat less queasy, and just as opaque. Even more than his last film, it also teeters on the verge of being merely affected.

A real Hollywood oddity, this is a cracking carnival noir charting the rise and fall of hubristic mentalist Stanton Carlisle – Stanton the Great – from cheap clairvoyant-act barker to quasi-religious swarmi, to.. well, that’d be spoiling it, but by the look on Tyrone Power’s face, he knew it had to be.

This is most definitely a film, a wonderful, essential conjuring of something from nothing, a necessity for the film-maker, and the selfless defiance of a repressive regime. The Iranian government has banned director Jafar Panahi from film-making or from leaving the country for twenty years, and at the time of this film’s making, he was appealing a six-year prison sentence; it was smuggled to Cannes on a flashdrive hidden in a cake. For what can a film-maker do if not make a film?

In an alternate universe, a Turin Horse will become the name for a movie that turns out to have nothing to do with its title. Slow-cinema maestro Béla Tarr’s latest (last?) opens with a blank-screen voiceover relating the semi-apocryphal story of Nietzsche’s madness-inducing encounter with a mistreated carthorse, and declares that “of the horse, we know nothing”. Cut to a carthorse, trudging through a hellish swirl of mist. But this is not necessarily the same horse, we are clearly not in Italy, and the film soon lets the animal retreat to the background, in order to focus exclusively on the slow, hard, regular days of the old carter and his daughter. He has an apostle’s beard and a mop of grey curls, frequently backlight-haloed, and the use of only his left arm; she has a hard, handsome face, tight-mouthed and dead-eyed, beneath long wind-whipped hair; and they live a life of emptiness and hardship in a stone croft on a barren plain.

There is such a thing as a perfect storm in filmmaking.  When legendary directors, writers and actors all put their talents towards a common goal, the results are usually cinematic classics.  Such is the case with 1982’s Pieces, a schlock-gorefest that brought together some of the most creative yet understated minds of low budget filmmaking, and it should be considered essential viewing for any horror fan.

Every year at AFI FEST there are films placed in the Special Screenings section of the program.  They are films with distribution in place, and will become available for the general public to see in the coming weeks or months.  Jeff, Who Lives At Home was a part of this special screening section and will be opening in theatres in March of 2012 thanks to Paramount Vantage.  The newest film from The Duplass Brothers, who have been festival darlings in the past with The Puffy Chair, Baghead, and last year's Cyrus, is in the style of The Duplass Brothers who like to make movies about people and relationships, with an offbeat sly humor.  Jeff, Who Lives At Home keeps with their traditional themes, and continues to provide the more subtle, and not so subtle, humor we come to expect from them.

Making himself known as a man who enjoys making movies about damaged souls in uniform, Director Oren Moverman departs from the military of his 2009 film The Messenger to focus on a cop in the Los Angeles Police force in Rampart.  Taking place during the Rampart scandals of 1999, scandals that forever changed the Los Angeles Police Department, when police officers were implicated in acts of misconduct, including planting evidence, unprovoked beatings and shootings, perjury, and covering up evidence.  These were dark days in the city of Angels, and amidst all of the greater scandal Rampart takes a look at one officer's own personal struggles, on the force and at home.

As a feature film directing debut, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti's Carré Blanc is sure to make a strong impression on the filmmaking community, and the impressionable audience member who wanders into this dystopian view of the world's future.  Shown as part of the World Cinema section at the 2011 AFI FEST, Carré Blanc is a relatively short film by festival standards, at only 80 minutes, but the impact of the film, both stylistically and theoretically, will have you thinking about it for much longer.

Writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining's With Every Heartbeat was presented at AFI FEST 2011 as part of the Breakthrough section.  Keeping in line with the excellence of Swedish films of the past, and present, Keining presents an intimate portrayal of love being found in the unlikeliest of places and at a time neither person expects--the two people in question just happen to be women, one openly gay and the other engaged to a man.  A true triumph for the LGBT cause, the film portrays love as love is in it's natural form, disregarding much of what could have been a proclamation for equal rights on gender issues that only makes its a stronger piece of filmmaking in the process.

The main draw of Hanaan is its ethnic exoticism: a Korean cop in the urban/industrial wasteland of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which is certainly not something you see every day (Stalin forcibly relocated thousands of Koreans to populate the USSR’s Asian republics). The story feels well-worn, however – like something from an American movie, as one character observes of a stakeout – with the ups and downs of drug addiction providing automatic pathos but few surprises.

What with the whole skin transplant element of Almodóvar’s latest, it was no great surprise that in his capacity as Guest Artistic Director of this year’s AFI Festival, he should pick as one of his personal screening choices, the wonderful medical horror film Eyes Without A Face.

It is a most unusual film, in story, tone and the inclusion of a remarkably unsettling face transplant – in part for the slow, tense, medical precision with which it is presented and conducted – which must have been goodness-knows how shocking in 1960 when the film was released.

AFI Festival-goers who caught Nacho Vigalonda’s Time Crimes a couple of years ago knew that it was a good bet to mark their diaries for this year’s screening of his second feature, Extraterrestrial. They were not disappointed.

The irrepressible Vigalonda explained in his introduction to the screening that he was stuck in a long pre-production process and wanted to make a quick little film. That’s just what he did, with even greater economy than Time Crimes, but with just as sure a control over the narrative logic of escalating complications. A man wakes up in the bed of a beautiful young woman, unable to remember a thing about the night before. The playing-out of a stock situation is handled with perfectly judged restraint and deadpan performance (they discover, amusingly, that they are named Julio and Julia, but she’s ditzy enough to forget his name more than once). The awkward morning after is derailed, however, when they notice that there’s no-one outside and that a 4-mile wide flying saucer is hovering over Madrid.

