Film Review: “In a Violent Nature”

Starring: Ry Barrett, Andrea Pavlovic and Cameron Love
Directed by: Chris Nash
Rated: NR
Running Time: 94 minutes
IFC Films and Shudder

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Is it possible to reinvent the slasher genre in the 21st century? I think there’s always a discussion about it, but I ultimately think it’s incredibly difficult, especially since some confuse reinvigorating with reinventing. It’s hard to transform the slasher genre because it’s solely built on the singular purpose of seeing people killed in brutal ways. I’m not saying it’s too simplistic, but I’ve rarely seen instances of films attempting to reinvent one of horror cinema’s greatest wheels. The most recent occurrence of reinvention is when Wes Craven unleashed “Scream” upon the world. That being said, “In a Violent Nature” comes pretty damn close.

I wasn’t sold immediately as “In a Violent Nature” opened on a deteriorating structure in the middle of a lush summertime forest. We hear a few men off-screen talking over the sounds of nature; birds, the rustling of trees in the soft breeze and the like. Then we see a locket necklace removed from a pipe shooting out of the ground. That removal is what causes our main character to emerge from the hardened, yet seemingly fresh dirt below. Johnny (Ry Barrett) crawls out of the Earth from his undead slumber and begins to shamble around the pristine woods around him. The cameras follow Johnny throughout “In a Violent Nature,” sometimes methodically, sometimes suspensefully, but ultimately with an unspoken purpose.

It’s easy to compare “In a Violent Nature” to a film like the remake of “Maniac,” where we see not only have a first person view of the killer’s world, but hear his internal monologue. “In a Violent Nature” is third person and we never get to hear what Johnny is thinking. You could almost say that we more or less see what happens during other slashers as our main killer lumbers towards an unspeakable goal or illogical destination. You can joke that in other slashers, the killer is generally just twiddling their thumbs or possibly checking their Instagram notifications as they await another teenage victim to slash and gash. Instead, we’re left to ponder for several long lapses what Johnny is doing. Revenge? Bloodlust? Boredom?

Come to think of it, I really wasn’t sold on “In a Violent Nature,” until the film’s second kill. The film juxtapositions these moments of brutality with Johnny calmly walking about. We see him as he encounters the stereotypical group of teenagers looking to camp in a place they shouldn’t be, and how he reacts. Johnny doesn’t necessarily react the way we’ve imagined Jason Vorhees or others before Johnny. Vorhees jump scares into the picture, machete in hand, and quickly mutilates his victims. Johnny just walks up. Is that what Vorhees, Krueger and Myers have been doing all along? Casually strolling up? Like slashers before him, Johnny seems focused on a singular notion, but what is that notion? What drives Johnny? At a certain point, does Johnny’s backstory answer our burning questions or merely attempt to explain the unexplainable? “In a Violent Nature” performs an autopsy and you’re left to wonder what all the different organs are and why some are disfigured while others aren’t.

The film checks all the slasher boxes, a memorable killer, creative and gruesome kills, the drowning feeling of isolation, and a pace that balances viciousness with quiet curiosity. Is “In a Violent Nature” a deconstruction of the genre, much like “Cabin in the Woods?” It’s difficult to say because the silence breeds speculation and ultimately makes the viewer deconstruct the film more than the genre. “In a Violent Nature” starts out as an homage and slowly becomes a social commentary like great slashers before it. Slashers have always tapped into societal trauma, like the breakdown of safe spaces, whether it be a pristine lake in the woods or the safety of a suburban community on Halloween. The main thing it tapped into was a fear of the unknown. It’s very human to be fearful or anxious of the uncertainty and unseen around us. It’s what made “The Strangers” so effective, murderers can come for you just because. So, in today’s digital age of data where we have access to a wide range of sources and information, we fail to remember one thing that “In a Violent Nature” reminds us of, some things will never be explained. Johnny, just like the universe, may just be random and cruel. While some may suffer fates worse than death, survivors will be haunted by its unanswered questions.

Panic Fest Film Review: “Cannibal Mukbang”

Starring: April Consalo, Nate Wise and Clay von Carlowitz
Directed by: Aimee Kuge
Rated: NR
Running Time: 104 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Have you ever seen a film title and it’s way too good to be true? My first thoughts are “Snakes on a Plane” or “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot.” So, when I saw “Cannibal Mukbang,” I thought, “Here we go. Another film that’s more title than anything.” Welp. “Cannibal Mukbang” is a genre roller coaster that not only pays off, but makes the title seem tame compared to what happens in the film.

When we first meet Mark (Nate Wise), he’s loveable in a sad puppy kind-of-way, but there’s something about him we can’t quite shake throughout the film. Mark’s self-doubt is apparent as he constantly compares himself to his brother, scrutinizes his body as if he was a Youtube comments section, and ignores when he’s lovestruck. Literally. Ash (April Consalo) hits Mark with her car by accident, and it’s love at first sight. Ash’s day job is filming mukbang videos. Mukbang is a South Korean video trend that’s gone global, highlighting people eating massive amounts of food while talking to their fans. Mark doesn’t judge and wants to know more. At night, Ash turns into a predator as she hunts down sexual predators to devour because she has an insatiable appetite for human flesh. Mark doesn’t judge and wants to know more.

