2. jul. 2015

Horror-Unrated Retrospekt #11: Et interview med instruktøren bag horrorfilmene Malevolence og Bereavement; Stevan Mena.

Efter 4 år har vi valgt at lukke og slukke for Horror Unrated. Med tiden fik vi hevet en hel del spændende og dybdegående interviews i hus, fra de store kendte horror stjerner til ukendte independent filmskabere. Af forskellige årsager valgte vi at lukke for Horror Unrated d. 12. november 2013, og da undertegnede tidligere har været skribent for denne fantastiske blog, Sørensen Exploitation Cinema Proudly presents, valgte jeg og bloggens ejer at flytte de mange interviews over på bloggen så de kunne få nyt liv, og forhåbentlig blive læst og nydt af nye læsere. Skrevet af Claus Reinhold.

HORROR UNRATED: Hi Stevan and welcome to Horror Unrated. Your two films, Malevolence and Bereavement is our main topic today, but to start off with I would like to hear a bit about your background and the story of how and why you wanted to become a film maker?
Well, I became interested in film very early on, but my original desire was to be a film composer. Then in my teens I became obsessed with filmmaking and it has simply been my driving passion ever since.
HORROR UNRATED: Since this is a horror webzine, I have to ask if you’re a horror fan yourself?
I’m a huge horror fan. My favorites include early John Carpenter, David Fincher, and especially Ridley Scott.
HORROR UNRATED: That’s some pretty good names you mention there. Bereavement is a prequel to your first feature film, Malevolence from 2004. Tell me, how did you come up with the story of Malevolence and how did it originate?
Malevolence was the middle part of a book I wrote and it turned into three screenplays. Bereavement is the opening part of the book. I was trying to re-create the look and style of the early horror films I had grown up on.
HORROR UNRATED: So how long did you contemplate the overall story, before sitting down to write the script and does the original idea differ much from the final movie?
The story was thought about for a while, but when I began to write it down, it came pretty quickly. However it did change a lot as we shot, especially when we found our main location. Since it was once a working slaughterhouse, it added that extra creepy vibe that I tried to work into the film.
HORROR UNRATED: Seeing as this was your first feature film, did you have difficulties getting the project launched into actual production?
Yes, raising money was very difficult, so much of the funding came from credit cards and friends and family. And we had a lot of mutiny on the set from crew, so I ended up doing most of the work myself. That experience has kind of driven me towards being very self sufficient. I now normally wear many hats on all of my films, and I think that originated out of that horrible experience on Malevolence. I can now be very distrusting of crew that I haven’t worked with.
HORROR UNRATED: Okay, it sounds like the actual production weren’t the best experience?
The making of Malevolence has been well documented as being a complete nightmare. It was such a disaster that I chronicled the entire process and turned it into a mockumentary called Brutal Massacre.
That film, released in 2008, is basically the making of Malevolence, just turned into a parody. Sometimes things are so bad, you just have to laugh at them. But then, sometimes the worst working conditions yield some of the best artistic work - Pink Floyd for example.
HORROR UNRATED: Were you surprised by the very positive reactions to the film and did you conversely encounter any bad press that sticks in your mind?
The initial reactions were totally split down the middle. People either loved it or hated it. I remember once, Brandon Johnson and I went to a theater where it was playing, and we both stopped two separate couples and asked them what they thought of the film.
My couple loved it, while Brandon’s couple hated it, and were very vocal about how much they hated it. I’ll never forget Brandon turning to me and saying, ‘Hey, wanna trade?’ It’s funny stuff but for the most part, the reactions I got from the horror community were positive, for the few that found and saw it.
The only real negative stuff I ever saw was on IMDb, where frustrated filmmakers go to tear down working ones – it’s sad.
HORROR UNRATED: Moving on to your latest installment of the saga, Bereavement, What made you decide to go back and tell the story of the origin of the killer as opposed to a straight up sequel?
It was always my intention to tell Malevolence first, and then tell his origin story. I felt that if I shot them in chronological order would minimize Martin’s scare factor. If you knew his whole back story, he wouldn’t be as scary as he was, not knowing what his motivations were, or how he became what he was. It’s always scarier when you don’t know.
HORROR UNRATED: I totally agree. So was the whole process easer this time around, seeing as you must have gained a lot of experience from the first film?
Not easier, in fact much more complicated, as we had a bigger cast and a much larger crew. And some of the shots were far more complex, so it was always very challenging. Plus, this time it was more than just an experiment because people actually had expectations, so there was far more pressure.
HORROR UNRATED: You know, when I saw Bereavement, I remember thinking that the acting performances, and especially the ones by Alexandra Daddario and Michael Biehn, were extremely natural and realistic, and at the same time your sense for writing a believable and natural dialogue is extremely good. Is this an important element for you when writing and shooting a film?
Yes, it’s very important. The whole ‘kids having sex and doing drugs’ just doesn’t work for me, I need more. I like to see people for who they really are. When people are more realistic, I have an easier time projecting my own sensibilities upon their characters, and I can identify with them more easily.
HORROR UNRATED: Regarding the cast in Bereavement, did you write the screenplay with any specific actors in mind?
No, I had no one particular in mind, and I cast mostly unknowns. Alexandra Daddario was a complete unknown when I cast her. As was Peyton List and Nolan Funk. I did hope to land Michael Biehn for the role of the father, and fortunately for me he liked the script.
HORROR UNRATED: How do you work with actors – are you the type who rehearse a lot before takes or do you also like to improvise?
I rehearse some, and I don’t like to improvise. I try to keep everything exactly the way it is on the page. My dialogue often has a few intricacies that intertwine with things that pay off later, so it’s a complex puzzle that has layers, and if I deviate from that, it causes ripples in later scenes. The only time I allow for improvising is during the murder sequences. I let them scream however they want. Actually that’s not true. I micro manage that too... I need help.
HORROR UNRATED: Haha, yes well it works so… What can you tell me about the shoot of Bereavement?
We shot Bereavement in the same location as Malevolence - Allentown and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was a very difficult shoot, and very cold. And working conditions in a real abandoned slaughterhouse are never going to be fun. It’s trying on the cast and crew, not to mention that we do believe the place is haunted, so that doesn’t help. Also, there are rats everywhere, and at night they swarmed the place, so it was pants tucked in socks.
I would surely say my favorite moment of the shoot was filming the scene where Sutter confronts Martin in the kitchen. When I saw what was happening, and the performances by both actors, I knew something special was happening, and that I had made great choices when casting.
HORROR UNRATED: Personally I would say that neither Malevolence nor Bereavement is your straight-up typical teen-pandering horror film. They are both far more mature and serious in tone and pace. How would you describe them as a whole?
I think they definitely fall into a more mature category of character exploration horror pieces, rather than typical. Typical slasher type horror inserts humor in between horrific elements to let the audience off the hook. I hate doing that because it basically tells the audience that I don’t take the subject matter seriously, and so neither should you. I think comedy should be in funny films, and horror should be horrific. That’s just my opinion.
HORROR UNRATED: Well, I won’t argue with you on that one Stevan. So what sort of atmosphere, style and feeling were you going for in these two films? I mean, I felt a bit of Alfred Hitchcock in there, but mainly a John Carpenter-inspired atmosphere and attention to detail. What’s you comment on that – am I completely off track?
No that’s very accurate. While my visual style strives to emulate Ridley Scott, there is certainly an element of Carpenter in there, especially with Malevolence, which was greatly informed by Halloween. As far as Hitchcock, certainly my writing style is very inspired by the master. I only wish I could write something as perfect as Psycho.
HORROR UNRATED: You shot the film on 35mm which is quite unusual these days for a low-budget film. Why did you choose to shoot on film as opposed to the digital and very popular Red Cam or Thomson VIPER camera for instance?
Because I love film and I felt at the time that I couldn’t achieve the look I wanted on digital. I’m a big Star Wars fan, and I wasn’t happy with how the new series looked as compared to film. And I just figured, that if George Lucas can’t get the look right, how can I?
So I decided to stick with what I knew, and honestly, when you compare film vs. video, after everything that’s spent on cast, crew and post-production, it seems odd to then have your capture medium be less than film. The savings just didn’t add up for me. However, after viewing Arri Alexa footage, I am now sold on digital - I think it turned the corner with Alexa.
HORROR UNRATED: Okay, I haven’t seen footage from Alexa yet, but it sounds promising. Speaking of the look, the visual side of especially Bereavement is quite beautiful and very old-school, meant in the most positive way, with its great wide shots of rural landscapes and a fantastic use of camera movement. It's like you’re going back to the more traditional way of cinema, instead of the highly popular handheld, and being a low-budget film, Bereavement looks extremely professional. How important are the visuals and the technical aspects to you?
Well, from your description as you can tell, it’s paramount to me, it’s where everything begins. I plan each shot very carefully, and I try to make my films very immersive, combining those images and soundscapes to create something that draws you in, makes you a part of that place. My films are not good to watch on computers or phones, you just don’t get immersed the way that was intended. I’ve screened my films on phones, and asked people their opinion, and then screened on Blu-ray in a surround sound big screen experience, and gotten very different responses from the same people. It’s very important how you watch a film.
HORROR UNRATED: Much like the great John Carpenter, you not only write, produce and direct, you also write and compose the film score yourself. You said earlier that you wanted to be a film composer when you were younger, but have you always been writing music, and what are the pros and cons regarding writing the score for your own films?
Yes, I’ve always been into music, and like I said, I even wanted to be a film composer before a director. The pros are that the connection between the filmmaker and the composer is a direct line. So what you see and hear is straight from my head. The cons are that it takes much longer to make a film when you have to do everything.
HORROR UNRATED: So, are you completely satisfied with Malevolence and namely Bereavement, or are there things you would like to have done different today?
There are always things I would change. Independent low-budget filmmaking is all about compromises, so I’d be lying if I said I thought they are perfect - far from it.
In fact, one issue that has caused much stress from viewers is how Allison enters the slaughterhouse. Originally she was supposed to fall through some loose concrete in the dilapidated factory and into the lower area and become trapped. But we couldn’t devise a safe way to do it that would seem realistic and computer effects just weren’t available to me for a stunt that big. So it’s an example of a huge compromise. People wring their hands when that scene comes on, but all I can do is shrug, oh well.
HORROR UNRATED: Will we be seeing more horror from you in the future Stevan, perhaps a sequel to Malevolence, or would you like to work with a different genre now?
I have lots of stuff in the works, so hopefully some of each.
HORROR UNRATED: Okay, sounds great. Stevan – thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure and the best of luck to you with your future projects.
Alexandra Daddario fortjener en gif...

