Sunday, November 21, 2021

CANDYMAN
(August 2021)


Are you ready for the sacrament?”

The early ‘90’s pre-Scream period saw cinematic horror do some interesting things, like masquerade under the guise of tragic, inevitably doomed romances, its darker, malevolent streak secreted beneath the more palatable facades of love stories.
One such notable title is Francis Ford Coppola’s exquisite phantasmagoria, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).
Another from the same year, is Bernard Rose’s Candyman.
 
“It was the projects. Affordable housing that had a particularly bad reputation.”
“You would never know.”
“Yeah, because they tore it down and gentrified the sh!t out of it.”
“Translation: White people built the ghetto, and then erased it when they realized they built the ghetto.”
 
Adapted from Clive Barker’s Books of Blood short story, “The Forbidden,” Rose’s Candyman transplanted the narrative’s action from England’s council estates to America’s housing projects, grafting themes of racism and gentrification (among others) onto the source material, like wallpaper of a very particular pattern laid over the original story’s structure.
Nia DaCosta’s Candyman has these same preoccupations, serving as both a deeper exploration of the original adaptation’s thematics, as well as a continuation of its central narrative.
 
“Some of the things that have happened in Cabrini over the years, violence just so extreme, so bizarre… It’s almost as if violence became the ritual.
“The worst part… the residents are afraid to call the police. A code of honor perhaps, fear of the police themselves…
“The easy answer is always, ‘Candyman did it.’”
 
DaCosta’s story (the screenplay is credited to her and co-writers Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld) revolves around Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Anthony, an up-and-coming artist badly in need of inspiration, which he finds in the gruesome urban folklore tale of the Candyman.


“I am the writing on the walls. I am the sweet smell of blood on the street. The buzz that echoes in the alleyways.”
 
Now, as is usual ‘round these parts, I’ll refrain from saying anything more in terms of the plot.
What I believe I can say though, is, just as Rose’s Candyman, despite appearances, didn’t play the way a “regular” slasher film does, neither does DaCosta’s.
And though there is a romantic component to the narrative, it isn’t as central as it was in Rose’s original, which was decidedly a love story, about the love between man and woman, between killer and victim, between deity and worshipper.
DaCosta’s take is more interested in community and legacy and who has ultimate control over society’s grand narrative, pulling its camera back so its lens can take in more of the macro, as opposed to the personal intimacy Rose’s dark love story evinced.
 
“When something leaves a stain, even if you wash it out, it’s still there. You can feel it, a, uh, uh, uh, uh, a thinning, deep in the fabric.
“This neighborhood got caught in a loop! The sh!t got stained in the exact same spot over and over ’til it finally rotted from the inside out!”
 
Ultimately, this new Candyman is a worthy successor to Rose’s original adaptation, and like it, is the kind of horror I treasure, the kind that has Something to say.
And DaCosta and company say it very well indeed…
So if this all sounds like horror to suit your tastes as well, then by all means, check it out…
 
And, oh yes…
Say his name…
 
Yeah, yeah, yeah, who can take tomorrow,
Dip it in a dream,
Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream?
Dip it in a dream,
Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream?
The Candy Man…
The Candy Man can…
--“The Candy Man”
   Sammy Davis Jr.

Parting Shot: Since the art world also plays a central role in its narrative, Velvet Buzzsaw makes an excellent double feature with this particular Candyman.
  
(Candyman OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

Saturday, November 13, 2021

WITCH HUNT
(March 2021)


/ ‘wiCH, hunt/, Noun
  1. A search for, and subsequent persecution of persons accused of witchcraft.
  2. A campaign directed against a person, or group, holding unorthodox or unpopular views, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.
Witch Hunt’s harrowing opening quickly tips the viewer off to the fact that they’re now in the middle of an alternate history:
 
A world where witches are real, and are hounded by the Bureau of Witch Investigations (the BWI), modern-day witch hunters all too ready to strike a match so they can “stop hysteria and uphold the law”;
 
A world where the threat of Proposition 6, the Witch List Act (AKA Prop 6) looms.
Its full title: the Control, Regulate, and Restrict Potential Witchcraft Act, meant to “restrict the rights of blood relatives of convicted witches”;
 
A world where the particular combination of one’s genes potentially carries a death sentence.
 
