Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year End 'Best Of' List

Well it's that time of year again where we writers hem and haw over the most fantastical horror films from the past year.

Check out my recent post over at The Bloodsprayer for my personal list:

I was going to post my 'Worst Of' list but why exhaust any additional efforts when I've already covered them more than they actually deserve? If you REALLY want to know, just type in the words 'shit sandwich' into the search bar and enjoy.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cropsey (2009)

Fear 3/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 5/5

Combining part urban legend with real life news stories, Cropsey sees two documentary filmmakers as they explore the story behind one of Staten Island's most notorious figures. The film interweaves urban legends, true stories of a mental hospital and the horrific treatment of its patients, as well as the investigation of a homeless drifter who's the prime suspect in a series of child abductions. While the film ends with no clear resolution, it does what all good horror stories should do: leaving it up to the viewer to decide. Afterall, there is no greater horror than the one you make in your own mind.

Our film starts as various stories of a killer in the woods around Staten Island are told. A child killer who, depending on who's telling the story, has a specific way of doing his deed: axe, hook, knife, etc. In true urban legend fashion, at its heart, similarities exist with each recount. But as they are told and re-told over time, certain elements differ. But one thing is for certain: no one dares goes into the woods at night around the area.

What follows next becomes the basis for the rest of the film: in the 80's, a homeless drifter (Andre Rand) who has ties to the old, now abandoned mental hospital, is the main suspect in a series of child abductions. Painting a picture of a real-life boogeyman, the man appears to clearly be the type of person who could commit such acts, both in appearance and how he carries himself--sluggish and clearly, 'out of it.'

Things become suspect as additional histories about the island are revealed. The land is also said to be used by various Satanic cults and that our prime suspect my only be a pawn in their practices, having him bring them children for their sacrifices. Various 'experts' go on record as saying that he shouldn't be the sole focus at all. That these cults are actually planting evidence to make him look like the main perpetrator.

But things become even more clouded by the actions of Rand himself. He starts corresponding with the filmmakers while in prison. After a series of back and forth communications, he grants them an interview so that he can profess his innocence and shed light on what really happened. But when they arrive at the prison, he changes his mind and the filmmakers leave empty handed.

As our film ends, Rand is convicted and sent to prison and the families of the victims believe that justice has been served. But no firm conclusion can be drawn. Is Rand really the boogeyman personified? Is he just a pawn for a far more sinister group of individuals? None of these questions are answered but instead, you are left to come up with your own conclusion.

Highly engrossing and suspenseful, Cropsey is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. You can check it now via NetFlix's Instant Watch feature.

Cortez the Killer

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Have Yourself A Merry Tainted Christmas!

First off, Merry Christmas to all of you from the both of us. I hope your day is filled with good eats and bowls chock full o' spiked egg nog.

Second, for the next 11 hours or so, you can stream the disgusting and hilariously over the top film The Taint, absolutely FREE!!

Just click on this linky right here:

Cortez the Killer

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Interview: Caroline du Potet, Writer/Director 'In Their Sleep'

I was recently given the opportunity to interview first time director Caroline du Potet. The French filmmaker's film, In Their Sleep recently screened at Elisabeth Fies' Bleedfest Film Festival. It's a taut emotional thriller, packed with many twists and turns.

A short synopsis of the film is as follows:

A woman driving along a road one night hits a young man who's running across the road. She picks him up and at his urgent request, she drives off and away from the scene as an unknown pursuer advances.

We come to find that this man who's pursuing him is after him for a particular reason. As the woman takes the young man into her home and her care, the mystery of what he's done is unraveled and as it goes, things are not always as they seem.

Here is what Caroline had to say about her film, the idea behind it and how you can check out the film for your very selves.

Cortez the Killer: How did you get involved with Elisabeth Fies and Bleedfest?

Caroline du Potet: Elisabeth saw In Their Sleep at the Bram Stoker International Film Festival where we won the Best Director award. She loved the film and asked me if she could screen it at her festival.

CTK: Tell us a little bit about In Their Sleep. What was the main idea behind it?

CDP: The concept of the story originated on the idea that appearances can be deceptive and the "monster" is not always who they seem to be. That's why we chose from the beginning to write a screenplay with a non linear structure. Unlike the classical villain which is always a beast without any feelings, we wanted to create an ambivalent character, half demon, half angel. We wanted to show that even if this guy does horrible things, he can also be human at times.

CTK: What has reaction towards the film been like? Has it played at any festivals?

