Sunday, May 28, 2006

"Daddy, Save Me!"


Korea continues its monstrous rampage to dominate genre cinema.


After drawing such prodigious crowds that an extra screening was needed for its international premier at the Cannes Director’s Fortnight sidebar, the Korean monster movie THE HOST can look forward to attracting even greater attention world-wide. Its tremendous reception so impressed a certain Eamonn Bowles that his Magnolia Pictures has bought multi-territory rights to the film, which some call the hit of the festival. THE HOST’s sales agent Cineclick Asia had originally intended to sell rights only on a territory-by-territory basis, but Magnolia’s offer was so generous as to win the rights for the UK, US, and Australia.

Bowles gushed that director Bong Joon-ho’s creature feature "has the potential to become a classic of the genre…it is the most impressive and imaginative monster I've seen in a long time." The greater public will have to wait and see whereof Bowles speaks, since Joon-ho has obstinately revealed as little as possible about his film, whose ominous tagline exclaims, “Daddy, save me!” “'A family desperately struggling with the haunting presence of a creature infesting the seedy waters of the Han River’ is all I'll say about this film,” the tight-lipped director told Korean press. “No spoilers, no more talking about the film's plot until it comes out in theaters.”

Within the last few years, Joon-ho made warm little waves at festivals with a peculiar little black comedy called BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE (2000), and the grisly police procedural MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003). The latter is a retelling of real-life rural serial rape-murder, and the former is a bizarre black comedy about a man who becomes a killer of canines in his apartment complex; but however incongruous his move into monster movie territory may seem, THE HOST has been gestating in the filmmaker’s mind all along. “Even 18 years ago, when I was in school, I was preparing for this project,” he said. The chance to realize this relatively large-scale project finally came “because of [MEMORIES] and its success…I (wasn’t) waiting for the technology to catch up with my vision - I just was dying to make it."

But despite the years of mental preparation, bridging the gap between his experience with comparatively intimate horror and his ambitions of GODZILLA-like terror was no easy task. "At first I thought it would be easy,” Joon-ho confessed. “But at the end I was almost on my knees pretending to pray. (Building) a mechanical thing and designing a living, breathing creature are two different things. (How) it would eat, sleep, purge itself, and lose blood were choices we had to make, and just that ultimately took a year to (do)."

However, it still sounds like the new film won’t wander too far from the atmosphere of his previous efforts. Amid poetic musings on THE HOST’s cinematography, which seems to make Seoul’s Han River into the main character, Joon-ho affirmed that "the creature is not the be-all end-all of this film,” adding curiously, “but it's certainly protagonist of…the climax.” But despite the brevity of its screen presence, the monster is the partial responsibility of Australia’s Creature Workshop, who brought to life the hyper-slick hordes from PITCH BLACK, so FX enthusiasts can expect a fair showing of amphibious flesh by the end.

For more quotes from Bong Joon-ho and his human lead, go to:
http://www.movie-page.com/board/viewtopic.php?t=188&sid=f78211c4375a1f5a49091d4de4b746e3

For further reportage from the Cannes front:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/film/brief_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002574743

And to see the trailer:
http://www.twitchfilm.net/monster.wmv

Spike Lee Takes On Family Matters

Supernatural thriller attracts socially-critical cineastes.


Apparently Spike Lee so enjoyed the directorial experience of making a dog deliver death sentences in his horrific SUMMER OF SAM that he’s signed on to script a supernatural thriller for 20th Century Fox. The project, SELLING TIME, concerns a man who exchanges years of his own life to extend the life of his tragically murdered daughter. Since it is being touted as a “thriller”, one can imagine that things go gruesomely awry. Although the gimmicky premise might feel a little “done” at this post-Tarantino, post-MEMENTO point in the history of linear narrative, it must reek of relevance to a certain kind of socially-conscious craftsman. The picture has been passed between several pairs of unlikely hands since bit-acting brothers Derek and Steven Martini penned the first version in 2002; long before Mr. Lee signed on for a rewrite, Forest Whitaker had announced his intentions of directing the project.

At the time in 2002, when he was hosting UPN’s Twilight Zone update, Whitaker explained to the press as much about the mysterious movie as anyone has since: "It's about a man who is on top of the world. He’s meeting with the president of the United States. He's a media rep. One day, he doesn't pick up his daughter at school because he's been held up by the president. His daughter is abducted at school and she's killed…then his boss offers him the opportunity to meet this woman who says if he'll give her seven years of his life, she'll give him back seven years of his daughter's life. He agrees and the next morning the daughter is fine. And it proceeds from there. It's a supernatural thriller, but it's really about prioritizing your time and figuring out what's important."

Apparently, had Whitaker followed through with this dark affair instead of deciding that what was really important was his cutie-pie Katie Holmes vehicle FIRST DAUGHTER, he might have had Will Smith for his male lead. It remains to be seen whether Spike’s protagonist will be played by a more pensive performer. The film, which Lee has also expressed tenuous interest in directing, has been given a 2007 release date.

For more on Spike Lee’s dubious intentions, read on at: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117944011?categoryid=13&cs=1

For an illustration of some of the project’s previous incarnations, go to:
http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue285/news.html

And for a timeline on this weird undertaking:
http://www.upcominghorrormovies.com/movies/sellingtime.php

David Seltzer, You Were Adopted

OMEN remake so faithful that only original's writer is credited.


Recent ink on the upcoming remake of THE OMEN has revealed that the retread is so thin that David Seltzer, scribe of Richard Donner’s original film, has received the sole writing credit on John Moore’s update – despite the fact that Seltzer and the new director have never even met. However, Irish-born Moore has bigger problems than an all-too-common lack of originality. The filmmaker may have damned himself and his movie by including footage of, among other contemporary tragedies, the devastation of September 11th, 2001, in order to imbue the fantasy with the sense that the End Times are upon us.

A May 16th press screening of his OMEN-remake played to a less than impressed audience. "During the introduction to the Q&A, a gentlemen purported to have a question, which really turned out to be a statement,” Moore recounted to Sci-Fi Wire. “He asked if I was from New York, and I said no. Then he said, 'How dare you use an image of 9/11, and your movie's a piece of sh--t.' And then he stormed off."

Like the 1976 original, the remake concerns Damien Thorn (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), the young son of a diplomat father (Liev Schreiber), and his devoted wife, Katherine (Julia Stiles). Sinister events surrounding the boy’s sixth birthday reveal to the Thorns that their son is the Antichrist. Lovers of the first OMEN will find that the greater body of the first film has been imported – in some cases word for word and shot for shot – into the present project. Moore excuses the absence of the remake’s proper screenwriter from the credits thusly: "Dan McDermott was a credited writer, but due to the machinations of the [Writer's Guild of America], he lost his credit." The specifics of that remain unexplained, but as to the text of his remake, Moore admits: "We did use Mr. Seltzer's script extensively."

