Wednesday, April 25, 2012

IF YOU TEXT IN THE THEATER, YOU'RE A DICK.

The glow of my nightmares...
Cell phones astonish me.  I'm proud to admit that I'm one of the last of a generation that didn't always have cell phones in the way that we have now.  Despite popular belief, I was alive for the Patrick Bateman cell phone and I definitely remember the super hero strength of Nokias and Nextels.  Unfortunately, I'm still young enough to be lumped in with a generation that would be absolutely clueless without a cell phone.  I'll be honest, the only phone numbers I have memorized are the ones I needed to have memorized in case the babysitter my mom hired for the night was psychotic. It's no surprise that cell phones, and more specifically, smart phones, are an incredible asset to society and our technological advances.  Unfortunately, we have become a little more than dependent on our all powerful cellphones and it's been intervening with aspects of our life where texting/googling/facebooking/tweeting/tumbling/angrybirding isn't acceptable. 

Many of you know that I'm an acting major at my University, but I also work as a House Manager for many of our productions and am one of the go-to people for delivering the friendly (yet threatening) curtain speeches to ask audience members not to text during the performance.  It's to be expected that in a collegiate environment there would be issues with students not following the rules but last year, the texting issue turned into an epidemic to the point where many professors are failing students taking theatre classes if they are caught texting during a performance.  I'm dead serious.  Just on my own watch, I've removed (and subsequently failed) over 20 students in the last year.  I just want to know, WHY AREN'T USHERS IN MOVIE THEATERS DOING THE SAME?! Honestly.  Do your fucking job.  I haven't been to a movie theater in the better half of a decade where I actually saw an usher do more than grab a ticket stub and open the door when it was over.  This lack of attention has given audiences this sense of freedom because there's no one telling them they're wrong.  Audiences are left to fend for themselves and if anyone has witnessed a scuffle between audience members, it becomes a giant fight on the internet.  Name calling, slurs, and Lord of the Flies-esque conflicts occur...and unless someone gets off of their ass to complain to the usher sitting outside the theater, nothing happens.  That's another thing, why the hell are people getting so defensive when asked to put your phone away?  If there were actual ushers/house managers enforcing the rules of keeping the cell phones in your pockets and your hands out of your partners, I think going to the movies would be far more enjoyable for everyone.

"Excuse me, you're rude...and who the hell still uses phones like that?"
IMAX’s CEO Greg Foster told Deadline that he seemed to like the idea of relaxing the absolute ban on phone use in theaters. He stated that his 17 year old son “constantly has his phone with him,” he says. “We want them to pay $12 to $14 to come into an auditorium and watch a movie. But they’ve become accustomed to controlling their own existence.” Banning cell phone use may make them “feel a little handcuffed.” I'm sorry, but exactly what in the hell are you on?  You may be the CEO of IMAX, but do you actually sit in the theaters and watch how your audiences interact?  They're not NOT going to the movies because they can't text, they're not going because it's too damn expensive.  I can buy a fifth of Vodka and watch Netflix and eat whatever I want and lay slovishly on the couch for the same price as going to a movie these days.  A commenter on the deadline page wrote: " In 1962, a kid could buy a ticket for a matinee for $0.35. In today’s dollars, that same ticket would be $2.63. Only it’s not. It’s $10-$13. Do you know what $10 today would have been in 1962? It would have been $75.76 

Greg Foster is only promoting this idea because he wants a thicker pocket, not because he actually cares about the status of the theater.  If he did, he'd understand that texting in the theater is abysmal and we should be teaching these ungrateful little snots some manners instead of catering to their poor behavior. Another issue I have with Foster's statement is But they’ve become accustomed to controlling their own existence.” Controlling your existence?!  You live at home, your parents make your food, and you're not even paying the god damn bill for the miniature computer sitting in your palm riddled with improper uses of the word 'you're' and nudes of your underage ex girlfriend.  I hate to break it to you, kid, but sometimes you have to play by other people’s rules.  What is so god damn important that you feel it necessary to be using your phone?  Movies are supposed to be an escape from reality, and people are deeming it acceptable to keep dragging it right back in.   It honestly makes me sick to know that instead of holding these brats accountable for their actions, there are big wigs in the movie industry that would rather roll over and continue on giving these kids a false sense of entitlement.  Keep it on up, Hollywood.  You're just helping Maury Povich further his career with your constant enabling.

Proper punishment for texting in the theater.
I don't know about you, but I think movie theaters should spend less time focusing on getting the unappreciative douchers into the theatre and instead concentrate on those that will actually enjoy the theater experience.  Sell alcohol in the theaters for 21+ showings, offer kettlecorn, lower the prices of movie candy so we'll stop smuggling in our own in our bras and instead buy yours, clean the god damn floors once in a while, and stop reserving more than one screen for a film just because Adam Sandler is in it.  Seriously, I couldn't see DRIVE in theaters because the one closest to me thought that Jack & Jill was a better option.  The biggest problem of the movie theater experience these days has less to do with the audience and more to do with the theater staff themselves.  I hate to say it, but you've created your own monsters.  Do your part and tame the beast yourselves.  