What’s ultimately fascinating about “Cannibal Mukbang,” is that this initial sappy love story premise stays a sappy love story even as the blood, gore, human body parts, and sexual innuendo with the blood, gore and human body parts, amplifies. For every moment of hardcore horror, flesh munching and being crazy horny, there are these very human moments of Mark and Ash unveiling their emotional wounds to each other. In a macabre way, it’s understandable that Ash doesn’t want to get too close to someone. If you had a compulsion to eat human flesh, you wouldn’t necessarily be the most extroverted individual. As for Mark, his self esteem is non-existent because he constantly focuses on how someone like Ash could ever fall in love with a “loser” like himself. This is one of those scenarios where you recognize that they’re not necessarily the best thing for each other, but they oddly fit perfectly together.

In her directorial debut, Aimee Kuge has written a near modern exploitation masterpiece. I say masterpiece because she has taken a lot of the plot elements of exploitation films and funneled them into a mainstream dramatic rom-com. If the horror elements didn’t exist, we could only assume that a happy ending is around the corner for Ash and Mark, but because this is a film where picked clean bones keep piling up, we know it’s about to come crashing down in a horrific fashion. In some ways, we’re conflicted because we do like these soft, tender moments between the two while the cannibalism sits on the back burner. For a first film, Kuge’s vision and writing is not only impressive, but it’s reminiscent of other great first time horror directors like Stuart Gordon or Ana Lily Amirpour.

Not only is Kuge a director to keep an eye on as her career advances, but “Cannibal Mukbang” might end up being a word-of-mouth hit. The film brilliantly handles gruesome sexualism with genuine heartfelt love in a way that must be seen to be believed. It’s hard to not get wrapped up with the characters and story to the point you need to devour the movie again and again. “Cannibal Mukbang” has a near perfect list of ingredients, and while it satisfies any hunger you have before entering the film, only time will tell if it’s an acquired taste or a smorgasbord for all.

Panic Fest Film Review: “Sting”

Starring: Ryan Corr, Alyla Browne and Penelope Mitchell
Directed by: Kiah Roche-Turner
Rated: R
Running Time: 91 minutes
Well Go USA Entertainment

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Very few times can I describe a film with these words: heart-warming, funny and skin crawling. “Sting” is the story of a peculiar preteen girl, Charlotte (Alyla Browne) who makes friends with a spider, at least what we think is a spider. You see, on a snowy, icy night in New York City, a tiny meteorite smashes through a window at an apartment complex. The rock cracks open, revealing the dime sized spider that quickly makes friends with Charlotte. Since we know up front that it’s from space, we know that this isn’t an ordinary spider, but of course no one else knows this. Charlotte doesn’t even seem to mind too much that the spider doubles in size in hours, and suddenly requires more than just apartment lurking bugs to devour.

I’d say the majority of “Sting” hinges on the likability of Charlotte as a character and Browne’s acting abilities. It’s a difficult character to tackle because Charlotte is dealing with the loss of her father and isn’t as emotionally connected as she once was with her mom. It doesn’t help that her stepdad is a little bit aloof when it comes to Charlotte, talking to her but not actually listening to her. So when Browne interacts with her new pet spider, we truly understand why and actually believe it. I actually believed it, especially since I feel like people who own spiders are pets are sociopaths. As for everyone else who encounters the spider, it’s like midnight at the drive-in.

Part of the inherent cheesy fun of “Sting” is watching all the characters come into focus, while figuring out who’s going to be eaten first. There’s a baby, some elderly ladies, an exterminator who hates coming out to the apartment, a yappy dog and plenty of other tenants that could potentially become spider food. It’s the same formula as the a lot of 80s slashers, but instead of a knife wielding maniac, it’s an eight legged monster.

There is a sense that “Sting” is lacking something. It’s lacking a cast of characters we should all care about, but there’s inherently nothing wrong with watching the spider pick them one-by-one. “Sting” is more of a comedy than a horror first, but it’s not consistently fun. What I’m trying to say in so many words is that “Sting” isn’t perfect, nor is it great, but I admire that it seems like everyone knows they’re making a modern creature feature with chuckles and a cast that will put a smile on your face.

Film Review: “Night of the Hunted”

Starring: Camille Rowe and Stasa Stanic
Directed by: Franck Kahlfoun
Rated: NR
Running Time: 95 minutes
Shudder

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

As the credits for “Night of the Hunted” began to roll, I wondered about all my unanswered questions. I had plenty during the 95-minute cat and mouse game. In “Night of the Hunted,” Alice (Camille Rowe) spends a hellacious night over walkie-talkie with a Sniper (Stasa Stanic) at a remote gas station. Is it just bad luck? Is Alice being targeted? Is God punishing her for an unknown crime? Who is the Sniper? There are no answers, but maybe that’s the point.

Before being thrown into the mayhem, we meet Alice, who runs social media for a pharmaceutical giant, in a hotel room that she’s sharing with a male colleague. We wouldn’t think anything of it if she didn’t abruptly stop talking to her husband before her colleague enters the room. Are they lovers? The duo, who appear to have unsettled business, are on their way out of the room after a business convention. The pair stop at a 24-hour gas station for menial supplies and a tank fill-up. A nearby billboard says “GODISNOWHERE,” which feels ominous no matter how you view it, whether it’s “God is now here” or “God is nowhere.” Alice, noticing nothing at first, begins to realize no one is working in the store. As soon as she looks for an employee, she sees blood splattered on the wall behind the cash register, but the realization intertwines with a sniper bullet gashing her arm. Her colleague rushes in, only to be gunned down in front of her.

