Saturday, December 28, 2013

TWO ACTORS ACTING: AN APPRECIATION FOR THE BATTERY AND RESOLUTION

This year I tried something a little different and I reserved my "Top 13 Horror Movies of the 2013" list for Icons of Fright.  It's already up and ready for viewing so if you want to check out my "Best of the Year," you've gotta head on over to Icons of Fright and CHECK IT OUT
A still from THE BATTERY guaranteed to give you a case of the cinematic vapors.

A majority of the films I loved this year all had very small casts.  All throughout acting school it was rammed into our brains that "less is more."  Is it fun to watch an entire city run through the streets of New York City while aliens blast lasers through buildings topped with strippers holding "Welcome" signs? Hell to the yes! However, it's a lot easier to grab your attention when you have aliens, tall buildings, fire, cars flipping, and thousands of people running and screaming.  When you scale it back and have a film with less Michael Bay-esque action sequences and exchange stock characters for people with actual substance, you'll find yourself with an intimate cinematic experience far more impacting than a war of the worlds.  Two films that made my best-of list this year understood that movies don't need 'holyshitexplosions' to force a viewer to pay attention.
"This is the worst of it." from RESOLUTION
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's RESOLUTION tells the tale of a man named Michael desperate to save his meth addicted former friend, Chris.  When Chris refuses to go to rehab, Michael uses a taser to subdue him and chains him to a metal pipe in a home in the middle of the woods, forcing withdrawal.  There are secondary characters that make appearances throughout the film but it's when the lens is focused on the two men that the film contains its strength.  Justin Benson wrote the film as well as co-directed, but the dialogue given for these two men is absolutely dynamite.  The power plays between the two characters is fascinating to watch unfold and the strange situations that these two men are thrown into constantly keep audiences on their toes.  Without giving too much away about the actual film (It's on Netflix instant watch. Go watch it. No excuses.) had this film focused on society on a larger scale (ie: a city instead of two friends) the film would have been overwhelming and much to difficult to follow.  However, by showcasing a string of strange events and the way they affect two individuals, the overwhelming concepts are much easier to interpret.  This film could have quickly become a hot mess of ideas, but the performances from the two lead actors (Peter Cilella as Mike and Vinny Curran as Chris) are so compelling, they keep all of the insanity of the world around them in check.  These are characters the audience genuinely cares about and the second the audience allows themselves to become a spectator into the lives of these two friends, the film becomes all the more heartbreaking when RESOLUTION shows why it's a horror movie.  Ultimately, RESOLUTION utilized the power of two actors acting, and it was one of the most memorable films released this year.

Practical joking in a post-apocalyptic world in THE BATTERY
Part buddy-comedy, part zombie film, part character study, and all-around wonderful film, THE BATTERY is a film that completely revitalized what I love about cinema.  Shoe-string budget, minimal locations, two central characters with less than a handful of other people that show up for less than four minutes, and a some random zombies all combined to make one of the most interesting films I've ever seen, ever.  Every single aspect of THE BATTERY is enjoyable.  These characters feel so genuine that even the moments (brushing teeth, for example) that feel like they're going on for a little too long, are still enjoyable rather than frustrating.  The 'odd-couple' story has been done time and time again, but the dichotomy between these two characters isn't so much of "opposites attract" as they are "celebrating differences."  95% of this film is watching two characters try to survive the zombie apocalypse.  When I say "try to survive," I don't mean in in the sense of THE WALKING DEAD or even SHAUN OF THE DEAD, I mean surviving in the sense that these two people haven't seen a living being for months and encounter one or two zombies every once in a while.  Think about wandering the world with no sound, no phone, no internet, no television, no showers, no anything for MONTHS at a time and only having the companionship of someone you only kind-of, sort-of know.  This film could have been very, very boring (just two dudes walking around?) but the characters were crafted so well, every moment of the film was worth watching.  The two leads played by Adam Cronheim and Jeremy Gardner (who directed/wrote/produced the film) are wonderful to watch.  Gardner provides a majority of the comedic relief, but Cronheim's emotional rollercoaster is actually quite riveting. THE BATTERY took a massive risk and succeeded in every sense of the word.

