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My Ballot: Scream Factory 2017 releases

Scream Factory, an imprint from Shout! Factory, has been on a stellar run giving Criterion-like treatment to horror films.

They just ran a poll of titles they have rights to and are considering for release in 2017. In the above picture are my votes. When the results are announced I will update this post.

I have only seen one of my choices, so it should be an exciting wait.

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Stephen King Properties Awaiting Adaptations: Bachman Books

Introduction

It recently occurred to me to consider the Stephen King works which are not yet  films and which may be most suited for adaptation. I will take this task on in separate posts.

The Running Man and Thinner already exist, so the books in this realm where Stephen once wrote under a pseudonym on rainy days would rank as follows in my estimation:

5. Rage

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Last year I acquired the original release of The Stand from 1978, that runs quite a few hundred pages shorter. With that I no longer have any literary white whales. The first one I had was Rage, and it took me a while. I didn’t acquire The Bachman Books when they were still readily available.

After much searching in the days before online shopping was easy, I just happened to see it on the shelf at my friend’s house. I freaked out. I needed to at least borrow it. He voluntarily gave it to me.

It remains the only King book I read in a day. Time and distance from being angered by feeling the need to pull it from print have given King a good perspective on the story independent of the controversy its caused. He discusses it in Guns, and I agree entirely with his take.

While I feel The Long Walk is just detached enough from reality to connect to modern audiences this one hits a little too close to home. It’s truly a wrenching, fascinating, and brilliant work. Sometimes we just can’t have nice things, or in this case nasty things that make you think.

4. Blaze

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This one  that would be a challenge in similar ways to Roadwork (below). However, with all the different interpretations of mental illness and voices in people’s head that exist in movies there are quite a few interesting ways to go about this one.

3. The Regulators

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My impression of The Regulators may have been affected by the fact that I read it long after I did Desperation, which was my introduction to Stephen King and had me hooked as a Constant Reader from there.

I think the best way to make this idea work would be to translate the concept of the book’s companionship to the screen, which would entail a remake of Desperation and have the same cast play very different parts in the dueling films. It would be fascinating to watch, especially if you had the same creative team behind-the-scenes.

2. Roadwork

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While I had to use some analytical chops to grin and bear it as I placed a title that was not my absolute favorite in a subset as number one I will start lobbying for my favorite by saying: a story a solitary man who loses it as he refuses to accept a buyout so his house can be bulldozed to make way for a freeway is not a high concept. It’s an insular one, with a lot of inner monologue and flashes. That’s what I love about it and the challenge of it is intoxicating. In my informal independent study during film school I took upwards of 30 pages of notes on how exactly I would translate this story to the screen.

It was in that note-taking, and practice attempts with a tales by Lovecraft, King, and Lumley that I formed an adaptation style that aided me in writing and directing a Dollar Baby of Suffer the Little Children I was fortunate enough to be given the permission to work on.

So, yes, there is a soft spot that elevates this one, but if you haven’t discovered it yet you should.

1. The Long Walk

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I place The Long Walk first not because it’s my favorite Bachman title, but despite its violence, it’s the one I’m most surprised that has not been adapted. It’s an indie film budget’s dream. The concept is a simple dystopian premise that’s far more likely to be palatable to today’s audiences than it would’ve been in the 1980s.
Postscript

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Kirby McCauley, King’s literary agent, posed as Richard Bachman for author pictures.

When Blaze was released in 2007 it was branded by King as a “trunk novel” meaning it was an old Bachman title he unearthed and edited for release, while still using the pen name. I hope there are more.

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When recently J.K. Rowling’s pen name of Robert Galbraith was outed it was kind of like Déjà Vu. I’ve read of how pissed Stephen was when Bachman was found out, and I empathized with Rowling as well. Though clearly the revelation that Rowling was Galbraith inevitably spiked the sales of the first book in Cormorant Strike series, and all subsequent releases – it’s clear there was a reason she felt the need to write under a pen name and now that freedom from name, fame, and expectation is gone from both of them. I admire her not giving it up and I hope Steve still knows what Richard’s up to.