The back and forth between Alice and her would-be killer fill the rest of the film as passers in the night stop at the gas station to either meet their untimely end or fill their tank before going about their life. You could honestly comment on why certain people were killed and why others weren’t, more than they noticed the carnage or were oblivious to it. I digress though, Alice and the Sniper prod each other, trade insults, and attempt sympathetic comments about their lives. The more we learn about both, the more we wonder whether either is truly telling the truth. Alice has reason to make things up, she’s fighting for her life. The Sniper has reason to make things up, he’s a sociopath. This leads to Alice and the Sniper assuming things about each other, seemingly right, but also seemingly false.

My overarching belief is that “Night of the Hunted” is a commentary on 21st century discourse. We believe things about each other simply because we begin to attach others to different tribes. We pick at each other over perceived stereotypes and use those same beliefs to find reasons to hate. We also look to make the other party feel guilty for their own presumptions as we make our own. The Sniper drives a lot of that narrative, not only because he’s the killer, but because he seems to relay his own philosophy of being anti-vax, anti-government, anti-woke, etc. It’s a bit on the nose, but like I said, we’re never led to believe that either Alice or the Sniper is 100% true. Are they both mischaracterizing each other for their own goals or are they hitting each other like nails on the head?

A lot of people are going to be disappointed by the ending because of the lack of answers. Personally, it feels to match the verbal jarring and bloodletting throughout the film. Regardless of how you feel as the credits arrive, “Night of the Hunted” is a violent, tense, entertaining flick that will twist your stomach up in knots.


 

Panic Fest 2023 Review

Even before the start of this year’s Panic Fest, “Mayhem” director Joe Lynch was salivating all over social media about Panic Fest, dubbing it one of his favorite film festivals. So we’re now at the point where you don’t have to take my word for it. You would probably get the same reaction from several other actors and directors who’ve attended over the years, but let me reiterate that if you’re in the vicinity of the Screenland Armour in North Kansas City, you should check out Panic Fest. The horror festival gem of the Midwest has slowly been building an audience, of normies like me, horror aficionados, celebrities and everyone in between, and if 2023 was any indication, it’ll continue to grow without losing its indie luster.

Panic Fest kicked off Thursday, April 13, with THE Nicolas Cage as Dracula in “Renfield,” which may have been one of the rowdiest and off-the-wall screenings in America. Slipping into Friday was what people have come to expect, low budget films with a lot to say, like “Give Me an A.” I’m sure the opening five minutes would surely infuriate any self-described “pro-lifer.” This was followed by a screening of Ted Geoghegan’s new film, “Brooklyn 45,” with Ted in attendance. Friday night ended with jam packed screenings of “Sisu” and “Evil Dead Rise,” both crowd pleasers. I can now also brag that I watched the new “Evil Dead” with Barbara Crampton in attendance. Sure we weren’t sitting anywhere near each other, or even in the same row, but I won’t pass up a mild brag.

Saturday may have been the big enchilada as filmmakers and their cast/crew were in attendance for several screenings throughout the day, including “Abuprtio” and “Blue Hour.” Things really kicked off when “Black Mold” had its world premiere with about two dozen members of the cast and crew in attendance. Not to be out done, Joe Lynch led a double feature of films starring Barbara Crampton, “From Beyond” and “We Are Still Here.” Saturday also saw the world premiere of “Bury the Bride,” a film that may just put Spider One on the map once it hits Tubi next month. If you can predict the twist in the film with absolute certainty, props to you.

While the pandemic is fading into the rearview mirror, the effects lingered throughout some of the films. “Trader,” one of my favorites of the fest, was a wild single setting ride, and it wasn’t alone. A lot of films utilized minimal crews, minimal spaces and worked with minimal time. “Invoking Yell,” which I wasn’t too fond of, was impressively shot in 72 hours while “Bury the Bride” managed to fit its insanity in a week of shooting. Even with packed screenings, packed lobbies, and long lines, Panic Fest has yet to lose its repertory cinema charm, highlighting some of the best indie horrors on the festival circuit and not shying away from some bizarre offerings like “Razzennest” and “Trim Season.”

The mix of mainstream and low budget horror has been a staple of Panic Fest, but this year seemed to be another peak scaled by the founders of the genre festival. Co-founders Adam Roberts and Tim Canton talked before nearly every film, talking about where they saw it or how they heard about it, at times, hyping up the crowd while equally showcasing their love of the genre and how much effort goes on throughout the year to get content to Panic Fest. While the festival still boasts an impressive line-up in-person, it also offers an impressive line-up of virtual films, which I am still binging through. While I may still be tired and struggling to focus at work, I can at least say the exhaustion and sleep deprivation was well worth it because Panic Fest remains the best horror fest in the Midwest.

