Friday, June 13, 2014

Hockey Masks and Lycans

Friday the 13th on the Night of a Full Moon

Today is Friday, June the 13th. We're also supposed to have a full moon tonight. (Oh, and something about solar flares hitting the earth! OMG run!) Since there aren't any cool theatres around me playing Jason or werewolf marathons tonight, I'll have my own. While thinking about that, I decided to rank my five favorite Friday movies and my five favorite werewolf movies. 

Friday the 13th Top 5

1. Part II - I'm pretty sure this was the first Friday movie I saw. I remember burlap sack Jason very clearly. Once I saw the original, Part I, the opening suddenly made a lot more sense. 

2. Part I - I'm a big fan of this one, despite there being no Jason killer. Mrs. Voorhees made a fantastic killer and still creeps me out. And the killer coda at the end is classic horror movie stuff. 

3. Part IV: The Final Chapter - I really like this sequel a lot. I thought the character of Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) was cool. He was a makeup and FX wiz kid who took on Jason in the end. 

4. Part VI: Jason Lives - This one was always fun to me. And it's the first time in the series that Jason is resurrected (via lightening). 

5. Part V: A New Beginning - Despite not having - spoiler! - the real Jason present, only his persona, it's a decent movie and sequel. 

Werewolf Movies Top 5

1. The Howling - Joe Dante can do no wrong in my eyes. It's a shame we aren't still getting a steady supply of creature features from him today. Most people prefer that "other" werewolf movie that came out at the same time. And they are both different enough to stand apart, but I've always preferred the dark humor of The Howling. 

2. The Wolf Man - I love this movie. It's atmospheric and short. It's not as fancy as all the newer, FX heavy iterations but it's a fun time if you're into the traditional lycan lore. 

3. Silver Bullet - Based on Stephen King's book, "Cycle of the Werewolf". This one is a lot of fun and has some intense moments that will have you gripping the seat of your wheelchair. 

4. Ginger Snaps - This movie is a unique twist on the lycan curse being that it's a metaphor for female puberty. It's dark and twisted and a lot of fun. 

5. Underworld - I absolutely love this movie and its first sequel, Evolution. It gets bashed because of its use of CGI, but its style and atmosphere always keep me entertained. That, and I want to be Selene. 

So there you have it! Probably not the most traditional list for these two categories, but who ever said I was traditional? Be sure to grab some popcorn and settle in tonight for a rip roarin' good time! (And watch out for those fireballs falling from the sky...)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: The Bay

[Note: I wrote this review way back in March 2013. My feelings regarding found footage still stand.]

Now this is how you make a found footage movie! That's really all you need to know. The Bay is more intelligent and has less shaky-cam than most found footage films. And that's a great thing. Barry Levinson, best known for his Oscar winning movie Rain Man, tried his hand at the found footage subgenre, and I'm happy to say he succeeded. 

Found footage movies have always piqued my curiosity, but they always seem to let me down for one reason or another. From the godawful shaky-cam to poor storytelling to even worse, annoying characters.  While I've found it to be an interesting (and cheap) way to tell a story, most found footage movies fail to deliver. Truthfully, most suck. 

Why is that? As a filmmaker, I would not make a found footage movie unless I could come up with that one element that would set it apart from its brethren.  Let's look at the core.  What is found footage?  Well, it is footage, or video, of some random event in time that could have been recorded or documented by anyone with a video camera, be it consumer or professional grade, or even a cell phone. It would be like if I witnessed a fight between two people in public and I recorded it with my iPhone. That's real footage of an actual event.  

Now, say that event turned into a massive media frenzy or, say the world was obliterated by an alien invasion. And one of those alien beings found my iPhone and watched the video of that fight in the street. That would be found footage. But it's the compelling reason that footage is released that truly tells a story. 

So how does a filmmaker use that to tell a story?

There's no denying the filmmakers would have to show that footage at some point.  But to me, the big aspect that has been missing in the current crop of found footage movies is simply, why. There has to be a reason to tie it all together. In the case of The Bay, there is a narrative, and journalist Donna (Kether Donohue) leads us through a faux documentary to tell the story of what happened in a small town during a town-wide 4th of July celebration. She was there documenting the festivities and witnessed these events in person. In the time since, she believes there has been a coverup. Evidently, the mayor (who obviously hasn't seen Jaws) didn't want the true cause getting out and causing mass hysteria. Um, too late. Now Donna is out to show the world what really caused this disaster in the small town on Chesapeake Bay. 

