I think by now the hype train has left the station and everyone has their expectation levels in check. And if you haven’t seen Robert Eggers’ The Witch (read our review) yet, this weekend is your last chance to catch it in theaters.
The Witch isn’t some massive studio project, nor is it even on the level of something like Blumhouse would produce. This film is a genuine, honest-to-Satan, independent horror film. Some may call it “over hyped,” but I call it a major success story and a win for the horror genre as a whole. I would never forgive myself if I didn’t catch this Shining-inspired chiller in theaters.
For the fans, like me, you can plan your Witch/Shining double feature for this May, when A24’s film arrives on home video.
“In this exquisitely made and terrifying new horror film, the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession are innovatively brought together to tell the intimate and riveting story of one family’s frightful unraveling in the New England wilderness circa 1630. New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest – within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately – animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, family members accuse teenage daughter Thomasin of witchcraft, charges she adamantly denies. As circumstances grow more treacherous, each family member’s faith, loyalty and love become tested in shocking and unforgettable ways. Writer/director Robert Eggers’ debut feature, which premiered to great acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival – winning the Best Director Prize in the U.S. Narrative Competition – painstakingly recreates a God-fearing New England decades before the 1692 Salem witch trials, in which religious convictions tragically turned to mass hysteria. Told through the eyes of the adolescent Thomasin – in a star-making turn by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy – and supported by mesmerizing camera work and a powerful musical score, THE WITCH is a chilling and groundbreaking new take on the genre.”
The nifty thing about monsters is they can take any form we can imagine. This may be what drew me to the stunning works of Sandeep “Sans” Karunakaran, a self-proclaimed “art psycho” with a carefully curated collection of things that go bump in the night.
They’re all technically impressive, blending sci-fi, horror and dark fantasy with a diverse cast of frightening faces, face-like surfaces and the odd gaping maw where a face should be. The wild variations in scale immediately stand out, and so do the colors.
Sans makes the most of his bleak, post-apocalyptic color palette by conserving the more vibrant bits, turning them into focal points for each piece. This is art that feels more like a lost photograph, a window to a withered world that begs to be explored, if only so we can understand why the child’s ghost pirouettes silently in a cold hallway, or if the impossibly huge creature with crimson eyes is going to eat that train, or just the people inside it.
For more of Sans’ work, check out his gallery.
“Deep from within the dimension of eternal torments comes the High Priest of Hell himself: Pinhead.
Mezco brings the leader of the Cenobites into our realm with an exquisite 12inch figure and the cries of the damned rage loudly with anticipation!
Pinhead’s detailed portrait sculpture captures each grid scar and nail of his infamous visage. Looking into the eyes of the figure, one can almost feel his insatiable craving for souls.
Great care has been paid to each detail of Pinhead’s attire. His vestments perfectly capture the look from the legendary film. The flayed portions of Pinhead’s flesh bear witness to his suffering with a realistic wet-look finish. His sacred instruments, a trio of blades, dangle from his holy robes.
The figure comes complete with two sets of hands: one set to hold the included Lament Configuration for summoning the Cenobites, and a second set to wield his instruments of transformation.
Pinhead features seven points of articulation and is packaged in a specially die-cut collector friendly window box that highlights his grotesque beauty.”
Pinhead brings Hell to Earth in this fall. Pre-order at the aforementioned link. Hurry, I may buy them all.
Pet has been described as being in the vein of Hard Candy and Gone Girl. It doesn’t exactly have the wit or intelligence of those two films, but what it lacks in those qualities it makes up for in pure trashy fun. No one would accuse Pet as being subtle or high art, but as a one of the Midnighters at The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals, it turns out to be the perfect fit.
When Seth (Dominic Monaghan, Lost, The Lord of the Rings trilogy), an animal shelter worker, runs into former schoolmate Holly (Ksenia Solo, Black Swan, Orphan Black) on the bus, he attempts to grow closer to her. After stalking her on social media to figure out her likes and dislikes, Seth eventually goes to eat at the diner where Holly works. From there, the stalking gets progressively worse and worse. When Holly finally rejects Seth’s advances, he kidnaps her and locks her in a cage he built in the tunnels under the animal shelter that he works at.