Also: God Bless The Alamo Drafthouse.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

HOW NON HORROR AUDIENCES AT THE CABIN IN THE WOODS HAVE PROVEN HORROR NEEDS A FACELIFT

HI: 
THIS CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR 
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. 
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. 

The horror world has been doing nothing but gleam about the little darling that is The Cabin In The Woods, and with good reason. (I also need to point out that anytime I say the title of the film, I sing this song.) It's no doubt that this film is undeniably the best mainstream horror film to come out in nearly a decade, and has shot up to horror fans' top ten lists with a raging force.  My good pal Johnny over at Freddy In Space has been doing a bang up job of covering and analyzing everything associated with the film, and I think that before you divulge into my rambling, his opinion is well worth checking out.  Anyway, back to the point of this article.  There have been tons of reviews flying around all of the media outlets, but they're all written by three different types of people.  Horror journalists, general film critics, and hyperactive teenagers with an internet access would appear to be the major voices when it comes to reviewing this film.  Now I'm not discounting any of these opinions, but when it comes to determining the success or failure of something that is determined solely by opinion...we must take into account those that are unbiased.  Horror fans are undoubtedly going to geek out over this film because it was a fanboy fantasy delivered on a silver fucking platter.  What about the non-horror folk? Doesn't their ticket money matter as well?

As much as I'd like to believe that the sole purpose of horror films being made is to present something to appeal to the fan, we all know it's a load of poppycock.  Films (regardless of genre) HAVE TO MAKE MONEY.  You could have the best horror film in the world but if only horror fans like it, it is going to flop. Plain and simple. Film companies thrive off of those date night ticket stubs, and the "too young to drink, so what else are we going to do" aged young adults with minimum wage jobs but Mom and Dad still paying for their survival.  That my friends, is a FACT.

Tonight I was lucky to experience something that most of my horror bretheren aren't as lucky to endure.  Horror fans are a breed of their own and we tend to stick to our own kind when it comes to satisfying our livelihood's horrific desires.  However, I've got a best friend I met back during my bitchin' child beauty pageant days that was willing to venture off into the depths of the sticky floored cinema under the pretenses that I'm showing her something that will scare the tan lines right off of her hips.  I have to say, mission accomplished.  As much as I had great joy feeling her jump out of her skin and watch as her hands shifted from squeezing the arm chair to covering her mouth in pure disbelief, I learned more from watching her reactions than I did from the film itself.  Everyone keeps talking about how this movie is so "original".  Okay, yeah, TCITW is original in comparison to the remake craze Hollywood seems to be on, but TCITW is the furthest thing from original.  All it did was pull a SCREAM/Behind The Mask and get super meta with a twist (one that wasn't even reserved for the ending).  Now. That being said. Here's a few things I learned from watching the reactions of a non-horror buff.

I) MUSIC HAS GOTTEN TOO PREDICTABLE:  Everyone knows that half of the battle of establishing fear is creating the atmosphere.  Psychology has proven that we associate what we hear with what we believe is a present danger.  For example: there's a reason that we know the shark is going to attack in JAWS, that Michael Myers is just around the corner in Halloween, that there are stab wounds occurring in the shower during Psycho, or the lack of sound while the body floats in Resident Evil triggering us to expect it to move.  Music is an extremely powerful entity and horror is quite possibly the king when it comes to utilizing and exploiting that power.  That being said, we're beating the same dead horse over and over and over again.  Knowing where all of the "jump scares" were going to happen in this film, it gave me the opportunity to people watch and giggle at the impending shocks they all seemingly knew were coming (even if they weren't).  Just because the strings began to crescendo and hit fermatas on the higher notes, the entire audience began to cringe.  It's almost Pavlovian at how we've all been conditioned to react to violins in horror movies. Granted, I understand that the reason we use this formula is because it works, but maybe we should experiment a bit and figure out another way to use sound to our advantage.  The use of Vassy's "Desire" during Jules' drunken cabin dance in front of the fire was arguably my favorite use.  The bass line pumped from an exterior shot of the cabin and resembled somewhat of a frantic heartbeat.  It immediately put me on edge as well as the rest of the audience, and the sigh of relief that came over when we realized she was merely dancing was a satisfying payoff.  I would gladly enjoy seeing more of that.


II) WEAPONRY NEEDS TO STEP UP ITS GAME: This one isn't even a criticism of The Cabin In The Woods, it's actually a HUGE compliment to it.  One of the initial thoughts that Zach Shildwachter and I shared after our viewing was how incredible the use of the bear trap on a chain was as far as a weapon.  It instills enough terror as bear traps are horrifying on their own, but to hook it to a chain and be able to use it like a damn lasso is one of the most genius concepts I've seen in a long while.  I had assumed that this was just going to excite a horror junkie after witnessing year after year of knife wielding madmen, but it would appear that non-horror fans crave unique instruments of torture as much as we do.  I am probably going to regret making this statement due to my hatred of the franchise, but I cannot deny the reality of SAW changing the face of modern horror.  SAW is arguably the most successful horror franchise of recent years and horror audiences have either spent the last decade in a womb of torture horror or growing up with torture horror reigning as the status quo.  To put it bluntly, knives and axes just don't do it for us anymore.  However, the simplicity of a one motion weapon still seems to have the prowess.  Audiences like the quickness of the knife, but the terrifying originality of a SAW trap.  Therefore, hearing two separate and VERY difference audiences audibly respond with "...is that a fucking bear trap on a chain?!" further proved this thought.  While the Chicago audience of horror nerds on opening night wailed in delight towards the weapon, the cornfield Macomb, IL audience was struck with fear upon its first strike.  Leslie Vernon also had the right idea with a scythe, and that film was also pretty damn well received.  Sensing the pattern?