Working against this system is Elizabeth Mitchell’s Martha Goode, a widow who helps smuggle witches to safety.
In this world’s parlance, Martha is a “harborer”, which makes her life and that of her children a daily tightrope of secrets and subterfuge.
 
“Did you see the way that they looked at me? How am I supposed to control something that I’m not even allowed to practice?
“And why does it have to be bad?
“I’m not bad…
“I’m not bad!”
 
Witch Hunt is writer/director Elle Callahan’s sophomore feature, on the heels of her excellent ¡Q horror! 2019 title, Head Count.
It’s a brilliant and powerful follow-up that brings a very different kind of horror from that of Head Count, to the screen.
 
A piece like Witch Hunt can be a particularly potent narrative because, like comic book tales of the X-Men, it’s the kind of story where the persecuted minority--whether witches or mutants--can be swapped out for any number of real-life discriminated groups.
It’s a fictional reflection of the hardships that some people--through no fault or choice of their own--are subjected to, simply due to the color of their skin, or their gender.
 
It’s the kind of troubling, uncomfortable horror that critiques the very real-life systems we all find ourselves slaved to.
It’s the kind of horror that asks, So then, what are you going to do about it?
 
“So, vote ‘Yes’ on Prop 6, and keep our streets safe from anyone with magic in their blood.
“No magic is good magic.”
 
(Witch Hunt OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Friday, November 5, 2021

THE NIGHT HOUSE
(January 2020)


TRICK IT, DON’T LISTEN TO IT
 
In The Night House--David Bruckner’s follow-up to The Ritual--Rebecca Hall plays recently widowed Beth Parchin, whose barely bottled-up anger at the sudden and initially inexplicable death of her husband gradually erodes in the face of a dark and sinister mystery.
 
It’s a testament to the skills and talent of Bruckner and Hall, as well as the elegant screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (all four are also Executive Producers on this), that The Night House remains compelling and absorbing, as said mystery slowly unpacks itself over the course of the film’s running time.
 
It’s also a sneaky one, this, its largely serene and placid façade belying a cold cruelty beating at its core, the action onscreen the calm surface beneath which vicious riptides and undertows swirl.
Or, to use another apt metaphor, our eyes are drawn to the beauty of the structure, which only serves to mask the cold, blank hollows at its foundation.
 
This is quite possibly the most gently nihilistic horror film I’ve come across.
It doesn’t hold the audience’s hand, nor does it offer any comforting, yet ultimately hollow platitudes regarding existence and mortality.
 
If this sounds like the kind of horror you’re in the mood for, then by all means, please step into The Night House.
Just be sure to leave the door open, in case you decide on a hasty retreat…
 
“Makes you wonder though, doesn’t it? What else didn’t I know?”
 
Parting Shot:
The fact that architecture and geometric spaces play a not insignificant part in The Night House bodes well for the Hellraiser reboot Bruckner is currently in post-production on, from a screenplay credited to Collins, Piotrowski, and David Goyer (also, incidentally enough, a producer on The Night House).
Plus! Jamie Clayton as Pinhead!
 
(The Night House OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Saturday, September 25, 2021

MIDNIGHT MASS Season 1
(September 2021)


“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”
--Genesis 39:21

Crockett Island (pop. 127) is the home Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) finds himself returning to after years of incarceration, just in time to bear witness to mysteries and miracles.
That, in a nutshell, is Mike Flanagan’s latest Netflix offering, Midnight Mass, which is, among other things, a tale of faith and addiction, of community and mortality, of belief (and the selective interpretation of scripture) as a weapon and a means of manipulation and justification.

“The people on this island… We used to be hundreds. Now, we’re just dozens.
“This isn’t a community anymore, honey. It’s a ghost.”

