Thursday, November 8, 2012

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate # 5

(March 2012)

I rather enjoyed Ciarán Foy’s 2006 short film, The Faeries of Blackheath Woods, and now, Foy has made the leap to feature films with Citadel, utilizing real-life personal experience as the foundation for his script.
Tommy Cowley (Elfie Hopkins’ Aneurin Barnard) is crippled by agoraphobia after a tragic encounter with some hoodie-wearing delinquents, who now seem intent on threatening him and his baby daughter.

Shot in 23 days, Citadel is set against the bleak backdrop of decrepit council estates and condemned tower blocks, a foreboding landscape of blasted concrete and shattered glass, haunted by a savage and feral menace that seems to recall shades of Cronenberg’s The Brood and the shambling hordes of horror movie monster du jour, the zombie.
Weighted down by his fear (informed by Foy’s own unprovoked beating at the age of 18 by a gang of hoodies, and his subsequent development of agoraphobia), Tommy must learn to deal with his terror in order to protect his baby and get off the council estate alive.

Parting shot: It’s interesting to note that there is both a Grant Morrison (Taxi Driver/Wrangler and Featured Extra: Taxi Driver) and a Peter O’Toole (Minibus Driver) listed in the end credits crawl.
Sadly, I don’t think either is the Grant Morrison or the Peter O’Toole that we’re familiar with.

(Citadel OS courtesy of

Saturday, November 3, 2012

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate # 4

(September 2012)

“My name is Donna Thompson. For three years, I and a few others have been trying to speak out about what happened in Claridge, Maryland, on July Fourth, 2009. But sometimes, words have no impact.
“But now, with the help of a website called, all of the digital information that was recorded that day has been obtained. All of the digital information that was confiscated.
“Now, I don’t know if anyone is gonna be watching this. I don’t know if anything is gonna happen to me as a result of me putting this out there, but I do know that I… can’t move on with my life until this story is told.”

I love Barry Levinson for having given me both Diner and Wag the Dog. He’s also brought us Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam, Bugsy, and The Natural, to name just a few more.
So when news broke that he was doing a horror film titled Isopod, I knew I needed to pay attention. And I kept track of this baby, watching its title morph into The Bay, all the while wondering whether Levinson could deliver the scares.
Now, the closest Levinson ever came to the weird sh!t in the past was probably Sphere, and that was certainly not a horror film. Or at least, not a horror film in the way The Bay most certainly is.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Levinson was asked if he was interested in doing a documentary about the “40% dead” Chesapeake Bay.
But after realizing there were already well-made documentaries on the subject, Levinson instead took the scientific facts and placed them in a fictional context. With the help of writer Michael Wallach, what came of this creative choice, is the wildly disturbing ecological horror of The Bay.

“The term now is ‘found footage’ but it never occurred to me. I wasn't thinking that way, I guess.  I thought, if something catastrophic like this happened in a small town and there was no media, what was going on?  Then you say, this is the first generation that records every intimate moment.  They've got cell phones, they text, email, Skype and this is the very first time you get an intimate look at the people, basically, at the core of where a catastrophe is going on around them.  I thought it was a cool idea--I could tell multiple stories and a lot of people won't have an overview because they don't know what's going on.  So, that was kind of scary, too.” *

Told across a broad spectrum of today’s varied means of communication--Skype, FaceTime, cell phones, email, text messages--as well as through video and audio recordings, The Bay has elements of both the found footage and viral outbreak genres, but in the end, isn’t really either.
In the end, what Levinson and company have given us is a terribly effective chiller with one of the ookiest parasites ever brought to the screen, a parasite that just happens to actually exist in real life.
Sure, Levinson’s isopod is a mutated version of the real thing, but still, they do occur in nature, so you really gotta wonder…

Hands-down the freakiest and most viscerally disturbing of the ¡Q horror! 2013 candidates thus far, The Bay is a gruesomely welcome surprise from the 70-year old Levinson, and a solid piece that should nestle comfortably with its fellow eco-horror titles.

