Terry Gilliam compares Stanley Kubrick and Steve Spielberg

In an interview from Turner Classic movies, filmmaker Terry Gilliam provides his perspective on the differences between Stanely Kubrick and Steven Spielberg. Essentially, it comes down to this: Spielberg provides comforting answers for his audience; Kubrick (as in 2001: A SPACY ODYSSEY) raises challenging questions that provoke the audience to think.
To underline his point, Gilliam quotes an exchange between Kubrick and Frederick Raphael, his co-writer on EYES WIDE SHUT. In Raphael’s memoir of their working relationship, Eyes Wide Open, he recounts a conversation regarding films that have depicted the Holocaust. Raphael shows off his smarts by mentioning obscure titles, while Kubrick keeps asking “What else?” Finally, Raphael is forced to mention the elephant in the room SCHINDLER’S LIST. What follows goes like this:

STANLEY KUBRICK: “Think that was about the Holocaust?”
FREDERICK RAPHAEL: “Wasn’t it? What else was it about?”
STANLEY KUBRICK: “That was about success, wasn’t it? The Holocaust is about six million people who get killed. SCHINDLER’S LIST was about 600 people who don’t.”

Video Q&A: Ray Harryhausen on Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

On April 23, 2006, Ray Harryhausen attended a screening of THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California. The screening, courtesy of the American Cinematheque, was billed as “The Two Rays,” because Harryhausen’s friend Ray Bradbury was scheduled to attend. Harryhausen, of course, provided the stop-motion special effects that brought the prehistoric beast to life; Bradbury’s short story “The Foghorn” was the source of inspiration for the screenplay. Unfortunately, Bradbury had to drop out due to illness, leaving Harryhausen to regale an appreciative audience with behind the scenes tales of making the film, which you can hear in this video, originally posted at Hollywood Gothique.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – Video Interviews & Clips

Check out video clips, interviews, and trailers from HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, the R-rated action-oriented updating of the Grimm Fairy tale, which Paramount Pictures opens on January 25, 2013. Writer-director Tommy Wirkola (DEAD SNOW) explains the genesis and production of the film, which he conceived years ago.  Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner discuss playing adult-aged versions of the familiar characters – no longer lost little children but formidable heroes who make a living destroying witches. Famke Janssen checks in with a few words about her role as their nemesis, Muriel.
Also included are some clips from the film. You can few all the videos in the embedded player, or find them on Cinefantastique’s YouTube Channel.

Paranormal Activity comes to life in Blumhouse of Horrors

“Sinister” producer Jason Blum discusses the difficulties of transferring cinematic horror to a live Halloween event.

Halloween haunted house attractions are no longer much concerned with childhood memories of dilapidated old mansions rumored to be inhabited by ghoulies and ghosties. Today, Halloween haunts are increasingly influenced by movies; this year, for example, Knott’s Berry Farm’s annual Halloween Haunt and Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights feature walk-through mazes based on such franchises as THE EVIL DEAD, CARRIE, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and THE WALKING DEAD.
Add a new name to this list of Halloween horrors inspired by the silver screen. One of the most anticipated haunted house events in Los Angeles this October is the Blumhouse of Horrors, a new live attraction from Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, the company behind the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, INSIDIOUS, and SINISTER (which opens nationwide on Friday). These films eschew the modern torture porn approach to the horror genre in favor of supernatural shivers. Some of that subtly is on view inside the Blumhouse of Horrors, although gore fans will find a drop or two of their favorite grue as well.
The Blumhouse of Horrors shares some elements with Delusion: The Blood Rite, another L.A. haunt that mixes drama with scares. Set within a real location (the old Variety Arts Theatre in downtown Los Angeles), the half-hour Blumhouse tour attempts to present a story – in this case, of a magician whose final performance ended with his mysterious disappearance from the stage, along with another man’s wife. Blumhouse of Horrors is not as heavily scripted as Delusion: there are a few dramatic vignettes, but not all of them relate directly to the main story; the characters we see represent the souls of all who died within the premises, whether or not they have anything to do with the magician and his lover. Still, producer Jason Blum believes there may be potential to spin the haunt’s back story into its own feature film.
Whether or not the appeal of Blumhouse of Horrors is strong enough to generate a feature film – remains to be seen. Blum himself says he won’t know until the box office results are tallied at the end of October. In our video interview, conducted on a press-preview night, while the kinks were still being worked out of the ghostly chains rattling in dark hallways, Blum talks about the transition from cinematic horror to the live variety and the challenge of attracting timid audiences to visit something really scary – downtown L.A.

