Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WE ALL GO A LITTLE MAD SOMETIMES: A REVIEW OF BATES MOTEL

He said it himself, “A boy’s mother is his best friend.” 
The twisted mind of Norman Bates has been studied by film critics and theorists for decades. After Alfred Hitchcock immortalized the character penned by Robert Bloch in his novel of the same name, “Psycho,” Bates became the inspiration for a great deal of horror icons including Jason Voorhees of the “Friday the 13th” franchise and Patrick Bateman of “American Psycho” fame.  
Over the years, many actors have played their hand at portraying Bates, but A&E’s premiere of “Bates Motel” has shown that Freddie Highmore is a young actor who has done his research.

 To many, Alfred Hitchcock is one of (if not the) greatest film directors of all time. “Psycho” is considered a masterpiece, and to attempt and recapture the glory of Norman and his mommy dearest is a nearly suicidal attempt for the entertainment industry. 
Unlike “Psycho,” where audiences are given a glimpse of the life of a middle-aged Norman, “Bates Motel” is a look at the psychological abuse Norman endured at the hands of his mother, Norma.  

“Bates Motel” follows Norman’s life during the teenage years.  Following the sudden death of Norman’s father, Norma purchases a motel on the idyllic coastal town of White Pine Bay in an attempt to start over.  The mother-son duo quickly discovers that the small town is not what it appears to be and the townies have secrets of their own. The Bates struggle to overcome the dastardly community and attempt to protect their secrets by any means.  

Strangely enough, this prequel to the “Psycho” legacy is set in modern times in contrast to the 1950s style it should be set in if it were to properly follow the storyline of the Bates family. While it may be argued that placing the story in modern times was a quick way for the show to save a few bucks in the process of development, “Bates Motel” feels less like “Psycho” and instead the love child of Hitchcock fan fiction and rejected episodes of “Twin Peaks.”  

This show successfully captures the incestual eroticism of Bates and his mother without ever fully giving away the later secret to Norman’s identity.

The script is incredibly weak, but Highmore brings to life many of Normans quirks personified previously by Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” There are moments that feel forced, but in contrast to Highmore’s track record of playing adorable little kids in films like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” he has proven that he is far more than just a cute child actor.  

Academy award nominee Vera Farmiga plays the overbearing Norma, with very strange results.  Most audiences are familiar with Mama Bates as a corpse, so to see her as a living entity is something relatively new. Farmiga is an incredibly talented actress, but is given relatively weak dialogue.

Arguably, the weakest aspect of the show is the secondary characters. All of the girls that Norman interacts with at school are devoid of any sort of interesting qualities and instead play completely to the “hot-girl” archetype we’ve seen an overabundance of in all media forms over the years.  It’s almost as if the writers concentrated so much on creating a solid character in Norma that they completely forgot about any other character without a Y chromosome.  

Ultimately, this isn’t to say that “Bates Motel” seems dead in the water. There have only been a few episodes released to the public.  The show will need a few more episodes before a proper opinion can be made, but Highmore’s portrayal of Norman Bates is worth every minute.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

HOLLISTON SEASON 2 PREMIERES JUNE 4TH

FEARnet's first scripted show is making a its second season comeback.  Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Corri English, and Laura Ortiz are back with the horror nerds' greatest wet dream, HOLLISTON.  According to "The Hollywood Reporter," The horror-comedy littered with fankid references and 80s rock stars will be released on June 4th on FEARnet.  Created by and starring Adam Green, the series revolves around two aspiring horror filmmakers (working at a low budget cable company) dealing with the trials of life, love, and producing their independent film SHINPADS: The Undead Soccer Team Movie With Bite.  HOLLISTON is an entertaining love letter to the genre that has made Adam Green a household name, and contains some of the most clever dialogue ever heard on a sitcom.  Season two will include ten episodes and feature cameo appearances from horror favorites like Bill Moseley, Danielle Harris, Sid Haig, Kane Hodder, James Gunn, DAVID FREAKING NAUGHTON, and Bailee Madison.  I'm incredibly excited about this because season one was some of the best television I had seen in a very long time.  Outside of maybe The Big Bang Theory, there aren't many shows that embrace the genre geek lifestyle, and HOLLISTON not only embraces the idea, but does it without ever making the fankid the butt of the joke.  Season one is currently available for your viewing pleasure on Hulu, and FEARnet onDEMAND occasionally will show the episodes. 

THE BEST HORROR MOVIE MUSIC VIDEOS

Nothing kills a horror movie faster than bad music.  Horror has been the start to many budding acting careers and has inspired some of the most iconic imagery in film history.  Even if people have never seen The Shining or The Exorcist, everyone knows of the Grady sisters' conversations with Danny in the hallways or demon possessed little girls projectile vomiting.  It only makes sense that musicians have tapped into these iconic scenes and paid homage to them by basing music videos off of horror films.  I present to you: the best horror movie music videos.

