Thursday, April 25, 2013

RUE MORGUE'S 200 ALTERNATIVE HORROR FILMS YOU NEED TO SEE

Rue-Morgue Magazine has become the go-to magazine for all things horror.  Recently, the fine folks dished out a book with 200 alternative horror films they think we all need to see. I use the word alternative in italics because it must be remembered that taste will always be a matter of perspective.  For some people, they will have seen every film on this list and feel disappointed, and for many, they'll have never heard of a single title and find this book to be a great investment.  Regardless of whether or not you've seen 0 or 200 of the films included in this book, I consider this a must-have book for any horror fan.  The book is loaded with beautiful pictures and color reproduction of over 190 movie posters.  Each film mentioned is packed with a brief synopsis and all of the technical information you'd need if you ever choose to track it down.  Featuring foreign films, classic films, and the forgotten sequels of beloved franchises, Rue-Morgue did a bang up job at covering all of their bases.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

HEMLOCK GROVE PREMIERES TOMORROW ON NETFLIX


Everyone's favorite instant watch program is presenting its second original series, tomorrow, April 19.  Netflix was awarded with great success with their first series, House of Cards, and rumor has it Hemlock Grove is destined to follow suit.  Based on the debut werewolf novel by screenwriter Brian McGreevy, Netflix has been generating a hell of a buzz through its viral marketing campaign.  Unlike most series, Hemlock Grove will release all of of the episodes in one shot.  Finally, a network that understands the fandom desire to watch an entire series in one sitting (I'm looking at you Firefly.)

Produced by master of gore, Eli Roth, Hemlock Grove is the story of a werewolf suspected of the brutal murder of a teen girl.  While the man to wolf transformation may not be An American Werewolf in London, the computer generation transformation is rather disgusting to look at, but aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.  With the wave of horror television programming (Bates Motel, Hannibal, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, ect.) I'm sure that Hemlock Grove will be met with a large fan base.

Friday, April 12, 2013

IN DEFENSE OF TREE RAPE: THE NECESSARY GRATUITY OF EVIL DEAD

Despite the mixed bag of emotions Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead remake has brought to the table and its piss-poor misleading marketing campaign, Evil Dead has brought to light an incredible amount of conversations ranging from feminism, gratuitous violence, and rape culture. An incredibly intelligent and poignant article was written in the wake of the film's release over at Bad Ass Digest titled "Evil Dead 2013 and the Politics of Tree Rape" written by the remarkably talented Devin Faraci.  I highly encourage everyone to take the time and read this article at some point, because he makes some ridiculously strong arguments.  While I agree with a large part of what Faraci is saying, I am very, VERY glad that Alvarez included the tree-rape sequence in his remake of Sam Raimi's classic flick.

When Sam Raimi made The Evil Dead, his tree-rape sequence was one of the most terrifying things in the entire film.  Watching Cheryl helplessly be controlled by the forces of nature and unable to escape, there are shots of her sheer terror as the world around her completely shut down and betrayed her in one of the most intimate ways humanly possible. According to Sam Raimi, looking back on his original film, he regrets making the sequence. As Bad Ass Digest pointed out, seen in this video interview, Raimi says, “I think it was unnecessarily gratuitous and a little too brutal. And finally because people were offended in a way that I didn't...my goal is not to offend people. It is to entertain, thrill, scare...make them laugh but not to offend them.” It is easy to see why this particular scenario could be seen as gratuitous, brutal, and offensive.  Rape is an incredibly sensitive subject, and a very real one at that.  Putting such a dark and identifiable situation in a film, something meant to entertain, is often frowned upon; which is why we don't have a vast collection of films of mother's drowning their children due to postpartum depression or the actions of humans that result in the dogs seen in the Sarah McLaughlin commercials.

Statistically speaking, 1 in 3 women will be victims of rape or sexual assault at some point in their lives; meaning there are a good amount of women who have seen The Evil Dead or Evil Dead that have been raped themselves.  There are those that believe Fede Alvarez's decision to keep the "tree-rape" sequence into the remake was one that was unwise, and his attempt to soften the brutality by using the tree solely to "hold Mia down" instead of performing the act of sexual assault made the scene particularly confusing and unnecessary...but I disagree.