Has Moore put any of his own touches on the material? "I think I did, by default," he said, in a moment of either pathological honesty or outright shame. "It's a different cast; it's a different movie; it's a different experience. The story is the same. I don't mean this in a flattering way to myself; I mean it in a flattering way to the text. It's a bit like a Shakespeare play. You very much want people to enjoy the experience of the play, but the text is so good, and the story tracks so well, that you feel inclined to stick with that.”

Knowing what one does about the director’s additions to the story, one may decide he was right to be so hands-off. But unlike the poor Thorn parents, Moore had been warned about what he was conceiving. "I did stay up late at night wondering whether or not to use [9/11 imagery] in the movie,” he confessed. “Other people said, 'For God's sake, use Rwanda' or something like that. Which in and of itself is interesting. But you'd have to be churlish to not understand that this is America. If you're using images of pain that happened in America, and you're showing it to Americans, you can expect there to be an emotional reaction." Evidently he hadn’t thought far enough ahead to discern just what kind of emotional reaction it would garner.

Moore’s last baffling words on the subject are as follows: "Believe me, I looked into a lot of cases of pure evil, and it's undeniable that looking at the last few years you can't walk away thinking that's not one of the most significant events. That's why it's used. I tried to use it in an analytical context. I didn't use it to get people upset."

Finally, the director claimed that he screened the end product for Richard Donner himself, and that the elder director was “happy with it”. If you’re not busy throwing rice at the wedding of Anton Lavey’s grandson in Las Vegas, you can see The Omen in theaters on 6/6/06 and form your own opinions.

To read more of John Moore in his own words, follow the links: http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=0&id=36281
http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=0&id=36234

For a selection of clips from his remake, go to:
http://movies.yahoo.com/feature/theomen.html

And for a brief history of the whole dubious enterprise:
http://www.upcominghorrormovies.com/movies/omen666.php

Friday, March 17, 2006

A PUERTO RICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON

Del Toro eats villagers, Walker mutilates story.

Lupine leading man Benicio Del Toro is slated to star in a Universal remake of the studio’s 1941 classic THE WOLF MAN. For the suave and swarthy actor, playing the eponymous lycanthrope will be a childhood dream come true, as Del Toro whiled away his younger years in the forests and caves of rural Puerto Rico, alone with fantasies of famous monsters. The grownup Benicio is an avid collector of Wolf Man memorabilia.

However, one wonders what will remain of the nostalgic romance usually ascribed to the Universal monster movie canon, since the project is being penned by SE7EN scribe Andrew Kevin Walker. Variety warns that the writer will add several new characters and gruesome plot points that will best lend themselves to “cutting-edge visual effects technology.” Considering the feeble results of the AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON update, one wonders just how much more visual stimulation today’s CG-reliant FX studios have to offer.

Narratively, the remake will not wander too far from the beaten path - it will be a Victorian period piece, at least. Our hero will be an American is bitten by a bipedal canine whilst visiting his ancestral English homeland, and subsequently finds himself switching species to take moonlight strolls and feast on human flesh. Del Toro will make the transformation in early 2007, after wrapping Steven Soderbergh’s Che Guevara biopic GUERRILLA, and THE WOLF MAN will hit theaters in summer 2008.

For further production details, read on at:
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117939760?categoryid=13&cs=1

Those wondering what qualifies Del Toro to succeed Lon Chaney Jr. may peruse his bio at:
http://www.tiscali.co.uk/entertainment/film/biographies/benicio_del_toro_biog.html

And to review Mr. Walker’s rap sheet (credited and otherwise):
http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1195151

BACK TO THE GRIND

Tarantino-Rodriguez trip down memory lane delayed.

Fanboys awaiting Robert Rodriguez’s return from his foray into family film territory will have to wait a little longer; the genre favorite’s latest adult-oriented project, GRINDHOUSE, has been pushed back from its September 22 release date to December 1 of this year. Like the Romero-Argento diptych TWO EVIL EYES (1990), GRINDHOUSE will be composed of two 75-minute segments – one directed by Rodriquez, and the other by SIN CITY-collaborator Quentin Tarantino.

No sooner are rumors of Michael Keaton’s involvement in the film debunked, than there is news of a role for rabid attention whore Tom Savini. The FX guru-cum-cameo machine first stepped in front of Rodriguez’s camera (alongside costar Tarantino) for the genre-bending sex-gore extravaganza FROM DUSK TILL DAWN in 1996. Apparently Savini’s performance as the aptly-named Sex Machine so pleased Rodriguez as to warrant a comeback, and so the gore effects godfather joins Danny Trejo, John Jarrett, and Alicia Rachel Marek in the GRINDHOUSE cast list.

It’s no surprise that Savini should be part of the package, considering that Rodriguez and Tarantino are both professional genre geeks; the project itself is designed to simulate the experience of a pre-Giuliani Times Square double feature, with a splattery zombie flick (Rodriguez’s “Project Terror”) and a slasher movie (Tarantino’s “Death Proof”) sandwiching a mock-trailer reel of fictitious exploitation features. TheWeinsteinCo. production, which the directors hope may be the first of a series, is currently filming in Austin, Texas.

For the first-hand Savini report, go to:
http://www.houseofhorrors.com/crypt/pages/recent_news/article_629.shtml

Those peeing their pants about the delay should keep an eye on:
http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/index.php?Show=5980&Template=newsfull

And for a thorough roundup of all known GRINDHOUSE facts and rumors to date:
http://www.joblo.com/upcomingmovies/movies.php?id=607

BLACK HOLE

Charles Burns masterpiece to be filmed by Alexandre Aja.

Visionary graphic novelist Charles Burns, indispensable contributor to pioneering publication Raw magazine and one of the most talented writer-artists in the history of the comic book industry, has finally earned the privilege of having his greatest labor of love adapted for the big screen. That’s right, Black Hole is now the property of Hollywood.

Pop-noir screenwriter Roger Avary (TRUE ROMANCE, RULES OF ATTRACTION, the upcoming SILENT HILL) and traitorous comic book hack Neil Gaiman (Sandman, MIRRORMASK) are teaming to translate Burn’s beloved masterpiece of doomed romance and human frailty into a screenplay to be directed by Alexandre Aja, the young French slasher filmmaker who recently made-over Wes Craven’s classic THE HILLS HAVE EYES. If it’s hard to imagine hardboiled Avary working with fruity fantasist Gaiman, it may be even harder for those who have seen Aja’s vicious hyperkinetic HIGH TENSION, or his relentlessly unpleasant Craven-produced HILLS, to imagine the director’s live action interpretation of Burn’s black and white, quietly disturbing suburban psychodrama.