III) ZOMBIES CAN SLOW DOWN: I'm not against running zombies or anything (okay, maybe I am) but I've noticed that whenever a movie features running zombies, there's a good chance that they're running will be utilized for bad camera work or jump scares.  Slow moving zombies have always been effective because they creep up on you, not jump at you without ever giving you a chance to run.  Running zombies give a cheap thrill while slower moving zombies have time to fester underneath you and put you in a constant state of paranoia.  When Marty stood outside the cabin as Patience Buckner hobbled her one-armed ass out of the forest and towards him, there was an audible reaction from the audience wanting him to go back inside.  Those sort of scenes cannot exist with fast moving zombies because they'd be heard.  That goes back to the predictable music argument.  Marty turned around because he "thought" he heard something, but Patience had wandered into the shadows and he couldn't see her.  Running (true) zombies do not allow for suspenseful scenarios because they'll be too easy to see and hear.  Now, films like ...28 days later have found ways to use quick "zombies/infected" but we must also accept that a good portion of their screen time is used to jump out and spit blood all over someone or with a quick attack.  Audiences attention spans may be slipping, so the goal is to keep them on their toes with quality, creepy, continuous moments, not bombard them with jump scares.


IV) WE CAN STOP DUMBING DOWN DIALOGUE: I don't know what Joe-Blo Hollywood exec. decided that the only people watching movies have the IQ of a lima bean, but we need to stop treating the dialogue in horror films like junior high banter.  Do you want to know which jokes in this film got the biggest laughs? The ones that required actual cognitive process.  Of course there were some chuckles with the stoner jokes, but the pop culture references and intellectual dick jokes got the strongest reactions.  I want a T-Shirt with "husband's buldge" written on it.  They could have very easily said "erection" or "boner" BUT THEY DIDN'T.  They used a terminology that fit for the time of the diary and was still wildly entertaining.  I even heard audience members during the reading of the Latin using their high school semester of Spanish class skills to figure out what he was saying.  Audiences aren't nearly as idiotic as we'd like to believe, and they're clearly happy when the filmmaker never insults their intelligence.  Seriously, if I see one more zombie movie where the characters have no idea what to do with them, I'm going to snap.  They're characters, yes, but they're still human beings capable of understanding the world around them.  It's the 21st century, if you think characters haven't heard "aim for the head" once in their life, you're a damn fool.

V) ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGES ARE A GOOD THING: This is going back to the short attention span thing, changing the environment every once in a while is a good thing.  Give the audiences something else to look at, and DEFINITELY change the lighting.  My movie date was discussing how much she enjoyed the contrasting scenes between the facility and the cabin, as it gave her time to process and wonder.  By changing settings (especially in the manner in which Cabin does by showing bits of the other setting in the background) it gives the audience a conflicting state of mind in that they want to pay attention to what is in front of them, but they are driven mad with wonder as to what is going on in the other setting.  By having layers to the storyline, it keeps the audience engaged to more than just what they're being spoon fed.  Audiences can think for themselves and the DO have imaginations...let them play.

VI) COLOR INSIDE THE LINES: While there are plenty of things that could use a change, the most important thing is that we remember our roots.  There's a difference between being predictable and sticking to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to.  This film exposed the formulaic existence of horror films BUT presented them in an entirely different manner.  Whedon knew exactly how to tickle our fancy with just enough of a meta factor to entertain us but with enough variety to keep us from getting bored.  It's like having a twist ending, but without the poor execution and dissatisfying results.  My movie date kept trying to ask me what was going to happen next and thought she had it all figured out within the first fifteen minutes (including the death order) but LOVED when she was proven only half-right and the other half was from a completely different ballpark all together.  THIS IS WHAT WE NEED.  Stop trying to do something uber new or uber unique because chances are you're going to end up with a different for different's sake style of film that will have the aura of a pretentious collegiate liberal arts piece.  FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN NEW AND OLD.  Or just go old, vintage never goes out of style (I'm looking at you Ti West). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

HELP SAVE THE PORTAGE THEATER

There are very few places in my life that I've ever associated with feeling like "home".  Sure, I've looked at hometown landmarks with smiles throughout the years, but for every positive memory I can surely associate a harboring tragedy in the same location.  This feeling is often what I use to express my views towards my schools, playgrounds, parks, and in some cases, my own home.  I can count on one hand the places in this world that will truly feel like "home" to me.  The Portage Theater of Chicago, IL is one of these places. 


