Stuart Anderson

About Stuart Anderson

I can trace my love of horror back to my first experiences of the genre when I was about 9 years old and allowed to say up and watch one of the Universal classics (The son of Frankenstein). Since then I've had an obsession not only with the classic Universal horror, but also Hammer horror and a variety of sub-genres such as slasher and zombie films etc. The current independent horror and sci-fi movie scene is fascinating - so much so I decided 6 months ago to write my own blog (The Fifth Dimension) which full of lovely reviews and interviews. The links to the fb page & blog is https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fifth-Dimension-A-Sci-Fi-Fantasy-Horror-Blog/158402424305832?ref=hl http://stuart66.blogspot.co.uk

BFI SCI-FI: Days of Fear and Wonder – The Boy from Space (1971/1980) DVD release PLUS an interview with actress, Sylvestra Le Touzel

tbfs1BFI SCI-FI: Days of Fear and Wonder – The Boy from Space (1971/1980) DVD release PLUS an interview with actress, Sylvestra Le Touzel

 

Released on DVD by the BFI on 25 August 2014

In 1980 I was 14 years old and a confirmed Sci Fi and Fantasy nerd. It was a rather singular existence back then, being a time well before it became cool to be a geek or a nerd as it is today, indeed for many nowadays, being known as a geek is something of a badge of honour. I’m not too sure when geeks & nerds became the new cool, maybe over time it has been a combination of many factors; Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, The Big Bang Theory may have had something to do with it perhaps, I don’t know.

What I do know is that if a 14-year-old was to state today that he was rushing home from school to watch a classic science fiction television series for kids there may well be some degree of ridicule from some. However, that afternoon back in 1980 saw me well and truly chased home by a group of my peers, whose idea of ridiculing a nerd took the form of shouts of “How are you feeling the force now, sci-fi boy??!!” – these were accompanied by a few choice bricks. They were highly amused.

This short, rather bitter recollection isn’t meant to garner sympathy at my teenage existence – on the contrary, I was very happy in being a ‘sci-fi boy’ – after all, I had a myriad of worlds to keep me happy. All they had were their bricks, albeit big and painful bricks. No, the point of the story is that the programme in question that I was trying to get home to was one that had gained something of revered tones of admiration in the few magazines and periodicals that fed our science fiction habits back in those pre-internet (i.e horrible) days. It was the first time in nearly 10 years that it was reappearing on our TV screens, and it turned out that it was a bloody good job that I made sure I braved the taunts and the bricks to gets to see it, because as it turned out, it was not to be made available for another 34 years.

tbfs2You don’t need to be Einstein to have figured out that the TV series in question was The Boy From Space.

However, this is where the story becomes slightly complicated, because this isn’t simply a recollection, it is in fact a recollection within a recollection. The other reason that I was desperate to see the programme back in 1980 was because I had at that time vague and unsettling memories of watching it on its very first broadcast back in 1971. My next door neighbour in those days, Mark, was something of a hero of mine, after all I was 5 he was 8 and at that age he seemed like the height of sophistication with his encyclopedic knowledge of dirty jokes. He was also a science fiction nut and if that wasn’t impressive enough, his family had a brand spanking new colour TV. Star Trek and Dr Who were our staple diets of Sci Fi and Saturday nights were our nights of television heaven.

I’ll be honest, my memory of specifically watching the first 1971 broadcast of The Boy From Space with Mark is pretty sketchy, except for two factors; firstly, one of the lead actors was a rather pretty girl that I remember being just a little smitten with; secondly, one of the adult characters gave me something of the hee bee gee bees, he was known as ‘The tall thin man’ and he seriously frightened this 6-year-old out of his skin for a few nights afterwards.

So when it was announced that the series is at last being released on DVD by the BFI on 25 August 2014 as part of the ‘BFI SCI-FI: Days of Fear and Wonder’, well I has a bit happy to say the least.

So for those of you who may not know the synopsis of the story, a brief overview is on its way……

“When brother and sister Dan and Helen see a mysterious object falling from the sky one night, they set out to look for traces of a meteorite in the nearby sandpit.

There, they are confronted by a strange thin man, and discover a white-haired boy called Peep-peep who speaks a bizarre alien language.”

tbfs3Now, to the allegedly ‘sophisticated’ CGI enriched science fiction audiences of 2014, The Boy From Space may have something of a museum-like look to it in terms of effects and budget, but back in those pre-Star Wars days in the 1970’s television wasn’t exactly awash with sophisticated science fiction TV. However I would advise anybody planning to watch this who are not of a certain vintage, to put aside any understandable feelings regarding the somewhat ‘innocent’ look of the piece, and enjoy it for what it is – an important and incredibly enjoyable example of British science fiction Television.

For what cannot be denied is that we are witness to a story that both engrossed and scared the young target audience in equal measure. Yes it may well be a simple story; alien is stranded on earth, local children find him and try to persuade the grown-ups to help the alien boy whilst in danger from a bad, bad spaceman (in a trenchcoat) – we’ve all been there….

However, this would be an over simplication because it would disregard the fact that behind the production there was a veritable cream of British writing and acting talent, with for example, the story’s writer being Richard Carpenter, creator of the cult 1970’s series Catweazle as well as the 1980’s Robin of Sherwood series (and still the best ever version of the story – so stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Kevin Costner).

It has to be said that The Boy From Space also boasted a genuinely gifted and atmospheric musical soundtrack by Paddy Kingsland that wouldn’t have been out-of-place in any piece of adult orientated science fiction with its note perfect complimenting of the scenes – particularly the more chilling ones.

The cast, particularly the two young leads of Sylvestra Le Touzel and Stephen Garlick were keen, enthusiastic and above all convincing in their portrayals. Though it is the character of the Tall Thin Man that impacted on those who watched it at the time and which still resonates with those of us that look back on that first viewing experience. The character, played by the wonderful British character actor, John Woodnutt, has regularly been voted into the top lists of scariest television or film characters. Whether the stories of children running in fear from the classrooms when this was shown as part of the Look and read children’s education series are to be believed or not, is academic. The sight of this trench-coated villain scared me then – and when I watched it again the other night, this time through the eyes of a little (much) older individual, I could still sense an element of the chill and menace that I and countless others felt on the first occasion, of this genius of a portrayal.

tbfs4I would really love to know what the younger audience of 2014 think of this series, and if they can move past the blond-haired Aliens in silver suits. Maybe It would help if they knew context of the time that it appeared on television, to much acclaim, on that second occasion back in 1980….. Science fiction was a cultural behemoth with the ‘Star Wars affect’ still only three years old, we simply couldn’t get enough of it, no matter how ‘flimsy’ the effects. However, the The Boy From Space is an example of a time when the audience were treated arguably with a little more respect than they are now in terms of actually accepting that viewers might have a modicum of intelligence. Not only that, it was accepted that we would be allowed to be frightened and entertained in equal measure without the fear of being wrapped in a cultural ball of wool to try to protect our sensibilities.

What cannot be denied is that this series is an exceptionally well put together, exciting and yes frightening slice of British science Fiction. Highly recommended.

Originally broadcast in 1971, as part of the BBC’s educational Look and Read strand, The Boy from Space was shown again in 1980 in a revised version featuring new presenters Wordy and Cosmo, as well as updates – including a new foreword and a voice-over – to the main drama.

Look and Read was a programme for primary schools, aimed at improving children’s literacy skills. The programme presents fictional stories in a serial format, the first of which was broadcast in 1967 and the most recent in 2004, making it the longest running nationally broadcast programme for schools in the UK.

The various collections are included in this package in all their restored glory. However, it is possible that, like me, you might find the Look and learn excerpts slightly grating. After all, I realise I suffer from terminal immaturity and may never well ever fully grow up, but I did find myself fast forwarding through the ‘spelling’ bits. Remember, the excerpts were designed for primary school children, remember. Luckily, the kids can watch the Wordy and Cosmo versions while there is a fabulous feature-length presentation (70 mins)of the adventure which has been edited specially for this release – and boy does it work.

I would give this 9 out of 10

 

Sylvestra-8794-MAINInterview with actress, Sylvestra Le Touzel

During the preparation for this article (don’t be so surprised, there is a little prep that goes into theses things!) I was lucky enough to arrange, via the lovely people at the BFI, to chat with actress Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played Helen in The Boy From Space. So, ‘borrowing’ ever so slightly from her IMDB page – Sylvestra was born in West London. She showed an interest in acting at an early age, enrolling at a Stage School. Subsequent numerous television roles followed, – noticeably in regard to this blog, in Dr Who and The Boy From Space.

Later credits include Fanny Price in a 1983 adaptation of Mansfield Park, though, in cult television terms, this was eclipsed by a commercial, still long remembered, for Heineken lager where, in a parody of My Fair Lady she portrayed an upper-class girl being tutored for a cockney role, success only coming when she drank a can of Heineken. In 2008 she appeared on the West End stage with Kenneth Brannagh well received revival of the play ‘Ivanov’. There is much, much more than I could list here in regards to her career, so check out her full credit listing.

Sylvestra remains a familiar face on British stage and screen
Hi Sylvestra & many thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.

Q) Firstly, before we come onto The Boy from Space, I’d like to ask you about a certain TV series that is significantly in the news at the moment. You appeared in Dr Who in the late 1960’s. God so many questions about that! :-)

1) Did you meet the Doctor?

Yes I did meet the Doctor, in 1968. He was only on his second incarnation then of course. I have watched his career with interest but our paths have never crossed again. I was one of a group of children conjured from his past, who had bullied him at school, the only people he was frightened of.

2) Did you see that Tardis?

I did. I had watched and been terrified at home. Television was black and white then. I’d expected the Tardis to be nearly black. (I remember Police boxes being very dark). I was traumatised to find it was bright blue. I suppose it had to be that colour to show up in black and white.

3)What was the overall experience like?

It is a complicated memory, a clash of several realities. I am writing about it in a memoir.

(The Doctor Who story that Sylvestra appeared in was The Mind Robber. The Doctor himself was played by Patrick Troughton)

syl2Q) So firstly, in regard to The Boy from Space, did you ever think that, ahem “whispers” 43 years later, that you would be talking about it?

Um. No.
Although it did feel like the centre of my universe at the time. The adult me is amazed, the child me assumed that everything I touched would be museum quality.

Q) Have you seen it since filming it?

In the mid nineteen eighties it was shown again. We recorded an introduction where Dan and Helen were grown up and looking back on their childhood adventure – the BBC needed to explain why all the cars were out of date. That was a mere thirty years ago. I’ve not seen it since then.

Q) How did the part of Helen come about?

I remember auditioning in a BBC car park in Ealing – Maddalena, the director, chasing me between the parked cars, I think I got the part because I could look petrified. I was petrified.

