Sunday, November 25, 2012

Horror Movie Daycare

Horror Movie Daycare--not Letting the Right One In

I took a bit of a vacation after my 31 Days of Halloween daily postings, which were really, really challenging.  So challenging to post, in fact, that I had totally forgotten to post the last one, which I did today, oops.  That mammoth undertaking did not curb any of my love for tasty horror, though.  Or of evil children.

The Twins want to play with Danny!
I actually worked daycare one summer, working with kids from 2-3 years old, and I really liked it.  The kids were sweet and really smart.  They only became truly evil twice a day--when their parents dropped them off and picked them up.  Then they would devolve into screetching, bawling little monsters, eager to suck all the life out of the room (and out of all adults in the vicinity).  When their parents were not around, they managed to be good little social citizens, playing nicely with others.  Coincidence?

Story time at Horror Movie Daycare
You cannot say the same about the kids in this lovely little short.  They will make you think "no kids, just kittens" in no time.  The video nods to many films:  The Shining, Ringu, Let the Right One In, The Omen, Children of the Corn, Village of the Damned, Evil Dead, and, of course, The Exorcist, to name just a few.

Check out the video in glorious full screen mode here.

31 Days of Halloween--Day 31 NO WAY OUT (2011)

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I made it through 31 Days of Horror, barely, despite a wicked cold, a hurricane, and power and internet outages.  Wooooo!  As I've said before, I'm so impressed with so many of my favorite writers who not only post diligently and consistently, but with insight and thoughtfulness (check out my list off to the side for my favorites).

One thing I could not have done without this month--Short films.  I have grown to appreciate their wit and artistry, and the way that these storytellers can make so much with so little, whether it's time, money, or star power.  So, I'd like to end my 31 Days with this rather horrifying film by Kristoffer Aaron Morgan, No Way Out (2011).  The film was shot over two days for less than $3000, and it is damn effective.  I kept saying to myself over and over, "corn syrup and chocolate sauce, corn syrup and chocolate sauce."  This film is not for the fainthearted, so beware.  You can see a beautiful, crisp version here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days of Horror--Day 30 Alternate Endings and 28 DAYS LATER (2002)

Naomie Harris as Selena in 28 Days Later (2002)
In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, since re-posted everywhere, Naomie Harris, one of the stars of the most recent Bond film Skyfall suggested that Idris Elba would make a fantastic James Bond.  Anyone who has seen the utterly fantastic Luther, or even Ridley's Scott's lame-o Prometheus might heartily agree.  I would like to suggest, though, that Naomie Harris would actually make a great Bond, or at least an action hero in her own right, rather than some sidekick.  I have come to realize that I live on a different PLANET than many other people, and that what I'd like to see in cinema is not embraced by everyone else.  This realization is drilled into my skull when I think about her transformation in a film such as Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (2002) from fierce fighter to a more romantic, even maternal figure over the course of the film.  She starts out like this:

with Cillian Murphy's Jim begging her to wait for him as he hurls his weak, soft male body up the stairs after her.  She has managed to survive the fast moving rage zombie apocalypse so far, and has done so with a willingness to kill even her infected "friends" in the name of survival. 

Running Zombies, not Walkers
She's a cool cucumber in a crisis, where Jim is little more than a mewling infant, tying her down.  She helps him, because she's a hero through and through.  The problem is that in this world, Selena cannot stay rational, tough, and fierce.  She must be softened.  So Boyle gives her another "girl" of which to take care, Hannah, and the threat of rape looming over them by a bunch of creepy soldiers who haven't seen a woman in a long time.

Waiting for sexual assault, Selena loses her fighting spirit
Oh, and Jim evolves from dopey, helpless ex-bike messenger in need of rescue to male rescuer and love interest, because in apocalyptic times, women like Selena cannot be too picky??  Her days are numbered, you know.