One of the strengths of Midnight Mass is its depiction of a group of disparate individuals united only in their faith (though there are, naturally, a number of outliers in that respect) and the turmoil of daily existence in an economically devastated community struggling to stay alive.
And that particular strength is down to some excellent writing from Flanagan and company, coupled with some powerful performances from the cast, which includes some past collaborators like wife Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas, Starry Eyes’ Alex Essoe, The X-Files’ Annabeth Gish, and BSG’s Michael Trucco*.
And while Gilford is probably best known for Friday Night Lights, he’s been ‘round these parts before, thanks to Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter (part of the ¡Q horror! 2008 rundown).
Oh! And Groove’s Hamish Linklater (seen more recently on TV’s Legion) is here too, in a pivotal role.
I could go on and on…

“What is otherwise horrible is good because of where it’s headed.”

Yes, there are some scares here, and sure, there is some gore, but ultimately, Midnight Mass is a heart-wrenching tale told through the lens of one of supernatural horror’s most enduring of fixtures, a story of yearning and loss and the struggle to find meaning and a sense of understanding and peace in an imperfect and often brutal world.
And believe me, it’s a final assessment that comes as a complete (albeit very welcome) surprise.
More so than a “horror” story, it’s an achingly beautiful piece of work, this.
Partake of its bounty… and be not afraid…

“I mean, what’s a little crazy between friends, right?”

* Gish appeared in Before I Wake and The Haunting of Hill House, while Trucco was in Hush, in which he acted alongside Siegel and Midnight Mass’ Bev Keane, Samantha Sloyan.
And Essoe was in Doctor Sleep, as well as The Haunting of Bly Manor (more on that below).
Yup, Flanagan does enjoy working with the same stable of performers, doesn’t he?

Parting Shot:
For a number of reasons, I haven’t had the opportunity to take in Flanagan’s The Haunting of Bly Manor (despite the fact that I thought very highly of The Haunting of Hill House).
But who knows?
Maybe I’ll finally step through Bly Manor’s door soon…
Halloween’s just around the corner, after all…

(Midnight Mass OS courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com.)

Monday, September 6, 2021

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING
(June 2021)


Most things come to an end, don’t they?”

family of four retreat to their spacious bathroom to shelter from what seems to be, at best, a passing thunderstorm, at worst, a tornado.
Tension within the enclosed space quickly takes root though, from both interpersonal dynamics, and the gradual, creeping realization that there are far worse things than a tornado…

“Mom, I think something might be wrong. Like, with the storm, something bad might be happening.”

Sean King O’Grady’s directorial feature debut, We Need to Do Something, is a nastily effective piece of apocalypse cinema in micro, as we witness the slights and stresses that tear a family asunder, even as some perhaps darker disintegration takes place outside their enforced shelter.
Max Booth III’s screenplay--based on his novella of the same name--builds the familial strife steadily but surely, punctuating the simmering conflict with a number of WTF moments that push the narrative into disturbingly surreal territory. (Not to mention that unsettling ‘80’s hit needle drop, one of those movie moments guaranteed to forever alter the way you consider a musical track.)
The film also proves to have a darkly comic streak, bolstered in no small part by Pat Healy, whose Robert is one of the most inept, contemptible cinematic fathers to stain the screen in recent memory.

So if single, enclosed settings aren’t a trigger for you (in our current, shared Global Moment), then We Need to Do Something comes with a hearty ¡Q horror! recommendation.

“I’m a good boy!”

(We Need to Do Something OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Saturday, August 14, 2021

BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR Season 1
(August 2021)


Imagine... that you're inside him.
“You feel it?
“Now, break something.”

If I tilted my head juuuuust so and squinted a bit, I could mistake Brand New Cherry Flavor for the fifth season of Channel Zero we were robbed of when SyFy chose to pack things up with The Dream Door.
And that’s largely because it’s a reunion of Nick Antosca (the principal creative force behind Channel Zero), Arkasha Stevenson (director of Season 3, Butcher’s Block), and Lenore Zion (co-producer on The Dream Door).
Sure, it’s based on the Todd Grimson novel of the same name, but it truly does feel of a piece with the dread (and sorely missed) brilliance of Channel Zero.
And for that, we really must tip our hat to Netflix and its assorted algorithms, which may or may not have had a hand in streaming Brand New Cherry Flavor into our lives.