Producer Jason Blum
Producer Jason Blum

Below, you will find a partial transcript of the interview – which is to say, our rambling questions have been shortened, while Mr. Blum’s answers remain intact.
Question: How did you make the transition from producing horror movies to producing a live Halloween event?
Jason Blum: We make almost all of our movies in Los Angeles. We use the same crew from movie to movie. A couple of years ago, we were on the set at launch, and we were talking about, “Wouldn’t it be fun to do all these scares that we do in our movies – to try and do them live. That conversation resulted in where we are today. It was a long road to get here, but we finally made it.
What are the lessons you learned from horror films that you can apply in Blumhouse of Horrors?
Jason Blum: You scare people in the same way, whether it’s a movie, a tv show, or a live event – which is, you distract them over here, and come at them with a jump scare [from another direction]. Secondly, we rely in our movies very much on narrative. I think the story is really important. I think scares are scarier if the audience is involved with a story, so with the haunted house, we tried to come up with a story first and build the scares around it. Hopefully, people will experience it that way.
Are there certain kinds of scares that work better in a live situation, when the audience is not separated from them by a movie screen?
Jason Blum: There are good and bad things about live. The bad thing is when you mess up, you don’t get another try. In a movie or a tv show, you can either re-edit it or shoot it again. But the good things are that the scares are three-dimensional, and we can do them and watch people’s reaction, and change our story or change our scares a little bit, and keep going. That’s very gratifying as someone who is a scare-maker.
What was it like for you to talk through the Blumhouse of Horrors the first time? Did some thing work better than expected, or not as well?
Jason Blum: There are surprises in both directions. That’s a really fun thing about this: there are certain things that do work way better than you expect. And certain things that when we were describing it – “Oh this is going to be the best thing!” – don’t work at all. That’s been a fun kind of discovery process.
So, will this be a work in progress – tinkering all month long?
Jason Blum: Yes, it will. I hope that we’ll do more of certain things and less of others, and learn from the people who go through. Hopefully people will come back and see something they didn’t see before or experience something new.
Chicken and the egg question: Which came first, the story or the location?
Jason Blum: The idea to do a haunted house came first; building came second; story came third. But the story came from looking at the building and working a story in that would work in this location.
Did you develop the story on your own or work with others?
Jason Blum: I didn’t come up with anything in here on my own. Our company provides a framework for people who are more creative than me, who are great at what they do, and we let them do it and encourage them to do it. Jennifer Spence and Tom Spence, are a production designer and an art director who have worked on many movies for us, and they were the creative forces behind this.
With INSIDIOUS, SINISTER, and now Blumhouse of Horrors, what lessons have you tried to carry through from the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY?
Jason Blum: What I learned from the first Paranormal Activity, and what we’ve tried to recreate in Insidious, Sinister, and now this haunted house, is how important story-telling is to horror. Most people think horror is about scares; most people put scares first and story second. We really put story first and scares second.
The Variety Arts Theatre in downtown Los Angeles - now thats scary!
The Variety Arts Theatre in downtown Los Angeles - now that's scary!

Is there a concern that you have set yourself a high hurdle to clear? Some people are afraid to make a special trip downtown, so perhaps “good” won’t be good enough to draw an audience?
Jason Blum: I think we have to be great to get people to come here. I didn’t want to lose money doing this, but profit was not the main reason we did this. We did this to develop a muscle in a different medium for the company. I think it’s a challenge. We have a guess how many people we hope to get in here, and if you ask me in a month I’ll tell you if we hit it or not.
Are you planning to resurrect Blumhouse of Horrors next year?
Jason Blum: I can’t think that far ahead. I’m just trying to make it to November 3rd right now!

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CONCLUSION

If the Blumhouse of Horrors keeps improving, it could rank among the best Halloween attractions in Los Angeles. Currently, its strength lies in the wonderful location, whose authentic atmosphere lends an aura of conviction to the action. However, the story-telling at Blumhouse of Horrors falls short of Delusion, and the ending (at least on preview night) was strangely anti-climactic. Here’s hoping the witch’s brew is fully double-boiled, toiled and troubled by the time Halloween rolls around.
The Blumhouse of Horrors is set in the Variety Arts Theatre, 940 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Performances dates are October 4-6, 11-13, 18-20, 25-27, 29,31, November 1-3. Hours are 6pm to midnight. Tickets are available at the official website: $29 for general admission; $55 for VIP (front of the line).

Walking Dead will invade Universal Studios for Halloween 2012

Back in the 1930s, during the early days of sound film-making, Universal Studios was responsible for the first great wave of classic monster movies. So it is only appropriate that Universal presents an annual Halloween event that brings movie monsters to life: Halloween Horror Nights, to be exact. Last week, Universal provided a preview of the horrors that will be unleashed when Halloween Horror Nights opens on September 21. This year’s mazes and monsters feature fewer film franchises, in favor of television (THE WALKING DEAD), vidogames (SILENT HILL), rock and roll (ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL), and even legends (Mexico’s LA LLARONA). THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is really the only film-related maze this time out. In addition, Universal’s own classic movie monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and the Phantom of the Opera) will groove to modern music in the House of Horrors, a year-round walk-through attraction that gets a big makeover every Halloween season.
The preview consisted of makeup demonstrations and interview opportunities. I got a few minutes to interview HHN Creative Director John Murder on camera, starting off with a question about the lack of mazes based on movie franchises this year. Universal’s usual selling point is bringing horror movies to life, but 2012 sees attractions based on a TV series, a videogame, a 1970s rock-and-roll album, and a Mexican legend; only the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE maze is primarily a film franchise.