26. jun. 2015

Anmeldelse: [Rec] 4: Apocalypse.

Årgang: 2014.
Tagline: "Welcome aboard.”
Genre: Horror.
Instruktør: Jaume Balagueró.
Runtime: 92 minutter.
Medie: DVD.
Udgiver: Another World Entertainment.
Link til filmen på IMDB.

Se trailer her.
Se også: “[Rec]” (2007), “[Rec]² (2009)”, “[REC]³: Genesis”  (2012).

“[Rec] 4: Apocalypse” er venligst stillet til rådighed af Another World Entertainment.

Anmeldt af Mark S. Svensson.

Der er gået flere timer siden de gruopvækkende hændelser i den gamle bygning i Barcelona udspillede sig i [REC 1 & 2]. Militæret har infiltreret bygningen med en specialenhed og sprænger stedet i luften for en gang for alle at sætte en stopper for mareridtet. I sidste øjeblik lykkes det dog for Angela Vidal, den unge TV-reporter, der gik ind i bygningen sammen med brandmændene, at slippe ud i live, og hun sættes straks i karantæne for at sikre, at missionen er lykkedes... Hvad ingen ved, er, at Angela bærer på et forfærdeligt virus, der snart spredes i al sin rædsel. Lad Apokalypsen begynde...
Manuela Velasco er tilbage som den hårdtprøvede Ángela Vidal.