Q) How enjoyable (or not) was the involvement in filming the series?

It was tremendously enjoyable. Stephen and I were both 12 years old. It requires concentration to film a series over several weeks. We got a tad giggly around the observatory one time, over-confident, and Maddalena had to get stern. We blamed Loftus Burton [who played Tom] but it wasn’t his fault, it was me, I never could keep a straight face.

I can’t remember now what was so funny. Just kids being stupid I expect. Colin [Mayes, who played Peep-peep] was older. He was always professional.

syl3Q) A lot of the filming seemed to take place in a Dr Who style quarry. How did that go?

It was a quarry near Basingstoke. It was very exciting, a real secret landscape. I remember on our way home we’d see people wearing big hats in cars coming home from Ascot and I’d think ‘I know where you’ve been but I bet you can’t guess where I’ve been’.

Q) Were you at all aware of the reputation the series had garnered amongst young sci-fi fans at the time, and over the subsequent years?

I had no idea.
Except that when we were rehearsing the film that was eventually titled Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh told me his son Leo used to watch the programme and was impressed that he was working with me. I thought he was pulling my leg. If Mike starts claiming The Boy From Space is a major influence, don’t believe it.

Q) Perhaps the most enduring aspect for many viewers (including myself!) was the frankly chilling ‘Tall Thin Man” played by John Woodnutt – Were you aware that the character is credited with frightening a generation of children!

No I wasn’t aware of that. How amazing for John, especially when you consider not only was it pre-CGI, it was pre-Lycra, those catsuits weren’t easy to wear. He was a Guardian reader I seem to remember, and now you come to mention it, the first person I’d ever seen putting in contact lenses.

syl4Q) What was is like to film the scenes with the Thin Man?

Actually it was very scary. He was a serious actor. He knew he mustn’t get too friendly with us. Maybe the shortsightedness added to his mystery.

Q) Why do you think a production like The Boy from Space is so revered?

Is it the innocence? For a film to work and to endure, regardless of how quaint some of the notions may seem over time, it must begin with everyone believing utterly in the world.

Maddalena must have understood that, hence the terrifying Ealing car park audition. I remember there was integrity and commitment from everyone. It felt very grown up to be involved.

Q) You may have noticed that I’ve managed to get through this interview without mentioning a certain commercial for lager type beverage?! 🙂

Yes. Well done. The water in Majorca tastes a lot better these days I am told.

Finally, I’d like to say thanks again, Sylvestra!

Thank you. It means a great deal to me.

The Boy from Space with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, live, at BFI Southbank in Decembertbfs1On Saturday 6 December, to celebrate this DVD release, BFI Southbank will present the specially created 70 minute version of the series, directed by Maddalena Fagandini, followed by a panel discussion with key figures in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who provided the original music for this and so many other series. Following this our regular Sonic Cinema strand will provide a chance to hear the group play a specially selected set of Sci-Fi music from Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Quatermass to Doctor Who.

Never available in any video format, the classic BBC series The Boy from Space (1971/1980) is at last being released on DVD by the BFI on 25 August 2014 as part of BFI SCI-FI: Days of Fear and Wonder, a celebration of Sci-Fi film and television. This well-remembered Look and Read series is presented with a host of extras, including the complete audio from the 1972 BBC Records LP and alternative presentations of the filmed drama sequences which allow for this thrilling adventure to be experienced in new and exciting ways.

DVD Special features

· * The complete 1980 series (10 x 20 mins): all ten episodes of the BBC’s classic Look and Read series, featuring Dan, Helen and Peep-peep’s story, as well as helpful reading tips from Wordy and Cosmo

· * Feature-length presentation (70 mins): exclusive version of Dan, Helen and Peep-peep’s adventures, edited specially for this release

· * BBC Records LP – audio version (55 mins): original spoken word recordings from the 1972 vinyl release, narrated by Charles Collingwood (the voice of Brian Aldridge in Radio 4’s The Archers)

· * BBC Records LP – film version (55 mins): an exclusive presentation, combining the audio from the 1972 LP with film and video footage from the 1980 TV broadcast

· * Wordy’s Think-ups: 19 original animations from the series

· * Downloadable PDFs of the original 1971 and 1979 pupil’s pamphlets

· * Illustrated booklet with essays by British TV experts Ben Clarke and Christopher Perry, and recollections by composer Paddy Kingsland

Product details

RRP: £22.99 / cat. no. BFIV2001 / Cert PG
UK / 1971/80 / colour / English language, with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles /

200 mins / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1 / 2 × DVD9 / PAL / Dolby Digital audio (192 kbps)

The Redwood Massacre (2014) Review

rw1The Redwood Massacre (2014) – An early review.

Get me, I’m probably one of the first people in the world to see in its entirety, a brand new horror film – a movie that few others have yet to see. Well, that is after the production team, probably some of the actors, the test showing audience, those involved in the artwork, the soundtrack music and the other bloggers & websites that have been given the opportunity to view the early screener on Vimeo. Ok, so possibly I’m a little further down the food chain than my publicist (I.e. Me) would have you believe. Though at least I’ve seen it before the general unwashed proletariat public – so yes, get me and my self important delusions of grandeur…..

I first wrote a piece on the making of this particular film a couple of months ago when I first heard about a local creative advertising and video production agency who also make their own feature films, called Clear Focus Movies. In particular, I was rather excited to learn that their latest horror feature, The Redwood Massacre was nearing the end of it’s post-production (that’s complex movie speak to those who don’t know about such things – stick with me & you’ll go far) and that it would soon be ready for release. After much pestering, whining and threats on my part warning that I would stand in a corner and sulk until they agreed, the producer Lorraine Keith finally relented and approved that not only would I receive an invitation to the press screening in September (the night before the very first public screening) at the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen, but that she would send me a link at the earliest opportunity, to the completed film for an early review.

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What could possibly go wrong?

Now I know what you are thinking “Oh that’s alright then, matey boy, an invite to the premier & early screener – hmm, sort of guarantees a good review of the movie then, doesn’t it?” – and I can see your point, but you would be incorrect. For the fact is that this genre of horror, namely the ‘young and impossibly good looking campers in the woods hunted by a vicious sadistic killer Gore-fest’ quite simply hasn’t ever been one of my particular favourite sub-topics of horror movie, quite the contrary in fact. I personally find the slasher film formula boringly over-familiar, cliched and lacking in genuine excitement. Therefore Lorraine and her director husband David, were not guaranteed any sort of positive review, no way, Jose. Besides which, I know in certain walks of life that I’m distinctly easy and cheap, but when it comes to this blogging and reviewing business, well I’m your regular paragon of blooming virtue – honest guvnor and all that your honour.

So on Monday of this week Lorraine took a chance that there may be a window in my social calendar (don’t laugh, I went out one evening last month I’ll have you know) and told me that the super duper online screener was ready to be viewed by yours truly. After reading her 15,500 word contract that essentially suggested that nowhere in Scotland would be safe for me to hide from her, her hubby and film crew friends if I decided to share the location of the online source, I agreed to her conditions. I did think that making me sign the declaration of secrecy in the blood of my first-born was a slightly extreme request – but the joke is on them as my daughter is away in Ireland so I used the blood of my second born. Another victory to me methinks…..

rw3

When Parties Go Wrong…..

It was late in the evening when I sat down with the love of my life (my iPad) and the second love of my life (a vodka and lemonade) and began watching The Redwood Massacre. So before I let loose with what I actually thought about the possible merits of the movie, let me remind you, or tell you for the first time if you couldn’t be bothered to waste your life on my previous blog articles, what the story briefly is about…..

” For five adventurous friends, visiting the legendary murder site of the Redwood farm has all the hallmarks of being an exciting and thrilling camping weekend away.

A popular site for revellers and party goers, each year on the exact date of the famous local family massacre, people from around the country head out to the site to have fun and scare each other.

Events take a bloody turn for the worse when the innocent campers discover the Redwood myth is in fact a horrible bloody reality, which turns the unsuspecting victims into prey for a mysterious axe wielding maniac that has remained dormant for 20 years.”

I will say this immediately and without reservation, this movie is an absolute joy of a slashing gore-fest – in other words, I loved it! The writer & director, David Keith has previously gone on record to say that his intention was for those who see this film is to experience “a fun 80 minute bloody movie that will entertain from beginning to end….” And boy does this deliver. From the initial moments when we are introduced to the painfully bloody consequences for a young lady in the woods after she becomes a little overly acquainted with the axe of our very own Redwood serial killer, we are transported on a tale of blood, guts and at times, deliciously claustrophobic terror.

There is no attempt here to add any political or social commentary on today’s society and particularly the young people within it. Nor does it have any pretensions of intricate or philosophical dialogue between the cast, and that isn’t meant as a criticism because what we have here with The Redwood Massacre is a chilling authentic old fashioned slasher horror with multiple violent deaths and gallons ( and I mean oodles of gallons) of blood and gore.

rw4

What’s up ? The bad man got your tongue?

What we also have is a movie serial killer that, given the chance may well provide horror fans worldwide something to talk excitedly about, such is the ‘menacing killer quality’ of this bad, bad man. I’m not saying that the bad man is going to achieve the iconic status of a Jason Voorhees, Leatherface or Michael Myers – after all they have had 40 years to gain their esteemed levels of notoriety. However, in The Red Wood Massacre, we have a genuinely chilling slasher killer who essentially ticks all the boxes for what makes a good genre killer; he has a previously harmless (scarecrow) mask now transplanted into terrorising undertones, an iconic weapon here with his axe (though it is safe to say that he has a plethora of other killing implements that he just can’t decide upon which is his favourite, a rather spectacular body count and an inability to stay harmed for long – even after a few gunshots to the head.

He is a killing machine that seems to take a very special pride in using a variety of grotesque and imaginative methods of killing, gutting and disemboweling his victims, and then saving the various body parts for, well, who knows what? He’s a brilliant character who may not say much, but his actions speak far louder than any words could, after all, he’s not much for conversation – well except for the odd guttural scream or two from his victims in response to the thrusting of his hands into ones chest to pull out ones still beating heart…..Honest to god, I would love to know how many gallons of blood and gore had to be ordered to make the incredibly authentic effects……that is, if they are actually effects……

rw5

Erm there is something on your face… no to the left a bit!

I’ve mentioned the gore quota, there is gore in this movie, and buckets of it at that. I can just hear the conversation that took place back at Clear Focus Movies HQ….
“Yes that’s right, I’m directing a horror movie in the North of Scotland and I’d like some blood, flesh and gore effects delivering please”
“How much do I need? ……er Lorraine, how much do you reckon, a couple of Tupperware tubs full?
(Mocking whispers can be heard in the background)
“We’d like a truck load of it please…… & make sure it’s a big truck!”

