Posts Tagged ‘Films

05
Apr
09

Dead Snow: The Next Great Zombie Film

The Next big thing in Undead Cinema.

The Next big thing in Undead Cinema.

For those of you who may not know, I have a serious love for anything involving the use of zombies or the undead.  From movies to video games to literature, I am fascinated by how versatile they are in any storytelling medium.  So imagine how excited I was when I first heard about a foreign zombie flick, taking place in the snowy mountains, that feature…(drum roll please)…Nazi Zombies.

Oh yes kids, it’s true.  And you know what is even better?  It is a superb horror flick.

Now, a little history.  There have been some exploitation style movies, back in the 60’s, 70’s and I think even up until the 80’s, that have tackled the idea of having undead nazi soldiers, but most were completely and utterly terrible.  I’m not talking “funny Ha-Ha get drunk with your friends and watch it” terrible.  I’m talking bad to the point of nausea.  For evidence of this, please see (read: download illegally for free) Zombie Lake. /End history lesson.

But enough wasted time establishing the immense uphill battle that Dead Snow faced, and let’s get on with the review.  The plot of Dead snow is a simple one, but simple doesn’t imply that it isn’t well utilized and perfectly solid.  Some 20 somethings are going on vacation, and decide to go up to a cabin in the snowy mountain woods.  The “old crazy story teller guy” warns them of some old wives tale about soldiers who died in these woods surrounding the cabin.  Of course, our 20 somethings, including a great “movie geek guy”, cast him off as a crazy local, and shortly there after, all hell breaks lose in the form, you guessed it, Nazi Zombies.

Fantastic make up on the Nazi Zombies

Fantastic make up on the Nazi Zombies

The magic of Dead Snow isn’t it’s plot though, it’s in the characters and the fantastically rewarding pace.  The group of friends aren’t typical zombie fodder, there isn’t a clear cut stereotypical “slut”, nor is there the guy who is hopelessly in love with a girl he can never get, and there isn’t a clear “dick” character, who is rude and crass but painfully funny and accurate in his social observations.  Instead, everyone character feels a bit more three-dimensional, they all seem to have a good, general sense of wit, and while they each have unique personality traits, like a knack for humor or a knowledge of movies, they come on as more than just TV sitcom characters who are helping to strengthen rigid stereotyping.  Also, characters evolve, something rarely seen in horror today.

The pace is the second most important piece to the Dead Snow puzzle.  From the opening scene, we are treated to classical music as a Jane Doe gets hunted down by our ruthless zombies at night.  This is a great way to introduce people to the movie antagonists without spoiling there appearance, and combining it with a classic misdirection “boo” scare makes it all the more fun.  There is no notion that in order to create good characters, that we the audience can relate to and invest in, we have to stare at them doing mundane things for 45 minutes.  Dead Snow introduces everyone quickly, letting you adapt to their personal behavior and traits on the fly, all the while keeping the tension high by inventing some new and resurrecting some old classic boo scares.  And when the well dries up on tension and suspense, the movie goes into absolute overdrive, providing the kind of kick ass orgy of violence only true horror can deliver.

Sometimes, you just gotta fight back the undead horde with garden tools.

Sometimes, you just gotta fight back the undead horde with garden tools.

The last thing I would like to touch on is the special effects.  Minimal CGI means that lots of fake blood, limbs, and intestines get strewn all over the place, and the choreographing of the fight scenes is so tight and visceral, that it really helps bring you into the struggle.  It’s a scrappy, survivor type of fighting, nothing fancy or cool about it.  It’s a nice contrast to the modern day practice  of ridiculously complicated and illogical battles between good and evil in horror movies, when instead you would just be reduced to dirty tactics and savagery in the case you were ever attacked by the undead.

So, in the interest of keeping this one short and sweet (just how I like my women) I will wrap this up by saying that Dead Snow has all the earmarks of the next big independent horror film, especially in the flooded sub-division of Zombie films.  It shows an intimate knowledge and respect of its’ ancestors, most notably Raimi and Romero, but it also comes packing a slew of original ideas, as well as innovative implementations of standard tricks of the horror movie trade.   It is  unpredictable, direct, funny, unapologetic, and wholly satisfying.

It is at this point in time where you should be googling your ass off trying to find this flick.

BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!

BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!

