Sunday, September 14, 2014


¡Qué horror! 2014
Candidate #15

HONEYMOON
(March 2014)


Rose Leslie (late of Game of Thrones and who was awesome as Young Milner in the opening flashback episode of Utopia’s second series) and Harry Treadaway (currently seen on Penny Dreadful) are newlyweds Bea and Paul, off to a cabin in the woods for the titular honeymoon.

And since Honeymoon is a ¡Q horror! Candidate, it’s safe to assume that things go terribly awry. (Of course, I’m hard-pressed to come up with a single film where anything that had to do with a “cabin in the woods” turned out sunshiny bright and peachy keen.)

I won’t go into the nature of Honeymoon’s threat, but suffice it to say that Leigh Janiak’s debut feature is a disturbing cinematic experience where love and identity and terror say their “I do’s” to produce an unholy union where the inability to make French toast or coffee become terrible omens of the madness to come…

(Honeymoon OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014


¡Qué horror! 2014
Sidebar (1)

We're half a month out from this year’s cut-off date, and so I thought I needed to take note of a couple of TV shows that don’t really register as “horror,”* but were nonetheless among the absolute best the past 12 months had to offer.


IN THE FLESH
Series 2


This excellent show also got a mention for its first series ‘round these parts, and in a lot of ways, its second super-sized go-around is even better**. It takes the whole zombie thing and sets up a narrative that makes a much more optimal use of its scenario, operating on the level of allegory and socio-political commentary while telling us a tale of just how human any of us (living or otherwise) can be in the face of massive cultural upheaval.
George Romero should be proud.


As I said before, this is the show for those of you out there who are looking for more from their television zombies. It’s the show that achieves disquiet and unease without having to resort to fake bloodletting and over-the-top gore.

* Or, at least not in the same way as this year’s television Candidates qualify as “horror.”

** Well, maybe except for the fact that we see significantly less of Dr. Channard himself, Kenneth Cranham, than we did in series 1…

THE LEFTOVERS
Season 1


In the Sunday night face-off between ex-Lost showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Lindelof wins hands down, The Leftovers creaming The Strain without even breaking a sweat.
Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta (who also wrote Election and Little Children, both adapted into feature films), The Leftovers chronicles the state of the world following the sudden disappearance of 2% of the world’s population.


It’s a somber, weighty, and emotionally wrenching watch, this, and clearly not for everyone.
But I love this show, and I must give props to Lindelof, Perrotta, and Peter Berg (who directed the pilot), for having the balls to give us a show like this. It’s the kind of show that we need, lest the television landscape be reduced to a sea of sitcoms and procedurals and “procedurals with a twist” and CSI’s and CSI clones and CSI clones’ spin-offs, and reality TV shows.
It’s the kind of show that, just as all serious art must do, makes us question and ponder, makes us take a brief step back from the 25/8 madness of the contemporary world and consider existence in all its beautiful and tragic and brutal glory.

(In The Flesh image courtesy of bbcamerica.com; In The Flesh DVD cover art courtesy of twitter.com; The Leftovers OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

Friday, September 5, 2014


¡Qué horror! 2014
Candidate #14

13 SINS
(March 2014) 


"... Great wealth is within your grasp. 36 hours from now, you can be a very rich man. All you have to do is complete 13 challenges.”

The last time Daniel Stamm was hanging ‘round these parts was for the ¡Q horror! 2011 candidate, The Last Exorcism.
This time out, he’s helmed the English language remake of Chukiat Sakveerakul’s 13 Game Sayawng, where a grotesque game show gradually turns its contestants into savage cutthroats, all for that next bit of green.

“I will dance with the Golden Toad.”

Not only is the action relocated to New Orleans, but the stakes are amped up considerably for the film’s protagonist, Elliot Brindle (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’s Mark Webber): he’s got a pregnant soon-to-be wife (True Blood’s Rutina Wesley) and mentally disabled brother (Devon Graye, who played teen-aged Dexter Morgan) who are depending on him.
And while there are certain elements from the original which have been excised (thankfully, the awkward tonal shifts and, less so, the active female supporting role), there are also welcome additions: among them, a deeper glimpse into the game’s backstory, and some familiar genre faces (Ron Perlman and Pruitt Taylor Vince).
Plus, George Coe (who currently voices Woodhouse on Archer) doing the “Game Voice.”

“So says the Golden Toad: ‘A brave arm makes a short sword long.’”

The changes from the original (which include the specifics of most of the game’s challenges) serve to tighten the narrative’s plot and thematics, and also serve to foreground the dark empowerment and paranoia that engulfs Elliot as he gets further along in the game.
Ultimately, 13 Sins is not only a more refined and polished version of 13 Game Sayawng, it’s also a harder-hitting and more emotionally potent piece.

“Try to think of this in the most positive, empowering way as a gun pointed to your head.”

(13 Sins OS courtesy of impawards.com.)


¡Qué horror! 2014
Candidate #13

HANNIBAL Season 2
(February 2014)


So, yeah, in a year that had some strong potential TV horror entries, no one could touch Hannibal.

True, Bryan Fuller’s exquisitely constructed mix tape adaptation of Thomas Harris’ serial killer novels was on its sophomore season, while most of the other TV horror contenders were freshman series, but hey, it managed to tie with Les Revenants for a ¡Q horror! slot last year, and they were both freshmen shows back then…

As we inch ever closer to a third adaptation of Red Dragon and the tantalizing possibility of a television rendition of The Silence of the Lambs (with Agent Schmarice Schmarling, if MGM can’t be bothered to play nice), Fuller and company continue to stage the most elegantly audacious and horrific serial killer scenarios this side of American network television.