Egentlig er det et prisværdigt forsøg Jaume Balagueró gør med denne fjerde film i “[Rec]” franchisen. Serien var oprindeligt found footage og beroede i høj grad på gru og spænding som virkemidler. Med “[Rec] 3: Genesis” skete der en forandring. Found footage formen blev smidt til siden, og endvidere blev tempoet også sat i vejret, hvilket resulterede i en mere actionpræget film. Det er den stil, der bygges videre på i denne fjerde ombæring. Historien har linje direkte tilbage til de første film, og det er det, der gør den interessant i udgangspunktet. “[Rec] 4: Apocalypse” forsøger at udforske den mystiske sygdom, som har været omdrejningspunktet i alle de hidtidige film, men er vi overhovedet interesserede i at vide mere om sygdommen? Er det den medicinske årsag til alle ubehagelighederne, der gjorde det spændende at følge med på Ángelas første mareridtsoplevelser tilbage i 2007?
Sumatran rat-monkey anyone?

Det korte svar er: “Nej!” Det var netop manglen på viden om årsag og omfang, der gjorde, at den første “[Rec]” var en spændende filmoplevelse. Selvom det som nævnt er prisværdigt, at Balagueró gør et forsøg på at samle trådene fra de foregående film, er resultatet ikke i sig selv vellykket. Det er fedt at se Ángela vende tilbage og få bundet et par knuder tilbage til originalen, men hun er desværre også filmens eneste seværdige karakter. De øvrige medvirkende er stereotyper: Den kyniske videnskabsmand, computernørden og den gamle kvinde, der primært er med for at skabe kontinuitet med film 3. Ok, den sidste er måske ikke just nogen gængs karaktertype... men det er nu alligevel rigtigt, at hun mest er i vejen for historiefortællingen. Det er ikke fordi, at personerne er usympatiske, de er bare utrolig brugte og med til at gøre hele historien forudsigelig. Ismael Fritschi er computernørden, der spiser for meget chokolade og er lidt små pervers, men til trods for de dårlige odds, er Fritschi nu alligevel karismatisk i rollen. Hans figur er blandt de få, hvis ansigt det rent faktisk vil være muligt at genkalde sig, når filmen er slut.
Vi får nogle helt habile effekter i “[Rec] 4: Apocalypse.
“[Rec] 4: Apocalypse” tager et yderligere skridt i retning af actiongenren. Dermed kommer franchisen endnu længere væk fra den suspense og det reelle gys, som var, hvad der var den helt store kvalitet til at begynde med. Med det etableret er denne anmeldelse ikke nødvendigvis en sammenligning med tidligere film, men et kig på denne films egne kvaliteter. I den afdeling er udfordringerne heller ikke små. “[Rec] 4: Apocalypse” er i sin opbygning ekstremt klichépræget. Selv med sit lille (og jeg mener lille) twist af blood and guts er filmens udtryk fladt og uengagerende. Den er ikke dårligt produceret men modsat den ellers så udskældte “[Rec] 3: Genesis” har den ingen personlighed hverken visuelt eller i sin fortælling. At placere historien på havet er slet ikke nogen dårlig idé, da det giver mening i forhold til historien, og samtidig bibeholder en smule af den klaustrofobi, som i et eller andet omfang er en del af seriens varemærke. Men som det lader til at være symptomatisk for denne film, falder de gode idéer til jorden.
Påhængsmotor vs ansigt! Sejren går ubestridt til påhængsmotoren...
“[Rec] 4: Apocalypse” sluttes på en måde, der i den grad lægger op til, at en fortsættelse kunne være i farvandet. Personligt er jeg nok efterhånden landet der, hvor mange fans af franchisen befandt sig efter at have set seriens tredje ombæring: Det er fint at runde af her. Filmens forsøg på at kombinere originalens figurer med treerens mere traditionelle visuelle og fortællemæssige stil mislykkedes på mange måder. Det efterlader os med en film, der er usigeligt jævn, og nogle enkelte gode takter til trods ikke er videre seværdig.


11. jun. 2015

Horror-Unrated Retrospekt #10: Makabre mannequindukker og Klaus Kinski - et interview med instruktøren bag Tourist Trap og Crawlspace, David Schmoeller.

Efter 4 år har vi valgt at lukke og slukke for Horror Unrated. Med tiden fik vi hevet en hel del spændende og dybdegående interviews i hus, fra de store kendte horror stjerner til ukendte independent filmskabere. Af forskellige årsager valgte vi at lukke for Horror Unrated d. 12. november 2013, og da undertegnede tidligere har været skribent for denne fantastiske blog, Sørensen Exploitation Cinema Proudly presents, valgte jeg og bloggens ejer at flytte de mange interviews over på bloggen så de kunne få nyt liv, og forhåbentlig blive læst og nydt af nye læsere. Skrevet af Claus Reinhold.

HORROR UNRATED: Hi David and welcome to Horror Unrated. Let’s begin by talking about when you first became interested in films and how you became a filmmaker?

Hi Claus and thanks for inviting me to talk a bit about my work. In terms of popular filmmaker lore (ie. great filmmakers making home movies when they were kids), I came relatively late to making films. I was a few years into college when I changed my major to film. However, backing up a bit, I decided to become a writer when I was fifteen. I was in boarding school in Dallas when one of my roommates, Tom Jones, he later changed his name to Tommy Lee Jones when he became an actor, was the editor of the poetry magazine, and read one of my poems and said: 'Schmolie, you ought to be a writer.' So, I decided to become a writer…a novelist, actually.
I started my undergraduate studies at the Universidad de Las Americas in Mexico City and traveled all over Mexico pretending to be a writer, but never really wrote much more than a diary or a column about my studies in Mexico that was published back in my old boarding school newspaper.
In Mexico City, I had the good fortune of meeting Alejandro Jodorowsky and seeing his plays – and I vaguely remember seeing Fando y lis (but a more memorable Mexican film I saw during that period was Noche de los Caifanes).
During this period, I also met the great director Luis Bunuel, who was my wife’s godfather (although I didn’t see any of his movies until years later). He had just returned from France where he had directed Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour and had all these ribald stories to tell about her. But, despite these connections, I was really clueless about film.
My wife and I returned to Texas where I was from, and we continued our studies at UT Austin. It was at UT that I first discovered film. A friend of mine was a film major, started telling me about what they did in film school and it sounded more interesting than just writing. So, in 1968, I started making short films…and was hooked.
But I was really completely ignorant about film. Just to illustrate how little I knew, I stumbled upon a gathering in the student union – an old man with an eye patch was talking – it was the great John Ford, toward the end of his life. I said something like 'Who’s the guy with the eye-patch?' to a friend of mine and he said 'That’s John Ford!' And I said: 'Who’s John Ford?' I don’t deserve to be a director after that comment.