It boded so well. The credits play over a serene beam of moonlight on the water, while an excerpt of Tristan and Isolde tinkles gently; then we’re thrown into a noisy neon Malayan karaoke club/shack, where an unexpected, very public murder is followed by an even more unexpected, somnambulant Ave Maria. But Chantal Akerman, taking Joseph Conrad’s first novel, goes nowhere near such stylish flamboyance again and delivers much that is expected, and much that is unexpectedly unsuccessful.

There’s always some good weirdness to be found in the Midnight Movies strand at film festivals, and my top tip for the AFI FEST sponsored by Audi, starting this week, is the fantastically trippy Beyond the Black Rainbow. Let me be clear: this film has not been picking up fans at previous festivals, with complaints ranging from “deathly dull” and “unnecessarily lengthened student short” to “retro-hipster counterfeit” and “complete crapola”. It’s slow and derivative, with a jarringly misjudged ending, but far as I am from an ’80s nostalgist, I couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with it.

A new film from the Dardennes brother is always cause for celebration, particularly in Cannes where they just keep being given prizes. This year it was the Grand Jury award for their latest, Le gamin au vélo, and it’s been a popular title at numerous festivals since, finally rolling into Hollywood for the AFI FEST this week (November 3-10).

AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi has announced much of the slate of programming for the festival, running November 3rd to the 10th. Free tickets are available starting October 27th, and on October 26th for AFI members and alumni.  There a limited number of passes available for sale.  More information about the festival can be found at AFI's website, www.afifest.com.

Roger Corman is the undisputed champion of the creature-feature, but few people know about his older brother, Gene, who got into the film business before Roger and also made some memorable monster movies.  In 1959, Gene used many of Roger’s core team members and pumped out Beast from Haunted Cave, a quickly produced but cleverly written gangster film-cum-monster movie set in the beautiful snowy mountains of South Dakota.

Before either of them were famous reality T.V. stars, Gene Simmons from Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath were serious musicians.  In 1986, both rockers lent their names and talents to a heavy metal horror film called Trick or Treat, foreshadowing the career path they would follow in the decades to come.  While Simmons’ and Osbourne’s names are on the front of the DVD cover, their roles are basically cameos in this hard rock shock fest that makes light of one of the most ridiculous political witch hunts in recent memory. 

In 2006, Director Chris Paine debuted a documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car?, with much acclaim.  The documentary focused on the destruction of electric cars, like the EV-1, by the major automobile companies.  Questioning the motivations behind the sudden extinction of electric vehicles, and the move back towards gas run automobiles and the dependence on foreign oil it was a harsh look into the reality of big business.  Now five years later the topic is examined once again, from a drastically different viewpoint.  In only five years the automobile industry has made electric vehicles a priority, and four are on the road today.  Chris Paine's Revenge of the Electric Car traces the steps three major car companies, GM, Nissan, and Tesla, as well as an underground environmentalist who is converting gasoline vehicles into electric ones.

Presented as part of the new film series between Film Independent and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Martha Marcy May Marlene marks the second event in the series.  The moderator for the evening was Elvis Mitchell, esteemed film critic and curator at Film Independent; and to the audiences delight quite friendly, engaging and funny with his opening address.  After giving a brief synopsis of the film, and throwing in a well-received joke about star Elizabeth Olsen's famous sisters, matters turned to watching the film in LACMA's spacious Bing theatre. 

For the ninth consecutive year the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences presents an evening of films from 100 years ago in film history.  This year's program, "A Century Ago: The Films of 1911, Heroes and Heroines" will take place on Monday, November 7th at 7:30pm at the Academy's Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.  The films will be presented on a 1909 hand-cranked Power Model 6 Cameragraph motion picture machine, and be presented with live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.

The time has come again for Los Angeles to embrace the love for Italian Cinema with "Cinema Italian Style 2011".  A combined effort between Cinecitta Luce and the American Cinematheque, the Cinema Italian Style series aims to bring the best Italian movies to Los Angeles as well as films that have received recognition at international film festivals.  The series is held from November 10th to the 15th at the American Cinematheque.

The fifties and sixties were a fertile time for B-movies, and everyone with a half-decent story idea and a little money could make a film that, little did they know, would be kept alive by cult followers and public domain archives.  Written by producer Rex Carlton and director Joseph Green, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is one of these films, a movie so bad that it’s amazing, and, much like the brain in the title, just won’t die.

Inspired by the life story of ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno, who has spent 25 years with the BiAka pygmies of Central Africa, Lavinia Currier’s film aims partly to parallel Sarno’s work: that is, to bring to world-wide attention the wonderful and complex music of the forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers. The BiAka’s music is as rich and well-practiced as any other such heritage in the world; possibly even more so, structured around an unusually long 64-beat cycle, and incorporating the natural sounds of the jungle as an integral part of the harmonious, pulsing music.

**Winners Announced--Was it Your City**

Paramount Pictures announced today a very different method of deciding what cities to release Paranormal Activity 3 in first.  Only 20 cities will open the film on October 18th before its global release on October 21st, based upon the most fans who, and I quote, "Tweet To See It First." 

The early eighties is regarded by most fans as the Golden Age of the slasher movie, an era ushered in by John Carpenter’s Halloween and kept in business by scores of cheaply produced yet well-received films full of gore, nudity and dying kids.  In 1981, a bloody little film called The Prowler flew in under the radar and became a seldom seen but never forgotten piece of horror history. 

New Line Cinema presents the “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” Munchies Truck Tour"!  Yes, you read that correctly.  In order to celebrate Christmas early, and the upcoming release of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas on November 4, 2011, a munchies truck will visit twelve college campuses to spread, well, holiday cheer and FOOD (because we know how those college kids get the munchies so often). There will be a specially themed menu on the Munchies Truck as well as a signature Harold & Kumar item--I wonder what that could be? 

After the success of Godzilla in 1954, Japanese filmmakers were tripping over each other to produce monster movies that would make money and entertain the masses.  In 1959, United Artists of Japan teamed up with American production company Shaw-Breakston Enterprises to close out the decade with a different kind of monster movie, an American influenced B-movie classic called The Manster.