Still from RESOLUTION


THE BATTERY and RESOLUTION are two of the very best films of 2013, and two films that valued quality over quantity.  RESOLUTION is available on Netflix instant watch amongst other viewing platforms and THE BATTERY is available for purchase HERE for $5.00 and all of the proceeds directly assist the filmmakers.

Friday, December 27, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BARBARA CRAMPTON!

If you thought the celebrating season was over, think again!  Today is the birthday of one of horror's greatest Scream Queens, Barbara Crampton.  While many of us celebrated the holiday season by watching movies with killer santas or films about Christmas gifts destroying the town, today is a day to celebrate one of the greatest women working in the horror genre by watching any of the films from her filmography.  Might I suggest RE-ANIMATOR, THE BEYOND, or CHOPPING MALL?  In even better news, her film YOU'RE NEXT is now available on most VOD services!

Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Friday, December 20, 2013

A REVIEW OF "MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS"

Every once in a while I'll watch a film that I genuinely have no idea where to begin as far as reviewing.  This year, that film was MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS.  Written and directed by Shane Ryan, MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS is a film loosely inspired by the true crime of 15 year old Alyssa Bustamante and her thrill kill of nine year old Elizabeth Olten.  The flick follows the events leading up to Olten's death while also exploring the lives of two other girls and the sorrow that surrounds their lives.  Part POV and very much observational, MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS bucks the rules of traditional filmmaking and presents an artistic and very raw experience.  Nothing about this film is conventional, but the storyline follows an extremely unconventional aspect of society - the world of teen angst in the late 2000s.  If I could compare this film to anything else that has come out recently, I'd like to think that if Harmony Korine made MEGAN IS MISSING, it would have resembled something like this film.  The film feels so real at times that it's hard to decipher how much of this was scripted and how much was improvised, but as far as capturing the day of angsty teens of the 00s, Ryan completely nailed it.  However, this film is a an enigma in the sense that I can't tell if I find this film brilliant, or complete bullshit.

The biggest weakness in this film is the actual throughline of a story.  Quite honestly, there isn't one.  Of all the characters in the film, only two of them have names; Alyssa and Elizabeth.  The rest of the girls play pivotal roles in the film but are titled "The Sidekick," "The Performer," and "The Angst."  The little brother of Alyssa's character is named Joseph, but he's a tertiary character at best.  If the film had chosen to follow one of these three girls for the entire film, it would have been much easier to follow and would have easily become a better film for the majority of audiences.  Yet, I don't think Ryan wanted to make a movie that would be easily accessible. 

By following the three girls, we see three very different and somehow very alike situations that cause teenage girls to walk down a path of self-destruction.  Alyssa and her friend "The Sidekick" are often cutting, having bathroom photoshoots with Alice Cooper-esque makeup, mimicking guns to their head with their fingers, cutting their wrists, and cursing each other out.  At no time do these girls ever show the stereotypical signs of depression, it's almost like they're doing these things for fun.  Then we see the "performer" who is also a wrist cutter and may or may not have a very unhealthy relationship with what appears to be a foster father...a relationship that is not mutual or consensual.  Finally, we see "The Angst," a bulimic girl who often saves her vomit and cuts her wrists.  This one is shown to be sexually abused by her father and her story is without a doubt the most difficult to watch.  This actress looked to actually suffer from an eating disorder due to the emaciation of her body and her effortless portrayal of self-induced vomiting.  Watching her story was heartbreaking.  Although the lens was focused predominately on Alyssa, it was "The Angst" that just ripped my heart out.

These three girls are very complex creatures and by showcasing all of them, the real "message" of the film gets muddied.  I still battle with whether or not these were separate girls, or if the unnamed characters were just physical manifestations of the different aspects of Alyssa's personality that helped "explain" why she killed Elizabeth Olten.  Some moments of the film left me completely unsure of what I was looking at (for example, the Performer has a full length music video in a foreign language) but its strangeness is also what compelled me to keep watching.  None of the characters have any real relationships developed between one another which makes the film a lot less impacting than it could be, but the lack of relationship seems to make a lot of sense with these isolated characters.

It's definitely a weird one and not something I ever see myself watching again, but I'm not angry that I watched it.  I don't know if I would ever recommend it to anyone else, but at the same time I think it's sort of genius.  MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS, you're a strange bird...but I think I like you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

GRAVEYARD SHIFT SISTERS: READ THEM...NOW!

