When most people think of comics they picture Batman and Wolverine slugging it out on an exploding aircraft carrier. Marvel and DC, or The Big Two as they are often called, have dominated the market for eight decades. Super hero comics are synonymous with the comic book medium itself, certainly, but if you are only familiar with these kinds of book then you are really missing out on what comics have to offer. Here at Bloody Disgusting, we tend to let the other guys talk about The Big Two and focus instead on the darker side of comics. Outside of the capes and cowls, story reigns supreme.
Editorial By: Epic Switzer
Creator owned work from publisher like Image give the freedom to tell the kinds of stories the team are passionate about telling. These titles are many, and cover just about every genre out there. Luckily, the biggest names at DC and Marvel also have some of the most engaging and original creator owned books. So if you haven’t yet found the courage to step outside your spandex comfort zone, then here are some of the best book from your favorite Marvel Now and New 52 creators.
Severed by Scott Snyder & Atilla Futaki
Scott Snyder has become one of the most influential writers at DC since the start of the New 52. His run on “Batman” has been flawless for 32 issues, and he has orchestrated some of the best bat-centric crossover events in recent history. His Vertigo book “American Vampire” has been one of my favorite continuing horror titles for several years. If you are a diehard DC fan, however, you may have missed a gorgeous 7-issue miniseries he did with writer Scott Tuft and artist Attila Futaki for Image called “Severed.”
“Severed” is a turn of the century serial-killer story about a young boy named Jack who runs away from home in search of his father. Jack finds a traveling salesman to accompany him on his journey who in fact is one of the most disturbing killers in the history of comics. The story is notable for it’s expert pacing and stomach-turning suspense. This book feels like Hitchcock at his blood-soaked best and is one of the beautiful hardcovers that I’m proud to display on my shelf. For horror fans, “Severed” is a must read.
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Matt Fraction has been one of the busiest writers at Marvel for a decade now. He has done great runs on just about every character you can think of, and his recent Hawkeye and Fantastic Four runs have been critically acclaimed. He wrote the main title in the Fear Itself event, and was a part of the Avengers vs. Xmen crossover event in 2012. His writing is known for quick wit and dry humor and for his ability to ground larger-than-life characters with honest emotional weight. If you only know his Marvel work you might not have expected what he’s doing over at Image, but I can pretty much guarantee you will love “Sex Criminals.”
If you’ve read my recent review than you already know I think Sex Criminals is one of the smartest and most socially relevant books being published today. Fraction’s “sex comedy” may seem, in passing, as an excuse for dick jokes and cartoon nudity, but in reality this book has a ton of heart. It follows a couple who have the ability to freeze time when they orgasm (stay with me) and they use this power to rob banks (no really) until they are caught by the secret sex police (seriously). If that sold you than I’ve done my job, but if not you have to understand that this book is really a love story; one that addresses many of the issues with relationships, mental health, and struggling through your 20s. I can’t imagine anyone not relating to that, so if you can handle dildo swords and the fuck word, you may just end up loving this book as much as I do.
The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra
Some would consider Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and FF to be the best in the series. As the current writer of “Avengers,” Hickman continues to deliver benchmark material and epitomize the Marvel brand. Outside of Marvel, Hickman has written a number of critically acclaimed series like the recent “East of West” and a personal favorite of mine, “The Manhattan Projects.”
“The Manhattan Projects” is somewhat esoteric in that it is an alternate history book about the physicists that developed the first atomic bombs during World War II. Of Course you don’t need to be intimately familiar with the work of Joseph Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, and Einstein to enjoy this book, but you do need to be the kind of person that gets excited about wormholes, evil twins, and talking dogs. “The Manhattan Projects” is a clever book with off the wall ideas that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And if you know a lot about the Kennedy Administration, its just that much better.
Fatale by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Within The Big 2, Brubaker is probably best known for his work on Gotham Central, a book about Gotham City Police Department (and hopefully a big inspiration for the upcoming Gotham tv show) and his iconic retooling of Daredevil. His collaboration with Sean Phillips, artist of Fatale actually began with Criminal, an Icon book (Marvel’s creator owned label). The team continued to crank up dynamite crime books throughout the Criminal series, to Incognito, and eventually to Image with the horror-noir “Fatale.”