A new clip has emerged (pun completely intended) for The Thing (2011) that is titled the "R" rated clip.  Sounds like fun, yes?  You even get a better look at the "thing" itself.  While some things are better left a mystery, it never hurts to have a little tease now and again. 

There’s little argument that George Romero is the king of the zombie film.  His Night of the Living Dead and its sequels have completely revolutionized the horror genre while creating a whole sub-genre.  His name is so synonymous with the zombie flick, that it’s easy to forget that he made other kinds of horror movies.  Having more convention breaking ideas in his head, in 1977 he attempted to update the vampire movie with Martin.

When RKO Pictures began production on King Kong in 1932, the always economical studio decided to double dip, using the same skull island set, much of the same crew and two of the lead actors to simultaneously shoot a smaller budget film based on a short story by Richard Connell called “The Most Dangerous Game.”  Costing less than $250,000 to make, The Most Dangerous Game not only ended up having a bigger profit-to-cost percentage than King Kong, but it also wound up being a horror classic, inspiring everything from an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” to the upcoming film The Hunger Games and influencing both the sport of paintball and the Zodiac Killer.

In the early- to mid-seventies, frightening and unexplained “real” creatures were all the rage, fed in part by sensationalistic television shows like “In Search Of…” and “That’s Incredible!”  The public seemingly couldn’t get enough of mysterious monsters like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, and filmmaker Charles B. Pierce decided to exploit the craze further by concocting a faux-documentary called The Legend of Boggy Creek.  At the time, he didn’t know that the film he would make would not only influence dozens of future filmmakers, but it would scare the hell out of thousands of impressionable kids.

Relativity Media is proud to announce it is working with eBay to auction off premiere tickets, an autographed movie poster, and a custom-built motorcycle from its upcoming release of Machine Gun Preacher.  100% Proceeds to benefit Angels of East of Africa Rescue Organization.

Earlier this year Film Independent announced a new screening series partnership with The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).  For members of Film Independent, as well as frequent visitors to the LACMA year-round film program this new partnership was intriguing, and wanting to know more details on the partnership much desired.  With today came the first announcement of what the Film Independent at LACMA Film series first slate of events would contain.

The year is 1982 in Peru.  Cayetana (Fatima Buntinx) lives in a spacious home outside the city with caretakers.  Her mother, and stepfather, are returning home after a long while away and Cayetana is not interested in seeing either of them.  Buntinx makes the most disinterested, annoyed, and ultimately bothered facial expressions--this is an actress who does not need dialogue to convey emotion, it is written all over her face.  Now Cayetana is a bit of an odd-ball; some may call her sinister.  In reality, she is a child going through a great deal of emotional turmoil and unfortunately the good intentions she should have veer towards the bad. 

In the 1940’s, RKO Pictures enlisted B-movie producer Val Lewton to bulk up the studio’s output with low-cost, high quality thrillers that would more than make back their budgets at the box office.  At the same time, tired of the typecast monster films that he was making for Universal, Boris Karloff signed a three picture deal with RKO and was assigned to Lewton’s unit.  This synchronicity began an all too brief but amazing partnership between Lewton and Karloff that would produce three classic films, the first of which was 1945’s Isle of the Dead.

Bucky Larson: Born to be A Star is releasing this Friday, September 9th, 2011 in theatres across the country.  In an attempt to see what "buzz" surrounded the film I turned to Twitter.  Here are some of my favorite's tweets, and possibly the source of the best laughs of the year:

Semper Fi: Always Faithful is a documentary chronicling the struggle to make the public aware, and the Marine Corps/Government admit to their gross negligence in dealing with contaminated water at a variety of Marine Corps, and other, military bases across the United States of America. 

In the world of horror movies, there are few potential victims that are more vulnerable than that of the lone babysitter.  Always female, and usually little more than a child herself, the babysitter is left alone with the children in an empty house, and a mysterious stranger inevitably shows up.  In 1971, years before the situation was explored and exploited in When a Stranger Calls and Halloween, British director Peter Collinson (who directed the original The Italian Job) made Fright, simultaneously inventing a horror sub-genre and scaring the hell out of young girls for generations to come.

The Snorkel One-SheetGreat Britain’s Hammer Film Productions is famous for its gothic horror movies and its re-imaginings of the classic Universal monster films, but between the 1950’s and 1970’s Hammer also produced several psychological thrillers, films which they lovingly called “mini-Hitchcocks.”  Often overshadowed by the monster movies, these suspenseful tales were every bit as well done.  One of these lesser-known films from the Hammer canon, 1958’s The Snorkel, is a prime example of how Hammer made a human being more frightening than any monster.

The fall/holiday movie season is just around the corner.  From September to December a variety of new movies will be released; from the expected horror's in October to the Oscar bait that begins in November, the fall season never ceases to be a time to go to the movies.  Here is a run-down of what is coming your way...

Xtro, One-Sheet (1)During the early eighties science fiction boon, there were two ways for filmmakers to approach the alien movie - they could make the visitors peaceful, like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or they could make them murderous, like in The Thing.  In 1983, British director Harry Bromley Davenport tried to take the best elements of both schools, and he unwittingly made a movie that would be placed on the United Kingdom’s Video Nasty list of films that censors deemed unfit for public presentation.  The film he made was the gory slime fest known as Xtro, and it asked the question; “what if E.T. was more like Alien?”

The 1960s, a time of free love and drugs aplenty.  The "hippie subculture" of this era took root around 1965, spawning a worldwide counter culture movement that still has remnants in today's society.  How this new subculture was established, and spread so quickly around the globe, can be attributed to a variety of factors.  Ask those close to the movement and they may have one clear answer to give you, "it all started on the bus."