HORROR UNRATED: Haha, well we all have to start somewhere David. So what kind of movies were you inspired by when you started making your own films and which directors have had the greatest influence on you?

The first movies I remember seeing in a theater when I was a child were actually horror movies, like Creature From the Black Lagoon. I was much too young to be watching these kind of movies and they gave me nightmares. I had this really crummy mother who didn’t know how to be a mother and she was looking for a husband at the time and would drop my brother and I off at the movies and leave us there for a double feature, no matter what the films were. The ones I remember were the scary ones. It does not take much to scare a three-year old.
I was not really inspired by movies until film school at UT. And the first class that really knocked me off my feet was Italian cinema. We saw the great Italian neo-realism films like Open City, Bicycle Thief, La Strada etc. I wasn’t inspired in the sense that I made films like those films – I just fell in love with movies at that point. But at UT, I quickly grew into a filmmaker, making one short after another. It was a great period in history and a very creative time for me. I made seven short films in undergraduate- and graduate school.

HORROR UNRATED: Since you have directed several horror films I have to ask if you’re a horror fan yourself?

Well, I did not start out as a horror film aficionado. It was just a practical way to break into the ranks of feature filmmaking – by making a horror film. And your question assumes the director in Hollywood has any real choice in the kind of films they make. It’s actually very rare that that is the case. Even less so today than ever before.
For the most part, I was a writer-director for hire. A producer had a film they wanted to make and they would hire me to write and direct, it based on my reputation or previous work. I never had the luxury of saying 'I want to make x kind of film.' Charlie Band had heard it was cheap to shoot in the south (ie. New Orleans), which, by the way, turned out not to be true. So, he asked me to do a voodoo picture in New Orleans called Netherworld. I thought the danger of doing a voodoo story is that it can quickly become so cliché, so I suggested we create our own cult – a group of people with mystical powers, including turning you into birds if you are bad. The location work was good but the film, ultimately, didn’t work because I could never figure out what to do with the netherworld section – and we certain didn’t have the money to create a cool netherworld, if even I had figured out that part of the story.

HORROR UNRATED: Your short film The Spider Will Kill You from 1974 laid the grounds for what would later become Tourist Trap. But can you talk about what sort of film The Spider Will Kill You is? And what do you remember about the making of the film?

The Spider Will Kill You was my UT thesis film and it's available on DVD from davidschmoeller.com. I worked at the Texas School for the Blind to pay my way through college, so that was an influence. But what really fueled the idea was an experimental project I did about mannequins in the mall. JC Penny’s had this very bizarre line of mannequins in their stores at the time; very stylized and very creepy mannequins. The infant mannequins had slight features: eyes, ears, nose, mouth. As the mannequins got older – like five-year old children mannequins, they started losing features. One eye would be gone, just a slight indentation; an ear would be gone. As they aged, they kept losing features – so, by the time you had the adult mannequins, they had no features left; just smooth places were their eyes, nose and mouth used to be. It was incredibly creepy. But memorable. So, I decided to do a twilight zone type story about mannequins coming alive with a blind man who lived in an attic. The film was funded by the Director’s Guild of America and was subsequently nominated for a student Oscar and came in second to Robert Zemeckis’ thesis film in 1975.
HORROR UNRATED: Okay, let’s talk Tourist Trap. Where did the idea and concept for the Tourist Trap originate, besides from The Spider Will Kill You?

Well, besides from the mannequin part from The Spider Will Kill You, we really wanted to launch our careers in similar manner to Tobe Hooper – by making a low-budget horror film. The core to the story was the “mannequins-coming-alive” part. The other was the formula-of-the-day: a group of young people end up at some out-of-the-way place where they are knocked off one-by-one by some lunatic or monster.

HORROR UNRATED: You wrote the screenplay together with J. Larry Carrol who was the editor of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. How did your collaboration begin and how long did it take for you to write and develop the screenplay?

We met at film school at UT. Larry came out to L.A. a few years after I did. I approached Larry with the idea for Tourist Trap. Larry had worked on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which had been a huge low-budget hit, and we wanted to come up with something that would repeat that success and launch us as filmmakers. That was Tourist Trap. We decided to write a screenplay and attach ourselves as director and producer. Just as we were about to start writing, Larry got an editing job out of town, cutting the film Roar, if I recall. So, I ended up doing all the writing, Larry would come in on the weekends and give me notes and then I would continue writing. It annoyed me that I had to split the credit and the money since I did most of the work, but, that’s the way it goes.

HORROR UNRATED: Charles Band was the producer of Tourist Trap. How did you come to know him and how did your collaboration begin?

Larry was hired to cut a film Charlie had produced. We gave the script of Tourist Trap to his assistant, Benah Burton. She read it and passed it on to Charlie. He liked it and the only question he had was 'How do I know you can direct?' So, we booked a screening room, I showed him The Spider Will Kill You and he gave us a green light.

HORROR UNRATED: Did Charles Band have any influence on changes in the the screenplay and the story or were you given creative freedom?

Tourist Trap was a complete screenplay when we gave it to Charlie. It was mostly a psychological horror film. The one thing that Charlie added was the concept of telekinesis. He wanted the Chuck Connors character to have that power. It made it easier to explain and easier to visualize his power. The really great thing about Charlie Band is that he totally lets the directors alone…does not interfere in shooting or even in editing. He gave us complete freedom in making our movie.

HORROR UNRATED: The credits of Tourist Trap also feature Robert A. Burns who was the production designer. At that time he had also been art director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes and later he did The Howling and Re-Animator. How did he become involved in the film?