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11
Mar
09

Blots on the Canvas: An Ink Update

INKmovieposterAs many of you faithful followers of Midnight Showing might have already noticed, there’s a movie that has taken me completely by storm and it is called Ink.

For a look into what the film is about, here is the preview I did for the film including trailers for the Ink and a short by director Jamin Winans.

If you haven’t already, you can read my full review here.

So now that I have you all Inked up, here’s where I tell you how WE can help, by doing very little.  Double Edge Films is in the process of trying to secure some distribution, and is trying to promote their movie the old fashioned way, great looking trailers, direct contact with movie-goers and bloggers (like myself), and word of mouth.

Are you on facebook?  Sure you are you bastard, don’t lie.  My mom’s on facebook, which means so are you, so become a fan of Ink, it takes like 3 seconds, and chances are you already signed in.

Ink’s Facebook page

Are you on Twitter?  Probably.  Add them. They are respectful and smart filmmakers, those Winans, so you won’t have to worry about a bunch of silly, non-sense texts, just the important stuff.

Double Edge Films (the people who made Ink) twitter page.

How about youtube?  Oh, I know your on youtube.  My dad gets on youtube, the same man who leaves his keys in the door when he comes into the house and can never find his glasses, wallet, etc.  That means your on youtube too.

Double Edge Films youtube channel

Do you like blogs?  Of course you do silly head, your on a darn blog right now.  So how about following a blog connected to Double Edge Films?  Whats that?  You don’t want to?  Who said I was giving you a choice? Just kidding, but seriously, its a quality blog.

Double Edge Films Blog

Follow, fan up, do whatever you gotta do, but we as a movie loving online community got to team up and support flicks like Ink.  We can’t just sit around and bitch about how movies suck now a days and then not support the ones who truly deserve it.  Plus, all the things above cost you only about 3 minutes of your life…combined.

Stay tuned to Midnight Showing for more coverage of Ink, and my somewhat delayed Watchmen review.

This is Alex signing off.  Have a pleasant tomorrow.




09
Mar
09

Ink Review

ink2A question that’s rung in my head since first hearing about the movie Ink, was what relevance the title of the film held. From the first moments of the trailer, and subsequently the film, I knew I was in for a movie that had calculated its’ steps carefully, creating something in between an eloquent waltz and an algebra equation. I knew that the title was another vital part of the whole experience, and that deciphering it’s meaning was another key to unlocking the many mysteries that lay inside the delicate layers of Ink’s story.

That story, written by Jamin Winans, is a tale of multi-dimensional dream weavers, consisting of one bad stable and one good one. The good ones, dubbed Storytellers, give us good dreams by visiting us in our rooms once we’ve fallen asleep and gently waving there hands slowly by our heads. The bad ones, called the The Incubi, give us the nightmares. Beyond the ability to grant dreams, these people also battle over the souls of those who are sleeping.

Ink's spectacular makeup and look.

Ink's spectacular makeup and look help solidify him as our complicated, yet menacing antagonist.

This is more or less where our story begins. A drifter, one who is stuck in between life and death, named Ink is propositioned by the Incubi to steal the soul of a seemingly insignificant little girl named Emma, in exchange for the ability to become an Incubi himself. Emma’s estranged father, John, is also battling staggeringly high odds, both physically and emotionally, due to a demanding and stressful job, and the weight of his own guilt and shame. The rest is quite simply too exciting and emotionally propelling to spoil for the sake of this review.

The first thing that one notices about Jamin Winans film Ink, is that it is in an entire league of it’s own in terms of visual style. While some influences are noticeable, Jamin takes the idea of kinetic and potential energy in a movie to new heights. The pace is fluid, only jumping a beat to drive home a scene or a moment, then quickly snaps back into place, driving the narrative along briskly enough to demand a viewers full attention without overloading and confusing them. The editing is so precise, so flawless, that it begins to feel almost euphoric. Jamin manipulates the order of certain events, in order to keep viewers on there toes about where the story is heading. There is no point in the movie where I could clearly say what was going to happen next, and that feeling of wonderment and vulnerability is something that has stuck with me even through writing this piece. It’s a hypnotizing film, and it never sacrifices the gravity of what’s happening on screen in favor of giving you a flashy, “Hollywood” shot that only looks great on movie posters. This film exudes an aura of tremendous planning brought to life by even more impressive execution.