If George Romero can be considered the father of the zombie movie, then the Halperin brothers are the grandfathers.  More than 30 years before Romero made Night of the Living Dead, producer Edward Halperin and director Victor Halperin introduced the film world to zombies with White Zombie.  Four years later, in 1936, the Halperins followed it up with Revolt of the Zombies, and although it didn’t fare as well as White Zombie, it helped to invent a new genre of horror film.

That Raúl Ruíz describes his new film as his most theoretical might seem a bit daunting. He’s made over 100 movies in 30 years and they’re all pretty theoretical, from The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1979), to Time Regained (1999). Plus, the new one’s a four and half-hour nineteenth-century drama.

When most people think about modern horror movies, the vision that comes to mind is one of scared kids running away from crazed axe-wielding psychopaths through the woods screaming their heads off.  While this image is due mostly to the Friday the 13th franchise, additional scared camper films like Sleepaway Camp and The Burning also contributed to this stereotype.  In 1982, just two short years after the first Friday the 13th movie, director Joe Giannone and producer Gary Sales unleashed their offering to the genre, a slasher called Madman, upon the horror world.  The institution of summer camp would never again be looked at in the same way.

The Superhero, a modern-day myth of a man, or woman, who protects the innocent.  Or more humorously, according to the Urban Dictionary's number one definition: a person who is looked up to, fights crime and looks good in tights (the latter is not a must).  The image of a person in tights, or some sort of costume that masks their face from public view so they may lead a normal existence outside of the crime fighting world is a common visual for the superhero.  It is also common, and deemed sane, to understand and reason that superhero's do not exist in reality. There are no superpowers, fancy gadgets, cars that can turn into boats at the flip of a switch or palms that shoot spiderwebs so one can swing from building to building.  The man of steel is fictitious.  Even Batman, who has no actual "superpower" cannot be real.  But what if there were superheroes? 

From Korea comes Director Kim Min-suk's Haunters.  A film centered around two men specifically who both harbor exceptional abilities.  Kyu-nam (Koo So) believes himself to be ordinary.  Having just lost his job at a junk yard he is seeking employment.  He finds work at a pawn shop, and believes this is the moment his life will take off and become great.  When an unknown man (Gang Dong-Won) walks into the shop one day and freezes everyone present, being Kyu-nam's two friends, and the owner, things begin to get weird.  Weird in that the only person who does not freeze is Kyu-nam.  He is not ordinary after all, but is the only person this unknown man has ever come into contact with who is not susceptible to his powers.  This of course causes great panic in our unknown antagonist, who has lived his entire life with the ability to freeze people, as well as control their actions with his eyes.

The dry humor that surrounds Familiar Ground (En Terrains Connus) is just that, dry--a lifeless, suburban enclave of Quebec where the most interesting amusement comes in the form of a giant blue inflatable something or other in front of a car dealership.  This is not to say the film isn't good, far from that actually.  It is very much internalized, leaving the characters to meander through their humdrum lives interacting with one another on such superficial and unemotional levels that the pure existence of the lifelessness becomes somewhat fascinating.

CineconThe Cinecon Classic Film Festival is not for novices. Held over Labor Day weekend mere steps from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Cinecon attendees are more likely to stop and admire the sidewalk stars of Louise Fazenda and Richard Barthelmess than Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. Do you recognize those names of old? Cinecon is an annual gathering of the people who not only recognize, but celebrate, laud, discuss, and admire the oft-forgotten legends of silent and early sound cinema.

One of the oldest and most cherished archetypes in the horror movie genre is the mad scientist.  From the crazed genius of Dr. Frankenstein to the calm brilliance of Dr. Jekyll, the mad scientist has always had his place in classic monster movies.  In 1944, legendary B-movie director Sam Newfield (known primarily for quick-made westerns such as The Terror of Tiny Town) introduced the world to Dr. Igor Markoff in The Monster Maker.  Often overshadowed by more popular movie madmen, Dr. Markoff is every bit as diabolical and devious as his contemporaries.  And he keeps a gorilla as a pet.

As soon as Steven Spielberg struck gold in 1975 with his blockbuster hit Jaws, seemingly every tiny studio in Hollywood scrambled to make a man vs. beast movie in an attempt to capitalize on the “animal horror” trend.  First up to the plate, in 1976, was Grizzly, a film that (like the name suggests) features a killer bear in the antagonist role.  Grizzly was quickly directed by William Girdler (who would go on to make Day of the Animals and The Manitou) on a shoestring budget, and it became an instant cult classic.

At the height of his bout with alcoholism, acclaimed director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidateicon, Roninicon) turned from his usual suspense-thrillers to direct a pure horror film called Prophecy.  Written by David Seltzer (who also wrote The Omen), Prophecy kept with Frankenheimer’s theme of making socially and philosophically relevant movies.  In Prophecy, he just used more monsters.

Director Asif Kapadia takes Senna's story from his humble beginnings in Brazil to his star turn on the track in the documentary Senna with great success.  Structuring the documentary like a narrative feature, as written by Manish Pandey, it maintains a successful story structure that becomes full of more energy, drama, and feeling than many fictional story's put to film.  Told with a linear structure through archival footage (from F1, Senna's family, as well as news coverage), actual voice-over of Senna himself explaining parts of his career and life, as well as still photographs and other voiceover narrative Senna's fascinating story comes to life, without the feel of a stiff documentary. 

Sgt. Gerry Boyle is an Irish Guard, aka policeman, in a small town in the West of Ireland.  As the man in charge he takes little, if anything, seriously.  When his newest recruit and he discover a dead body of a man they do not recognize it is with dark humor, and a general sense of not giving a --ck that Boyle cheekily investigates the crime.  This death is not so easily forgotten as the United States sends their own investigator, FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to team up with Boyle on the case.  For this is a case that is much bigger than Boyle thought, it involves drug trafficking, murder, and cover-ups.  For a lawman of a small town in Ireland this could be the case of a lifetime, for Gerry Boyle it is more of an inconvenience.

