Posts Tagged ‘wolf

25
Aug
13

You’re Next (2011) Warm Blood & Rich People…plus a short essay on slasher cinema history

you're next poster

a Primal Root written review

The late 60’s  through the 1970’s were the golden years for American horror cinema. Not only were young, truly talented filmmakers delivering inspired pieces of art, they gave cinema indispensable time capsules of the days troubled times and the lasting, horrifying impact of our actions on not only the inhabitants of our nation, but the world. films such as Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left”, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and many others illustrated , the brutality both at home and abroad as peaceful protesters were gunned down by our National Guard in cold blood, blacks in our country were beaten and murdered by our police officials, our brothers, sons,  husbands and Fathers were being drafted to serve in a wildly unpopular war and the hippie movement had given way to disillusionment in the wake of Charles Manson and Free Love regrettably spread venereal disease like wild fire through the loins of our nation.  Independent horror cinema had never been more vital, more important in our country as it was during this era.  Horror was the purest illustration, the unfettered subconscious, of our society.

Soon the 1980’s were ushered in and movies such as “Halloween” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, which had proven incredibly profitable, gave way to a sub-genre known as the “slasher” genre, which gained a foothold in this decade and squeezed as much blood out of the concept as  possible. John Carpenter’s Halloween became a franchise, Sean Cunningham’s “Friday the 13th” spawned a series of films repeating the same formula for over 20 years, and Wes Craven delivered a trail blazing, brilliant, post Vietnam horror film in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, but it was soon watered down into a franchisable commodity.  Slasher horror films became a staple of the decade as they proved to be resoundingly profitable for studios, and sequels that regurgitated the story on repeat could be relied upon to turn a profit. It was fun while it lasted, and some pretty damn great slasher films were produced during the decade, but   gradually, a form of horror that had once shown us how fucked up our system was, had been yuppified and sold out. The films became less of a societal rorshach test, and more like a series of Saturday morning cartoon adventure. Hell, it was the 1980’s in a capitalist country! As George “Buck” Flowers said in John Carpenter’s 1988 science fiction masterpiece, “They Live”, “We all sell out every day, might as well be on the winning team!”

But by the end of 80’s the slasher formula had grown as stale as a year old box of opened and then forgotten about croutons in the pantry, and by 1990, many folks deemed the sub-genre dead.

BUT THEN CAME POST-MODERN SLASHERS!  Ushered in by Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and to a much greater extent, his “Scream” franchise, which replaced the usual gang of teenagers ready for the chop, with teenage characters who have been raised in the VHS generation and are completely aware of the slasher formula, it’s cliches and it’s caveats and are loaded up and ready with quips, jokes and references to horror movies history!  The resurrection of the slasher genre was given life thanks to the ever increasing knowledge and awareness of the audience who had spent their youths combing through video rental stores and boning up on their horror movie knowledge.  Two decades earlier, it was Leatherface in Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” who had been savaging the cinema while wearing the remains of his victims. Now, in the 1990’s, the filmmakers were the one’s wearing the remains of the genre’s past and exploiting it as a joke and laughing at the power these movies once, and to the viewer willing to watch without a jaded eye, still contain.

But, there are only so many in-jokes you can make about the genre before Post Modern gives way to straight up spoofs like the Wayans Brother’s brain dead “Scary Movie” franchise.  Oh, what has post modern horror wrought?

In the mid 2000’s, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the War in Iraq marched on with seemingly no plan and no end in sight under the George W. Bush administration, the slasher genre got a heavy, dark, deeply mean spirited and cynical makeover in the form of James Wan’s “Saw” franchise, Now audiences were thrust into morality games where victims and victimizers alike were suddenly forced to endure and try to survive brutal and disturbingly painful forms of grueling torture in order to survive and are expected to walk away having learned some kind of life affirming message. Assumign they survive at all. (Spoiler: most folks end up splattered across the linoleum.)  Also, taking hold in this decade, was a sudden popularity in remakes. Classic horror films like Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” were open game for modern retelling and face lifts. These proved successful as money making ventures since the titles were already well established and could be relied on to turn a profit, but many folks took this as a sign that “Hollywood” had, indeed, run out of ideas and that set of balls they once relied on to give up and coming filmmakers a chance at showcasing original product, had now finally been cut cleen and tossed int he waste basket. The studio now only seemed interested in “sure things.”  Young filmmakers who came of age during the slasher heydays were now creating their own slasher movies…but more times than not, for cynical laughs and nastiness rather than genuine scares or fun.

With the exception of a few sporadic, slasher films produced independently, with varying degrees of success, the blood in the veins of a once extremely popular genre has been cooling down and slowing to a coagulated halt as it’s once thriving body withers up and passed away. Them’s the brakes.  I had very little hope in ever seeing a slasher film worth a piss again on the big screen.