NOTE: I'm not including "Thriller" because the thing is a short film in itself and if you don't already appreciate the glory of it, you're an idiot.

Miles Fisher-This Must Be The Place

Miles Fisher completely blew people away with his cover of the Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place."  While the cover is really catchy and fun to jam out to, it was Fisher's eerily accurate imitation of Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman in American Psycho that garnered so much attention.  Bret Easton Ellis, the author of the American Psycho novel tweeted at Lionsgate (who have plans to remake the original film) that he will only give his blessing if the remake stars Kardashian babydaddy, Scott Disick or Miles Fisher.

Rob Zombie-Living Dead Girl

It's no surprise that Rob Zombie knows his way around a horror film or two, but before he was cranking out his "Firefly" films or re-imaging the world of Michael Myers, Rob Zombie was a musician directing his own videos.  Horror plays a vital role in a majority of his music videos, but his homage to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is arguably his strongest.  Starring his wife, (at the time, girlfriend) Sheri Moon Zombie, this video not only shows his passion for the genre, but gave an early peek at his future filmmaking style.

My Chemical Romance-Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Two of Us

A low budget effort for the (at the time) up-and-coming band's second single, My Chemical Romance pays homage to the infamous Takashi Mike film, Audition.  It's important to note that this band released this video long before MTV got a hold of them and turned them loose on the myspace emo kids of the mid 2000s, but it's nice to see what appeared to be an underground band flashing their horror street cred.

Backstreet Boys-Everybody (Backstreet's Back)

Hate on the addition of a boy band all you want, this is one of my favorite music videos of all time.  The video is clearly inspired by Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the classic days of Universal monsters.  The makeup is fabulous and the concept is fantastic. Judge me if you so choose, this music video is incredible.

 30 Seconds to Mars-The Kill

 Anyone who is willing to tackle replicating the film perfection of Stanley Kubrick gets an automatic gold star in my book.  To take inspiration and add a rock and roll twist to The Shining, that gets a gold medal.  Jared Leto has acted in a handful of horror films, but imitating ol' Jack after all work and no play may be his best performance.


There are of course, plenty that I am forgetting, but these five are some of the most incredible homages to the films we love so much.  Give them a listen and list off your favorites in the comment section. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

THE SELLING: A GIGGLE INDUCING, INDIE, HORROR COMEDY

I admittedly arrived fashionably late to this party, but it was definitely worth the arrival.  The horror/comedy subgenre is arguably the most overdone of independent horror films, but The Selling holds its own as a pretty fun little flick.  Directed by Emily Lou, (YES. A WOMAN.)The story follows too-nice-for-his-own-good real estate agent, Richard Scarry (like the children's author) who has a tendency to talk people out of buying houses they cannot afford.  With his mother growing ill, Richard's  business partner, Dave Ross, comes up with the plan to flip an old house for profit.  Richard reluctantly agrees and purchase a house from real estate nemesis, Mary Best.  Once the two begin the process of flipping the house, it becomes all too apparent as to why they were able to nab the old house so cheap.  Ghastly voices, bleeding walls, a portal to the other side, and other spooky events start occurring, leading the two to realize, Mary sold them a haunted house.  Richard is now faced with the burden of finding a way to get the house off of his hands before it ruins his life.  With the help of his old Sunday school teacher, Father Jimmy, (played HILARIOUSLY by Barry Bostwick) and a Ghost Right's Activist, Richard does all that he can to get himself out of this mess.

If the story sounds contrived and predictable, that's because it is. Unlike most horror films that blatantly rip off the films of the past and pretend to be unique, The Selling never once tries to be something it's not.  The film is a strong homage to haunted house films ranging from House on Haunted Hill to Poltergeist with a little bit of cartoonish Scooby-Doo coating to encapsulate it all.  Penned by lead actor, Gabriel Diani, The Selling isn't a "great" film by any stretch of the imagination, but it makes for a campy night of fun.

The Selling takes the sensation of running on pure sugar inspired adrenaline through a carnival fun house with your friends and puts it into a movie form.  For as silly as the film is at times, it still manages a handful of scares that forces the audience to laugh at themselves for getting scared. Side note: I'm almost positive that the haunted house used in this film is the same house used for the "Zeta House" in The House Bunny. Seriously. Someone find out if that's the same house. I digress.

There's a lot of really, really, horrible horror comedies cranked out yearly by independent filmmakers, but The Selling really feels like a film that manages to keep its head above water. If you're expecting a seriously terrifying haunted house film, you might want to check back to the 1930s and leave The Selling for another evening.  If you're looking for plain ol' fun littered with clever little scares, The Selling is more than worth watching.