The cinematogaphy is remarkable, looking even better while in full motion.

The cinematography is remarkable, looking even better when in full motion.

Hand in hand with the visual buffet, is the equally sublime audio package. From the old-timey camera snap-and-flicker sound effect used for when storytellers teleport in, to the visceral crunch of a perfectly placed uppercut, to the appropriate tinkering and manipulation of certain voices to help give them an other worldly feel, the effects are all nothing short of innovative. Everything sounds crisp and distinctive, and every action is accounted for. Holding all the aforementioned technical elements together is a subtle, oceanic, and deeply emotional score, written by Jamin Winans. The score is reminiscent of some of John Muprhy’s work, as well as some of Danny Elfmans’ dreamier, calmer material. But Jamin really shows he has the patience, style, and talent to not only create a great stand alone score, but also one that personifies and amplifies perfectly everything his film has to say. Not enough can be said about how much the score adds to the entire feel of the film, something not seen enough in the days of soundtracks where popular artists write a soulless song that supposedly represents the movie.

An Incubi, who brings nightmares.

An Incubi, who brings nightmares.

Along with the groundbreaking special effects (see the reconstructing furniture fight scene for evidence of this) there is the cinematography of Jeff Pointer. All the different planes of existence in Ink’s world are accompanied by a strikingly different palette of colors and lighting techniques. It not only creates the appearance that they are entirely different dimensions, it becomes other dimensions altogether. Due to the digital filming techniques I am almost sure Jamin Winans used extensively while shooting Ink, he gains an incredible amount of control over lighting, filters, color correction and saturation, which he uses to great dramatic effect. They also function perfectly as cues that we have begun to look in on a different scene, and helps indicate silently where we are, who were are with, and with whom there alliances lay.

But if Ink is anything, it’s a damn good story. The story is so luminary, so rife with honest humanity and emotion that it’s near impossible not to invoke some kind of serious, introspective moment within you while watching. It’s not the kind of emotion that make boyfriends not want to go see the romance flick with their girlfriends, it’s the kind of emotion that’s intrinsic within the human conscious. It’s about loss, innocence, desire, motivation, and possibly above all, hope. The film makes some very philosophical observations on the sordid perils of everyday life, but it makes them in a passive, courteous way. It acknowledges that we are, to a degree, the sum of our parts and past experiences, but it also points out that there is always the opportunity for radical change. Jamin manages to ease his way into some very heady, intellectual space without losing sight of the plot and the characters I found myself heavily invested in. This alone is quite an achievement.

The sunny, surine dimension of the Storytellers.

The sunny, serene dimension of the Storytellers.

All those points wouldn’t have been so well conveyed without actors who really seemed to understand the vision of Jamin. Consider that a non-issue though, as all the actors and actresses playing there roles without incident, with no one seeming out of place or terribly miscast. Extra credit must go to Chris Kelly for playing John and Jessica Duffy for playing Liev, whose performances were simply to sensational not to mention. There isn’t really much else I can say about the cast other then Jamin Winans must’ve have had at least some, if not all, of the actors and actress’s in mind when he wrote the script, because the roles seem tailor made for the individuals playing them. They are always shown in their best light, the emotion that Jamin squeezed from them seems as genuine as anything I’ve even seen. If there’s one thing that’s evident in independent film making, it’s the passion of those involved. It’s the whole reason independent film making still exists, because I assure you, it isn’t for the money. In Ink’s case, the movie is overflowing with determination and fire, which helps envelope the viewer in the vibrant, awe-inspiring world that this magical yarn is spun in.

The only obstacle I can see any audience having a major problem with, would be the sheer emotional investment and outside the box thinking a movie this cavernous can require for full enjoyment and understanding. It’s all about invading the comfortable areas of your life, it’s about turning the mirror on yourself, and it’s about the stuff all of us have deep inside, regardless of whether or not we pretend it’s not there. It’s story is not only timely, but timeless. There is no restriction on when a tale like this could be told.

Our Storytellers along with their quirky, philospoical guide, The Pathfinder.

Our Storytellers along with their quirky, philosophical guide, The Pathfinder.

In the end, I think I’ve found the answer to my original question, and that the answer may be that we are all Ink. We are all different colors, different viscosity, and different blends. We are the instruments of change, both good and bad, but we are not immune to them ourselves. The randomness of life can be extremely disruptive, and seem devoid of pattern, reason and predictability, but just because the last few moments, days, or years have blindsided you, it doesn’t mean you are lost forever. At least, that’s how I saw it.

