12.05.2012

Laughing at the Expense of Others

It's fun to be scared in a safe environment (movie, haunted house, video game, etc), but it's even more fun to witness other people being scared out of their minds. You might have enjoyed browsing through the hundreds of petrified faces from Nightmares Fear Factory. See the example below.


Because it randomly popped into my head today, I thought I'd share one of my favorite YouTube finds: a group of inebriated dudes (who we can only assume to be bros) record audio while playing Slender, an indie survival horror FPS that is often sighted as one of the scariest video games of all time.

It's totally worth it...trust me. Or trust the 2.8 million views.

12.01.2012

The Collection (2012): Not the Indie Horror Film to Support

horror effect indie horror

When I read the critics' reviews of The Collection, I thought "what jerks." They called it a hollow and utlra-violent film lacking any purpose. I hate to say it, but for once, the critics were right. What The Collection lacks in quality filmmaking it doesn't even make up for in entertainment. 

Let's get a few things straight: 1) I liked The Collector a lot. To prove it, here's my review from way back in 2009: The Collector Review. 2) I do like gore-fests and don't necessarily believe in taking everything so seriously. I submit Exhibit B as evidence: Horror can be fun! 3) I happily give grungy indie movies a chance, such as the low budget sci-fi flick Altered.

Disclaimers out of the way, why was the movie so bad? The story feels as if it's been strung together by used dental floss: it's weak, it stinks, and the one thing you can count on is random chunks of flesh along the path. Sorry for the disgusting metaphor, but I feel it's necessary. I can think of countless ways that The Collector's tale could have continued and instead of following any storyline that makes sense, the filmmakers decided to sacrifice any semblance of a story in favor of a higher body count. The movie literally opens with a packed club getting torn apart by an impossibly-large meat grinder. Okay, movie.

club scene horror effect
Yup, lots of dead bodies. Entertained yet?
Right now, you might be thinking, what's wrong with a movie focused on gore instead of story? Because I'm not 10 years old. Gore for the sake of gore isn't enough. The bloody spectacle at the end of Dead Alive is mostly effective because we've spent an hour caring about the budding love story between Lionel and Paquita. Sure, the movie is full of stupid, nonsenical moments, but it's fun because we care. As an audience member of The Collection, I found myself as uncaring as the leather-clad villain. And that's a problem if you want me to invest $11 and 82 minutes.

If you want to get intellectual about it, Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle described some of the problems with modern horror quite well in his review. He says, "Much better are the horror movies that tap into existential terror - the fear of losing one's soul. This can be the soul in a religious sense, as in "The Exorcist," but it can also be "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," or a movie that makes audiences question their conception of reality, such as "Carnival of Souls." In this light, "The Collection" can be seen as the ultimate (let's hope ultimate) example of secular horror in a secular age. If you see life as entirely mechanistic and the body as a machine, then the best you'll ever come up with is throwing people into a blender...But it will mean nothing, because unless you believe that life has intrinsic value, your horror movie can have no impact." I don't necessarily agree with everything LaSalle says in his review (or his critical stance on films in general), but he makes a very good point about nihilism's impact on the horror film.  

Admittedly, the film does elevate itself slightly as it goes on. I found the first act to be so excruciating, my stomach literally hurt. Once we got past the ridiculous club scene and most of the dialogue (the combination of writing, acting, and editing made any conversations look like a teenager's home movie), the film became more tolerable. What director Mark Dunstan does well is horror action, but everything in between is just plain bad. I imagine Dunstan would make great music videos or maybe even short films, but I pay to see feature films for the whole package, not rare moments of cool visuals. 

horror effect
Go back! You're not supporting indie horror by seeing this movie.
There's been a lot of talk around the horror community about supporting indie horror. I think a lot of us took this film's surprising theatrical release as a call to action, but this is the wrong movie to support. The Collection is an example of why many avoid indie horror, because it has no real substance and a stunning lack of craft. Instead of appealing to the fringe or taking risks, it caters to the basest of horror stereotypes. The Collection is not a representative of the independent genre film that fans should rally behind. It is a representative of everything that disappoints me about the American horror scene today.

Rant over.

5.31.2012

The Last Buck Hunt: My New Film!



You may have been wondering where I've been...or maybe you didn't notice. Either way, my mind has not been focused on The Horror Effect because it's been occupied with thoughts of a killer deer. In other words, I'm working on a new film! And if you're interested, you can help me out by sharing my Kickstarter page: The Last Buck Hunt on Kickstarter.