Black Hole, a novel-length narrative that took Burns ten years to complete, is a Twin Peaks-esque tale of naïve Northwestern high school kids who fall victim to the “teen plague” – a protean STD that transforms the bodies of its hosts into terrifying new forms. The thinly-veiled AIDS allegory is by turns blackly comic, devastatingly tragic, and generally resembles an intimate retelling of a beautiful dream. It remains to be seen whether the writing duo also responsible for Robert Zemeckis’s forthcoming tech monstrosity BEOWULF, and the director who specializes in flesh-rending mayhem will be capable of channeling any of the myriad virtues of Charles Burn’s Black Hole in their film.

First word came from:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com

For a Burns bio and reviews of his most revered work, read on at:
http://www.artbomb.net/profile.jsp?idx=1&cid=103

For an interview with Avary on his previous collaboration with Gaiman, follow the link:
http://www.fangoria.com/news_article.php?id=3743

Friday, December 16, 2005

CRONENBERG AT THE WALTER READ, PT. 2

After a wonderful evening spent in the company of the cast and composer of his recent success A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, director David Cronenberg returned alone to spend a more intimate moment with the patrons of New York City's Walter Reade Theater on the night of November 29. The graceful, imperiously intelligent filmmaker arrived in yet another gray-velvet-dominated ensemble, prepared to answer any remaining questions about HISTORY or anything else in his oeuvre with his trademark velour intonations and wintery countenance. Even old flesh is erotic flesh.
The Toronto-dwelling director's return to Manhattan so soon after his last visit was certainly called for; it seems that A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE has proven itself to be a film that requires repeat examination from multiple angles. Apparently after having viewed HISTORY with a lethally somber American audience, Village Voice critic and Midnight Movies author J. Hoberman felt that a Canadian screening was essential – and true to his intuition, his northern journey found him with an audience that frequently roared with laughter. Unsurprised by this information, Cronenberg contributed, "The movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May, and there was a famous incident which involved an Austrian critic (at a press screening)…I think it actually was New York Times critics who were chuckling (and) laughing it up, and this (Austrian) critic stood up and said 'Shut up you fucking piece of shit critics, don't you know that this is not funny, it's serious!'" The Times critics' blogs reflect that the Austrian was certainly an intelligent and talented critic, but "they felt that they had a better handle, and I think they were right, on what was going on in the film than he did, because (HISTORY) does ask the audience to twist and turn in terms of tone. It's funny, and (then) it's immediately shocking, and then it's immediately scary, and then it's immediately funny again, and then it's sad and emotional. It does all that, and it is a dangerous thing to do because you're walking a tight rope and it can backfire on you." The director, known for his perhaps willful urge to upset and even repel his audience, often with the use of unfamiliar and otherworldly elements, said of the relatively earthy, naturalistic HISTORY, "What I really wanted to do was replicate the kind of emotional rollercoaster that you could have over the course of a normal day. You read something tragic and you're upset, then something funny happens in your office, then someone phones you and is in a panic. All of these things happen (in life), why can't a movie have that many moods within it? But I think the template for movies today is very clunky… Hollywood movies and movies that follow that pattern tend to be 'Now it's sad and the music is sad and the lighting is said SAD and you know it's sad, and then you can move on to something that's funny.' There's never any mixing of tones and moods. And people can get confused…they think they're supposed to be somber because it's the new Cronenberg movie, and if they think that that's a serious thing then it must be approached seriously. But I've never made a movie that's not funny. They're all funny." Well…a beat passes. Facial muscles contract. A moment of doubt comes and goes. Then, "Maybe THE BROOD wasn't very funny." He smirks, referring to a film he made in direct response to the event of his then-wife joining a cult and attempting to induct their child and escape from him altogether. "I was in a really bad mood when I made that movie. But that's about the only one that doesn't have genuine laughs in it."

Despite the multifaceted emotional responses of various audiences, Cronenberg can happily say that HISTORY has yielded "one of the best critical responses I've ever had." For the so-called Dave "Deprave", positive critical reaction is an occurrence worth remarking upon. He first made a name for himself in 1975 by scandalizing the Canadian government when he exploited its tax shelter structure to finance the wantonly grotesque and erotic SHIVERS (which, despite public outcry, is the only film made with Canadian tax money to have actually made money back), and within the past decade his NC-17-ratedCRASH was verboten in parts of the UK. Critic Chris Tookey's call for the ban was taken seriously in the cultural center of Westminster, reflecting agreement with limey critic Alex Walker's assessment that the fetishy J.G. Ballard adaptation was indeed "beyond the bounds of depravity." "I thought that was pretty good territory to be in," chuckled Cronenberg, before concluding calmly, "but, um, he's dead." In response to the house's astonished laughter, the director added with a wry smile, "I do not forgive."

Certainly this director, one of the few with dual citizenship in the art house community and the mainstream, has run up against a relatively high degree of antagonism from censors and critics over the course of his career, and sees that continuing to happen even in this more enlightened era. "It's very hard to get a difficult film made now…it's very difficult to get an independent film made that's edgy," he said, allowing for difficulty on both sides of the indie/mainstream fence. "It's something that people have talked about vis-à-vis Sundance…(we) are starting to see films that are obviously rehearsals for studio films…it's just the tenor of the times," he shrugged. So at this relatively permissive point in time, what is it that makes a film "difficult"? "Violence is not edgy," Cronenberg elaborated. "In terms of movies, violence is just bread and butter…sex and violence are the basics. 'Conflict is the essence of drama,' said George Bernard Shaw, and violence is of course the most basic kind of conflict. So I don't think violence (gives) you edge; what you see in a lot of movies is not even real violence, it's attitude. Attitude is anti-art because it's a pretense, it's a façade, it's a defensive mechanism. It means that you're really not digging deep, you're not going into something real, where something makes you vulnerable. If what you express is attitude, then it's all defensive, and you can't be defensive if you're going to be an artist." So despite what might be perceived as a sadistic bent in his movies, Cronenberg's real priority is the preservation of a certain kind of vulnerability, particularly within himself. This should not surprise anyone who is aware of Cronenberg's roots in the cinema underground of which Jonas Mekas was part – but by the way, what became of his relationships with the subterranean community now that he's ascended to mainstream status? "I try to crush all other filmmakers," was Cronenberg's deadpan assertion, much to the delight of the house. "It's important to be honest about that."