I like the fact that Hannah bashes him over the head because she think Jim is biting Selena, but that idea is quickly dispelled.  Jim comes back and saves the women from a pretty horrible fate.  What's fascinating about these tales of lawlessness is that instead of a zombie apocalypse creating a world where gender roles are leveled into an even playing field, once civilization deserts us, we resort to the most hackneyed gender expectations.  While I understand that these films are about humans being as, or more, monstrous than the monsters, I really believe that these ideas highlight a failure of the imagination on the part of the male-dominated film industry (and its pandering to stereotype-hungry audiences). 

One of 28 Days Later's most striking qualities is the film's portrayal of a rather soft and mushy male hero.  Cillian Murphy is a fine actor, but he's very pretty and delicate, a true damsel in distress in the film's first moments. 

His transformation into a hard and angry man, little different from the raping, ruthless soldiers and rage-filled zombies that surround him, occurs at the expense of Selena's strength.  Now Boyle had a shot at undermining this rather sad and expected shift with the ending he initially proposed for his film.  **Spoilers Ahead.

In his original ending, Boyle kills off Jim, who may have been moderately transformed into a bit of a tough guy, but realistically dies from a series of fatal injuries.  Selena and Hannah try to save him, but in the end, the two women are left to face the zombie menace alone, dresses on and guns in hand.  And these two were going to make it!  I felt rather thrilled by this ending, which one could see if one waited around after the film's theatrical ending occurred.

In the film's theatrical ending, which Boyle went with after test audiences complained about his original decision, Jim, Hannah, and Selena are living as a happy little family in some bucolic farmhouse in the countryside.  Selena employs her sewing skills in crafting a big sign for airplanes to notice when flying overhead, and the three jump up and down like happy little monkeys, smiling and grinning as they attempt to get the attention of the plane.  Awwww.  Isn't that nice?  It looks like they might be saved.

Well, that ending makes me feel kind of like this: effing Pissed OFF.  So test audiences are only satisfied when everyone fits neatly into their tight little gender niches, where men are MEN, and women get back to sewing.  In an interview, Boyle stated that audiences were worried as to how these "girls" are going to survive on their own?  Here I cry bullshit, since the "Final Girl" in horror cinema, despite all her problematic representations, always manages to do JUST THAT.

I have only recently started to watch AMC's The Walking Dead again, primarily because Michonne is going to be a focus of this season, and because I had some real problems with the pregnancy storyline and the reification of traditional gender roles the season before.  My concern is that these fierce, fighting black women are touched by some kind of exotic primitivism that contains and dampens their strengths, stripping them of a heroism richly imagined and rightly deserved.  We'll see.

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 Days of Horror--Day 29 NIGHT OF THE HELL HAMSTERS (2008)

I love a good maniacal laugh.  Especially when it's coming from a flying, eyes glowing, possessed hamster.  Paul Campion's (2008) horror short Night of the Hell Hamsters is really rather polished, despite its hilarious creature effects.  Words cannot describe this film.  You have to watch it for yourself.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days of Horror--Day 28 Robert Morgan's THE CAT WITH HANDS (2001)

While I stand firmly by my motto "no kids, just kittens," one has to be careful about kittens.  They can grow up to be very naughty cats.  British animator Robert Morgan introduces us to a creepy cat in this live-action/stop-motion hybrid.  I recommend his other films, especially Monsters (2004).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 Days of Horror--Day 27 Save MOCKINGBIRD LANE

Now I'm going to come off as utterly hypocritical here, but I loved the pilot for Mockingbird Lane, Bryan Fuller's REMAKE of The Munsters television show.

I didn't really watch the original show, and for some reason keep confusing it with The Addams Family, of which I am much more fond.  Both shows were before my time, but I loved characters such a Lurch, Cousin It, and Thing (basically a sentient hand).  I expected these creatures to pop up in Mockingbird Lane, and when they didn't, I realized that I was missing a rather fundamental expertise with the original source material.