Writer Jeremy Slater’s two previous credits are last year’s Fantastic Four and The Lazarus Effect, so you would be forgiven for entering into Pet with fairly low expectations. What he has done is taken a standard stalker/kidnapping plot and flipped it on its head in a unique way. Pet starts out playing it straight, but as it progresses it morphs into a black-as-night romantic horror comedy. Slater and director Carles Torrens keeps things moving at a pretty brisk pace, and at 90 minutes the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. In fact, just when the film starts to drag during its third act the film draws to a mostly satisfying close.
Around the midway point of the film, the narrative takes a rather jarring turn when a secret comes out about one of the characters. To say any more about it would spoil the entire film and all of the fun to be had with it, but suffice it to say that that moment will make or break the film for many viewers. If you choose to roll with it, then you may find Pet to be the perfect midnight movie that you’ll want to put on late on a Saturday night with friends and plenty of booze.
Unfortunately the insanity of the second half of the film make you realize just how by-the-numbers the first half is. While it’s fun to see Monaghan to play this type of character, it’s not exactly what you would call compelling. The film relies completely on it’s second act twist and that’s not exactly what a film should be striving to do.
Monaghan is appropriately creepy yet sympathetic as Seth, but the real surprise comes in the form of Solo, who simply knocks it out of the park in a role that requires her to play so many different facets of an incredibly complex character. She imbues Holly with a steely vulnerability that when she is able to fight back in her own special way it takes you by surprise, yet still somehow feels believable.
If you try to read into the subtext, you might see a film with a message about people trying to change each other for the sake of a relationship, but it’s best not to view Pet with such a discerning eye. Pet is best viewed as a wacky horror romance filled with enough gallows humor to satiate the Coen Brothers. This will make the film’s more ridiculous plot developments easier to swallow and thus make your enjoyment of it more likely. It’s a perfect fit as one of the SXSW Midnighters and serves as a nice breather between all of the more highbrow films that can populate the festival’s lineup.
Director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) blew audiences away at the 30th Annual SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals with his latest film Don’t Breathe (read my review), which was the festival’s first Midnighter. I was lucky enough to sit down with Alvarez and chat about the film (and maybe a little bit about Evil Dead as well). Check out what he had to say! You can also check out my interview with the films stars Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto here.
Bloody Disgusting: Hi! Nice to meet you.
Fede Alvarez: Nice to meet you as well.
BD: First I just want to say that I loved the film, and I was very happy that I didn’t know anything about it going in.
FA: Thank you I’m glad you watched it! Yeah this was interesting. Nobody knew shit about this movie and you never know what people are going to expect. With this, my goal was that no one would expect anything.
BD I definitely think that’s the best way to watch the movie though. I feel like nowadays trailers spoil so many things that to go in blind is nearly impossible so this was a real treat. But moving on to the film itself: What made you want to write this as a follow-up to Evil Dead? What gave you the idea?
FA: It was just me and Rodo, my co-writer on Evil Dead and this one too. We’re friends and we were just driving from Comic-Con in San Diego back to Los Angeles just trying to think about what we were going to do next. We knew- we kind of imposed some rules based on our experience with Evil Dead.
1) We knew we didn’t want it to be a remake. We wanted to do something fresh and original and new.
2) Because we used so much blood on Evil Dead. It was so much about that, you know? It was for shock value. So we said “Okay, let’s do a movie with no blood.” That was our rule: to not make a bloody film.
3) Let’s make it about suspense. Evil Dead didn’t have a lot of room for suspense so we wanted to make this one all about suspense and not related to the supernatural at all. That was and still is the trend for thrillers and horror right now. It’s always supernatural. We can tell great stories in the world that are not supernatural. If you go back to classics like Psycho, there’s nothing supernatural in there. There’s definitely enough real scary stuff in the world to make a movie out of.
So that was definitely what we wanted to do.
BD: I mean slashers are my favorite sub-genre so I like the reality of the situation.
BD: So I may be wrong, but I feel like I read an interview after Evil Dead with Jane Levy where someone asked her if she would do that again and she kind of skirted around the topic. You put her through the wringer on Evil Dead so it must have been tough on her. Did it take convincing on your part to get her back for this film because she gets put through the wringer again.