My recent article will tell you everything you need to know about Fatale and why you should absolutely be reading it. This book has the best combination of style and substance you’ll ever get from a comic book. Tons of flash, plenty of bang. I really can’t recommend it enough. If you get off on the hard boiled sensibilities of classic noir or have a penchant for the macabre and cosmically horrifying, this is your new favorite book.
Underwater Welder By Jeff Lemire
I’ve read everything Jeff Lemire has done and I would recommend all of it to you. If you are a New 52 fan, you probably are familiar with his work on Animal Man, Justice League Dark, Green Arrow and the new Justice League United. Jeff Lemire’s indie work is mired in his rural canadian upbringing. He gives a voice to a culture that is relatively unheard from, and handles his characters with the most care and sincerity of any writer I know. His vertigo books Sweet Tooth and Trillium are excellent, but if you really want to get to know Lemire, pick up Top Shelf books’ “The Underwater Welder.”
“The Underwater Welder” is the kind of book that will haunt you long after you finish. It’s creeping pace and Twilight Zone-esque plotting create an atmosphere not common in mainstream comics. The book is a psychological exploration of Jack, an oil rig worker with a pregnant wife who has some seriously unresolved issues with his father. As things become supernatural, it is unclear if we are seeing reality or a physical manifestation of Jack’s emotional turmoil. This kind of thematic story telling is what makes Lemire stand out, and his utilitarian art is easily digested and powerful. You’ll breeze through this story and be ready to tackle the misleadingly dense “Essex County” trilogy.
Insufferable By Mark Waid & Peter Krause
Mark Waid has done more knockout work for DC and Marvel than I could possibly ever mention. Currently Waid has been scripting Daredevil at Marvel for several years and personally I think it is the best book Marvel is doing right now. Independently, Waid has become instrumental in the digital comics movement and has done a lot to help up and coming writers and artists get their work out there. His website, Thrillbent.com is a digital subscription platform for independant comics. For $3.99 a month you can read the entire back catalogue of Thrillbent comics from Mark Waid and other creators (like the always awesome James Tynion IV) as well as new books every week. One of the flagship titles, and the most appropriate per our discussion, is the post-modern superhero story “Insufferable.”
“Insufferable” essentially poses “Robin” as a socialite party-boy douche bag and “Batman” as an aging, schizo, mad man. Comedy, and a lot of intense drama, ensues. This book will be historically known as the first digital-only comic to get it right. If you have only ever read print comics, or have had bad experiences with the way they translate to digital, you have to check out “Insufferable” and the rest of what Thrillbent.com has to offer.
That’s what the best minds at Marvel and DC have produced outside of those publishers. What do you think of my list? Will you be test driving any of these great books? Let me know what I missed in the comments below!
Epic Switzer AKA Eric is an aspiring filmmaker and screenplay writer living in Los Angeles. His work tends to focus on the lighter side of entropy, dystopic futures, and man’s innate struggle with his own mortality. He can be found on twitter @epicswitzer or reached via email at email@example.com.
A new image blows in from New Line Cinema’s Into the Storm, helmed by Final Destination 5‘s by Steven Quale.
In theaters August 8, “In the span of a single day, the town of Silverton is ravaged by an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes. The entire town is at the mercy of the erratic and deadly cyclones, even as storm trackers predict the worst is yet to come. Most people seek shelter, while others run towards the vortex, testing how far a storm chaser will go for that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Told through the eyes and lenses of professional storm chasers, thrill-seeking amateurs, and courageous townspeople, Into the Storm throws you directly into the eye of the storm to experience Mother Nature at her most extreme.”
Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress, Jeremy Sumpter, Kyle Davis, Jon Reep, and Scott Lawrence all star.
Today brings yet another BD Playlist where we, the BD writers, bring you the songs and artists that we’re currently obsessed with. This time, we’ve got our comic book editor Lonnie with a few of his own suggestions! He goes from old school to brand new with his recommendations and it’s, as usual, a varied list that showcases a wide spectrum of tastes. Check it out below!
Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
I’ve been getting back into my hardcore roots recently, probably as a way to cope with some recent changes in my life, but I’ll spare you the dramatics. The new Every Time I Die album is one of the best I’ve heard in recent years. It kicks off with real dirty, heavy tracks, and naturally transitions into some slower tunes that hold the grit of their earlier work. This album is brilliant and shows that these guys continue to innovate in a genre that seems to be dying.
In Japan, on the northwest base of Mount Fuji, lies a patch of dense forest roughly 21 miles square. Called Aokigahara, or the “Sea of Trees,” it’s also known as the “Suicide Forest.” For one woman desperate to resolve a loved one’s death, it will become a battlefield for her very soul…
On September 30th, Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Grave Halloween on DVD. Directed by Steven R. Monroe (2010’s I Spit On Your Grave) and produced by John Prince (Metal Shifters, 12 Disasters, Collision Earth), Grave Halloween terrified viewers during its premiere last year as part of Syfy’s 31 Days of Halloween celebration.
In the film, Kaitlyn Leeb (Wrong Turn 4, Total Recall) stars as Maiko, a college student whose mother, years earlier, took her own life in the infamous “Suicide Forest.” Now leading a student documentary film crew, Maiko hopes to shed light not only on this infamous cultural landmark, but also bring some closure to her own inner demons sprung from her tragic past. Soon the entire group realizes that their hunt for the truth is now coming after them, in a fight for survival against those who may have died in the Suicide Forest, but never left it.
Co-starring Cassi Thomson (“Big Love,” “Switched At Birth”), Graham Wardle (“The X Files,” “Heartland”), and Hiro Kanagawa (“Caprica,” “Smallville”), Grave Halloween leads viewers on a harrowing journey into a nether world where a forest can become a graveyard, and the dead can tip the scales between salvation and damnation!
Nymphomaniac star Stacy Martin has been cast in Ben Wheatley’s High Rise, reports Screen Daily. Martin joins the growing cast that already includes Tom Hiddleston, Elisabeth Moss, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller, and Jeremy Irons.
The film is based on J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same name, which various people in the industry have been trying to adapt for decades. In the novel, the occupants of a high rise apartment building become isolated from the outside world and gradually descend into a brutal, primal society. It’s like Lord of the Flies with adults rather than kids, pitting the wealthy on the building’s top floors against the middle class lower dwellers. No word yet on who the 23-year-old Martin will be playing.
The screenplay was penned by Amy Jump, Wheatley’s regular collaborator and shooting is scheduled to begin in July in Belfast.
Writer/director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) sees his new, ambitious horror film Deliver Us From Evil hit theaters on July 2nd. Eric Bana (Chopper, Funny People) plays the real life role of Sergeant Ralph Sarchie in the film, based on Sarchie’s book “Beware The Night.”
I first caught up wit him during my set visit for the film, but it was nice being able to chat with him after seeing the final product. We discussed the darkness of the script, what it’s like playing a real guy and just how much certain elements of this film feel like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.
I love anything to do with Ridley Scott’s Alien, which is why imgur user Valaquen is my hero, having collected a gazillion – 220 to be exact – behind-the-scenes photos from the 1979 classic.
It will take you hours to carouse this catalog of stills that take you on the Nostromo and Xenomorph-filled sets with Sigourney Weaver and company, as well as into the design room with the late H.R. Giger!
I’ve seen a ton of stuff but this fanatic has discovered some imagery my eyes have never been blessed with…
The idea of a new “Robocop” ongoing comic is simply awesome. The character has been lingering in the hearts of fans for years, and admittedly the remake had the semblance of something great, but ultimately failed to deliver pretty hard. The original has always been this fantastic mix of extreme violence, political satire, and good old fashioned mayhem. It’s good to see I wasn’t alone in the nights I spent pining for a true continuation of the story from the first film. There are certainly things to love about the sequels but honestly they just fail to measure up to the glory of the original.
Now Williamson is given the huge task of doing so, and frankly if anyone can do it, it’s him. I have full confidence that this is the Robocop we’ve been looking for and chances are great BOOM! Studios will nurture the title where ever it needs to go now that that pesky reboot is out of the way.