The main reason I'm all over this show is because of creator and showrunner Bryan Fuller.  I love him like I love Joss Whedon, except more so.  Everything that Bryan Fuller touches has transported me into a world of magic and wonder.  First, there was Dead Like Me, where a directionless young woman, George (Ellen Muth) is accidentally wiped out by a flying toilet seat and becomes a Grim Reaper, a job that she doesn't particularly enjoy.  This show is a fantasy show about death.

Then he created Wonderfalls, which for one season followed the adventures of Jaye (Caroline Dhavernas), who works in a tchotchke shop in Niagara Falls in which the inanimate objects talk to her and give her orders--which she follows.  This show is a fantasy show about madness.

Finally, Fuller created the two seasons of the truly marvelous Pushing Daisies, where Ned (Lee Pace) has a magical touch that can bring people and live things back from the dead.  He has a 60 second window to retouch the person before that "life" will have to be paid for with another death, to balance things. He works with PI Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), using his magical abilities to solve crimes, when he isn't making amazing pies.  This show is a fantasy show about death.  Again.

As you can see, Fuller's world always has a slightly dark edge, which makes his shows simultaneously sunny and dark, joyful and profound.  He has a wicked sense of humor and writes terrific women characters too!

The pilot for Mockingbird Lane has a rather odd rhythm, beginning with some cartoon violence amongst a group of boy scouts in the forest, and then quickly shifting to Marilyn (Charity Wakefield) house-hunting for  the family.  The Munsters quickly settle into their new digs, and start scoping out the neighbors.  Grandpa and Lily arrive in coffins/crates in the "dead" of night.  Fuller has scored a two-fold casting coup for this show.

The equally gorgeous and hysterical Portia de Rossi plays the poignant, yet mysterious, Lily Munster.  This role is by far de Rossi's softest, as she played the kooky Lindsay on Arrested Development, and the hard edged and delightfully brutal Veronica on Better Off Ted.  We don't get as much time with Lily in the pilot as I would like, but she's great, and her costumes are to die for.

Still, the standout role on this show, and the reason that it should be picked up immediately is Eddie Izzard as Grandpa Munster.  In the image above, he is baking cookies and filling them with his own blood, so that he can turn the neighbors into blood slaves.  He's wonderfully irreverent, and Izzard plays the character with grace, wit, and just the slightest touch of menace.

The other star of the show is the setting, the house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane that contains all manner of secret compartments, dark corridors, dungeons, laboratories, and a crazy cookie baking apparatus.  This grand manor hints at a violent past, and will surely have many secrets to unlock.

NBC shoe-horned the pilot into a slot before Grimm, a show that I really enjoy but that has very limited roles for women.  Women are most frequently in danger, or victims, and the feisty Rosalie has been out of town for several episodes now, leaving everything to the all-male Scooby gang.  Bleah.

So please, PLEASE, if you reside on Planet Bunheads, get the word out about Mockingbird Lane so that it doesn't die a sad, little death, and NBC orders a full season for us to enjoy.

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days of Horror--Day 26 EVIL DEAD remake

I have a soft spot for Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films, especially I (1981) and II (1987).  I'm not a fan of Hollywood Remakes, as you can tell from my post on COMA and its remake.  So I was a little upset to find out that Evil Dead was going to be remade, even if Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are producing the bugger. I guess they have to send their kids to private school.

What's worse?  Diablo Cody worked on the screenplay.  As a feminist horror scholar, I am all for more women in horror, but with this particular screenwriter, I have been previously burned (I'm looking at you, Jennifer's Body (2009)).  I fear for this film's dialogue.

The Old Ash
I also cannot imagine an Evil Dead film without Bruce Campbell as Ash.  From what Campbell has admitted at a panel on the remake at this past New York Comic.con, Ash is now a woman, "Mia," played by Jane Levy.

The New Ash
What else did I glean from the panel?  That Mia is the New Ash AND is raped by a possessed tree.  I guess Raimi and Co. thought that if they stuck in a Final Girl, then they could get away with something so violently misogynist and outdated.  Did Ms. Cody write THAT scene?