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Review: The Perfect Husband

The Perfect Husband on the surface seems to seek to bring an old school Euro shocker to our shores, but unlike the films of the ‘70s and ‘80s which are its forebears there is little new or compelling.

Reeling from a stillbirth Viola (Gabriella Wright) and her husband Nicola (Bret Roberts) head off to a cabin in the woods (that old chestnut) for a little R&R to try and rekindle the romance in their relationship.

Even those facts take a while to roll out, and there is little that’s learned about the characters that makes them particularly worth investing your emotional currency in. The characters are without much dimension and the performances don’t do anything to round them out as they are grossly subpar.

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That would be bad enough but then the dialogue is more than once risible (and laughing at the bad is not something I’m prone to), but wait there’s more. Or should I say less?

A film having boring, played machismo can work if and only if you have something unique to say with it. Here there is not so you’re left feeling flat and not particularly interested.

The film does try a now-old trick that rarely works (specifics withheld to avoid spoilers); here it improves things but only some because the logic of things beforehand is atrocious. There are some gaffes that make one roll ones eyes are a silly horror movie trope exemplified occurred. In a physical confrontation between ax-wielding husband and defenseless wife she manages to loose the ax from his clutches, she grabs it, and promptly proceeds to toss it aside about six feet away, which for those keeping track, is still perilously close for an ax to be when a psychotic assailant is trying to kill you.

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Regardless of whether or not the massive twist works for you, it is a game changer and one that to me only upgraded it from abject failure minimally of value.

Furthermore, aside from the usual horror movie tropes there are even before the twist that is supposed to be seen as wonderfully clever but it isn’t because it really does cheat and badly, there is an excess of misogyny and cynicism without a bit of wit or critique that serves only to shock and awe and nothing more. Without having built characters well it cannot possibly rise to level of art but stays in the real of cheap, exploitative voyeurism of de minimis worth.

2/10

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61 Days of Halloween 2016: Introduction

As mentioned yesterday, I’m getting back into the swing of things, so unlike other years I have no actual expectation that I will get to 61 horror movies in 61 days, but there will surely be some and all posts on the subject will link back here. With luck there will be daily posts of various types. Check back early and often!

Happy haunting!

Goosebumps (2015, Columbia)

Review: Goosebumps (2015)

Not long ago my personal history with the works of R.L. Stine was discussed here in another post:

As I’ve reference a few times, in my youth I had an aversion to horror. I didn’t relish being scared back then. As someone who gravitated to the genre later in life, I take no umbrage with the idea of juvenile horror such as the likes that R.L. Stine creates. Yes, many kids (much younger than I when I was started to read Desperation), cut their teeth on Stephen King. However, not all kids are the same (which is a small part of why I avoid giving parental guidance advice). However, I can remember instances where a certain frightening tale did intrigue me; Poe would be an example. Had I at a young age know of Stine I may have gravitated to the genre earlier.

This year, having had a number of his books come to me secondhand, I’ve read quite a few before donating them to the local library; and as evidenced by the TV shows that bear his name, they are twisted tales that don’t always work out so great for the protagonist, which can really scare kids. (I hope to prepare aa post [or a series of them] about The Haunting Hour, the series, before Halloween).

In having read some titles naturally one’s flim-inclined tendency is to mentally adapt as you go; see it as a film and think it as a film. The issue then becomes which of his myriad books to cover, which is why this film version is not only so ingenious, but also timely.

Goosebumps (2015, Columbia)

This film tells its tale from the perspective of a new kid in town, Zach (Dylan Minnette), who is intrigued by his mysterious next door neighbor, Hannah (Odeya Rush), and then threatened by her unfriendly father (Jack Black). The father is a fictionalized version of Stine whose literary monsters have become real, and must be kept bound in their manuscripts. A trio of kids along with the quirky, insistent new best friend, Champ very aptly portrayed by Ryan Lee; use their smarts on the subject, wits and bravery to battle this legion of nasties.

