Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A LESS THAN SOBER REVIEW OF THE REMAKE OF WHEN A STRANGER CALLS

NOTE: I composed this review a month or so ago and have absolutely no recollection of writing it.  I came across it in my blog drafts and after a couple dozen requests from my twitter followers, I'm releasing it here for you all to see.  Be warned: alcohol is a hell of a drug.

In case you haven't been reading me for a while, you should know by now that only I'm a half step above a fetus. That's right, Ms. BJ-C is only 22 years old.  That being said, I have no shame in admitting that I still live with my parents while fulfilling my collegiate degree and they still pay for my shit. Meaning, my parents pay my tab at the bar...sometimes, okay...most of the time. I guess they're figuring that paying for my tab will equate to my being a designated driver on the nights I stay at home with my skype boyfriend.  They're right. Weeelll, Tonight is one of those nights!  I came home after an eventful night (with the parental units on my bicycle that does include a bell and basket) to pop on FEARnet.  My mom is a HUGE horror junkie and the sole reason I am the huge geek I am today. I have a confession: I just spent twenty or so minutes proofreading that last paragraph. AAAAANYWAY, my Mom wasn't ready to tackle the SAW franchise because she wanted to see them all at once, so I put on the remake version of one of her favorite films, When A Stranger Calls.  Although Camilla Belle isn't quite the doe eyed teenager as Carol Kane was, her eyebrows more than make up for it. They're distracting, there I said it. Her brows were distracting when she was the little girl that fed her sandwich to dinosaurs in The Lost World, and they're distracting now.

So the one thing I've noticed more than anything, is that Camilla Belle is the WORST babysitter ever. It's been about an hour and she hasn't even checked the kids. I'm sorry, but as a legally registered daycare provider, you can check a God damn room without waking them.  There's a way to check the room without screaming and causing a ruckus, so you should be fired already.  I'm surprised these rich assholes don't have nanny cams hidden in the damn wallpaper lining and are calling every twenty seconds to tell you how their soy-allergen children need you to filter their bottled water. Regardless, this film was made after 2005 so can we just discuss that NO ONE USES A LANDLINE.  If she wasn't suspicious and freaked out by random calls to a landline phone, she's a god damn idiot. These folks are RICH, chances are they have their blue tooths or whatever glued to their heads, NO ONE is going to call their landline.  So her character can't use her cell phone, right? I'm sorry, I understand your cell went over minutes, but that doesn't render it useless.  Chances are, your douchebag friends/boyfriend aren't going to be considerate enough to call the landline of the home you're watching, considering they weren't nice enough to be careful about your minutes in the first place.  I'm really into continuity, but apparently the director was not. Add that to the fact that the police are uncontentious and also totally cool with swearing and we've gotten ourselves a movie. Can I just say how much I love the red squiggly line spellcheck thing? It's seriously saving my ass right now.  Moving on.  If these people are rich enough to have a maid that cleans everything including the kitchen sink, why don't they have a nanny?  CONTINUITY, DO YOU SPEAK IT MOTHERFUCKER?!

So then out of nowhere her ex-bff shows up? Wait. What? They're fighting. Blondie bits played a few rounds of tonsil hockey with Browilla Belle's boy toy and now she shows up to apologize?  Does this screenwriter understand how teenagers work?  These bitches would be passive aggressively talking about each other on facebook, eerrr...at this time it would have been myspace.  The fact that she showed up to make amends and apologize is far less believable than Browilla Belle thinking she doesn't need to check the children.  I have an idea. From now on, filmmakers have to meet with actual teenagers before writing teenage characters.  If this behavior was performed, we wouldn't have Diablo Cody dialogue or When a Stranger Calls behavior.  Sound good? Okay.