* Barry Levinson, from an interview with

(The Bay OS courtesy of


I love world-building.
I love the feeling that not only are character arcs and subplots and the main narrative progressing as each chapter is told, but that also, brick by brick, the reader is being exposed to the world in which the narrative is unfolding.

I had this discussion with Carl Vergara after this year’s Summer Komikon; that my fascination with world-building is undoubtedly rooted in the decades of role-playing I managed to notch up with my brothers and friends (Carl among them), particularly those campaigns that I ran.
As a player in an RPG campaign, all you have to do is step into a single role, Method act that role to the hilt, and hope that the Polyhedral Dice Gods look down on you favorably.
As a Dungeon Master/Judge/Referee/Storyteller though, not only do you need to keep the campaign’s narrative--present and past--straight in your head, you need to also inhabit several roles (playing all the NPCs--non-player characters--that interact with your players’ characters), creatively deal with whatever curveballs players sometimes have the tendency to lob your way and which will directly impact on the narrative’s future, as well as know, somewhere at the back of your head, what’s taking place in other parts of the setting that the players may be very far away from.
It’s a lot to keep track of, but it all becomes worth it when you’re told by appreciative and grateful players that they had a blast during the campaign.
I told Carl that I had belatedly realized that everything I learned from RPGs, I had somehow managed to apply to my writing, that that RPG ethos stuck, and has subsequently served me well.
Which is where The ‘Verse comes in.

I’ve already talked elsewhere about the 5 comic titles I’m working on--alphabetically, AGYU, DAKILA, KADASIG, TATSULOK (aka Δ), and URIEL--all being set in the same universe, the world I first introduced in my novella, PARMAN.
Upon Budjette’s suggestion, an umbrella imprint was conceptualized, something that could immediately indicate that, Yes, these comics are all set in the same universe. These 5 titles may be telling their own stories, but those stories are all taking place in the same world.
Thus, we give you The ‘Verse, the third name I suggested, and which I came to in a rather casual and accidental manner. But it was a name Ian, Budjette and I liked the sound of, so here we are.
With a great logo by the mighty fine Mr. Sta. Maria.

Welcome to The ‘Verse, a world that will be built across several comic titles, not just by me, but also with the indispensable help of the mighty fine artists I have the privilege of collaborating with.
You’ve seen Ian and Xerx’s stuff; hopefully, you’ll be seeing my other collaborators’ work soon as well.
From all of us, to all of you, we hope you make The ‘Verse a regular reading destination.

you can’t drink just six,


XS: To all the mighty fine folk who stopped by the Alamat table at the October Kon, and everyone who’s spreading all the love about our work across the wild world of the Internetz, thanx so much for all your enthusiasm and support.

Friday, November 2, 2012

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate # 3

(September 2011)

Produced by Vincenzo Natali, and brought to us by writer/director Randall Cole, 388 Arletta Avenue sees a young couple (played by Nick Stahl and Mia Kirshner) become the unwitting targets of person(s) unknown, who threaten and harass via pop music, Shaun Cassidy, children’s songs and fake cats.
That may sound ridiculous, but trust me, it’s not.

The fragmented nature of the narrative-- as told through any number of cameras covertly surveilling the unfolding action--heightens the unsettling tension of the scenario, as we bear witness to the ease with which a person’s normal everyday life can be turned upside-down by malevolent and unknown forces.

Two more points of random interest: an initially unrecognizable Devon Sawa appears here as a possible suspect; and the end credits roll just goes to prove how creeptastic "The Cat Came Back" really is...

(388 Arletta Avenue OS’ courtesy of &

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate # 2

(October 2012)

There are a lot of interesting and intriguing ideas that inform Michael Gallagher’s feature debut, Smiley, which is ostensibly a Candyman for the age of the internetz.

Gallagher takes a screenplay he co-wrote with Glasgow Phillips (who’s written for such animated TV shows as South Park and Father of the Pride, and who came up with the story alongside Ezra Cooperstein) and gives us a crackerjack title that explores the idea of evil and nihilism as filtered through the enormity and anonymity of cyberspace.
Plus, we’ve also got Roger Bart in a supporting role, and one of the most simple yet freakily disturbing (and yes, awfully du jour) slasher designs ever seen on screen.