In the thirty plus years that have passed since Raimi's original flick, rape culture in America is developing an extremely strong and powerful voice.  After events like the Steubenville rape trials and the constant 'war on women' within the GOP's attempts to police the bodies of women, now more than ever is a time where rape shouldn't be pushed aside and downplayed.  I'm sorry, but what defines what is and isn't acceptable in terms of rape on screen?


Mind you, all of this is coming from a girl who named her blog after the unreleased original title for a film that holds one of the most notoriously gratuitous rape scenes in cinematic history.  The thing is, whether or not someone is being raped by a person, a tree branch, or some weird tongue worm from the mouth of a deadite, rape is still rape. Don't you dare tell me that it wasn't really rape because it came from a deadite mouth, don't you dare tell me it didn't have a purpose because it was girl on girl, don't you dare tell me it doesn't count because it was supernatural forces rather than a real person, and don't you dare tell me that this scene has no place in this film. I'm sorry, but in this less than stellar remake, this particular scene is one that was just as relevant thirty years ago as it is today. Some have argued that the scene felt misplaced and was only included because of the original and you know something, so what? I don't know of a single moment in the history of existence where a rape had a purpose and was anything more than a misplaced terror in the timeline of life. You want to tell me one instance where rape is anything but a misplaced event in life and I'll bite my tongue. Was the tree-rape scene uncomfortable to look at? Absolutely. Was the tree-rape scene unnecessary? Perhaps. Did the tree-rape scene spark conversations about what is and isn't acceptable in terms of rape? You better believe it. In a society that is constantly debating the differences between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" rape, I am appalled that anyone would be questioning whether or not this scene has a purpose.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

WHERE WAS MY STRONG FEMALE IN THE EVIL DEAD REMAKE?

ATTENTION: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD 

Considering Evil Dead has been out for nearly a week, there are more than plenty of reviews of the film floating around the internet.  For inquiring minds, I found the film to be really fun but not without its problems. While the film gave me plenty of moments of squirming in my seat and uproarious laughter, there was a major issue that clouded my entire view of the film.  Where the hell was this strong female character I had been promised?  For weeks leading up to the film's premiere, I had been flooded with media outlets claiming their was a strong female lead guaranteeing that I would love this new storyline.  I'll admit, one of the major reasons I was okay with the remake news was that if I couldn't get Ashley J. Williams, I'd at least get a strong heroine.  After Jane Levy was announced as the primary character for the film, I was absolutely ecstatic.  Jane Levy plays a strong-willed character on Suburgatory and I was definitely pumped to see her portray a similar character within the world of Tennessee demon cabins.  As the film progressed, it became obvious very quickly that I had been lied to. This powerful female lead, this "Lady-Ash" everyone kept spouting on about simply didn't exist.  I am not sure if I saw the same film as my colleagues, but there is no empowering female character within the confines of this film at all.

Jane Levy delivered an incredibly strong performance and I will not deny her of that.  This major criticism comes from Fede Alvarez's story and the false advertising attached to the film's marketing campaign. Ridding an Evil Dead film of Ash was risky enough, but to add in a female protagonist was revolutionary.  After hearing the praises of her performance from those who saw Evil Dead during its festival run and ensuring me "she's got a pretty awesome one-liner and some badass kill sequences," I was almost immediately set on Jane Levy's "Mia" becoming my new favorite horror idol.  Sadly, I was very much mislead and mistaken. Are Mia's kill sequences bad-ass? Yes. Is Mia a final girl? Sort of. Is Mia's one-liner awesome? Yes. Is Mia an empowering female character? No. Not even close.  Even from the trailers and publicity photos, it's very clear that Jane Levy is not only the same character we are told is to be the "Lady Ash," but also the character with the "Cheryl-like" deadite transformation from the original film, down to the cellar door isolation and tree rape.  This bad-ass girl protagonist was the first to become a deadite and spent 90% of the film being a troubled girl.  Pre-deadite Mia is a recovering drug addict going through withdrawal and being a major pain in the dick, deadite Mia is a manipulative slimeball, and this leads us to the final ten minutes of the film.  For nearly an hour and a half, this supposed bad-ass shows no sign of being a strong female character in a horror film.