WHY WE LOVE IT: If you’re like us, the classic 1987 film holds a special place in your fan heart. Now, we’re taking the next step to give fans an original, ongoing RoboCop series set in that very world. This is the hard-bitten world of RoboCop we all grew up on!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: If you’ve ever wondered what happens to RoboCop and his partner, Anne Lewis, after the first film, wonder no more. Joshua Williamson (GHOSTED) crafts a story of crime and corruption that fans of Gotham Central, Stray Bullets, and Transmetropolitan will enjoy. Carlos Magno (PLANET OF THE APES, DEATHMATCH) brings RoboCop and Old Detroit to life in detail and intensity never seen before.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A deadly and charismatic criminal, Killian, is released from jail. He went into the slammer before RoboCop hit the streets. Now he wants to take out the biggest cop in the city. When OCP wants to take guns off the street, Killian sees it as his opportunity to take on the former Alex Murphy!
One of the standout titles in the Batman universe has always been “Batwing.” The reason is simple, it’s not just another comic with Batman at the center. It’s often engaging and cool to see another version of the caped crusader albeit on very different terms.
Batwing tries to stem the tide of the Snakebite drug trade, but he may be overwhelmed by his own inner demons – and by the mysterious Gruesome George!
Work continues on the Halloween Complete Collection Blu-ray set, and promises many surprises.
Anchor Bay tells us that bonus features continue to be added on a daily basis, and an announcement is forthcoming outlining all the great newly produced interviews, featurettes, behind-the-scenes footage and more that will be included in the 15-disc Deluxe Edition.
As a teaser, check out this behind-the-scenes photo of the actress who helped launched the historic franchise — Jamie Lee Curtis, as she sat down with Halloween H20 director Steve Miner, right, and moderator Sean Clark, center, for a new commentary track and interview that you’ll hear and see starting September 23rd!
Get the full skinny announced thus far on the massive box set by clicking here.
Just about a month ago, I posted an article about an album called Black Ice, which took ice-themed video game levels and gave them a black metal twist. That album was released by guitarist Ryan Postlethwait, who is a member of the instrumental-metal-video-game-remix (whew!) band Viking Guitar Live, who just released their new album Legion this past week. The album features covers of tracks from games such as Castlevania IV, Secret Of Mana, Blaster Master, and more!
You can listen to the album below as watch their full live performance at this year’s MAGFest XII.
Check out the above first image of Joan Allen, who guest stars as Colonel Margaret Rayne, the headmaster of an all-boys military academy, from the upcoming season of “The Killing,” which premieres exclusively on Netflix on August 1. We also have the series’ teaser poster that says that the past can’t be washed away. This long-standing investigation is about to come to a close.
Joel Kinnaman will return for a final season, along with his partner, Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos).
In the slow-burn series, “A police investigation, the saga of a grieving family, and a Seattle mayoral campaign all interlock after the body of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen is found in the trunk of a submerged car.“
Photo Credit: Carole Segal for Netflix.
Releasing via Picturehouse this September, we somehow missed the fantastic 1980′s-inspired Sundance Festival posters for The Guest (read our review), from the visionary team behind You’re Next: director Adam Wingard, writer Simon Barrett and Snoot Entertainment’s Keith Calder and Jessica Calder.
From the director and writer of V/H/S and V/H/S/2, “The film tells the story of a young soldier who arrives on the doorstep of the Peterson family, claiming to be a good friend of their beloved son who died in action. The Petersons welcome David into their home and into their lives, but when people start mysteriously dying in town, mayhem ensues as their teenage daughter Anna starts wondering if David is responsible.“
The Guest stars Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey” fame, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, and Lance Reddick (“American Horror Story” and “Intelligence”).
Spanish genre director Alex de la Iglesia (The Day of the Beast, The Last Circus, The Oxford Murders) has produced Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel’s hotly anticipated Shrew’s Nest, with make-up effects being done by Pan’s Labyrinth veteran Pepe Quetglas.
The pic stars Macarena Gomez (Sexy Killer, Witching & Bitching), Nadia de Santiago (Niños Robados), Luis Tosar (Sleep Tight, Cell 211) and Hugo Silva (Witching & Bitching).