Jamin Winans has concocted a potent narrative, one that is as focused as can be, while still leaving enough room for individual interpretation. It is assembled in such a way that not only promotes, but encourages multiple viewings. Technically speaking, there is nothing that could be done better within the budget, and the acting is all fitting, bringing believability and heft to each role, while naturally allowing the main figures to steal the show. Ink deserves a special place inside the hollowed halls of great intellectual cinema, here’s to hoping it takes its rightful places in that gallery one day.

Love

10
Jan
09

The Poughkeepsie Tapes Review

That's a lot of tapes.  Guy must of had a reward zone card for Best Buy.

That's a lot of tapes. Guy must of had a reward zone card for Best Buy.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (or simply Tapes, as I will refer to it from here on out) is not a movie.

I’ll let that sink in.

“When hundreds of videotapes showing torture, murder and dismemberment are found in an abandoned house, they reveal a serial killer’s decade-long reign of terror and become the most disturbing collection of evidence homicide detectives have ever seen.” -Tribeca Film Festival Synopsis.

It’s a mockumentary, minus the comedy and satire.  It’s a mockumentary that houses a two-pronged attack of brutally accurate portrayals of torture, murder and dismemberment seamlessly interwoven with expert analysis and the thoughts and memories of those who were affected by the killers rampage, and those who were hunting him down.

In fact, it’s not too far removed from what the Discovery channel and TLC show on a daily basis.  All those shows about FBI profilers and how they catch these seriously deranged serial killers all seemed to be influential to the Dowdle Brothers, who both penned and directed Tapes.

And  writing may actually be Tapes strongest assets, although I’m sure it will get lost amidst all the chatter about the lengthy, suspenseful, and downright shocking film the killer shoots himself that is shown at certain intervals throughout.  The writing leaps off the screen, as the Dowdle brothers concoct a credible, highly intelligent, innovative killer and sets him loose in the “Anywhere, USA” suburbs of Poughkeepsie, New York.  The killer taunts his pursuers and gives cryptic clues for investigators to find, knowing far in advance where exactly the authorities will look to find them.  It’s this depth to a nameless, faceless character that brings us closer to him than is comfortable for most audiences.  Instead of being bogged down with trite, rationalizing back story about how the killer was beaten as a child or not hugged enough as a baby, we instead get an uncompromising and genius killer, who has found a way to elude the authorities all while documenting his spree.

A brief glimpse of the killer's throrough work.

A brief glimpse of the killer's thorough work.

Direction is also key, not so much in the static look of the interview pieces, (with the exception of the interview with Cheryl which actually made me lose sleep, it’s that fucking clever and disturbing) but in the low-fi, slow burn masterwork of the killers tapes.  The camera is almost always in the right position, whether it’s showing you everything that’s going on, or whether it’s showing you nothing, such as the inside of a car door, or an empty room.  There are times where the camera will be haphazardly placed, seemingly by accident, and we are left with just the screams and pleads of the victim and the orders of the killer to clue us in of what going on.  It’s a time-tested approach that works flawlessly here.  Show some gore in full view to screw with audience equilibrium, and then deprive them seeing something later on.  It works in two ways.  Once you don’t show the audience a scene straight on, it gets their minds working.  They create in their head horrible visions of what must be going on.  It also works to create a sickening feeling in the viewers, because they have to realize that they WANT to see whats happening, so much so they are willing to create the images in their own heads to replace the ones that aren’t on the screen.  It’s a lost art, but it’s a tactic employed by the Dowdle Bros. in exemplary fashion.

Eyes Without A Face reference in the movie.  Who would've thought?

Eyes Without A Face reference in the movie. Who would've thought?