“We’re expanding our brand,” said Murdy. “I’ve done a lot of horror movie franchises…almost every major horror movie franchise. But horror evolves. Talking about something like THE WALKING DEAD, I don’t think you would have seen that on TV even five years ago. It’s hugely popular, so as the genre evolves, we need to involve with it. Embracing videogames – that’s different for us as well. We need to be right there on that cutting edge.”

A walker from THE WALKING DEAD has had an unfortunate accident with a screwdriver at the Halloween Horror Nights preview
A "walker" with an eye problem

THE WALKING DEAD seems to present a particular challenge: Halloween Horror Night has presented zombies several times in the past (the London Street scene has featured scare zones such as SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIEVILLE). How will Murdy make this year’s “walkers” specific to the AMC TV show?

“The walking dead has really great, iconic environments. I love working on properties that, if it’s a movie, there are multiple movies, because we get to pick and choose our favorite bits. With WALKING DEAD, we have two season to work with, so we get to watch all the episodes and select the things we think are going to be most impactful in a haunted attraction. And the Walkers are very unique; they’re different from a lot of other zombies. Working directly with (WALKING DEAD makeup artist) Greg Nicotero, we get to utilize the molds from the show to bring those to life. What we’re really trying to do is put you in the footsteps of the human survivors. We want to make you feel what they feel on the show as they try to navigate the zombie apocalypse.

Halloween Horror Nights Characters with John Murdy and Larry Bones
John Murder (2nd from left) next to a red-suited Alice Cooper character

According to Murdy, enormous research goes into each of the mazes, to decide which elements from a particular franchise will translate into a terrifying walk-through attraction. Taking the ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL 3-D maze as an example, Murdy explained:

Last year, we did WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE. This (ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL) is the album that was the sequel to WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE, so it was a natural for us. But I had a different little spin that I wanted to pitch to Alice: ‘I want to take your music, but I also want to bring in the idea of Dante’s INFERNO, and multiple levels of Hell, and particularly the Seven Deadly Sins, and poetic justice.’ I want to modernize that, informed by Alice Cooper’s lyrics and stage show.

A makeup artist preps a nurse from SILENT HILL for Halloween Horror Nights 2012
A makeup artist preps a nurse from SILENT HILL.

In terms of scale and production values, Halloween Horror Nights exceeds other theme park Halloween attractions in Los Angeles, but the potential problem for such a large-scale event is the loss of a personal, intimate scare factor. Murdy says he takes that into account when designing the event.

When we design any attraction, we design it for whether it’s a dress rehearsal where we might have 3,000 people, versus a sold-out Saturday night. When we design the scares, we have to consider both of those scenarios and try to use our tool kit to impact our guests no matter what the situation is. But it’s not like when I was ten years old in my parents garage building a haunted house for the neighborhood kids. I’m building it for thousands and thousands of people.

Three of this year’s mazes are titles that should be familiar to anyone who regularly attends Halloween Horror Nights. Nevertheless, Murdy says there will be new scares inside.

“It’s not the same maze,” he replied, when asked about LA LLARONA, then switched to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE as another example. “I did TEXAS in 2007 and 2008, but I did the remake. I’ve always wanted to do the original. I know Tobe Hooper: he’s a big fan of our event; he’s come multiple times. Over the years, I’ve said, ‘Tobe, when are we going to do your movie?’ Growing up in the ’70s, that movie had a huge influence on me. Now we’re doing it, and top to bottom it’s a brand-new maze. So, some of the titles you may have seen before, but it’s a lot of new experiences.”

The Evil Dead will appear at Knotts Scary Farm instead of Halloween Horror Nights.
The Evil Dead will appear at Knotts Scary Farm instead of Halloween Horror Nights.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to ask on camera why an EVIL DEAD maze will be at Knotts Berry Farm Halloween Haunt this year instead of Halloween Horror Nights. Later, I did manage to grab an off-camera moment between interviews Murdy was giving for other outlets to get an answer to this question. Although Murdy had conversations with the EVIL DEAD people, the project was not a priority, because the tie-in is with the remake, which does not come out this year and does not feature the character of Ash, so memorably played by Bruce Campbell in the original films. THE EVIL DEAD certainly seems like a natural for Halloween Horror Nights, but if it ever happens, Murdy will likely focus on EVIL DEAD II, the hysterically over-the-top sequel, which truly represents the apex of the series.
You can read more about Halloween Horror Nights at Hollywood Gothique.
A makeup artist preps a character from THE WALKING DEAD for Halloween Horror Nights 2012 Halloween Horror Nights makeup artist Larry Bones

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TOTAL RECALL: Kate Beckinsale Video Interview

Actress Kate Beckinsale (wife of TOTAL RECALL-director Len Wiseman) talks about her first time playing the villain and about the film’s “reality versus illusion” theme.
TOTAL RECALL is a remake of the 1990 film starring Arnold Schwazenegger, about a man who pays to have an action-adventure memory-vacation placed in his brain, only to find out that he really is a spy – or is he? Len Wiseman directed from a new screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, based on Ronald Shusett & Dan O’Bannon’s adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”