Thanks to Fabien M., Bloody now has the Cannes sales trailer that both crazy violent and super intense!
“Spain, the 1950s. Montse is no longer a young woman. She lost the blush of youth caring for her little sister, holed up in a sinister apartment in downtown Madrid.
Their mother died giving birth to the little one and their father couldn’t handle it. He fled like a coward and left the girls alone. Forced to be father, mother and big sister, Montse hid away from life inside those four walls, feeding her obsessive and unbalanced temperament. She suffers from agoraphobia and cannot take a single step outside the house. Not understanding what is happening to her and the suffering that this strange disease causes her makes her take shelter within a world of Our Fathers and Holy Marys.
Montse works as a seamstress and her only link to reality is her sister, a girl who will soon no longer be a girl. One day, the chain is broken when Carlos (HUGO SILVA), an irresponsible young neighbor, is misfortunate enough to stumble down the stairwell and looks for help at the only door he was able to drag himself to.
Montse takes him in.
Someone has entered the shrew’s nest.
…Perhaps he’ll never leave.”
This is news to me. Not just that “Constantine” quit smoking, but that he smoked in the first place since I’ve never seen the movie or read the comics. Yet, the upcoming NBC/Warner Bros. adaptation of the DC Comics character appears to have cut one of his most defining character traits.
Collider caught up with Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), who directed the pilot, and he said in no uncertain terms that the smoking had to go. “No we’re not. It’s the one thing, a compromise I guess. On network it’s the one thing you can’t smoke on network. That’s one of his character traits. We’re working around that. We’re trying to get aspects of it in there as much as possible. We’ll see.”
The shot, set to premiere October 24, is “about occult master and demon hunter John Constantine, who is tasked with defending humanity from the forces of evil.” Matt Ryan, Harold Perrineau Jr., Lucy Griffiths and Charles Halford star. Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer exec produce.
The critically acclaimed 2009 documentary Cropsey effectively mixed urban legend and true crime to tell the history of a Staten Island boogeyman who allegedly abducted children. Filmmaker Joshua Zeman rolls with the same format of how the dark histories behind cities can spawn urban legends in his new documentary Killer Legends, which aired as a special on the Chiller network. Did you know that Chicago is the hub of killer clown mythos? Me neither.
This time Zeman takes a look at four urban legends and broadens out to show how these cautionary tales spread across the U.S. and beyond. Along with his fellow researcher Rachel Mills, Zeman connects the true crime histories of the urban legends of the Hookman, the Candy Man, the Baby-Sitter murders, and the Killer Clown. It’s a deeply interesting and sometimes gruesome look at these well-known urban legends, though sometimes I was bugged by how much Zeman and Mills inserted themselves into the documentary. Like Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, they feel the need to make themselves part of the story.
Killer Legends combines interviews, archival news footage, crime scene photos, and more to provide a wealth of history on its subjects. Clips from films inspired by the urban legends are also thrown in to add some context on their influence (Candyman, When a Stranger Calls, Urban Legend [duh]). The Town That Dreaded Sundown gets a lot of play, since it’s based on a real life series of unsolved murders that occurred in Texarkana, Texas in 1946.
That film works as a great springboard to show how the truth can be altered to form a universally shared urban legend. Typically these legends are embellished to serve as a cautionary tale for horny teens and anyone who dares talk to strangers. Zeman does a terrific job making his points and goes even deeper to look at how a community reeling from tragedy deals with it years down the road. What a lot of it boils down to is our need as a society to understand evil. They argue that’s why we have to put a name on these killers: “The Phantom Killer,” the “Halloween Sadist,” the “Moonlight Murders,” “Candy Man,” etc.
While many of the true crime aspects of the film look at one specific incident, such as a father who murders his son with a poisoned Pixie Stick, Zeman and Mills demonstrate how most urban legends are a culmination of crime, paranoia, and deep-seeded societal fears. They travel to the towns and cities where the tragedies took place, interviewing locals and going through case files. This is the aspect that kinda bothered me. It really turns me off when a documentarian inserts themselves into the film. It’s alright to a degree, but Zeman and Mills get a ton of screen time here. When they’re interviewing police or reporters or what have you, the camera constantly cuts back to them for a reaction shot. The stories are interesting enough without them. Some people might like this approach, but for me it’s a turnoff.