CDP: In Their Sleep didn't go well at all in France but was sold in about fifteen countries around the world, which is very well for a French film. The film did the opening of Gerardmer Film Festival, the most important fantasy film festival in France. It has also been screened at the Colcoa French Film Festival in LA, and won two awards at Brussels Film Festival and at the Bram Stoker Film Festival in England. And there is also Bleedfest of course.

CTK: The production team consists of members who worked on the film Inside (aka À l'intérieur), one of the most brutal and unrelenting horror films of the past decade. Was there any time at all during the production of the film that you had to keep it from moving into the horror realm and keep the focus on it being a thriller?

CDP: From the beginning, Eric and I decided that the violence on the screen had to be realistic, without bloody effects. We didn't want to make a pure horror film because it was important that people who are not big fans of that kind of film would still be able to understand and appreciate it. However, it was essential for us to show the death of the little girl because it really shows the killer's madness. As we didn't want to be too revealing, we chose to film the face of the killer at this moment and not the girl. And the suggestion (of something happening) is often far more frightening.

CTK: Over the past decade, we have seen some really fantastic feature films coming out of France, particularly in the genres of horror and thriller. It would appear that French filmmakers are taking more risks and being less conventional with some of their films. Would you agree with that statement?

CDP: As French horror films are most of the time very low budget, French directors can make the film they want, without any studio pressure or censorship, that's why perhaps they are taking more risks. Nevertheless, a lot of films are only pale imitations of American films. Of course there are also original and surprising works with a treatment very different from Hollywood movies or other French films. But in my opinion there are still too few French horror films to draw a general portrait.

CTK: Who are some of your filmmaking influences, both past and present?

CDP: For In Their Sleep, our biggest influences were Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs and John Boorman's Deliverance. In general, I love Stanley Kubrick's and Hitchock's films, as well as the work done by Steven Spielberg in Jaws and Duel. At present, my favorite filmakers are James Gray and David Fincher.

CTK: In Their Sleep saw a Video On Demand release on December 10th. Will it see a DVD or BluRay release anytime thereafter?

CDP: In Their Sleep is being released by the new IFC "Midnight" label to distribute genre films. I think there will be a DVD release soon but I don't have more information at the moment.

CTK: Are there any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?

CDP: We are currently working on a new French project, a "Hitchcockian" thriller called Totem. It will be more psychological than In Their Sleep. We'd like to shoot it next year in the south of France.

In Their Sleep is now available for rent on selected cable on demand TV services. We'll post more information about the film's DVD/BluRay release as we receive it.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Die-Ner: Get It? (2010)

Fear 0/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 1/5
Creepiness 0/5

The title of the film would lead you to believe that it is more tongue n' cheek than it really is. And the marketing materials included with it proclaim it as 'Pulp Fiction meets Zombieland.' Well the movie itself has neither the humor nor inventiveness of either of those films. Instead what you are left with is an incoherent plot filled with a slew of characters that fumble and bumble their way through a series of head scratchingly stupid decisions.

The film starts out with a waitress at a diner, recounting the sad tale of her life to a stranger as she's lost both her sister and husband. The dialogue going back and forth for awhile until the stranger reveals a bit of an odd side to him as he carries a duffel bag full of duct tape and rope. He promptly whips out a knife and makes short work of the waitress and diner chef.

Another couple arrives at the diner, in the midst of a lover's quarrel. Our killer acts the part of the diner's waiter and grabs them a couple of coffees. The local sheriff stops by and things become uncomfortable as our killer tries to explain where everyone who normally tends to the diner is. And it certainly doesn't help his case that the bodies he's stuffed into the walk-in freezer come back and start doing the zombie shuffle.

The sheriff is attacked by one of our escapee zombies and all hell breaks loose. Our killer along with the couple tie up the zombies. And even though they formally acknowledge them as members of the walking dead, they don't kill them or shoot them in the head. But instead, tie them up and keep them around for company. If that bit of illogical decisioning wasn't enough, the couple knockout the killer with a meat tenderizer and instead of going to the sheriff's car to use his radio, they hang around long enough for the killer to come to and tie them up.

So we get to the 'why' of these people coming back from the dead. Seems that the killer has been plenty busy, taking out multiple people in his travels including a few drifters and truck drivers. He really isn't sure himself as to why these people keep coming back from the dead after he's killed them. But he theorizes, through a long winded explanation of evolution and the way of the world, that maybe, just maybe, zombies are the next logical evolution in human species. Huh?