But wait, doesn't she come back as 'cured' and then saves the world from the evil superdeadite?  Yes, hypothetical naysayer, she does come back! Lest we forget, the only reason it's possible for her to come back was because A MAN SAVED HER.  Oh boy! The female bad-ass is only capable of being a bad-ass because her strong, protective big brother buried her deadite ass alive and then brought her back with a hastily made defibrillator!  Had it not been for this man, Mia would still be a deadite and the entire world would have been consumed by evil, demonic forces from the other world. Once, just once, can we please get a female protagonist that doesn't need constant saving or the assistance of a man to be great?  Even characters like Alice from Resident Evil are only powerful because a man installed some weird computer programming DNA enhancements to make her powerful.  The closest thing women have is Ripley in Alien but one truly strong female character in a genre that cranks out hundreds of films of year is an absolute disgrace. Fede Alvarez had the potential to do something completely out of this world and revolutionary with the Mia character, and completely dropped the ball.  The film has gone on to take top box-office placements and has been a huge success, and that's with advertisements still making it seem as if audiences are getting a bad-ass female lead, proving that audiences really don't give a shit what the hero has between their legs. Even if they continue on with these films as a series and show Mia to be the "Lady-Ash" we've been promised, it won't change the fact that the only reason Mia is around to be a "Lady-Ash" in the first place, is because a man took the time to save her from evil...because of course, how could a woman do anything without the aide of a man?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

PRESIDENT WOLFMAN: TAKING PUBLIC DOMAIN FILMS TO HILARIOUS NEW HEIGHTS

This past weekend I was lucky enough to walk amongst the other depraved members of schlock-film fandom at the bi-annual convention, Cinema Wasteland.  Notorious for showcasing both forgotten films of a lost generation as well as new films in the independent circuit, Cinema Wasteland successfully provides audiences with a little bit of everything to tickle their fancy.  Running with a handful of members of The Blood Sprayer crew, I was exposed to some "unique" films, so to speak.  The first on the list was the award winning hit, President Wolfman. Composed entirely from stock and public domain footage, President Wolfman tells the story of president John Wolfman; a politician looking for re-election while overcoming his recent werewolf bite.  If morphing into a ravenous beast with every full moon wasn't enough of a problem, having to battle his opponents from selling the US to China, his murderous Vice President from killing his son Bobby Wolfman, a sex-crazed beauty pageant chaperone hell-bent on boning him at the most inopportune moments, or the mad scientist determined to study him is sure to keep him busy. Predominately showing clips from The Werewolf in Washington, President Wolfman is put together with clips from old beauty pageants, 'miracle of life' birthing videos, 1970s public service announcements, after-school specials, and some really unsettling foreign Coca-Cola commercials.

Directed and written by Mike Davis, President Wolfman is the most fun I've had at a film screening in a very long time.  A production of Stag Films, I was completely blown away at how enjoyable this "green movie" truly was.  The thing is, making movies are an incredibly expensive endeavor, but Davis proves that you don't need a huge budget (or even a camera) to create an enjoyable theater experience for audiences.  The entire crowd was in uproarious laughter for good amounts of the film and I saw more than a handful of grown men curl up in fear as a no-nonsense clip of a woman giving birth was thrown into the mix. The sheer nature of seeing dubbed stock footage is hilarious on its own merit, but Davis' dialogue is remarkably funny.  He writes without fear of offending anyone and pulls no punches in terms of his humorous subject matter. Any and every thing is made fun of at some point or another.

President Wolfman, to put it simply, is one of the most brilliant ideas I've ever seen executed onto a screen. This isn't the folks at Stag Films' first time at the rodeo with "green films," but compared to Pervert and Sex Galaxy, they truly nailed what a "green film" is meant to be.  The sheer creativity going into the dialogue dubbed over these clips and the miraculous editing technique used to splice continuity between one hundred and twelve clips that have nothing to do with one another is genuinely jaw-dropping.  I cannot even imagine how imaginative the creators must have been to make this film possible.  The folks at Stag Films have truly created something special and unlike anything I personally have seen before.  If you have the opportunity, see this film if for nothing more than to witness one of the most uniquely crafted films of recent memory.


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