Despite his art world roots, on the director's previous visit to the Walter Reade he made several in-no-uncertain-terms statements regarding his constitutional rejection of a postmodern approach to his subject matter, espousing instead a kind of single-minded, in-the-moment earnestness about the depiction of his characters and their generally science-fictitious predicaments. On this his second visit, the audience again confronted the director with what some believed was a po-mo meditation on (for instance) the mass media that stretched between VIDEODROME and eXistenZ – and this time, some even suggested that Cronenberg's sci-fi speculations could be prophetic. The director explained away the Blake-ian notion of the artist-cum-prophet, and his apparent precognitive powers regarding the metastasis of mass media, as such: "As an artist you allow your antennae to go right out as far as they can and to be as sensitive as possible. It makes you very vulnerable to pain and to all kinds of other things, but you have to lower your own defenses and to allow all these things to pour in and to allow yourself to see things and to be in touch with things within yourself and in society in general that other people are hedged against…because they're afraid of it or because they need to repress certain things in order to function. If you do that, if you allow those antennae to pick up stuff that around, then I think that you would inevitably end up predicting things just by accident." Taking as an example his early sci-fi/horror hybrid about a woman who becomes a kind of vampire after the implantation of undifferentiated tissue, he further explained, "For example, in RABID I actually invented stem cell research. I should get the Nobel Prize, but somehow I don't think I will. I went to Stockholm recently to get a lifetime achievement award from the Stockholm Film Festival, and that was ONLY because it was as close to the Nobel Prize as I was going to get."

Additionally, it came out that Cronenberg had refused to do any research on dementia when directing SPIDER in order to avoid the perils of properly presenting schizophrenia in a clinically and politically correct light. So with the implication that scientific accuracy is almost an accident of intuition, he was asked, did he research any of his other films? Did he research flies before making THE FLY? "Well, I knew all about flies before I made THE FLY," he shrugged, almost perplexed by the question. Then, seemingly to himself, "Everybody knows about flies."

That mention of Cronenberg's most visceral work brought forth a question that has bothered devout gore hounds and strict genre buffs since his recent turn to drier, more literary, less literal horror films. Will the director ever make another true horror film? Cronenberg's broad brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed in thought as a long thin stream of Poland Spring water escaped his lips and dribbled onto his chest. Silence in the house. "Well, I just drooled on myself, so I guess that would be your answer," the filmmaker laughed. Responding directly to a specific question regarding Cronenbergian horror, he made a surprising claim: "I was never obsessed with 'the horror within'…but for me, philosophically, the first fact of human existence is the human body, and I think that that is the beginning and end of us…and therefore it requires serious discussion in films, and examination, and I suppose that's why my movies are in one way or another very body-oriented, and I would include for example SPIDER." He defended that relatively quiet English melodrama about one man's insanity as quite at home within his viscerally horrific oeuvre, "You can smell Spider in that movie. And HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is (viscerally horrific) in its own way as well. So although these are not sci-fi movies, they are still, I feel, thematically, viscerally and tactilely connected with (my) earlier films, which are a little more fantastic about it. But I wouldn't hesitate to do another horror film. I've been through this before when I did THE DEAD ZONE. A lot of people were saying, 'He's moving into the mainstream, that movie's not very gory, it's more psychological,' and this and that, and then the next movie I made was THE FLY, which was very gory and very definitely a horror film…I wouldn't turn my back on genre filmmaking. I don't think I ever have, actually."

So considering that, can the world expect to see another literal horror film from Cronenberg in the near future? According to the director, the scripts he is offered are more often than not unrelated to his interests. "They often make a mistake, a very critical one, because they send me stuff that has to do with the devil and supernatural stuff and things with demons and ghosts and stuff, and I don't do those…that's because of my own aetheistic, existentialist, humanist leanings. I don't really think about afterlife, and I don't particularly want to promote that idea either…I just don't have that empathy for it. I certainly understand ghosts in the psychological sense, certainly my parents are both dead, they've been dead for a long time, and I can hear their voices, I can feel them, touch them, so I'm haunted in that sense, but I don't for one second think that they're floating around somewhere watching me. So I could do a sort of a psychological discussion of ghostness, let's say, but I wouldn't ever want to propose it as a literal fact…so I often get scripts like that. People seem to just think 'If it's a horror film, it's a horror film'…(but) I couldn't have done THE EXORCIST. I mean, I can watch it and enjoy it, and I could actually plug into it for (a) moment for its sort of medieval catholic frisson…but I could never have done that, because I couldn't have taken it seriously."

So is there anything on the menu that is more in line with the director's personal inclinations? One question from the audience referred to rumors of a new car movie to follow CRASH (and FAST COMPANY and THE ITALIAN MACHINE, for the aficionado). "That script was called RED CARS, and it was about Formula One racing, which is something I am very passionate about, and I have raced cars and motorcycles in the past…It's about American Phil Hill winning the world championship in 1961…I have not been able to get that made. However, some crazy Italians who were beautiful book publishers at a company called Volumina approached me and said, 'Do you have anything?' and I said, 'Well, I have a script'…They got very excited…and they have published this book that's absolutely gorgeous, and it comes with a model of the Ferrari that Phil Hill drove," the director enthused, his auto-fetish showing. "They went to the Ferrari archives and got photos from them, but they have also treated them in the most artfully beautiful way, and the book is the script plus photos…almost stills from the movie that didn't get made. And you can go to www.redcars.it , and you can order one of these books. It's very cathartic (for me) because I think that's as far as (RED CARS) is ever going to go; it just seems to be a movie that must be too expensive for the audience that can be expected…but that is a fantastic book. 130 euros, you can't go wrong!"
Also circulating in the rumor mill, alongside entirely erroneous ideas about the director acting in an Italian production called I KILL and his directing a version of Frankenstein, is talk of a miniseries based on DEAD RINGERS. "Worse than a miniseries," Cronenberg corrected his interlocutor wryly, "it's supposed to be a series – it could run for years! It's something that has been suggested to me by Carol Baum (an original DEAD RINGERS producer)…I think it was the success of Nip/Tuck that generated this idea, and they came to me with it and said that HBO would be interested in it, and so it turned out to be. The pilot is being written at this moment by a young writer named Wesley Strick, who pitched a very interesting version of it to me, which was very faithful to the tone of the movie. I wouldn't have done it if I thought it was going to be really tacky and exploitive." After a pause he admitted, laughing, "Exploitive is obviously a relative term when you talk about television…but it was very touching and very emotional and very true, and his understanding of where it could go after that was also pretty interesting, so based on that I became an executive producer, (and) I will have the option to direct the pilot if I want." One can only hope the director will take that option to set the tone himself; it is worth mentioning that perennial stuffed turtleneck Leonard Maltin called the original film "fascinating, but unpleasant". "(As) most unpleasant things are," rejoined Cronenberg.
Last question about future projects: what about LONDON FIELDS, which good old IMDb.com lists as having a 2006 release date? "LONDON FIELDS is a possibility," Cronenberg allowed. "That's a Martin Amos ISN'T THIS AMIS? novel, and I'm a big Martin Amos fan. There is a script that he co-wrote that's very good, (but) it's an independent film, and that means that there's a lot of people attached to it that I don't know, and that's tricky. So I actually at the moment don't know what my next film will be, I have no idea."