That concludes a less than sober review of the remake of When A Stranger Calls. I imagine this would have been far better suited as a vlog. Let me know what you'd prefer in the comments section.
:)


J BUCKNER SHOWS GREAT POTENTIAL WITH DEBUT SHORT: I AM ALIVE

This past weekend, I was one of the privileged individuals able to witness the world premiere of J Buckner's short film I AM ALIVE based on the short story "I, Zombie" by AE Stueve.  Over the last month or so, there has been a decent amount of promotion for this film and I was nervous that watching the film would drive me to eat my words.  I'm glad to say that this isn't the case at all, whatsoever.  While I AM ALIVE is in no way a perfect short, the promise that J Buckner and his crew showcases with their debut (legitimate) film is something that cannot be ignored. 

Now, I use the term "legitimate" lightly because I am a firm believer that there is a sense of legitimacy in everything that is created.  However, the filmmaking experiences that J Buckner have on his resume before I AM ALIVE tiptoe between the lines of "hilariously slapstick" and "a bunch of weird kids with a flip cam".  The desire to create a film stemmed from a series of webshorts and fake trailers created by J Buckner, his wife, his friends, and his band Galactic Moustache.  The filmmaking bug had bitten and Buck was hooked.  I AM ALIVE is the first genuine project from this group of people under the name Studio On Mars.

The story of the short film surrounds a Post-Zombie Apocalypse society where the nation has begun to rebuild and restore a sense of normalcy.  Somehow a calming cure has been discovered and zombies are able to regain many of their human like attributes.  Deemed a burden by society, the re-living undead must find a way to gain solace knowing the rest of society views them on the same level as a pitbull or a homosexual in North Carolina.  It reminding me a bit of S.G. Browne’s BREATHERS, but that wasn’t a bad thing in the slightest.  As far as the screeplay is concerned, I found the dialogue and pacing to be very well contrived.  After reading the short story, it is clear that J Buckner has a grasp for finding humor in situations that may not be up front with comedy.  He makes very interesting choices integrating outside characters as well as which parts of character development from the short story to include.  The dialogue was very realistic, true to the heart of the source material, and flowed nicely.  There were no lines or moments that felt "off" or dull.

Throughout the film, there are little bits of "confessional" shots very reminiscent of The Office.  I rather enjoyed the decision to have the characters break the fourth wall, however, it would have been more beneficial if each character remained in the same position during their confessionals.  There were two characters who were shot from different angles each time they had a confessional and it distracted from the effect.  The same would be said about the camera distance from each character.  The same two were shot far closer than the rest of the group and it always forced my eyes to adjust, taking me out of the moment or the expected pattern my brain was craving.  There are also interview shots taken from "people on the street" and there is an over-abundance of background noise in these shots.  As much as I'd like to criticize the filmmakers for this, it would be incredibly cruel to do so.  It's a debut film, and they're not shooting with James Cameron's equipment.  It's low-budget, I'll cut them some slack.

The casting pool was clearly limited, but 90% of the characters were well cast.  My only gripe is that the woman chosen to play a doctor would never in ten thousand years be viewed believably as a doctor.  The shame is that the actress playing the doctor is incredibly fun to watch, but would have been better suited in a different role.  It wasn't a matter of bad acting, it was just a poor casting decision.  Otherwise, all of the actors brought a different flavor to each of their characters, and they were all very unique, yet unified.  It was a joy to watch these different personalities mesh cohesively during their sessions and remain particular when viewed alone.  What impressed me most was Jen Poland's portrayal of the character "Rachel" a valley girl.  While Jen didn't exactly look the part of a valley girl, her character voice was absolutely PERFECT. It's all too often that an actress gets carried away with a valley girl voice, but Rachel really grasped the perfect balance.  J Buckner also starred in the short and was the most natural on screen.  If he chooses against filmmaking, he's quite a solid actor.

One of my major qualms with the short has absolutely nothing to do with the short itself, but rather the environment in which it was presented to me.  The short film premiered after a series of the webisodes and fake trailers that brought the Studio On Mars to what it has become today.  While I completely understand wanting to show off the roots before getting to the tree, the earlier work is in a completely different world than I AM ALIVE.   I am alive is a much more traditional comedy while the earlier works are of an entirely different flavor.  Imagine sitting through a Troma movie marathon and then jumping into Shaun of the Dead.  While both are considered comedies, they speak an entirely different language.  The second time I viewed I AM ALIVE, I had already seen the earlier trailers and I enjoyed myself far more than I did with the first viewing.  I didn't have to suffer through a transition period of switching gears of different genres of films.