Gore lovers will not be disappointed with both the quantity of the stuff but also with the explicit sound effects that accompany each appearance of the stuff. Now I can take or leave gore-fest movies, the horror genre for me is much more than a collection of splatter upon splatter productions – something occasionally a few of my fellow horror aficionados would be better to take heed of. However in The Redwood Massacre, I will freely admit that on this occasion, the blood and guts quota is exceptionally well done and for some lovers of the stuff, it will be deliciously nauseatingly effective. I counted at least 5 or 6 times when my reactions were simply ‘Awww nooooo, that’s just horrible!!!!!!!’ – excellent.

rw6It has to be said that a film shot in the North East of Scotland couldn’t really help but look good, after all, this part of the world is most definitely gods own. That being said, this is a movie that is wonderfully shot. The camerawork is truly stunning, not just in the outdoor sequences but in the dim and claustrophobic interior scenes which add an intense layer of added terror. The colours and textures of the film are a feast for the eyes. Besides looking good, it all sounds great with a beautifully evocative soundtrack score by Leah Kardos that adds the perfect level of atmospheric chills to the overall experience.

The acting too is of a good quality (not something that can always be said for low-budget independent productions) particularly from Lisa Cameron as Pamela and Rebecca Wilkie as Jessica. In addition, once again The Redwood Massacre ticks another good slasher box by having a character that is so unlikeable and unrelatable that I was wondering how long it would take (if at all) it would be until she well and truly crossed the bad man’s path. So credit should be given to Lisa Livingstone for having the balls to make her character so bloody annoying – after all, another essential tasty slasher ingredient should be at least one or two people in ones movie that one hopes will be killed – and usually the more inventive the better. However, I’m not necessarily saying that her character dies, you’ll have to see the film for yourself.

rw7I don’t want to sound overly gushing and hyperbolic towards this movie and leave you with the idea that the film doesn’t have the odd minus point, because in my humble opinion, it isn’t perfect. For all the excellent interplay between the main players I would have preferred a little more detailed back stories for the main characters. We know for example that Jessica Is Mark’s ex-girlfriend and that his extremely annoying and whining current girlfriend has also come along for the weekend, but apart from that we know little else about them or the rest of the group and therefore the emotional investment in their safety isn’t quite as high as it could have been. There is also a situation with a helpful but dim motorist that feels a little too easily contrived and an appearance from the father of a previous victim that should be far more weighty and important, but ultimately adds little to the overall story & in fact I felt it distracted slightly from the pacing of proceedings.

These however are very minor negatives to what overall is a excellently bloody cinematic experience. This is a fine slasher film that for the most part is excellently paced and will have you hooked from the very first minute to the very last.

All that is left for me to say that is that thanks to those fucking farmers, no one is safe!

I would give the movie 8 out of 10

The Facebook page for the movie can be found RIGHT HERE
Tickets are (or at least were yesterday, because they’re selling quickly) available for the local Aberdeen premier at the wonderful Belmont Filmhouse on the 19th September. If you live in the area then go to the link to book tickets at http://www.belmontfilmhouse.com/showing/the-redwood-massacre/

2 Careful Owners – a short film by Mike Tack – Reviewed by Stuart Anderson

2 Careful Owners by Mike Tack – Reviewed by Stuart Anderson

ukhslogoThere are some things that I adore about life in general; Helena Bonham Carter, red wine, the music of The Libertines, cricket and the films of Terry Gilliam. In the genre of Horror, there are also a number of things that I adore; H P Lovecraft, Stephen King, Adrienne Barbeau, the films of John Carpenter and the Hammer House of Horror – not to mention an arguably unhealthy obsession with The Wicker Man (1973) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

The sub-genre of so-called torture horror (also known by a less flattering term as ‘torture porn’) has never really played a large part within my personal horror landscape of adoration. There are no high browed elitist explanations for this, It’s just that movies such as Saw and it’s ilk haven’t historically been my horror bag, man.

So when El Presidenti Andy, of UK Horror Scene put the following message up the site’s Facebook page earlier this week, my interest was peeked straight away;

onecarefulownerposter“Hi All.

Anyone want to review a brand new UK horror short (15 mins) called 2 careful owners by Mike Tack . It is the follow up to last years great (wait for it) One Careful Owner. You will get a chance to see and review it before it hits the Festival Circuit . Let me know below if interested.”

Now, that message to most people would read as being rather reasonable in nature. However, they would be wrong, very very wrong. Hence the reason for my piqued interest. For you see, I saw it as the veiled message, some may say threat, that it actually was. You see, Andy, I’ve mentioned before, runs UKHS with a fist of iron and a level of autocratic control that would make certain historical world leaders want to sit down and take copious notes on his methods of controlling his writers. For example, he regularly keeps his team of writers chained in the basement of his house and fed only through a trap door when the odd batch of raw beef from his local butcher is thrown down with the accompanying request to “write some horror reviews you scummy lot!”. At least I think that it’s beef.

2carefulownersAnyhoo, I knew for a fact that the message he wrote had an altogether different sub text and one which he knew only I would recognise. BTW, this is not a case of paranoia – the doctors have said I’m cured of that now.

The real message actually read as follows;

“Oy, Anderson matey boy.

Seeing as I let you out of the basement after that unpleasant incident after the fight over the last raw sausage with the rest of the boys, only on the proviso that you promise to write an article for me of my choosing – well the time has come for you to pay up my old mucker.

You are required to write one of your excuses for an article and try your best to review a brand new UK horror short (15 mins) called 2 Careful owners by Mike Tack . It is the follow up to last years great (you’re a bit thick, I know matey boy, but try and work it out) One Careful Owner.

This Mike Tack chap seems to really know what he’s doing, he only started writing and directed recently. He was at last years Frightfest and decided to stop saying he was going to make a short film and actually do it. Just two weeks later he had filmed his first short – The Domestic. I know it’s all a bit annoying that he’s rather good at this stuff, but just suck it up and try not to let your usual feelings of inadequacy and inferiority at your own existence cloud your opinions.

2carefulowners1So I want to you pull your finger out and firstly watch the original which is on youtube for free – just search for miketackfilms and you will find it. I know that you think you’re above this type of sub-genre with your ‘classic horror this and classic horror that preaching’ – and if you think I wrote that bit in the tone of your whining six year old girly voice, you were spot on.

Believe you me, One Careful Owner was one hell of a 12 minutes , and I don’t want to go into too much detail as it fits a lot in the short run time. But expect some really good gore with brilliant FX and a brutal and ruthless conclusion. The acting is very good, the story interesting and after it was over it left me wanting more which is the sure sign of quality.

Now Anderson matey boy – the next bit of my ‘request’ is VERY important. I want you to review the follow up, 2 Careful Owners. It will be one of the first reviews before the film does the festival rounds in the next year, so I’m sending you a super secret youtube link so you can watch the movie and then give us your, ahem, thoughts on it. You must on no account pass on the super secret youtube link because by its very nature of being a super secret youtube link, it means it’s pretty secret. Got that matey, boy? If for some reason you feel the urge to pass on the link to a 3rd party, then I’ll have to tell you what – or rather who – is really in that meat I feed you and the rest of the writers. You must also on no account give away any spoilers. If you do you may end up like one-fingered Larry, whose writing pace has certainly suffered after the 9 spoilers from his last article.

Now on you go and try not to muck things up. Again.”

And do you know what? The original was everything that Andy Boss-man said it was, an excellently paced and produced short film. Yes, certainly not for the squeamish, but certainly not a case of putting Gore ahead of acting quality and production. I liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot.

So it was with a little less degree of trepidation that I accessed the super secret youtube link and sat down to experience the next instalment of hammer time.

2carefulowners2Having provided crooked car dealer Terry (Clive Ashenden) a rather painful lesson in not selling faulty cars to the likes of his now dead wife, Chris (Richard Nock) now continues his quest for bloody and gory revenge. Thanks to some brief but clever inserts of back story we learn that the death of Chris’s wife has a far more complex undertone than first seems. This time he finds that he has a particularly vile villain that he needs to spend some quality time with.

The very understandable instructions I was given in regard to spoilers weren’t really needed if truth be told, as I find it a particularly annoying habit of some reviewers who seem unable to resist revealing all and sundry of movie plot. Even reviewers who think they’re being clever in saying such gems as “There are twists, but I won’t reveal what they are” still annoy me beyond belief. Think about it, Einstein, by saying there are plots twists kind of tells me to expect, oh I don’t know, plots twists! Fools.

As a consequence, I don’t usually find it too difficult to ignore the lure of a spoiler, though the running time of 15 minutes for 2 Careful Owners does make it a little more problematic than usual. However, what I will say is that a for a brief running time of just a quarter of an hour, the film still manages to answer a whole plethora of questions.

Will we begin to discover the ugly truth about what lies behind the facade of Hammer motors and the conspiracy that it hides? Will we find out who is to blame for the death of Chris’ wife and will they face retribution and be held accountable for their actions? Finally, will the viewers of this movie be able to endure more scenes of bloody, gory pain? Maybe.

Yes there are scenes of gory turn-your-face-away-from-the-screen intensity that will satisfy anyone who loves a serous quota of the stuff in their horror experience. What sets 2 Careful owners apart from others of the same ilk is the same quality of acting, pacing and editing of the story that took place in part one. It would have been too easy for Mike to have tried to pack as much shock value and inventive yet complicated scenes of violence into his 15 minutes at the expense of simply keeping it normal, something that all too many similar genre films also like to ignore.

2carefulowners3It is good to see that he resisted the trap. Because the skill of this production essentially is to place the characters in situations that we can all identify with, and in places that most of us will have been in at some points in our life. You could say that the situations are distinctly run-of-the-mill. The effect is to make the viewer feel as if we are actually included in the scene, albeit as an unwilling observer hiding and skulking in a darkened corner of the garage and knowing if we make a sound we be the next in line for the hammer…..

Has 2 Careful owners changed my mind about torture horror? Well time will tell, especially if there are further stories of this quality of production. I will freely admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this.

So my verdict is 7.5/10 

Oh and btw, watch and listen out for the rather fine closing credits when you get to see the movie, there is a distinct retro and groovy themed section of music. Nice.

You can access the company’s Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/ApocalypticConservatoryStudios

Mike’s Twitter account thingy can be tweeted at @MikeTackFilms

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #19 – Psycho (Remake 1998) by Stuart Anderson

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #19:

The Agony of Psycho (Remake 1998)

psychoremake1Today on E&A, Stuart Anderson dissects Gus Van Sant’s pointless rework of Hitchcock’s classic shocker…  

Hate is a strong word and one that I don’t use very often. I like to think that I’m a reasonably easy-going guy with a healthy dose of a live-and-let-live attitude to people and life in general. In fact I would go as far as saying that there are very few things, and even fewer people, that I would categorise as ‘hating’. I will, just between you and me, freely admit though to hating a few things that make ones blood boil; bullying, aggression, homophobia, intolerance and carrots – boy do I hate those orange coloured vegetable bastards.