But besides that, Killer Legends is a wholly fascinating experience on a lot of levels. Even those familiar with the urban legends may come away with something new. I really hope this special leads to a regular series, if only Zeman will pull himself out of the frame for a while give the case experts some more time.
Killer Legends hits DVD on July 1.
It’s less than a year until Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow unleashes his (from what we’ve heard) bold new vision in Jurassic World. Today’s update is sort of a small one, but shows that the production still has some ways to go as it is still casting. James DuMont (Dallas Buyers Club) has joined the cast in an unspecified role, per THR.
In theaters June 12, 2015, this is a new sci-fi terror adventure set 22 years after the horrific events of the original Jurassic Park.
Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Jake Johnson, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Judy Greer, Katie McGrath, Lauren Lapkus and Andy Buckley all star.
In Bong Joon-ho’s highly anticipated Snowpiercer, the last fragments of humanity survive aboard a massive train that navigates the globe once a year. Outside the train, the world is an uninhabitable frozen wasteland following a botched attempt to lower the world’s average temperature in the face of global warming. Inside, a fragile socioeconomic system keeps the have-nots in the train’s dingy caboose, while the elite exist in luxury, spending their time in the train’s night club, aquarium, and other opulent cars. This recipe leads to a truly great, overtly political sci-fi film that feels like a summer blockbuster, but is just weird and visionary enough to transcend the season of big budget trash.
The titular train was created by a mysterious man named Wilford, a sort of neo-Marxist Wizard of Oz. The locomotive is Wilford’s self-sustaining empire, where society has essentially continued as it was pre-ice age. The train’s elite keep the have-nots in the rear under their thumb by controlling their resources, barely keeping them alive on “protein blocks” that resemble rotten Jell-o. They impose poverty and manipulate food supplies to ensure complete conformity is sustained. And Captain America ain’t having that.
Chris Evans plays Curtis, a have-not plotting a rebellion with his buddy Edgar (Jamie Bell). They’re counseled by Gilliam (John Hurt, who can still effortlessly steal a scene at 74-years-old). During the course of their rebellion, they’re joined by security expert Namgoong Minsoo (the great Song Kang-ho) and his daughter Yona (Ko Ah-sung), both drug addicts. While Wilford remains behind the curtain, his lead crony Mason makes sure that everyone “Keeps their place.” Mason is played by Tilda Swinton, who is damn near unrecognizable in the role. She’s clearly channeling Margaret Thatcher, whose moral compass always seemed to be on the fritz. With her teeth, her hair, her thick Yorkshire accent, Swinton gleefully transforms into what I’m certain will turn out to be one of the best villains of the year.
As grand as her performance is, Swinton does come dangerously close to going over-the-top. She balances the absurd elements nicely though and the true excessiveness is left for Alison Pil, who plays a schoolteacher with a fondness for uzis and propaganda. The entire film, in fact, rests on this tenuous balance of ridiculous and solemn. As Curtis and his crew of revolutionaries push their way to the front of the train, they encounter an unpredictable series of baddies and obstacles, resulting in some gloriously staged fight sequences.
Snowpiercer is all about momentum and Bong deftly maintains it, knowing when to keep the pace booming along and when to slow down the drama for maximum effect. The production design on this film is tremendous, so during these moments when Bong hits the brakes a little, there’s a lot to soak in. It’s wise to slow down the action at times as well because Snowpiercer is filled with shocking revelations and twists the audience is going to want to thoroughly digest.
At its best, science fiction addresses the problems of today and that’s exactly what Bong’s film does. It can feel heavy-handed at times, but there’s a thoughtfulness and sincere anger at Snowpiercer‘s heart that makes it an intoxicating blend of class violence and big ideas. And like the contemporary issues in our society, the film offers up no simple solutions, just more troubling questions.