As expected, the makeup design from Zach Shildwachter was fantastic.  It was unified yet diverse and believably showed a progression of the different stages of infection.  One of the characters was to look "cured" and yet still very undead and the results looked like a more naturalized Pavi from Repo! The Genetic Opera.  I also found the costume design to be well thought (whether it was intentional or not is beside the point).  All of the zombies wore shades of brown, black, and gray giving them a sense of stability in contrast to the "normal people" who were shown wearing patterns, bright colors, or graphic t-shirts.  The lighting was also well done for all of the interior shots, but a bit harsh in some of the outdoor shots.  It almost felt as if the film was living in two different worlds, which for this story, actually sort of works.

Ultimately, I would really like to see what J Buckner and the kids from Studio on Mars could do with a bigger budget, a larger casting pool, and better equipment.  The creativity and passion is evident within the final product (can I also go on about how strong of an editor Buckner is?) and I am excited to see what else is to come of them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: THE BUCKEYE BRINGS THE HORROR

I will be the first one to admit that I'm a self-proclaimed Chicago snob. I firmly believe that Chicago, Illinois is the greatest city in the United States and would defend it until I'm Cubbie Blue in the face.  Recent events, however, have forced me to contemplate leaving the Windy City and replanting some roots in the Buckeye State.  This past weekend was my first real dive into the Cleveland horror scene and I have to say, it's a pretty incestuously wonderful place to be.  I spent the weekend crashing at the pad of horror enthusiast (and DotW favorite), Zach Shildwachter.  I don't have any pictures of it, but trust me when I say his place is a fankid's dream home.  One of the major things that attracts me to a city and its film scene has to do with the accessibility of finding them.  I've been to my fair share of Record Exchanges, but the Cleveland Record Exchange was massive.  Unrealistically massive.  Without the insane price markups of Cook County, IL, the two of us were able to nab quite a huge haul of films.

As the two of us debated on what should have been included on the Roger Corman collection, we were approached by a worker who was willing to discuss god-awful horror movies with us.  He generated a very welcoming atmosphere and it was nice to find solace with someone who understood why we found Shadowzone to be a worthy purchase amongst an entire store full of people looking to pawn off their rejected Tyler Perry collections. The following day was a real treat as we were joined by The Blood Sprayer's founder Wes Allen, his beautiful wife, and adorable spawn.  The first half of the visit was spent debating horror movies, discussing the awesome people in the horror blogosphere, and a mask fashion show led by Zach and Mini-Allen.  Living at home with my parents when I'm not away at school has been extremely difficult on having some quality horror bonding time.  The Allen clan didn't come over just for shits and gigs, we had far more interesting plans ahead of us.

In order to properly prepare for the evening ahead, we needed to transform out of our normal flesh suits and into something a bit more undead.  Thanks to Zach Shildwachter's incredible knack for special effects makeup and a love of all things zombie, he was able to transform four adults into four very different and contrasting in progression zombies.  He started with Wes who dons a beard of epic proportions, giving a little less room of flesh to work with.  Zach did such a great job, many of Wes' facebook comments on the picture included people asking what the hell happened to him.  Wes' wife Ashley was given a zombie bite beginning to mutate her skin, I was given a simple and classic hollowed out look, and Zach donned some contacts and black blood --his most recent obsession.  The looks we received on the way to the event, priceless.