 

The Selling is available on iTunes and is currently playing VOD on FEARnet.
For more information, check out http://www.thesellingthemovie.com

Monday, March 11, 2013

FIGHT FOR FOXY-HELP LISA KOZIOL-ELLIS FIND JUSTICE

A brilliant artist, a beautiful soul, and a great friend to the Chicago horror and burlesque community was tragically taken from us.  On Saturday, March 2nd, Lisa Koziol-Ellis (more commonly known to the Chicago scene as "Foxy Goat") was found fatally stabbed in her home.  An artist, a jewelry maker, and one of the most sincerely delightful people to walk the earth, Lisa was undeserving of this swift demise, but deserves the utmost justice.  Friends, family, and loved ones of Foxy have begun a campaign to raise money for a bounty to anyone with information regarding Lisa's homicide. After quickly achieving their $5,000 goal, they have now raised their goal to $15,000 in the hopes that someone with information will come forward and help bring her killer to justice.  This isn't a shameless plug for some random kickstarter campaign, this is a call to arms to help put this incredible woman at peace.
For more information, 


Anyone with information is being urged to contact police at (847) 695-4195 or (847) 289-2700.
photo credit: Brian C. Janes

Sunday, March 3, 2013

COULD 'CARRIE' CHANGE THE WOMAN'S ROLE IN HORROR?

The film that made the now legendary director, Brian DePalma, a household name is the latest horror film to go under the remake knife.  The film adaptation of Stephen King's first published novel, Carrie is revered by many to be one of the greatest horror films of all time.  Following the story of Carrie White, everyone's favorite telekinetic teenager who went rogue on her classmates who scorned her at prom, Carrie is much more than just a cookie-cutter slasher film.  Carrie spoke volumes on the way manipulative ways in which girls regain their power in social situations, the dangers of humiliating the "weird girl," how the influence of non-traditional parenting can have adverse effects on their children, and most importantly, that girls can be just as relentless killers as their male counterparts.  Carrie holds a special place in the hearts of many horror fans, and there was a borderline outrage over the announcement of the remake.  Once the announcement was made for the titular character, I did an analysis on how Chloe Moretz is going to be a fantastic Carrie White, but audiences are still worried about a horror classic being ruined at the hands of a remake.  This film needs to be successful not only to be respectful to the original, but because this film could make or break the woman's role in horror films.

Women in Horror recognition month just ended, but this does not mean that the struggle for acceptance for women behind the camera in horror films have ended.  While the independent circle has been extremely kind to women in horror, Hollywood is an entirely different beast.  The Carrie remake has promised to play closer to the book, and is under the direction of Kimberly Peirce.  Peirce has a pretty fantastic resume attached to her name, and is noted for presenting unique films that double as impressive character studies.  Not to mention, it's being co-produced by Screen Gems and MGM.  Carrie is one of the first "Hollywood Horror Films" in a very long time to be directed by a woman.  Unlike American Psycho or Pet Sematary, Carrie carries a much higher draw on namesake alone, and all eyes are going to be watching to see if this film will hold true to the glorious name of "Carrie."

Differing from the original film and focusing more heavily on the book, Carrie has said be filled with much more destruction, and a closer look on the disturbed relationship between Carrie and her mother Margaret.  Kimberly Peirce spoke at New York Comic Con and said "two movies can exist as two, equally great things, but their mother-daughter relationship is profound, and the heart-and-soul of the remake."  The original Carrie is in no way a perfect film, it just appears that because the strongest elements of the films were SO well done, audiences are quick to look past the flaws.  This Carrie remake has been updated, and there will be instances of cyber-bullying.  While this may anger some audiences, it is very, very necessary for this retelling. The internet is a huge breeding ground for chaos in the life of the modern teenager, and it just be respected that Pierce was intelligent enough to include that aspect into the film instead of ignoring it in place of feeding to the egos of the original Carrie generation.  According to collider.com, Pierce stated, "However, they wanted to makes sure the story came first rather than push an issue forward.  Moore adds that they’re not making a polemic, but they are going to reflect something that does happen in society." Pierce has a lot more riding on this than anyone is discussing.

This is the first time that such a high-powered, big-named, highly-anticipated horror film is being presented for the masses under the direction of a woman.  If the Carrie remake is good, Pierce could open the doors for Hollywood money-handlers to trust horror movies in the hands of a woman.  If it fails, we might be looking at a continued struggle for the female director.  It's a sad truth that women have to "prove" themselves on a level incomparable to their male counterparts in the world of film making, and Pierce has the opportunity to show that women can run camera and pour some blood just as violently as a man can. For the sake of aspiring female directors, I hope Carrie doesn't disappoint.
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