The stuffy, bourgeois lifestyle in England was quite the opposite life Christopher Isherwood desired to have as a young man.  In Berlin things would be different for the published author, who was a homosexual during a time where such a lifestyle choice had to be hidden at all costs.  Christopher and His Kind tells the story of Christopher's time in Berlin.  A time of great freedom and passion with the rent boys, of fanciful and daring conservations with the sensational and heartbreaking Sally Bowles; and the first glimpse of real love in a time of great fear and anxiety as the Nazi command begins. 

For a time in the late seventies, movie theaters were filled with science fiction films while television was packed with cop shows.  Every film studio wanted a Star Wars just like every broadcast network wanted a "The Streets of San Francisco."  In 1979, prolific television writer Stanford Whitmore had the idea to marry the space opera with the hard-boiled crime drama by creating a serial killer who was an alien werewolf.  The resulting film was called The Dark

Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend concerns Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two young British men who meet at a bar one Friday night and embark on a 48 hour affair. Haigh’s emotionally honest scripting and the pitch-perfect performances by Cullen and New lend poignancy and unexpected intimacy to this story of a brief but powerful affair.

Project Nim is not a film about a happy chimpanzee who came to live with humans.  It is more a commentary on the flaws of behavioral science, the flaws of mankind, and above all the realization that it is possible for a primate species to evolve in unimaginable ways--if only humans were a strong enough species to allow the flourishing to occur without dire consequence.

There are two ways that a filmmaker can approach a horror film.  The first is to make a truly frightening and realistic film that will scare the audience long after they’ve finished watching the film.  The second way is to make the film so over the top ridiculous that shocks and screams are mixed with laughs.  Horror legend Wes Craven achieved the first type of film with his 1984 masterpiece A Nightmare On Elm Streeticon.  Two years later, he tried his hand at the other type when he made Deadly Friend.

While watching Another Earth is a completely enjoyable experience, thanks in part to the performances by the very talented William Mapother (John) and Brit Marling (Rhoda) it is a very routine and predictable film.  Rhoda is awash with grief and must reconcile with herself and the man she hurt; as she goes about doing this it is obvious where the film is going to take you.  The side-story of there being another Earth out there, and the upcoming launch of a group of civilians going to visit it, is important but obvious in the direction of the story.  The ending, completely expected and a tad redundant.

"Print Media is Dead!"  Well, not exactly dead but it is slowly dying.  Numerous newspapers across the country have gone out of business since the Internet grew exponentially, providing immediate content distribution via a free source model.  Some of the largest newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times (and its sister publications) have been forced into bankruptcy to protect themselves, resulting in a much smaller version of the paper with less than stellar content.  Andrew Rossi's documentary, Page One: Inside the New York Times goes inside the largest newspaper in the United States, The New York Times, to document the effects the Internet, and changing media platforms, have had on the paper, as well as seeking answers to the question that has been circulating for years amidst the changing tides of media distribution, "When will the New York Times cease to exist?"

It is astonishing – incomprehensible, even – that local indie drama How to Cheat should have won the acting prize for its ensemble at this year’s LA Film Festival – the leads of Sawdust City, for example, were far more deserving. True, the acting is one of the least bad things about the film, and if star-acting is the trick of making the character become the actor as opposed to vice versa, then across the handful of films of his I have seen, indie everyman Kent Osborne is certainly a star, and one of the most charmless onscreen today.

There is something inherently creepy about twins.  There’s something about not being able to tell the difference between two beings, especially if one is good and one is evil, that is frightening, and horror writers have picked up on this fact.  From the separated conjoined sisters in Brian Depalma’s Sisters to the woman-sharing brothers in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, twins have been a staple of scary movies.  In 1972, Robert Mulligan (who directed To Kill a Mockingbird) brought Thomas Tryon’s The Other to the big screen, and brought the Perry twins into everyone’s nightmares.

Frivolous lawsuits, tort reform, caps on damages, just a few legal terms that if you asked the average person on the street the likelihood they would know what these things are is questionable--or at least that is the belief Director Susan Saladoff wants you to have given her on-the-street interviews in the documentary Hot Coffee.  The film centers around four specific cases, each relating to one of the above terms, and how they have impacted the legal system today.  It is an incredibly dense documentary that provides little entertainment value to the material being presented.  Consisting of interviews with the parties involved in each case as well as others, and additionally legal jargon or definitions titled throughout Hot Coffee feels like an educational video.  In its defense, it provides great detail on the matters addressed, yet it is plagued with poor production values and a clear social message at the end that is off-putting to a viewer who is not easily influenced.

Director Bert I. Gordon (nicknamed Mr. B.I.G.) was at the helm of some of the most creative and innovative sci-fi and horror films of the last century.  Gordon wrote and directed such great B-movies as The Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants and The Amazing Colossal Man.  In 1960, Gordon made Tormented, his take on a simple ghost story.  While not as well known as his other films, Tormented is still a big feather in Gordon’s cap.

The iconic image of Henry Spencer from Eraserhead floats across the screen as the short film How To Make A David Lynch Film begins.  For all the ways this man looks just like Henry, a true Lynchian fan knows it is not; this man is an impostor, and something is awry.  This trickery is of course done on purpose by Director Joe McClean for this is a film about how to make a film like David Lynch makes a film, and what better way to begin such a fete than with Lynch's illustrious main character from his first feature film. 

Great directors are not born, they’re made.  They hone their craft through years of putting all of their blood, sweat and tears onto a thin strip of celluloid, often with embarrassing results.  It’s no surprise that a director of Oliver Stone’s caliber would have a debut like SeizureSeizure was written (along with acclaimed horror writer Edward Mann) and directed by Stone in 1974, long before he made Platoon and JFK.  While his promise as a director shines through, so does his lack of experience.

  Harry Potter Featurette...

Three short years after bursting onto the horror scene with his directorial debut Hellraiser, Clive Barker adapted his novel “Cabal” into the big screen monster movie Nightbreed.  Like Hellraiser, Barker both wrote and directed Nightbreed and, although not a commercial success, the movie has found a cult audience that is rabidly faithful.    Nightbreed is a movie about monsters, but it is not a typical monster movie.  It is part fairy tale, part mythology and part straight-up horror.