The film doesn't end any less confusingly as the zombie horde (which we assume are his victims) advances on the diner and our remaining survivors are taken care of. Cut to the end as our killer is getting ripped to shreds while crying out with claims that he doesn't regret his actions a single bit.

Eschewing anything that made Pulp Fiction or Zombieland great, Die-Ner is a muddled mess of film. Only watch this if you want to scream at the TV every 20 minutes or so at the extremely stupid choices our onscreen characters make.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eyes In The Dark (2010)

Fear 0/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 0/5
Creepiness 1/5

It's no secret that I'm a sucker for the found footage style of film. But if movies like Eyes in The Dark continue to get made, I just might swear them off altogether.

From the first person perspective of someone viewing an FBI computer database (which is suspiciously similar to Evil Things), we see a series of videos that were found in Washington state. From a researcher and his assistant out in the woods, to a reporter's news footage, to the more prolonged tape of college students whooping it up one last time (before they graduate) at a cabin in the woods. The latter of which, spans most of the film's run time.

I'm not going to spend any time describing the 4 girls and 3 guys in the group because they are your standard horror fodder. Not bad per se but this 'go to' set of characterizations just screams of laziness. As such, there is no dynamic to the group, no two shits given, when the poopy hits the fan.

Rooming with them in the same cabin (kind of creepy in and of itself), is an old man who serves as a caretaker to the cabin. One night by the fireplace, he recounts the story of the area, a legend that dates back a couple hundred years. Supposedly, some sort of evil comes down from the mountains every 30 years or so to feast upon anyone and anything within their path. I liked this better when it was called The 13th Warrior.

Anywhos, along with the kids and their video cam (one of the friends wants to capture everything from the weekend), we hear things in the woods as we see the other bits of footage recovered. We don't see anything, instead we hear rumblings and grumblings within the woods. Is it a sasquatch? A werewolf? A velociraptor? Roseanne Barr looking for a baloney sandwich? Painfully, we are left wondering all the way until the payoff at about an hour and 20 min. in. And boy is it a doozy, as we are treated to rubbery suited people that would make Roger Corman proud. In 1959.

It's cheap, it's dime store, it's Spirit Halloween costume store ridiculousness. Look, I can appreciate indie films and the challenges that come with budgetary constraints. But did anyone actually say 'Hey, this might not be a good idea' to the director? None of that really matters anyways because what you have here is a hollow shell of a film with no real tension, scares, or atmosphere. All of it is tied together with the most annoying characters I've witnessed on film this year. Congrats Eyes in the Dark, you beat out the A Nightmare On Elm Street remake.

You are treated to something rather funny (or sad, depending how you look at it). Not one but TWO Blair Witch-esque moments where a couple of the kids snivel, cry and snot into the video camera.

Eyes in the Dark, welcome to my 'Worst of' list for 2010.

Cortez the Killer

Friday, December 17, 2010

Interview: Drew Bolduc, Writer/Director/Actor; Dan Nelson, Director 'The Taint'

Simply put, The Taint is the foulest, most disgusting piece of trash I've witnessed this year (see review here). And it was a lot of fucking fun. It's wacky, hilarious and what a good horror movie should be: shocking and offensive. Well, I'd say its only offensive to those who watch it and simply don't get it.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the brainiacs behind this filthy production. Here is what they had to say about the making of the film, audience reaction to it and how they fashioned those marvels cocks.

Warning: This is the dirtiest interview we've ever posted. You may want to shower afterwards.

Cortez the Killer: So how did the idea for this wonderfully disgusting piece of filth come about? I always thought people from Virginia were boring and overall, pretty mellow.

Drew Bolduc: I kept seeing a bunch of super misogynistic student films, so for a long time I wanted to make one that was just so ridiculously misogynistic, that it couldn’t be taken seriously. I also wanted to make a horror movie separately, so I just ended up mashing the two ideas together.

CTK: The practical effects in the film are just freaking phenomenal. Better than most films with bigger budgets in fact. It’s one thing to make a film but to be fairly skilled at practical effects, well I’ve just gotta shake your prosthetic Johnson. How the hell did you come up with all of that stuff?

Dan Nelson: Well, actually most of the effects were done with digital compositing. We’d shoot the practical effect, like a styrofoam head (carved out, painted, and filled with blood), then we’d shoot the same shot again with the actor. I would take the shot into after effects and match up the movement of the actor to the practical effect frame by frame. The shot on top would slowly be removed using rotoscoping until the two shots became one.