As for people, well again there are few that I would define as hating, though I certainly dislike a whole shed load of people who well and truly test my personal policy of non-violence. I pretty much hated a guy at school when I was 10, David Clark (and for many years afterwards as it happened) after he stole my prized possession of my favourite Dobbie marble and then gave it as a present to the girl in our class that both of us fancied. Bastard. I worryingly held onto that hate for many years until I found out that he was married with 5 kids, had turned into an overweight and balding no-hoper who had been in and out of prison for a range of petty crimes. Hows that for Karma, matey Davie boy?

When it comes to Science Fiction, fantasy and horror, there is much I love, much I dislike and only a very little I would say that I hate. In all honesty, it would take a lot for me to hate a movie and in truth the particular film would need to have a number of important elements to fully justify a full hate value. The film would have to be a remake of a classic for a start which no doubt would have to completely and catastrophically miss the point of the original. In addition it would have to be a lazily directed piece of derivative excrement, containing a cast full of performances so abysmally wooden that it would never fail to make me want to be physically sick whenever I merely think of the films title. Oh hello Psycho (1998).

It is virtually impossible to gauge the colossal impact that Hitchcock’s original masterpiece made upon it’s release way back in 1960. It broke in no small way countless cinematic and social rules of the time; A couple sharing a lunchtime of illicit pleasure on screen & overtly violent murderous acts, to name but two. Psycho (1960) should also be given credit for introducing, or at least re-inventing, a new type of horror film. Here the traditional b-movie plots of Gothic horror in medieval England or distant Eastern Europe were substituted by the possibility of everyday horrors that were real and known to us.

psychoremake2Psycho (1960) isn’t regarded by some as a slasher movie, but it should be. There are many in my fellow slasher-loving fraternity that point out the lack of blood and gore in the film, but does a true slasher film have to be so? Not only does is have a demented murderer slicing up perfect strangers in the middle of nowhere, it is also a lesson in intelligent and thoughtful storytelling and audience manipulation. In addition, the movie’s direct descendants in the 1970’s of the seminal slasher movies such as Halloween owe everything to the first in their line.

The plot I’m sure is familiar to most – but just in case you have no taste and have never seen it…..

The film begins with an office worker Marion Crane who is clearly unhappy during one of her lunchtime assignations when she realises she and her boyfriend cannot afford to get married. This problem seems to be potentially rectified when, on returning to the office she is entrusted with a huge amount of a client’s money to put into the bank. After a few moments of deliberation as to whether she should take the money, steal it she does and absconds from the town immediately.

As she drives onwards through a torrential rainy night she realises that she needs to rest and so pulls into the remote Bates Motel. Here we are immediately introduced to a shy yet polite young owner, Norman Bates, who offers Marion one of the many spare rooms in the Motel. As they chat Norman tells her that since the recent diversion of the main highway they don’t really see much business anymore. He seems nice………….
At first Marion feels in control of the conversation with this pleasant but very nervous young man, even after he also starts telling her about his mother, who Norman reveals suffers from some sort of mental illness. However, Marion soon starts to regret her immoral actions and after setting on returning in the morning to give back the stolen money she decides to take a shower………

psychoremake3And we all know what happens there…..
Soon after, a detective who has been charged with the task of tracking Marion and the stolen money, has been talking to her boyfriend and sister (Sam & Lila) and eventually locates the Motel. Here he is murdered on the stairs of the Bates house by a shadowy female figure, who has emerged from an upstairs room.

Sam and Lila, after losing contact with the detective decide to take matters into their own hands and make their own way to the town near the motel. Here they start asking questions about Norman’s mother…..
It doesn’t go well.

You may be asking whether this is the original plot or the one for the remake? Well it really doesn’t matter because in his infinite wisdom, the director, Gus Van Zandt decided to not just remake a classic, oh no, no no…….He was going to duplicate the hell out of it.

When Gus Van Sant decided not only to remake this, the most revered of all of Hitchcock’s films, but also to shoot a great deal of it frame-for-frame, there were many who shook their heads in disbelief. After seeing the finished product on it’s release in 1998 there were even more people simply wanting to shake the director by the throat.
There are so many aspects of this version to despise that this particular article could never hope to do it justice. But as I said to myself many years ago when given the chance to spend the evening with Gemma and her twin sister, Rebecca- “I’ll certainly give it my best shot”.

psychoremake4One myth that should be dispensed with straight away is the belief that this was a complete shot for shot remake- it wasn’t, but it was bloody close. The vast majority of shots, including the way why were angled and lit in the original, were copied exactly, As was much of the dialogue. For the life of me I’ve never been able to figure out if this was some of misguided homage to Hitchcock or whether Van Sant actually believed that he was adding something new and fresh to the story. I’ve got news for you Gus, sonny Jim, you were doing neither.

Then there was the misguided belief which old Gus obviously felt that the late 1990’s audience wouldn’t be satisfied with the lack of blood that accompanied the original. One of Hitchcock’s many master strokes was to make the violence implicit and suggested, so much so that even today when people are asked to describe the much lauded shower scene their descriptions invariably included far more recollection of blood and violence than there actually was. This wasn’t just genius of Hitchcock because there are a plethora of examples of so called blood soaked movies that in reality contain comparatively little; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, to name but two.

However when old Gus went bumbling into the the directors chair he seemingly thought that the audience of 1998 were a bit too thick to understand such complexities as the power of suggestion and the genuine feeling of terror that it can bring. He instead decided to uses oodles of blood in the showers scenes et al in an attempt to placate the appetites of a new contemporary audience. Fool.

Then there was the performances of the cast. Oh deary me. The catastrophic mis-casting of the all-important lead actor meant that the film was doomed from the start. Now, one could probably forgive the leading role of Norman Bates, as played by Vince Vaughn, because Vince is, well, crap in everything that he does. It’s really not his fault, he’s just a bit rubbish. So it’s probably fair to say that he was always going to be on a hiding to nothing when being compared to what was to become in the original, one of horror’s seminal performances.

Anthony Perkins in Psycho was almost note-perfect in his portrayal of a tortured psychopathic killer that gave us glimpses of textured acting that Vince Vaughn could only dream of. The genius of his performance was to hide the fact that beneath his shy and pleasant exterior lay a monster. You looked at this frail innocent looking boy and failed to comprehend the horror that he could be capable of. Unfortunately, it was also a role that defined Perkins’ career and for many fans it defined the actor himself – despite a string of awards and noteworthy performances that succeeded Hitchcock’s seminal masterpiece. No fear of that happening to you, Vincy boy I’m afraid.

psychoremake5If we can at least excuse old Vince then the rest of the cast don’t get off quite so lightly. Forget Anne Heche, because she’s also pretty rubbish in most things, but for crying out loud; Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H.Macey, Robert Forster and Phillip Baker Hall – these people are bloody good actors! Whether it was the fact that they felt constrained by the directors need to mirror as much of the original’s dialogue and scenes is impossible to know. They all have the look about them that seems to constantly have the “I thought that this would look good on my CV, but now I think i’m buggered’. Viggo Mortensen in particular seems that he would rather be anywhere else but in that bloody stupid cowboy hat.

There have been a number of catastrophic misguided failures when it comes to remakes – this one for me is quite clearly at the top of that list. It’s terrible and I hate it.

*****

Read all the previous Ecstasy & Agony pieces by clicking them:

#1 Dead & Buried (1981) by Duane Hicks 

#2 The Happening (2008) by James Pemberton 

#3 Sleepstalker (1995) by Matty Budrewicz

#4 A Serbian Film (2010) by Oli Ryder

#5 A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Dead (1985) by Dave Wain

#6 Cabin In The Woods (2012) by Joey Keogh

#7 Battle Royale (2000) by Mark Pidgeon 

#8 Avia Vampire Hunter (2005) by Andy Deen

#9 La Jetee (1962) by Stuart Anderson

#10 The Shining (1980) by Stuart Smith

#11 The Thing (1982) by Dean Sills

#12 Monster Brawl (2011) by Duane Hicks 

#13 Session 9 (2001) by James Pemberton

#14 Crimetime (1996) by Dave Wain 

#15 The Evil Dead (1981) by Oli Ryder

#16 Devil’s Due (2014) by Mark Pidgeon

#17 Jaws: The Revenge (1987) by Dean Sills

#18 Scream 4 (2011) by Joey Keogh

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #9 – La Jetee (1962) by Stuart Anderson

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #9:
The Ecstasy of LA JETEE (1962)

lj1And on the ninth day of our Ecstasy & Agony extravaganza, Stuart Anderson injects some class into proceedings with his glowing appraisal of a short French sci-fi classic…

When I received an email from Matt at the marvellous www.ukhorrorscene.com , first suggesting the Agony and the Ecstasy season, in which each writer talks about their movie love or hate, I thought that this would be easy peasy. If nothing else, writing a blog goes some way to satisfying my own particular self-indulgent and narcissistic need to bleat on about just how much I love/dislike this movie or that book (or most bloody remakes). The fact that some people seem to quite like my blathering is something of a bonus, and not an unwelcome one at that. And do you know what? The task of coming up with my own love and hate was indeed easy peasy.

My own example of an absolute love of film is not meant to be overly high-browed or pretentious in any way, shape or form. But what cannot be denied is that my choice is certainly different in terms of it’s style and structure. In addition, the influence that the film has had on filmmakers in both science fiction and horror is also not open to question, though that influence is unknown to many people in the wider public, due in no small measure to the movie’s very different construction from the norm. The terms ‘great’ and ‘genius’ when describing certain works are often thrown about (by us all) in such abandonment that the descriptions have become passe and irrelevant when addressing the qualities of any production. There are many many good films, there are indeed a large number of excellent films. But there are few great ones.

However, my choice of Ecstasy I would argue IS the personification of pure unadulterated cinematic genius. It is a movie that changed everything for me in regard to me personal appreciation of science fiction, fantasy and horror. I cannot give it more praise than that.

La jetée is the 1962 French short movie that inspired Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. Chris Marker’s original telling of the story that mixes science-fiction, fantasy and horror within a narrative strand of post-Apocalypse disaster and time travel is far less commercial and accessible than Gilliam’s (still wonderful) version. It is aimply a genuine watershed of science-fiction film making, a twenty-eight minute masterpiece told almost entirely in black and white still-frames.

lj2Set in the near future, the Earth has barely survived an all-consuming nuclear holocaust, which has driven the remnants of humanity underground. In this new underworld existence the division between victor and vanquished would, one would think, be meaningless under the circumstances that humanity now finds itself in and that in the event of such a catastrophe we would all pull together to ensure our survival. Nope, not a chance.

