Sunday, May 21, 2017

Alien: Covenant ~ Review

The Alien universe continues to confound. I was on the side of loving the big ideas of Prometheus and its last minute reveal that puts it firmly in the canon. However, I'm not really sure what to make of Alien: Covenant. It's much less ambitious and more of a middling effort that adds little to the lore... but is more gory and has more monsters (yay)... but has little story or character development (ney). I wish I had cared more about these characters and felt greater sympathy for their truly chilling screaming death fits. It's more of a plodding horror film (like Alien) that has some fleeting terrifying moments, when it's not backsliding into being overtly contemplative or slow moving (like Prometheus). Looking at it plainly, Covenant is more of a "spin-off" with a cast of unknowns and its own story than a true sequel or prequel. And finally, if you're going to have a "twist ending" make sure the audience doesn't see it coming an hour before the reveal. I was entertained and temporarily satiated, but this diehard Alien fan wanted either more significance, more substance, OR more horror. I dare not ask for all three at this point.




Side Notes:

1. There's a fully produced short-film called The Crossing and that reveals what happened to Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the synthetic David (Michael Fassbender) immediately after the events of Prometheus. It bridges the two films and is much better opening that what we got in the Covenant film.


2. Director Ridley Scott revealed in an interview that the next film is called Alien: Awakening and it takes place between Prometheus and Covenant. Oh, boy. Here we go again with what might be the first ever prequel sequel prequel.







Sunday, April 30, 2017

Halfway to Halloween!

We're halfway there! Time to start thinking about your yard haunting, eerie parties, costume builds and all the wicked wonders that will behold Halloween 2017!



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Helen Mirren in WINCHESTER

People has posted the first look at Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester, the haunted woman who built a sprawling, crazed mansion in San Jose. The movie WINCHESTER is filming now in Australia and moves on site to the actual Winchester Mystery House in May (where I will be sneaking onto the set). The movie opens in spring 2018.



http://people.com/movies/helen-mirren-winchester-movie-first-look/

A Goodbye to Bates Motel



Bates Motel has closed up shop with a killer Season Five that focused on the strongest element of the series: Norman and his mother. This season brought with it the greatest shadow of Hitchcock as the series intersected with the classic movie. They dared to tackle Hitchcock's infamous shower scene with Marion Crane and recreated an almost shot-for-shot remake, yet framed it around a somewhat different story. And it worked! Then we moved past the end of the classic movie to find a fitting and surprisingly emotional end to the Bates Motel.

Across the board, performances from Freddie Highmore as the deranged Norman and Vera Farmiga bolstered the series. After the shocking end of season four, Norma spent most of this season dead in a freezer(!) and yet Vera Farmiga gave the most delightful and offbeat performance as Norman's Norma, as he envisioned her in his mind. Her character had been so emotionally grim and desperate over the previous seasons so it was a relief to see such a carefree and funny Norma. Thank you for unravelling Norman and allowing this unexpected and surprising turn.

Season Five is easily the best, most nuanced, and ultimately tragic season of the entire run and cemented this as a must-watch. It was clever and inspired, and though I never fully appreciated it, I will miss Bates Motel.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Haunting of Hill House Series Coming to Netflix

I try not to post anything that overly premature but this has got me very excited. On April 10, 2017, Variety reported the following:

Netflix is in the early stages of developing a series based on the Shirley Jackson horror novel “The Haunting of Hill House,” Variety has learned. 
The series is described as a modern re-imagining of Jackson’s novel. The novel, which has been praised as one of the best horror stories of the 20th century, follows four people as they spend a summer in a rented mansion. They soon begin to experience a wide range of supernatural phenomena. It was previously adapted into a feature film in both 1963 and 1999. 
The planned 10-episode series come from writer-director Mike Flanagan, who is no stranger to the horror genre. His previous credits include horror films “Hush,” “Oculus,” and the sequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil.” Flanagan will executive produce along with Trevor Macy, Justin Falvey, and Darryl Frank. Amblin TV and Paramount TV will produce.

Director Mike Flanagan knows exactly how to build dread and atmosphere as demonstrated in Oculus, which happens to be one of my favorites. My sense is that the series will play out like a really long movie (much like Stranger Things) rather than episodic arcs, and the source material begs for a modern makeover. The most recent theatrical adaptation, 1999's The Haunting, starred Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and a terrifying shape shifting house. No word yet on when the series may hit Netflix.