Bob Burns was part of the Austin group of filmmakers, but I met him for the first time when we started prep on Tourist Trap in L.A. He was a gifted production designer and was especially good at making very little money go a long way. There were a lot of individual artists who contributed various components to the mannequins-coming-alive effects, but Bob supervised them all.
Sadly Bob Burns killed himself a few years ago. Those of us who had stayed close with him all those years each received a suicide note in the mail, thanking us for being his friend, and explaining why he had killed himself. He really deserved a better life, but Hollywood can be a cruel place and the toll can sometimes be very high.

HORROR UNRATED: Yes, it's really a sad thing he's gone. Personally I think the production design is fantastic. How did you collaborate on creating the design and the look?
Again, Bob was really very good at finding great locations and building great sets. The Slausen Museum, for example. The exterior was just a flat we put up at the old L.A. zoo. The interior was on a sound stage, built from scratch.
The attic was this old house on Hollywood Blvd. that used to belong to a Hollywood actress of some fame (but not so much that I remember her name). They were about to tear it down so we could do anything with it, and Bob did.
Davey’s house was shot at the old Fox Ranch. The film was really pieced together from locations all over L.A. Bob was not like another excellent production designer I had on Puppetmaster; John Myhre (who went on to win two Academy Awards for Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha). John could make these beautiful drawings and paintings. Bob couldn’t draw. But he could just deliver. He was probably more of an Art Director-Set Designer than Production Designer – but, whatever the title, he helped create a very atmospheric film.

HORROR UNRATED: He certainly did.

Yes, and Bob also did most of the physical mannequin effects, like eyes moving in mannequin faces, mannequin arm pulled off Jerry’s body at the end and so on.

HORROR UNRATED: Okay. But how were the mannequins created? Was it real mannequins that were altered or were they made from scratch?

I don’t know how he managed to do it, but Bob bought a large number of old, discarded mannequins from an old storage place downtown for practically no money. All the mannequins were real mannequins that were then dressed or altered or whatever. Some of the mannequin faces were made from life-masks. The parents in the room with Davey when he is playing with dolls: the father is the face of Albert Band, Charlie’s dad, and the mother is the face of my mother-in-law at the time, who was just a really good sport. My ex-wife was the woman/mannequin who visits Molly when she is tied up in bed. I think we did a life-mask of her. All of the historical characters were from life-masks (There was a hard mannequin face for each historical figure and then a rubber-mask that the mime wore when the historical figures came alive).

HORROR UNRATED: Were you satisfied with the results?

Yes – especially considering that we had so little money. To this day, I am more happy with the effects in Tourist Trap than the effects in Puppetmaster.

HORROR UNRATED: The composer was no other than Pino Donaggio and when he did the music for Tourist Trap he had already composed the score for other horror classics such ad Don’t Look Now, Carrie and Piranha. How were you able to get him to do the music and were you familiar with his previous work?

My relationship with Pino Donaggio stems from an interesting fluke. Joe Dante had just directed Piranha and Roger Corman had hired Pino to do his score. Pino was in town but he didn’t speak English. So, I was brought in to be the interpreter, as Pino only spoke Spanish. So we spoke in Spanish and I translated for Joe during the spotting session. I was surprised but very pleased that Charlie sprung for Pino, since he cost us $50.000, which was one-sixth of our budget.

HORROR UNRATED: Can you tell about how the shoot went and how it was for you?

Tourist Trap was made in 24 days - that is a pretty nice schedule for a low-budget horror film. I only had 20 days for Puppetmaster and Crawlspace. No matter how many days a director has, it is never enough. Tourist Trap was my first feature so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. So, I didn’t know if I was rushed or not. I just made my day every day.

HORROR UNRATED: How was it to work with Chuck Connors and the cast? And were there any difference in working with trained actors opposite Chuck Connors who wasn’t a trained actor?

Connors was pretty good to work with. He really liked the project and his role. He actually wanted to become the new Vincent Price or Boris Karloff of the horror genre to rejuvenate his career. He pretended to give me a hard time because it was my first time out but I knew he didn't mean it. He worked very hard on the film, which a lot of actors in his position don't do. I won't name names but I have worked with some of them who were bitter about doing low-budget movies after being stars at some higher level. Chuck was a baseball star who stumbled into the acting game as a career change. He had no training at all as an actor.He just did it and he expected everyone else to work the same way.
Jocelyn Jones was a thoroughly trained actor, on the other hand. Her father was the great character actor Henry Jones of The Bad Seed fame. And Jocelyn used her training in her work. (I later studied acting with her before I studied with Milton Katselas). She did these wild breathing exercises and this chair thing to prepare for a scene.
Chuck thought it was pretty goofy. And he said so. Jocelyn held her ground and eventually Chuck let her do her preparations. It's amusing to me as I look back on it now. I can still see Chuck staring at Jocelyn incredulous as she did these wild breathing gyrations. But it was pretty stressful at the time because I had to work so hard to keep Chuck cool about it.

HORROR UNRATED: Tourist Trap is often wrongly interpreted as being a slasher film in the vein of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Why do you think this is? And how would you categorize the film?

I teach a class on the Horror film at UNLV where I am an Associate Professor, and I would quibble about Tourist Trap being a slasher film. Halloween is frequently cited as the father of the slasher movies, and John Carpenter has, probably unsuccessfully, tried to refute that label as well. But, since Tourist Trap came after Halloween, which is considered the birth of the slasher genre, it is bundled into this sub-genre. So be it.

HORROR UNRATED: So, were you completely satisfied with the film when it was done? And are you satisfied with it today? If not, how do you feel it could have been improved?

Tourist Trap has become a cult movie over the years. Interest in it continues to grow, at least that is my experience. It’s nice that Tourist Trap still screens and still has a life. Actually there was a 35mm screening of it at an Art House Theater in L.A. just this past August. The prints have turned pink, but people still appreciate the theatrical experience. It has reached a certain cult status, which makes me very happy. That’s a lot better than having your work sink into oblivion. I’ve had that experience, too. Longevity beats oblivion, trust me.
I’ve written a new script called Blue Tears, about mannequins coming alive in a shopping mall – kind of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Dawn of the Dead meets our current recession malaise, but done with a real, significant budget. We’ll see if I can get it made...if anyone has a stack of money, email me!