However, it seems that there are those who are more than prepared to subjugate others to their will and intentions, whatever the cost to personal rights and freedom. With few human and technological resources left after the planets near-destruction, scientists entombed beneath the ruins of Paris are searching to save the last vestiges of humanity through the one single road of opportunity left – time travel.

La jetée tells the story of an unnamed man who is obsessed with his vivid childhood recollections of witnessing an unknown man die on an airport jetty and then finding himself gazing into the entrancing face of a young woman. These memories seem to make him the perfect guinea pig for the authorities to use him in an experiment involving time travel. In due course the man travels though a loophole in time to the past and meets with the mythical woman from his childhood images and soon a relationship is kindled (or is it re-kindled?). Soon the powers that be attempt send him to their future to procure humanity’s own future, however, the man wants to simply return to his past where the woman now waits for him and a plan for him to escape is put in place…

The first time I saw this movie it was hidden away on some obscure cable channel showcasing equally obscure foreign movie fare. This short piece of film made an unforgettable impression on me which has only ever been near equalled on a couple of occasions – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Alien to be precise. In fact it would be safe to say that La jetée has become something of an obsession, a piece of film making that I find myself returning to an a regular basis. It never fails to move me in its powerful depiction of the end of the world, human love and our autobiographical memory – all of which are conveyed in a number of genuinely effective and chilling ‘scenes’, particularly in the treatment of the people seen as mere disposable means to an end.

In the original, the French narration adds to the poetic subtlety and drama. The English narrative version is still equally powerful and the more easily found online. Hopefully, the original French version with English subtitles will be made online, as it seems to add a little more to the overall ambiance and feel of the movie. Though it certainly doesn’t mean that the English translation for this version spoils the experience in any way.

lj3I have heard it mentioned more than once that this film would be best described as avant-garde in nature. To me that description is overly pretentious and disingenuous towards fans of sci-fi and horror- it almost implies most fans of the genre are unable to grasp such complexities as an innovative plot structure which we may actually have to think about. Absolute nonsense, I love mindless SFX and violence as much as the next person, but occasionally it is nice to ponder and muse over what one is watching too. La Jetée is an example of how science fiction, fantasy and elements of horror can be constructed with style and fine distinctions, instead of a reliance on special effects.

This then, is La Jetée, a masterpiece of simple yet immeasurably effective and emotive visual art. If you’ve never seen this movie, I implore you to watch it.

*****

Read all the previous Ecstasy & Agony pieces by clicking them:

#1 Dead & Buried (1981) by Duane Hicks 

#2 The Happening (2008) by James Pemberton 

#3 Sleepstalker (1995) by Matty Budrewicz

#4 A Serbian Film (2010) by Oli Ryder

#5 A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Dead (1985) by Dave Wain

#6 Cabin In The Woods (2012) by Joey Keogh

#7 Battle Royale (2000) by Mark Pidgeon 

#8 Avia Vampire Hunter (2005) by Andy Deen

An interview with actress, scream queen and burlesque performer, Kaylee Williams.

One of the genuine joys of this blogging malarkey has been the opportunity that it has given me to speak to a wide and varied selection of creative individuals. Along the way I’ve spoke to authors, filmmakers, actors and many other talented folks who have been taken in by my pestering and self delusion masquerading itself as any sort of influential blogging talent.

In amongst that ever growing list of genuinely creative individuals, there have also a couple of very famous names, one of which just happened to be long time scream queen loves of my life. Someone once told me you should never meet your heroes, well the meeting may only have been virtual, but nevertheless, Adrienne Barbeau was loveliness personified. If you don’t believe me, you can read about her loveliness herself either here on UKhorrorScene (click on the NEW Interviews A-Z tab above ) or on my blog HERE

kw1

This particular article is in some way the polar opposite of that interview, because while this may indeed an interview with a scream queen, it is in this case one who is is just in the early stages of her career. I say ‘early stages’ because she may well be a fledgling when it comes to time spent in the business, but certainly isn’t a fledgling in terms of work output.

Kaylee Williams is a native of Chicago, Illinois. Since first falling into acting, she has become an established scream queen in the horror genre.

Kaylee was nominated for Best Actress in a Short for her lead role in The Many Monsters of Sarah Roth at the 2010 Oklahoma Horror Film Fest and won for Best Actress in an Anthology or Collection by NerdRemix’s Best of 2012 Awards for her role in the segment “Anti-Bodies” in the horror anthology Psycho Street.

Her most recent release is The Lashman (2014), a masterful contemporary slasher movie that I had the pleasure and privilege to recieve a sneak preview of just a couple of weeks ago, a review of which appeared previously here on UKHorrorScene HERE and once again on my blog at HERE

For these of you that haven’t read the review of The Lashman, or simply cannot be bothered to click on the link, Kaylee plays Jan, who is part of five school friends heading off on a weekend excursion into the hills for a weekend of fishing, swimming and campfire tales near their cabin retreat. For the group, it’s the chance for one final celebration before they have to go their separate ways to college and whatever different paths their lives will take them. Of course, there is a crate or two of beer to help the weekend along. And Mustard, lots of Mustard.

kw2

Kaylee (front right), before the screaming begins…

Soon after arrival at their secluded (of course) cabin, the friends are sharing a scary campfire tale about a local urban-myth. He is simply referred to as ‘The Lashman’ – a man from many years past who was treated pretty badly by the local populace and now whose spirit magically wanders the hills seeking violent and bloody revenge on those that wronged him….or even those who haven’t wronged him, he isn’t particular. However, little do they realise that a harmless campfire tale of revenge and murder is going to become very real for them and turn into their own worst bloody nightmares!

It’s a tremendous slasher film that confounds many of the boring and tedious cliches that have worn down the genre over the years that had regarded apparently ‘mundane’ things such as character detail hardly being anywhere near the top of their requirements list. In The Lashman, the characters are given time to breathe and develop before the carnage begins – and Kaylee’s role in particular caught my eye (and many others eyes , it has to be said).

It’s a performance that is ballsy, sexy and full of wit – the scene where she turns the tables on her jerk of a boyfriend and chastises him is particularly funny. …….. and my god can she scream – the requisite qualities of a horror scream queen are there in mucho abundance.

Kaylee then fell into my cunning ploy of befriending her on Facebook and then foolishly kindly agreed to give me a short interview. so it transpired that a few weeks ago I compiled my list of my usually cutting edge and insightful questions and sent them to the lovely lady. Unfortunately for me, due to her being as busy as busy could be she was unable to respond straight away. Despite my pestering, she was niceness personified, even when I asked her recently if she still had the questions, she was apologising profusely for the delay.

kw3So earlier in the week I was delighted to hear from Kaylee after she had found a window in her schedule to answer my questions – so here it is……

K) “Hey there! Here you go! So sorry for the delay! Thank you for your patience! :-)”
Me) Hey no worries 🙂
Firstly, Kaylee. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to talk to me – I’ll try not to bore you too much! As professional I felt it important to fully, er, research, your Facebook photo’s before this interview. So why does Facebook hate boobs?

K) “Ha, I don’t know, you would have to ask Facebook about its personal feelings about boobs. But even if FB were totally pro-boobs, I still wouldn’t be giving away anything for free, LOL.”

Me) Hey, congratulations on being nominated for best supporting actress at the 2014 Indie Horror Film Festival for your role in Ron Fitzgerald’s “Dark Realm” Project!! You can now lie about how it’s being nominated that matters & not winning

K) “Well I actually did win and I’m SUPER excited about that! It was a huge honor to be named Best Supporting Actress. I think I actually squeeled quite girlishly with excitement when my name was called, haha.”

kw4Me) I know that give done working other genres, but you’re mostly associated with indie horror. Was working in this genre by design or just a case of where the work happens to be?

K) “Honestly, it’s just where the work has happened to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing horror films and I plan to keep doing them, but I’m definitely also open to branching out and doing other genres.”

Me) The indie horror scene seems to be incredibly healthy at the moment on both sides of the pond. Why do you think this is the case?

K) “I think that it’s just such a popular genre that there’s always going to be new and interesting indie horror films being developed/released all over the world.”

kw5Me) I recently interviewed Cameron Macasland who directed you in the soon to be released The Lashman. What are your memories of filming that project?

K) “What first comes to mind is that it was HOT! We shot in Kentucky in the middle of summer and it was over 100 degrees every day. But it’s easy to forget the heat when you’re having fun. It was such a great cast and crew and we all had a blast working together to create a really awesome film. I’ve gotten to see it and I think it turned out great! It just had its premiere on April 19th. I’m really excited about this one. So far people really seem to be digging it.”

Me) So does working in ‘mainstream’ films interest you?

K) “Absolutely, if given the opportunity I would love to work in mainstream films!”

Me) Apart from your many film roles you are also a performer for the fabulously named, Gorilla Tango Burlesque – Provocative Parody For The Discerning Nerd – Tell us about this, it sounds simply amazing!

K) “We do nerd-themed burlesque shows and it’s tons of fun! Some of the things we have parodied include Star Wars, Super Mario Bros, Batman, Indiana Jones, and Star Trek. I currently play Princess Leia in “The Empire Brings Sexy Back: A Star Wars Burlesque Sequel,” Princess Leia/Han Solo in “A Nude Hope: A Star Wars Burlesque,” and various characters in “Temple of Boobs: An Indiana Jones Burlesque.” I also got to play Luigi in “Boobs and Goombas: A Super Mario Burlesque,” which closed last year. I’ve been performing with Gorilla Tango Burlesque nearly every weekend since October of 2012 and I plan to continue performing with them for as long as they will have me!”

kw6

And a Billion Princess Leia fantasies are rekindled.

Me) I’d like to say many thanks for you giving your time & hope that the questions weren’t too tedious.

K) “Thank YOU for the interview!! ☺”

So there you have it, not only is she talented, funny, gorgeous and it seems a genuinely nice person, but to be honest she had me at “Boobs and Goombas: A Super Mario Burlesque”, which believe me is something I would have given my right arm to have seen, if only for the fabulous title of the piece itself – genius.

Kaylee Williams can be reached by her Facebook page HERE

The most wonderfully named Gorilla Tango Burlesque – Provocative Parody For The Discerning Nerd ‘s Facebook page can be enjoyed HERE

The Lashman movie Facebook page link can be found HERE

The Lashman (2014) Review

lashman1An early review of The Lashman (2014)

A little while ago I put together a double interview with the directors of two new Indie horrors – Sacrement. The Movie & The Lashman. Both interviewees were equally ebullient and informative about their respective projects in regard to just how special the end results were going to be for prospective audiences. Well naturally they would say that wouldn’t they? After all, no little time and effort goes into writing, directing and producing an indie horror (I imagine) so I would expect such proud proclamations, albeit subjective ones, about the merits of their work.