The documentary style lends realism to this narrative, and it's a compelling enough reason to warrant digging up old news broadcasts, Skype conversations, and cell phone footage to show proof. (There's the why!) We see the story unfold in first person perspective (with Donna narrating), so there's no over the shoulder shots or reaction shots. But that's how it was for them. It was real. So, what did happen? Small isopods (these actually exist, by the way!) that live in fish have mutated into larger, carnivorous creatures which have infected the water supply in the town. 

Needless to say, pretty much the entire town comes in contact with this water in one way or another. Since this is body gross-out horror, there is ample gore to be found here. Mainly in the form of skin lesions, open sores, and the like. In other words, The Bay is light on the scares, but heavy on the real life icky. Cronenberg would be proud. 

Thank you, Mr. Levinson for pushing the found footage subgenre a little further up the storytelling food chain. With very few good found footage movies out there, it's kinda ironic that a non-horror filmmaker is the one who finally gets it right. 

 Care for a swim, anyone?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chain Saw Confidential

Who knew Leatherface was a poet? 

When I discovered "Chain Saw Confidential", I had no idea Gunnar Hansen (Mr. Leatherface himself) was also a writer. Hansen brings a professional yet conversational style to the accounts (both his own and those of actors and crew) of the "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" production. I really dug this book. There were a few things about the making of the movie that I did not know - little tidbits of info for any aspiring filmmaker - that were quite enlightening. Some of the most interesting stories involved Marilyn Burns (aka Sally) and what she went through all in the name of movie making. Hansen describes the rough shooting conditions with an almost nostalgic voice. It's clear he remembers his part in "Massacre" history fondly. While "Massacre" isn't my favorite horror film, it definitely leaves a lasting impression with its raw style. If you're even remotely interested in the movie itself or low budget filmmaking, this is a fun, enjoyable read. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Inspired by: Guillermo del Toro

["Every now and then I'll post about someone or something that inspires me. To read a previous entry, see the entry about Darren Lynn Bousman. And for now please enjoy this little snippet about Guillermo del Toro."]

Reading del Toro's book that Craig gave me for my birthday ("Cabinet of Curiosities"), I am reminded how important it is to a creative person to keep notebooks. I used to keep one with me at all times and have started writing many a short film in those very notebooks. Then in 2011 the iPad came out. And while I absolutely love the fact that I've transferred all my writings and notes to plain text so that I can access them anywhere via Dropbox, I find that I don't do as much creative writing on my iPad. I do type a lot. And have typed several short film scripts on it. 

But there is something about pen to paper that gives my brain a jump start. It's like the creative process in my brain is physically connected to that paper. And I tend to brainstorm more and more efficiently when writing versus typing. So, in the spirit of del Toro and creative artists everywhere, I'm going to go back to carrying a notebook. 

Luckily my OCD did not have time to kick in and force me to go in search of the perfect writing notebook, because I found an unused composition book buried in my closet. I'm more than content with that!

Happy writing!

Monday, January 13, 2014

RIP 2013 - My Favorite Movies

Between giant robots, ghosts, evil spirits, killer dolls, aliens, possessed trees, zombies, and crazed murderers, 2013 was a solid year for horror movies.

The odd thing for me, though, is that while there were several that were great, there really wasn't one that stood out. That's a little disappointing and I'm not sure why that is. Whether it was the less-than-ideal theater going experience or if those really great movies were great technically, but just didn't touch me on a personal level, I don't know. Or maybe it's because there were so many great ones this year - which certainly isn't a bad thing. But here's the funny thing - I can't name 10 movies. I can name 8. Please understand that I see a lot of movies every year, but many of those are from previous years (recent and old).  So, I'm gonna do something a little different and list several of those really good movies and then list my two, yes TWO, favorites of 2013. 

Dark Skies - This one surprised me. It takes the haunted house theme and adds something to it to mix things up, and I liked it. 

Evil Dead - I was real surprised that I liked this one. I think it's because it was so different from the original Evil Dead. I liked the underlying premise as to why these kids were at the cabin, which I could argue has more substance than the original, and it definitely brought the gore. 

You're Next - A good movie with a great female lead. My only gripe is how the filmmakers explained the girl's survival prowess. Not spoiling anything, but the fact they threw that bit in there kinda bummed me out. 

The Battery - Great, great indie movie about two people surviving the zombie apocalypse. Horror needs more character driven pieces. 

Curse of Chucky - I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the newest sequel to a movie that made me a horror filmmaker. We also got an amazing performance by Fiona Dourif, another great female lead for horror. Curse is a solid effort and I hope we see more. My only gripe is that the CGI sucked. Seriously. Some of Chucky's expressions look terrible. 

Insidious: Chapter 2 - A good sequel to an amazing original. Yes, I am a BIG fan of Insidious. If you liked the first Insidious, there isn't any reason you won't like this one. I can't wait to see where they go next. 