The angle of approach employing not only the meta aspect for additional comedy but introducing a new cinematic universe, which is clearly in vogue at the moment, is clever. Granted at times there is some of it that comes off as a very humorous, well-produced infomercial but it flows naturally. And let’s face it, name recognition comes into play in existing cinematic universes as well and Stine, despite his popularity with a certain set isn’t as renowned as say Stephen King.

The strongest segment of the film is the first act, which is in turn both a good and bad thing. It sets the film out in a strong way with a great build, the comedy clicks, the performers are in tune, the score excels and pushes the film along. Into the second and third act the innovation and freshness slow a bit apace and some steam runs out of the clever conception but it remains enjoyable throughout.

Goosebumps (2015, Columbia)

Danny Elfman’s score, one of his best in a number of years, is nearly all that remains consistently on point throughout. The Sony Animation Studios credit is noteworthy as the animation is very present effects are strong throughout – even though very much animated the blend is quite good.

Jack Black is a performer who I had not appreciated until he won me over entirely with his virtuoso performance in School of Rock. Over the past five years the only film of his that I’ve seen is another Linklater project, Bernie, which was rather a departure for him. It was good to see him again, and in great form at that. He’s restrained as Stine and cuts loose as the voice of Slappy and The Invisible Boy – a fact I didn’t know until I checked the end credits.

The other standout in the adult cast is Jillian Bell as Lorraine. Her scene with Black is comedic gold.

Goosebumps (2015, Columbia)

Whereas, Goosebumps as a show revealed many young stars, this film does a bit more of what The Haunting Hour did and use some proven younger actors Minnette, most recently seen in Alexander…, Ryan Lee, one of the revelations of Super 8 continues to cultivate his frantically nebbish cinematic persona.

Quality films that are also appropriate for kids are perhaps the most rare, even more so when they can actually scare kids also. Stine has that knack and this film that bears his most famous series’ name does too.

Resident Evil:  Afterlife (2010, Screen Gems)

Rewind Review – Resident Evil 3D: Afterlife

Resident Evil 3D: Afterlife is likely to go down as one of, if not the worst film of this year. Whereas I was able to point out in Step Up 3 what could’ve been of more emphasis to make it a better more enjoyable film with this one I am at a loss. For the sake of full disclosure I am not one who unabashedly hates this series. I have seen all the installments and the ones previous while teetering in the land of mediocrity (scoring 5/10, 6/10 and 5/10 respectively) none of them lead me to believe this was in the cards.

As has been typical in the series acting took a holiday, however, given a decent amount of action a coherent plot and a story with a satisfying resolution this would be no issue. However, this film insisted on there being a lot of acting. It was a film where our protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) was alone a great deal and talked to herself quite a bit along with doing a bit of voice over. Not only that but there is a great deal of exposition done about the characters she meets each of whom has more annoying traits than the other which are carried out with varying degrees of ineptitude. Even in some very bad films there’s usually an actor you can single out and say about them “So-and-so is better than that.” That’s not the case of this movie no one rises above the material and makes an indelible impression due to the virtuosity of their acting ability.

There is at the beginning very minimal exposition which could leave those not ensconced in the mythos of this series a little loss but things do eventually clear up and you’ll realize there is truly nothing truly significant is going on. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine how stakes which are so high on paper can be made futile through the execution of the script and the film.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, Screen Gems)

For at least two-thirds of the film they are in a building which is surrounded by countless zombies and never have the undead been more ineffectual. You hardly ever see them except at a distance until they breach the building. They should be omnipresent we should be able to hear them rattling the fence and moaning en masse into the night but instead everyone is so terribly blasé about it you forget they exist. They fear their fellow man much more, which is all well and good in theory but none of them seem to pose a true threat that we the audience see the threats are only perceived by characters.

The characters, for the most part, are short-hand stereotypes of different types of celebrity and occupation and few have any real dimension and based on the display we get it is unlikely any of these players could convey it if they did have depth.

Another trick of the tale that we are forced to sit through which only belies the laziness and lack of imagination trying to mask itself as cleverness is a few cases of amnesia about.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, Screen Gems)

Bad is one thing but bad and predictable is a whole other can of worms. Much of the journey is to try to find this mystical safe haven referred to as Arcadia. At first it is thought to be a town in Alaska then it turns out to be a boat where there is supposedly no infection. It should be rather obvious from Alice’s landing in Alaska that the search for this haven is like Ishmael chasing Moby Dick and sure enough it is.