My next feature film goes by the name of The Last Buck Hunt. Part mockumentary and part traditional cinematic experience, the movie follows the mismatched crew of a hunting TV show out to snag a legendary killer deer. It's not long before the hunt is endangered by mysterious behavior from the show's tracker, the host's unwarranted ego, and of course the local life. As you might be guessing from the premise, the film is a horror comedy with extra emphasis on the comedy.

Oddly enough, I haven't made a whole lot of horror comedies in a professional sense -- most of my mature efforts were either standalone horror, comedy, or suspense. The reason this is odd is because I've always been inclined toward horror-comedy; most of my early, amateur films were of this genre blend. I'm so excited to be returning to the wonderful world of horror and humor.

If you'd like to know a bit more about the film, check out this post on the Indiestructible (our film production moniker) site: What is The Last Buck Hunt? Now, I did mention this was my "next" feature film. If you'd like to check out my first real feature endeavor, then give the trailer a watch:  Break Trailer.

In order to grow as a filmmaker and truly bring The Last Buck Hunt to life, I'm hoping to secure a budget that will allow me to cast the talent that the script calls for, create a cool "creature" design, and raise production value through art direction. To achieve this, we've started a Kickstarter project to help raise funds for The Last Buck Hunt. If you have a moment to watch our video and share the project with anyone that might be interested, I would be forever grateful. Go here to check out our project: The Last Buck Hunton Kickstarter.

My posts will probably continue to be sporadic as I delve even deeper into production on The Last Buck Hunt, but I'll do my best not to ignore The Horror Effect. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to know more about the project (I'm happy to talk your ear off). 

3.03.2012

Double Ghost Feature: The Woman in Black and The Innkeepers


In the same weekend, I was lucky enough to watch two suspense-driven ghost films in a theatrical setting: Hammer's return to tradition with The Woman in Black, starring Daniele Radcliffe, and Ti West's greatly anticipated The Innkeepers. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed by either film.

Yeah, yeah, I know I'm late to the game here, but bloggers don't have print deadlines. So, it's totally okay to review movies a month after I see them, right? Read on for super quick reviews of two solid supernatural horror films.

1.21.2012

Interview with Last Ride Director James Phillips


Fellow blogger and filmmaker James Phillips kindly shares some background behind his incredibly ambitious and unique single-take found footage film: LAST RIDE. Back in July of last year, I had the opportunity to review the film: LAST RIDE review

In his film, a group of bikers disappear after a day-long ride in Australia's Blue Mountains. The only evidence uncovered is the footage from a helmet-mounted video camera. 

B-Movie Becky (BMB): Where did the concept for LAST RIDE come from?

James Phillips (JP): Oddly enough, it was really the tech that decided how LAST RIDE was going to be made. I saw some videos shot on the GoPro cameras, and was really impressed with it. After a day or two, pretty much the whole idea came about, involving the bike riders, the myth of the Blue Mountains Panther and the single take. 


BMB: Why did you decide to not only shoot the film in the found footage style, but to also shoot the entire film in one shot?

JP: For years I'd been looking to do something about the Panther myth, then when the wearable HD cameras came along, the found footage route was an obvious choice to go with. There's two things I always hate with found footage films. First, that the person carrying the camera never feels quite scared enough to just ditch the camera. They always keep shooting. Second, is edits. If you're so freaked out while running around, somehow managing to keep filming, then you would keep filming, the whole time. Would you turn the camera off for a split second? Never knowing if you might miss something? Or really even caring about the camera that is in your hand?

By attaching the camera to one of the characters helmets, it frees them up to use their hands, never really paying any attention to the fact that its even still on his head, let alone recording anything. And by forgetting about it being there, makes a single take make more sense.

I also thought the single take is a nice unique take on the found footage genre. There's not many single take films out there, and they may be hard to prove that they are indeed single takes right the way through anyway.


BMB: Is the film really one take? Are there any hidden cuts?

JP: Yes, it really is one continuous take. There were things I wanted to do in the film, like submerging myself underwater, as the cameras are completely waterproof, but I was adamant to not have one single black frame in the whole thing. No one spot where I could sneak in a cut. Again, we shot it in the daylight, to ensure no trickery.


BMB: How many takes did you go through before you got it right? What was this experience like for your actors?

JP: We had locked in 4 days to get it all done. Monday was always going to be a full dress rehearsal, and despite everyone knowing exactly what we would be undertaking, I don't think it was until after this first day that it really sunk in. It was a pretty chaotic day, essentially me pushing everyone forward, calling out to people as required, it was pretty messy.The next day we were rained out, instead doing further improvising and rehearsing around the house.