ICONIC HORROR FILM SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT SLATED FOR REBOOT

Feature film will be coming down the chimney in 2022

Orwo Studios and Black Hanger Studios (JEEPERS CREEPERS: REBORN) announced today that they have acquired the remake rights to the seminal slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night. The original film’s producers Scott Schneid and Dennis Whitehead of Wonderwheel Entertainment will join Orwo in bringing an exciting new vision of this cult classic to modern movie audiences in 2022. 

The project was brought to Orwo by producer Anthony Masi of MasiMedia. Schneid, Whitehead, and Masi will produce along with Jake Seal, Terry Bird, and Jamie R. Thompson of Orwo Studios/Black Hangar. Orwo Studios is financing and representing the film for worldwide sales rights. 

Declared as the most controversial film of the 80s – Silent Night, Deadly Night tells the story of a child who is traumatized after seeing his parents killed by a man dressed as Santa Claus. Years later, he dons a Santa suit himself and gets bloody revenge on the naughty list. 

Wonderwheel says, “The continued desire for horror content and the ongoing success of the genre meant it was the perfect time to be able to offer up this chilling revival of the iconic title.” Masi adds, “We are thrilled to be working with the original producers as well as Orwo and Black Hangar and are committed to honoring nostalgia for the original while offering surprises for new audiences to discover and embrace.”

Horror Icon, Lin Shaye talks about her new film “Gothic Harvest”

Lin Shaye might be known best for her role of Elise Rainier in the “Insidious” franchise. Lin got started in horror back with “A Nightmare on Elm Street” through the recent “Ouija”, and its prequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil”. Shaye is also known for her comedic roles with the Farrelly brothers, including Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Lin about her new film “Gothic Harvest”.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you got involved with “Gothic Harvest”?
Lin Shaye: I got involved with the film because of Chris Kobin, who is the writer and one of the producers. I have worked with Chris before, we did the “2001 Maniacs” movies together. Bill Moseley, my co-star for this film also starred in “2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams” taking over the lead from Robert Englund, so we have worked together before also. It was an interesting story for me. I have high regard for Chris. He is a smart guy and a very loyal person. He approached me and asked if I wanted to be apart of it, so that’s how I got involved.

MG: Speaking of being trapped, what was it like being restricted to a wheelchair in the movie?
LS: It actually helps with the character in many regards. Being stuck anywhere, especially mobility, it takes a lot of muscle power to move you around. It takes a lot of real muscle to move. We had a really old wheelchair. Nowadays, wheelchairs are made with ball bearings and they spin and do wheelies and they maneuver amazingly. Not back then, you really needed to push to get them through doorways. You have to use your whole body to move them forward, not just your arms. It was a little bit jaunting and gave me totally new respect for disabled people that need to negotiate that in order to get anywhere. It was very difficult. To try and get somewhere it created emotionally a sense of frustration, which was perfect for the character.

MG: You’ve been in horror films from “A Nightmare on Elm Street” all the way through to the “Insidious” franchise; did you ever think you would have become such a horror icon?
LS: NEVER [laughs]. I am just grateful that I am getting to continue to work on such exciting projects. All of the things I have done leading up to this, I don’t really think in terms of genre. I think in terms of storytelling and character. Those are the determining factors for me in order to do a film. I love comedy also. I don’t gravitate to one genre over another. With acting, you making a real impact on people and I feel a real responsibility to looking for material that is about something important. Not education, per se, but reminding people of what is important in life. I just feel very privileged. Especially Elise in “Insidious”, people have asked me why I think she is popular and that is because she is a giver not a taker. I honestly believe people feel safe with her and that is part of her popularity.

MG: Do you have a personal favorite horror film?
LS: I thought “Hush” was great, out of the new horror films. I thought that was a really scary film with such a simple premise…but my favorite horror film is “The Shining”. I don’t think anyone has made a film that is quite as terrifying as that was and that still holds up today.

MG: Any more plans for the “Insidious” franchise?
LS: There is a rumor but I haven’t seen anything specific. I kind of know what they are thinking and I know the line that they are looking into but I don’t know when it would be because Blumhouse has so much going on right now. The “Insidious” franchise really exploded for them as a company as well as the “Purge” films. I don’t know anything definite but there is a rumor that there will be more.

MG: You’ve also done comedy like “Dumb and Dumber”, “Kingpin”, and “There’s Something About Mary”; how’s it like switching between genres?
LS: The lines all blur in terms of genre. It is really about what is the core of the character. What’s fun for me and even when I was a little kid, I remember loving the idea of being able to step into someone else’s life and disappearing. As an actor you have the luxury of being your buried feelings up in the forefront. It is a very exciting experience. I just feel lucky fortunate of not drawing lines in terms of genre but just finding the truth of the person I am playing.

MG: What do you have upcoming next?
LS: There was a little film I did called “Room for Rent” that is one Amazon Prime. I want everyone to see it. It is some of the best work that I have ever done. It is not a horror film but more of a psychology thriller about a woman’s decline into insanity really. I am very proud of it. Also I am doing the new “Penny Dreadful” series called “City of Angels” for Showtime. I have never done a TV series and it is big machinery. It has a fantastic cast and fantastic scripts. There are ten episodes and I will be in six of them. I play a fabulous character. Nathan Lane and I sort of play sidekicks. John Logan is the creator and he is exceptional. I am very excited for this project and I just hope I do a good job at the end of the day.

Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection First Time Ever on Blu-ray!