HORROR UNRATED: Haha, I hope someone will David. Now, there’s the story about the low PG-rating it received back then. For some movies that’s a good thing, but in this case it wasn’t that good. What happened? And how do you feel about it?

We were shocked that it didn’t get an R rating and it definitely hurt the theatrical release. But in the long run, it helped the longevity of the movie. Because of its soft rating, it could play on afternoon television, so there are entire generations of seven year olds who were scared to death by unsuspectingly watching Tourist Trap in their living rooms on a casual Saturday afternoon. I hear it from my college students all the time; 'God, Professor Schmoeller, I was seven when I first saw Tourist Trap on TV and it scared me shitless - thank you!'

HORROR UNRATED: In 1986 another horror movie of yours was released entitled Crawlspace. You wrote and directed it and this time the star was legendary actor Klaus Kinski. Can you talk a bit about what inspired to the story and how this project began?

Charlie called me in for a meeting and wanted me to write a script for this apartment set he had built for another movie in Rome - Troll, I think. Originally, Crawlspace was an anti-Vietnam War story (I was a Conscientious Objector during the Vietnam war and served two years of Alternative Service at the Texas School for the Blind).
The first draft of Crawlspace featured an MIA survivor who returned home to discover that his parents had died and his wife had left him. This MIA survivor recreated his Prisoner-of-War camp in his attic and subsequently built bamboo traps to ensnare his enemy. When I turned in the first draft, and in Rome, they had already started building the Vietnam attic POW camp, Charlie felt that America was not ready for a Vietnam story (this was before Oliver Stone's Platoon). He suggested we make the protagonist a Nazi. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I said 'You don’t think America is ready for a Viet Nam story – but you do think they want to see yet another Nazi story?' He said 'I’ll get you Klaus Kinski', and I said 'You get me Klaus Kinski, and I’ll make it a Nazi story' And he got me Klaus.

HORROR UNRATED: Crawlspace is also within the horror genre, just like Tourist Trap. Was it your desire to make another horror film?

No, but after the drubbing I got for my second film, The Seduction (which is probably my most successful film financially), I was happy to be working again as a director, so I was willing to do anything!

HORROR UNRATED: Klaus Kinski plays Dr. Karl Gunther. I’m curious to know why you wanted him for the movie and were you aware of his reputation?

I had seen Kinski in the great Herzog films, but I was not aware of his reputation at all. I only discovered that after I called his agent and asked if I could meet Klaus. The agent kind of laughed, then suggested I read a current issue of Playboy Magazine that had a detailed article about what a monster Klaus was on the set.

HORROR UNRATED: How do you feel about that movie today? And would you like to have done something different?

I like Crawlspace and it still plays on TV and rents on Netflix after all these years. Would I have liked to have done something different? Hell, yes! I would have liked to have had Steven Spielberg’s career – or I would have liked to have lived in earlier times when directors made three or four movies a year. This is the worst time to be a director – they make one movie every five years.

HORROR UNRATED: You’re still active in the movie business so I want to ask you what you believe to be the biggest differences between making movies in the 1970’s/early 1980’s and making movies today – I mean, it seems to me that there were more freedom to experiment back then.

It is clearly easier for an unknown filmmaker to make a movie today than it was in the 1970s and early 80s. I just produced one called Thor at the Bus stop, written-directed by Mike and Jerry Thompson and it’s really a great little movie and it was fun to make.
The problem that the filmmaker has today is getting distribution. Big expensive movies with big name stars can’t get distribution for their films. It’s a tough market and a tougher business (which is why I keep shamelessly plugging my websites, sorry readers!) Mike & Jerry had MUCH more creative freedom on Thor at the Bus stop than I ever had, because I gave them final cut and they could do anything they wanted. But all of my films had (and continue to have) wide distribution.

HORROR UNRATED: What are your views on the horror genre today and how has it progressed in your opinion – for the better or the worse? Personally I think for the worse – the good story is rarely present anymore. It’s been set aside to make way for more and more outrageous, vomit-inducing CGI splatter effects and every movie is trying to take it one step further. I miss the good and simple stories from the 70s and 80s.

The horror film is the abused step-child of the film industry; just one small step above porno in terms of respect. Nevertheless, a number of high-profile directors have production companies that make horror: Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures; Michael Bay’s company, and others I forget at the moment. And the reason is, they reliably make money. Film critics can sometimes be snobs and it’s easy to discount horror. At the same time, many horror films really are bad and deserve to be slammed. But more recently, the studios have been remaking the horror hits of the 1970s and 1980s when it really makes no sense to. The original The Last House on the Left was about a certain zeitgeist of the 70s. You can’t just remake it and assume the same zeitgeist exists. But, good or bad, they still make a lot of money.

HORROR UNRATED: Okay, that’s it David – any last words for the readers of Horror Unrated?

I want to say thanks for letting me stroll down memory lane with you. If your readers want to know more about my work, they can visit my website: davidschmoeller.com. And if they want to learn about my new film: THOR ON THE BUS STOP, please visit our website http:///thoratthebusstop.com.

4. jun. 2015

Anmeldelse: Late Phases.

Årgang: 2014.
Tagline: "The hunt is on.”
Genre: Horror.
Instruktør: Adrián García Bogliano.
Runtime: 92 minutter.
Medie: DVD.
Udgiver: Another World Entertainment.
Link til filmen på IMDB.

Se trailer her.
Se også: “The Wolf Man” (2010), “An American Werewolf in London” (1981), “The Howling” (1981).

“Late Phases” er venligst stillet til rådighed af Another World Entertainment.

Anmeldt af Mark S. Svensson.