(Smiley OS’ courtesy of

Thursday, November 1, 2012

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate # 1

(January 2012)

Writer/director Richard Bates, Jr. expands on his 2008 short film, Excision, transforming the original 18-minute short into an 81-minute study of disturbed youth and the dreams of the perfect family just gone horribly wrong, as 90210’s AnnaLynne McCord takes the role of Pauline, a high school student with aspirations of becoming a surgeon.

Now, while normally, a teen-ager with ambition who knows exactly what they want out of life is a good thing, it’s so not a good thing where Pauline is concerned.
With a stellar supporting cast--Roger Bart, Traci Lords, Marlee Matlin, Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, and John Waters as Reverend William (!)--Excision, just like Pauline, knows exactly what it wants, and knows how to get there; the basic beats of the short are taken and transformed into pivotal scenes in the feature, while time is taken to further explore the narrative’s key filial relationships.

Infused with the black humour of Heathers, and compounded by gore and disturbing sexual imagery, Excision is the kind of film that lays out its cards and isn’t shy to tell you where it is it’s going to end up.
Still, filled with that sick sense of foreboding, you’re hoping it doesn’t go where you may imagine it will, because that way will only end in tears.
But of course, it does, and even though you may have anticipated it, the climax still packs a gut-wrenching wallop that’s both horrifying and tragic.

(Excision OS courtesy of; DVD cover art courtesy of

WANTED Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393.  You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

What would you do if you saw this ad?
If you’re Jeff (Jake Johnson), who works at Seattle Magazine, you take two interns (Karan Soni and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Damsels in Distress Aubrey Plaza) and use it as your next story.

What director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly have done in their impressive feature debut is to craft a quirky, funny, and ultimately poignant tale of nostalgia and regret as we follow the Seattle Magazine crew as they investigate Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass, of the Duplass Brothers), the man who’s looking for a time travel buddy.
For anyone who’s ever wondered “What if?” (and let’s face it, that is every single one of us), Safety Not Guaranteed’s your ticket.

(Safety Not Guaranteed OS courtesy of

The Wrap-Up II!

Now, before I get into The Wrap-Up II! I just need to say, this is such an awesome Halloween present: V/H/S 2 is apparently coming together, with Eduardo Sánchez (collaborating with Jamie Nash and producing partner Gregg Hale) on one segment, Adam Wingard back for another go-round, Simon Barrett giving us his directorial debut, plus two other segments helmed by Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) and the tag-team of Gareth Huw Evans (The Raid) and Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre).


Okay, honestly, these should have been mentioned in the first Wrap-Up, but somewhere along the way, I’d somehow overlooked the fact that I’d meant to give them an Iguana mention last year, but hadn’t.
Again, apologies.
These were 3 excellent titles, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them as among the best films I managed to catch in the past 12 months.

(September 2010)

Written and directed by Jacob Tierney, adapted from Chrystine Brouillet’s novel, Chère Voisine, Good Neighbours is a darkly excellent thriller of appearances and manners, which sees Jay Baruchel’s Victor having just moved into a new apartment, where he begins to strike up tentative friendships with his neighbours Louise (Emily Hampshire) and Spencer (Scott Speedman). Things go wonky from that point on…
Please try and steer clear of the trailer for this one, which rudely features a pivotal reveal that happens at nearly the halfway mark of the film’s running time.

(January 2011)

A brilliantly-executed and -acted apocalypse cinema title by writer/director Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter sees Zod-to-be Michael Shannon having disturbing visions that seem to portend the end of the world.
Are they for real, or is he just losing his marbles?
Aside from Shannon’s excellent work here, we’ve also got Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, and Kathy Baker in supporting roles.

(January 2011)

Elizabeth Olsen (yes, the other Olsen--non-twin--sister) plays a woman who breaks off from the cult she’s inadvertently become a part of.
The non-linear narrative brought to us by writer/director Sean Durkin (in his feature debut), results in a mesmerizing cinematic experience that is permeated by a distinct sense of unease and disquiet, anchored by an astounding performance by Olsen.

(Good Neighbours, Take Shelter, and Martha Marcy May Marlene OS’ courtesy of