Still, like my rant about the Carrie remake, I know I'll still see this film, and while I can complain all I want, this film is a done deal, and I'm going to have to talk about it.  Here's a couple of unfunny images from the new Evil Dead.

Yikes.  I do like horror films to scare me, and I will admit, this Red Band Trailer for the Evil Dead remake looks pretty damn scary.

The original film, with its wonky special effects and hyperbolic acting, is positively quaint in comparison.

31 Days of Horror--Day 25 Graham Annable's THE HIDDEN PEOPLE (2008)

Graham Annable's 2008 animated short The Hidden People is a nice variation on the "cabin in the woods" narrative.  Everyone seems to believe that gnomes, garden and forest, are relatively benign.  Well, watch this short, and then go take a look at your garden gnome.  He IS watching you.

31 Days of Horror--Day 24 Eugenio Receunco's Haunted Images

I am an enormous fan of Eugenio Receunco's fashion photography.  In fact, every time you visit my blog, you see a piece of his work, as a still from his Regione Campania ad is the iconic image for my site.  Here is the ad from which it comes:

I'd keep the video small, though.  It looks a little wonky blown up to full screen.

His set-pieces are intricate and unsettling, and he has a wonderful sense of space.  As I have been exploring many dark fairytales over the last week or so, I thought that I should give this visionary his due.

Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast 2
The Pied Piper
Sleeping Beauty
The Princess and the Pea
Snow White
Of course, one of my favorite images is really scary and disturbingly sexual.  He certainly puts Alice in Wonderland in a different light.  Innocence Lost.

31 Days of Horror--Day 23 Jorge Jaramillo and Carlo Guillot's RED (2012)

Jorge Jarmillo and Carlo Guillot's stunning animated short Red harkens back to some of Lotte Reiniger's shadow puppetry films. 

Still from Lotte Reiniger's Hansel and Gretel
Red is now in the running for my favorite version of the Little Red Riding Hood saga.  The film's dark artistry elicits a sweeping rage of emotions, from delight to despair, with fierceness in between.

I, of course, love Neil Jordan's adaptation of Angela Carter's take on a Grimm story, The Company of Wolves (1984).

Red wanders the forest in The Company of Wolves
My other two favorite takes are David Slade's contemporary take on the Red Saga, Hard Candy (2005) starring Ellen Page before she was Juno.  The big bad wolf that she faces is far too real.

Promo image for Hard Candy
And finally, another proto-feminist take on Red Riding Hood, but this time, Red's a misunderstood juvie played by Reese Witherspoon before she bacame super-Mom and romantic comedy's sweetheart.

Bad Girl Reese in Freeway

31 Days of Horror--Day 22 Rodolfo Loaiza's Disasterland

Never Sleep Again
For those of you who prefer "Final Girls" to Disney Princesses, Pop Surrealist Rodolfo Loaiza's "Disasterland" series hits the sweet spot.  This show premiered in early August at the La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.  The show unsurprisingly sold out, so we'll just have to wait until Loaiza's next slaughtering of a sacred children's franchise.

Bloody Forest
Kill Mulan

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days of Horror--Day 21 Lee Hardcastle's Clay Horror in 60 Seconds

Lee Hardcastle, in a mere 60 seconds, can whittle down some of the best parts of classic horror films, and he accomplishes this feat with Clay.  His animation is bloody hilarious, and yes, I start writing in a British accent whenever I watch his shorts.  He's a young punk (not yet thirty) with loads of talent.  Uncle Creepy at Dread Central announced that Lee will be making a film with Ben Wheatley, who directed Kill List (2011), entitled Megaevilmotherfuckers.  We'll have to see if they are compelled to change that awesome title.  Here are some of Lee Hardcastle's finest works, and a great interview here if you'd like to know more.

He was also invited to join the filmmakers participating in The ABCs of Death (2012), a film about which I am beyond excited.  26 Filmmakers contribute to this anthology!  Here's Hardcastle's submission T is for Toilet.