Just a year after my first visit to the set of “Hemlock Grove” I touch down in Toronto to check out progress on the successful Netflix horror show’s second season. I figure it will basically be the same trip, but as I get in the van to take me into town I realize that nothing is the same. In December of 2012 we were staying an hour outside of the city in the middle of nowhere, now we’re put up right in the middle of the city. Production has moved from the small town of Oshawa to a studio in the city proper.
That’s not the only thing that’s changed. In fact, aside from the core cast and the general vibe of the show, everything has shifted somewhat. Of course, “Hemlock Grove” will still be very recognizable to fans of the property. The titular town is as weird as ever. The White Tower still looms over everything with nefarious mysteries lurking inside. Peter (Landon Liboiron), Roman (Bill Skarsgård), Olivia (Famke Janssen), Norman (Dougray Scott), Dr. Pryce (Joel de la Fuente) and the other denizens are still around, even if some alliances have died while others were forged.
But the people behind the curtain are different and thus, almost everything else is. That’s the central takeaway here – everything is not exactly as it was, and people who may not have loved the show’s first season are encouraged to come back and see if this suits them a bit better (I, for one, am encouraged). Author/creator Brian McGreevy and showrunner Lee Shipman are off to other endeavors and have been replaced with a whole new team. The new showrunner is Charles “Chic” Eglee (“Dexter”, “The Shield”) and accompanying him are a cadre of new writers. Season 1 fans aren’t getting left out in the cold, but things might be a bit more inclusive for people who like a more propulsive narrative with their atmosphere.
Bill Skarsgård gives a frank rundown on the changes. “Season 2 became something where they brought in all of these new people. So there was an adjustment period when we started when you’re like, “okay so these are your ideas and this is what we’re doing.” But after one or two episodes I was completely in with this new trajectory of the show. It’s been cool and we’ve had amazing directors this year too that come from feature films and music videos so it’s really visual. People that aren’t used to doing television… from what I’ve seen of the show this year, it looks really cool. At least visually. It’s quite a striking show this year and I can’t wait for it to come out.”
That’s not the only thing that’s changed for Skarsgård or his character, Roman. He’s moved out of Olivia’s stately home and into swank, modern new digs. We take a tour of his apartment, which is dominated by browns, blacks and a sparse decor. Sleek art. The bedroom of a true bachelor. Given Roman’s new Upir status I wonder about the jar full of sprouted garlic in the kitchen. Skarsgård says it doesn’t actually come into play, “No, I just saw that the other day!”
Olivia has also moved out of her old, stately home and has taken up residency in a smaller cottage. Famke Janssen explains that, “what happened to me at the end of last season. It didn’t end very well, I wasn’t in the best of shape so I needed to do some rehabilitation to come back to a more vibrant version of myself. So that took moving to another place for a temporary – a temporary move to another environment.” She’s also pining for her son, despite the fact that Roman wants nothing to do with her. She’s very upset. “I mean, she’s been a terrible mother but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be a better one in the future.”
Landon Liboiron’s Peter Rumancek’s living situation hasn’t changed much. We walk through the set embodying the house where he’s staying with his cousin and it’s dank, dark and very “gypsy.” There is some warmth to it here, as the set designers have successfully indicated that poverty doesn’t necessarily smother the soul. Though it’s not like Peter even wants to be back in town at all. Liboiron explains, “ The main thing that brought him back was a situation with his Mom. He basically had no choice. It was kind of a life and death decision to come back. There’s also a force unbeknownst to him that keeps pulling him back.”
Though, when it comes to Peter, we know what you gorehounds are really thinking. Are they trying to top that amazing werewolf transformation from last year? “Oh yeah. If they used a slingshot last year they’re using a catapult this year. They really amped up the fun stuff.”
Visual effect artist Matt Whelan elaborates, “Last year was a really good example of things people haven’t seen before, specifically the idea of eating the skin and the transformation being cyclical. That lore has been worked out even a bit further and investigated in ways people won’t be used to seeing. I think in terms of visual effects and practical effects, it’s still the same kind of gags we’ve pulled but because of the freedom to do things a little cheaper and a little faster we’ve been able to do it in slightly more creative ways.” Even more encouraging? Their touchstone is (very rightfully) An American Werewolf In London, and they recognize it will take a lot of work to top it.