Day of the Woman has never been a feminist blog, but it is a blog written by a feminist.  It has always been the aim of this site to draw attention to the female interpretations and analyses of horror films and genre culture, as the female voice is one that is often silenced by the male majority.  However, the voice of the WoC is marginalized even more so in the horror genre, because there's this weird belief that horror movies are a "white genre."  Thanks to Hannah Neurotica, (the brainchild behind Women In Horror Recognition Month) she's shown me to the website of The Graveyard Shift Sisters.  The site's motto is "Purging the Black Female Horror Fan From The Margins" and I am SO happy that this site has been brought to my attention.  I do my best to remain as educated as possible, but as a white female, it is not my place to be discussing and dissecting the African American experience in horror films.  

The website aims to be "An open space for Black women and other women of color to share their personal experiences and love for horror. To create another challenge to popular perceptions of nerdom, fandom, and most importantly Black female identity in regards to horror. The journalists, novelists, filmmakers, cosplayers, convention goers, and movie fans can tell their stories and challenge horror fandom to be just as progressive and transformative as some of our favorite horror texts."  Hell. Fucking. Yes.  Fellow whitefolk, do yourself a favor and educate yourselves on something I guarantee you don't know shit about.  The articles on this site are written passionately, and intelligently.  

I cannot express how amazing it is that this website exists.  Pardon my ignorance, but this is definitely the first I've ever seen and I'm so thankful to have stumbled upon it.  These women are bringing something absolutely new to the table, and we need to listen

Check out their website at: www.graveyardshiftsisters.com

Monday, December 9, 2013

ICONIC DIRECTOR-ACTRESS COLLABORATIONS AND WHAT THEY DID FOR HORROR

Ever since I was singing songs from Disney's HERCULES as a child, I've always thought that the concept of being a "muse" for another person was one of the highest compliments a person could receive.  Sure, I've had old boyfriends write songs about me (...about how I broke their heart) but to know that there are artists out there that find themselves the most inspired because of another individual's sheer existence, is magical.  Nowadays, it seems that we have a lot less muses and a lot more "creators falling in love with an actress and putting them in all of their movies."  Whether or not relationships were/are artist-muse or simply romantically linked, the horror genre has seen a fair share of creators continuing to spotlight the women with whom they seem to be fascinated.
(NOTE: Of course there are TONS to choose from, I chose my favorite five.)

Somewhere, some Goth kids in Tuscon are recreating this for an engagement photo shoot.

TIM BURTON & HELENA BONHAM CARTER
Quite possibly the most obvious pairing is between the king and queen of "People to inspire designs at Hot Topic." People often forget that before these two paired up and started working together, they had very impressive careers.  Bonham Carter is a two-time Academy Award nominated actress and Burton is a bonafide film auteur.  However, it can be argued that when the two join forces...the work isn't nearly as powerful as when they're apart.  Don't get me wrong, SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET was surprisingly solid, but when it feels like Tim Burton is writing roles to play to the strengths of both his wife and his best friend (Johnny Depp) the characters fall into a category of predictability.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, we all know exactly what we're getting when we buy a ticked for a Tim Burton film.  However, I'll bet money that his next project BIG EYES with Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz is going to be a beast of a different color. You know, with the exception of the paintings of kids with saucepan eyes.

The lady behind Rose McGowan is making a hilarious face in that picture. Moving on.
ROBERT RODRIGUEZ & ROSE MCGOWAN
Once upon a time, Robert Rodriguez made El Mariachi which blew the doors off of anything else anyone was making for only $7,000.  So much so, Columbia pictures bought the damn thing and put Rob Rod on the map.  A long time collaborator with Quentin Tarantino and the king of kid's Sci-Fi films, Robert Rodriguez brought the horror world THE FACULTY, FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, PLANET TERROR, and a load of other genre films that many of us love genuinely or as a "guilty pleasure." (I'm looking at you MACHETE KILLS.)  Robert Rodriguez has made some pretty amazing stuff...and then he met Rose McGowan.  Whether or not Rodriguez was banging McGowan while he was still married is neither here nor there.  What DID happen, is that Rodriguez fell in love with this woman and then completely changed his filmmaking path.  SIN CITY 2 was put on hold because he wanted to remake BARBARELLA with McGowan in the titular role.  He had plans to remake RED SONJA also starring McGowan as well as a McGowan leading tv series about a women's prison called WOMEN IN CHAINS!  Where did all of these projects go?!  Why did we get SHORTS: THE ADVENTURES OF THE WISHING ROCK instead of these amazing ideas?  Well, because after leaving his wife for this woman, they did what all Hollywood couples did and broke up.  Rodriguez made serious, serious plans for his career all based around this woman and then it all turned to shit.  I'm hoping SIN CITY 2 doesn't suck, because I would hate to know Rob Rodriguez ruined his career all because of the chick from JAWBREAKER.