So with all his promises that he will not abandon the genre community, is there anything that he won't do? The question boils down to, What freaks out David Cronenberg? The answer is that "freaked out" and "wouldn't do" are virtually mutually exclusive ideas. "If something freaked me out it wouldn't mean that I'd be less likely to do it, but (that) I'd be more likely to do it, because I think that's really what the artistic compulsion is…that you don't accept reality as it is presented to you, neither socially (nor) even physically. You're always wanting to know what's really going on, you're going into the ceilings, you're going into the walls, you're digging under the floor, because you want to know what's really going on and you (feel) that you missed the real version of life on earth and the human condition as it's officially presented, let's say by society or high art, so you're constantly looking for that stuff." And he adds that, as a filmmaker, "you're a dramatist as well…so you are looking for those moments where things go wrong. Usually where things go wrong, you see how they're put together. I mean, you don't bother about the engine in your car until it starts to go wrong and then you want to know 'what is a cam shaft and why is mine not working properly'; so, not to be too mechanistic about it, but that's the (artistic) impulse…and if you're talking about censorship, I have said and I meant it, that as an artist you have no social responsibility whatsoever. On the contrary, you have to have sort of a willing amnesia, you have to forget for the moment (in which) you're being an artist what the effect of what you're doing might be or what the revelations that you come up with might suggest, or what the implications of that are…it's so easy to destroy yourself by being responsible as an artist, (by worrying) about being politically correct is dead as an artist, immediately." Although it seems as if the filmmaker is advocating an entirely solipsistic approach to the creative process, it turns out that his suggestions have quite far-reaching political implications. "In terms of censorship, the ultimate triumph of the totalitarian state has always been to create the internalization of censorship so that the state doesn't even have to worry about it, citizens are so self-censored that they automatically reduce themselves to impotence. And it's very easy to do that even in a place (with) gentle, even right-minded political movements. You could make a case for political correctness as having (a) certain validity, but if you incorporate that into your nervous system and that is there when you're trying to create art, then you're finished. You're absolutely finished."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

CRONENBERG AT THE WALTER READE, PT. 1

David Cronenberg is joined by his cast and composer at the Walter Reade for an investigation of his HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.

As we all know by now, David Cronenberg's in-name-only adaptation of John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel A History of Violence has far outshone its source material. (The director referred his initial ignorance of his supposed source material, "I've accused [screenwriter Josh Olsen] of suppressing the book, but he swears it was an accident,") Cronenberg's HISTORY is a grim, intimate portrayal of a devoted family man with a grisly criminal past, and his inability to hide it from his loved ones forever. In the director's oeuvre, which is populated largely by loquacious weirdos, familiar-unfamiliar urban locals, and pseudoscientific redefinitions of humanity, HISTORY sticks out like a sore thumb. Questions about its tone and texture were bound to arise, and the director was on hand at the Walter Reade theater in New York City with three of his stars, Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, and William Hurt, as well as his composer Howard Shore to field those inquiries.

"Well, I certainly didn't want this to be a movie about movies," Cronenberg began, accounting for the unusual guilelessness of his new film. "This is a modernist movie. There's no irony, there's no cynicism, there are no quotation marks around everything. But at the same time it's a movie that's more about America's mythology of itself than it is about America as you might see it walking into a small town with a video camera; so there's a kind of remove there, a kind of disconnect, a kind of unreality."

But of course, it would be impossible, and perhaps inadvisable, for an artist as high-minded as Cronenberg to simply eschew his awareness of the time-honored iconic Americana that is a key ingredient in HISTORY: "We did talk about American Western movies, and about John Ford, and Howard Hawks, and all that, (because) you can feel that there's an Aaron Copelandy thing, there's a real American landscape…although once again, I say somewhat mythological, but still believed and felt."

That "felt"ness is a crucial part of the dark but deeply sincere film of which he spoke, and it is what made Cronenberg's standby composer Howard Shore such an integral part of its creation. Shore, a strangely vulnerable bespectacled straight-shooter, gave such naked explanations of his spiritual creative process and heeding his inner voice, that it prompted such questions as whether he culled artistic inspiration from his dreams. The composer laughed, "Napping is a good part of it…music is very ephemeral and abstract in a lot of ways and it's because what it really is, is a feeling that you're trying to capture. There is a technical part of it…but you have to feel something to write music. I find that films are a bit of a dream state, and I like to put myself in that dream state even when I'm away from the film."

David the science major grounded the discussion, "Sometimes when Howard and I are taking naps together, we talk about what music can do for a scene and a movie. There's an obvious thing…which is to support what's going on in a scene; when it's a funny scene you get funny music, when it's scary you get scary music, if there's crying in a scene you get sad music, but with Howard…there are many levels that get expressed with his music. Sometimes the music isn't actually talking about the scene that you're watching, it's about another scene and very often the tone of it (is) contrapuntal. It's not just sort of trying to emphasize what you've already seen, it can actually add a whole other layer of meaning to the movie. I think that's what Howard is so great at, and it's not that common actually."

True to his stated ambitions, the director continuously hits a very precise note regarding the difference between genuine mystery and post-modern double meaning over the course of his misty rural fable, which requires a careful balance between psychoanalytic intelligence and a pure-hearted determination to maintain the plausible plain folk-ness of his characters. This, of course, requires a rather profound sensitivity to the needs of actors., "I didn't want (the actors) to play that…these characters don't know they're in a movie…and that's where you get that interesting tension between the reality and the unreality."

Whatever he did to keep a performer as startlingly bright as Viggo Mortensen's po-mo faculties at bay, it seems to have worked, and Cronenberg's effusively affectionate actors love him for it. Mortensen responded to his director's waxing Americana, "I thought we were making a Canadian movie!" But he proceeds reverently: "When I read it, I thought it would be an interesting story, but that it would most likely turn out to be an exploitation movie, something a lot more superficial than it turned out to be…but I didn't know that David Cronenberg was going to be the director, and when I found out that he was going to direct and he was interested in me as a possible candidate for the part I played, I thought, 'Oh that's interesting, I wonder why he wants to make this movie.' But the moment that we sat down, any questions that I had and any doubts I had about possible traps that would almost force you to make a bad movie, or a not very original movie, he seemed to have already been working on the same questions and many more,…and I felt very comfortable right away; so the short answer is, I wanted to do this movie because David Cronenberg was directing it."

Maria Bello, a woman of fewer words than her leading man, cut right to the chase: "I have to say it was about David as well. I didn't even read the script. I've been a huge fan of (his)…I've never walked away from one of (his) films…without questioning something I hadn't questioned before. So I met David as a fan, and I thought 'I would do ANYTHING that this man wanted me to do,' and then the script came to me and I didn't even have to read it to say yes, I want to be with you and work with you."

Her somewhat alarming outburst obligated Viggo to joke, "You should have seen what he made her do that's not in the movie."

Cronenberg calmly assured his audience, "It will be on the DVD."