Our society has become a world where our marquee theaters have been overrun by digital monsters with modern architecture causing every building to resemble an Apple Store.  The Portage Theater is a dying breed and is unfortunately at the risk of being lost forever.  Originally opened in 1920, The Portage Theater is an architectural landmark and one of Chicago's oldest movie houses. Since being purchased by new owners in 2006, the Portage Theater has been restored to its original beauty and serves as the centerpoint of the Chicago independent film community and a key venue for up-and-coming indie music artists.  The Portage is a breeding ground for film festivals, live music, school plays, and countless other showcases of local art forms.  I have never seen a theater quite like the Portage.  Where else can you buy $3.00 popcorn, booze, and enjoy an evening of silent films with a fully restored organ?  Yeah. Come back to me when your precious Google can't even solve that puzzle.  The Portage Theater comfortably seats 1,300, and with ample nearby parking (free if you know the neighborhood), and surrounded by some incredible shops and eateries.  When it comes down to it, you really can't find another theater quite like The Portage.

The historic Portage Theater is currently threatened by the potential purchase of the building it is in by the Chicago Tabernacle Church. The church proposes to convert the theater into their worship space, remove the marquee, alter the auditorium, and eliminate the storefronts and half the apartments for offices and classrooms. The thing that needs to be realized is that The Portage isn't some run-down building collecting dust, they're trying to destroy a functioning movie theater and concert venue which serves the community. To make matters worse, the current owner has invested more than $100,000 in the renovation and stewardship of this historic theater with deep roots in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago...and all of that effort and money will have been wasted for a church that could buy any number of the run down Chicago buildings. The loss of this historic icon in the heart of the Six Corners Shopping District would reverse years of planning and development, and be a true travesty to the community.


HOW TO HELP: 
1. Write a letter to the zoning board.  Download the a copy of the official letter here!
Zoning Board of Appeals
Jonathan Swain Chairman
121 N. LaSalle Street Room 905
Chicago, IL 60602
Clearly indicate on the envelope RE:The Portage Theater to ensure proper delivery


In the letter: Explain in your own words that the destruction of the Portage Theater, a neighborhood icon, will do irreparable harm to the largest commercial corridor outside the loop. Current business will be disrupted and future businesses will be scared away from moving into the community. Tax base will be lost and the Tax Increment Financing and Special Service Areas be harmed. The Portage Park neighborhood will lose a favorite and the Portage park economy will never be the same.

2.  Attend the Zoning Board of Appeals Hearing - April 20 - 9am - City Hall
3.  Sign up for updates on our contact page
4.  Join the Facebook page
5.  Tweet about the issue using #saveportage
6.  Recruit others to do the same.
7.  Donate! Any donations will help offset legal and other fees related to saving the theater. 
For more information, visit:

Monday, April 16, 2012

DO NOT READ THE LATIN: CABIN IN THE WOODS SAVES THE STATE OF THE HORROR UNION (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)

Never in my career as a horror journalist/enthusiast have I written a review completely devoid of analyzing the plot.  Today, I will attempt to do so if only to save my readers from spoiling what currently ranks as the best widely released horror movie I've seen in nearly five years, if not longer.  From the trailer, it's easy to gather that this film follows the typical formulaic horror plot of teenagers stuck in stereotypical archetypes and their fight for survival when things go haywire in a secluded cabin in the woods.  It's a story we've seen dozens of time and usually with the same results.  Luckily for us, The Cabin In The Woods takes this formula and doesn't just spin it, it throws it into a proverbial hurricane.  The fact that this film has been sitting on a shelf for a few years absolutely blows my mind.  The fact we've cranked out remake after remake and let this collect dust is a downright crime and I pray to the universe that this sort of situation never happens again. This film is near-perfect. Depending on my gratuity, I'll go on record and say it IS perfect. I consider myself a bit of a general cinephile outside of just horror and I have never, EVER, had such an incredible experience watching a film.  Everything leading up to the film was absolutely perfect, it was almost as if I was meant to see it when I did. 

After a long day of horrifying the Chicago natives around the city with fellow horror aficionado Zach Shildwachter, we found ourselves headed to the beautiful AMC River East theater to catch an evening horror movie before dinner.  After watching our colleagues explode with positivity all over social networking sites, there was absolutely no doubt that we were going to see The Cabin In The Woods.  We ran up the escalators and at 5:58pm we bought tickets for the 6:00pm screening.  We didn't even check movie times, this was a sure fire sign that fate had allowed us to catch the flick.  On our way into the theater, we were greeted by a duo of sweet old ladies armed with surveys and baby pencils.  Lucky us, Lionsgate was interested in our opinion of the film.  I sure as hell hope these women actually work for Lionsgate, because I would buy just about anything they were dishing out.  The audience was the perfect size and everyone seemed genuinely excited to be there.  Unlike some of my more recent theater going experiences (I'm looking at you midnight premiere of The Hunger Games) the audience was actually engaged in what was on the screen rather than sitting balls deep in a round of Draw Something.