So when Director/Producer/writer and screenplay writer (and probably a dozen other jobs) of The Lashman, Cameron McCasland, sent me a super-duper secret link to the finally completed film (It’s taken four long, often turbulent years) you can safely say that I was about as excited as excited could be. Not only would I be able to be one of the honoured few to see a movie far earlier than most, It would also provide me with the chance to test Cameron’s bold challenge to me in his previous interview that I would come out of the end of it saying ” I don’t really dig slasher films, but I love Lashman”.

Well, we shall see Cameron, me old chum. We shall see.

THE PLOT

The summation of the plot will be rather brief, due to my oft-repeated dislike for reviewers who insist on giving away the nuances of plot – even when they think they are being clever. If you haven’t read my rants before about those spoiler spreading fools then you’re one of the lucky ones.

The Lashman begins with five school friends heading off on a weekend excursion into the hills for a weekend of fishing, swimming and campfire tales near their cabin retreat. For the group, it’s the chance for one final celebration before they have to go their separate ways to college and whatever different paths their lives will take them. Of course, there is a crate or two of beer to help the weekend along. And Mustard, lots of Mustard.

lashman2Soon after arrival at their secluded (of course) cabin, the friends are sharing a scary campfire tale about a local urban-myth. He is simply referred to as ‘The Lashman – a man from many years past who was treated pretty badly by the local populace and now whose spirit magically wanders the hills seeking violent and bloody revenge on those that wronged him….or even those who haven’t wronged him. He isn’t particular.

However, little do they realise that a harmless campfire tale of revenge and murder is going to become very real for them and turn into their own worst bloody nightmares!

THE VERDICT – Well there are a lot of positives……..

Now I know what you’re thinking : a group of horny and drunk teenagers, probably consisting of the likeable and the jerk ….. a secluded cabin in the woods……. camp fire tales……. urban legends ……… slashing and blood soaked revenge…….. It all sounds like a very familiar plot device that’s been done a thousand times. It is exactly that, however The Lashman has one (well actually it has a few, but more of them in a moment) important factor in it’s favour, which is that this movie is very, very good.

McCasland has made it clear from day one that he was never-never intending to reinvent the wheel in making this type of movie. In fact, it was the polar opposite. What he set out to do from the outset was to take many of the familiar themes from the slasher movie’s heyday, which was essentially the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, produce a 21st century homage, and with it manufacture a modern variation to a genre that has suffered greatly since the period of that hey day. In this he succeeds completely.

In its original incarnation , the slasher movie began almost as thing of horror beauty; Halloween, Friday the 13th, Maniac et al were original and fresh – They were Elvis Presley in 1958, before life in the Army sucked any vestige of originality out of him.

lashman3However it wasn’t long before the slasher sub-genre entered its Elvis in Las Vegas period when it became overblown and in danger of choking on its own bloated clichés of ever more ridiculous methods of murder, plot gimmicks and witty one-liners from killers and ever-ludicrous sequels that had long since stopped being scary. As Cameron accurately said in his interview “…at a certain point they really kind of stopped being scary, and no really cared about the characters (the campers) as much as they cared about the guy in the mask.” I couldn’t agree more. Quite simply, slasher movies stopped scaring the living crap out of us.

This is the movie’s first success, because in The Lashman, we are given time to get to know the characters, because time is spent during the first part of the film to provide an element of texture and dimension to the personalities of the group. We may not like them all, but we feel as if we have got to know them a little, flaws and all. And this is what makes their fate all the more chilling during the final third of the film where proceedings take a major turn for the worst in a series of chillingly effective gruesome encounters.

The fact that the characters are given to chance to move away from the 2 dimensional parody of later slashers is helped by a strong acting ensemble in this movie – the main players are excellent, especially in the violent and blood-soaked confrontations.

Billy (David Vaughan) is the leader, a likable jock, but troubled in how he should proceed in his relationship with Stacy (Stacey Dixon). Stacy herself contradicts the standard slasher image as a clichéd dumb blonde by showing maturity in how she cares for her socially inept brother, Bobby (Shawn C. Phillips). Even the requisite jerk of any slasher-to- be group, in this case Daniel (Jeremy Jones), whilst being suitably obnoxious in his general behaviour towards the others, still has a modicum of likableness. One scene where he is being chastised by the sensational Kaylee Williams as his girlfriend, Jan is particularly funny.

lashman4It also helps that the two women, Stacey Dixon and Kaylee Williams are drop-dead deliciously gorgeous – if you would pardon the pun.

Intermixed between some simply exceptional opening and closing credits the film for the most part looks crisp and easy on the eye with some lovely camera work and cinematography. The movie sounds wonderful too with a fabulous soundtrack composed by Thomas Berdinski who has perfectly captured the essence of what a good horror soundtrack should sound like.

I’d like a copy of this please, Thomas….

The daddy of all indie horror, Halloween, showed how integral the soundtrack can be in adding another element, indeed almost another character, to the effect of a movie, yet for some reason many contemporary slasher movies have ignored this. I may well be asking Thomas for a copy of the soundtrack, I think it’s that good.

A couple of negatives……..

Whilst The Lashman may be very good – it’s not perfect. The quality of acting of the main ensemble cast isn’t quite matched by the quality of some of the supporting actors, which on occasion tends to be a little uneven. It wouldn’t be fair of me to highlight any one in particular, suffice to say that one or two of the supporting performances are less than convincing.

There are a few issues I have with the unevenness with the sound quality occasionally during film with occasional ‘jolts and fades’ taking place, particularly during the transition between a few of the scenes. Though it does have to be said that the sound quality during the raw intensity of the violent scenes are faultless.

These minor quibbles detract only slightly from ones enjoyment of what is a remarkable debut feature from Cameron McCasland. He and the rest of the team have managed to take a well-known formula, used that knowledge to their advantage and make something that feels like a throwback to the classic era of the slasher before all the sequels and trips into space made them simply a pale parody of themselves.

The Lashman is set for a world première Saturday April 19th 2014 at the 13th Annual Full Moon Horror Film Festival In Nashville. Members of the cast and crew will be on hand for a Q&A following the screening.

lashman5Cameron McCasland is currently booking dates on the festival circuit for the movie, and setting out for a touring roadshow. For more information on the premiere screening please visit http://www.fullmooninc.net/

You can find the Lashman on facebook at facebook.com/lashmanmovie or on twitter @LashmanFilm

All that it leaves me to say about this marvellous movie is……“Stay out of the woods! Lashman getchya!”

I would give this 8 out of 10.

Interview With Actor – Jasper Cole by Stuart Anderson

Interview with actor, Jasper Cole.

When I was growing up I, like many kids of my age I suppose, had dreams of becoming an actor. In fact I pretty much had it all mapped out for myself. In my particular case I had no real desire to be a future James Bond or Count Dracula. No, for some reason I always saw myself as one of those familiar, but not too famous horror movie character actors that seem to pop up in seemingly every other film. You know how it goes –  ” oh that’s whats-his-name from that thingamajig movie”. My idea of an acting career was in part to be more concerned with the craft of acting but just as importantly (well in truth, probably more so), I wanted to spend my days biting the necks of beautiful bossomed Hammer horror actress’s rather than simply being famous. It was quite a few years until I realised that this was never going to happen, the fact that I had absolutely no tangible acting bone in my body may have had something to do with that.

It all came to a depressing head during auditions for the School Nativity play when I was 12 and losing out to Craig Witherspoon for the role of shepherd number 5 – Not only did I lose out to the only other boy left in the class, he also had a bloody speech impediment that made ‘Jesus’ come out as sounding more like “JESHUSH’. In my nightmares I can still clearly hear “Hail baby Jeshush, the Messhia!”.

I knew at that point that my career as any sort of actor was dead right there…..not that the painful memory still lingers, you understand.

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Well I’m not going to mess with him – are you?

So It is my absolute pleasure this week to have the chance to speak to an experienced actor (I won’t use the word ‘veteran’ as I always think it makes one sound decrepit and ready for the knackers yard) who has well over a century of television and film credits, not to mention a veritable string of theatre and writing credits to his name.

Jasper Cole definitely has that familiar “I know him from something” look, being a long-time stalwart of TV and film. As recently as 2013  he appeared in the much maligned (well I liked it actually) hit horror film,Hansel & Gretel as “John”, the son of the legendary actress, Dee Wallace. His film credits also Include 18 Again, Alien Nation, Get Your Stuff, Friday the 13th Part VIII, andUrban Assault-TKO. Jasper is perhaps most well known for his portrayal of the genuinely creepy Zeke Pleshette in the film MacGruber, alongside a certain Mr Val Kilmer.

As well as film he’s also appeared in numerous theatrical and television productions, with his TV work continuing notable appearances on shows such as C.S.I., Married With Children, Saved By The Bell, Touched by An Angel,Party Of Five, La Femme Nakita, Tales From The Crypt,Baywatch,PacificBlue and Clueless. Jasper has been regularly nominated for awards (nominated for best actor in the stage production of A Quiet End in 1996) besides achieving best supporting actor in the Drama-logue Awards for his role in Fool for Love in 1995. As recently as he received critical acclaim for his work on Michael Eisner’s Emmy Nominated series, Prom Queen.

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Prom Queen

It’s clear that Jasper’s career has been somewhat varied, though it would be fair to say that in recent years he has become a firm favourite of the contemporary horror community. In the last few months he has become a Facebook friend of mine (I know, get me) and not only is he talented and successful, he’s also a bloody nice guy. As you’ll now see for yourself.

Me) Firstly many thanks for taking time out of your schedule, Jasper. how’s life treating you at the moment?

J) All is good and thank you…just chillin here at my house in Palm Springs. If I’m not working in Hollywood I’m here every chance I get.

Me) For those foolish enough not know much about you, could you tell us a little about yourself – I understand that you are part Native American for example?

J) Yeah I’m part Cherokee Indian and part Irish so needless to say there was a lot of alcohol involved lol…I grew up in Athens Georgia and moved to LA when I was 23 so I have been here 27 yrs this coming September. It’s been an AMAZING journey!

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Jasper & Val Kilmer in the ‘who’s bum looks best?’ competition
Me) I know you’re probably sick of being asked what Val Kilmer was like to work in MACGRUBER – BUT,  I’ll ask you anyway!!  I think he’s often had something of a raw deal over the years in the press. What was the experience like?

J) Well, I was and am a big fan of Val’s so it was an honour to just work with him at all and it was a great time. He’s very funny and eccentric in the best way possible. We shot out in New Mexico and Val actually lives there as well and in fact at that time there were rumours he was gonna run for Lt. Governor of that state so we had some “interesting” conversations about politics. Needless to say he was GREAT in the film and a true highlight of my career.