Death Zoo 2000

Death Zoo 2000

And then I saw “You’re Next”.

A kind of home invasion slasher film that’s done the impossible and taken a tired formula, one that’s been played to death, and made it feel fun, interesting and new again. Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun watching a slasher film in…well…YEARS! I know there’s been quite a bit of hype surrounding this flick over the last couple years since it’s premiere in 2011, and although I do feel the praise this thing has gotten is, indeed, a bit overblown, “You’re Next” does a dandy of a job showing it’s audience a good time.

The premise comes across as fairly standard. A very wealthy family reunites for a weekend at their secluded mansion in the middle of winter. It;s cold, it’s snowy, and if a band of crossbow shooting, axe wielding maniacs happen upon their house, they are more or less trapped and/or completely fucked.    One thing I greatly appreciate about “You’re Next’ is that the family and other assorted characters are written as actual human beings, characters and players in the drama at hand rather than just jokes and punch lines ready to be cashed in.  Sure, some situations come off as comical, but never because the characters are anything more than flawed, damaged and mistake making human beings. Things are tense before any psychopaths even show up! Hell, I haven;t seen a dinner scene this tense and uncomfortable since The Sawyer clan sat down to dinner in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” (No, Tobe Hooper’s not paying me to drop that title as many times as possible in this review) The family dynamic feels like a bomb just waiting to go off as it seems some siblings cannot be near one another for more than five seconds without anger and resentment rising and an argument breaking out.  One cannot help but feel bad for Erin (Sharni Vinson) who is there to meet and spend some quality time getting to know her boyfriend Crispan’s (AJ Bowen) family.

Things go from awkward to “Aw, fuck” as family dinner is violently interrupted and suddenly everyone is scrambling to survive. To the amazed wonderment of the family, Erin seems to have the survival instincts of a wild cat and, once the rich families plans are all proven to be disastrously moot, takes control of the situation and ends up being on the the very best, if not the quintessential Final Girl.   Rarely in the slasher genre have I ever witness a final girl so aptly and efficiently tackle with her antagonists.  She turns her aggressors into bumbling idiots over the course of the film and it drew much appropriate applause form myself and the rest of the audience.  This is no screaming, lame-o final girl running around in her panties and hoping to fight the killer to a draw. no, Erin is out for blood and she’s honestly one of the greatest assets “You’re Next” has.  Many folks have labeled “you;re Next” a “feminist” horror film.  Hell, I thought most horror films, especially slashers, featured strong female protagonists besting and hulking male antagonist. By definition, isn’t the majority of slasher films feminist?

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

What a woman will go through for a decent boyfriend.

But, I digress, “You’re Next” also delivers some excellently executed gore set pieces that seem to escalate as the films closes in on it’s graphically violent, over the top conclusion.  People meet their end in brutal, uncompromising fashions at the end of axes, arrows, knives, screwdrivers and countless assorted implements of destruction and kitchen accoutrement.  Those looking for and carnage candy will not leave disappointed.  Another thing I was impressed with was the film;s dark, yet fitting, sense of humor. Unlike other recent slasher films that slowly devolve into “Not Another Teen Slasher Film” over the top, slapstick gore and gags (Hatchet & Hatchet II, I’m looking at you.) or post modern slashers that draw laughs from our knowledge of horror film history,  “You’re Next” keeps things serious and to the point, but manages to draw comedy from it’s bloody situations. The jokes are dark, but the levity is appreciated and doesn’t feel out of place.

On the negative side, once the shit hits the proverbial fan,  “You’re Next” invokes some of the most annoying shaky cam I’ve ever endured. I;m not exactly sure if I got used to it after it’s initial use or if the filmmakers decided it was only necessary for this one moment of panic, but my God, it was distracting and pointless. The actors were doing a fine enough job portraying their shock and horror at what was occurring, the last thing we needed was some guy shaking the camera around like he’s being mauled by a grizzly bear during the shoot.  Seriously, have some faith in your on screen talent. I wanted to watch their performances and not gain a migraine headache for my efforts. Also, sadly, the central question underlying the whole flick is pretty easy to figure out. Boots and I knew what was up as soon as arrows began flying. But, in the end, this didnt diminish my enjoyment of the film at all.

meow.

meow.