The Cabin In The Woods does something very quickly that many modern/mainstream horror films fail to do; develops characters I actually give a rat's ass about.  Right off the bat we were given characters that were far more than one dimensional with delightful dialogue that was eerily similar to the conversations I have with my own college buddies.  The dialogue throughout the film had a perfect balance of realism, humor, horror, suspense, and curiosity.  Not once did I ever feel as if they were getting carried away with references like many have done before (you hearing me, Diablo Cody?).  None of the characters ever felt wasted to me and even the smallest of supporting characters were memorable in their moments.  I made sure that the special cameo wasn't spoiled for me and that was a very well welcomed surprise. I gotta hand it to all involved because as far as script writing goes, this one is top notch.  This is undoubtedly one of the most well conceived horror stories in AT LEAST the last decade. 

The film does a fantastic job at throwing us horror geeks some Easter eggs and plenty of homages to our beloved genre.  There's an impressive combination of practical fx and CGI that kept me audibly responding throughout the film. Everything from recreating classic scenes, slipping in characters highly inspired by horror classics, or paying tribute to horror references that only the huge nerds in the back row will catch is sprinkled throughout the film in the most cohesive way I've ever seen it.  The Cabin In The Woods should be pictured in the Urban Dictionary definition for the word "meta" because it is the truest example I've ever seen.  This film completely exposes the horror(and film in general) fan's desire to continually follow our working format and rather than talk down to us for it, the filmmakers have managed to never once insult the audience's intelligence.  It grabs genre conventions by the balls and different from a film like SCREAM, The Cabin In The Woods is able to morph the convention twisting into the damn heart of the entire film.  We all knew Joss Whedon was an under appreciated genius outside of the fanboy culture, but hot damn.

To put it simply, this film needs to be seen rather than reviewed.  It's not that spoiling the plot will destroy any shocking reveals, it's just that watching it unfold is far too exciting of a moment to ruin it for the audience.  If you can, please do everything in your power to see this movie.  If this film kills in the box office, this will be our message to the movie industry that audiences want more original horror films.  This film is worth far more than the $8.00 movie ticket, I promise.  The Cabin In The Woods delivers to horror fans absolutely everything new we've been craving on a silver platter of everything about horror that we've already come to know and love.  This is the future of horror, ladies and germs. Welcome to it.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

WHEN EARNING YOUR RED WINGS REQUIRES A SWIFFER AND EXTENSIVE THERAPY: A REVIEW OF J. DOUGLAS SMITH'S THE PERIOD

As a functioning member of the female species I must take this time to admit that like my fellow XX chromosome sisters, I too suffer from the curse, the proof of Eve's weakness, the period.  I know, I know, I still cringe at the thought of my third grade health class when a wrinkly nurse with halitosis broke out a suitcase full of maxi pads and graphic pop up books about women bleeding for seven days without dying.  There's no way around it, menstrual cycles may be embraced by radical feminists as a beautiful act of our prowess as birthgivers and a sign of our transition into womanhood...but we know that's all a load of shit. Periods are gross. They're icky, they're inconvenient, they make you irritable, the cause you to retain water, they instill mood swings that would make All About Eve look like a romantic comedy, and cause debilitating stomach contractions that make ripping a uterus out with your bare hands sound like a pleasure cruise. Periods. Frackin'. Suck. This past weekend, my two best friends joined with my partner in crime, Zach Shildwachter, and myself endured 105 minutes of a film that I will pray to the holy lords of Tampax to erase from my memory.  J. Douglas Smith's feature film The Period is about a girl named Sharrie Heiman (yes, you read that correctly) who finds herself afflicted with an intense visit from her Aunt Flo. The film surrounds her struggle to plug it up with her pissy Georgia O'Keefe art inspired girlfriend Clitoria (I can't make this shit up), the obsessions of a perverted gynecologist, and other horrifying issues full of menstrual mayhem.  This film is a clustercuss of terrible camera work, horrendous acting, unintentionally brilliant puns, atmosphere resembling the love child between an acid trip & The Tim & Eric Awesome Show, editing that appears to have been completed by blind children with safety scissors, music that even Justin Beiber dubstep aficionados would cringe at, and more fake blood than anything Peter Jackson ever touched.  I wish I was exaggerating about all of this, but I'm not. I'm really, really not.

I am struggling on where to even begin with this review, so bear with me.  It opens with a rather gratuitously graphic and quite possibly seizure inducing female masturbation scene, which completely set the tone for the rest of the film. I mean, I've seen softer uses of vaginas in porn flicks on fuzzy cable channels than the borderline exploitation of muff shots in this film. At one point, there's a close up of not only what a hairy butthole looks like when releasing a fart, but also the opening of vaginal lips when shooting out an egg.  Again, I can't make this shit up.  There's horrible continuity issues like referencing spilled Tang when the bottle CLEARLY says Sunny D, and the plot is only understandable for about 35 minutes of the entire film.  The keep having cut scenes to what would appear to be a stereotypical tampon commercial (girl running in nature, comments like "be a goddess") but the graphics were made with MS paint or Microsoft WordArt at best.  There's a lot of unnecessary pushes for humor (Sharrie spraying period blood from her vagina on art students as she acts as a nude model, the pink extension underarms of Clitoria...or the fact her freaking name is Clitoria), and misuses of green screens that would make Megaladon look like Jurassic Park.