FA: She said yes right away. She had read the script as soon as it was done because we are good friends, but no one had made an offer to her yet. So I called her out of the blue one day and asked her if she wanted to make this movie and she was like “Fuck yeah, let’s do it!” But I think once she got on set and she started to realize what we were doing she asked herself ” Shit, why did I get myself into this mess again?” I think she did an amazing job though. I was watching her on the screen and I was so proud of her. She really delivers.
BD: Yeah she’s two for two with you. I watched her on Suburgatory when it was on and she’s definitely got range, what with being able to do comedy and horror so successfully.
FA: Yeah, definitely.
BD: So was this an easier shoot for you? Or was it more stressful?
FA: [hesitates] No shoot is easy and if it is then you’re probably making a shitty movie. Like when you watch Evil Dead and you see all of those effects you know that it’s not easy to do and it pays off in that way for the audience. Don’t Breathe had a lot of that too where it wasn’t an easy shoot at all. That doesn’t mean that it’s a negative experience or anything like that. Some of the best movies ever made were very hard to do and have nightmarish stories about how they made them but the audience doesn’t care. They want to see a good movie. That’s all they care about. I don’t mind making things even harder in order to give the audience a good experience.
BD: That’s good that you have your audience in mind when you’re making a movie. I feel like it can be easy to forget about them during production.
FA: You can’t make excuses when you’re making a movie. You can’t say “oh we didn’t have enough budget to do this” or “we couldn’t do this because we didn’t have time.” The audience doesn’t want to hear that. You get the shot. You get the moment. You want them to see something unique. Don’t Breathe definitely had many challenges though.
BD: I imagine one of those challenges was telling a story with so little dialogue. What did that script look like? Was it a really short script?
FA: No, it’s probably a 90-page script. It was always the idea that were were going to do something that was almost a completely silent film. It was ambitious though. At first we didn’t want to have any music, but changed our minds. And I think that Roque Baños did a great job with the score. It’s very simple with great moments here and there to hit you with tones but he never overdoes it. Wait, we were talking about the script weren’t we?
FA: Right. Well it was a proper script. Everything that you see in the movie was actually in the script. Most of the film’s beats are definitely in there.
BD: Did you have a lot of blocking instructions in the script? Or is that something you thought ahead and brought to the shoot?
FA: Before shooting we sat down at my house with our production designer Naaman Marshall, cinematographer Pedro Luque and costume designer Carlos Rosario and put a big map on the table and drew the house. We made it like a chess game and put the characters on the map and moved them around as we were reading the script to illustrate what we wanted to happen.
BD: So basically it was your version of storyboarding?
FA: Yes, exactly.
BD: I’m getting the cue to wrap up, and I have to ask that question you’re probably tired of answering.
FA: [Looks down] Oh, man. Don’t even start.
BD: Are there any plans for Evil Dead 2?
FA: [Laughs] There are no current plans. We’re not talking about it with Sam [Raimi] at all. Like I know right now it’s all about the show and everybody is very happy with that and that’s it.
BD: What’s next for you then?
FA: I don’t know.
FA: I have no clue, man. There are probably things but I just finished this movie. Literally just finished it a few weeks ago and the way I work is I don’t pay attention to any other projects while I’m making a movie. I think I owe that to the audience to really give them the feeling that they’re being taken care of and that I really care about every moment in my film. That’s why I don’t start thinking about doing anything else until I’m done with what I’m working on. Now that we’re finished I’ll go back to Los Angeles and start thinking about what I’m going to do next.
BD: Good! Well again, I think it’s a great film and I’m really excited for people to see it.
FA: Thank you so much.Check out Don’t Breathe when it hits theaters on August 26, 2016!
Remember there was a period where there were two Ghostbusters films being discussed? There was the one from Paul Feig, which we’re going to see this summer, and then there was one from the Russo Brothers that was going to star Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt.
Well, as one might have expected from the deafening silence surrounding that project, it’s completely dead and buried with no chance at becoming a non-repeating phantasm, or a class-5 free roaming vapor.
Joe Russo told Forbes the following:
There is no status with that for us. There was a period there when Paul Feig was engaging Sony in talks about Ghostbusters and we were also engaging them. He was further along with his process than we were and he closed his deal so that’s the only Ghostbusters world that’s being explored right now over at Sony. Once we took Infinity War it [took] us off the table for any kind of any potential work on a Ghostbusters project.
The Russos are gearing up for the release of the highly anticipated Captain America: Civil War, which comes out May 6th.