With the audio and visual facets of the film firmly in and place grounded in reality, the one area where horror, or should I say terror in this case, goes awry is usually the acting.  You can have all your ducks in a row as far as directing and writing are concerned, but if your actors don’t come through in creating these characters in the physical form, than everything is lost.  Thankfully, the Dowdle Bros. must have been keen on this, and not only hired no names, but no names who looked liked everyday people.  I’m not sure how involved with the casting they were, but from what I’ve read and inferred through the piece itself, it seems fairly obvious they were pivotal in every decision made.  The most all inclusive and flattering thing I can say is, and this goes for the whole endeavor, not JUST the acting, if this were played one TV on night, and no one was told it wasn’t real, there would be a legitimate fear and uproar in many communities around the U.S.  It’s that believable.  So believable that even though I knew coming in it wasn’t real, I still lost sleep over it, and was looking over my shoulder while watching it.  It’s orchestrated with the sole intention of, if nothing else, to stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Tapes has a long, uphill battle ahead it.  Still having no official release date for theatrical or dvd release, it is caught in release purgatory.  And once it is released, it will undoubtedly be met with serious backlash from angry mothers and politicians who won’t even bother to see the flick, but instead just berate both those who created it, and its fans.  It will be labeled as the next sick evolutionary step in the Torture Porn sub genre, when it really has a lot less to do with the fantasy world that movies like SAW occupy, and a lot more to do with the gritty, unfair, demented world we live in everyday.  There’s no sense of morals, right and wrong, or justification that other horror flicks try to implore.  It is just cruel, relentless, remorseless and always 10 steps ahead of you.  Just like the killer.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes has, buried underneath it’s tough outer shell, an insane amount of creativity and artistic ingenuity.  If an opportunity to see this bound-to-be-lost gem arises, don’t hesitate.  Just don’t plan on going to bed immediately afterward.

26
Sep
08

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film

Much better than the dvd cover.  Simple and to the point. (he he)

With the horror in general seeing a major revival in the new millennium, horror fans have seen their fair share of documentaries on the subject pop up both on TV and on DVD.  Most are around to cash in on either the Halloween season, or plug their own horror related ventures by recapping all the movies and characters that came before it that it will ultimately rip ideas from.  Going to pieces isn’t some shameless ploy to get you to watch something else though.  What it is is a entertaining, informative and passionate look back at how we got to where we are in the slasher sub-category today, while simultaneously showing us a portion of the history of the horror genre as a whole as well.

It opens by introducing us to some of the humble beginnings of horror in the theater, and then rockets us to Psycho, shows us a bit from that time period (the 60’s) as a foundation for what’s to come.  It really picks up when they begin to discuss the immense success of Halloween, and really champions it as THE slasher movie to see, not only as a perfect example of everything a slasher can be, but as the ignition of societies relationship with killers in film.

The whole gangs here, from Nicotero, Savini, Carpenter, Cunningham, Craven, Winston, Rob Zombie, and more.  Familiar faces talk about their work and contributions to the genre, and talk about how and why they came upon the ideas that wound up shaping the face of horror forever.  The special effects guys run us through some of their favorite and more notable kills, and touch on why people seem to enjoy watching people getting killed in horrible ways.  Coming from the elders of not only the slasher set, but horror in general, this is somewhat of the gospel to us fan boys, and i suspect many of you out there will enjoy just hearing your heroes talk, let alone actually listening to exactly what they are saying.

They also go into the political and social controversy that plagued these films in the 80’s, and show clips of Siskel and Ebert claiming that the slasher film is anti-women, misogynistic, and so on and so forth.  Going to Pieces fights back however, standing up for our beloved serial killers by providing some nice commentary on the subject that isn’t just your typical “HEY…leave us alone” rhetoric.  It acknowledges the fact that horror films are the easiest to go after, and that many critics have made a name for themselves slamming them and standing up for morality.  Rob Zombie then chimes in with an interesting point.  If you were to show a prison full of criminals Disney movies non-stop, would they turn into good people?  I thought that was a fairly astute observation, and a convincing argument from someone very passionate about our beloved movies.

My major complaint is that in examining some better known movies, they reveal the twist endings to many of them.  So if you haven’t yet seen Prom Night, Sleepaway Camp, Friday the 13th, and some others, you may want to watch these first, as the whole surprise will be ruined and you’ll never get to experience the thrill of not seeing these fantastic finishes coming.

If you love the masked murderer sub-genre, this is a must see.  Rarely do you see this much care and accuracy in a documentary, and while there are some mistakes, most notably that Halloween wasn’t truly the FIRST slasher the American audience had been subjected to as many predated it, it still comes off as an in-depth, and more importantly, highly entertaining look into what has been, what is, and what will be in one of the most extreme types of scary flicks around.