There's a catch, though.  I had a hell of a time watching this movie.  I really, really did.  I even laughed to the point of tears at the insanity of what I was sitting through.  For instance, plagued by the blood terrorizing her existence, Sharrie begins to hallucinate a giant, stomping, naked lower torso destroying a city with Godzilla style screams erupting from her ham wallet causing a bystander (a cameo from the director) to exclaim 'VAGJIRA!!!" A lovely nod in comparison to Clitoria's insult of "Clitty Kong" from previously in the film.  The dialogue seems to be nothing more than vagina and blood jokes strung together by a few complaints about doing extra laundry, the lack of Clitoria being able to munch on a fur burger, or getting blood on the floor...and I loved it.  It was truly insane, but this film completely took the Maude Lebowski style of art and ran with it.

It pains me to admit a film as horrendous as this could be a feminist horror film...but it totally is.  The film exploits the fact that women (and especially the female genitalia) are either feared, discarded, or worshiped simply because of something as ridiculous as a natural body cycle.  It isn't until towards the end of the film when it takes a short left out of the cyber/raver/punk/porn realm and into the poor man's Cannibal Holocaust that the true "moral" of the film is revealed.  It's almost depressing to think that it took a film about a never ending waterfall of poonani goo for someone to finally tackle the depressing truth of how menstrual cycles are handled by our society, but I doubt any one else was really up for the challenge.  I commend all of those involved for being able to sign a paper attaching their name to this vaginal voyage and you know something...I'll actually recommend it. I cannot agree that I'll have had the same opinion about this film had there been less alcohol involved, but that's neither here nor there ;)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES VS. BATTLE ROYALE: THE CLASH OF TWEENS & HORROR HIPSTERS

I had spent about an hour or so trying to record a vlog of my thoughts on this particular topic, but my computer sucks.  I've chosen the primitive practice of typing, which in all honesty, is probably a better thing.  At least you can read this in a far less sarcastic and snarky tone as apposed to the one I was using in the vlog.  As a twenty one year old college co-ed, I was smack dab in the middle of the target audience for Suzanne Collins' trilogy when the novels were first released.  At the wake of saying farewell to my wizarding Harry Potter novels, The Hunger Games were quick to fill the void my years at Hogwarts left behind and the one Twatlight was NEVER going to.  A premise of teens in a dystopian society randomly selected to fight to the death seemed like the lovechild of Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" and Richard Bachman (Stephen King)'s The Running Man.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  I cranked through the book in a single sitting and I was floored by how much I enjoyed it.  Fast forward to about four months later when I was exposed to a little Japanese movie called Battle Royale.

Fast forward to now when The Hunger Games is breaking box office records, generating memes out of its ass, and creating fictional romances that are wetting teenage panties faster than Edward Cullen ever did.  Out of all of this, the horror hipster patrol has been crying foul and pushing up their glasses harder than they ever have before.  Why? BECAUSE THE HUNGER GAMES IS STEALING FROM BATTLE ROYALE ALSKDJF;ALSKJFALSKJF! Seriously? Seriously?! Get over yourselves. All of you.  We're bitching about this and yet we remain silent when every single romantic comedy in the history of everything contains the exact same plots, the exact same results, with the exact same character archetypes?  Coooome OOOOOONNN. Suzanne Collins herself has repeatedly denied having ever seen or even heard of Battle Royale until she’d already turned in the manuscript of the trilogy’s first novel, and you know something...I believe her.  The guy who created the screenplay for Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had never seen the Gene Wilder original, and it shows.  Things like this DO happen.  After Collins had turned in her manuscript, she asked her editor if she should see Battle Royale, to which he replied "No, I don’t want that world in your head. Just continue with what you’re doing,’” This was all mentioned in the New York Times last April and she's apparently still not seen the film or read the manga.  Despite the "teens battling to the death with one survivor" concept, there is absolutely nothing else similar between the two. 

The Hunger Games trilogy is less about the actual games themselves, but about the underlying corrupt government that has forced the citizens of the "districts" into these games and their treatment throughout the year.  The trilogy mainly focuses on the citizens residing in the districts outside of The Capitol (the elite society/people of power) and how they attempt to survive the mistreatment and gain their independence from those oppressing them.  The games are a major factor in wanting to escape the control of The Capitol, but it is far less about the terror of the games and more about overthrowing the government...and the personal lives, relationships, and feelings of those enduring these games.  Battle Royale on the other hand, is far more sinister.  The film/mangas are predominately overwhelmed by the gore, brutality, and horror surrounding the means in which those fighting the battle use in order to survive.  The design on paper may be the same, but the look and feel of these two are entirely different.  Comparing these two are like comparing two siblings.  Same sets of DNA, with remarkably different results.    

The things people have been complaining about in the wake of this all are frightening to me.  First things first, for those that are "boycotting" THG because it "stole from BR", get over yourself.  I'm pretty sure your lack of $7.00 really made a major dent in its box office record opening for a non-sequel and you alone are going to be the reason two and three aren't made. Congratulations.  Second, people are claiming that if BR was given a proper American release, we wouldn't be in this situation anyway.  Even if that were true, it wouldn't have made a difference because Americans are lazy and wouldn't want to read subtitles AND they would have watered down the gore to get a precious rating.  Chances are, THG would have just been made faster but as an American remake.  On that subject, people are mad that the American remake will never happen.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?!  So first we bitch and moan that we're Americanizing films and now we're going to be mad that it isn't happening? Oh get off it. If anything, be thankful THG exists because it is shining new light to a film you love so much. The L.A. Times confirms that Battle Royale’s DVD sales have gone up with the success of The Hunger Games, so there you go. The film you hate SO MUCH is paying it forward to the one they apparently ripped off.   