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, A LANDMARK COLLECTION SHOWCASING THE LEGENDARY MONSTERS IN MOTION PICTURE HISTORY

UNIVERSAL CLASSIC MONSTERS: COMPLETE 30-FILM COLLECTION AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY ON AUGUST 28, 2018 FROM UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Universal City, California, August 22, 2018 – Thirty of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces starring the most famous monsters of horror movie history come together on Blu-ray™ for the first time ever in the Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection on August 28, 2018, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Featuring unforgettable make-up, ground-breaking special effects and outstanding performances, the Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes all Universal Pictures’ legendary monsters from the studio that pioneered the horror genre with imaginative and technically groundbreaking tales of terror in unforgettable films from the 1930s to late-1950s.

From the era of silent movies through present day, Universal Pictures has been regarded as the home of the monsters. The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection showcases all the original films featuring the most iconic monsters in motion picture history including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Starring some of the most legendary actors including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester in the roles that they made famous, these films set the standard for a new horror genre and showcase why these landmark movies that defined the horror genre are regarded as some of the most unforgettable ever to be filmed.

Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes a 48-page collectible book filled with behind-the-scenes stories and rare production photographs and is accompanied by an array of bonus features including behind-the-scenes documentaries, the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula, Featurettes on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce, 13 expert feature commentaries, archival footage, production photographs, theatrical trailers and more. The perfect gift for any scary movie fan, the collection offers an opportunity to experience some of the most memorable horror films of our time.

The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes Dracula(1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The Mummy’s Hand (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1942), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942),Invisible Agent (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy’s Curse (1944), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), House of Dracula (1945), She-Wolf of London (1946), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954, and includes a 3D version), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955 and includes a 3D version) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).

 

BONUS FEATURES:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries
  • 3D Versions of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature
  • 1931 Spanish Version of Dracula
  • Featurettes on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce
  • 13 Expert Feature Commentaries
  • Archival Footage
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailers

 

Everything nerdy and a splash of horror invades San Diego Comic Con 2018

Some might wonder about the experiences San Diego Comic Con has to offer given that all the information and trailers released at panels drop onto the Internet a short time later, and in some instances before the panel is even set to begin. Some could simply live it through other’s photos or through their favorite Youtube personality. But I urge those with a tingling sense for adventure, or even a nerdy bone in their body, to attend.

As I stated in my article last year, when I was a newbie, that no matter how much research beforehand is done, you’re going to miss out on something. In my second year of attendance, that still holds true. As I heard from several veterans, it’s finding what you want to do and prioritizing it by day. This year I went with an offsite and inside approach. I’d start out my days checking out the sights and sounds before heading in and joining the indoor spectacle.

For a handful of hours Wednesday night, the massive vendor and exhibit hall was opened for thousands. It’s known as Preview Night. Most in attendance were ready to snag some merchandise while others, like me, simply took in all the sights and sounds. Folks with multiple bags of merchandise scurried about while others waited in lines for several booths and exhibits. The hottest spots were at Funimation, Funko, Hasbro, “The Walking Dead” area and a few usual suspects.

For those without a chance to step inside the hallowed grounds of the convention center, the outdoor areas provided some much needed fun, rest and goodies. “The Purge” offsite was literally handing out shirts, as people got to take some play money and purchase exclusive merch with that play money. It was one of the best offsites in terms of simplicity and swag. “Jack Ryan” offered a training ground, gear and (from what I read on Twitter) free money to those ballsy enough. Adult Swim, in the evening hours, opened up a mock camp site as the sun began to set. But when the sun set, “Adult Swim” staples entertained the masses until the midnight hours. The crown jewel of everything outside though was the “DC Universe” offsite where they offered food, drink, previews of games and shows, a Harley Quinn room and an escape room.

Meanwhile, others kept pace by offering simple things. FXHibition is where folks got to take pictures with some items representing their favorite show. The Experience near PetCo Park also offered a lot in terms of a place to stop for a quick bite to eat, or one of their interactive displays, including an escape room. Escape rooms seemed to be the hot thing this year as several other offsite events had an escape room, something I encourage as escape rooms slowly become even more popular. Even offsites like the Nerdist House scored huge points in my book just by offering free food and drink to those who were smart enough to search it out.

Inside, I managed to once again avoid Hall H. That didn’t stop me from getting curious when I read about some experiences on the Hall H line being easier than in years past. The reason, or the truth, behind those tweets are up in the air. Maybe next year I’ll camp out and see what all the fuss is about in the Hall where folks got a preview of “Halloween,” DC movies and an evening with Director/Writer Kevin Smith.

Don’t be discouraged though. Other rooms offer their own treats, whether it be exclusive footage or on-stage appearances by other celebrities. I found myself inside Ballroom 20 for Marvel’s “Cloak and Dagger” only to be treated to the breaking news announcement that a second season had been confirmed by the creator during the panel. Once inside and away from the Exhibit Hall, you’ll find something fun to sit in on or a group of people with the same interests that you can chat it up with.

The takeaway from fans inside was one of pure joy. Sure the long waits, sweat, frustration, and sometimes ineffectiveness of how things work can bear down on you. But when you unpack the gear you snagged and look through the pictures, you know it’s an event you’re happy to have been apart of. And part of you, just like me, will want to go back and do it all over again. If you’ve been on the fence in the past, it’s time to get off that fence and grab a plane ticket. SDCC 2019 is next July 17th-21st, so mark your calendars and start digging through the couch for some loose change.