Drew: For the penis or blood sprays we used a CO2 refillable whipped cream canister, which we filled with fake blood or semen. I used those when I used to work at Starbucks.

CTK: Did you buy out a sex shop’s entire stock of dildos or were each of the penises handcrafted?

Dan: Haha! Most of the penises were one of three dildos. We bought a ton of dildos that didn’t look as good for the scene with all the extras, then cut those up and used them for cock explosions. We also built paper mache penises. This gave us a very thin cock that we used for exploding cocks.

Drew: My brother handcrafted some of the cocks. He used molds and some kind of balloon rubber I think.

CTK: Have you gotten this into the hands of John Waters yet and does he approve?

Drew: Not yet, but I really hope that he does.

CTK: Speaking of, who are some of your filmmaking influences?

Drew: Definitely John Waters, Sam Raimi, Troma, Shinya Tsukamoto... Tetsuo: The Iron Man was a big influence on this movie. It really got me into the mindset that I could make an epic as hell movie with no money. It made me put no limitations on what I thought I could do. I also just love seeing movies that remind me that you can do anything at any time in a movie.

CTK: What liquid-y concoction did you use for the man baby batter?

Drew: Flour in water.

Dan: It works really well, but is essentially a glue when it dries. Some people use it to glue paper to walls of buildings as graffiti, so it’s not something you want to get in your hair.

CTK: How did you shoot the vaginal POV scene? Oh lawd amighty that was bonkers.

Dan: We bought a fake vagina. We bought it so we could do exterior shots of it. The back end is open and it was a big enough for the lens to fit inside and the material was transparent enough that light would come through. We weren’t sure if we could actually use the shot for anything, but the Misandra sex scene wasn’t working, so we put it in as a placeholder. We showed it once at the premiere and people liked it, so we kept it in.

CTK: What has reaction to the film been like? Has there been anyone you’ve severely offended? Any family members keeping you off of this year’s Christmas card list?

Dan: There have been a few people that really didn’t like it for various reasons. Surprisingly, the overall reaction has been very positive. Our families have been supportive, considering what it is. I’m not sure how many of them actually understand what it is we made.

Drew: My mom is stoked on the movie. My parents are pretty into it.

CTK: What’s next for The Taint? I’d like to think there are still people out there who, if they gave it a chance, would find it a very pleasurable experience.

Dan: We’re just going to keep pushing it and hope that more people that would want to see it get a chance to.

Drew: We are going to offer the movie up as a digital download, but we don’t know when just yet.
CTK: Any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?

Dan: Not yet. We’re distributing the movie ourselves so we’re still working on the movie full time. There are some things we’ve been talking about doing. Maybe something which mixes compositing with puppets. Jessi, who was third in command on The Taint has been working on a script, so we’ll see where that goes.

Drew: I’ve been itching to do a children’s show.

For more information on how you can experience The Taint, check out the film's website:

Cortez the Killer

The Taint Trailer (NSFW) from Dan Nelson on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

S&Man (2006)

Fear 3/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 5/5

My eye holes get crossed everytime I read the title of this film. If you are confused right now, it also goes by the name of 'Sandman'. As for the movie itself, it's shot documentary film style. The filmmaker, JT Petty, wants to explore the connection between horror films and voyeurism. Instead of focusing on any one given film or set of films, he instead sets his sights on the seedy side of the genre, the world of simulated underground snuff.

He interviews the purveyors of these types of pictures, most notably Fred Vogel of Toe Tag and Bill Zebub, he of his own self-titled production company. The interviews range from the gross, as actual set pieces and clips for these films are shown, to the downright goofy as Bill is more oftentimes than not, about a full 12 pack in. He also interviews author Carol Clover (Men, Women and Chainsaws) as well as various convention goers. But its not until an encounter with another filmmaker who's gained recent notoriety do things take a turn from the intent of the actual documentary to a full on investigation.

JT meets Eric, a young kid who's new 'style' of film has been generating quite the buzz due to it being perceived as extremely realistic. Eric is shy and completely unassuming at first, the type of kid you'd normally write off at school if he's hanging by himself during lunch. Weird yes, but hardly the type to cause any sort of trouble. We see clips from his films and indeed, they do appear to be too realistic. From a first person POV, we see various women stalked as they go about their everyday routines and eventually, we see them knifed or strangled.

As they begin to build somewhat of a relationship, JT and his camera crew start to suspect that a lot more is going on. They decide to turn their cameras on him and what they come to find, is that this unsuspecting character is actually a monster. A monster that is one of the most unnerving in recent film history. A total sociopath.