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I AM ALIVE: A SHORT FILM BY JUSTIN BUCKNER

As many of you know, I'm a total bleeding heart for indie filmmakers, short films, and zombies.  I've seen my fair share of zombie shorts in my day and a reoccurring theme that has been plaguing the genre is the lack of one thing. Originality.  Horror movie monsters tend to stick to very specific rules and utter failure tends to follow those that stray off the course. (I'm looking at you Twatlight), but every once in a while, someone throws a spin interesting enough to force the audience to practice an old theatre technique of "suspension of disbelief" and they completely go with it.  Zombie films have fallen into a trap of following the same storyline with the same character archetypes and the same end results.  The strange thing is that directors still like to live in this fantasy world where humans don’t already know to aim for the head, or think the bite is "just a bite".  However I've been lucky enough to hear about Ohio bred director, Justin Buckner in association with Studio On Mars productions and their promise of a new zom-com short film based on the short story “I, Zombie” by AE Stueve. Starring Joe Brown, Justin Buckner, Larena Crohe, Jaden DeVogel, Jake Greener, James Lovern, Gina Nemecek, Jen Poland, the film surrounds a Post-Zombie Apocalypse society where the nation has begun to rebuild and restore a sense of normalcy.  I found the premise to remind me a bit of S.G. Browne’s BREATHERS, and that isn’t a bad thing in the slightest.  We also need to point out that the absolutely smashing makeup job (and some camera work) was done by The Blood Sprayer’s very own Zach Shildwachter, but he’s too damn modest to ever accept the praise.  The film released its trailer yesterday and all I gotta say, is that I can’t wait to see the thing in its entirety. It’s incredibly inspiring to see someone put a new spin on a monster we all love so much, hopefully more filmmakers will take notice.


Be sure to keep updated on the film with pics, screenings, and other goodies via the

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

WHY I PRAY AT THE ALTAR OF DAVID WONG


I'm going to say something here and now that I've never said on this blog. Illinois sucks. Seriously. It does.  Chicago (and its suburbs) are their own insane subplanet and are therefore immune to the soul crushingingly devastating side effects of growing up in an area where domestic beer is a food group and corn fields are used as landmarks.  I'm talking about West, Central, and Southern Illinois.  Every now and then, a few of the inhabitants manage to escape the treacherous grasps of inconsistent climates and corrupt government officials and actually make something of themselves.  As a current college student thrown out of my familiar city environment into a campus with the undisputed title of Keystone Light's largest importer (I wish I was kidding, I really, really do) it's no surprise that the number one goal I have in my life is to escape this place and never EVER have to look back.  Horror Screenwriter Marcus Dunstan did it with flying colors, and I've only been recently discovering others who have done the same.  Witness Jason Pargin, better known to the world as David Wong. 

Unless you hate comedy and America, you've heard of Cracked.com, the website that saved the name MAD Magazine made its bitch throughout the history of everything.  Cracked Magazine was the Daniel Baldwin to MAD Magazine's Alec.  After Al Gore invented the internet however, MAD was left cranking out terrible television shows and Cracked figured out exactly how to reign supreme...with numbered lists, hilarious commentary, and wit that would make Oscar Wilde blush. Jason Pargin is the Senior Editor and writes for the site under the pen name David Wong and not only does he restore faith that society doesn't really think things like Jack & Jill are funny, but he's bred right out of Southern Illinois. In fact, he's STILL there. Props to him. Seriously Growing up in this area would require you to develop a hell of a personality, and David Wong clearly has.  Not to mention the most important reason I'm discussing him, he knows the shit out of horror. All of cracked seems to be compiled of fanboys/girls but Wong is easily their Captain.

The first article I ever read on cracked was one written by Wong and TE Sloth titled "5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen" and featured an image of the horde outside of the Winchester pub from Shaun of the Dead.  I remember sitting in my white walled dorm cell with nothing but the glow of my macbook in my face reading this article and thinking to myself "Holy Shit, this guy is the Messiah."  From then on, I've been HOOKED on Cracked and they even have an entire section on their website ENTIRELY DEDICATED TO HORROR. There was even an article that linked to my blog at one point and THIS ARTICLE still remains to be my second highest read article of all time because of it.

A movie called John Dies At The End recently took the Sundance film festival by storm, and the film is a horror comedy based entirely on the book of the same name written by, you guessed it, David Wong. From what I've heard, the film is much like the book in that it's the sort of thing that may not be fully understood by all, but is appreciated and highly enjoyed by those who love comedic horror.  Somehow, a guy who writes on the internet and wrote a book got the frackin' director of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep to turn his book into a movie.  If David Wong isn't "the man" I'd pay a hefty sum of whatever is in my pocket to see who is.  I've read John Dies At The End and it's really, really funny.  I knew Wong could write hilarious commentary, but he writes some pretty snicker worthy dialogue as well, a feat most comedic writers cannot achieve. (I'm looking at you every movie written by a stand-up comedian, ever).  More importantly, David Wong has helped ease horror back into the lives of mainstream, normal folk.  Cracked is read by a kajillion people a day, and just think...every time a horror article is read, a zombie gets his brains. 
 