B. Harrison Smith talks about working with horror legends in his new film “Death House”

Photo by KGE

Harrison Smith is the writer and director of the new horror film “Death House”, which is being called the Expendables of the horror genre! This film is jam packed with dozens of icons including Kane Hodder, Dee Wallace, Tony Todd, Bill Moseley and many more! B. Harrison took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about the film and what we can expect for the future!

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you first got involved with “Death House”?
B. Harrison Smith: All of that can be found here. It’s my personal blog called Cynema. It has four articles called “The Road To Death House” series which answers everything you need to know.

MG: How much did Gunner Hansen complete before his passing?
BHS: Gunnar did the original script. That’s covered in the “Road to Death House” series on my blog. The script that’s shot is 90% mine. I kept his concept of the Five Evils and the issue of good and evil’s dependency on each other. However Gunnar’s original script was about a team of filmmakers going into an abandoned asylum where they were killed off. So it’s pretty different. He gave the script his blessing before he died. He was happy with what I did. He was such a good person.

MG: What was it like to work with so many horror legends?
BHS: Educational. They know so much. They’ve seen so much and how the industry has evolved and changed for the better and worse. I loved the fact that I grew up watching them in theaters and late night cable and video and now I work with them. That’s the best thing.

MG: Were there any talent that you reach out to that turned you down or that you weren’t able to get for this film?
BHS: Sure and it was due to scheduling. When the money finally moved it didn’t jive with everyone’s schedule. Robert Englund was in the middle of three projects and flying to Scotland. Bruce Campbell was smack dab in the middle of the Evil Dead tv show but they were really nice about it and supportive. What can you do? The project had been on and off again for years. They had to work. Hopefully the next one we will get them!

MG: What was one of the coolest moments you had on set during production?
BHS: There were a few but one that comes to mind was watching the interaction between Kane, Bill, Michael. They’ve known each other so long. They’re icons and they fuck with each other like high school kids. They did this three stooges “hello, hello, hello” bit and it was classic.

I also got to eat lunch with Sid Haig who just told me so much about the industry over the last 50 years. He’s a wealth of information and stories and I was so privileged to have him share them with me.

MG: On the flip side, what was the hardest part of the production?
BHS: Having a low budget and 24 day shoot schedule. I think most indie filmmakers will cite money and time as the biggest issues. There were no divas. No “creative differences.” The people part and crew part was easy. Time and money…they’re the hurdles.

MG: According to IMDB I see there is a prequel in the cards, “Dawn of 5 Evils”, is this next for you? Give us a tease on what we can expect?
BHS: Producer Rick Finkelstein wants it and I’ll oblige. It’s a prequel and that title will change. That’s just a working title for now but It will examine the backgrounds of the Five Evils and their origins.

MG: What is your wishlist cast for the next film in the franchise?
BHS: Ah hell, if I do that and leave anyone off then I piss off potential cast. I hope everyone for the sequel returns and I look forward to new faces as well.

MG: Fun question, if you could remake/reboot one horror film, what would it be?
BHS: I’m not against remakes when they’re warranted. There have been some great ones: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” ‘78, “The Blob”, “Night of the Living Dead”. So if I had my choice, I’d love to get a crack at remaking “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death.” I love the original but I think there were things limited by budget and time. The original sits on my DVD shelf and it scared me since a kid.

MG: Favorite childhood horror film that inspired you to your current role today and why?
BHS: I always say the original “Jaws” is the movie that made me want to make movies. But I’m not sure I classify Jaws as a horror film. But that’s the one. I was 8 when I saw it in 1975 in theaters and I told my mom afterward that I want to make movies when I grew up. I wish she’d lived to see that happen.

Horror legend Dee Wallace talks about the new film “Death House”

Photo by Joe Bryant

Dee Wallace is a name that needs little introduction. She is a legend in the business and is known best for her roles on films like “The Hills Have Eyes”, “The Howling”, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo”. This year Dee is co-starring in the new film, “Death House” among over a dozen of other horror icons. She took out some time to chat with Media Mikes (again) to discuss the film and her role!

Mike Gencarelli: This project was born from the late Gunnar Hansen. How did you get involved and did you have any involvement with him before he passed?
Dee Wallace: I knew Gunnar. He was with my agent and also we saw each other on the circuit. I got involved because he and my agent developed the original concept together. Gunnar was a dear, sweet,  kind, talented man. He is missed.

MG: As a scream queen yourself, this film is jam packed with horror legends, but you have alot of screen time with Cortney Palm, who I feel is really breaking out in the business, tell us about working with her?
DW: I loved working with Cortney. She is very professional. I love her intensity.

MG: There has to be fun behind-the-scenes stories from working with this cast? Anything come to mind quick from the production?
DW: We alternated between freezing and feeling sorry for those who were more naked than we were!

MG: Tell us what drew you in about your character, Dr. Eileen Fletcher, and did you give her any cool unmentioned backstory to get into character?
DW: I loved her because I don’t get to play many characters like her…hard and unfeeling. Interestingly, that was a real challenge for me. I am used to playing with a full heart. I don’t know if you picked it up, but Barbara and I had a whole lesbian vibe going on.