(Here it may be necessary to mention that this evening's audience failed to test the wit and witticism of William Hurt, who answered shortly and sharply questions like "Have you ever played a gang leader before?" with replies like "No, just window dressing." Oh well.)

HISTORY is clearly a film that demands more of its actors than any other craftsperson that moviemaking requires. It is apparent that Cronenberg's careful guidance yielded much in terms of deepening his charges' understanding of their tricky, multivalent roles. Asked about the plausible persistence of the personality of gangster Joey Cusack in his new life as family man Tom Stall, Viggo responded, "I never saw (Tom and Joey) as two people…I think that we all have maybe limitless sides…even little kids can imagine all kinds of good things and all kinds of bad things, and if you can imagine it you can do it. Society works more OR of less because we censor ourselves."
Just as many viewers were interested in Tom's wife Edie's ability to cope with the revelation of the gruesome past of the father of her children. Maria Bello fielded such inquiries thoughtfully: "Some people say, 'Ok, so what are you going to do now? Are you going to accept him?' And what I realized it wasn't about him at all, at that point…he had been a mirror for me to uncover my own shadow, and here I am looking at myself in a new way and discovering parts of myself I hadn't even acknowledged, and now I have to say, 'Who am I now? And where do I fit into all of this, and what do I want?'…Yes, it's about Tom (and) Joey, but it's about (the whole family) now as individuals and how do we proceed in our lives."

But how did Cronenberg exercise his masterful guidance of the actors? Well, he told us what he didn't do. "To me, rehearsal (isn't) valuable…because (on set) everything changed for me, it was a very sculptural, tactile experience. I want to touch the actors and move them around and see what they have to bring, but it has to be on the set, otherwise you're just kidding yourself, because if you can't be in the actual space you're shooting in, you're not really making a movie yet. I remember on CRASH, Holly Hunter said, 'We really want to rehearse,' and I said, 'Oh, I don't rehearse.' And she said, 'David, we really need to rehearse,' and I said, 'Holly, I Don't…" And then SHE said, 'Look, David, we all fuck each other in this movie, and we don't know each other, so we need to rehearse.' And I said, 'Oh, you want to "get to know each other", that's not the same as rehearsing, I'll do that!'"

And of course, this reminder of David's own pervy filmmaking past begs certain questions…what was that thing I read on the internet? Cronenberg's placid countenance contorts. Facial muscles tick, mouth opens and closes, legs cross and recross. Finally, directly to Viggo: "DON'T YOU DARE." This incited hysteria in the house and on the stage, and when it finally died down, we got the real story: contrary to the popular understanding, David Cronenberg did not, in fact, have violent repeated public intercourse with his wife on set for the edification of his romantic leads.

"Just don't believe anything (Viggo) says," the director laughs. "Well…so the story goes like this. This is what we said at the Toronto film festival, and then Viggo went on Letterman and said this too, so it's become fact. Talk about mythology…it's only good for my rep, I suppose…these actors had no idea what to do with that scene, so I said, 'Well, it's something that my wife and I do every night, so why don't I bring her to the set and just show you.' And then Viggo and Maria picked it up…and then after 10 times they said, 'Ok, WE GET IT…' anyway, this is the story.

"NOT TRUE.

"But it has become true. And we're building new stairs. No carpeting."

He proceeded with more shop talk: "Even though a sex scene of that kind is difficult, because the actors are obviously vulnerable in ways that in a normal scene, perhaps (they would) not be…it's not that different from a dialogue scene, and (with the) violent scenes as well, it wasn't a big deal…different scenes scare different people. And sometimes you're surprised at which ones. Sometimes it can be a very simple dialogue scene that the actors are worried about…it's not always the most obvious. So for me it was just business as usual. Let's block the scene and see what happens. You know, call the wife…"

Inevitably, the big question of his treatment of the idea of human violence arose. Cronenberg took it from the beginning: "I don't come to a scene or a movie with a preconceived idea or an abstract concept let's say about where violence should be going in cinema or what has been done or the way it has been portrayed…I want the movie to tell me what it needs. It's like a child…it's your child, but it's not the child that you maybe thought you were going to have, and yet it's still very demanding…and you have to decide, 'I must give this child what it needs so that it can resolve itself, realize itself.' …I don't try to impose anything from the outside. So I ask myself in this movie, 'Where does the violence come from?' The answer was, 'certain people'. What does violence mean to them, and where did they learn their violence?…They learned it in the streets of Philly, and that's sort of what Joey says, he says 'I thought business would come first.'…Violence for them is business; it's not martial arts, it's not aesthetics, it's not even sadistic, it's just business…so that gives me the key to what the violence should feel like…it would be very brutal and short and quick, and it would be very real time. No double cutting, no slow motion…it was meant to be as realistic in that way as possible, and you would also see the consequences of the violence because otherwise it still becomes action movie violence that is there for the exhilaration…so that's why those shots are there that show what the result is."

Finally, when asked whether he thought virtual violence in the media affected actual violence in the world at large, the director did not ask his interlocutor why he would attend a film called A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE if he thought his question had the slightest real social import. Instead, he kept it simple: "Certainly I've never believed that it's a simple copy cat kind of thing. I mean, I must have seen eight million people killed on screen since I was a kid, and I have not killed anybody as yet. So I'm proof that one does not do what one sees."

Cronenberg will continue his latter day literary bent with a screen version of the novel London Fields, adapted by its author Martin Amis. But before that film's 2006 release date, Cronenberg will be on view again at the Walter Reade on November 29, this time in company of SPIDER's lead, Ralph Fiennes.

Friday, October 28, 2005

COSCARELLI DRILLS HEADS, LIBERATES WOMEN...PHANTASM

Director Don Coscarelli continues to terrify, but with a new female perspective, when premiering Masters of Horror episode at NYCHFF.

"I'd like to thank you all for coming out here to watch a TV episode," Don Coscarelli quipped demurely before unveiling his latest work at the New York City Horror Film Festival on Friday, October 15, a week before it was to appear on the small screen. The creator of the PHANTASM and BEASTMASTER franchises had the honor of directing the premier episode of Showtime's Masters of Horror miniseries. "I don't necessarily consider myself in that category," said the charmingly frank Coscarelli of the grandiose title, which is also meant to refer to twelve other directors who were tapped for the task: Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, William Malone, Lucky McKee, John McNaughton, and Takashi Miike.

How did Coscarelli, who admittedly has a narrower resume than most of the other Masters, get involved? It began with a dinner invitation from writer-director-producer Mick Garris, whose numerous TV credits include Tales from the Crypt and a number of other horror-oriented programs. For one night the PHANTASM director had the privilege of dining alongside Argento, Hooper, Cohen, Carpenter, and even Guillermo del Toro (though the later did not end up on Masters' roster). Coscarelli recalls the evening as a beautiful meeting of the minds; this did not elude Garris, who "decided to monetize the whole thing" and create MoH, complete with introductory footage of himself, Gordon, Dante and Landis sharing a meal. Sticking to what he knows, Coscarelli decided to adapt another story by Joe "Bubba Ho-tep" Lansdale, and derived his episode from the author's short story "Incident On and Off a Country Road".