If you haven’t gotten a, ahem, taste of Hannibal, you really ought to…


Parting Shot 1: For the record, the other horror series I hoped would be contenders but ultimately weren’t are:


Salem – honestly, a lot better than I thought it would be. A pleasant surprise (with a kickass opening title sequence orchestrated to a Marilyn Manson ditty) that still has some issues which, hopefully, will get resolved in its sophomore run.


Penny Dreadful – I absolutely love the first two episodes (directed by J.A. Bayona and shot by Xavi Giménez), but subsequent episodes don’t quite come up to that opening, impressive level.
Again, some issues need to be worked out… having Bayona and Giménez on board for all of Season 2’s episodes would be an awesome start!
But, barring that, I’m still stoked to hear that we get more of odd duck Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle, as Simon Russell Beale is reportedly being upgraded to series regular.
Huzzah!


The Strain – this was the one that hurt. Given the pedigree of the show (Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse), I wanted this show to kick ass.
Sadly, even though the one-and-done guest appearances of some familiar genre faces (like Larry Fessenden and Aaron Douglas) were much appreciated, it’s still got a whole slew of issues that need to be fixed.
As with the above two shows, The Strain’s also got a second season renewal, so here’s hoping they make the most of it, ‘cause they’ve got lots of tweaking to do to get this show pitch perfect…


Parting Shot 2: And while we’re on the subject of television, the pilot episode for Chris Carter’s new show for Amazon, The After, is mighty interesting.
Yes, the premise is not exactly new (it’s a mash-up between the “a bunch of strangers find themselves working together to survive an apocalyptic disaster” and “a bunch of not-so-random strangers thrown together, seemingly by fate” set-ups), but hey, this is Chris Carter, so I’m über-curious where he plans to take the story.
Plus, an initially unrecognizable Jamie Kennedy and Sharon Lawrence!
And a projected 99 episode run based, at least structurally, on Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia. (And I’m assuming he meant 99 episodes past the pilot, since there are 100 cantos in the Commedia.)
Given my fascination with Dante that stretches back all the way to high school (thank you, Mr. Manny Leviste!), there was no way I was gonna pass this up.
I’m so in, Mr. Carter…

(Hannibal OS’ courtesy of aintitcool.com and impawards.com; Salem and Penny Dreadful OS’ courtesy of impawards.com; The Strain OS courtesy of collider.com; The After image courtesy of seriable.com.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


¡Qué horror! 2014
Candidate #12

THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING
(August 2014)


This is the world we live in today*: the only real found footage films** that should merit attention are those that A) prove to be something unprecedented within the genre, pushing the envelope, or tearing right through it, or B) are noteworthy examples of the genre’s “traditional” form.
The Possession of Michael King (from director David Jung) falls squarely in the latter category. It doesn’t have any ambitions of showing us anything particularly new. But, while it does colour within the lines, the hues and shades are decidedly of a rather dark and sinister persuasion, as compared to the bland palettes of the hordes of average run-of-the-mill found footage films out there.

The titular Michael King (Shane Johnson) makes a New Year’s resolution: he’s going to make a documentary about his family, to show the world just how lucky and blessed he is as a human being (even if, as he so pointedly admits very early on in the film, he doesn’t believe in God).
But tragedy strikes, and the documentary instead becomes one where Michael sets out to prove once and for all whether the supernatural exists.
Unfortunately, his grief fuels his brazenness, and he unthinkingly calls out far more than he bargained for…

Again, though this is not a found footage game changer in any way, shape, or form, there’s still some disturbing imagery in this one, and a notable performance by Johnson.
(Though you have to wonder why characters in these kinds of movies never seem to listen during the supernatural infodump early in the running time; if they did, they’d realize everything that would come in horrifyingly short order is all outlined right there…)

* The fact is, we've been living in it for quite awhile now.

** Please note that this also goes for zombies on film, whether on the big screen or small...

(The Possession of Michael King OS courtesy of impawards.com)

Thursday, August 21, 2014


¡Qué horror! 2014
Candidate #11

PROXY
(September 2013)


Within the first seven minutes of Proxy, something horrendous happens to pregnant Esther Woodhouse (Alexia Rasmussen), triggering the sequence of horrible events that serves as the twisted spine for this unsettling narrative.
After giving us Scalene, with the always excellent Margo Martindale, producer/director Zack Parker (from a script co-written by Parker with Kevin Donner) serves up this sordid tale about the terrible, f*cked up things fundamentally damaged people do to each other.

Fair warning, there is nothing remotely “entertaining” about this kind of intensely disquieting psychological horror, the kind you’d never really see from Hollywood.
This is some tough stuff, and I’m not talking about guts and gore or your standard lunatic serial killer from Central Casting. Fake blood and rubber intestines and bug-eyed, drooling Looney Tunes are easy.
Getting under the skin by showing just how crazy apparently “regular” folk can be, now that takes some skill…

(Proxy OS courtesy of impawards.com.)


Sunday, August 17, 2014

SEROKS ART (DIGITAL PRINTS) AVAILABLE


SEROKS art pieces by the mighty fine Alan Navarra are now available! (Shades not included.)
See here and here.
And for other pieces (including non-SEROKS art), check out Alan's Instagram.