Any other gripes? Not really. “You’re Next” is a shockingly solid piece of slasher entertainment in a genre I thought had been bled totally dry by 80’s over exposure, 90’s postmodernism, and new millennial remake dookie splatter.  It was treat being able to watch a fun, TRULY old school style slasher film with an appreciative, loud, and lively audience just as into it as myself and Bootsie Kidd were. Not nearly as revolutionary as many critics and supporters have hyped it up to be, “You’re Next” is still one of the very best times I’ve had seeing a down and dirty slasher flick in ages. It has a keen awareness of the genre itself  which allows the filmmakers a chance to play around with our expectations, passes itself well, contains serviceable performances and has one very cool throwback synth driven score. Almost sounds like John Carpenter himself could have done the music for this sucker.

This is not the second coming, but it is proof that you can play with slasher formula without turning it all into some masturbatory joke. “You’re Next” has given me a smidgen of hope for a long flailing sub genre of horror and I am hoping filmmakers interested in working within it take note of what “You;re Next” has done right. Because there are few roller coaster rides as fun as a fun, well executed slasher film with the right audience. I only wish I got to take the ride more often.

If you’ve ever held even a drop of affection for the slasher genre in your horror nerd heart, you owe it to yourself to see “You’re Next.”

4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

11
Apr
13

Werewolf on the Moon: The Howl Story

Werewolf on the Moon

Created by Perry Gilbert

a Dirty Thought with The Primal Root…

edited by Bootsie Kidd

By now,  I’m sure most of our Trash Cinema Collective regulars are well aware of The Collective’s most recent project, “Werewolf on the Moon’.” A mock 1950’s style Roger Corman-esque trailer to be entered into a competition held at a 24 hour film festival in Chicago on Saturday, March 9th, 2013.  The competition was going to be judged by audience applause,  so as out-of-towners our chances of “winning” this thing were pretty nil from the get-go.  Still, the idea of The Collective coming together and creating something outside the realms of our usual “The Primal Root’s Rotten Review” and, instead, making a short film of sorts to be shown on the big screen in front of hundreds of people as part of a friendly competition between other amateur filmmakers? I began scribbling down ideas…

Being the overly excitable and eager fellow that I am, I came up with about a dozen ideas and contemplated creating all of them for the competition. Keep in mind, we only had about a month to get ONE trailer finished let alone six… So, when I brought these ideas to veteran filmmaker and The Trash Cinema Collective’s go to collaborator, John Thursby,  he thankfully managed to talk me down and into shooting just one trailer.  Out of all the concepts, ‘Werewolf on the Moon’ struck me as the most doable project of them all. It presented its own distinct challenges, including a rocket trip to the moon, creating uranium rods, and convincing a woman to get naked in the shower and be gawked at by a menacing, blood-thirsty werewolf. We had our work cut out for us. At least I thought. Then I realized  we had The Trash Cinema Collective’s unrivaled pool of talent supporting us every step of the way.

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Our unparalleled cast of actors including whom I am hesitant to name, seeing as they are all very respectable, contributing members of society who just so happen to also be incredibly creative and willing to go all-out for such projects over and over again, giving of themselves and their time in order to bring these ideas to life. I am forever grateful for their contributions and reliable eagerness to be a part of these projects.  Thank you for the support, inspiration and friendship.

Also, our behind the scenes crew were amazing, as well. Laura Henry was remarkable as ever as our hair and makeup designer.  Perry Gilbert, who created our computer generated-effects and made his acting debut as “The Man” in the trailer has become a valuable player and an excellent addition to The Collective’s production crew.  Having cast myself as The Werewolf I wasn’t able to be behind the camera as often which meant it relied mostly on the talents of John Thursby and Bootsie Kidd as cinematographers and both did an astounding job with this project and making it look as wonderfully cheesy as possible.

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Also, we must give special mention to Steven Torres, who responded to a total strangers cry for props inviting us over to his home, and lending us an entire garage full of cool, strange, unique pieces and original art to be used in our trailer.  This was a HUGE help on Werewolf on the Moon.

We shot the trailer in 3 days on weekdays, once people were available after work. Our biggest day was our first as we gathered a large group of our cast to shoot the scenes involving our initial werewolf attack scene, the Moon Marines battling the werewolf, our scientist explaining the perils of battling a werewolf on the moon,  and the harrowing werewolf shower attack sequence. It was a fairly nice-sized shot list, but through concentration, professionalism and plenty of beer and vegan pizza, we managed to conquer it. John Thursby, always a fun performer, knocked the character of our 50’s chain smoking, oddly aggressive scientist, out of the part.  Carpenter as the head of the Moon Marines was pitch perfect in his aggravated, manic, blood thirsty portrayal of a man who cannot comprehend of a situation where he can;t just kill his enemy instantly.  His Moon Marines, played by A.D. and Bailey, were both hysterical onscreen, bringing to life their characters in ways I hadn’t even comprehended.  Bailey performed his own stunts when the Werewolf rips his face open, and A.D. gave his character that great Dudley Do-Right vocal quality that, at first, seemed goofy but quickly felt pretty damn perfect. Keep in mind, most of these scenes were shot against a white wall in a two car garage.  I cannot forget to mention L.A. whose willingness to strip down to a tiny pink bikini and, in the case of a shot or two, stripping totally naked in order to make her werewolf attack seem more sever and legit. Oh yes, the nudity was ABSOLUTELY crucial to the trailer.