Years from now, people all over the world will remember where they were when an American Navy Seal team caught and killed Osama Bin Laden in a daring raid. Me? I was watching Riff and Bernardo dance-battle at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

West Side Story, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was screened in a flawless 70mm print to a packed house at the iconic Egyptian theater. The audience sang and danced in their seats (or at least lip-synched), which might usually be a distraction or annoyance but with the festival atmosphere and stunning colors and choreography writ large on the screen, it was practically impossible to contain oneself. The news of Bin Laden’s death did nothing to dissuade the enthusiastic applause that followed every musical number. (It may even have contributed to the elation—USA! USA!)

During the 1920s, all films were screened with live musical accompaniment, from the small town piano player to the largest metropolitan orchestra. Without a prescribed soundtrack and audible dialogue, there was no singular version of any film, allowing for a diverse, collaborative experience and many repeat viewings. I have seen silent films with piano accompaniment, and I have seen The Cameraman many times, but I have never had a more exciting silent film experience than this one at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

The Tingler (1959) is a glorious exaltation of big screen gimmickry. The film features Vincent Price as Dr. Warren Chapin, a mad scientist (what else!) who discovers that extreme fear is caused by a parasite attached to the spine. The only way to stop the "Tingler" (so called because it causes that tingling sensation you get on your spine when you feel afraid) is to let out a blood-curdling scream, killing the monster and detaching it from your spine. In a Hitchcockian turn, Castle himself appears in the prologue of the picture, warning the audience: "Remember this: a scream at the right time may save your life!"

I Bury the Living is a very misleading film.  Judging from the title, it would seem to be an eerie Edgar Allan Poe adaptation.  Looking at the movie poster, one would think that it is a zombie splatter flick.  It is neither.  Directed by Albert Band (Ghoulies II) in 1958, I Bury the Living is a suspenseful supernatural tale that comes off as more of a 76 minute episode of “The Twilight Zone” than a heart-pounding horror film.

In 1978, director Richard Attenborough and writer William Goldman teamed up to parlay the success they had with their war film A Bridge Too Far into a psychological thriller.  The movie they ended up making was Magic, featuring a crazy looking ventriloquist dummy that is so terrifying, it still haunts the nightmares of anyone who was a child when they saw the film for the first time.

With a film so thoroughly parsed and analyzed, you can’t really review Citizen Kane—you just have to experience it. And the TCM Classic Film Festival provided one hell of an experience. Screening a newly restored digital print at the enormous, gorgeous picture palace of Grauman’s Chinese theater, Citizen Kane was a mighty spectacle. Perhaps you have not seen the film and scoff at the hype surrounding its status as Greatest Film of All-Time. Oh, no, my friend. Believe the hype. Although such designations are arbitrary, Kane is an almost indefensibly solid choice for the #1 spot. Celebrating its seventieth anniversary this year, Welles’ masterpiece is as modern as the day it debuted and, impossible though it may seem, somehow still comes across as fresh, innovative and something heretofore unseen in cinema.

Before he made The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome and Scanners in the 80’s, David Cronenberg wrote and directed The Brood in 1979.  Although not his directorial debut, The Brood was his first commercially successful film.  While by no means as popular as the films he would make in the decade after its release, The Brood would pave the way for the iconic mix of science fiction and horror that would become the director’s trademark.

Bernard Herrmann made beautiful music; whether it was romantic, chilling, laced with suspense, or of the fantastic realm.  For those who study film it only takes a small sampling of a score before you know it was composed by Bernard Herrmann, his style is quickly recognizable, as is his musical genius.  I may have seen The Ghost and Mrs. Muir a dozen times before but never had I solely watched in order to let the music overtake me, and even closed my eyes at times to feel the emotions the score evoked without a single moving image to assist.  It was remarkable, and the score should be noted as one of Herrmann's best, and appreciated more than it has been in film history. 

A Night at the Opera does not have the satirical bite of their earlier masterpiece Duck Soup and for that, will probably always be considered by some to be the lesser Marx Brothers movie. However, in terms of comedy construction and pure laugh factor, A Night at the Opera is the better film. All of the comedy routines, including the classic contract bit (with the famous “sanity clause” joke), are perfectly timed and executed. Their inclusion in any other movie would be the highlight of a lesser film. As always, seeing a film (especially a comedy) in a theater, with an audience, amplifies its impact. There are so many laughs in the picture that are packed so tightly, it’s thrilling to hear an audience react to one joke with a hearty laugh, followed by little, mini-laughs: the glorious ripple effect you rarely experience watching at home.

In The Devil is a Woman Marlene Dietrich’s eyes are constantly moving: searching, darting, batting flirtatiously. By their fifth and final film collaboration, Dietrich and director Joseph von Sternberg had perfected the formula for exotic, onscreen seduction: just keep the camera on Dietrich. As Concha Perez, an enterprising destroyer of men’s souls, Dietrich is as alluring and deadly as any black widow spider. Can she help it if every man in the movie is so utterly powerless against her charms?

As one of Marlene Dietrich's most unpopular films, The Devil Is A Woman made the perfect choice by The Turner Classic Movie Festival as part of the Discoveries section as many people have never seen the movie.  A newly restored 35mm print was loaned to the festival by the Museum of Modern Art.  Katie Trainor of MoMa introduced the film and gave a brief history of the restoration.  The only reason the film is available is because of Marlene Dietrich herself.  Having always loved the movie, and saying it was the most favorite part she ever played, Dietrich had a print of the film in her personal vault.  Paramount Pictures had destroyed the master shortly after release when Spain threatened to ban all Paramount movies because of the (so they felt) negative depiction of the Spanish Police Guard.  Mildly put, this movie was scandalous...