MG: I like the idea that “Death House” is like “The Expendables” of the horror genre! Do you think that this will be expanded into more films?
Well, since I died, it’s doubtful I will return! But my daughter, Gabrielle Stone, is slated for the next one so yes!, I definitely want there to be more!

MG: From working in the genre over the years with “E.T.”, “The Howling” and “Cujo”,
how do you feel the genre has changed over the years?
DW: I think people get confused between horror and slasher. A good horror film develops characters, takes time to build, and usually has some kind of message about the human situation.

MG: Tell us what you are currently working on now and what’s upcoming?
DW: I have a great Christmas horror film on Netflix called “Red Christmas”, my series, “Just Add Magic”, is showing on Amazon Prime, and I am currently shooting a wonderful film called “Every Other Holiday”. I also am slated to film in March but cannot disclose any info yet!

Cortney Palm talks about working with horror icons in “Death House”

Cortney Palm has been making her mark in Hollywood and securing her role as a scream queen with roles in films like “Silent Night” (2012), “Zombeavers” and “The Dark Tapes”. She also co-starred in the film “Sushi Girl” alongside Mark Hamill in 2012. Recently she is starring in the film “Death House” alongside about a dozen of horror icons including Kane Hodder, Tony Todd and Dee Wallace. Cortney took out some time to chat with Media Mikes (again) to discuss the film and her love for the genre.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the film “Death House”?
CP: I had received message from director Harrison Smith via Twitter saying that some things had developed and he was interested in sending me a script. The script was “Death House”, and after I read it I thought I HAD to be a part of it. My managers got involved and literally a few days later I flew out to Pennsylvania to film.

MG: You are no stranger to ensemble casts after working on films like “Sushi Girl”, but tell us what was it like working with so many horror icons?
CP: Each actor brought something unique to set. An embodiment of their work and who they are as people. It’s always a joy to work with actors who have had long careers because you can learn so much from them. Kane (Hodder) and I did some improv that added depth to our characters and Barbara (Crampton) was so great in that we would work the scene before we filmed, which helped a lot.

MG: What drew you to your character Agent Toria Boon?
CP: I love her character arc. She clearly has a distinct past and simultaneously a past that is unfamiliar to her. Was it a part of a scientific test? Or something she’s trying to bury? But throughout the film she begins to unravel and question reality and her mission. I’ve always been drawn to strong female characters and agent Toria Boon is a badass, so that helps.

MG: Give us a fun behind-the-scenes story from the production?
CP: There was this one room in the prison, it was the freezer room, that we had to film in. It felt like bad juju. the camera crew had burned incense and wore crystals, but for some reason that room really took a toll on a few of us actors. Was it supernatural play? Bad energy? Or something that wanted to drain us. Whatever it was, it was a very difficult room to film in.

MG: I can see “Death House” being a great franchise, what horror icon would you like to see on board for future films if they happened?
CP: Honestly, Jamie Lee Curtis or Sigourney Weaver.

MG: How does it feel to be earning the status of scream queen in the horror genre?
CP: Am I? *Blushes* Horror films are so much fun to make. They take a lot of work, more than what people think. Buy they’re some of my favorite movies to work on, so I appreciate the fans who like to watch my work!

MG: Do you have any other projects upcoming that you would like to shout out to?
CP: “Hooker Assassin”
“Your Own Road”
“Sunflower”
“Dead Ant”

James Furlong and I also are co-producing an action/drama called “Savvy Strong”, where I play an ex-marine out for vengeance. We having a production team on board and are looking to secure more financing.

Horror Icon Bill Moseley And Metal Legend Philip H. Anselmo Unite To Release Songs Of Darkness And Despair Via Housecore Next Month.

BILL & PHIL: Horror Icon Bill Moseley And Metal Legend Philip H. Anselmo Unite To Release Songs Of Darkness And Despair Via Housecore Next Month.

Horror icon Bill Moseley – most notable as Chop Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and Otis in Rob Zombie’s House Of 1000 Corpses and Devil’s Rejects – recently joined forces with extreme music legend Philp H. Anselmo (Down, Pantera, Superjoint, Scour, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, Arson Anthem etc.) for a very special collaborative release entitled Songs Of Darkness And Despair.

Set for official unveiling on January 20th 2017 via Anselmo’s own Housecore Records, the five-track offering was produced and performed by Anselmo and Stephen “The Big Fella” Berrigan (Down, SYK, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, Eyehategod, haarp, Classhole, etc.), and mastered by Scott Hull of Visceral Sound. Songs Of Darkness And Despair includes guest appearances by Kevin Bond (Superjoint) on guitar, Squizzy Squires (King Parrot) on bass and guitar, and José “Blue” Gonzalez (Superjoint, Warbeast, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals) on percussion.