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Our next day of shooting took place at Kleman Plaza in downtown Tallahassee where we primarily shot our Werewolf’s rampage sequence. The werewolf attacked a little girl playing hop-scotch by snatching her up, throwing her over his shoulder and making a break for it. Our little girl was played by the always game Tara B-M, who didn’t mind getting rammed into by a beefy guy with impaired vision about a dozen times till we got the right take. Also of note, Tara’s shoes would fly off on every take and in one instance nearly hit a homeless man directly in the face.  Rachel M. played the young girls hop scotch companion and took played the roll of an over enthusiastic youngster to the hilt. I kind of wish that shot lasted long so you can really take the time to admire her incredible performance. Seriously, next time you watch the Werewolf on the Moon trailer, pay attention to her.  Perry Gilbert then made his screen debut as The Man, He’s the gentleman holding up the ‘Werewolf on the Moon’ newspaper who is then brutally assaulted. It was the scene where we went full on goofy and it came out wonderfully. The kid’s a natural. We shot a few scenes with Jennie C. as a gypsy who has relocated to the Moon and speaks of a prophecy that said “the curse would follow us to the stars.” Sadly, this moment had to be cut from the competitive cut to fit the time limitations, (you can still see her getting attacked in a quick cut during the competitive cut) however, we restored it in the extended cut.  We then shot some scenes in the parking garage of myself climbing on board an elevator to the ship to the moon as I transform into a werewolf and a shot of me disembarking from the elevator as a full blown lycanthrope.  We did some impromptu shooting around Kleman Plaza that ended up on the cutting room floor but will make it’s way into the extended cut.

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Our very last day of the shoot took place in Panacea Florida, in a small aircraft provided by  aviator, scholar and gentleman, Steve Faultz This would have to pass as our shuttle to the moon where I transform into a werewolf as my attention is drawn to the approaching moon by Ms. Bootsie Kidd who is seated next to me.  Thanks to some creative photography and the ingenious idea of using black construction paper with holes punched in it to create the illusion of our aircraft flying through the vacuum of space, it all looks better than we ever could have expected.  We managed to shoot the remainder of the footage we needed in only a couple of hours, including some unscripted footage of the werewolf hijakcing the moon shuttle that will be added to the trailer’s extended cut.

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Last, and certainly not least, we featured twice past Devil Girl and recurring actress in The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews as our 1950’s Devil Girl in our Trash Cinema Collective Pictures logo. 😉 When that logo popped up in Chicago in front of  about 800 sci-fi fans, you should have heard the wolf whistles and cat calls! I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for the font we used…

The editing process went remarkably smoothly and was an absolute joy to piece together. The performances and handy work of my friends and partners in crime were a blast to watch and piece together into what shaped up to be a very fun, very funny, ridiculously entertaining little trailer. I am incredibly proud of what we made over those few days and what we were able to accomplish with no budget and little time. It’s a testimony to the talent and creativity we have here at The Trash Cinema Collective as a collaborative force to be reckoned with.

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Our trailer was one of the last of fifteen trailers to be shown in Chicago during The Portage Theater’s Sci-Fi Spectacular Movie Marathon. The audience reaction spoke for itself as people laughed from start to finish and applauded raucously at its conclusion. The crowd loved it. However, when it came time to be judged, it was the local Chicago folks who took home top honors as it was judged by applause and they were able to get their entire casts, crews and extended family to show up and cheer them on. And rightfully so! It was apparent that every single filmmaker, performer, and crew member had poured their creative juices into making these oddball shorts, and in the end everyone supported the hell out of each other. From me to you, it was a damn fine sight to behold.  But honestly, I think we truly won that night. Werewolf on the Moon, this project we all worked so hard to create, played on the big screen and garnered a huge amount of laughs, applause and praise afterwards. We created something people enjoyed and appreciated. for those 90 seconds, us Tallahassee kids, The Trash Cinema Collective, filled a theater full of movie lovers with laughter, with light, with something that touched people. And if we can put all our talents together and create something  that brightens the lives of those who watch it, even for a short while, isn’t it worth it?  I certainly think so.

Thank you all for making this project possible. Without your love, friendship, and support none of this would see its way into our version of reality.

So, without any further a due, here are the fruits of our labors. Enjoy “Werewolf on the Moon!” A Trash cinema Collective Mock Trailer.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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