Our first real take was done on the Wednesday morning, and the Thursday take is the one that you reviewed, the one that will be available as the regular release. I recently revisited the Wednesday take, and it is really good, in some parts better than the Thursday take, in other parts, not so much. One of the biggest differences is that the Wednesday take is only 63 minutes, while the Thursday is 79. The Wednesday take will also be released as an alternate angle/take of the film, for a two disc release.

One thing the actors kept saying they really liked about the whole single take aspect was how much it was like theatre. The whole cast did really well with improvisation. There were times where we'd be heading along a track, and I needed a bit more time, a bit more drama happening, so I'd tell an actor to hit the deck and give me an extra minute or two. There's a lot of pressure when you're fifty minutes into a single take feature film, and times like that they really pulled through, and delivered solid performances. 


BMB: You wore many hats in the film: a writer, director, actor, and cinematographer/camera operator. What was this experience like? Would you ever do it again?

JP: Last Ride was a really collaborative process. There is no script for the film, still only a ten page synopsis, with about four lines of dialog. The rest is all ad lib, or rehearsed and roughly remembered. This goes for characterizations as well as dialog. For a few months leading up to the shoot, I would work with the actors to develop each of their own characters and back stories. 

In terms of the actual shooting, trying to keep my head fairly steady, and my eyeline high was tough. It may not sound like much, but after hiking for 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) through rough terrain while wearing a helmet with two cameras and two microphones attached to it, keeping your chin up starts taking some effort. Especially while trying to act.

That was the hardest part for me, and the part I was least prepared for. Acting. While I didn't have to perform as such in front of the camera, I obviously was there alongside everyone the whole time, taking consolation knowing that if I was truly terrible, I could be dubbed over. 

I really enjoyed shooting LAST RIDE. Getting out into the bush like that, I love it out there. Course, when I say out there, we shot LAST RIDE literally a five minute walk from my house. 

My favourite part of shooting a single take film is the afternoon screenings. We would all trudge back to the house and get cleaned up, plug the camera straight into the projector, and have a screening. Sure, it needed some audio work done, but knowing what you would be changing and adding, you would watch your finished film, then and there. No months of editing. That was all done by my neck earlier in the day.


BMB: What was the most challenging experience for you and your crew during the production?

JP: Haha, that's my favourite word so far in regards to LAST RIDE. Crew. The crew consisted of myself and my wife Irene, the only qualified one in my crew and that wears possibly more hats than myself, from looking after the cast in terms of sleeping arrangements and meals, right up to her actual job of make up and special effects.

The biggest challenge for all of us, was the distance travelled in that location. While we would be running one way, Irene would be running another way, to get prepped and ready for the next effect gag. There were a few small bottles of blood along the track for us so she didn't have to be there for all of those, but the major ones like the camp scene... You know what, I still don't know what happened behind the scenes there! It was one of those things where if I ever saw Irene out there, then so did the camera, so it would be all over. All I know is that somehow she got to that spot before us, and I wouldn't even know if she was there or not, and then that she would have moved on by the time I returned. 

By the Thursday take, we had both found things we could do differently to make life easier, and it was a lot smoother for all involved. 


BMB: What sort of themes did you want to explore with LAST RIDE? Why did the subject matter interest you personally?

JP: Essentially, LAST RIDE is all about 'How long can you run to save your life?' This seems to be somewhat of a recurring theme for me, but I'm not really sure why. It's simply about survival, and what drives people to persevere. 


BMB: What's next for you? Any future projects you'd care to divulge? 

JP: We wrapped shooting 'The Proposal' at the end of October, and it is currently in audio post production. It is another single take film, but this time shot with a completely static camera. It is about 44 minutes long, and we're looking to release it online for free in the coming months.

Also Relentless, the film which you named all those moons ago, is just about finished. It's been a long road, but it will be worth it, and a nice change for my viewers from these single take films. 

There's a stack of films I'd love to start making now, but at the moment I'm putting all productions off until all three of these films are released. Which is tough, because I love being in production!

Head on over to www.lastridefilm.com, where the full film is now available via streaming or download. If you're still not convinced, check out the the teaser below and see if you're not intrigued.

1.13.2012

Happy Friday the 13th!


Happy Friday the 13th all! Hopefully some of you are finding your own little (or big) ways to celebrate. Generally, I at least try to watch a Friday the 13th film or two. This year, I have a couple plans...

1.07.2012

My Anticipated Horror Films of 2012

Here are some of the films rolling around in my head, as I await their alleged 2012 release. I'm sure there are movies I'm missing that I will later learn of and I'm sure some of these selections will turn out to be disappointments, but nonetheless, I'm excited at the idea of the following...
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