Me) I’ve often thought that it would be preferable to be a regular working character actor than a more wider known famous figure where the craft of acting might be lost in the publicity machine. Would you exchange being well-known within horror and other genre’s but perhaps lesser so in the wider public consciousness as you are now or to be transported into the fame and money stratosphere of a Val Kilmer? 

J) lol the “grass is always greener” right? Honestly, all I ever really wanted when I started out was to be a working actor who is respected within my industry and it has taken me many years to get here but I wouldn’t change a thing…HOWEVER as I get older I would really love a steady television gig….second or third side kick maybe just recurring who shows up periodically and does his thing. Otherwise I’m good to go!

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Frank Giamona (left) & Jasper with ‘mum’ Dee Wallace

Me) Does it bother you (as it does me) that horror is still regarded as the poor man of movies and something merely to “move on from” for an actor?

J) Its a real mystery to me because horror is one of the most profitable at the box office consistently…low budget or studio level and for me I have moved “into horror” rather than “move on” from…I’m truly grateful to be a part of this genre on any level. The fans are the most loyal and diligent in the world.


Me) You have a distinctive look (you know, good looking with more than a hint of menace) 🙂 . Have you had to fight against being typecast in movies as ‘bad guy number 1’ ? 

J) Thanks,,I always laugh and say it took me so many years to be TYPECAST that I hope to stay on this beloved “list” til the very end…Theatre is the place to stretch as an actor and try different parts….TV/film is where you do your consistent thing and I am forever grateful to be typecast.

Me) It seems that you’re not that busy at the moment – well that is apart from appearing in THE PURGE ANARCHY opening in July. You apparently also have two horror thrillers coming out soon, CAPTURED and MODEL HOME. In addition to those I hear that you are about to start the horror film SAVAGE SISTAS.   Oh yes, if that wasn’t enough you’re in the middle of shooting DARK SPIRITS  opposite the gorgeous and talented Lynn Lowry and Mindy Robinson. What can you tell us about some of these productions? 

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Jasper and Erica Renee Johnson from the set of Savage Sistas
J) Wow..when you put it like that I do seem busy..lol…seriously I’m beyond blessed to have worked on these great projects Obviously to work with Michael Bay and Jason Blum in THE PURGE: ANARCHY was a huge  honor and its an amazing script and film. I play a “Homeless Man” who lives in a dipsy dumpster trash can and appears during the purge in a very scary way…….CAPTURED is another great script written and directed by Joe Arias and its stars Brittany Curan and Kristin Prout and a ensemble of amazing young actors…I Play “Shelly” the creepy groundskeeper who holds a lot of family secrets that get revealed throughout the film……MODEL HOME was a thrill to work with Monique Gabrilla Curnen and Emmy winner Kathy Baker. I play “Walker” a desert rat who stumbles into a nightmare and cant get out. Patrick Cunningham was a superb director to work with and his script is one of the best ever and a concept we haven’t seen before…… SAVAGE SISTAS is my first lead in a horror film and it’s a blessing to actually play a “Cop” for a change although he’s not necessarily a good cop after all. Dan Smith has written and directed a true original film and the female leads are unique to the horror genre and KICK BUTT!……DARK SPIRITS was a chance to reunite with one of the CAPTURED producers Ewan Bourne and I play a “Dark Butler” who is up to no good but is enslaved to his “Master” who is played by the stunning  Mindy Robinson.

Me) Would you possibly be ably to tell Lynn Lowry that I’ve been more than a little smitten with her for quite a while and that I’d love to interview her…….pretty please? 

J) Lynn is so lovely and kind and I will most definitely tell her and I’m sure you will love her too!
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The lovely Lynn Lowry

Me) Have you ever worked over here in the UK? 

J) have not worked there but two of my goals left for my career are to do theatre in both New York and London.

Me) Finally, the most important question (remember, I’m a psychologist) – Alien or Predator?

J) Wow that’s a tough one but I’m gonna have to go with PREDATOR

Me) Thanks Jasper, mate for taking the time to answer the questions. Take care!  

J) Thanks so much and keep up the great work!

So there you have it. He has a varied & successful career that keeps on going from strength to strength. He lives in Palm Springs, works in Hollywood but has managed to stay a genuinely nice guy with a good line answering my inane interview questions. So I will forgive him for getting the Alien or Predator question wrong – though obviously the man can look after himself so maybe I’ll keep that piece of information from him…..

Seriously though, I would like to thank Jasper Cole for the interview. A good guy & a good actor.
Jasper can be viewed, contacted and researched at the following links;

Interview with Producer, Director & Writer John Portanova by Stuart Anderson

Interview with producer/director & writer, John Portanova

 

It was a genuine pleasure to receive the amount of positive feedback about last week’s article for the May DVD release of the rather excellent The Invoking. The fact that the positive vibes weren’t just from those involved in the project, but others who had both enjoyed the article and been inspired to possibly go out and buy it when it’s released.

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John Portanova standing in the ‘stalkers’ section
 –  nope nothing to infer from that……

If that wasn’t enough, just a couple of days later I was more than a little pleased to be contacted by writer/producer/director and member of a mysteriously named group known as The October People, John Portanova.

If truth be told I was pleased on two counts. Firstly, it gave me the chance to pass onto my reader just part of the process behind the production of an indie horror movie. Secondly, it was the opportunity for me to gain answers to a few important burning questions that I had, such as; Was the rather excellent The Invoking really made on a shoestring budget? Just how annoyingly talented is Mr Portanova and his team? And are The October People really some shady group whose true intention to suck out the brains from our still breathing bodies?

 

As you’ll see below, John is a rather deft and excellent interviewee with a good line in intelligence, humour and detailed oration, besides, anybody who uses the word ‘cryptozoology’ in an interview is fine by me. Not only that, but it seems that he has the need also to get the odd rant off his chest – nothing wrong with that. So I hope that he doesn’t mind the odd minor amendment that I’ve made to his responses to my once again legendary, almost interrogatory in nature, interview questions by my altering his American English spelling (i.e incorrect) to UK English (i.e correct).
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Q) Let’s start with me asking you just who and what are The October people?

The October People is a production company started by myself, Jeremy Berg, and Matt Medisch. It is based in Seattle and San Diego and specialises in producing independent films with a strong focus on character. Our first film was The Invoking, which Jeremy directed and co-wrote, I co-wrote and produced, and Matt produced and helped come up with the original story for. On future projects we will have similar positions some of the time, but other times we will switch things up and I could be directing, for example. We want to tell quality, character-driven stories through the prism of our favourite genres.

 
Q) The Invoking seems a little old-fashioned in terms of character development (and I mean that as a compliment) Was this an intentional approach from the start?

 

It was. We are all lifelong horror fans and of course a big part of that is loving the gore effects and monsters. But when you see as many horror films as we have, you start to see those same things over and over. We knew we didn’t want our first film to be another micro-budget zombie or slasher movie, so we decided to tell a story that was more about the characters and that took a more psychological approach. But even our upcoming projects, which do focus on different sub-genres of horror including monsters, will still be very much built off of a solid character foundation. Instead of just giving the audience cookie-cutter types that they’ve seen over and over again, we want to make sure there is interesting drama going on so that they are invested  in the story even before a monster comes rampaging across the screen.

 

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Q) The film looks amazing – where is the location and how did you find it?

 

Thanks. We shot the film in Red Bluff, CA. It was actually the home where our producer Matt grew up. Coming into The Invoking, we had a handful of short films and no money. We knew we wanted to make a feature and so we decided to do something in the vein of El Mariachi or the original Paranormal Activity, where the directors used what they had access to (locations and props) and wrote the film around those things to keep the budget low. So we wrote the script based off of this property we had the full run of. If something wasn’t there and available to us at the location, we didn’t write about it.

 

Q) Did The invoking only cost $11000 and one week to make? If so, just how was that managed ?

 

Yes. The budget for the film was $11,000 and principal photography happened in Red Bluff over the course of one week. Like I was mentioning earlier, the script was written with this budget and shoot schedule in mind. We only had so much money we could charge onto credit cards and so much time we could take over the location. So keeping to this schedule was easy in one sense because we were staying at our location and everything was shot within walking distance from the house. But, on the other hand, it was hard because we had so many shots to get. Some days we did up to 40 set ups and had a maximum of 3 takes for each shot. Having an awesome crew and a great cast of actors really helped us stay on schedule and get good stuff during the few takes we had.

jp4Q) What productions are next in the pipeline?

We are actually getting ready to shoot the next October People horror feature next week. It’s an alien abduction horror tale entitled The Device. Once again it’ll be directed by Jeremy Berg from a script the two of us wrote and Matt Medisch will be producing. It’ll be another very low budget picture, but this time we will be shooting all around Washington State with an awesome cast and crew made up of local talent including a nice mix of old friends and new collaborators. The film centres on a fractured family coming together after the loss of a loved one and then spirals into a story of alien terror. We’re all big fans of alien abduction mythology and films in the sub genre such as Fire in the Sky, so we’re excited to film our version of an alien abduction story.

The plan is for the film to be out before the end of the year on home video after playing at a couple of film festivals.Two months after we wrap The Device, we are going to be moving onto Valley of the Sasquatch. This film is based on a script I wrote many years ago and will be my directorial debut. Jeremy will be the cinematographer (a job he has performed on all of our films) and Matt will be producing. I grew up loving Bigfoot as much as alien abduction mythology (I was a big Unsolved Mysteries fan) and so I want this to be a film that treats the creature seriously. It’s not a slasher movie where Jason is replaced by a Bigfoot. The story treats them like wild animals and gives a reason for why they have begun to amass a body count. I think cryptozoology fans as well as horror fans will dig it. It takes a serious look at a monster that has been on film a lot, but not always in the best stories. We will be shooting on our biggest budget yet (although still conservative even by indie film standards) and with some awesome actors that fans of the genre will recognise. The plan is for the film to be completed by the end of the year and then go into a film festival run.

 

We are very happy with the response the film has got. For a film made for no money in no time, we’ve gotten many outstanding reviews and won a handful of awards from our film festival run. We even got a distribution deal that put the film out on store shelves and all over the net in a much wider fashion than a film of our size is usually afforded. So we don’t have much to complain about. But there are a few misconceptions about the film that people have had since our wide release that I want to clear up.
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Most of the crew of The Invoking
1. We know that the set-up of the film (young people go to a cabin) has been done before. We had a microscopic budget that dictated how many characters and locations we could use. So we went with a classic horror set-up and then moved from there into our brand of psychological horror.

 

2. We intended this to be a slow paced, character-driven film. We keep a lot of potential story tangents in the air (Is the house haunted? Will one of the characters snap and turn the film into a slasher? Is everything in the lead character’s head?) and slowly reveal the true nature of the plot in order to keep those questions going through the audience’s head. If that doesn’t sound like your bag (which is fine, different strokes for different folks after all) you might be better off watching something else.