This is one messed up little film. Aside from the exploration of snuff horror, what really keeps the film engrossing and ultimately terrifying is the performance of Erik Marcisak as Eric. The devolvement of this character is a sight to behold and it really carries the picture.

If there is any criticism to be given, it's in the fact that the film strays a bit from what it was first attempting to do. There is no definitive point or connection that is made by film's end. But I suppose what can be inferred, is that the most voyeuristic and villainous of us, might be that kid who's eating lunch by himself at school.

Cortez the Killer

Monday, December 13, 2010

Brain Dead (2007)

Fear 0/5
Gore 5/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 0/5
T&A Factor: 5/5

No, not that Brain Dead. This Brain Dead is from the director of Night of the Demons and Witchboard, one Mr. Kevin Tenney. The film itself has tongue firmly planted in cheek and is a total throwback to 80's fun-filled sleaze and cheese.

A wisecracking man serving time in prison, opens our film by telling the story of how he got there in the first place. He recounts the story of a cosmic event wherein fragments from a meteor rained down, striking a local fisherman. Just when his fishing buddy thinks that he's dead, he comes back to the land of the living but as a brain hungry, wacked-out, zombie-like, creature! Zoinks!

After a brief stay with the local sheriff, he and another criminal (who's a bit more on the miscreant side) are loaded into a cargo van and taken to prison. Only they don't make it there as the van has a blow out and our two baddies overtake the deputy, kill him and escape.

On the run and looking for a place to hide out, they come across an abandoned cabin in the woods. Also converging on the scene, are a pair of tree hugging female hikers (one of which is a lesbian) and a reverend with a young female congregation member whom he's trying to convince of the Lord's will for them to do the horizontal mambo. Both couples are lost in the woods and trying to find a way back into town. But of course, that's not going to happen as our zombified creatures (another police officer who has become one is now in the mix) have surrounded the joint.

Cat and mouse ensues for the rest of the film as they all try to fend off the zombie-like creatures and get the heck out of dodge. Fozzie Bear wakka wakka jokes also abound, including a slew of not so subtle innuendos between our wisecracking criminal and the non-lesbian hiking counterpart.

So they eventually defeat the creatures, narrowing the root of their problems down to a black slug-like parasite which infects it's host with a lust for brain matter. But in the end, our poor wisecracking criminal gets blamed for the whole affair. Afterall, who's going to believe his story about an alien parasite anyways, right?

Braindead has all the necessary ingredients that are required for a nice, tasty, cheese filled 80's horror pie: good gore scenes, ample bits of T&A and a totally sleazed out vibe. Oh, and by far, the best scene in the film was one that completely took me by surprise. A parasite hitches a ride inside the vagina of our young church going female. We get a peak up her skirt and the black, penis sized parasite spurts its way out. Holy vaginal discharge Batman!

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Death Spa -- AKA Witch Bitch (1988)

Fear 0/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 1/5
T&A Factor: 5/5

Death Spa has more leg warmers, unitards, jazzercise routines, mullets, and tiny man shorts than you can shake a stick at. And naked women randomly groping themselves while lying in a sauna.

So our film starts off as such, a lady caressing herself and moving slowly downstairs in the confines of her gym's hot room. Oh don't worry, nobody's around as she's the last one there and the entire gym staff have all gone home for the evening. Safety concerns be damned! Her personal quality time is interrupted when the heat turns up and her skin starts to bubble. She goes all Chuck Norris-y, breaking the window in the door which leads out and crawling through it.

She awakens in the hospital, bandaged and temporarily blind. We come to find out that she's the girlfriend of the health spa owner. And Mr. Health Spa Owner is going to have a lot more problems on his hands very soon. Hope he has a good insurance plan!

The next day, he's paid a visit to his facilities by two crack detectives hot on the case. They immediately accuse the fitness center of being unsafe despite the head master controller guy who says everything is wired by a computer which is completely safe and fool proof. But the computer decides to make an ass out of him as one of the patrons tries to jump off the high dive at the pool only it mysteriously unscrews and the board falls off. Thankfully, the board just misses her as she crashes into the water. But things are about to get a lot worse for our gym and health spa owner.

Oh, don't feel so bad for him. He's a raging douchewad. While his burnt and blind girlfriend recovers in the hospital, he makes passes at girls in the gym. Get a load of this hot exchange:

In response to another weird incident in which ceramic tiles peel off the wall in the women's shower and ladies get pelted:

Girl #1: 'To tell you the truth Michael, this place could use some better maintenance.'