Art by Paul Buckley


Friday, March 31, 2017

The Year of Stephen King

Maybe every year is a Stephen King year but 2017 is bringing two major adaptions previously stuck in development hell: IT and THE DARK TOWER. The trailer for IT was released this week and it's absolutely terrifying (and also set a record for most online views in a single day). Perhaps I was too quick to judge that antediluvian clown costume? Even the teaser poster is terrifying (Need help finding the child-eating clown? Look in the balloon.) The movie, like the book, is divided into two parts, although the sequel has not been officially confirmed. Part one hits theaters on September 8 (why not in October?).

https://youtu.be/QnUwUCbwJy4




Over in Mid-World, THE DARK TOWER adaption keeps getting pushed back (now being released on August 4, 2017) but it's mostly in the can and starring Iris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. Early reports say it's both an amalgamation of series (there are 8 books in total), a complete departure, and a sequel to them. Oh boy. The clever poster features the dark tower itself in the white space (squint when looking at the poster below).




Over on the television, CASTLE ROCK, a 10-episode series co-produced by J.J. Abrams is coming to Hulu and said to be a psychological-thriller weaving various beloved stories from the King canon. Based on the teaser trailer, I'm thinking it's going for that Penny Dreadful smorgasbord approach? Hmm.


https://youtu.be/UGHupqE1LCI


THE MIST is getting a 10-episode series on Spike TV debuting on June 22. Although the short novella was excellently adapted to the big screen in 2007, we're headed back to the small town enshrouded in a creepy fog filled with grotesque monsters. The initial reports about the reworking of the classic material is a bit troubling.




MR. MERCEDES is headed towards a 10-episode run on the Audience Network (DirectTV/AT&T U-verse) and no one will get to watch it until it gets onto a more available platform.

GERALD'S GAME has been adapted as a film for Netflix, directed by Mike Flanagan (who directed last year's Ouija: Origin of Evil and Hush). An innocent game leaves a woman handcuffed to a bed after her husband suffers a heart attack leaving her to deal with the demons in her head and a rabid dog outside their remote cabin.


Autumn wouldn't be the same without a terrifying Stephen King book, and September 26 brings the new book SLEEPING BEAUTIES co-written with his son Owen King (not be confused with his other son Joe Hill, also a writer (of the fantastic books NOS4A2 and THE FIREMAN). The book is about strange plague that covers all women in cocoons – except one – leaving the men behind to figure it out (now that IS scary).





Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Devil's Candy ~ Review

It's been 7 years since director Sean Byrne's polarizing debut feature film, The Loved Ones and he's come back with another winner. The Devil's Candy is a disturbing trip into heavy metal, art and mental illness or possibly satanic possession.

Jesse Hellman (get the pun?) is a painter who just moved his family into an affordable house in rural Texas. The catch is that an older couple recently died in the house, and their estranged son (a standout Pruitt Taylor Vince) just can't stay away, mostly because demonic voices are constantly murmuring in his ear. To solve this problem he plays loud licks on his amplified guitar! Then Jesse starts hearing the murmuring himself and his painting goes from butterflies to screaming children engulfed in flames. Yikes.

The rest is admittedly underdeveloped and adds little to the sub-genre of demonic serial thrillers, BUT it is well acted (including an unrecognizable Ethan Embry, and Kiara Glasco as his angsty but authentic daughter) and incredibly stylish. You don't expect this kind of polish for horror movies but it's clear the director cares about the art of filmmaking. Every splash of light, color, and sound are purposeful and creates an atmosphere of dread, unease, and unpredictability (which is ideal for horror movies). Ultimately, this is a story of the father-daughter bond, a rumination on the artistic soul, and the truest nature of evil. It also has a deep emotional depth that many movies never quite seem to capture. Overall it's a very satisfying yet disturbing film.




The boring US streaming artwork
The festival circuit poster
that seems too Deathgasm.



The German version of
the poster is easily the best.
The more interesting
but satanic US poster

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pixar's COCO

The first teaser trailer and poster for Pixar's COCO has been released and it is DAZZLING! It's based on the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, rumored to be Pixar's first "musical", and directed by Academy Award Winner Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3). Opening in theaters (in 3D) on November 22 (Thanksgiving weekend).


https://youtu.be/zNCz4mQzfEI


Happy Saint Patrick's Day!