It’s the state of the film industry in 2016 is that any independent director with even a hint of talent or vision gets snatched up by a giant studio to begin working on $100 million dollar blockbuster movies where they have almost no agency over how the movie will be made. They are just names to be used for marketing rather than actual filmmakers for these gargantuan projects. Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) and James Gunn (Slither, Super) were gobbled up by Marvel to direct The first two Avenger movies and Guardians of the Galaxy respectively. Gareth Edwards (Monsters) got pulled on board to direct the terribly mediocre 2014 Godzilla flick (thank god Toho have taken the Godzilla IP back). Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) helmed Jurassic World and is expected to direct Star Wars Episode IX. Marvel almost had Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End) in to direct Ant-Man, but when Wright fought to have creative control over the film but when the Disney owned movie factory refused to budge on the subject, Wright told them to fuck off and left the project.
Since this odd trend of taking independent, relatively low budget creators and sticking them in charge of movies that cost three times more than the GDP of the polynesian island nation of Tuvalu and thinking everything will be okay seems to be picking up steam, I worry that some of my favorite directors will get swept up into this chaos and won’t be able to work on projects that they are really passionate about. One of those directors is Jeremy Saulnier, director of one of my favorite movies, Blue Ruin.
Saulnier’s most recent project is Green Room, a punk rock bottle-movie thriller starring the late Anton Yelchin and the indomitable Sir Patrick Stewart. The plot to Green Room is very simple. The Ain’t Rights, a young, down on their luck punk band get a gig at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar in the Pacific Northwest. They need the money badly, so they decide to play, get paid, and get the hell out of there as soon as possible (not before souring a few skinheads’ days by tearing through the hardcore classic Nazi Punks Fuck Off). On their way out after their set they witness a brutal murder on premises, and therein lies the main conflict of Green Room. The Ain’t Rights want to go home, and the neo-Nazis want them dead. It’s one of those narratives that seem a little too schlocky and over the top, but Saulnier treats it with a bleak, dour seriousness and intensity that keeps the audience from suspending their disbelief or losing immersion as the film chugs along.
I signed up for the horror streaming service Shudder (it’s pretty much Netflix for horror fans). I was hesitant to add yet another subscription based payment to by credit card every month, but at five bucks a month, I eventually caved and signed up. What really drew me in was their selection. Being one of the few remaining video store clerks in existence I’ve witnessed the ridiculous price mark-ups that are put on old out of print horror flicks or anything being re-released by Arrow Video, and seeing titles like The Mutilator, Blood Rage, and Microwave Massacre on Shudder warmed my shrivelled horror geek heart enough to throw money their way. I’ve watched a couple movies using Shudder over the last few weeks that are worth writing about, so I’ll spare a review of Shudder itself for another post but until then, here are reviews of two of the goriest movies I’ve ever seen in my life (and they couldn’t be any more different). (more…)
Hammer Horror films are a staple in most horror fans’ arsenal of movies to watch during the Halloween season (Spoilers: it’s always the Halloween season here at Coffee and Illithids). By today’s standards they’re considered pretty cheesy and not scary in the least, but they ooze the dark, gloomy atmosphere that I think great Halloween movies need. There are over half a dozen sequels in their Dracula series (each one typically less well received than the last), so I’m interested in seeing how many of them hold up as fun Halloween flicks in 2016.
This marks the second Hammer Horror film I’ve written about here on Coffee and Illithids, and the third I’ve ever seen. While Hammer’s filmography is absolutely massive, I’m interested most in their most famous franchises: Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy. I totally dig the gothic stylings of these movies, and Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, or both are usually starring , which makes them mandatory watching for any horror buff.
Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is the fourth installment of Hammer’s Dracula series. I didn’t realize it until after the movie ended and I looked it up, so I have no idea what happens in 1960’s The Brides of Dracula and the 1966 Dracula: Prince of Darkness that leads up to the beginning of Risen From The Grave. Blame Turner Classic Movies. Their Hammer Horror collection that I bought only has the first and fourth Dracula films and the first and fifth Frankenstein films in it. Regardless of chronology, the general consensus on these four particular films is that they’re some of the best Hammer films to come out in the ’50s and ’60s, so I can’t really complain.
The best synopsis for this flick is straight from the front page of Google when you search the title:
The vampire count (Christopher Lee) bites a tavern waitress and a monsignor’s (Rupert Davies) niece (Veronica Carlson), then falls on something sharp.
Part of me feels like these are the plot points for almost all of these movies. (more…)
We’re on to our second episode of Masters of Horror, the 2005 anthology show where famous and acclaimed horror directors get to direct one story per season. Each episode is pretty much a short movie considering they’re all around an hour long. The first episode I watched was John Carpenter’s amazing throwback to his late ’80s and early ’90s work, Cigarette Burns. For my next episode I decided to go with another director whom has made one of my favourite movies: Tobe Hooper.