Girl #2: 'Yeah, who needs weight reduction through terror?'

Michael: 'I'm sorry about the showers. I'm going to extend your memberships for 3 months. No charge. Drop by my office and I'll take care of it personally.'

Girl #1: 'Do you think you can handle both of us after jazz class tomorrow?'

Michael: 'I can sure have fun trying!'

Girl #1 and Girl #2: -Giggle uncontrollably-

Along with a turn up the burner sauna, a nuts loosening diving board and a projectile flinging women's shower, other weird goings ons occur. A weight machine inexplicably acts up, increasing the weight automatically and ripping a dudes solar plexus apart. Ouch city!

So what in the name of all things sissy prancing, neon colors wearing, male aerobics instructor is going on around here?

Well an evil force is at work, uh duh. Seems that Michael had an ex-wife whom, while pregnant, started having spinal cord issues. When she miscarried and had additional issues (which eventually confined her to a wheelchair) she doused herself in gasoline and set herself on fire. She's now back and effing pissed that Michael is living with Blindy McBody Groper (who has since been released from the hospital) and chasing other skirts. So how do you think her spirit has decided to come back and manifest itself? Why through her twin brother of course who just so happens to be the computer controller guy at the club. WOWZERS!

In her final act, the spirit of his ex wife decides to wreak havoc on their masquerade party that's set in, you guessed it, the health spa! All of this is in an effort to get Michael to kill himself so that they can both live happily ever HELL!

After laying waste to anyone that gets in her way, including a funny death by juicer, she's laid to rest by Michael. He reverses the computer's electrical current, frying her in the process along with her bodily host. Poor computer controller guy. But all's well that ends well....or does it......

As you can see, this is a complete gem. I think we need more health club horror films. But after this and Aerobicide (AKA Killer Workout), do you really need anymore? Plus they won't have the same aesthetic or laugh out loud factor because it wouldn't be set in the 80's. I mean just check out this tasty bit of era specific, laugh out loud dialogue, also from Death Spa:

A Female trainer in an obvious attempt to hit on a studly male working out:

Trainer: 'How many reps can you do?'

Studly Guy: 'Ahhh, 15 or 20. More if I'm showing off.'

Trainer: 'Well, why don't you show off for me?'

Studly Guy: 'I NEVER waste effort in the gym. Besides, I'm Beta and you're VHS.'

Joke's on you asshole.

Cortez the Killer

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home (2010)

Fear 3/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 2/5

Home is a short film that serves as a complete testament to what you can do with minimal setting, sound and absolutely no dialogue (unless you count zombie moans and groans).

Set in the countryside, the short focuses on a young woman struggling to survive against a growing zombie force. She's rigged her house, mapped out the area well, all in the efforts of self-preservation.

One morning, after being awakened by a member of the undead shuffling about on her front porch (and subsequently taking care of her pesky problem), she ventures out to check the area in greater detail. A daily task that becomes more apparent by the heavily marked map of the area that she keeps with her. Seeing an advancing horde in the distance, it's obvious from her facial expressions that all hope is lost. That she cannot put up a front and offensive against such a large group.

After returning home, we see her reflect briefly on the life she used to have. She cleans herself up, puts on her wedding gown and in our closing moments, we learn that she's not exactly alone. That the human life we thought she lost is a lot closer than expected. But it's not any normal being, of course. As our film concludes and a touching moment between them occurs, we wonder what fate she has chosen: ending it all with one shot, giving into the complete hopelessness of the situation or continuing on with her life and succumbing to the new world around her.

I was absolutely amazed at just how much emotion could be conveyed in an 11 minute short, through no dialogue and an intermittent soundtrack. The film is also beautifully shot and wonderfully produced.

Be on the lookout for this one folks as well as future offerings from filmmaker Cameron McCulloch. This guy has got the goods.

Note: I'll be posting more news about the short once it gets rolling in the festival circuit. Keep your peepers peeled.

Cortez the Killer

No embed codes exist for the trailer but you can view it via the direct link below:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bleedfest Film Festival Spotlight: Short Films

In just a few hours, this month's edition of the Bleedfest Film Festival (details here) will be getting under way. I had the privilege of checking out the short films and works in progress that will be featured in advance. Here are my mini-reviews of each.