From preppie journalist to Satanic serial killer, Bill Moseley’s taken a long and unusual road to cult stardom, firmly cementing his place in the annals of horror history along the way. Having released his Spider Mountain record, and collaborated with Buckethead on their Cornbugs project, Moseley expands his musical endeavors by teaming up with Anselmo. BILL & PHIL‘s Songs Of Darkness And Despair is a brilliant trip that will give everyone a thrill.
Comments Anselmo: “Working with Mr. Moseley was an awesome experience! Bill brought the lyrics and Stephen [Berrigan] and I just improvised directly on the spot, and squeezed out six tunes in three days. All the songs have a different vibe because I wanted the music to represent Bill’s lyrical vision(s), and we needed to, because Bill does indeed have a unique, visual element within his choice of words and phrasing. I love Bill Moseley, and can’t wait to work on the next one! Be cool and enjoy this one!”
BILL & PHIL‘s Songs Of Darkness And Despair preorder bundles (including limited edition air fresheners and face masks) are available at The Housecore Store RIGHT HERE.
 
Songs Of Darkness And Despair Track Listing:
1. Dirty Eye
2. Corpus Crispy
3. Catastrophic
4. Widder Woman
5. Tonight’s The Night We Die
6. Bad Donu

Film Review “The Witch”


Directed by:
Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 33 mins
A24
Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s the 1630’s in Puritan New England, and we’ve just watched a family leave the safe confines of their settlement to go out on their own. It’s unsettling. It’s unsafe. And it’s just the beginning.

The Witch, Robert Eggers’s first feature film premiered to much acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and after having seen the film, it’s no surprise. Eggers has managed to create a fresh film in an often-described, stale genre. We follow Thomasin, a teenage girl masterfully played by Anya Taylor-Joy, as her family leaves the community under the threat of church banishment to settle on their own in a remote patch of land. That just happens to be next to an imposingly dark, tall forest. When the family infant is stolen right from under Thomasin’s nose in the most terrifying game of peekaboo that you’ll ever see, we watch as a family based on faith and loyalty unravels. Possession, accusations, suspicions, and paranoia mount as things continue to go from bad to worse for the family. Oh, and did I mention there’s a witch in the woods?

Eggers got his start doing production design and that background influence is strong in the film. The color work is deliberate. Just as the lives of the characters are bleak and their faith restrictive, so too is the landscape Eggers has placed them in. It’s gray, dull, and repetitive; so much so that when we do encounter the witch, we are almost relieved, as she comes with color in her scenes. What at first feels like a breath of fresh air in the barren landscape soon encircles us with a feeling of dread. These vibrant colors do not belong in this world. This type of unease is helped along by the superbly discordant score, which both pulls us in and jars us away throughout the film. The actors do an expert job playing a family on the verge of destruction, walking that fine line between rationality and unsteadiness. The camera work keeps you on the edge of your seat- never have I been so terrified of a goat before.

Watching The Witch is a study in psychological stress. It’s slow-paced and deliberate, and it leaves you with the feeling that you’ve seen something that you weren’t supposed to. The fact that the film is largely based off of historically real accounts of events of that time period only adds to this overwhelming feeling of unrest. This is not the film to see if you are looking for a “jumpy” horror film, but if you are looking for something that will get under your skin and will still have you thinking about it days later, The Witch is for you.

The Witch opens on Friday February 19th

 

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Wes Craven, A True Master of Horror, Dies at 76

Wes Craven, the creator of both the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” film series, passed away today at his home after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76.

After briefly teaching English at Westminster College, he decided to pursue a career in the film industry, beginning as a sound editor in New York City. He also began working in a film warehouse along-side a former filmmaker turned musician named Harry Chapin. Chapin had been approached by a dentist-friend of the warehouse owner who had $50,000 to invest in a horror film. Chapin, who had earned an Oscar-nomination for his 1968 documentary, “Champions,” was no longer interested in filmmaking so he recommended his co-worker, Wes, for the job. The film became 1972’s “Last House on the Left,” which was the first of many horror films written and directed by Craven. Craven also worked in the early world of pornography, mostly writing and editing films. It is rumored that, under the pseudonym “Abe Snake,” he directed the X-rated film called “The Firecracker Woman,” in which a young Craven also has a small role (clothed).

In 1977 he wrote and directed the brutal “The Hills Have Eyes,” following that up with “Deadly Blessing,” “Swamp Thing” and “The Hills Have Eyes Part II.” In 1984 he wrote and directed a film that would change horror movies forever, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” I was just getting into the theatre business when the film opened and I often filled in at the Town Theatre in Baltimore, which had the honor of being the theatre with the highest grosses during “Elm Street’s’ run. He finished the 80’s out by directing several episodes of “The Twilight Zone” television show and the films “The Serpent and the Rainbow” and “Shocker.”

He began the 90’s with “The People Under the Stairs” then turned to horror/comedy by directing Eddie Murphy in “Vampire in Brooklyn.” In 1996 he hit the horror jackpot again with the film “Scream.” A tongue in cheek look at the various tropes of horror films, the film went on to gross over $100 million and spawn three sequels. Proving he could do more than horror, he directed Meryl Streep to an Oscar nomination in the film “Music of the Heart.” He was currently serving as an Executive Producer on the upcoming “Scream” television show.

On a personal note, I’d like to mention that it was Wes Craven, who I had the good fortune to meet, that inspired me to write a screenplay about the life of one of my personal heroes, Harry Chapin. “If you ever sell it I’ll direct it,” he told me. Sadly, he’ll never have the chance.

Mr. Craven is survived by his third wife, Iya, and his children, Jonathan and Jessica. Jessica’s step-father is Tom Chapin, Harry’s brother.