The reason for all of the zombie makeup?  OldSchool Sinema's Zombie Bowling, of course!  From what I have been gathering, OldSchool Sinema is the major distributor of all of the zombie-centric events around the greater Cleveland area.  Home of the best in NEW exploitation/grindhouse/horror/B-Movie/
cult/underground cinema, host of the Cleveland charity ZOMBIE WALK (every spring and fall), and of the Sinema Sirens (Pin-ups, scream queens), Oldschool Sinema is growing bigger and stronger.  The crew rented out the basement level of Mahalls 20 Lanes, and for 10 dollars we were treated to unlimited bowling.  Zombies and Toys was there to provide plenty of zombie collectibles for purchase and tons fun memorabilia.  There was also alcohol and surprisingly wonderful grub.

The main reason I trekked out to Ohio was actually to enjoy the world premiere of the short film I AM ALIVE by J Buckner.  (Review will come tomorrow!)  The film was shown along with a handful of other shorts that The Studio On Mars productions have come up with and held the event at the outstanding venue, The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern.  The turn out was massive and it just goes to show what a strong support system the Cleveland film scene has.  The author of the story in which the short film was based off of even drove up from Omaha, Nebraska to see the film.  I was very impressed with the set up and more impressed with the environment than anything.  Everyone at the event was wanting to be there and better yet, was excited to be there.

All and all, maybe Hawthorne Heights had it right.
Ohio is totally for lovers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

OLD SCHOOL SINEMA PRESENTS: ZOMBIE BOWLING


 As I write this post, I am sitting pretty in the Buckeye state gearing up for what promises to be one of the coolest horror fan hosted events tomorrow in Cleveland.  Brought to us by Old School Sinema (Established in Cleveland 2006), the gang behind a dozen Cleveland and Akron ZOMBIE WALK events, as well as the annual ZOMBIE PROM, introduces a new and fun zombie pastime: ZOMBIE BOWLING! Taking place at the awesome, old school Mahall’s (located on 13200 Madison Ave. in Lakewood, OH), the OSS ZOMBIE BOWLING event will take place in the basement where they have reserved all of the lanes and bar area to all of the zombie clad attendees. 
I have yet to experience an event hosted by these fine folks, but if the pictures from their facebook of their other events are any proof, I'm in for a hell of a ride.
Cost is $10 (includes free shoe rentals and non-stop bowling). 
Bring some extra money. ZOMBIE TOYS will be the vendor with a TON of zombie goodies.

Monday, July 2, 2012

SEVENTY YEARS AND SEVEN GENRE CHANGING MOVIES

Have you missed me?! I apologize for the lack of posts recently, working 40 hours at a job that's extremely taxing on the soul has been wreaking havoc on me.  To bring back the blogging, I put out a request on twitter of possible topics.  There were a handful of awesome topics and a few I'll even pursue at a later date (5,000 words on Suspiria, anyone?) but it was actually a random anonymous message on my personal tumblr that is responsible for today.  I was posed the challenge to choose ONE film from each decade from 1950-now and explain why it rules.  I can only pick one per decade, so this is going to be rather difficult and don't take it personally if I don't discuss your favorite.  Wish me luck.


1950's : DIABOLIQUE
Now before all of you threaten to drown me in the Blue Lagoon, I wanted to focus on a horror film that was a little less than an obvious choice. Diabolique is important not only because it was one of the first foreign horror films to make a name for itself in the states, but it was a psychological masterpiece that helped introduce the "twist ending" that has sense become predictable and lackluster.  Greg Kihn was right, they just really don't write 'em like that anymore.  Hitchcock has cited Diabolique as being one of the films that helped inspire him to create Psycho.  Directed, produced, and an adapted screenplay by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Diabolique is an absolute classic that brought new staples to the genre that we still adhere to today.