Preview of A Work In Progress:

Produced by Cindy Baer
Cinematography by Jenny Ramirez
Writer/Director Matthew Irving

A woman sitting at an outdoor cafe notices a stranger staring at her from across the street, sporting a hoodie and a pig mask (what is it about a swine face that instantly gives you the heebie jeebies?). She calls a friend and admittedly, acknowledges she is one for paranoia. But she can't help but notice the man continuing to follow her, even showing up in a super market that she ducks into to try and elude him. As she gets to her apartment he again shows up. But as we near the end of our tale, we're left with a great twist and wondering who's really the one being stalked here?

In Competition:

Morbid Curiousity
Director/Producer Cindy Baer

A funny tale about a women who talks about her history of being able to imagine harmful events happening to people and those events actually coming to life. From a painter working on her childhood home when she was a little girl, falling off his ladder and being impaled by garden gnomes, to passing the scene of an accident when she was a teen only to have all parties blow up in a horrific fireball. She recounts and gives a rundown of each instance with some funny flashback images to highlight her confessions. This Carrie-esque spoof would make an excellent feature length.

Dead Boyfriends
Writer/Director Xstine Cook

A combination of live action and animation, Dead Boyfriends is a funny and amusing look at a women as she reflects upon the deaths of her significant others. All of which, is set to the backdrop of a zydeco-like song and dance.

Writer/Director Marichelle Daywalt

When I first saw the run time of this, I thought to myself 'How in the hell can you freak someone out in 3 minutes?' Well, with opening and closing credits, it's actually closer to 1:52. A man sits at his home office desk with baby monitor atop. When his newborn rustles and fusses about, mother can be heard singing a soothing nursery rhyme. All seems normal until the real mother comes walking through the front door and the last line of the rhyme is uttered. You don't see anything but you're left with hearing the screams of both parents through the monitor as they enter the baby's room and discover what's happened. A totally creepy and unnerving tale.

Writer/Director Sophia Segal

I'm honestly not sure what to make of this one. Blending two mediums together, both film and song, the film features a cult-like group taking a little girl off to a sort of dream land. What ensues is a bit of a psychedelic trip as other characters join the group, the girl runs through open fields and it all plays out against an Enya-like soundtrack. Overall, a real head scratcher.

Bad Girls
Writers/Directors The Soska Sisters

Written and directed by The Soska Sisters (Dead Hooker in a Trunk), this short focuses on a pair of sisters (played by the duo) who are visiting their grandmother. Grandma is living on her own and has care providers assisting her with day to day tasks. The girls get grandma a laptop complete with video so that they can readily keep in contact, despite grandma's reluctance to figure out todays technology. After a hard night of partying, the girls wake up the next morning and log on to their computer to check in with dear ol' grandma. What they see on the other end shocks and horrifies as the Meals on Wheels delivery man beats her, kicking her as she falls to the ground. What happens next is a dish best served cold as the girls and their two male friends get even.

Partnership Award:

Horror of Our Love
Writer/Director Dave Reda

An ode to the slasher's unrequited love, the short film and music video showcases a Jason-like figure as he stalks and slashes his victims with the exception of all but one: a woman whom he loves but can't be with. Playing over an emo like song about love being a horror, we see Jason trying to appeal to his love the only way he knows how, complete with severed appendages and other body parts as offerings. He shoos away other suitors (a hilarious bit here as Freddy shows up with flowers in hand) and after he's exhausted every effort, by the close of our film and song, we see that true love prevails.

That's a wrap folks. Look for more features and reviews coming soon as Bleedfest is now flowing on a regular monthly basis.

The shorts Mockingbird and Bad Girls can be viewed below.

Cortez the Killer


Bad Girls:

"bad GirLs" - 2009 Bloodshots 48 Hour Fast Film Entry from Twisted Twins Productions on Vimeo.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Why I Support Women In Horror Month (And Why You Should Too)

This post is a result of a couple of goings ons, one of which, has gotten my panties into a bit of a wad. An interwebs war of words has been going on for the past couple of days between a few folks who are waving the flag for Women in Horror Month (info about the event here) and other parties who believe that the month screams of sour grapes. That the energies poured into the event and the very vocal efforts of the group could be best directed elsewhere. I'm not going to name parties involved, that's not my style. My post is to defend the event, highlight why I think the month is important and ultimately, why you should give a damn.