Comparisons to Psycho are inevitable with Peeping Tom.  Both were made in 1960.  Both are suspenseful, scary and unlike anything the movie going public had ever seen.  Both films imply violence more than they actually show it, and both deal with the underlying theme of voyeurism and vulnerability.  The main characters have similar traits, too, both being socially awkward loners with psychotic tendencies brought about by parental issues.  But where Psycho is a more straightforward crazy-killer movie, Peeping Tom is a complex character study of a disturbed murderer.

As hard as it may be to believe Pixar Animation turns 25 this year.  The brilliant minds, who have made animated films accessible to both adults and children, show no sign of slowing their total domination of the animated film market, much to the joy of many filmgoers.  It may not seem like a big deal to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a company,  but Pixar is special in a very distinct way; they have consistently produced product that is intelligent, entertaining, and flawless in design.  They have also singlehandedly (in lieu of recent achievements by Dreamworks Animation) changed the face of animation forever. 

Nineteen Eighty-Two saw the release of the third Friday the 13th movie (in 3D!), which was the first film in the franchise in which Jason donned his famous hockey mask.  That mask transformed Jason from a simple camp killer to an Iconic Movie Villain.  However, most people are unaware that another movie murderer also picked up a hockey mask that same year and has been all but forgotten.  Maybe it’s because The Bleeder from Alone in the Dark had to share his psychotic load with three other madmen, or maybe it’s because he only wore the mask for one scene, but Jason has gone down in history and The Bleeder is just a footnote in horror movie archives.

Somewhere in between the lumbering, grunting zombies of Night of the Living Dead and the athletic, screaming zombies of 28 Days Later, there lies a more frightening zombie.  This scarier zombie is the one that walks among the living, undetected by the untrained eye.  These are the zombies that populate director Gary Sherman's (Poltergeist III) 1981 film Dead & Buried.



With the recent announcement of at-home video-on-demand services playing in-theatre films the Theatre Chains are left wondering what the future holds.  Presented here is an alternative model for them, an option to run with and to hopefully succeed to not only build up business but cater to those who go to the theatre and those who want to watch at home, or on the go.

Conception is a deeply intimate film.  It borders on the voyeuristic in many ways as you are privy to the inner workings, the feelings, the heartfelt sentiment, and often hilarious banter of couple's private matters.  The film holds nothing back as it develops, and the writing is exceptionally genuine joined with great talent by Director Josh Stolberg.  These are conversations people do have, circumstances many people face, and uncertain futures one can relate with completely.

THOR, from Paramount Pictures...Watch the new "Taser" clip.  See the trailers and television spots, and check out photography and one-sheets from the film. 
The year 2010 is over and the time has come to choose the best films of the year! 
Splice One SheetSplice may not be traditional, but the film is all the better for it. Of course, you may not like it. You may buy a ticket and walk out of the theater cursing my name for this recommendation. So be it. The backlash on message boards is already as strong of the film's critical support. It's been accused of being anti-science, pro-rape, anti-women, ablist, misogynistic, as well as the usual filmgoer complaints of "dumb" and "boring." But if you want to see something that doesn't challenge you at all, that doesn't care about the psychological complexities of its characters or the moral and ethnical implications of their work, a film that doesn't give a lick about science or scientists, then please, don't see Splice.

I walked out of the theater after Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces and my eyes refused to adjust back from the brilliant and colorful world of the film; the real world paled in comparison. Even as I shut them now, the vibrant reds, moody blues, and roaring yellows still swim against my eyelids. Almodovar does not just use color, he speaks with color. He allows the film to move solely through colors, which results in a visual journey that remains beautiful as it carries the viewer through difficult relationship trauma. The irony: all this magnificent color for a tale about a blind man and his emotional scars.