Tobe Hooper may not be as prolific as John Carpenter, but he’s definitely a heavyweight in the horror genre. Hooper was responsible for the greatest horror movie ever made, his 1974 masterpiece, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hooper also helmed the cult classic sequel, the classic ’80s haunted house flick Poltergeist (although there are rumors that Steven Spielberg unofficially directed it, everything is credited to Hooper, so as far as I’m concerned he’s still the director), and the absolutely bonkers sci-fi movie, Lifeforce. Hooper’s post ’80s output has been mostly directing the occasional episode in a TV show or making direct to TV movies, so he’s definitely fallen pretty far from the spotlight in recent decades.
Dance of the Dead takes place in a semi-post-apocalyptic world after one of the combatants in World War 3 unleashed some kind of chemical or biological weather weapon. The time period is a little while after the end of war, but is a pretty different interpretation of most post-apocalyptic settings. It’s similar to the first Mad Max film (yes kids, Mad Max: Fury Road is not the only Mad Max movie) where there’s been a worldwide crisis that has destabilized a large portion of the world, but a majority of civilized society has kept on spinning. Dance of the Dead shows both sides of humanity after it’s been devastated by global war. We get to see how a portion of the population that tries to keep it’s civility interacts with the crazy, savage punks (these guys are more like the people in Mad Max: Fury Road) that have risen up out of the war torn parts of the world and are either just trying to survive or trying to drag the rest of the world down with them.
The story follows Peggy, a young woman who works in her mother’s diner who meets some of these deplorable punks and takes a liking to one of them. He convinces her to join him and his friends for a night out on the town, and as she gets thrust into an evening of stranger and darker events, she finds out more than she wants to know about the consequences of World War 3 and the twisted history of her family. (more…)
The Halloween spookiness continues here at Coffee and Illithids, and what better way is there to celebrate the scariest month of the year than by looking at some of the works of horror’s greatest writers and directors? I recently picked up a copy of the first season of Masters of Horror, an anthology show where each episode is directed by a different famous horror director, including Takashi Miike, Tobe Hooper, and Dario Argento. For my first foray into the series I decided to start with the one I was most excited to check out: John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns.
Cigarette Burns stars Norman Reedus as Kirby, a man who owns a theater and is paid to track down incredibly rare film reels for private collectors. Naturally, he’s hired to track down an incredibly rare film reel for Bellinger, a private collector of extreme cinema (played by real life adorable weirdo, Udo Kier). Kirby dives down the rabbit hole looking for the last remaining print of the infamous French horror film La Fin Absolue Du Monde, a movie so extreme, so disturbing on a fundamental level, that upon viewing it audiences are driven into a bloody, homicidal rage. This extreme reaction is not out of disgust or disdain for the film, but rather from becoming so deeply broken spiritually and emotionally that the only thing they can resort to is depraved acts of violence. Kirby begins connecting the dots and immerses himself into the culture of people who have witnessed La Fin Absolue Du Monde first hand and he begins seeing cigarette burns in real life (it’s the little circle you see in old films in the top right hand corner that signifies that a reel needs to be changed for the film to continue), and as he continues to press onward anyways, he finds himself slowly slipping into a world of madness beyond his control. (more…)
I’ve written about certain movies on this blog that I think I’m going to call Arthouse Lite (I’m waiting for the copyright to come through so I can name a shitty adjunct beer – marketed as craft – after it). Arthouse Lite movies are the movies you show your friends to get them to realize there are more movies out there than the big hundred million dollar superhero blockbusters. Movies that are original and fresh and that can provide some extra entertainment value in that you are rewarded for thinking about them a little more in depth than usual. They’re usually very stylistic and a little on the weird side but not so over the top that they would alienate somebody who would have no reference to it. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain is not Arthouse Lite. Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (yes, that is a real movie) is not Arthouse Lite. Movies like Enemy, Donnie Darko, or Under the Skin are Arthouse Lite. They’re just offbeat enough to grab the attention and imagination of the average person, but won’t make them walk out of the theatre in disgust or boredom.
Snowpiercer is an Arthouse Lite Lite sci-fi action film and is the latest project directed by South Korea’s Bong Joon Ho, the same guy who gave us the critically acclaimed and still-on-my-To-Watch List movies Mother (2009) and Memories of Murder (2003). The movie is based on a dystopian sci-fi graffic novel from 1982 by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette called Le Transperceneige. Snowpiercer received a very small limited release before word of mouth gave it the momentum to warrant a much larger one. I’ve been excited about this movie since I heard about it a year or so ago. It has a rock solid cast, and I’ve got a soft spot for movies about rebellions and uprisings as well as movies that take place in one location. In case you didn’t know, the assembly of acting talent here includes Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt(!), and real life pretty boy Chris Evans. The basic plot of Snowpiercer is simple: In a post-apocalyptic frozen world, a train running on on a perpetual engine houses the last remaining dregs of humanity. The passengers on the train have been segregated Hunger Games style and the oppressed lower class folk in the rear of the train launch an assault lead by Curtis and Gilliam (Evans and Hurt respectively) to try and take over the front where the upper crust live. It’s your standard feel good story about the 99% toppling the 1%.
Except it isn’t. (more…)