And now for my two favorites of the year... 

Pacific Rim - Giant robots and huge monsters! What's not to love? This isn't really horror, but I included it since it is a genre picture. The story could have been a little tighter, it's nothing we haven't seen before, but... Giant robots and huge monsters! Pacific Rim was definitely a favorite. 

The Conjuring - In ten years we will still be talking about this one. It's without a doubt the best made horror movie of the last decade. Heck, dare I say, it's the best horror movie since the original Scream. It's almost hard to believe this is a studio picture. An instant classic. James Wan really blew us away this year and I can't wait to continue watching his career even if he does claim to be leaving horror. And let me just say, I am so glad they cast Lily Taylor, because no one, NO ONE, could have pulled off the part of the mother like she did. Amazing. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Game of Last Gen

My vote for the best game of last gen (360/PS3/Wii) goes to...

For me, it's easy. Nothing compares to Fallout 3 and exploring the Capital Wasteland. I'm sure it helps that I'm a post-apocalyptic nut, but the D.C. Wasteland is probably my favorite game setting... ever. I also really dug the V.A.T.S. combat system. Being able to target a huge mutant's gun-wielding arm and cause him to drop it was very satisfying. The combat system helped set Fallout apart from the run and gun FPS and made it more RPG-like. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would argue it's the best open world sandbox game ever. I could get lost in my own little world while exploring the highly detailed Wasteland. I recently played it in its entirety again, this time on PS3, and it's every bit as good as I remember. (I hit Platinum in 60 hours!) It really is a living, breathing place. And boy oh boy, I cannot wait for Fallout 4. 

Here are a few others that were noteworthy:

Oblivion - Sure, Skyrim is more polished, but Oblivion really set the stage well. For the record, I enjoyed the guild quests a LOT more in Oblivion than Skyrim. The Dark Brotherhood was one of the creepiest and most unsettling thing I've experienced (right up there with Silent Hill 2).

Bioshock - Ah, Rapture. How you blew me away with your amazing setting. Seriously, Rapture is my second favorite game world after the Capital Wasteland. Playing, I really felt like I was under the sea. I wish I could say I had a similar experience with Columbia in Bioshock Infinite. Even though it was obvious I was in a city in the clouds, it didn't leave as much of an impact. 

Super Mario Galaxy - There have been several revolutionary Mario games and this one is no different. It basically took what Super Mario 64 did to revolutionize the 3D game world and made it 10x more awesome. 

Also of note: 

Wii Sports - Hey, it brought many families together. I remember one Thanksgiving, my grandmother was even Wii Bowling. Good memories!

Rock Band - I don't even want to try to calculate the number of hours my husband and I have spent playing Rock Band. It left such an impact, it made Craig learn to play guitar and I now have my own set of drums. Take that, Chad Kroeger. 

All in all, I'd say we've had an amazing 8 years of games, and I can't wait to see what this next gen brings us!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why I Love My Playstation Vita

I really love my Vita. 

I bought it this time last year when amazon had an amazing gold box deal on Black Friday. In the year since I've had it, there have been some great games. I love the 2 Ninja Gaiden ports, Sly Cooper, Soul Sacrifice, Persona 4, Killzone: Mercenaries, Tearaway, and all the indie games. As I was writing this blog, IGN just happened to post something similar that is also worth a read. 

One aspect that I absolutely love is that Playstation+ supports the Vita each month just like it does the PS3 (and now the PS4). I've gotten Uncharted, Gravity Rush, Wipeout, Rayman Origins, and so many more games for free with my subscription. Plus, they just released Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath and Soul Sacrifice all for free with a subscription. Not to mention all the indie games they add for free or at a discounted price. And they give killer sales on downloadable games. Several months ago, I bought Little Big Planet and Touch My Katamari for real cheap. Sony really brings the A-list titles to PS+. 

Regarding the indie games, the Vita is such a great console for stuff like that. I just finished Limbo, which was amazing. I'd love to design a simple and elegant game like that. And I'm also playing Lone Survivor and Guacamelee. I thought the old school graphic look would get in the way in Lone Survivor, but it adds a lot of charm. Sure, these are usually ports from other platforms, but who cares? Thanks, Sony for bringing them to me because I otherwise would likely not experience these games. 

And now there's Tearaway. If you own a Vita and haven't played Tearaway, you are missing out. It is the most innovative platformer I've played in years and has the best use of touch controls ever. Period. Take that mobile gaming. And it has a most endearing story. 

If you've been on the fence about buying a Vita, now is the time, especially if you have any interest in a PS4 and remote play. I will get into more at a later date once I've had time to really use that feature. But there are so many great games available for the Vita now and it'll only get better with more support.