Hey, just forget the part where I psychologically tortured my actresses.
HITCHCOCK & HIS ICY BLONDES
While they may not have all been the same actress, Alfred Hitchcock's obsession with ice-blonde haired women has inspired the way horror films are cast today.  Alfred Hitchcock is considered by most to be the foremost master of suspense and thriller filmmaking, and his work has inspired just about every filmmaker working today.  Whether it's copying his film style or editing techniques, I can't tell you how many times I've heard people describe a film as "Hitchcockian."  So why the blondes?  Hitchcock himself has stated "Blondes make the best victims. They're like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints."  This belief is definitely still something we see today.  With a few exceptions, most of our "final girls" are brunette while their quick-to-die friends are blonde.  It's very strange, but Hitchcock's obsession with blonde women has rolled over into the way we as audiences view female characters in thriller/horror movies.

I can't believe those Duck Dynasty guys got such hot wives! Oh, that's Rob Zombie...
 ROB ZOMBIE & SHERI MOON ZOMBIE
Talk about a man who loves his woman.  What started out as just a another glorified video vixen relationship became a staple of Zombie's filmography.  Personally, I really enjoy Sheri Moon Zombie.  I think she's extremely talented and has a really strong range of characterizations.  Unlike Tim Burton who I believe writes his characters for the actors he has, I genuinely believe Rob Zombie writes his characters first and then finds the people to fill the roles.  Sheri Moon Zombie was an amazing Baby Firefly in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, and I actually liked her as Mama Myers in his first HALLOWEEN movie.  But then...HALLOWEEN II happened.  If the blatant stray from the Michael Myers mythos wasn't enough, he transformed what was an amazing character in Deborah Myers and turned her into this weird ass...thing.  The characterization was so ridiculous, people were laughing at Sheri Moon Zombie and talking about how "awful" she was.  Here's the thing, she wasn't awful, that character was awful. She was actually doing her job very well and giving a performance that fit what Rob Zombie wanted...but what he wanted was just a little absurd.  Following that mess, THE LORDS OF SALEM happened.  I think Rob Zombie actually wrote a solid piece, but Sheri Moon Zombie was painfully miscast.  That doesn't mean she's a bad actress, it means she wasn't right for the role. I commend someone who looks this beautiful to often bare it all and be downright "ugly" which is a feat many actresses are afraid to tackle.  However, you can be the best actress in the world and be miscast.  THAT is what we can learn from these two.





JOHN CARPENTER & ADRIENNE BARBEAU
Adrienne Barbeau made a name for herself when she originated the role of Rizzo in the first Broadway production of GREASE.  Following the Tony nominated performance, she played Bea Arthur's daughter in the hit-TV show MAUDE.  In an effort to destroy the notion that she could only play comedic roles or roles on television, she auditioned for the made-for-tv movie SOMEONE'S WATCHING ME! where she met and fell in love with John Carpenter.  Carpenter was absolutely smitten with Barbeau and the two soon married.  While Barbeau wasn't cast in his next film (a little movie called HALLOWEEN) he later cast her as the lead in THE FOG, and in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and she's the only female (excluding the alien) in THE THING as the voice of MacReady's computer chess game.  Adrienne Barbeau and John Carpenter's collaborations may have been only a few films but John Carpenter completely changed the course of Barbeau's career.  Adrienne Barbeau went from a musical theatre/tv darling and is now one of the biggest horror and genre film icons.  She was a bonafide sex symbol that wasn't afraid to play with ghosts in the fog or battle in a dystopian future known as 1997.  Without Carpenter, we would have never been lulled by the velvet voice of Antonio Bay.


HONORABLE MENTION: Roger Corman & Hazel Court. Obviously.
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