"Incident" introduces us to weepy young Ellen (Bree Turner), who is on the run from romantic disappointment. We know that she's probably recently lost her husband because she's listening to syrupy country and western music whilst wending her way down a rural road in blackest night. But this being a horror story, her journey is cut short by a car wreck caused by your usual forest-dwelling albino gargantua with metal teeth. It is at this point that Ellen's memories of the ex (Ethan Embry) serve her well – turns out the ex in question was a nutjob weekend warrior who spent the duration of their relationship trying to imbue his waify wife with Survival Skills. Although those required courses lead to his eventual ex'ing, they come in handy now as a series of flashbacks to his tough-love life lessons teaches her how to turn the contents of her purse into a bunch of lethal weapons. However, her best efforts are not enough to fend off the 6'10" mutant (played by the hulking John de Santis, whose cargo pants and jungle boots indicate that he was probably also a survivalist before ratcheting it up a notch to serial murderer), who drags her back to his cabin and gives her a demo of what he does to the eyeballs of his victims before making crucified lawn ornaments out of their remains.

About the latter issue, the director told his festival audience that since Lansdale had neglected to include any explanation of how his mutant manhunter gets those nice clean holes through the crania of his victims, the director decided to take a little artistic liberty. Apparently he was experiencing a little performance anxiety from having shooting his episode after maestro Argento had already shot his own, "Jennifer", which prominently features a shocking scene in which the eponymous woman (Coscarelli stammered, evidently still disturbed) "literally eats a man". The result of Coscarelli's efforts is…interesting. Suffice it to say that fans of the bizarro blue collar arsenal employed in PHANTASM II will be just as baffled by Coscarelli's latest misuse of power tools as the rest of us. Incidentally, this is not the only addition to the text – to make room for bosom buddy the Tall Man, Don generated a whole new character. Kindly old man Angus Scrimm (who accompanied his director to the NYCHFF screening) plays Buddy, a psychotic singing septuagenarian who lives in the killer's industrialized basement and whose nonsensical ramblings elliptically guide the heroine to safety. When Coscarelli asked Scrimm to recall Lansdale's response to the Buddy, the actor quoted exuberantly, "I thought he stood out like a hard-on at a wedding party!"

The author's objections notwithstanding, "Incidents" is a curiosity in the context of the director's male-centric oeuvre. Virtually all of Coscarelli's films can be described as boys' coming of age tales, or conversely, stories that focus on men who are visibly past their prime finding a (generally supernatural) reason to prove their vitality and continue to self-actualize into advancing age. When I asked Don about the sex change, he replied, "I grew up in a house full of real liberated women, and so I sort of had that drilled into my head, and then when I read this I thought 'What a great opportunity to do that'…it's really a story about a woman who marries wrong, and has to deal with that." Also interesting about the episode is that it does away entirely with any evidence of the male nobility we've come to expect from the director; his heroine has to learn to access her personal power via the teachings of one of the worst specimens of masculinity, the racist paranoid weapons fetishist, in order to defeat an even uglier version of man, the murderous misogynist.

But of course, Coscarelli's cinematic speculations on male experience do not his films inaccessible to the fair sex. I couldn't help noting that I found the most compelling part of BUBBA HO-TEP (about a geriatric Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy fighting an evil mummy in their nursing home) to be the sincere and substantial manifestation of male bonding between his stars, the venerable (late) Ossie Davis and genre superstar Bruce Campbell. Pleased but eternally humble, Coscarelli explained, "I wish I could take credit for that, but it was all Bruce and Ossie…Ossie had no idea who Bruce was (or) that he's a god among men…but Bruce has these working class Midwestern roots and he made Ossie laugh, and the two of them became kind of an item on the set."

Not wishing to stray to far from the previous talk of drilling heads and boys' coming of age, I had to ask a question about PHANTASM that none of my research yielded Coscarelli's answer to: what about that scene that you quoted directly from DUNE? PHANTASM predates David Lynch's screen adaptation of Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic by about five years, but any modern genre buff should recognize the near-plagiarism in the former film when an old witch demands that young Michael "put his hand in the box" to teach him that "fear is the killer". Coscarelli laughed, "People do ask me about that sometimes, but I guess Frank Herbert fans are not the same people as DUNE fans! But you know what the real influence was that people never ask me about is 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'." While Coscarelli was directing his first film, the straight boys' coming of age tale KENNY AND COMPANY, his star Reggie Banister suggested that he take the gang from that film and scratch his itch to adapt the aforementioned Ray Bradbury classic. Three years later when that adaptation emerged as PHANTASM (or THE NEVER DEAD in Australia), Angus Scrimm called Coscarelli one night to tell him "I'm at a screening in L.A., and Ray Bradbury is here!" Despite Coscarelli's cowing terror, he was told that the scribe emerged from the theater raving, "It was great! I loved it!"

After Masters of Horror's October 28 premier, Coscarelli will go to work on his prequel to BUBBA HO-TEP, entitled BUBBA NOSFERATU, which finds Bruce Campbell's Elvis having trouble with female vampires on a Louisiana film shoot. While looking forward to that, horror fans can keep occupied with the thirteen-episode run of Masters, which continues next week with Stuart Gordon's "Dreams of the Witch House" on Friday, November 4.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

ROGER CORMAN RECEIVES NYCHFF LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Festival honors beloved B-movie mogul for fifty years of innovation and commitment to genre cinema.

In the four years since its inception, the New York City Horror Film Festival has had the honor of welcoming such genre luminaries as George Romero, Tom Savini, and Tobe Hooper to receive the fest's Lifetime Achievement Award for their continued willingness to push the envelope for horrific subject matter and the graphic realization thereof. Although the work of these three men is a relatively recent memory for the modern genre fan, each of them owes a debt to this year's award recipient - Roger Corman. On the penultimate evening of the NYCHFF, the innovative filmmaker treated the festival audience to a Q&A following a screening of his MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) and the subsequent award ceremony.

As the modern horror aficionado may warmly expect, Corman's vintage Poe adaptation looks a little cheesy and nakedly cheap; however, as the silent adulation of the Tribeca Cinema audience attests, MASQUE's lurid color, seamy perversity and mirthful displays of sadism have stood the test of time. The tall slender director-cum-producer himself has aged with a similar peculiar grace, and offered inspiring and occasionally off-beat answers to the questions of his largely young interlocutors. It was particularly kind of Corman to spend his time thusly, considering the substantial body of writing that has been produced by, for, and about him since the beginning of his filmmaking career some fifty years ago. Plausibly there is no question that has gone unanswered by this juncture, but perhaps some things bear repeating.