Crescent Bay er måske ikke det bedste sted at tilbringe sit otium. Engang var det et idyllisk og fredsommeligt område bestående af ældreboliger, hvor samfundets pensionister kunne tilbringe de sidste gyldne år, men på det seneste er beboerne i Crescent Bay blevet udsat for mystiske og dødelige overfald. Da den bitre og blinde krigsveteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) flytter ind, bliver de andre beboere chokerede over hans menneskefjendske adfærd og sure opstød, men da de voldsomme angreb viser sig at være forårsaget af noget langt mere gruopvækkende end den bjørn, som politiet mener står bag, er Ambroses attitude præcis, hvad der er brug for. For ingen eller noget skal true en højtdekoreret krigsveteran – heller ikke selvom han er blind…
Nick Damici har du måske tidligere set i "Stake Land" fra 2010.
Adrián García Bogliano var egentlig ikke interesseret i at instruere en varulvefilm. Han mente, at der var nogle iboende begrænsninger i den type film. Efter at have læst Eric Stolzes manuskript blev han dog overbevist om, at filmen var noget andet og mere end en monsterfilm, og at der var mere gods i fortællingen end som så. Nick Damisi blev udpeget til hovedrollen. Filmens hovedperson er blind, og Damisi gik derfor i lag med sine dagligdags aktiviteter med bind for øjnene. Efter at have brændt tilpas mange gange, fortæller skuespilleren, at han konkluderede, at det handlede mere om teknik end metode. Han fandt ud af at arbejde med måden, han bruger sine øjne på i rollen og skaber på den måde en illusion af at være blind. Både Tina Louise (kendt fra den originale “The Stepford Wives” fra 1975), Karen Lynn Gorney (kendt fra “Saturday Night Fever” fra 1977) og Dana Ashbrook (kendt som Bobby Briggs fra “Twin Peaks”) dukker op i mindre roller.
Jeg er fristet til at kalde transformationsscenen mesterlig, i sin koreografering. Både i forhold til det tekniske og det visuelle.
“Late Phases” har en målsætning om at handle om sin hovedperson først og lade varulve komme i anden række. Det betyder ikke noget negativt for filmens evne til at levere vellavede varulve. De praktiske effekter var noget af det første, producerne vidste, de ville have i filmen. Det er et godt valg, som de i den forbindelse har taget. Væsnerne i “Late Phases” introduceres ret tidligt i skygger: Men frygt ikke, du skal nok få lov at se mere til dem. Det kræver lidt tålmodighed, men heldigvis er Nick Damisi karismatisk i hovedrollen. Derudover er far og søn dramaet, der er i centrum for historien, meget ærligt fortalt. Damisi og Ethan Embry, der spiller sønnen Will, har god kemi, og selvom dialogen kan være lidt klichépræget, er der en oprigtighed i deres spil, som gør dramaet ganske velfungerende. Filmen lykkedes i det hele taget med at handle om en mand og hans dæmoner lige så meget, som den handler om de konkrete monstre, han kæmper imod.
Filmens brug af praktiske effekter er ekstremt charmerende og fungerer!
Når der så kæmpes, er det til gengæld ekstremt underholdende. Filmens opbygning af hovedpersonen som en ensom og sammenbidt mand giver i samarbejde med det forrygende klimaks et nærmest westernpræget resultat. Faren ved at benytte en opbygning og historie, der er klassisk i sit udtryk, er naturligvis, at ens film kan komme til at ligne noget, der er lavet før. Det gør “Late Phases” til dels. Det er måske usædvanligt, at modstanderne, som den tavse helt står overfor, er varulve, men derudover er der mange af de sædvanlige historieelementer. En helt, der ved noget, som resten af verden ikke forstår eller tror på, eksempelvis. “Late Phases” genopfinder ikke noget men leverer en fængende version af noget, der på mange måder er velkendt. Typisk for varulvefilm er det, at der skal være en transformationsscene, og den, der præsteres her i filmen, er vitterligt både succesfuld effekter og sit generelle visuelle udtryk.
“Poor fucking bastard.“
“Late Phases” tilbyder både drama, action og en smule gys. Skuespillerne samt manuskriptet gør meget for, at filmen fremstår som andet og mere end den gennemsnitlige moderne monsterfilm. “Late Phases” har ikke alene nogle engagerende figurer i front men fremviser også nogle af de mest vellavede praktiske effekter, jeg har set i en spillefilm i nogen tid.


13. maj 2015

Anmeldelse: Grotesk.

Årgang: 2015
Tagline: "Danmarks svar på “Plan 9 from Outer Space””
Genre: Splatter.
Instruktør: Peter J. Bonneman
Runtime: 64 minutter.
Medie: DVD.
Udgiver: Another World Entertainment
Link til filmen på IMDB.
Se trailer her.
Se også: “Opstandelsen” (2010), “Udbrud” (2014).

“Grotesk” er venligst stillet til rådighed af Another World Entertainment.

Anmeldt af Mark S. Svensson.

Efter en hemmelig månemission styrter en amerikansk rumfærge ned i Øresund. Om bord er en ukendt og stærkt radioaktiv form for slim udgravet fra månens bagside. Da slimen siver ud i Øresund skabes et ustoppeligt muteret monster, der spreder et inferno af død og ødelæggelse i vores idylliske sommerland.
Hvilken skala skal danske “Grotesk” måles på? Filmen er en kærlighedserklæring til B-film uden styr på grundlæggende filmteknik, historiefortælling og for den sags skyld formål; Film der udelukkende er skabt for at dyrke splattereffekter af varierende art. Ovenstående beskriver således også ganske godt “Grotesk” selv: Filmens historie er meget begrænset i omfang, personerne er i bedste fald usympatiske og teknisk er filmen fyldt med fejl. Alt sammen er det selvfølgelig del af pointen, men hvordan måles kvaliteten af filmen så?
Mit umiddelbare bud vil være at kigge på kreativiteten. Værdien skal måske mere findes i de enkelte scener, end i filmen som helhed? Der er ingen tvivl om, at det er filmiske legebørn, vi her har med at gøre. Deres leg udmønter sig i et ganske ubehageligt værk, hvor kropsfunktioner udforskes og legemsdele flyver til højre og venstre. Forstår du at værdsætte kreativiteten i et øje, der bliver fjernet fra sin sokkel for derefter at blive stoppet op i underlivet på et stakkels kvindeligt offer, som herefter får fornøjelsen af at udforske hendes indre på nærmeste hold? Så er denne film lige noget for dig, kære læser. De bevidst kitschede effekter er filmens største kreative force.
Jeg har allerede nævnt, at filmen teknisk er stoppet til randen med fejl. Filmen er bevidst dubbet helt skævt på klassisk b-films manér, billedkvaliteten er nedgraderet til at ligne noget fra en gammel udtrådt VHS, og lydeffekterne er ekstremt overdrevne. Der er øjeblikke, hvor filmen rammer den helt rigtige æstetik, og ligner noget fra “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974). Særligt er jeg glad for scenerne fra månen, som er syrede på den helt rigtige måde. Velfungerende er også soundtracket, som lader til at dyrke forbilleder som Fabio Frizzi (“Zombi 2”). 
“Grotesk” er problematisk for mig. Jeg kan godt se, hvad der er dens formål og på sin vis, lever den op til det. Hvis man er til hardcore splat uden mål eller mening, er jeg sikker på, at man vil være fint underholdt af “Grotesk”. For mig blev det desværre en noget tung omgang at danse med den ellers blot 64 minutter lange film. Filmens humor rammer næsten eksklusivt forbi, og selvom jeg sagtens kan værdsætte, at det er en prisværdig indsats, som skaberne har gjort, må jeg enten erkende, at deres målgruppe ikke er mig, eller at de simpelthen ikke er lykkedes med deres projekt. Således overlader jeg det til læseren selv at vurdere, hvad synes du?