“The road curves, but the destination doesn’t change.”

We join Rosa Salazar’s aspiring filmmaker Lisa Natasha Nova in the “Early 90s On The Way to Los Angeles” (or so the supered words in the yellow font reminiscent of Lynch’s Lost Highway tell us).
She’s on her way to LA to meet producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange), whose box office blockbuster streak has run dry of late, but who may still hold the door open for her Hollywood entry.
Things take an unfortunate turn though, forcing her to deal with Catherine Keener’s eccentrically creepy Boro, a decision that serves as the main narrative drive for the strange, enticing concoction that is Brand New Cherry Flavor.

So when you put a curse on someone, you really commit, huh?”
“What’s the point of doing something halfway? At least that’s what my Dad used to say.”
“That’s nice. Best I ever got out of my Dad was, ‘Don’t change the channel, f*ckface.’”

While I was passingly familiar with Todd Grimson (I had a copy of Stainless back in the day), Brand New Cherry Flavor was one of those titles that had eluded me.
Which, in retrospect, is good, since that allowed me to come into the adaptation with fresh eyes and a distinct lack of baggage, at least as far as Grimson and the original source material goes.
I still had high hopes given the Channel Zero reunion going on with the Antosca-Stevenson-Zion trifecta…
This ¡Q horror! recommendation should be proof enough though that they did not disappoint, and my horrorhead taste buds definitely got a welcome, tingling rush from this Brand New Cherry Flavor
You really, most definitely, should get a taste too…

Now, it’s not gonna be easy. It may get a little f*cked up. But the good news is, it’ll only get as f*cked up as you are.”

When I look out my window,
Many sights to see
And when I look in my window,
So many different people to be
Then it’s strange
So strange
--Donovan
   “Season of the Witch”

Parting Shot:
Though there are a bunch of other notable needle drops over the course of the 8 episode count (including the one above), I’d like to mention these two, both over the end credits roll: The Creatures’ cover of The Trogg’s “Wild Thing,” and Concrete Blonde’s “Tomorrow, Wendy.”

(Brand New Cherry Flavor OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

INDIEKET 2021 (ONLINE)
[Updated! With Schedule!!]

Among the Creator Connect talks scheduled for this year's online edition of Indieket on August 7, we've got one in which a half-dozen of the mighty fine artists I've had the privilege to collaborate with are gathered to talk komiks collaboration...

Thrill! At this Sneak Peek!!!


For the record, those half-dozen are:

Michael Urbano [Top Left]: URIEL: HekhalotDAKILA: Legado Issues 1 & 2A

Marvin del Mundo [Top Right]: DAKILA / Fr TRESE: Iunctura

Carl Corilla [Middle Left]: DAKILA: Makadaot

Pyotr Mutuc [Middle Center]: DAKILA: Siyudad Issues 1 to 3

Ace Enriquez [Middle Right]: BATHALA: Apokalypsis

Reno Maniquis [Bottom Center]: MASKARADO / DAKILA: Silver Like Dust

More details here.


We've got the 5th slot, from 4 in the afternoon to 5:30.
(More details here.)

You'll note from the Sneak Peek that Yours Truly was not on the Zoom call (long story short: technical issues prohibit me from Zooming at the moment).
Regardless, you should still most definitely check the talk out, coz these mighty fine gentlemen discuss komik collaboration, and I also still managed to answer questions over email, so I believe some of my answers will be read out loud during the call...
Or something.
Anyhoo, just check the talk out if you've got the time and the inclination. (August 7, 4PM to 5:30PM.
Your viewership and support will be greatly appreciated.

And please feel free to check out any (or all) of the other Creator Connect talks...

"See you" at the Indieket.

you can't drink just six,


Dave