There is not a redeeming quality to be had in this film at all. The effects are passable and the 3D is fine, however, seeing CG that doesn’t induce laughter and 3D that doesn’t make one’s eyes hurt shouldn’t be a positive it should be a given. This film was shot in 3D so it should look good in 3D. Not an accomplishment, that would be like complimenting a Director of Photography for having proper exposure on all his shots. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

As mentioned before this is one of the worst films of the year and one of the biggest wastes of time to boot.

1/10

Mini-Review- The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia

I nearly did a commentary on the rise of, and you may even consider it to be a re-emergence; of nonsensical, paradoxical film titles such as this one. Essentially, I made peace with this silly title by likening it to Halloween III. The fact that a disconnected narrative was lumped into a series should not influence my opinion of the title. Sadly, this film is not quite of the caliber of Season of the Witch.

While I can’t knock it entirely, I can’t say I came away from it liking it. What the film does have going for it are the occasional good scare and an interesting mythology and themes it plays upon. Southern gothic tales seem like they’re the latest milieu ripe for the picking in horror, and this film at least starts the conversation. However, the build is a bit staggered such that the climax is drained of some of its tension by flashing back to fill in blanks that have already mostly been filled in by us being allowed time to reflect.

Unnecessary doubt can always be a bothersome aspect in horror and this film eschews most of that and almost reverses it to be too willing to believe visions, but it works. Thus, there’s not quite balance: there’s a doubter you know is in denial, a fairly silent skeptic and a vocal prodder. Ultimately it is the construction of the myth from near the mid-point in act two into act three which cause issues, and could very well be an editing issue as opposed to a writing one.

It’s not a film I would not be averse to revisiting, and it doesn’t feel like a wasted experience, but also doesn’t feel like it’s quite up to what it could’ve achieved. A lot of what does buoy it is the performances of mother and daughter, Abigail Spencer and Emily Alyn Lind.

5/10

The Moth Diaries (2011, IFC Films)

Mini-Review: The Moth Diaries

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The Moth Diaries

It’s a bit of a shame when a film that offers a different perspective on a subgenre fails to catch lightning in a bottle. The Moth Diaries is not only subtle vampire tale set at an all girls school, but is also directed by a woman. It’s a slow-burn, which never quite catches fire all the way and it doesn’t really bend convention too much save for the casting and setting. Some of the better parts of the film are the overt allusions to the Gothic literature, from which all vampire tales draw at least some inspiration, which doesn’t bode too well for the piece at hand. The film doesn’t seem to detach itself too much from the source material, and there is an excessive amount of voice over for the story being told. Perhaps the novel is a better vehicle for this tale than the film as constructed.

5/10

The Intruders (Lionsgate, 2011)

Mini-Review: Intruders

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Intruders

I can’t put it right at the top, but when all is said and done, Intruders will likely end up being one of my favorite horror films of the year. It starts almost immediately with a scene that you think will just be a great teaser but instead ends up being the first building block in a parallel storyline (in terms of both time and place). Aside from being a bi-lingual film, the film does a great job mirroring certain themes and elements in the storylines, giving elements different spins in each. The film is very tense but also cloistered in its drama and fear-inducing, which it makes it very effective indeed. To say too much more would be to start giving things away. I think that fans of the horror genre, Spanish horror in particular should see this film.

10/10

Berberian Sound Studio (2013, IFC Midnight)

Mini-Review: Berberian Sound Studio

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Berberian Sound Studio

I can’t say that there’s not a spark of creativity and ingenuity in the concept of this film and with some of the shots. There is a metamorphosis, however, it’s one you have to wait for and sit through many of the same kinds of scenes over and over again. In fact, I’m surprised I even saw it because I had quite nearly given up on the film. Even granting it that, after so much ennui, that payoff, too, failed, and angered me. It’s a film that quite honestly barely ever progresses past its initial concept, and when it does, does too little with it.

3/10