David Wong: I salute you.

BLACK WINGS OF CTHULHU: 21 TALES OF LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR

It took me quite a while to finally make it through this hefty number, but I'm sure glad that I did.  Any fan of horror in any sense of the word has a love or at the very least, a great deal of respect for a man by the name of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.  H.P. Lovecraft is the man who gave us nightmares long before Stephen King ever sat in front of a typewriter.  The father of Re-Animator and the king of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft is truly the premiere name when it comes to composers of literary horror.  The wonderful people at Titan Books have recently released their first volume of stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft with Black Wings of Cthulhu: Twenty-One Tales Of Lovecraftian Horror. Titan Books goes to say "The modern masters of Lovecraftian fiction offer up 21 brand-new, utterly terrifying, and thoroughly entertaining short stories of horror and the macabre. Taking their inspiration from works by Lovecraft himself, prominent writers such as Caitlin R. Kiernan, Brian Stableford, Ramsey Campbell, Michael Shea, Darrell Schweitzer, Donald R. Burleson, and David J. Schow delve deep into the psyche, expanding on concepts HPL created and taking them in new directions. The result is stories that are wholly original, some even featuring Lovecraft himself as a character. Black Wings editor S.T. Joshi is the recognized authority on all things Lovecraftian, and is famous for his restorations of the Lovecraft's original works. He has assembled a star-studded international line-up in a book that is essential for every horror library."  This compilation has a great deal of variety in that some tales are better than others and each story feels dramatically different from another.  Some of the stories will quite honestly, ruin your entire day and others will make your skin crawl.  It's not exactly the sort of book to read to the kids and it's definitely not a pick-me-up.  However, there really isn't a bad story in the bunch.  It's just that some were so dramatically compelling, they out shined the tamer of the tales.  At around 500 or so pages, it's not a quick read and to be completely honest, I think that's how it should be.  Terror isn't meant to be rushed through, it's meant to creep through every single hair folicle and fester in every crevice of our brains.  Any fan of Lovecraft will find this to be a perfect addition to their collection and horror fans in general will find themselves stricken with a great deal of entertainment.

THE STORIES INCLUDED ARE AS FOLLOWS:
“Pickman’s Other Model (1929)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan
“Desert Dreams” by Donald R. Burleson
“Engravings” by Joseph S. Pulver, Jr.
“Copping Squid” by Michael Shea
“Passing Spirits” by Sam Gafford
“The Broadsword” by Laird Barron
“Usurped” by William Browning Spencer
“Denker’s Book” by David J. Schow
“Inhabitants of Wraithwood” W.H. Pugmire
“The Dome” by Millie L. Burleson
“Rotterdam” by Nicholas Royle
“Tempting Providence” by Jonathan Thomas
“Howling in the Dark” by Darrell Schweitzer
“The Truth about Pickman” by Brian Stableford
“Tunnels” by Philip Haldeman
“The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash” annotated by Ramsey Campbell
“Violence, Child of Trust” by Michael Cisco
“Lesser Demons” by Norman Partridge
“An Eldritch Matter” by Adam Niswander
“Substitution” by Michael Marshall Smith
“Susie” by Jason Van Hollander

You can purchase 
Black Wings of Cthulhu: Twenty-One Tales Of Lovecraftian Horror 

UTTERLY ALONE: THE ARTISTIC PROWESS OF MEGAN LARA

Megan Lara is an incredibly talented artist who has proven herself time and time again when it comes to subtle beauty in genre reference work. Megan is a 23 year-old illustrator with a ridiculous fixation on pop culture. You can find her work at places like Quantum Mechanix, ThinkGeek, Threadless, Level Up Studios, Fangamer, Mighty Fine, Teefury and the Yetee. Luckily, the fine folks over at Tee Fury have been kind to her, and have been helping to bring to life her creations.  Today and today only, this gorgeous rendition of Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice can be yours for only ten bucks.  Get on it, kids!

If you're like me and you've fallen completely in love with her work and want to see more of it, check out her personal website for all things Megan Lara.  She's got some incredible talent with art inspired by Princess Peach, Community, Firefly, Portal, Zelda, Zombies, and everything else to tickle your nerdy little fancy.  Not only is the Utterly Alone shirt available today, but she's also got a hell of a contest going on.


 How to enter:

1. Like "Megan Lara: Art & Illustration" on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mLARAart
2. Share the post about the "Utterly Alone" design
3. On the same post, make comment with a link to a photo of you (or a friend)

Megan will randomly select people to draw from this post, and she will draw their portraits throughout the day!

**One person per photo, please choose larger photos that focus mostly on the face**
**Only photos linked on the "Utterly Alone" post will be considered** -

Love the Megan Lara, LOOOOOVE HER.
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