Of MASQUE's seedy surrealism, the director offered the equally curious interpretation that "Poe is writing against the unconscious, and I should say, away from reality." When one hears such a thing, it may be helpful to recall that Corman himself is no stranger to altered states, confessing to have prepared for the making of his drug induced fantasy THE TRIP (1967) by "taking the lead of Timothy Leary" and heading out to Big Sur to experience his own Lovely Sort of Death. Although he claimed elusively that this was "an act of conscientious objection", this undertaking presented a different sort of trouble than he'd imagined: "My only problem was that I had a wonderful trip," he laughed. He had to consult with the film's screenwriter Jack Nicholson and costars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, among others, who had actually experienced bad trips, in order to "put all those trips together to make the film."

That in mind, it may be easier to get past the Corman's engineering education and his calculating manner of stretching money and material as far as possible, and imagine that even today he claims to remain most interested in the artistic end of production. When the director (who named THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN as his all-time favorite film) was asked to identify his favorite part of the movie making process, he instantly replied that it is "the conceptual process, working with the art director...the shooting is very difficult, whereas the thinking I find very pleasant."

Proceeding along those lines, the venerable movie mogul validated what many of us in the much maligned genre-loving community have always held true: "The genre of horror is one of the most creative ways of working in film. (You can use) comedy, pure horror, philosophy, straight slasher; it's very much underestimated."

At the end of his visit, Corman continued to espouse a primary love for artistry and auteurship in the horror demimonde, particularly from the underdog. Although it could be argued that the high cost of filmmaking separates the truly passionate from the dabblers, Roger supported the evolution of the video medium, particularly HD, as the answer to the independent movie maker's prayers. Since it more or less frees the artist from a mass of financial worries, it allows the prospective director to operate primarily "based more on his or her own creativity."

Although Corman himself last took up the mantle of direction in 1990 and has produced upward of 360 films as opposed to his 55 directorial efforts, it is his pioneering spirit and fundamental love for the perseverance of the artistic expression that grants him his high post in the hearts and minds of even the youngest generations of filmmakers. Roger's latest prospect is an update of one of his older productions, Paul Bartel's 1975 cult favorite DEATHRACE 2000. The new picture (entitled DEATHRACE 3000, of course) was announced in the spring of this year, and is set to be directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, of ALIEN VS. PREDATOR fame.

For further details on the history of the NYCHFF, proceed to: http://www.nychorrorfest.com/

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Rape Me, Nunsploit Me


Ok, I confess. I couldn’t do it. No part of this passing year and its needless number of repeat viewings brought with it the artistic inspiration or the verbal aptitude necessary to describe to you that which is KILLER NUN (1978). Neither drink nor smoke, nor fast nor abstinence, nor prayer nor lucid dream nor days and nights of wakefulness have granted me the vision and skill needed to convey the true nature of this cinematic experience to my readership. So, mea culpa, everybody. I suck. I’m going to have to resort to the time-honored tradition of simply cataloguing the myriad dubious pleasures Giulio Berruti’s film provides. Just try to imagine that you’re standing in front of the world’s longest series of lobby cards and, I defy you, visualize what their attached graphics might be...

THRILL to the sight of frog-faced cheesecake Anita “The Iceberg” Ekberg (42-27-38 at age 46) as Sister Gertrude, cruel mistress of the psych ward of a general hospital.
ENTER the big titty nun dorm, where Anita and Paola Morra (Italian Playmate of the Month Sept ’78, previously nunsploited in SEX LIFE IN A CONVENT) sleep naked in four-poster beds three feet apart, separated only by flowing chiffon drapery.
HEAR Sister Gertrude tell her PhD colleague that she needs more mooooorphiiiiiine. Apparently that’s what brain tumor removal does to a gal.
LISTEN the singing saw a whole bunch.
FREAK OUT with Gertrude as she stamps an ill-behaved old lady’s dentures into unrecognizable mush at the dinner table.
WITNESS Gertrude being totally unhelpful to a patient dying of a heart attack so she can steal and pawn the deceased biddy’s jewelry.
ROCK OUT to the sounds of the crappiest fusion jazz of all time. Yes, that’s quite a distinction.
OGLE the Iceberg as she dons the biggest hardest cocktail gown in the world so she can go out and pawn hot jewelry in order to score drugs, try to bang a guy with a deceased gerbil clinging tenuously to his eggplant-like chin, and finally engage in the Worst Sex Scene Ever Shot by a Human Being.
GET ALL PISSED OFF with Mother Superior Alida Valli, who couldn’t understand why her disciplinarian character had to spend screen time eating bon bons in bed.
BOGGLE at the half-dream/half-flashback in which an old lady makes out with a rotten basketball as it receives brain surgery. I think the ball is supposed to be Anita.
SHOCK at the suspicious defenestration “suicide” of a patient; was it Gertrude’s doing, even though she was too busy dreaming of porking corpses at the time?
TANGO IN THE RAIN with some nuns for some reason.
BAFFLE at the murder of a paraplegic who, after a dark and stormy night of getting his knob polished by some other nutcase, is punished for his sin by having his mouth crammed full of a lethal quantity of fluffy pillow stuffing.
PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME what the fuck is going on in that one scene where after a lady is killed by having pins stuck all over her face, Gertrude discovers the body levitating (I think) in an elevator shaft (or laundry shoot or something). Then it just, like, falls down.
WONDER what the hell is going on as Anita rewards Paola’s crush on her by forcing her to put on silk stockings and forcing her to say “I am the worst kind of prostitute.” Also WONDER about the strenuous regimen of arms-only jumping jacks Anita forces on her patients when she realizes they’re starting to cotton to what a freakazoid she is.
BEHOLD Dr. Joe Dallesandro having no goddamn idea what’s going on, but for once you don’t blame him. (In part because there is a nun licking his wool pants.)
…and finally, after about 85 minutes of seeing how Anita Ekberg has totally flipped her shit…
MARVEL at the startling left-field conclusion that Paola Morra was the culprit all along, because when she was little her grandfather performed acts with her, condemning her to a lifetime of lezzing out and killing people. That’s right, rape-revenge! Or…whatever.

So there you have it. As the passage of time has proven, I have nothing more to say about this matter. All hail Blue Underground. I’m gonna go watch FLAVIA THE HERETIC and try to feel better about myself. In the meantime, dear reader, please try to come up with more things to make me feel better about myself after I attend a screening of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST at Landmark’s Sunshine this weekend…

P.S. The current working title for our ever-evolving prenatal channel is Horrornet. I'll change the blog name when it seems like we're in a less mercurial state, but meanwhile, go have a look at the equally protean www.horrornet.tv , where I'm neglecting the news, too!