23. apr. 2015

Anmeldelse: Wanted.

Årgang: 2008.
Tagline: "Brutal, Sexy, Built to thrill”
Genre: Action.
Instruktør: Timur Bekmambetov.
Runtime: 110 minutter.
Medie: Blu-ray.
Udgiver: Universal.
Link til filmen på IMDB.
Se trailer her.
Se også: Crank (2006), Shoot 'Em Up (2007), John Wick” (2014).

Anmeldt af Mark S. Svensson.

En af de senere års mange ganske vellykkede tegneserie filmatiseringer er “Wanted”, som her anmeldes, og som er en overraskende underholdende omgang ekstrem action. Wesley (James McAvoy) føler sig overbevist om, at han er blandt sin tids største nuller, indtil hans hverdag pludseligt afbrydes af den handlekraftige Fox (Angelina Jolie), som redder hans liv. Snart introduceres den usikre kontorarbejder for et hemmeligt hold snigmordere, der ikke just er milde i deres træningsmetoder.
Hvordan Angelina Jolie ser ud med et knojern...
“Wanted” lægger ikke skjul på, hvilken type film den er, og dens over-the-top stil bliver hurtigt åbenbar. Således vil man formentlig allerede fra starten af filmen kunne vurdere, hvorvidt man er villig til at købe filmens ekstreme stil, der involverer en enorm brug af slowmotion og syrede effekter. Filmen sælger sin stil så fornemt og i så god sammenhæng med sin historie, at det for mig ikke var et problem at acceptere de mere særprægede elementer, hvilket formentlig også netop er, fordi de ikke kommer til at fremstå voldsomt sære, idet de præsenteres løbende og som en del af filmens naturlige fortælling. Således kommer filmen aldrig til at virke forceret. Det samme kan i øvrigt siges om hovedhistorien, som til trods for atter en gang at være en knivspids over-the-top alligevel følger sine tegneserie-aner fint og leverer en tempofyldt men også velfungerende fortælling. Den indledende fortælling om den kvælende hverdag er et eksempel på et set-up, vi har set før, som instruktør Timur Bekmambetovs stilmæssige greb giver nyt liv. Hvorvidt stilen er nuppet direkte fra tegneserierne er jeg ikke i stand til at svare på, men selv hvis det er tilfældet, er overførslen til filmmediet en bedrift der er beundringsværdig.
...og hvordan man ser ud når man har fået bank af Angelina Jolie med et knojern.
Medvirkende til filmens store underholdsværdi er naturligvis også nogle af de velkendte men også dygtige skuespillere, der er på rollelisten. Jamens McAvoy, som nogle vil kende fra “X-men: First Class” (2011), hvor han spillede Charles Xavier, leverer i nærværende film en stærkt foranderlig karakter, der går igennem en meget veludført rejse. Angelina Jolie er velsagtens et endnu større navn og har i sin karriere strakt sig over både stærke dramatiske roller, som hun eksempelvis gjorde det i Clint Eastwoods “Changeling” (2008), og til de mere hårdkogte kvindelige actionroller som i “Gone in Sixty Seconds”, “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” og “Salt”. I “Wanted” er det utvivlsomt den rå actionchick, der toner frem på skærmen, og det gør bestemt ikke noget. Tværtimod er det en fornøjelse at se Jolie levere en rå præstation i en film, som er seværdig i modsætning til visse af de actionfilm, hun tidligere har medvirket i. Morgan Freeman er også et af de store navne involveret i filmen, og Freeman gør her, hvad han gør bedst. Han er som altid en force uden lige, når det kommer til at hive filmens i øvrigt ret ekstreme omgivelse tilbage til et fornuftigt udgangspunkt og gøre omstændighederne mere troværdige. Freeman leverer også mere end blot det, og er utvivlsomt en af filmens styrkepunkter, en relativt lille rolle til trods.
“You're just a thug who can bend bullets.”
Filmen vinder på sin stil, som er både intens og stedvist nærmest aggressiv. Heldigvis tager historien dog også nogle interessante drejninger undervejs, og gør “Wanted” meget underholdende som helhed. Særligt filmens klimaks er utrolig engagerende, og er samtidig ikke bange for at bevæge sig i retning af det makabre uden at blive ufrivilligt komisk. Humor er generelt ikke det, der fylder mest i “Wanted”, som tager sig selv ganske alvorligt, uden at det gør filmen langsommelig. Filmen er voldsomt underholdende og formår sågar at have noget på hjerte. Derudover er instruktør Timur Bekmambetovs stil yderst velfungerende i sammenhæng med den ekstreme fortælling, som ved hjælp af nogle meget visuelt legesyge midler når et mål, som kan betragtes som beundringsværdigt i forhold til, hvilken type film vi her har med at gøre.