1960's: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
I must have spent nearly thirty minutes debating between Psycho, Rosemary's Baby, The Haunting, but ultimately had to choose Night of the Living Dead.  Before this moment in cinematic history, zombie films were nothing more than Hollywood's way to continue to be blatantly racist without getting in trouble.  George Romero took the classic "zombie" practices and created the penultimate horror movie monster.  Universal may have brought us the classic movie monsters and Hitchcock perfected the art of filmmaking, but George Romero is the king of the zombies and grandfathered in the most popular subgenre in horror history.  There were plenty of monumental and groundbreaking horror films from the 1960s, but Night of the Living Dead is what changed the face of horror forever and ushered in a whole new breed of movie monster.
1970's:  JAWS
Without a doubt, this decade was the most difficult to choose from. I can only imagine that choosing one horror film out of the seventies is on the same level that parents feel when determining which child gets to open the first gift on Christmas morning.  The 70's brought us The Exorcist, Halloween, Suspiria, Alien, Dawn of the Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and an unfathomable amount of other incredibly strong films.  If you claim you can swim alone in the ocean without instinctively hearing the low notes of John Williams' masterpiece, you're a huge liar. It was Bruce the shark who swam his way into our lives and permanently ruined oceans, small boats, and skinny dipping for everyone.  There hasn't been a film since JAWS that has generated as strong of a reaction from audiences and it acted as the prototypical summer blockbuster film, completely changing the way films are marketed and released.

1980's: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
Much like the 1970's, the 1980's was an incredibly strong year for horror.  In an attempt to veer away from the slashers and without pouring a glass of Red Rum, I've chosen my pick of the 1980's to be the helicopter killer's horror comedy flick, An American Werewolf in London.  The late 70's and 80's started the horror obsession in cross genre horror films.  Of course AAWIL wasn't the first horror comedy, but it was one of the most successful and showed Hollywood that horror fans craved this type of horror film.  Shorty after AAWIL was released, there was a surge of horror comedies, but none have matched the all around greatness of John Landis' moonstruck talking picture.

1990's: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
The 1990's was a less than favorable decade for horror films.  While I'm not saying there weren't sensational films out of the 90s, there just wasn't nearly as many in comparison to decades before.  Maybe it was the obsession with SNL films and bad romantic comedies, but horror seemed to take quite a backseat.  However, a "based on a true story" found footage film perfected one of the now more popular subgenres of horror. The Blair Witch Project has been parodied so much since its release that we often forget how much "Holy Shit" it delivered upon its release.  Audiences have since grown borderline OBSESSED with found-footage style horror films and it still acts as one of the most profitable subgenres of horror.  Even god-awful found footage films crank in millions of undeserved dollars simply because we want these films to be real so badly.  Due to the lack of films of this nature for the time and the BRILLIANT viral marketing campaign (the first of its kind) audiences were forced to decide for themselves whether or not they were in fact watching some sort of snuff film, or just a slice of fantastic guerilla filmmaking.  
2000's: THE RING
For as much as we all complain about the horror genre's current obsession with remakes and Americanizing foreign horror films, we're the ones who asked for it.  In 2002, we became completely enamored with the pale faced, long haired, ghost girls of Japan with our American version of their famously horrifying Ringu.  We shelled out tons of money into movie theaters and it would appear that Hollywood Horror is still coasting off of our actions from the turn of the millennium.  The Ring was insanely successful and truly sparked the remake/Americanization craze of horror films, Asian horror in particular.  They say beggars can't be choosers...
2010's: HATCHET II
In 2006, Adam Green released a horror film that seemed to feed the inner fanboy inside each and every genre fan.  Presented with predominately practical effects and without a wide release, Hatchet thrived solely from word of mouth and festival runs.  It was then that the film developed an increasingly vocal fanbase and thrust Adam Green into the horror geek's hall of fame.  Fast forward to 2010, Adam Green presents the fan-craved sequel to his directorial debut without a rating, and without giving a single fuck.  Here's the thing.  I chose Hatchet II as the film for the 2010's (so far) not because I believe Adam Green is the second coming of John Carpenter or anything, but because his films represent an entirely new breed of horror.  I'm talking about fan funded, demanded, and generated films.  We now live in an age where sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo can fund films we could only dream of being made, where one tweet from the right source could get your film demanded all over the world, and where a rating from the MPAA means absolutely nothing.  If we want to see a film, we're going to see the damn film.  Regardless of ratings or reviews, Adam Green has been the front man for this fanboy army concept of getting films created and most importantly, seen.

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