I realize it may be difficult to see Pablo Escobar as a positive influence on Colombia.  This is the great paradox of the film.  It defies the historiographies and provides a new outlook.  We may go as far as to say Andrés is similar to Pablo in that he is fully what Pablo was partly.  The good soul who wanted no more than to give pride to his country.   Only to have that stripped away from him by his own people when murdered.  As the filmmakers Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist state about making the film, "it became clear that this was far from a classic "deal-with-the-devil" narrative".  That statement only becomes more and more clear as every piece of history is revealed.  Call Pablo a devil if you like but be prepared to see a side of him that has not been seen before while being introduced to a man full of love for his country who could only have existed with the devil by his side, Andrés Escobar.
life_with_murderIt is impossible to know the events of that day or what happened between Director and Subject leading up to filming.  By the way the scene plays out it is hard for me to see anything other than a form of reality television occurring.  As we all know, reality television is nothing close to reality, it is scripted.  I can hope this is not the case and I do not mean to take away from the amount of work involved with this documentary as the production value is good.  I simply cannot reconcile that what I have seen is in fact natural.  All I could think at the end, when trying to decide where this film falls in the documentary genre, is that it belongs with Nanook of the North (Robert J. Flaherty  1922).
Pat_Tillman_(left)_and_his_brother_Kevin_from_Amir_Bar-Lev'When The Tillman Story draws to a close and the lights go on you will feel a rush of emotion.  I noticed a definite quieting of people as they left the theater as if deep in thought and in need of processing what they had just watched and in turn learned from.  This is a film everyone should see because it unmasks so much in terms of our government and military.  To say you will enjoy the film is impossible.  I did not enjoy watching this movie but I did appreciate it and gain respect for all involved.   For to tell this story could not have been easy and took much bravery to put it out there for the world to see regardless of the repercussions.  No matter what reaction the film evokes in you remember it is not just the story of Pat Tillman.  It represents all military personnel and the truth that what happened to Pat can and will happen again. 
animal_kingdomThe opening credits are accompanied by still photographs of a bank robbery.  The music melancholy and foreboding.  The final title frame is a portrait of the animal kingdom.  The lion standing tall amongst the other animals.  The films title hovers for a moment over the portrait and we immediately realize this is a film about power and dominance.  What we do not yet know is how the film will depict the destructive nature of such power and it's fleeting existence. 
the_last_exorcism[Excerpt]  You want desperately for more light, more noise, anything to clue you in to what is going to happen.  All of your senses awaken in an attempt to find answers.  To solve the puzzle before the characters do so you can sit in peace for the rest of the film.  This peaceful existence never happens because there are no answers it seems.
 centurion_2"If you like your history bloody, this is the film", Director Neil Marshall introducing Centurion to the audience at The Los Angeles Film Festival Ford Theatre screening.  Those are strong words to live up to and it was with great pleasure that the film delivered just what he promised.  Centurion  is an epic of small proportions. 
chicken_coopAs a spotlight film of the 2010 Feel Good Film Festival it definitely was well suited for this particular festival as you walk away from the film with a positive feeling, regardless of the somewhat uncertain and bleak ending for the two documented filmmakers.  The film took home Best Director for Brent Florence at the festival.  More information on the film directly can be found at its website here.
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The film attempts to show the validity of each person's talent as artists but a large majority of the time is either focused on Nora'a romantic entanglements or fellow art student, and secret Nora admirer, Emanuel's (Hayes Hargrove) whining over his artists block.  In a sad twist you actually want the art student's to lose their home just to put an end to this drab, flat story.  If Iggy Pop, playing the eccentric father of Nora, is a draw for you then you will be very upset since his appearance totals about five minutes of the entire movie.  He makes an impression, as only Iggy can, but nothing can make up for the rest of the film.  When the movie finally decides to put aside all the relationship drama and focus on the art you are given an interesting look into what can be perceived as art in the modern world, if only for a brief moment. 
mesrine_celebrityThe infamous French Gangster Jacques Mesrine's life is chronicled in a two-part film that attempts to show the man behind the media sensation that he became as French Public Enemy No. 1.  Part One, aptly titled Killer Instinct, begins with Mesrine's return from Algeria in 1959 to France.  It chronicles his rise to a life of crime that included bank robbing, murderer for the mob, kidnapper, and a most entertaining master jail break artist.  Over a span of 20 years he would become both the most wanted criminal in France and a celebrity, as shown in part two Public Enemy #1.  Leading to a fitting end in a hail of gunfire at the public Place de Clichy in 1979. 


Even with its tendency towards the melodramatic, Bedrooms does portray important human struggles that are relatable.  The disillusionment of life, the secrets people keep, and the possibilities of reconciliation with truth, are wonderfully presented.  Bedrooms is a raw portrait of human relationships in its writing and presentation; but looking past the rough edges you can see the impressive depth of each story. 
cuestion_de_principios_posterAdalberto faces an incredibly difficult decision on whether to stand true to his beliefs that not everything has a price or to give in to the tempting prospect of selling the magazine for the spoils the money may bring. 
I'm Still Here One Sheet[Excerpt] Taking a good look at Joaquin Phoenix at this point, and to be completely blunt, you can only think he has suffered some sort of mental break and emotional breakdown.  His appearance alone is upsetting as he has gained a considerable amount of weight, has a beard that is overgrown and mangy, his hair is a knotted mess that may or may not have been washed in the past month, and even his clothing are in tatters.  He smokes far too many cigarettes, partakes in various recreational drugs, drinks large amounts of alcohol, enjoys the occasional hooker or groupie and looks like he has not had a decent nights rest in years.  His attitude is sometimes positive and carefree but in a moment may turn to angry, paranoid, or loopy.  Phoenix is a mess, and taking him serious when he is in this condition is a difficult task.  Then again, we do not know the real Joaquin Phoenix, as he made quite clear in the beginning.
carleton_gajdusekNobel Prize winner.  Genius scientist.  Valued friend and co-worker.  Pedophile. 
Set in Hamburg, Germany, Soul Kitchen is a comedy of errors centered around Zinos, a small-time restaurant owner who has seen better days.  His girlfriend is moving to Shanghai, his restaurant performing below expectations, and his parolee brother causes him the occasional amount of grief.  To make matters worse, he injures his back causing a herniated disc, making it impossible for him to cook.  Adding to the already full plate he has is a childhood friend who is set on purchasing the land the restaurant sits upon and he will stop at nothing to make it his own.  Poor Zinos, he just cannot seem to catch a break.  Thankfully this adds up to a great amount of comedy for the viewer as we watch him stumble through the multiple trials put in front of him. 
Wild TargetVictor Maynard (Bill Nighy) comes from a family of assassins with a long legacy of deadeye pride. His mother (Eileen Atkins), who he has recently moved into a retirement home after living with her all his life, is none too pleased Victor has heretofore failed to produce an heir to continue the family trade. Lonely, exacting, socially awkward and approaching his fifty-fifth birthday, Victor is a failure. (The fact that he's the most ruthlessly efficient and expensive assassin in London does not seem to impress dear, old ma.) But when Victor is hired to kill Rose (Emily Blunt), a beautiful thief on the wrong side of an elegant criminal (Rupert Everett), it seems his legacy problems might be solved.
Guy and Madeline on a Park BenchGuy and Madeline on a Park Bench, the stunning debut feature from twenty-five year old writer/director Damien Chazelle, harkens back to a time when intimate, docu-realist love stories were common and the lines between film genres weren’t so rigid. Chazelle’s film feels both classic and thrillingly new, something we haven’t seen much of since the French New Wave pioneered that kind of storytelling more then fifty years ago. Guy and Madeline is a love story set to music, scored by the jazz that he (trumpeter Jason Palmer) plays and she (Desiree Garcia) longs to share. 
As part of the Special Screenings section of the 2010 AFI FEST, Made In Dagenham held the promise of a rousing tribute to the women of Dagenham, England, who in 1968 went on strike against Ford Motor Company to demand equal pay to the men employed at the factory.  This Norma Rae type film ended up being a practically disgraceful representation of this proud moment in women's history.