 

3. We shot the film in January of 2012 under the title Sader Ridge. We had no idea what The Conjuring was at that time as it would not be released for a year and a half. The distributor chose to change the name of the film to The Invoking and designed the key art which sells the movie as a classic ghost story (which it really isn’t).

 

4. The film was shot a year before Texas Chainsaw 3D was released and before we had ever heard of it. The similarity in the plot set-up is a coincidence.

All right, that’s all my ranting. (laughs).

 

Q) Finally, Alien or Predator? (This is important!)

Alien. I think Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett came up with the perfect horror creature with that film. The life cycle is great and keeps the terror constantly evolving. And the fact that the alien has acid for blood was a stroke of genius because the characters had to outsmart it as opposed to outgun it, which is usually the path the ending of a monster movie goes down.

 

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Q) Finally finally, any chance of me getting hold of one of them there The Invoking signed T-Shirts?

 

The shirts were made by a great company who I buy most of my wardrobe from called Fast Custom Shirts. You can get one here: http://www.fastcustomshirts.com/servlet/Detail?no=1619.

 

On our Facebook page (facebook.com/theoctoberpeople) we recently ran a contest giving away a signed DVD & a shirt, but unfortunately the contest is already over. But if you buy the shirt and then find yourself in Seattle I’m sure you could find the cast around town and get it signed.

 

Thanks for the great questions Stu!

 

No worries mate, and thanks for the detailed responses and in getting the answer to the Alien/Predator question correct! 🙂

 

I would sincerely like to thank John for taking the time to put up with my vague and shambolic  attempts at cutting edge questioning, hopefully he and the rest of his team haven’t been put off too much in letting me see the fruits of their forthcoming productions. However I cannot guarantee that The October People isn’t in fact a covert organisation whose ultimate aim is to suck your brains out, luckily I’m safe as I’m often told that I don’t have the brains I was born with…….

 

The Invoking (2013) DVD Review

The Invoking – DVD release from Image Entertainment

Release Date: 12 May 2014
Certificate: 15
 
Special Features:
* Commentary with Writer/Director Jeremy Berg, Producer Matt Medisch and Writer/Producer John Portanova.
* Commentary with Actors Trin Miller, D’Angelo Midili and Andy Morris.
* The Making Of The Invoking Documentary
 
RRP: £12.99


invok1I suppose that one of the many reasons why I love the horror movie genre so much is in part due to the plethora of tasty little sub genres within it; Slasher, Religious, Vampire/Zombie/Monster, Gore and Supernatural – to name but just a few. Now while I would normally shy away from categorising and labelling everything and anything within an inch of its life, it’s safe to say that horror for me is a genre that, whatever mood I may find myself in, has always had something that managed to well and truly hit the horror spot in my soul.

Each of these sub genres have their rightful place in my (black) heart and each to a certain extent have been known to divide opinion both within and outside the horror community – for instance, I even know someone who doesn’t like The Texas Chainsaw massacre……yes Mikhail Mulvihill, I’m talking about you so hang your head in perpetual shame :-)..

 

For some reason, the sub genre of the Psychological horror, where the power of suggestion, character building and a gradual acceleration of atmosphere seems to divide said opinion more than most……..and for a few months I’ve been hearing those same whispers and heated disagreements about a certain new addition to the collection, but I’ll talk about some of those conflicting views in a little while.

So it was with gleeful chuckle and skip that I received a preview disc sent to me on behalf of Image Entertainment UK . Not only was the theme heavily psychological, so I was going to have to think just a little bit(that will be a first, I hear you say), but also it was also another thing very close to this blogger’s heart, a low-budget independent production, being shot in just one week for an amazing $11,000 dollars.

The film concerned is called The Invoking and I’m saying to you know, you should see it, you really should. But before I get well and truly carried away……….. a little on the what the film is actually about…..

As usual, I will endeavour to shy away from an in-depth spoiler strewn review as seems the annoying habit of many a blog reviewer – just why anybody would want to regurgitate a scene by scene account of a movie and thus removing any semblance of mystery for the potential viewer is simply beyond me. As for those who think they are being cleverly cryptic by suggesting that the ending is a sting/twist/surprise/open ended/closed/satisfying/ambiguous or serenaded by harp playing angels, you still are giving it away you plonkers. So for those of you in bloggerland and reviewland who feel the need to divulge every nuance of a plot, stop it, stop it now.

invok2‘Nothing wrong with this house, nope, no sir.”

Anyhoo, I once more digress. In a nutshell, the plot is as follows….

Raised by foster parents, Sam claims to remember nothing of her childhood…but it remembers her. When she discovers she has inherited a property, she invites three friends to join her on a trip that will change their lives forever.

A young reclusive caretaker (played by the truly excellent D’Angelo Midili), a childhood friend of Sam’s is there to greet them, but something else is waiting for her in the house, something dark and deadly. The ghosts of a past she has long forgotten are coming back to haunt her with a pounding, slashing, raging terror.

If you want just a taste of that taster then the trailer for the film can be found RIGHTY HERE MATEY

Originally titled Sader Ridge (taken from the name of the location in the movie), The Invoking has already gained a number of film awards including Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Music Score at the 2013 Dark Carnival Film Festival. The film was named the best horror film of 2013 by Horror-Punks.com. The website also named D’Angelo Midili as the best actor of 2013 for his portrayal of the caretaker, Eric. If that wasn’t enough, it also won the Audience Award at the  Seattle True Independent Film Festival last year.

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That awkward moment when you run out of milk…..

Now, so far so good? Well yes……and no. Yes, because of the aforementioned critical accolades, but also no, because from what I’ve seen so far there are some who have rather misread and misjudged this movie on two major counts. Firstly, for some people it seems that this is a plot theme that is all too familiar, namely a group of young college kids taken out of their city comfort zones and who find themselves locating to an isolated, countryside setting only to find out that the locals may not be quite what they seem. And yes, when one first watches The Invoking, I too felt more than a twinge of deja vu at the very beginning as I waited for the family of slashers or Blair Witches to jump out faster than Bruce Campbell himself could hope to cope with. However, I soon realised my mistake, because the filmmakers have added a clever and subtle subtext to plot that many people clearly have missed – but more of that shortly. Instead I’ve noticed a few somewhat lazy comparisons to other movies.

In fact if I see another comment (and there have been one or two) that it has any sort of resemblance or connection to The Conjuring I may well pick up the nearest chainsaw myself. You see, this superficial assumption would be a mistake, because underneath this veneer of cliched familiarity, there is far more intelligence and textured character building on show here than you could shake at Hitchcock thriller at. If there is any resemblance at all between this and any other production I would wager that it is due far more to the films distributors than to the filmmakers themselves.

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The annual Sader Ridge staring contest is in full swing….

This then leads on to what seems to be the second misjudgement that in my opinion, some who have viewed the movie seem to be making, namely the films pacing. Yes, the pace of the film may not quite be at the ‘lets slash em up before the words character and development can even be muttered’, but this doesn’t mean that it is tedious or boring. On the contrary, we are given time to listen in and experience the relationships of the characters as grow (and in some cases, deteriorate) with the story. We may not necessarily like all the characters, but we certainly get to know them and empathise with them when events reach their inevitable climax.

I really don’t want to sound like an elitist horror snob – I love mindless onscreen violence as much as the next person…….but just because we are asked to think and consider the actions and behaviours on screen doesn’t mean that the tension and chills are any less than a good old gore-fest. There is room for both you know.

But the inverted snobbery from some who regard the slow build up as an exercise in tedium have made a misjudgement of the film of major proportions. Yes the build up may be slow, but as a result of the time spent on developing certain characters, by the time events start to become violent when we the audience have become so emotionally invested the eventual impact is tenfold. For example, we even genuinely sympathise with one particular individual who has to commit the ultimate act of violence. This person clearly wrestles with the act but commits to it without hesitation once the decision is made. It looks at face value like a casual act of violence, but that would be a mistake to assume so – it is a scene of beautifully subtle acting and results in genuine horror.

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Hey, I can see my house from here!
In addition we have the rather clever and distinctive subplot that underpins the the whole of the story. For the writer/director (have I told you that I don’t like annoyingly talented people?) Jeremy Berg has developed a story of psychological repression and combined it with a distinct supernatural tone – to great effect. The film’s pacing helps us to witness Sam slowly coming to the realisation that her lack of childhood memories may possibly be the result of her internal unconscious conflicts as she ‘witnesses’ the various elements of her personality and memory manifest themselves in her friends. To the films credit,  we the audience have to decide whether it is the house, the land or something/someone else who is invoking the internal conflicts of her unconscious. Is it really happening at all? Clever, very clever.

 

I mentioned earlier that I understand that the film was filmed within the space of just one week for a measly 11,000 dollars. If that is true (and I have absolutely no reason to doubt otherwise) then that fact is simply incredible.It seems that the annoyingly talented Berg has created a movie that looks as if more, far more money, was spent on it than that. Because at times it looks truly beautiful. It helps that the location is genuinely stunning on occasion, but it still has to be well lit, photographed, filmed and edited to be effective – and the makers of The Invoking do just that in a way that belies the actual amount it cost to produce.  It looks and sounds wonderful.

 

I can’t lie and say that this is a flawless piece of Psychological horror, because it’s not, the acting from some of the cast is less than effective.

 

On the one hand  the two main  players, Miller and Midili more than hold the film together, with D’Angelo Midili’sperformance in particular being something of a revelation and definitely on the ‘destined for grand things’ list.

 

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The excellent D’Angelo Midili.
His role as the mysterious caretaker could easily have been ‘hammed up’ to levels of cliche and caricature, however a performance of measured understatement is instead on show. The problem is that the quality of acting from the rest of the cast at best doesn’t quite measure up to the two leads, at  its worst at times it is downright poor. Far be it from me to single out one particular performance as being bad, but one of the actors obvious attempt at being wacky and quirky is simply too over the top and and at times completely distracted my attention from whichever scene they’re in.

 

The Invoking hasn’t completely reinvented the wheel or transformed the genre, I doubt that was ever the intention of Jeremy Berg and his crew. However, what he and the rest of his team have created is a wonderfully subtle, intelligent, beautiful and at times chilling tale that may indeed seem familiar at first glance. It is though, far more than that and it works wonderfully well. It’s not just a good film, it is simply excellent.

 

The Invoking is due for its UK release on DVD on 12th May 2014.

 

This movie is well worth 8 out of 10

 

Image Entertainment is a relatively new label from RLJ Entertainment which was launched here in the UK in January 2014, as the UK arm of the thriving Image Entertainment US label, with an exciting new range of sci-fi action, thriller and horror genre films selected from the US schedule.