Werewolves aren’t the only creatures or effects in Hemlock Grove, where both CG and good old fashioned practical applications intermingle to create a disturbing array of stuff (what looks like a large hairy tumor about the size of my head sits next to my can of orange juice at the roundtable). Effects artist Patrick Baxter explains this thing that’s making lunch so difficult to eat, “Those two items actually have bladders and pulsate and do more than just sit there statically and be kind of gross.”
Throughout the day we move in shifts, rotating from interviews to trips down to set. Space is tight so journalists are split into separate teams to observe shooting. One of the most impressive spaces is the interior of the White Tower. Roman is now in charge of the Godfrey Institute, with an office at the top of the tower just underneath its large sign. The office, like his new apartment, is opulent yet somehow spartan. It’s only when we get into the bowels of the building (in reality, just a few steps away) that things get super duper creepy.
But before we get there we start to wonder what it’s like being a new captain on a (slightly) older ship. To that degree we grill new showrunner Charles “Chic” Eglee. Are these changes in part due to some of the reaction towards the first season? “ Well I have kind of made it a point in my career to not really follow what people are writing about your show. Because if you read the good reviews to feel good about yourself, then you’re obliged to read the bad reviews and feel miserable about yourself and contemplate suicide. So I honestly was aware of kind of a zeitgeisty reaction to the show last season, but it didn’t really inform what we did this season. We took the opportunities that were presented by last season and then let the story go where it took us and where it took the writer’s room.”
Eglee is also unmoored from fidelity towards McGreevy’s book. “I haven’t read Brian’s book. I look forward to it at some point, but after I finish working on the show. When I was running “Dexter” I came onto the show at a point when they had exhausted the underlying material. They had finished the first book. And I remember somebody, one of the higher-ups from somewhere, saying “oh my God! What are we going to do? We’re out of story!” And it was just the most perplexing thing in the world for me to hear that. We’ll do what every storyteller does, we’ll make shit up! The table was set last year by the novel and the show and we’ve taken that into the future.”
Perhaps most importantly, there’s a “Big Bad” this year to provide an additional narrative throughline. An antagonist whose season long arc conflicts with and threatens our protagonists (such as they are). “That’s a motor and an engine for the show. I think we derive [a sense of] event from that. There is a larger scope. Things certainly exist beyond the confines… everything takes place behind the proscenium of Hemlock Grove but there are larger forces impinging upon the place. A bit of the outside world is being invited in.” As far as what the “Big Bad” is, we’re not yet sure.
But there’s certainly some nefarious business going on. In the bowels of the White Tower he happen upon a lab where Dr. Pryce is doing some most unfortunate experiments. That pulsating tumor at lunch? Nothing compared to a flayed out screaming cat with thin tendrils (think slimy glass noodles or just look at the pic below) in open repose right before you.
It’s here, in a room like this, that we observe the final bit of the day’s shooting. Roman, in a hospital gown and hooked up to an IV drip, shuffles hurriedly to some type of machine. We don’t know why, but it seems urgent. He seems sick, in need. Then, he hooks a tube affixed to his stomach into the machine and receives, very much like a junkie, his fix. The blood.
I’m not sure what episode this footage is in, or what it leads up to. The show is in uncharted territory. As Skarsgård puts it, “ Last year we had the book. This year every episode has been completely brand new. Unless they tell us something, which they have done vaguely as we’re going along. I have some vague ideas about what’s going on. But I just read the last episode now and I was completely surprised.”
Hemlock Grove Season 2 debuts on Netflix on Friday, July 11th. Even if you’ve seen the first season, you might be completely surprised as well.
I first heard of “rapper” Froggy Fresh on the Comedy Central show Tosh.0. I thought it was a joke then and dismissed it entirely from my mind. Then, the other day, Bill popped a video on my Facebook wall of a song called “Halloween” and told me that I absolutely had to see it. Honestly, I could not have prepared myself for what I was about to see and, even though it came out 1.5 years ago, I have to share it with you. Hell, it’s got Michael Myers busting a move! That alone is worth it!