Monday, February 18, 2013

(August 2012)

"Oh, man, that [old graveyard] is baaad news. It’s like, total slasher movie vibe. Why’d [Norman] go up there?”

Laika, the studio owned by Nike co-founder and Chairman Phil Knight and run by his son, Travis, brought us Henry Selick’s excellent adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline in 2009.
Coraline was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2010 Oscars* and now, Laika’s second stop-motion feature, Paranorman, is also an Oscar nominee in the same category.
Not a bad Oscar batting average, if I may say so myself.

Written by Chris Butler (who worked on storyboards for Coraline and Corpse Bride), and co-directed by Butler with Sam Fell (director of Flushed Away and The Tale of Despereaux), Paranorman is a crazy-awesome ride that horror fans should get a massive kick out of.

“It’s not supposed to be [historically accurate]! It’s supposed to sell postcards and key chains.”

Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is the town freak, which is bad enough.
But when you live in a town like Blithe Hollow (“A Great Place to Hang!”), where a tragic death that happened centuries ago has become the core of its economy and tourism, and you’re someone who can actually see and speak with the dead, then it’s so.

Blithe Hollow is a town with establishments like The Lucky Witch Casino, Trick or Trim, Hung and Dried, and Witchy Wieners, and whose denizens, sadly, look strangely at the weird kid.
And it’s a town that Norman reluctantly finds himself needing to save when the fit hits the shan.

“Son! Step away from the zombies!”

With a brilliantly stylized, off-kilter look to its world and characters and a great voice cast which includes John Goodman, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Casey Affleck, Paranorman is a funny and touching tale that is a warm, heartfelt love letter to horror fans and misfits everywhere.   
Thanx, Laika. Seriously.
This is putting all that Nike cash to awesome use.

“Perfect. Now the geeks are in charge.”

* Coraline was up against Wes Anderson’s brilliant Fantastic Mr. Fox, among others, but the 2010 Best Animated Feature Film Oscar was ultimately brought home by Pixar’s Up.

(Paranorman OS’ courtesy of

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate #7

(January 2012)

It’s been awhile since Don Coscarelli’s Masters of Horror episode, “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road,” but he’s back now with the wildest and most gonzo ¡Q horror!  2013 Candidate thus far: his adaptation of Jason Pargin’s John Dies at the End.

There’s a whole lotta crawesome weird shit here, yo! And any attempt on my part to give you a taste of this film’s strangeness would just be counter-productive.
Let’s just say if you love bizarro cinema, you should check this out.
Not to mention that the supporting cast ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at either: Paul Giamatti (who doubles down as Executive Producer), Clancy Brown (Best. Luthor. Voice. Ever.), The Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm (as Father Shellnut!), and Doug Jones.
Oh, and Bark Lee, too!

Before this, I already loved Coscarelli for A) scaring the crap out of the 11-year old me with Phantasm, and then B) giving us the tough yet sensitive, animal-loving barbarian who is The Beastmaster.
And now, he’s given me John Dies at the End.

Don’t forget: The Soy Sauce chooses you.

(John Dies at the End OS’ courtesy of

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate #6

(May 2012)

Welcome to the nation’s exclusive provider of A-list celebrity biomodification experiences. Enhance your life with a deeply chemical connection — like no other. Uncover a new relationship with your special someone today.

Celebrity worship descends into madness in Brandon Cronenberg’s feature debut, Antiviral, where we are introduced to a world where--among other things--fans achieve “biological communion” with their idols by paying to be infected with viruses harvested from their famous bodies (for which the “celebrity hosts” are in turn paid by establishments like The Lucas Clinic).

“Mr. Lucas, how do you respond to critics who say the disease you’re really selling is a cultural one?”
--Talk Show Host

Antiviral (some of whose roots lie in the award-winning 2008 short film, Broken Tulips) is an astoundingly self-assured debut by Cronenberg, who possibly knows a thing or two about celebrity, being the son of David Cronenberg.
Like Jennifer Lynch, Brandon Cronenberg is the talented offspring of a noted writer/director who has gone on to follow in Father’s footsteps, and old school body horror Cronenberg can most definitely be seen in Antiviral.
There are also shades of Videodrome here, as a not-really-sympathetic protagonist gets sucked into shadowy and potentially lethal maneuverings.

“I’m afraid you’ve become involved in something sinister.”
--Dr. Abendroth

Caleb Landry Jones (who may be familiar from Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class) brings just the right level of pale, sickly creepiness to the role of Lucas Clinic Technician Syd March, the aforementioned not-really-sympathetic protagonist, whose dealings with celebrity host Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon, who also appears in the elder Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis, as well as Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries) trigger the dire situations he finds himself in over the course of Antiviral’s running time.
We’ve also got the exquisite Malcolm McDowell here as Geist’s personal physician, Dr. Abendroth, as well as some other Cronenbergs in the film’s crew (Brandon’s aunt, Denise Cronenberg, and his sister, Caitlin).

The range of [viral] offerings [from The Lucas Clinic] spans common skin infections and colds, to our more intense and lengthy experiences with communicable and rare forms of acute disease.

This is powerful stuff (some may very well say revolting and repellent), as Cronenberg runs his cinematic scalpel deep into society’s celebrity obsessions and how our very own fixations and fascinations make us complicit in the widespread sickness that riddles the body cultural.
And yes, like old school David Cronenberg, this is transformative and transgressive cinema, so you have been duly warned.

“Celebrity is not an accomplishment. Not at all. It’s more like a collaboration that we choose to take part in. Celebrities are not people. They’re group hallucinations.”
--Dorian Lucas

(Antiviral OS courtesy of