I equate the situation of the female filmmaker (I'm speaking specifically about the horror genre here) to that of a female musician in a heavy metal band. I've been a fan of heavy metal since the day I punched my way out of my mother's womb (read: this a complete and utter exaggeration). It has long been a boy's only club. Its really only been within the last decade that we've seen more bands with female guitarists and females actually fronting bands, putting some male singers to shame in the process. True, there were some floating around in the 80's and 90's, but its only been recently that the act has become more commonplace. Bands like Kylesa, Arch Enemy, and Lacuna Coil (to name a few) have fought hard to gain recognition as many a male fan has shunned the mere notion of a female in a metal band being more 'metal' than their penis slinging opposites. But I'm encouraged at the sight of seeing more and more women at metal shows and more ladies starting or joining bands.

In the same regard, I've seen this go on within the horror community. It too has long been a boys only club with only a few female filmmakers, writers, producers, etc. gaining recognition. And even that seems like a monumental task to have happen. Enter Women In Horror Month, a concerted effort to spotlight the works of female horror filmmakers. So what's wrong with an entire month dedicated to them? More specifically, as is the main bone of contention in this argument, what's wrong with having a mission statement and clearly and unabashedly speaking out? The only way people change is if particular persons, practices or behaviors are outed. And it's not like this group is just shouting from a soapbox and flinging mud. They are doing something about it like starting monthly festivals in their own hometowns and working through non traditional outlets like this here blog to get their work out there.

Overall, this is an extremely positive outlet. Please, support their incredible works by checking out the site and the various events that are being held. The metal scene is starting to welcome women to a more prominent seat at the table. It's high time the horror genre does the same.

Cortez the Killer

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trailer: Grave Encounters

The found footage sub-genre shows no signs of slowing down. And frankly, as long as stories are original and fresh, I'm game. Enter Grave Encounters.

Grave Encounters focuses on a group of paranormal investigators. The lead, has the schtick down perfectly, as he resembles most of the current hosts out there in TV land.

I'll let the synopsis and trailer do the rest of the talking. Looks fun and creep-a-licious.


Lance Preston and the crew of "Grave Encounters", a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where unexplained phenomena has been reported for years. All in the name of good television, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night and begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted - it is alive - and it has no intention of ever letting them leave. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless hallways and corridors, terrorized by the ghosts of the former patients. They soon begin to question their own sanity, slipping deeper and deeper into the depths of madness, ultimately discovering the truth behind the hospital’s dark past…and taping what turns out to be their final episode.

Grave Encounters will be released soon (no exact date as of yet) by Darclight Films. Keep your peepers peeled here for upcoming news regarding its release.

Cortez the Killer

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Remote (2009)

Fear 2/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 2/5

Remote is a short film I've heard about for awhile now as its made its way through the festival circuit, snatching up multiple awards along the way. What struck me the most about it, was the unique concept which is employed: a man who's recently moved into a new home finds that his TV connects him to another time but the same place -- the current abode he is renting only 30 years prior. Who does he see and meet on the other end? The previous tenant of the home curiously fixated on the same situation he's witnessing. Despite a couple of minor quibbles, the film is expertly crafted and it's incredibly intense.

As mentioned, the film centers around Matt, a man who's recently divorced and moved into a rental house. Returning home from work, and after a warning from his landlord about a severe storm ready to roll on through, he hunkers down for the night with beer, Chinese takeout and his work to keep him occupied.

Dozing off on the couch, he awakes to the sounds of his television on the fritz. Flipping through the channels, he comes upon a blonde woman who's also parked on the edge of her couch. After some brief and puzzled looking stares, Matt asks her what she's doing. They both go back and forth for a bit, thinking that maybe a signal was crossed or that maybe the other was somehow playing a trick or spying on them. But Matt soon realizes what he's looking at: the same exact living room.

He then begins to ask her more questions about her life and he shares with her a strange piece of mail he received that day. When the woman (whom we come to find out is named Justine), briefly leaves the room, Matt Googles her name and our mystery unravels further. As the film ends, it does so in shocking fashion with a clever twist you don't see coming.

I mentioned that I had a couple of minor quibbles and they are just that. Both Matt and Justine come to the realization that they must be looking at each other 30 years apart in the same house much too quickly. But I believe that has more to do with the format of the film itself. With shorts, you have to get to the heart of the matter fast. The other, was more of a logic gap. Matt doesn't ask Justine how to spell her name before he does an interwebs search for her. I know, it's small pickles, but I get tripped up on stuff like that sometimes.

Overall, Remote is a really intense and original short. I'd love to see this story get the feature length treatment.

Well whaddya know folks! After emailing filmmaker Marc Roussel, it's doing just that. Keep your eyeballs peeled for this one kiddos.

Cortez the Killer